And now Mark faced a nice, practical, tactical question: How should an unarmed opponent – like himself, for one armed only with Woundhealer was effectively unarmed – how should such a one attempt to fight an enemy who held Shieldbreaker and the Sword of Despair?
And Mark thought he knew; his recent experience with Farslayer had helped him acquire the knowledge. It could be assumed, or gambled, though no one could claim solid proof, that Woundhealer would save the mind as well as the body from ongoing damage – or repair the damage as fast as it was inflicted.
Mark, his left hand still clamping the hilt of Woundhealer hard against his own ribs, feeling the transcendent giddiness of the Sword of Love buried in his own heart, leapt in to wrestle with only his right hand.
Arridu immediately dropped Shieldbreaker – and was at once seized, staggered as he had dared to hope he would not be, by the mortal power of unsheathed Soulcutter still in his other hand. The impact of Depair was strong enough to stun the demon momentarily, sending him reeling back. Soulcutter slipped from his weakened grip.
Mark, still holding himself transfixed with the Sword of Love, grabbed up the discarded Sword of Force and struck at the nearest vital target, smashing Soulcutter to bits as the Sword of Despair lay on the ground.
Its poisoned fragments stung him harmlessly. At least, at last, if all our struggles achieve nothing else, that damned thing is gone…
Now the great demon, stunned and terrified by the loss of two Swords, turned to flee. And Mark, determined that Arridu should not escape, hurled Shieldbreaker after him…he saw to his horror the demon’s figure twisting in mid-air, saw the gigantic warrior’s hand reach out to seize the hilt of the spinning Sword of Force. Screaming with new triumph, howling like a whirlwind, the enormous demon fell upon him.
Mark started to draw from his breast the only Sword he had, meaning to meet the last attack full on.
His effort came too late. Shieldbreaker and Woundhealer were smashed together, inside a human heart.
…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, 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.