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This is driving me nuts. Back in (I believe) the 80s, in SF&F magazine, there were several short fantasy stories about a pair of women, one a warrior, the other a wizard, and they traveled their world, but were under a geas to help women in need. I think it was the sword the warrior carried that caused this, but I'm not entirely sure anymore. The author in question went on to write novels.

It's driving me nuts, because I can't remember who it was. Maybe Mercedes Lackey, but a look on her website didn't help.

Does anyone know what I'm talking about?

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This is probably Mercedes Lackey's Tarma and Kethry stories.

The Oathbound: Introduces Tarma–swordswoman trained by elite warriors in all forms of deadly combat–and Kethry, former noblewoman whose magical skills were shaped by a powerful school of sorcery. United by the Goddess and armed with a magical sword drawing them to those in need, Tarma and Kethry swore a blood oath to fight against evil.

Oathblood, the 3rd book, is all short stories, including their origin story, "Sword Sworn", originally published in Marion Zimmer Bradley's anthology Sword and Sorceress III.

As K-H-W notes, the sword is named Need. Initially, it just seems like a powerful magic item, able to make someone a trained swordswoman if they are untrained (as Kethry is) and protecting them from magic if they cannot wield magic (as with Tarma). When Kerowyn, Kethry's granddaughter, wields the blade, she gains both abilities. However, when Elspeth gets her hands on the blade, it awakens and it's revealed that it's a powerful artifact of the Mage Wars, containing the soul of Lashan, a Mage-Smith.

  • Pretty sure this answer is correct; as support, the sword: Her name is 'Need'. She's a very memorable character for quite a few books, even if she is technically an inanimate object for most of them. – K-H-W Jul 22 at 1:57
  • Thank you so much! So I was right guessing the author, I just failed when searching her web page. – Joseph Larson Jul 22 at 16:24
  • It was also sort of the "odd man out" of her initial book series, largely not involving Valdemar. – FuzzyBoots Jul 22 at 17:44

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