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Reading this question: Book about axe-wielding protagonist who goes berserk in battle and blinds a woman brought to mind a similar scene that I must have read in some fantasy novel, but for some reason I cannot place it. I probably read this book in the 1990s, but that is only an estimate. I think that it must have come near the end of a novel (or even a series), since the scene seems to represent the tragic end of the story arcs for the two characters involved.

What I remember is that an experienced, middle-aged warrior ends up fighting a group of people who have been mind controlled and forced to attack him. Whatever magic makes him powerful prevents him from showing any mercy in battle, in spite of what he may want. Most of the people sent to attack him are strangers, but one is a female magician that he knows (and may have been romantically involved with). There is a description of her flinging weak spells against him, but he cannot stop himself from killing her, first by cutting off her spell-casting hands and then by either beheading or impaling her on his weapon. He is filled with anguish as he observes himself doing all this.

After the carnage, in which she was probably the last one to die, the warrior emerges from his berserker rage and collapses himself.

  • Leaving this here as I don't think it's your story (too new and the berserker rage happens at the start of this book, not the end) but it could help others: The Berserker and the Pedant. – TheLethalCarrot Aug 8 '18 at 9:07
  • There's a book series I recall seeing, but I never read them beyond skimming one of them in the bookstore: "Frank Frazetta's Death Dealer" by Frazetta and James Silke. What you describe sounds like the kind of thing that might be in those books. goodreads.com has some reviews that might help you. – LAK Aug 8 '18 at 14:10
  • I should mention that the protagonist in the Death Daler books wears a helmet that makes him some sort of super warrior/berserker, which is what I was reminded of when you talked about the protagonist being forced to fight mercilessly. – LAK Aug 8 '18 at 14:24
  • This reminds me, especially the involuntary nature of the berserker state, of one of the books in the Magic Series but not a specific story therein I'm afraid. – Ash Aug 8 '18 at 14:54
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    How many times did Elric do this? – Spencer Jun 30 at 13:03
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This popped up again on the front page, and I remembered the answer. I was thinking of The [disappointing and often forgettable] Third Book of Swords by Fred Saberhagen, and specifically the the final battle fought by Sir Andrew, the Kind Knight. Sir Andrew faces off against his followers who have been possessed by the power of the Mindsword, including his lover Dame Yoldi. However, his own magical weapon, Shieldbreaker, will not allow him to stop fighting while there are any other weapons raised against him.

Sir Andrew’s bodyguard, greatly outnumbered by berserk fanatics, were all down now, their’ dead or dying bodies being hacked to pieces by their mad attackers. But Shieldbreaker protected the man who held it. It continued to make its sound, yet faster now and louder. It worked on, its voice still dull despite its blinding speed, its dazzling arc. It worked efficiently, indifferent as to whom or what it struck, indifferent to whatever screams or words went up from those it disarmed or cut apart, indifferent equally to whatever weapons might be plied against it. Denis saw axeheads, knives, sword-blades, shafts of spears and arrows, flying everywhere, whole and in a hail of fragments. Human limbs and armor danced bloodily within the hail, and surely that bouncing, rolling object had once been a head.

The mouth of the Kind Knight opened and he screamed, surely a louder and more terrible roar than any coming from the folk he struck. Denis, creeping closer still as if he were unable to help himself, saw that Sir Andrew was now covered with blood from head to foot. It was impossible to tell if any of it might be his own. But if he were wounded, still the mad vigor of his movements, energized by magic, continued unabated.

The Knight roared again, in greater agony than before. Denis saw that Dame Yoldi, possessed, a creature of evil hatred, her face hideously transformed, was closing in on Sir Andrew. Her hands were outspread like claws, as if to rend, and she cried out desperate spells of magic. Even Denis the unmagical could feel the backwash of their deadly, immaterial power.

To the Sword of Force the tools of magic were no more than any other weapons. They were dissolved and broken against that gleaming curve almost invisible with speed, that brutal thudding in the air. Dame Yoldi’s hatred propelled her closer, closer, to the man she would destroy, and closer still, until the edge of the bright arc of force touched her, hands first, body an eyeblink later, and wiped her away.

I was also partially conflating this scene with the slightly earlier one where the Dark King Vilkata uses the Mindsword to take control of Sir Andrew's retainers, and Dame Yoldi tries to resist, throwing up several counterspells that the Mindsword's magic brushes aside.

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If I remember correctly it was a series of 4 books starting in Norse times but jumps around time in the second (I think I remember castles in the second). The main "Hero" was cursed by the God Woden and imbued with the rage of the bear. In battle he and other beserkers would go into a trance and kill anything within range (including there own) and kept fighting with wounds that would kill an ordinary man. I Think this is the set your remembering. Robert Holdstock – Berserker an Orion Gateway Omnibus collecting the trilogy he wrote as by Chris Carlson, which consists of Shadow of the Wolf, The Bull Chief and The Horned Warrior

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    This is a nice answer now you’ve identified the work. In the future can you refrain from answering until doing so and instead post the information as either a comment or your own question. – TheLethalCarrot Jun 30 at 12:57
  • @TheLethalCarrot while I do agree with you, do note that the poster does not have enough reputation to post a comment. Once the poster gets enough reputation, they definitely should post a comment first. – Grant Garrison Jun 30 at 17:50
  • @GrantGarrison I’m aware, it’s best to make them aware of all the options though even if not possible quite just yet. – TheLethalCarrot Jun 30 at 18:00

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