Twelve Swords of Power
- Doomgiver redirects here. For the Imperial Star Destroyer in the Star Wars expanded universe see Doomgiver (Star Wars).
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The Twelve Swords of Power, Swords of Power, or Swords featured in the epic Fred Saberhagen science fiction/fantasy series, The Book of Swords. The central focus of the novels, the swords are unique characters in and of themselves.
The Swords were created by Vulcan at the behest of the other gods of The Book of Swords universe. They intended to use the Swords to play a game, pitting nations of mortals against one another, to relieve their boredom. By making the Swords and scattering them throughout the land, the gods hoped to derive amusement as men and women sought them out and lorded power over each other.
Vulcan forged the Swords in the Ludus Mountains, in the hinterlands of the domain of Duke Fraktin. He conscripted mortal men from the nearby village of Treefall as assistants. Starting with meteoric iron and a powerful earth-fire, Vulcan completed each Sword by quenching it in human blood, sacrificing his unwilling assistants one by one. Only one man survived the forging process, the smith Jord, who lost one arm to the quenching process. Rather than giving the Sword to a mortal as a gift, as the others were, Vulcan gave Jord Townsaver as payment for his work, to someday pass to his own son.
However, Vulcan forged too well; the Swords' powers even worked on the gods themselves. This mistake came from the gods' misunderstanding of their own nature. In their arrogance, they never thought to wonder where they had come from. In fact, great as it was, their power was granted by the collective dreams of humanity. The Swords ultimately destroyed the gods: some directly by the Swords themselves, but most indirectly, by challenging their reputation for omnipotence and causing them to dissipate.
The Swords are all physically identical in design. Each Sword has a bright, double-edged blade a meter long, that is a centimeter at its thickest, and has a simple black hilt with straight crossbar. The steel of the blade is mottled, with a subtle translucent pattern that seems to extend to impossible depths. The hilt is an unknown black material, hard but also comfortable. The Swords are all surgically sharp and resistant to all forms of damage. They never rust, dull, tarnish, or soil. Only the Swords Shieldbreaker and Woundhealer can damage or destroy a Sword.
The overall construction of the blade is described as simple and elegant, not ornate or flashy, despite the illustrations featured on some of the paperback copies of the book covers. The first printing of the hardback Book of Swords bears an approximate image of the Swords' appearance. (Compare the originals (800k image) to the paperbacks (60kb image)) The later printings are consistent with a description of wooden sword cases used to hold Woundhealer (white), by the Temple of Ardneh, and Soulcutter (black), by the Silver Queen.
A Sword can only be distinguished from its companions by a unique white symbol etched into one side of its hilt. In addition to each Sword's magical properties, most also serve as peerless conventional blades, due to their perfect balance, extreme sharpness, and indestructible nature.
There are four exceptions to these general rules. Woundhealer is incapable of causing injury, though its blade will cut anything but living flesh as well as any other Sword. Soulcutter lacks a distinguishing hilt symbol. Soulcutter's blade has no luster and was never used as a weapon, though both of these effects are likely psychological side effects of the Sword's dark power. Similarly, the Mindsword is described as being impossibly bright and shiny, potentially another psychological effect. Shieldbreaker is a peerless combat weapon, except when used against an unarmed opponent, in which case it is incapable of causing harm and even weakens its wielder.
Characters in the series at times speculate about the effects of holding two Swords at once. At least one person is known to have been knocked unconscious simply from holding two, without drawing on their powers. On the other hand, a number of characters wielded two at once with little adverse effect. Wizards who studied the Swords theorized that certain more "sensitive" personalities seem less able to resist the effects of wielding two Swords, and that some Swords seem to tolerate each other better than others. While dual-wielding, the wielder is described variously as feeling euphoric, or as if he/she were having an out-of-body experience.
Coinspinner is also called the Sword of Chance, and less frequently, the Sword of Fortune. It has a pair of dice engraved in white on its hilt.
Coinspinner gives its holder good luck, and brings misfortune on anyone trying to harm or hinder its current possessor. However, the Sword of Chance is the most unpredictable of all the Swords, having the habit of leaving its owner when they need it most.
Coinspinner's verse in The Song of Swords describes its power as follows:
- 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.
Coinspinner seems to be endowed with a limited form of intelligence. Should one take one's eyes off of it, Coinspinner can teleport to a new destination and a new owner. The Sword is capable of generating distractions to achieve this purpose.
While a person holds Coinspinner, even if it remains sheathed in a scabbard, they are blessed with supernatural good luck. If they play poker, every hand wins. If they walk a tightrope, they would not fall, and if they did fall, one can be sure that the fall would somehow not harm them, and result in a personal profit.
A secondary use of the Sword is that it can function similar to Wayfinder, by pointing the user in the general direction of something they are searching for. It apparently does not home as strongly as Wayfinder, nor does it lead its possessor to interim goals required for successfully reaching the object of their desire. However, with the luck of Coinspinner, it is likely the user would be able to deal with any difficulty they meet with while en route. It should be noted, however, that Coinspinner's wielder is not invincible; one wielder suffered minor injuries when he was surrounded by a literal army of his enemies before he was able to escape.
Often Coinspinner will create a rebound effect of bad luck to its former owner after it leaves. It is not uncommon for Coinspinner to leave its master for his arch rival, with disastrous results. Therefore, Coinspinner serves as a wild card, making total control of the Swords of Power an impossible proposition. Because of this unpredictability, Coinspinner has often been the target of destruction for Shieldbreaker by those who wish to control all of the Swords.
Doomgiver is also called the Sword of Justice. It has a hollow circle engraved in white upon its hilt.
Doomgiver is one of the least understood of all the Swords. Its verse in The Song of Swords hints at its powers, and is as follows:
- 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.
Doomgiver is poorly understood because of the ambiguity of its verse, and because Doomgiver was rarely used in canon. It turns any attack directed toward it back to the source. If an arrow is fired at the wielder of the Sword of Justice, the arrow would turn around in mid-flight and fatally strike the archer. It also in general redirects maliciousness directed toward the one who holds it.
For example, in the Third Book of Swords, the goddess Aphrodite attempts to seize a Sword from a common mortal by seducing him. Doomgiver's sheath falls off in the exchange, and suddenly the goddess fell in love with the mortal, who equally suddenly was released from his own attraction to her. Her long history of callously toying with mortals' emotions was abruptly balanced by a sudden and permanent love for this human, as well as concern for the well-being of humanity in general. Although the Sword was quickly sheathed, the effects on Aphrodite lasted for the remainder of the series.
The Dark King Vilkata similarly hesitated to confront the Sword when it was defending the city of Tashigang, fearing that all the evil he or his followers had ever wielded against anyone in the city would be suddenly returned against him. During a raid on Vilkata's army, Doomgiver's wielder was invincible even when surrounded and outnumbered, every weapon used against him turning back on their wielders, a situation where even Coinspinner failed to completely protect its wielder.
In "Blind Man's Blade", Doomgiver had bats eat themselves, and had a demon folded painfully into its own gut. Doomgiver prevails over Soulcutter in that same book, turning its despair back at the Gods and allowing Doomgiver's wielder to use the sword without succumbing to it. It is also speculated that Doomgiver's power would prove superior to the other Swords, including being able to turn Farslayer back at the one who threw it, that Sightblinder's holder would see a terrible apparition while remaining vulnerable, that the Mindsword holder should worship Doomgiver's holder, and Coinspinner's master would suffer excruciating bad luck. Likewise, in that same book, when Mars tried to take Doomgiver away from the man who held it, in the name of the council of Gods, Doomgiver exacted its retaliation by taking all the Swords of the Gods away from them—except, of course, Shieldbreaker, which is immune to Doomgiver's powers.
Doomgiver's only apparent weakness, besides Shieldbreaker, seems to be that it doesn't protect the user from self-inflicted injuries, as the wizard Keyes cut himself with Doomgiver while testing it. The Sword may have had other properties only hinted at in its verse, but it was destroyed early on in the series by Shieldbreaker, making many facets of its power and use unclear.
Dragonslicer is also called the Sword of Heroes. It has a stylized dragon engraved in white on its hilt.
Dragonslicer's verse in The Song of Swords describes its power as follows:
- Dragonslicer, Dragonslicer, how d'you slay?
- Reaching for the heart in behind the scales.
- Dragonslicer, Dragonslicer, where d'you stay?
- In the belly of the giant that my blade impales.
Dragonslicer is one of the few Swords that is wholly benevolent in nature. In the Books of the Swords universe, Dragons are non-sentient predatory creatures that can grow to a hundred meters in length or more. The larger forms are capable of ravaging entire countrysides, and their hides are impervious to conventional weapons. Dragonslicer guides its user into the right place to deliver a fatal blow to any dragon, and can cut through dragon scale (and limbs, and tails, etc.) as easily as soft butter, making a shrill sound as it does. However, care must still be taken, for Dragonslicer does not actually magically protect its wielder against a dragon's various means of attack. A lesser problem is that the user of Dragonslicer may find the Sword difficult to let go of in the presence of a dragon, which the blade immediately guides them to attack.
When not employed against dragons, it is simply a sharp, well balanced, and well crafted blade that is proof against most damage, but offers no magical advantage. Thus, it is one of the least feared of the Swords—at least by humanity. While Dragonslicer only features occasionally in the Swords saga, by the end of the series dragons are largely extinct thanks to this weapon.
Farslayer's verse in The Song of Swords describes its power as follows:
- 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.
Farslayer is relatively straightforward in operation. The possessor must simply swing the blade around and think of the person whom they wish to kill, then release the sword. It is customary for the wielder to chant the second line of the Swords verse, "For thy heart...", as above, while they are spinning the Blade. This appears to be unnecessary for the proper function of Farslayer.
After launching, the Sword flies from the hand of its master, creating a shrieking rainbow-colored streak through the sky, terminating in the heart of the intended target. Nothing can be done to hide from Farslayer. The sword is intelligent enough to know exactly how to kill its target: for example, pitted against a demon, Farslayer attempted to attack the demon's projected form, but when this failed, it sailed far away to destroy that demon's life instead. Even the gods are not immune: in the Second Book of Swords, Baron Doon killed the god Hermes with it. Farslayer will phase through any substance that is placed between it and its target. Assassinations have taken place with the target in houses, fortified castles, even in caves hundreds of feet under ground. Distance from the target is also no obstacle. Only Shieldbreaker offers sure defense from the Sword of Vengeance, destroying the incoming blade as it attacks. Woundhealer does not prevent Farslayer from impaling its target, but it does ensure that the victim survives and that the wound heals. Some characters theorized that Doomgiver might present a defense, but this was never attempted in the series.
Once Farslayer reaches its target, it remains there. Typically, the deceased is surrounded by friends with thoughts of vengeance, and who are the new owners of Farslayer. This major drawback makes employing Farslayer a risky proposition. The sequence is played out in The Fourth Book of Lost Swords: Farslayer's Story, where two feuding families throw the Sword back and forth over the course of one evening, eventually resorting to family tree records so they can identify surviving targets, until one of the few survivors finally took the Sword and fled rather than using it.
One possible way of counteracting Farslayer's weakness is to only throw the Sword at enemies close enough to see, so that the user can retrieve the blade immediately afterwards. Vulcan employed this strategy against the other gods when wielding Farslayer, indicating that the Sword's extremely long range was actually intended only as a secondary function or as a last resort.
The Mindsword is also known as the Sword of Glory, or by the pejorative Skulltwister, the Sword of Madness. It has a flying banner engraved in white on its hilt.
The Mindsword's verse in The Song of Swords describes its power as follows:
- 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.
The Mindsword is one of the more overtly evil of the Swords, as it is difficult to imagine a good cause Skulltwister would be associated with. The Mindsword, when drawn, compels absolute and fanatical devotion to the person holding it. It flashes brightly as if catching the sun, and emits the faint roar of a cheering mob, which cannot be blocked out by covering ears or averting eyes. All who are in visual or aural range are affected. Not even the gods of the Swords universe are immune to its power.
The strength of the devotion is such that one under the Mindsword's power would even throw their life away if so ordered. There is no possibility of resisting or recovery, except for the passage of time. When removed from the Mindsword's presence, a person will gradually begin to lose the unnatural loyalty they felt toward the Sword's bearer and show signs of skepticism and then increasing rebelliousness before finally regaining their own mind. It takes around a week to fully recover, depending on the relationship between the target and the wielder, the wielder's own personal charisma, and the psychological resistance of the target.
The Blade seems to have another, lesser property as well—wounds made from its edge fester, preventing healing and possibly leading to fever and delirium. This power is rarely used, as most opponents would either be enslaved by the Mindsword's primary effects already, or else immune to both effects of the sword (such as the wielder of Shieldbreaker).
Other Swords provide some protection from the mind-control effect of the Mindsword, by virtue of their hold on the user's psyche. Sightblinder offers some resistance, although it still takes a great deal of willpower from the affected wielder, allows them only enough presence of mind to escape, doesn't give them enough leverage to actually attack the Mindsword's wielder, and doesn't protect against the Mindsword's festering wounds. Wayfinder also provides some protection. While it does not protect its wielder from the fanatical devotion, it allows them to maintain their sense of reason. For example, Wayfinder's wielder would not follow orders from Mindsword's wielder if those orders were blatantly suicidal or foolish. Soulcutter will trump the Mindsword's power, but in this case the cure can be worse than the disease, as the Mindsword's holder will have just enough protection to flee. Shieldbreaker offers absolute immunity when employed.
Although this was never demonstrated in the books, some characters speculated that Doomgiver might also provide protection against the Mindsword. One wielder of Doomgiver believed that it would force the Mindsword's wielder to worship him, while one wielder of the Mindsword believed that Doomgiver would turn his army of enthralled slaves against him. Woundhealer successfully healed the poisoned wound from the Sword of Glory, and can reverse the mind control as it would any other mental anomaly.
The Mindsword is one of the few Swords that is always "on" whether or not it is held by someone. At one point in the series, the Sword was left unsheathed on an icy mountain. Locals worshiped the mountain itself as a god, apparently under the effect of the Sword. Sheathing the Sword (or otherwise concealing its blade) will prevent the blade from functioning, though mind control once established will remain in effect.
The Sword of Glory is one of the most sought after of all the Twelve. Tyrants want it to dominate others, and good men want it locked up where it can do no harm, or destroyed if possible.
Shieldbreaker, also known as the Sword of Force, provides protection from all enemy attacks, whether melee, ranged or magical. It has a sledgehammer engraved in white on its hilt. Like Townsaver, Shieldbreaker takes over the sword arm of the person using it, and cannot be put down until the battle is over; however, Shieldbreaker will deflect incoming blows, while Townsaver will not. The Sword's greatest weakness is its inability to be used against an unarmed foe, meaning that the wielder (weakened by using Shieldbreaker) can be defeated quite easily in hand-to-hand combat. It also fatigues its wielder, to the point of draining any other superhuman powers they have in order to make their sword arm even stronger. Even Vulcan, while using it, found himself greatly weakened, his prodigious strength and ability to change size suddenly gone; he was quickly overpowered by the humans in the House of Courtenay.
Shieldbreaker is unique among the Swords, in that it can easily destroy any of the others in melee combat (with the exception of Woundhealer). In addition, any abilities possessed by the other Swords are negated by Shieldbreaker. While being used, Shieldbreaker emits a thudding rhythm that quickens when combat begins.
Verse from the Song of Swords:
- I shatter Swords and splinter spears;
- None stands to Shieldbreaker.
- My point's the fount of orphans' tears
- My edge the widowmaker.
Another unintended effect of Shieldbreaker is that it will prevent the user from showing mercy in combat. One wielder was confronted by a woman he loved, who had been turned against him by the Mindsword. Though he desperately didn't want to kill her, Shieldbreaker considered her armed when she used magic against him, and forced him to strike a lethal blow.
Sightblinder is also called the Sword of Stealth, and less commonly, the Sword of Deception. It bears a stylized human eye engraved in white upon its hilt.
Sightblinder's verse in The Song of Swords describes its power as follows:
- The Sword of Stealth is given to
- One lowly and despised.
- Sightblinder's gifts: his eyes are keen
- His nature is disguised.
Sightblinder's powers are twofold. First, it alters the appearance of its possessor. This is not via a traditional cloaking device or holographic projection, but it alters how outside agents perceive the person carrying the Sword of Stealth. When a person looks at someone holding Sightblinder, they believe they are looking at either someone they love and trust implicitly, or someone they fear.
The illusion is complete, regardless of how perceptive or skilled in magic the target may be. One may see Sightblinder as a parent, sibling, lover, god, or leader. The effect is so convincing that the target has trouble doubting the identity of the person they are looking at, even if it is changing from moment to moment. Sightblinder will disguise its bearer's voice if required. Sightblinder disguises itself as well, appearing as a cane, a scepter, another Sword, or even as nothing at all, depending on what would enhance the illusion.
The consistency of the illusion varies. In some situations involving multiple targets, every person will see something different. At other times, all present see the same thing. The illusion may switch from a person one fears to a person one loves and back again over the space of a single encounter (as when a dragon flew off, impaled with the blade), or it may remain the same over a long period of time (in the case of Mark impersonating a senior officer of the Dark King over a period of several days and with a large number of people). The series never establishes how an image is kept consistent—though it appears that the intelligence or consistency of purpose of the wielder plays a role.
In practice, the effect is similar to the Mindsword in that the target will obey the wielder. Unlike the Mindsword, the subject will not totally disregard their base inhibitions and are unlikely to throw their life away for the illusion, unless that is what they are naturally inclined to do.
A drawback to use of the Sword is that it makes sneaking around impossible. When one appears as a fearsome god, demon, or an intimate relation, they do not easily escape notice. Indeed, the Sword is best used boldly.
A secondary effect of Sightblinder is that it enhances the perceptions of the person carrying it. Their eyesight and hearing are supernaturally keen. It also allows its bearer to see through other illusionary magic and effects, no matter what the origin or strength. It offers some protection from the Mindsword by allowing its user to see the true nature of the other Sword's possessor. Sightblinder can recognize the presence of the Mindsword, and will give its user the urge to draw it before they can be enthralled. Sightblinder's bearer intuitively can tell when a person is being honest or deceitful.
As powerful as Sightblinder's illusions are, it cannot fool the one who carries Shieldbreaker. Farslayer is not fooled by the illusion. Some characters in the series speculated that Doomgiver would be able to reverse the effects of Sightblinder onto its own wielder, but this has not been seen in practice.
Soulcutter is also called the Sword of Despair, or the Tyrant's Blade. Unlike the other Twelve Swords, the Soulcutter's blade is a dull color lacking all luster that actually seems to draw light into itself, creating a pocket of localized gloom when drawn. It is also unique in that it bears no symbol or other marking on its black hilt.
Soulcutter's verse in The Song of Swords describes its power as follows:
- The Tyrant's Blade no blood hath spilled
- But doth the spirit carve
- Soulcutter hath no body killed
- But many left to starve.
When drawn, the Tyrant's Blade projects a field of total apathy that spreads to cover a fair-sized battlefield. Any creature caught within Soulcutter's sphere of influence immediately loses all interest in life and slumps to the ground in a state of profound depression. They are incapable of movement and take no notice of hunger, thirst, or exposure to elements. They will eventually die of deprivation if the Sword of Despair is not sheathed.
The critical drawback is that not even Soulcutter's wielder is spared this effect. In fact, once they draw the weapon, they cannot find the motivation to sheathe the Sword, making the choice to use the Sword of Despair the last one they make. If by some extreme intervention, like a person bearing Shieldbreaker entering the scene and covering the cursed Blade, Soulcutter's possessor will have aged at an extremely advanced rate, and still suffer severe long-term depression. Woundhealer can dispel most of the lingering mental effects, and some (but not all) of the physical deterioration.
Because of the horrific effects of the Sword, and the personal cost to the one employing it, Soulcutter is rarely drawn. Instead, it is used as a threat, where the mere knowledge that one possesses the Tyrant's Blade deters attack. Most actual uses have been out of extreme desperation or as an act of last defense. Soulcutter has also been drawn to counteract the Mindsword's influence, and it should be noted that Soulcutter "prevailed" in the sense that while the fanaticism of the Mindsword's wielder and his followers were somewhat shielded from the worst of Soulcutter's effects, eventually even they were defeated by despair. The wielder of the Mindsword was the only one to successfully escape the battlefield, and Soulcutter's despair, without intervention by Shieldbreaker.
For the bulk of the series, Soulcutter is hidden away by the god-like Emperor in an extremely remote location. Even when asked, the Emperor refuses to permit Soulcutter to become active again, citing its extreme danger to all involved.
The only way to use Soulcutter safely would be in combination with another sword that protects the wielder. Woundhealer can reverse the damage like any other wound, and a wielder of Doomgiver was able to use the Sword safely—though he believed that this was only because an enemy had given him Soulcutter, and that Doomgiver wouldn't have protected him if he drew it on himself. Shieldbreaker and Soulcutter together would render a person for all intents and purposes invincible. Indeed, this very scenario occurs at the climax of the series, and is defeated only by the ability of Woundhealer to "heal" Soulcutter's damage immediately.
Stonecutter is also called the Sword of Siege. It has a wedge driving into a block engraved in white on its hilt.
Stonecutter's verse in The Song of Swords describes its power as follows:
- 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.
Stonecutter's use, like Dragonslicer, is highly specialized. It carves any stone of whatever thickness or density as easily as soft butter. When it is being used to this end, it emits a distinct hammering sound (like the sound of a chisel chipping away stone), which is louder or softer depending on the scale of its use.
As its verse suggests, Stonecutter can be used to topple castle walls, but it can and has been used by artists to sculpt fine art (or even to cut fine gemstones). Like all of its fellow Swords, the Sword of Siege makes an excellent conventional blade in addition to its magical properties. It also appears to be the only sword besides Dragonslicer that does not have a major drawback or any known weaknesses.
Townsaver is also called the Sword of Fury. It has a sword raised above a stylized segment of castle wall engraved in white on its hilt.
Townsaver's power is defending unarmed people in a fixed position. When its wielder draws it for this purpose, the blade emits a screaming sound and takes over control from the user, moving his arms with superhuman speed and power to defeat any attackers. It is not an overstatement to say that Townsaver can singlehandedly defeat an entire army.
Townsaver's verse in The Song of Swords hints at its power and peril, and is as follows:
- 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
Unfortunately, unlike many of its fellow Swords, such as Shieldbreaker, it does nothing to protect the actual wielder. In fact, it will use the wielder's body to deflect and absorb ranged attacks and other blows, if it is practical to do so and if the action will result in the protection of the people it is trying to defend. Townsaver will keep its wielder alive until the battle is over. If the user has sustained serious wounds during the battle, they can and often do die.
In addition, Townsaver will not allow its user to drop or relinquish its power once the battle has been engaged. The user is totally committed once Townsaver is drawn. It will take no action to defend the user if he stands alone.
Of course, countermeasures have been developed to offset Townsaver's weaknesses somewhat. Giving the user strong armor is one that has been used with success. Since it is not the user's speed and power driving the weapon, it is possible to burden the wielder with heavy armor that would ordinarily be a fatal encumbrance.
The Song of Swords also hints explicitly at the destiny for the Sword. While the phrase is typically taken to mean that the wielder is unlikely to survive a battle, when Mark's half-brother Kenn dies wielding it early in the series, Mark takes Townsaver and leaves his village to find his destiny.
Townsaver was destroyed when its wielder confronted the god Vulcan, who was wielding Shieldbreaker during a siege. The God was heard to mutter "that must have been Townsaver by its voice... But, by the Spear of Mars, it's gone now too! Damnation to all human vermin who destroy my property!"
Wayfinder is also called the Sword of Wisdom. It has an arrow engraved in white on its hilt.
Wayfinder's verse in The Song of Swords describes its power as follows:
- Who holds Wayfinder finds good roads
- Its master's step is brisk.
- The Sword of Wisdom lightens loads
- But adds unto their risk.
Wayfinder's chief power is guiding its bearer to whatever it is they seek. Not only will it lead one to their ultimate goal, it will also intelligently guide them to things that are required to successfully accomplish its mission. Wayfinder seems to do better and be more kind to its user when the request is broad and general, and less so the more specific the user is. Its main drawback is that while it picks routes that will eventually lead its master to success, it never picks the safest route, if one exists. It is the opinion of many of the past owners of the Sword that it actually picks the worst, most dangerous path for its user to follow. Thus the Sword does indeed "add unto their risk."
Wayfinder's other weakness is that it only will lead someone to one thing at a time. Many times, the wielder will change his mind or have confused priorities that cloud the usefulness of the weapon.
For example, if one were to seek great wealth, Wayfinder might lead one to a bank vault. But before doing so, it would lead one to the world's best safe cracker, and then the equipment he would need to break into the vault. If the safe cracker would need some sort of special compensation to cooperate, it would help one find that as well. Also, because of Wayfinder's tendency to seek risky paths, it would most likely lead one to a heavily guarded and protected vault. When it is operating in this type of "seeker" mode, it quivers when it is being pointed in the right general direction, also subtly steering its possessor's arms as a kind of divining rod.
In addition, Wayfinder can also act as the ultimate Magic 8-ball, answering questions such as, "Which of these plates of food is poisoned?" or "Which of these men is lying to me?" It is unnecessary to vocalize these questions; a mental query is sufficient. Just like when it is in seeker mode, it indicates the correct answer by quivering when its blade is pointing in the correct direction. This is the chief reason Wayfinder is also dubbed the "Sword of Wisdom".
Woundhealer is also called the Sword of Mercy, and less frequently, the Sword of Love, and even more infrequently, the Sword of Healing. It bears an open human hand engraved in white on its hilt.
Woundhealer's verse in The Song of Swords describes its power as follows:
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.
Woundhealer is the only Sword incapable of killing, though it can cut and hack inanimate matter as well as any of the other Swords. Instead, when living flesh is pierced with the Blade, it has a powerful healing effect. The Sword can knit broken bones, heal disease, fix genetic disorders, regenerate lost limbs, and repair mental or psychological problems (including the effects of Soulcutter). Properly employed, it can enable its user to sustain extensive damage without dying. Its healing effect can prevent amputation of entire limbs if the Sword is in active use; the blade heals the wound before the attack can complete its path across the limb, and before the wound can start to bleed.
The sensation of Woundhealer cutting or piercing an individual is described as a sort of exquisite pain. When in action, Woundhealer emits a sound similar to a human sigh. Woundhealer works on any living thing, human or animal. It is not known to restore the dead to life.
Woundhealer is not explicitly stated to project a healing aura. In most cases, the blade must come into contact and break the skin of the person being healed. Woundhealer can be self-administered. The time of effect depends on the severity of injury or sickness, and proximity of the Blade to the problem area. While Woundhealer can eventually repair a broken leg by being stuck into the patient's heart, the healing is instantaneous when it is sliced through the affected limb. At one point, a character plunged the Blade into his chest, rode his horse off a high cliff, survived the fall, used the sword to heal both himself and his horse, and rode away. In another incident, though it took several weeks, it completely regenerated the lost arm of Jord the Smith after a single application.
At least one short story in An Armory of Swords seems to suggest that Woundhealer does project an air of good health. That is, while it does no actual healing unless actively employed, long-term proximity to the blade will make a person healthier than otherwise. This is only implied, though, and not stated.
Woundhealer is the only Sword that has survived an encounter with Shieldbreaker, although the circumstances were unusual. The Sword was plunged into the heart of Prince Mark, the son of the god-like Emperor, at the time Mark's opponent attacked with Shieldbreaker. Instead of destroying Woundhealer, Shieldbreaker was obliterated. It is unclear whether the outcome would have been the same if the tactic was tried by a character of less distinctive lineage, or by an evil character. Another possibility is that since Woundhealer is incapable of harming anyone, it is hardly a weapon, despite its appearance. Under this definition Shieldbreaker's ability to cancel and destroy all other weapons would not apply. Finally, there is the possibility that Shieldbreaker, having been hurled at its victim and so not otherwise being wielded, considered Mark to be its owner after piercing his flesh. As a result, it became a weapon threatening its own wielder and, as a consequence of its powers, destroyed itself. Under this theory, Woundhealer's only role was in keeping its bearer alive during this process. This last possibility is unlikely, as Vulcan the Smith once wounded himself with Shieldbreaker while fighting unarmed opponents.
At the end of the Swords series, Woundhealer is the only one of the Twelve remaining in existence, the rest having been destroyed by Shieldbreaker.
It also is called the Sword of Love. At one point the Sword was thrust through the heart of two people. Despite having only just met, the two found themselves in love with each other afterwards, even knowing that Woundhealer likely caused this. The two remained in love until one was overcome by the power of the Mindsword, which superseded Woundhealer's power. A reapplication of the Sword of Love was necessary to reinstate the bond between the two. A different, more evil character felt as if Woundhealer was trying to alter his personality when it pierced his body, and he needed a good deal of willpower to resist its influence.
- Saberhagen 1984, p. 295.