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Twelve Swords, each with a different magic power, were forged high in the Ludus Mountains by the god Vulcan (see GODS) with the assistance of Jord, a human smith whose right arm was sacrificed by Vulcan in the process.
Physically the Twelve Swords are very nearly identical. Each double-edged blade is one meter in length, of dazzling workmanship, magically, permanently, keen, and virtually indestructible by any human effort not employing another Sword. Each (except Woundhealer) can be used as a superb physical weapon, apart from its magical qualities.
The flat sides of each blade display a mottled appearance suggesting the illusion of depth; the pattern gives the illusion of going centimeters deep into the steel, though the blade is everywhere less than a centimeter thick. The only real difference in physical appearance among the 12 lies in the white symbols (see SWORDS LIST) borne by eleven of the twelve hilts.
Actually two Swords, Doomgiver and Townsaver, were destroyed early in the series, being struck by their colleague Shieldbreaker in the course of hand-to-hand combat. This fact, like most of the rest of the intricate history in the Swords series, need not much concern contributors. This anthology represents a starting over, a "what-if" or alternate deployment of the Blades, as will be explained in the frame story.
Any character holding more than one Sword at a time usually experiences at least a temporary psychic strain of some kind.
BEASTS: Several distinct types not available on 20th century Earth (aka the OLD WORLD) are mentioned. RIDING-BEASTS are very horse-like, and the descriptions of them so far are consistent with their actual descent from today's horses. LOAD-BEASTS are more for pulling plows and bearing burdens; consider the burro or the mule, though presumably these animals can reproduce their kind more easily than mules. The name MILK-BEASTS is self-explanatory.
Many animals common in the Old World still exist; for example deer, rabbits, barnyard fowl.
Biology is rather malleable in the SWORDS' world, and odd hybrids of all the creatures listed here, as well as others, are quite probable.
Often a human professional called a Beastmaster is employed to deal with the more exotic types, unknown in the Old World where we authors live. A number of them (beasts, not authors) are semi-intelligent, that is, capable of some speech, carrying simple messages, etc.
DRAGONS, begin life as tiny helpless creatures in small streams, where adult females lay thousands or millions of eggs for every dragon that ever grows to the stage of traditional fire-breathing monster. After that stage ("landwalker") comes the final one, attained even more rarely: that of the great legless worm. The proverbial archetype is the Great Worm Yilgarn, which has never actually appeared in the series.
WARBEASTS, comparatively rare, are used as animated weapons; think of them as well-trained panthers or lions, sometimes sent into battle wearing armor. No smarter than dogs.
FLYING REPTILES, implacable enemies of humanity (and so invariably leagued with the bad guys). Semi-intelligent. They come in assorted sizes, are usually of dark color, and have sharp teeth and leathery wings.
GREAT BIRDS are about on the mental level of their deadly enemies the flying reptiles, but generally friendly to humans and linked with the good guys. The most important variety of bird is a type of giant owl, big and strong enough to pull a mounted man out of the saddle if a couple of owls attack simultaneously. Excellent night-time scouts and skirmishers. Poor sense of horizontal distances.
GRIFFINS are creatures more of magic than of biology, and thus are able to fly at speeds rivalling those of Old World aircraft, with loads well beyond the power of mere biology and aerodynamics to sustain, e.g., a couple of people and their baggage per griffin. Basically giant, long-necked, winged lions, with the possibilities of subspecies limited only by those of magic itself. Very dangerous beasts, used almost invariably by evil magicians.
DEMONS: As explained in Saberhagen's Empire of the East, which is among other things a kind of prequel to the SWORDS books, demons began their existence as nuclear explosions or lesser acts of violence, any such events whose occurence coincided with the wave of change which transformed the OLD WORLD to the new; but contributors need not necessarily be concerned about the origins of demons.
Currently any demon is a magical creature capable of taking material form but not confined to it. A demon may be punished or constrained by strong magic but cannot be slain or very precisely controlled, even by the greatest wizard, without knowledge of where the demon's life is concealed. Every demon's life is lodged in some physical object, perhaps very far from his active presence. The object itself may be quite innocent, for example a woman's hair or the spray of the sea. To gain physical control over this hiding place means having deadly power over the demon, even for a non-magician.
A demon may choose to assume any of a great variety of forms, human or inhuman, and can exert superhuman physical force. They frequently enjoy ingesting humans or other animals for a prolonged period of psychic "cud-chewing"--the most painful fate a human being can experience. The demon may be forced to disgorge its prey by sufficiently powerful magic.
Often the mere presence of a demon, or even its approach, produces physical illness, nausea, in humans not inured to such distilled evil, or protected from it by benign magic. Demons also serve evil magicians (those powerful enough to control them) as airborne transportation, even swifter and more destructive than griffins.
The EMPEROR's children, a few humans actually begotten by that mysterious figure, all share a rather mysterious power with regard to demons. Though some of this select group of people may not realize the fact until they try, by delivering an incantation: "In the Emperor's name, foresake this game, and (specific command) !" any of them can compel any demonic power to stand back, to go away, even to flee to an enormous distance, probably somewhere in the vicinity of the Moon's orbit; the evil creature needs days to get back to Earth. This "Imperial" command overrides any other magic to which the demon may be subject.
GODS: Any deities willing to co-exist with other "divine" characters may be introduced. Originally most were from the Greek-Roman pantheons, e.g., Vulcan, Mars, Aphrodite. Gods are vastly stronger than any human warrior or magician, generally stronger even than demons--but still subject to the powers of the SWORDS.
The fundamental truth about most of the gods coming on stage in the SWORDS series is that they are all created by the collective human unconscious. They can, and do, go out of existence when people collectively cease to want them; in fact I depopulated the world of gods halfway through the series. Of course this does not keep you from using them.
ARDNEH (worshipped by the WHITE TEMPLE) is something of an exception, a survivor, in many people's minds though not in fact, from my EMPIRE OF THE EAST, which preceded the SWORDS' world. ARDNEH, 50,000 years or so before the SWORDS came along, was a giant, benignly programmed computer, rendered sentient by the same wave of change which produced the demons. Ardneh is represented in art with a face inhumanly broad and huge, some suggestion of mechanism in the form.
DRAFFUT (aka LORD OF BEASTS) is another oddity, a real survivor from the OLD WORLD, where he began life prosaically enough as a dog, though most of his devotees in the SWORDS world would vehemently deny any such provenance. Has healing powers almost equal to those of WOUNDHEALER. Over tens of thousands of years his special powers tend to run down, leaving him again little more than a large dog. In his prime he stands six meters tall walking on his hind legs, has usefully hand-like forepaws and glowing fur, a face neither quite human or quite bestial, and can fight the most powerful demons and gods on something like even terms. Definitely a friend of humanity; in fact suffers major psychological trauma if he causes injury to any human. Greatly devoted to THE EMPEROR.
Various factions have flags, uniforms, etc. in distinctive color schemes. New ones can be made up freely. Some of the existing schemes commonly encountered are:
Blue Temple: blue and gold
Red Temple: red and black
White Temple: white
Silver Queen: silver and black
Tasavalta: blue and green
TEMPLES: Religious or quasi-religious organizations, found almost everywhere. Three are prominent, others could be invented.
WHITE TEMPLE: The only widespread religion of real benevolence. Worships Ardneh (q.v.) and maintains hospitals, orphanages, etc. May be locally corrupt. Tends toward non-violence but is not absolutely pacifist.
RED TEMPLE: Worships the sensual gods and provides for its adherents (or for anyone with money) drink, drugs, prostitution, etc. Its armed guards notoriously corrupt and drug-ridden.
BLUE TEMPLE: Archetypal greedy misers, exemplifying the worst of capitalism run amok. Uses the trappings of a large corporation, Chairman, Board of Directors, etc. Vast secret underground hoards of wealth. Notoriously stingy.
THE EMPEROR: Aka The Great Clown. Seldom seen, very mysterious figure of unknown age and provenance, who from time to time takes an active part in human affairs; begets children (see also DEMONS), fights in wars, gives gifts. Enjoys pranks. Commonly believed to be no more than a legendary and unreal clown, but his reality is appreciated by the wise, many of whom consider him the greatest magician in the world. He may casually perform feats of what appear to be the greatest magic. Unalterably opposed to evil magicians and to demons, yet generally tolerates them. Appears usually as an average-looking thirtyish man in gray. In fact, though the point is not made explicitly, the Emperor is an aspect of the Creator of the universe.
End of BIBLE
FICTION / FANTASY /GODS