The Last Book Of Swords : Shieldbreaker’s Story (26 page)

BOOK: The Last Book Of Swords : Shieldbreaker’s Story
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* * *

 

      
And at the same time, in a secluded cove not very distant along the shore of this Lake of Life, the Silver Queen, Ariane’s mother, was being reunited with her husband.

      
There was a black-brown curve of sandy beach, lapped by occasional waves, and out beyond the gentle surf the surface of the water in the Lake vanished into a shimmering, indeterminate distance. When the Lady Yambu came upon the Emperor in this spot he was also gardening, driving with his right foot to thrust his shovel firmly and unhurriedly into the black rich soil, getting ready to plant something new in the superfertile soil beside the Lake.

      
Gladly he paused in his work, wiped a trace of sweat from his forehead, leaned with muscular forearms crossed upon the handle of his shovel, and welcomed his caller with the calm of a loving husband who has perhaps been separated from his wife for a few hours.

      
In fact he moved at once to kiss Yambu, but she was still wary, and put him off.

      
The Emperor shrugged, stepped back and did not press the matter. He had all the time there was, and he could wait.

      
Husband and wife soon found several things that both of them were eager to talk about. One of the first such topics was their daughter.

      
Another was the fact that the Emperor really wanted the help of the Silver Queen in cultivating the new garden he was planning on this section of the Lake’s shore.

      
“Are you telling me that you’ve brought me here simply to help you tend a garden?”

      
This led the discussion to another item: some explanation for the fact that the two of them, despite an obvious mutual attraction, had frequently argued and quarreled.

      
And Yambu (she was now sitting on a beach-side boulder, the rock’s surface mottled with some ever-moving design of life, while her husband still leaned on his spade; and now she noticed, with a feeling of merely confirming what was right and proper, that her long hair when the breeze stirred it before her eyes was no longer gray but jetty black) said to her husband: “It seems to me, looking back on it, that we never got along at all when we were married. And yet, I doubt that I would ever consider marrying anyone else.”

      
He almost frowned. “If I have anything to say about it you’d better not consider that.”

      
“You’re jealous.” She said it unbelievingly.

      
“I am.”

      
Her anger rose up. “But of course it’s quite all right for you to be promiscuous, because you are…” Yambu stopped uncertainly.

      
“A man? You know me better than to think I would make that excuse.”

      
“You father children everywhere.”

      
“I give them life. It is not behavior I can recommend to every man.”

      
“But, of course, for
you
—”

      
“Yes. For me.”

      
Yambu shook her head as if to clear it. She meant to come back to argue that point later. “Speaking of your children, do you know your son Prince Mark for years has spent a great deal of time and worry trying to locate you? Even to the neglect of his own family?”

      
“I know.”

      
“Well?” Impatience flared. “The poor man wants to know who you are, beyond a name, an image. And so do I.”

      
Her companion raised an eyebrow. “You have been my wife for all these years, you’ve borne my child—and you don’t know?”

      
“If I had lived with you for all these years, perhaps I could comprehend the situation. As matters stand, I want you to tell me.”

      
The Emperor was no longer leaning on his shovel; his shovel had somehow disappeared. His face seemed plainer, more distinct, than any man’s face should be. He said, in a voice not grown louder, but much changed: “Some long ago have called me the Sabbath, or the Covenant—some have called me Wisdom. Some lately have said that I am the Program of Creation.”

      
A long moment passed before the Silver Queen persisted: “And you—? I want you to tell me what you are.”

      
He—plainly her husband once again—stretched out his hand to her. “Come live with me. And argue with me again, and learn. I am the Truth.”

 

* * *

 

      
Under a balmy Earthly sky a Tasavaltan celebration was just getting under way. And people were considering the result of the last Sword-combat. Arridu was dead, obliterated in the explosion of Shieldbreaker’s deadly fragments—and only Woundhealer, of all the Twelve Swords, still survived.

      
It was Stephen’s older brother Adrian, come home from his distant studies as quickly as he could, but just too late to join the fight, who at length deduced and announced an explanation—how Shieldbreaker, once in Mark’s heart, had become the Prince’s and not the demon’s weapon—and how the blast of its destruction, edge to edge against the one Sword it could not break, had slain the demon at close range.

 

* * *

 

      
The victorious Prince Mark, his family, and all who stood by them were aware that Ben of Purkinje and Lady Yambu had somehow left them, but they were not unduly worried about either missing person.

      
Mark had his wife and his children safe, and for the time being he was content.

      
And it was Stephen, marveling, who discovered, at some distance from the field of combat, the charred, cracked, useless hilt of what had once been the Sword of Force. In the boy’s hand the black wood was now suddenly sprouting a green shoot.

      
Stephen went running to show the marvel to his father.
 

 

THE END

 

 

 

The Song Of Swords

 

Who holds Coinspinner knows good odds

Whichever move he make

But the Sword of Chance, to please the gods

Slips from him like a snake.

 

The Sword of Justice balances the pans

Of right and wrong, and foul and fair.

Eye for an eye, Doomgiver scans

The fate of all folk everywhere.

 

Dragonslicer, Dragonslicer, how d'you slay?

Reaching for the heart in behind the scales.

Dragonslicer, Dragonslicer, where do you stay?

In the belly of the giant that my blade impales.

 

Farslayer howls across the world

For thy heart, for thy heart, who hast wronged me!

Vengeance is his who casts the blade

Yet he will in the end no triumph see.

 

Whose flesh the Sword of Mercy hurts has drawn no breath;

Whose soul it heals has wandered in the night,

Has paid the summing of all debts in death

Has turned to see returning light.

 

The Mindsword spun in the dawn's gray light

And men and demons knelt down before.

The Mindsword flashed in the midday bright

Gods joined the dance, and the march to war.

It spun in the twilight dim as well

And gods and men marched off to hell.

 

I shatter Swords and splinter spears;

None stands to Shieldbreaker.

My point's the fount of orphans' tears

My edge the widowmaker.

 

The Sword of Stealth is given to

One lonely and despised.

Sightblinder's gifts: his eyes are keen

His nature is disguised.

 

The Tyrant's Blade no blood hath spilled

But doth the spirit carve

Soulcutter hath no body killed

But many left to starve.

 

The Sword of Siege struck a hammer's blow

With a crash, and a smash, and a tumbled wall.

Stonecutter laid a castle low

With a groan, and a roar, and a tower's fall.

 

Long roads the Sword of Fury makes

Hard walls it builds around the soft

The fighter who Townsaver takes

Can bid farewell to home and croft.

 

Who holds Wayfinder finds good roads

Its master's step is brisk.

The Sword of Wisdom lightens loads

But adds unto their risk.

 

(end of the song)

 

 

 

About The Author

 

      
Fred Saberhagen is widely published in many areas of speculative fiction. He is best known for his Berserker, Swords, and Dracula series. Less known are the myth based fantasies: Books of the Gods. Fred also authored a number of non-series fantasy and science fiction novels and a great number of short stories. For more information on Fred visit his website: www.fredsaberhagen.com

 

BOOK: The Last Book Of Swords : Shieldbreaker’s Story
13.98Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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