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.

The magic behind Farslayer, the Sword of Vengeance, is certainly one of the most clever, deceptively simple powers of the Swords -- Saberhagen deserves a big pat on the back for this one. The delivery and follow-through add to the disturbing charm of this Sword.

Simply put, you swing Farslayer about (there is a traditional chant, alluded to in the song verse, but it does not seem to be required), and once you designate a target for your vengeful strike, it proceeds to fly forth from your hands and embed itself in the heart of that target (man, beast, demon, or god), no matter how far away he/she/it is, and no matter how hard they try and hide or encase themselves in protective material. To add dramatic effect, apparently, the Sword makes a "howling" sound as it flies, and tends to be accompanied and/or trailed by a streak of "spectral" light (redshift/blueshift?). Farslayer also "phases" through matter, becoming solid only upon entering the body of the target. Essentially, the Sword brings instant death for the victim; instant revenge for the releaser.

Ah, but therein lies the catch! The Sword does not return -- this is a godly Dagger, not a Boomerang. Once you have thrown it, you have also handed it to someone else... the first to reach the body. If they can guess who has thrown it, and they wish revenge for the act, they, too, may then hurl it out of sight, possibly back to the original revenge-seeker.

We see this scenario played out to its extreme in The Fourth Book of Lost Swords: Farslayer's Story, one of the better of the Books of Lost Swords. Of course, the first to find the newly-thrown Farslayer may not wish revenge for the act, or may seek to strike elsewhere. Every throw of the Sword is a gamble -- but one that pretty much guarantees at least a partial victory through its vengeful result, with only a few exceptions:

  1. If the target is wielding Shieldbreaker, that Sword will destroy Farslayer before it strikes its intended victim. Farslayer will thus be lost, and the intended victim will still be alive and well.

  2. Woundhealer may also interfere. If the Sword of Mercy (Woundhealer) is already embedded in the heart of the intended victim when Farslayer drives itself home, the victim will not die, provided Farslayer is removed from the heart before Woundhealer. This is, naturally, the worst outcome for the one who throws Farslayer, since the victim is not only still alive, but also in possession of the Sword of Vengeance (and good cause to use it).

  3. Coinspinner and Doomgiver might also affect an attempt to strike using Farslayer. At least one other Sword (Townsaver) could lead to an interesting outcome, as well, but Farslayer would still claim the victim eventually. Sightblinder, Soulcutter, or the Mindsword would only be of help -- fooling, numbing, or controlling the revenge-seeker -- before the Sword is thrown. Once it's away, they would likely have no effect.

All other Swords seem useless against the Sword of Vengeance -- potentially, Wayfinder could lead you to somewhere you might find something useful to protect yourself (another Sword), or a way to remove or dissuade the person who wants your heart as a shishkabob... if you had enough time before the Sword was thrown (say, if they had a lot of people to choose from). Most likely Wayfinder would respond with the Sword equivalent of a blank stare if you asked it where you could go to get away from Farslayer -- especially once the Blade has been cast. You know the song: "Ain't no mountain high enough; ain't no valley low enough; ain't no river wide enough, to keep me from you".

Back to the Introduction Page