Toys of Tamisan

by Andre Norton as Andrew North

 all.cats.are.gray.1953 fantastic universe   toys of tamisan 1969 pt2

 

1st Published ~ Part 1 (1969) Worlds of If - Science Fiction Published by Galaxy Publishing, April 1969 Vol.19 No. 4 Issue 137, $0.60, pgs. 5-44 ~ story illustrated by Adkins (Front of Magazine has the title listed as “The Toys of Tamisen”)

Part 2 (1969) Worlds of If - Science Fiction Published by Galaxy Publishing, May 1969 Vol.19 No. 5 Issue 138, $0.60, pgs. 107-145 ~ story illustrated by Adkins

Available NowWizards' Worlds (1989) Edited by Ingrid Zierhut, Published by TOR, HC, 0-312-93191-3, $17.95, 500pg ~ cover by Lucy Synk

Bibliography Page - http://andre-norton-books.com/worlds-of-andre/short-stories/468-toys-of-tamisan




 Page 2 of 4

 

Chapter 5

Did one sleep in a dream, dream upon dream, perhaps? Tamisan wondered about that as she stretched out upon the couch her hostess showed her. Yet when she set aside her crown and laid her head upon the roll which served as a pillow, she was once more alert, her thoughts racing or entangled in such wild confusion that she felt as giddy as she had upon rising from her seer's chair.

The Starrex symbol overlying both that of the sword and the space ship in the sand picture—could it mean that she would only find what she sought when the might of this world met that of the starmen? And had she indeed in some manner fallen into the past where she would relive the first coming of the space voyagers to Ty-Kry? But no, the noblewoman had mentioned past encounters with them which had ended in favor of Ty-Kry.

Tamisan tried to envision a world of her own time, but one in which history had taken a different road. Yet much of that around her was of the past Did that mean that, without the decisions of her own time, the world of Ty-Kry remained largely unchanged from century to century?

Real, unreal, old, now—she had lost all a dreamer's command of action. Tamisan did not play now with toys which she could move about at will, but rather was caught up in a series of events she could not foresee and over which she had no control. Yet twice the woman had called her by her rightful name—and without willing it she had used the devices of a Mouth of Olava to foretell, as if she had done so many times before.

Could it be? Tamisan closed her teeth upon her lower lip and felt the pain of that, just as she felt the pain of the bruises left by her abrupt entrance into the mysterious here. Could it be that some dreams were so deep, so well woven that they were to the dreamer real? Was this indeed the fate of those "closed" dreamers who were worthless for the Hive? Did they in their trances live a countless number of lives? But she was not a closed dreamer—

Awake! Once more, stretched as she was upon the couch, she used the proper technique to throw herself but of a dream. And once more she experienced that weird nothingness in which she spun sickeningly,' as if held helplessly in some void, tied to an anchor which kept her back from the full leap to sane safety. There was only one explanation—that somewhere in this strange Ty-Kry one or both of those who had prepared to share her dream was now to be found and must be sought out before she could return.

So—the sooner that she accomplished, the better! But where should she start seeking? Though a feeling of weakness clung to her limbs, making her move slowly as if she strove to walk against the pull of a strong current, Tamisan arose from the couch. She turned to pick up her Mouth's crown and so looked into the oval of a mirror, startled thus into immobility. For the figure she looked upon as her own reflection was not that she had seen before.

It was not the robe or the crown which had changed her, she was not the same person. For a long time, ever since she could remember, she had had the pallid skin and the close-cropped hair of a dreamer very seldom in the sunlight. But the face of the woman in the mirror was a soft, even brown. The cheekbones were wide, the eyes large, the lips very red. Her brows—she leaned closer to the mirror to see what gave them that odd upward slant and decided that they had been plucked or shaven to produce the effect. Her hair was perhaps three fingers long and not her very fair coloring, but dark and curling. She was not the Tamisan she knew, nor was this stranger the product of her own will.

And it must follow logically that if she did not look like her normal self—then perhaps the two she sought were no longer as she remembered either. Thus her search would be twice the more difficult. Could she ever recognize them?

Frightened now, she sat down on the couch, facing the mirror. No, she dared not even give way to fear. For if she once let it break her control she might be utterly lost. Logic, even in such a world of unlogic, must make her think lucidly.

Just how true was her soothsaying? At least she had not influenced that fall of the sand. Therefore—perhaps the Mouth of Olava did have supernatural powers. She had played with the idea of magic in the past to embroider dreams, but that had been her own creation. Could she use it by will now—since it would seem this unknown self of hers did manage to draw upon some unknown source of power?

Fasten her thoughts upon one of the men, hold him in her mind—could the dream tie pull her to him? Kas or Starrex? All she knew of her master she had learned from tapes, and tapes gave one only superficial knowledge, as if one could study a person going through only half-understood actions behind a veil which concealed more than it displayed. Kas had spoken directly to her, his flesh had touched hers. If she must choose one to draw her, then it had better be Kas.

Kas—in her mind Tamisan built a memory sketch of him as she would build a preliminary picture for a dream. Then suddenly the Kas in her mind flickered and changed. She saw another man. He was taller than the Kas she knew, and he wore a uniform tunic and space boots—his features were hard to distinguish—and that vision lasted only a fraction of time.

The ship! That symbol had lain touching both ship and sword in the sand seeing. And it would be easier to seek a man on the ship than wandering through the streets of a strange city with no better clue than that Starrex—this world's counterpart—might just be here.

So little on which to pin a quest! A ship which might or might not be now approaching Ty-Kry—and which would meet a drastic reception when it landed. Suppose Kas—or his this-world's double—were killed? Would that anchor her here for all time? Resolutely Tamisan pushed such negative speculation to the back of her mind. First things first; the ship had not yet planeted. But when it came she must make sure that she was among those who were preparing for its welcome.

It seemed that having made that decision she was at last able to sleep, for the fatigue which had struck at her in the hall returned a hundredfold, and she fell, back on the couch as one drugged, remembering nothing more until she awakened to find the woman in green standing above her, one hand on her shoulder shaking her gently back to awareness.

"Awake—there is a summons."

A summons to dream, Tamisan thought dazedly, and then the unfamiliar room, the immediate past came completely back to her.

"The First Standing Jassa has summoned." The woman sounded excited. "It is said by her messenger, and he has brought a chair cart for you, that you are to go to the High Castle! Perhaps you will see for the Over-Queen herself! But there MS time—I have won it for you—to bathe, to eat, to change your robe. See—I have plundered my own bride chest—" She pointed to a chair over which was spread a robe, not of the deep violet Tamisan now wore, but of a purple-wine. "It is the only one of the proper color—or near it." She ran her hand lovingly over the rich folds.

"But haste!" she added briskly. "As a Mouth you can

claim the need for making ready to appear before high company, but to linger too long will raise the anger of the First Standing."

There was a basin large enough to serve as a bath in the room beyond. And, as well as the robe, the woman brought fresh body linen. So that when Tamisan stood once more before the mirror to clasp her silver belt and assume the Mouth crown, she felt renewed and refreshed and her thanks were warm.

But the woman made a gesture of brushing them aside. "Are we not of the same clan, cousin-kin? Shall one say that Nahra is not open-handed with her own? That you are a Mouth is our clan pride, let us enjoy it through you!"

She brought a covered bowl and a goblet and Tamisan ate a dish of mush-meal into which had been baked dried fruit and bits of what she thought well-chopped meat. It was tasty, and she finished it to the last crumb, just as she emptied the cup of a tart-sweet drink.

"Well away, Tamisan, this is a great day for the clan of Fremont when you go to the High Castle and perhaps stand before the Over-Queen. May it be that the Seeing is not for ill, but for good. Though you are but the Mouth of Olava and not the One dealing fortune to us who live and die."

"For your aid and your good wishing, receive my thanks," Tamisan said. "I, too, hope that fortune conies from misfortune on this day." And that is stark truth, she thought, for I must gather fortune to me with both hands and hold it tight, lest the chancy game I play be lost.

First Standing Jassa's messenger was an officer, his hair clubbed up under a ridged helm to give additional protection to his head in battle, his breastplate enameled blue with the double crown of the Over-Queen, and his sword very much to the fore—as if he already strode the street of a city at war. There was a small grypon between the shafts of the chair cart and two men-at-arms ready, one : at the grypon's head, the other holding aside the curtains as their officer handed Tamisan into the chair. He brusquely jerked the curtains shut without asking her pleasure, and she decided that perhaps her visit to the High Castle was to be a secret matter.

But between the curtain edges she caught sight of this Ty-Kry. And, though in parts it was very strange to her, there were enough similarities to provide her with an anchor to the real. The sky towers and other off-world forms of architectures which had been introduced by space travelers were missing. But the streets themselves, the many beds of foliage and flowers, were those she, had known all her life.

And the High Castle—she drew a deep breath as they wound out of town and along the river—this—this had been part of her world, too, though then as a ruined and very ancient landmark. Part of it had been slagged in the war of Sylt's rebellion. And it had been considered a place of misfortune, largely shunned, save for off-world tourists seeking the unusual.

But here it was in its pride, larger, more widely spread than in her Ty-Kry, as if the generations who had deserted it in her world had clung to it here, adding ever to its bulk. For it was not a single structure but a city in itself, though it had no merchants nor public buildings, but rather provided homes to shelter the nobles, who must spend part of the year at court, and all their servants, and the many officials of the kingdom.

In its heart was the building which gave it its name, a collection of towers, rising far above the lesser structures at the foot. These were of a gray at their bases which changed subtly as they arose until their tops were a deep, rich blue, while the other buildings in the great pile were wholly gray as to wall, a darker blue as to roof.

The chair creaked forward on its two wheels, the grypon being kept to a steady pace by the man at its head, and passed under the thick arch in the outer wall, then up a street between buildings which, though dwarfed by the towers, were in turn dwarfing to those who walked or rode by them.

There was a second gate, more buildings, a third, and then the open space about the central towers. They had passed people in plenty since entering the first gate. Many were soldiers of the guard, but some of the armed men had worn other colors and insignia, being, Tamisan guessed, the retainers of court lords. And now and then some Lord came proudly, his retinue strung along behind him by threes to make a show which amused Tamisan, as if the number of followers to tread on one's heels enhanced one's importance in the world.

She was handed down with a little more ceremony than she had been ushered into the chair. And the officer offered her his wrist, his men falling in behind as a groom hurried forward to lead off the equipage, thus affording her a tail-of-honor too.

But the towers of the High Castle were so awe-inspiring, so huge a pile, she was glad she had an escort into their heart. The farther they went through halls—so high that it was hard to see their dusky roofs, ill lit by only the big candles in their man-tall holders—the more uneasy she became. As if once within his maze there might be no retreat and she would be lost forever.

Chapter 6

Twice they climbed staircases until her legs ached with the effort and the stairs took on the aspect of mountains. Then her party passed into a long hall which was lighted not only by the candle-trees but some thin rays filtering through windows placed so high above their heads that nothing could be seen through them. And Tamisan, in that part of her which seemed familiar with this world, knew this to be the Walk of the Nobles, and the company now gathered here were, nearest, the Third Standing, then the Second and, at the far end of that road of blue carpet onto which her guide led her, First Standing—or rather sitting, there being two arcs of hooded and canopied chairs, with a throne above them on a three-step dais. And the hood over that was upheld by a double crown which glittered with gems, while on the steps were grouped men in the armor of the guard and others wearing bright tunics, their hair loose upon their shoulders.

It was toward that throne that the officer led her and they passed through the ranks of the Third Standing, hearing a low murmur of voices. Tamisan looked neither to right or left. She wished to see the Over-Queen, for it was plain she was being granted full audience. And then— something stirred deep within her as if a small pin pricked. The reason for this she did not know, save that ahead was something of vast importance to her.

Now they were equal with the first of the chairs and she saw that the greater number of those who so sat were women, but not all. And mainly they were of an age to be at least in middle life. So Tamisan came to the foot of the dais, and in that moment she did not go to one knee as did the officer, but rather raised her fingertips to touch the rim of the crown on her head. For with, another of those flashes of half recognition, she knew that in this place that which she represented did not bow as did others, but acknowledged only that the Queen was one to whom human allegiance was granted after another and greater loyalty was paid elsewhere.

The Over-Queen looked down with as deeply searching a stare as Tamisan looked up. And what Tamisan saw was a woman to whom she could not set an age; rather she might be either old or young, for the years had not seemed to mark her. The robe on her full figure was not ornate, but a soft pearl color without ornamentation, save that she wore a girdle of silvery chains braided and woven together, and a collar like necklace of the same metal from which fringed milky gems cut into drops. Her hair was a flame of brightly glowing red in which a diadem of the same creamy stones was almost hidden. As for her face—was she beautiful? Tamisan could not have said. But that she was vitally alive there was no doubt. Even though she sat so quietly now, there was an aura of energy about her suggesting that this was only a pause between the doing of great and necessary deeds. To Tamisan she was the most assertive personality she had ever seen and instantly the guards of a dreamer went into action. To serve such a mistress, Tamisan thought, would sap all the personality from one, so that the servant would become but a mirror to reflect from that surrender onward.

"Welcome, Mouth of Olava who has been uttering strange things." The Over-Queen's voice was mocking, challenging.

"A Mouth says naught, Great One, save what is given it to speak." Tamisan found her answer ready, though she had not consciously formed it in her mind.

"So we are told. Though Gods may grow old and tired. Or is that only the fate of men? But now it is our will that Olava speak again—if that is fortune for this hour. So be it!"

As if that last phrase was an order there was a stir among those standing on the steps of the throne. Two of the guardsmen brought out a table, a third a stool, the fourth a tray on which rested four bowls of sand. These they set up before the throne.

Tamisan took her place on the stool, again put her fingers to her temples. Would this work once more? Or must she try to force a picture in the sand? She felt a small shiver of nerves she fought to control.

"What desires the Great One?" She was glad to hear her voice steady, no hint of her uneasiness in it.

"What chances in—say four passages of the sun?"

Tamisan waited. Would that other personality or power, or whatever it might be, take over? But her hand did not move. Instead that odd, disturbing prick grew the stronger, she was drawn, even as a noose might be laid about her forehead to pull her head around. So she turned to follow the dictates of that pull, to look where something willed her eyes to look. But all she saw was the line of officers on the steps of the throne, and they stared at and through her, none with any sign of recognition by Starrex! She grasped at that hope; but none of them resembled the man she sought.

"Does Olava sleep? Or has His Mouth been forgotten for a space?"

The Over-Queen's voice was sharper, and Tamisan broke that hold on her attention, looked back to the throne and the woman on it.

"It is not meet for the Mouth to speak unless Olava wishes—" Tamisan began, with increasing nervousness until she felt that sensation in her left hand, as if it were not under her control but possessed by another will. She fell silent as it gathered up the brownish sand and tossed it to form a picture's background.

But this time she did not seek next the blue grains; rather her fist dug into the red and moved to paint in the outline of the space ship, above it a single red circle.

Then there was a moment of hesitation, before her fingers strayed to the green, took up a generous pinch and again made Starrex's symbol below the ship.

"A single sun," the Over-Queen read out. "One day until the enemy conies. But what is the remaining word of Olava, Mouth?"

"That there be one among you who is a key to victory. He shall stand against the enemy and under him fortune comes."

"So? And who is this hero?"

Tamisan looked again to the line of officers. Dar^d she trust to instinct? Something within her urged her on.

"Let each of these protectors of Ty-Kry—" She raised a finger to indicate the officers. "Let each come forward and take up the sand of seeing. Let the Mouth touch that hand and may it then strew the answer—perhaps Olava will so make it clear."

To Tamisan's surprise, the Over-Queen laughed. "As good a way as any perhaps for picking a champion. Though to abide by Olava's choice—that is another matter." And her smile faded as she glanced at the men, as if there was a thought in her mind which disturbed her.

At her nod, they came one by one. Under the shadows of their helmets their faces, being of one race, were very similiar; and Tamisan, studying each, could see no chance of telling which Starrex might be.

Each took up a pinch of green sand, held out his hand palm down and let the grains fall while she set fingertip to the back of that hand. The sand drifted, but in no shape and to no purpose.

It was not until the last man came that there was a difference, for then the sand did not drift, but fell to form again the symbol which was twin to the one already on the table. Tamisan looked up. The officer was staring at the sand rather then meeting her eyes, and there was a line of strain about his mouth, a look about him such as might shadow the face of a man who stood with his back to a wall and a ring of sword points at his throat.

"This is your man," Tamisan said. Starrex? She must be sure—if she could only demand the truth in this instant!

But her preoccupation was swept aside.

"Olava deals falsely!" That cry came from the officer behind her, the one who had brought her here.

"Perhaps we must not think ill of Olava's advice." The Over-Queen's voice had a guttural, feline purr. "It may be his Mouth is not wholly wedded to his service, but speaks for others than Olava at times. Hawarel—so you are to be oar champion—"

The officer went to one knee, his hands clasped loosely before him as if he wished all to see he did not reach for any weapon.

"I am no choice, save the Great One's." In spite of the strain visible in his tense body he spoke levelly and without a tremor.

"Great One, this traitor—" Two of the officers moved as if to lay hands upon him and drag him away.

"No. Has not Olava spoken?" The mockery was very plain in the Over-Queen's tone now. "But to make sure that Olava's will be carried out, take good care of.our champion-to-be. Since Hawarel is to fight our battle with the cursed starmen, he must be saved to do it." Now she looked to Tamisan, who was still startled by the quick turn of events and their hostility to Olava's choice. "Let the Mouth of Olava share with Hawarel this waiting that she may, perhaps instill in Olava's choice the vigor and strength such a battle will demand of our chosen champion." Each time the Over-Queen spoke the last word she made of it a thing of derision and subtle menace.

"The audience is finished." The Over-Queen arose, stepped behind the throne as those about Tamisan fell to their knees; and then she was gone. But the officer who had guided Tamisan was by her side. And Hawarel, once more on his feet, was closely flanked by two of the other guards, one of whom pulled their prisoner's sword from his sheath before he could move. With Hawarel before her, Tamisan was urged from the hall.

At the moment she was pleased enough to go, hoping for a chance to prove the lightness of her guess, that Hawarel and Starrex were the same and she had found the first of her fellow dreamers—was this far onward toward their release.

They traversed more halls until they came to a door which one of HawareFs guards opened. The prisoner walked through and Tamisan's escort waved her after him.

Then the door slammed shut and at that sound Hawarel whirled around.

Under the beaking fore plate of his helmet his eyes were cold fire and he seemed a man about to leap for his enemy's throat.

"Who—" His voice was only a harsh whisper. "Who set you to my death wishing, witch?"

Chapter 7

His clawed hands were reaching for her throat. Tamisan flung up her arm in an attempt to guard, stumbled back.

"Lord Starrex!" If she had,been wrong—if—!

Though his finger tips brushed her shoulders, he did not grasp her. Instead it was his turn to retreat a step or two, his mouth half open in a gasp.

"Witch—witch!" The very force of the words he hurled at her made them like darts dispatched from one of the archaic crossbows of the history tapes.

"Lord Starrex," Tamisan repeated, feeling on more secure ground at seeing his stricken amazement, no longer fearing he would attack her out of hand. His reaction to that name was enough to assure her she was right, though he did not seem prepared to acknowledge it.

"I am Hawarel of the Vanora," he brought out those words as harsh croaking.

Tamisan glanced around. This was a bare-walled room, with no hiding place for a listener. In her own time and place she could have feared many scanning devices. But she thought those unknown to this Ty-Kry. And to win Hawarel-Starrex into cooperation was very necessary.

"You are Lord Starrex," she returned with bold confidence or at least what she hoped was a convincing show of such. "Just as I am Tamisan, the dreamer. And this, wherein we are caught, is the dream you ordered of me."

He raised his hand to his forehead, his fingers encountered his helmet, and he swept it off unheedingly, so that it clanked and skidded across the polished floor. His hair, netted into a kind of protecting cushion, was piled about his head, giving him an odd appearance to Tamisan. It was black and thick, just as his skin was as brown-hued as that of her new body. And without the shadow of the helm she could see his face more clearly, finding in it no resemblance to the aloof master of the sky towers. In a way, it was that of a younger man, one less certain of himself.

"I am Hawarel," he repeated doggedly. "You try to trap me, or perhaps the trap has already closed and you seek now to make me condemn myself with my own mouth. I tell you, I am no traitor—I am Hawarel and my blood oath to the Great One has been faithfully kept."

Tamisan experienced a rise of impatience. She had not thought Lord Starrex to be a stupid man. But it would seem his counterpart here lacked more than just the face of his other self.

"You are Starrex, and this is a dream." If it was not, she did not care to raise that issue now. "Remember the sky tower? You bought me from Jabis for dreaming. Then you summoned me—and Lord Kas—and ordered me to prove my worth."

His brows drew together in a black frown as he stared at her.

"What have they given you or promised, that you do to me?" came his counter-demand. "I am no sworn enemy to you or yours—not that I know."

Tamisan sighed. "Do you deny you know the name Starrex?" she asked.

For a long moment he was silent. Then he turned from her took a stride or two, his toe thumping against his helmet, sending it rolling ahead of him. She waited. He rounded again to face her.

"You are a Mouth of Olava—"

She shook her head, interrupting him. "We have little time for such fencing, Lord Starrex. You do know that name, and it is in my mind that you also remember the rest, at least in some measure. I am Tamisan the dreamer."

It was his turn to sigh. "So you say."

"So I shall continue to say. And, mayhap as I do, others than you will listen."

"As I thought!" he flashed. "You would have me betray myself."

"If you are truly Hawarel as you state, then what have you to betray?"

"Very well. I am—am two! I am Hawarel and I am someone else who has queer memories and who may well be a night demon come to dispute ownership of this body. There—you have it! Go and tell those who sent you and have me out to the arrow range for a quick ending there. Perhaps that will be better than to continue as a battle field between two different selves."

Perhaps he was not just being obstinate, Tamisan thought. It might be that the dream had a greater hold on him than it did on her. After all she was a trained dreamer, one used to venturing into illusions wrought from imagination.

"If you can remember a little—then listen!" She drew closer to him and began to speak in a lower voice—not that she believed they could be overheard, but it was well to take no chances. Swiftly she gave her account of this whole mad tangle, or what had been her part in it.

When she was done she was surprised to see that a certain hardening had overtaken his features, so that now he looked more resolute, less like one trapped in a maze which had no guide.

"And this is the truth?"

"By what god or power do you wish me to swear to it?" She was exasperated now, frustrated by his lingering doubts.

"None,  because  it  explains  what  was  heretofore gflnexplainable—what has made my life a hell of doubt these past hours and brought more suspicion upon me. I have been two persons. But if this is all a dream—why is that so?"

"I do not know." Tamisan chose frankness as best befitting her needs now. "This is unlike any dream I have created before."

"In what manner?" he asked crisply.

"It is part of a dreamer's duty to study her master's personality, to suit his desires, even if those be unexpressed and hidden. From what I had learned of you—of Lord Starrex—I thought that too much had been already seen, experienced, known to you. That it must be a new approach I tried, or else you would find that dreaming held no profit.

"Therefore it came to me suddenly that I would not dream of the past, nor of the future, which are the common approaches for an action dreamer, but refine upon the subject. In the past there were times in history when the future rested upon a single decision. And it was in my mind to select certain of these decisions and then envision a world, co-existent with our own, in which those decisions had gone in the opposite direction—trying to see what would be the present-day result of actions in the past."

"And so this is what you tried? And what decisions did you select for your experiment at the rewriting of history?" He was giving her his full attention now.

"I took three. First, the Welcome of the Over-Queen Ahta; second the drift of the Colony ship Wanderer, third, the rebellion of Sylt. Should the Welcome have been a rejection, should the colony ship never reached here, should Sylt have failed—these would produce a world I thought might be interesting to visit—in a dream. So I read what history tapes I could call upon. Thus, when you summoned me to dream I had my ideas ready. But—it did not work as it should have. Instead of spinning the proper dream, creating incidents in good order, I found myself fast caught in a world I did not know, nor build."

As she spoke she watched the change in him. He had lost all the fervent antagonism of his first attack on her. More and more, she could see what she had associated with the personality of Lord Starrex coming through the unfamiliar envelope of the guardsman's body.

"So it did not work properly—"

- "No, as I have said, I found myself in the dream, with no control of action, no recognizable creation factors. I do not understand—"

"No? There could be one explanation." The frown line was back between his brows but it was not a scowl aimed at her, rather it was as if he were trying hard to remember something of importance which eluded his efforts. "There is a theory, a very old one—Yes! That of Parallel worlds!"

In her wide use of the tapes she had not come across that and now she demanded the knowledge of him almost fiercely. "What are those?"

"You are not the first—how could you be—to be struck by the notion that sometimes history and the future hang upon a very thin cord which can be twisted this way and that by small chance. There was a theory once advanced that when that chanced it created a second world, one in which the decision was made to the right, when that of the world we know went to the left."

"But—alternated worlds—where—how did they exist?"

"Thus, perhaps." He held out his two hands horizontally one above the other. "In layers. There were even old tales, created for amusement, of men traveling, not back in time, nor forward, but across it from one such world to another."

"But—here we are. I am a Mouth of Olava, nor do I look like myself. Just as to the eye you are not Lord Starrex—"

"Perhaps we are the people we would be if our world had taken the other side of your three decisions. It is a device for a dreamer to create, Tamisan."

"Only," she told him now the last truth, "I do not think I have created it. Certainly I can not control it—"

"You have tried to break this dream?"

"Of course! But I am tied here. I think by you and the Lord Kas. Until we three try together, perhaps we can not any of us return."

"And Kas—now you must go searching for him?"

She shook her head. "Kas, I think, is one of the crew on this spacer about to set down. I believe I saw him— though not his face." Now she smiled a little shakily. "It seems that though I am mainly the Tamisan I have always been, yet also do I have some of the powers of a Mouth. Just as you are Hawarel as well as Starrex."

"The longer I listen to you," he announced, "the more I become Starrex. So we must find Kas on the spacer before we wrangle free from this tangle? But that is going to be rather a problem. I am enough of Hawarel to know that the spacer is going to receive the usual welcome dealt off-world ships here—trickery and extinction. Your three points have been as you envisioned them. There was no Welcome, but rather a massacre, no colony ship ever reached here, and Sylt was speared by a contemptuous man-at-arms the first time he lifted his voice to draw a crowd. Hawarel knows this as the truth; as Starrex I am aware there is another truth which did radically change life on this planet. Now, did you seek me out on purpose, your champion tale intended to be our bridge to Kas?"

"No, at least I did not consciously arrange it so. I tell you, I have some of the powers of a Mouth—they take over."

He gave a sharp bark of sound which was not laughter but somewhat akin to it. "By the Fist of Jimsam Taragon, we have it complicated by magic, too! And I suppose you can not tell me just how much a Mouth can do in the way of foreseeing or forearming or freeing us from this trap?"

Tamisan shook her head. "The Mouths were mentioned in the history tapes; they were very important once.

But after Sylt's rebellion they were either killed or disappeared. They were hunted by both sides and most of what we know about them is only legend. I can not tell you what I can do. Sometimes something—perhaps it is the memory and knowledge of this body—takes over and then I do strange things. I neither will nor understand them."

Chapter 8

He crossed the room and pulled two stools from a far corner. "We might as well sit at ease and explore what we can of this world's memories. It just might be that united we can learn more than when trying singly. The trouble is—" He reached out a hand and mechanically she touched fingertips to the back of it in an oddly formal ceremony which was not part of her own knowledge. So he guided her to one of the stools and she was glad to sit down. "The trouble is," he repeated as he dropped on the other stool, stretching out his long legs and tugging at his sword belt with that dangerously empty sheath, "that I was more than a little mixed up when I awoke, if you might call it that—in this body. So that my first reactions must have suggested mental imbalance to those I encountered. Luckily the Hawarel part was in control soon enough to save me. But there is a second drawback to this identity—I am suspect as coming from a province where there has been a rebellion. In fact I am here in Ty-Kry as a distrusted hostage, rather than a member in good standing of the guard. I have not been able to ask questions, and all I have learned is in bits and pieces. The real Hawarel is a quite uncomplicated and simple soldier who is hurt by the suspicion against him and quite fervently loyal to the Crown. I wonder how Kas took his awakening. If he preserves any remnant of his real self, he ought to be well -established by now." «^, Tamisan, surprised, asked a question to which she hoped he would give a true and open answer: "You do not like—you have reason to fear Lord Kas?"

"Like? Fear?" She could see that thin shadow of Starrex overlaying Hawarel become more distinct. "Those are emotions. I have had little to do with emotions for some time."

"But you wanted him to share the dream," she persisted.

"True. I may not be emotional about my esteemed cousin, but I am a prudent man. Since it was by his urging, in fact his arrangement, that you were added to my household, I thought it only fair he share in his plan for my entertainment. I know that Kas is very solicitous of his crippled cousin, ready-handed to serve in any way—so generous of time, energy—"

"You suspect him of something?" She thought she had sensed what lay behind his words.

"Suspect? Of what? He has been, as all would assure you freely, and as far as I would allow, my good friend." But there was a closed look about him, warning her off from any further exploration of that.

"His crippled cousin." This time Hawarel repeated those words as if he spoke to himself and not to her. "At least you have done me a small service on the credit side of the scale." Now he did look to Tamisan as he thumped his right leg with a satisfaction which was not of the Starrex she knew. "You have provided me with a body in good working order. Which I may well need, since so far bad has outweighed the good in this world."

"Hawarel—Lord Starrex—" she was beginning when he interrupted her.

"Give me always Hawarel. Remember! There is no need to add to the already heavy load of suspicion surrounding me in these halls."

"Hawarel, then. I did not choose you for the champion; that was done by that power I do not understand, working through me. If they agree—then you have a good chance to find Kas. You may even demand that he be the one you battle."

"Find him how?"

"They may allow me to select the proper one from the off-world force," she suggested. A very thin thread on which to hang any plan of escape, but she could not see a better one.

"And you think that this sand painting will pick him out—as it did me?"

"But it did you, did it not?"

"That I can not deny."

"And the first time I foresaw—for one of the First Standing—it made such an impression on her that she had me summoned here to foresee for the Over-Queen."

"Magic!" Again he uttered that half laugh.

"To another worlder, much that the space travelers can do might be termed magic."

"Well enough. I have seen things—yes, I have seen things myself, and not while dreaming either. Very well, I am to volunteer to meet an enemy champion from the ship and then you sand paint out the proper one. If you are successful and do find Kas—then what?"

"It is simple—we wake."

"You take us with you, of course?"

"If we are so linked that we can not leave here without one another—then a single waking will take us all."

"Are you sure you need Kas? After all, I was the one you were planning this dream for."

"We go, leave the Lord Kas here?"

"A cowardly withdrawal you think, my dreamer. But one, I assure you, which would solve many things. However—can you send me through, return for Kas? It is in my mind I would like to know what is happening now * for myself—in our own world. Is it not by the dreamer's oath that he for whom the dream is wrought has first call upon the dreamer?"

So he did have some lurking uneasiness tied to Kas!

But in a manner he was right. She reached out before he was aware of what she would do and seized his hand, at the same time using the formula for waking. Once more that mist which was nowhere enveloped her. But it was no use; her first guess had been right—they were still tied. And she blinked her eyes open upon the same room. Hawarel had slumped, was falling from his stool so that she had to go to one knee to support his body with her shoulder or he would have slid full length to the floor. Then his muscles tightened and he jerked erect, his eyes open and blazing into hers with the same cold anger with which he had first greeted her upon entering this room.

"Why—?"

"You asked," she countered.

His lids drooped so she could no longer see that icy anger. "So I did. But I did not quite expect to be so quickly served. Now, you have effectively proven your point— three go or none. And it remains to be seen how soon we can find our missing third."

He asked her no more questions and she was glad, since that whirl into nowhere in the abortive attempt at waking had tired her greatly. She moved the stool a little so her back could rest against the wall and she was farther from him. But in a little while he got to his feet and paced back and forth as if some driving desire for wider action worked in him, to the point where he could not sit still.'

Once the door opened, but they were not summoned forth. Instead food and drink were brought to them by one of the guards, the other standing ready with a crossbow at thigh, his eyes ever upon them.

"We are well served." Hawarel opened the lids of bowls and inspected their contents. "It would seem we are of importance. Hail, Rugaard, when do we go forth from this room, of which I am growing very tired?"

"Be at peace, you shall have action enough when the Great One desires it," the officers by the crossbowman answered. "The ship from the stars has been sighted, the mountain beacons have blazed twice. They seem to be aiming for the plain beyond Ty-Kry. It is odd that they are so single-minded and come to the same pen to be taken each time. Perhaps Dalskol was right when he said that they do not think for themselves at all, but carry out the orders of an off-world power which does not allow them independent judgment. Your service time will come. And, Mouth of Olava—" He took a step forward to see Tamisan the better. "The Great One says that it might be well to read the sand on your own behalf. For false seers are given to those they have belittled in such seeing, to be done with as those they have so shamed may decide."

"As is well known," she answered him. "I have not dealt falsely, as shall be seen at the proper time and in the proper place."

When they were gone she was hungry, and so it seemed was Hawarel, for they divided fairly and left nothing in the bowls. When they were done he said, "Since you are a reader of history and know old customs, perhaps you remember one which it is not too pleasant to recall now—that among some races it was the proper thing to dine well a prisoner about to die."

"You choose a heartening thing to think on!"

"No, you choose it, for this is your world, remember that, my dreamer."

Tamisan closed her eyes and leaned her head and shoulders back against the wall. Perhaps she even slept a little, for there was the clang of sudden noise and she gasped out of a doze. The room had grown dark, but at the door was a blaze of light and in that stood the officer, behind a guard of spearmen.

"The time has come," he said.

"The wait has been long." Hawarel stood up, stretching wide his arms as one who has been ready for too long. Then he turned to her and once more offered his wrist. She would have liked to have done without his aid, but she found herself stiff* and cramped enough to be glad of it.

They went on a complicated way through halls, down stairs until at last they issued out into the night. And awaiting them was a covered cart much larger than the chair on wheels which had brought her to the castle, this one with two grypons between its shafts.

Into this their guard urged them, drawing the curtains, pegging those down tightly outside, so that even had they wished they could not and looked out. And as the cart creaked out, Tamisan tried to guess by sound where they might be going.

There was little noise to guide her. It was as if they now passed through a town deep in slumber. But in the gloom of the cart she felt rather than saw movement, and then a shoulder brushed hers and a whisper so faint she had to strain to hear it was at her ear.

"Out of the castle—"

"Where?"

"My guess is the field—the forbidden place—"

The memory of the this-worfd Tamisan supplied explanation. That was where two other spacers had planeted —not to rise again. In fact, the one which had come fifty years ago had never been dismantled but stood, a corroded mass of metal, to be a double warning—to the stars not to invade, to Ty-Kry to be alert against such invasion.

It seemed to Tamisan that their ride would never come* to an end. Then there was an abrupt halt which bumped her soundly against the side of the cart, and lights bedazzled her eyes as the end curtains were pulled aside.

"Come, Champion and Champion-maker!"

Hawarel obeyed first and turned to give her assistance once more; but he was elbowed aside as the officer pulled rather than led her into the open. Torches in the hands of spearmen ringed them around. Beyond was a colorful mass of people, with a double rank of guards drawn up as a barrier between those and the dark of the land beyond.

"Up there—" Hawarel was beside her again.

Tamisan raised her eyes, almost blinded by the glare as a sudden pillar of fire burst across the night sky. A spacer was riding down on tail rockets to make a fin landing.

 

Continued on page 3 of 4



 

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