The Sorcerer's Conspectus:

A comprehensive view of Andre Norton's Witch World

by Four Sorcerers ~ Elwher, Metaldragon, Indagare & Lotsawatts

 


Books of Witch World

On Wings of Magic

3rd book in the [Witch World: The Turning Series]

Two Original Stories Edited by Andre Norton

 

 

 

 

Click on image for slideshow

of cover-art for

On Wings of Magic

 

 

 

 

[Bibliography Page]

[Coulson's Index] See Falcon Magic & We, the Women

See Also: [Martinez ~ Glossary] [Martinez ~ Races] [Schlobin ~ Survey]

[Back to Contents]

[Expanded Reading Order]

[Updated: 04/01/2019]

 

Edition Used for Analysis:

(1995) Published by TOR, PB, 0-812-50828-9, $5.99, 409pg ~ cover by Dennis A. Nolan

 

Contents:

The Chronicler by Andre Norton (Read it below)
We, the Women by Patricia Mathews
Falcon Magic by Sasha Miller
Afterword by Andre Norton (Read it below)

 

Synopsis:

After nearly thirty years and a dozen novels, Andre Norton's Witch World saga reaches a powerful climax in the third volume of Witch World: The Turning, STORMS OF VICTORY, the first book in the trilogy, brought to life the most pivotal period in the history of the Witch World. The chronicles of the cataclysmic Turning continued in the highly praised FLIGHT OF VENGEANCE. Now comes the long awaited conclusion. Containing two ful-length novels. ON WINGS OF MAGIC is a powerful story of the heroic women of the Witch World, struggling to rebuild the shattered world that the Turning has left behind.
We the Woman tells of the trials of a village of Falconer Women after they take in a group of refugees. The young scribe Arona must face the betrayal and deceit of Egil, a refugee who plots to gain the position of village Recorder, a sacred responsibility that Arona has always aspired to. With an outcast witch as her only true ally, Arona strives to preserve the precious lore of the Falconer Women.
Falcon Magic begins when a group of witch-children are abducted by enemy soldiers from the land of Alizon. The father of one girl, a Falconer who lives by his own rules, embarks on a hazardous quest to rescue the children. But the danger is greater than he or his companions know, for lurking in the shadows, behind the fearsome A1izonders, is a mysterious menace that is their true and most deadly foe.

 


On Wings of Magic - The Chronicler

(Read it below)

Timeline Points:

  1. p10. Spring came late for several years after The Turning.
  2. p10. Nolar & the Stone of Konnard see: Exile.
  3. p13. "You know what might well have aided the Mountain Hawk!" see: Falcon Hope

 

On Wings of Magic - Afterword

(Read it below)

Timeline Points:

  1. p401. Roughly 8 months after Falcon Magic.
  2. p409. Battle against evil - Mouse's brother born and saved.

 


 

THERE are places in this ancient land of ours which are pleasant to the eye and yet are meant for traps for the unwary. Though Lormt (which I have come to see as my Great Hall, I, Duratan, who am kinless) is filled with knowledge gathered from years untold, still we who delve there alsorealize that there are secrets so well lost in the ages that they may never be made plain. Even if reference to them is found, it will not be well enough understood that its message can be clear to those for whom it might have the strongest meaning.

We live now in a time of ceaseless change, never knowing what the next day will bring. Once I was a righting man who needed to come instantly alert to the blast of the war horn. Now I am again engaged in battles, but mostly far more subtle ones. Some are fought in a lamp-lighted room, upon a time-ridged table, my weapons not word nor dart-gun, but crumbling rolls of parchment and books so pressed by years their thick wooden or metal covers have glued their fragile pages together and it takes the lightest and most careful of handling to free them. Then, far too often, the near invisible lines on those pages are in some tongue foreign to that we know in this day, and so provide puzzles for even the scholars among us who have been the longest in the pursuit of such.

After the Turning of the southern mountains brought down two towers and some walls, opening thereby numerous secret rooms and crypts which held even more records, we were like to be swallowed by a sea of lore which we could not even list nor find places to store. What surprises might hide therein we could not even guess.

There were those who had their special subjects for which to search, but many among the oldest of the scholars simply became bewildered by this new wealth and could be found at times picking up a roll, a few minutes later abandoning it for a book or a scroll, and then sinking into a kind of daze as might a child who was faced by too great a supply of sweets on a feasting table.

However, there was danger and some of us knew that well. Nolar, who was witch talented but not trained, had testified to that when she had written her own account of the Stone of Konnard. That there were, in addition, other unchancy discoveries to be made was brought home to us in later times.

Yet the start of it all began with no stench of evil but rather a thing which had long provided a thorn to prick Nolar.

Spring came later for several years after the Turning, and our winters were longer. Lormt had changed in more than the sudden loss of towers and walls. The Witches had never had any interest in what was storedthere, and, while they ruled Estcarp, few found their way down the single road which linked our storehouse with the outer world.

We had a spread of small farmsteads without the walls but within a ring of forest which held us as a center. There were a few traders who sought us out to bring what we could not raise or make by our own hands. Otherwise what lay beyond our narrow boundaries took on shapes of legend and to most did not matter.

However, when the forest was storm-flattened at the Turning, the river Es thrown from its bed, our world whirled about us and changed. First came refugees—though none of those lingered. Then followed seekers of special knowledge. The long rule of the Witches broken, other changes arose. Escore had been opened—that age-old land from which we of the Old Race had come very long ago. There war raged between newly-awakened evil and those who stood for the Light. We heard reports no one would have given credence to in other years.

Yes, evil came, and twice near to Lormt. There was fighting of another sort and in that I had a part.

Kemoc Tregarth, who had proven the worth of what Lormt held, made calls upon our records. So did others who faced clearly the fact that the old way of life had vanished and new must be hammered out with all the skill a swordmaker expends upon a trusted blade. There was a coming and going, and more and more of those who saw that the sharing of knowledge was of great value at such a time were called upon for help and advice. So it fell on Ouen, Nolar, and I, and sometimes Morfew, who was the most approachable of the older scholars, to handle the requests from abroad, to answer many concerning what might lie in the past.

At the same time we heard reports and rumors enough that for the first time Lormt was forced to look to defenders. Chaos brings to the fore masterless men who quickly may become outlaws. Also what had been loosed in Escore did not always stay within the boundaries of that land. I found myself again a leader of fighting men, with Derren of Karsten as my second, and a force of landbred boys and a few stragglers from the old Border companies to command. We sent out scouts and had sentry posts in the hills, though the severity of the winter season kept us mainly free from raids while it lasted in these new years. I was returning from my first round of sentry posts for the spring when I came upon a cup of green in a bit of the forest which was of the old growth. There was such a fragrance on the air that I reined in my mountain pony and looked groundward. There grew a small clump of those flowers called Noon and Midnight by the shepherds and found only near Lormt, their shaded, nine-petaled heads nodding in the breeze. I slid from the saddle and limped to gather four of them, and those I guarded very carefully while I rode to Lormt, eager to give Nolar this token of spring.

She was with Morfew and her face was very pale except for that stain on her cheek which was her birthmark and for which she had been shunned by those too dense to see aught but that which did not truly cloak a very brave and gallant spirit.

"Of a certainty her way has been hard, and when she came here she was hardly more than a child. Also she has listened too much to the Lady Nareth and that one—" I heard the sting in Nolar's voice as I entered Morfew's study "—has ever kept herself apart. There is good in Arona and a quick cleverness, also a love for what she does. I have long hoped that those prejudices born and fostered in her, the bitterness which has ridden her these past years, could be assuaged. Me, I think, she might trust if she would let herself. Mainly, I suppose, because I am a woman. There are few enough of us here. That is why she has listened to Nareth. I cannot think why a girl of Arona's intelligence would put up with the arrogance of that one. And now that Nareth is so old— Well, I shall make one more attempt, but if she takes on Nareth's airs and graces—"

"I believe, my daughter, that Arona is one who has not been able to fit herself to change. She sees that as an enemy. There are many others within these walls not unlike her in that. Still, she likes you. I have seen her watch you at one of our common meetings and there is plainly a struggle within her," Morfew said slowly.

"Does anyone else keep back knowledge, closed against the use of others?" Nolar retorted. "I am about to speak to her again—if she says once more that she will not share what she knows with me—because I am one with Duratan—!" Nolar's fist struck hard upon the table so that the inkwell before Morfew gave a little jump.

"What is this of Duratan?" I laid hand upon her shoulder and reached around to hold the flowers before her. For a moment she stared at those, and then she laughed, but also shook her head.

"Do not try, Duratan, to make me see this other than what it is, a waste. Arona has so much to offer, not only of herself, for she was born to the task of recording, saving the past, but she has also the records of one Falconer village and legends which may open many closed doors. You know what might well have aided the Mountain Hawk!" She gave a little sigh. "I have that which I should be doing myself but I shall try again, put to the test that she does have some trust in me. Now that the Lady Nareth cannot make trouble, there may be a chance."

Two days later she came to me and her eyes were bright with triumph. "It is done! Arona will allow me to view her treasures if I promise to do so only with her. So I must vanish for a space into that women's world, and during my absence you will have a chance to learn my value by missing me."

She smiled and put two fingers to her lips, then those to mine, and left, leaving the scent of Noon and Midnight behind her.

 


 

WE had Eirran's and Yareth's tale from their own lips some time after their return. For in search of the herb lore in Lormt Eirran insisted upon making us a visit even as Yareth had thought she might. She was big with child when she came and Nolar and I both sensed there was something amiss.
It was not that they grieved for their daughter, for both of them realized that a child of Talent moved, by nature, beyond the bonds of kin. There was some other shadow upon them. Or rather, as I sensed, upon Eirran, and Yareth's uneasiness was rooted in concern for his wife.
She was busied with Nolar one morning, copying out some healing spells and the lists of herbs to go with such, when she asked suddenly:
“Why should I have such ill dreams, lady? It was not so when I was carrying before. Then all was happiness.” She put down her pen and pressed her hands to her belly as if to shield against what she did not know.
“What manner of dreams?” Nolar asked.
“I cannot remember when I wake, but just that they are ill sendings. I know for when I do wake I am all asweat with fear, my throat aches as if I have screamed for long, and sometimes I have an urge to vomit as if I have eaten some foulness. Yet I must not let Yareth know and so— It is very hard to hide it from him as he grows more and more concerned and does not wish to leave me alone. This is not a proper bearing and I fear, oh, how I fear! That is the truth which really brought me here.”
At the same time Eirran spoke to Nolar, Yareth who had been watching his falcon's careful approach to Galerider, said abruptly, speaking with his back towards me:
“Is it true that you have something of the Talent even though you be no maid Witch?” His question was sharp and, I knew, one of import to him. I answered with the truth:
“Some small power, yes, I have gained.” My hand went to the pouch of crystals which rode ever at my belt.
He swung around to face me and came closer. “Then tell me,” he said, his hands clasping so tightly on his belt that the knuckles stood out sharply, “is there a hold of the Dark upon me?” He faced me as a man unflinchingly faces the charge of an enemy.
Seldom had I used that mindknowing of which I am still more than a little afeared for more than surface reading, and once or twice with Nolar when we unite. Yet at this demand from him I probed deeply. However, I met with nothing but that which is human and akin to all our species. Save there was a shadow of fear, partly for himself but mainly for Eirran.
“I can find nothing.”
I do not know whether he accepted that for the truth. I believe what I said brought him no relief.
“What is it that you fear?” I added.
He shook his head as one who shakes away an irritating fly. “That is it, I know not. Save there is something—like a dream.”
“And do you dream?”
“I do not know—for at waking the memory goes. But it is evil and—and that evil—it is turned towards Eirran. Nothing shall come near Eirran, nothing! By me or any other thing. That I swear, by the Great Falcon!” But as those words left his lips he suddenly looked at me, his eyes wide as he repeated in a whisper which was broken by a shudder—"the Great Falcon!”
“Did you not see that evil laid?” I asked. “It may well be that the memory of that comes to you as a dream. If so, such shadows fade.”
“Grant that is so.” However, a shadow remained upon him as he left me.
I made a decision of my own and for the first time I took my way up stair and down a hall where long ago I had been made unwelcome. There I rapped firmly on a door. The woman who opened it stood, pen in hand, showing me as closed a face as the door had been.
“There is a need,” I stated bluntly.
“What need?” she countered, but Arona, whom I had seen but a finger count of years since her coming here, could not evade me now.
“Tell me, what do you know of the Great Falcon?”
I might have drawn that sword which necessity had set me wearing again, for her hand went to her mouth and she gave back a step or two. I followed eagerly for I believed that while so shaken she might indeed forget her long-held aloofness and share something of importance.
She continued to retreat until she sat down abruptly in a chair, her eyes no longer focusing on me but past my shoulder as if there hung a roll from which she must read.
“Jonkara—the great trap of the Dark—but it was flawed, flawed because men willed it so!”
“Have you read the Chronicle of Eirran and Yareth?”
Her tongue passed across her lips as if her mouth was suddenly dry. “Yes.” Her voice was hardly above a whisper.
“Then what might those two have to fear?” I pressed her.
Again she wet her lips and then asked, in a brittle voice. “Do they fear?”
“Yareth does.”
“And Eirran,” Nolar had come upon us both. “Would your Jonkara have any quarrel with an innocent woman bearing new life within her body? Surely what you have told me would give lie to that.”
Nolar passed me to Arona's side and put hand on her shoulder. Now when she spoke her voice was softer and somehow put a wall about them, leaving me outside.
“You have the key, unlock the door.”
Arona looked up into Nolar's eyes.
“But it is a legend, a story—it tells nothing of what—” Suddenly she paused almost in midword.
“There is something you remember, Arona? Let me warn you, Eirran is nearer to her time than we thought. She cannot make the trip back to her home, and she is also convinced that there is something wrong with the child. From what she has told me there may have been a sending—”
Now my hand did grip sword hilt, though I knew that no blade could defend against such a thing. Only Power itself. So I tried to believe that of all of us there might be enough of that.
Within Lormt there was knowledge certainly but it required the proper talent to wield it. I had a fraction, Nolar far more. The Stone of Konnard, was that not meant for healing? Still, for years that had served, or had been bent to serve, the Dark. Was it wholly free, even with this long space under Elgaret's guardianship?
“Arona?” Nolar prompted again.
The pen in the Falconer woman's hands snapped. Her face was white with more than just the leaching given by life ever indoors. Swiftly she arose and went to the table where lay piles of scrolls, sheets of time-tattered parchment.
“Jonkara.” The name might have been breathed as an invocation. Then her head raised so she looked at me. “This is for women,” she said with winter frost.
I shook my head. “Power knows neither male nor female—it answers to whomever calls it forth. When there is need what I have waits to be used. There is only Light and Dark and that depends upon the caller.”
Arona did not dispute me though I expected her to. Rather she turned her attention once more to what lay on the table, and Nolar said:
“Look you to Yareth. I think we all may meet an enemy who may be one he knows—let him be prepared.”
The time of our battle was not long delayed. Eirran awoke from a broken sleep that night and her screams quickly brought Nolar and me from a nearby chamber. As Yareth held his wife in his arms he fought her, her eyes wild and unseeing. It was only after Nolar had signaled me to help break his hold on the girl and had herself grasped Eirran that she quieted. There was movement at the door and Arona brushed past me.
She held a small, wand-like stick in her hand and with that she touched Eirran's swollen belly and spoke words I did not know. The girl convulsed and Yareth aimed a blow at Arona which I parried, taking the force of it myself. I do not know she even realized what he would have done, for she said to Nolar:
“That within her is possessed.”
Yareth cried out and I was shaken. For possession by the Dark can be worse than any true death. Eirran had fallen back on the bed and now her heavy breathing made her whole body shudder. Yareth looked to me, his face stricken:
“What is to be done?”
Nolar had made a quick examination of the girl.
“Birth is not yet. We must get her to the Stone!”
Though over the years we had made a fair trail on our visits to Elgaret, that was no real road. We had kept it so that others might not be moved to follow. To transport Eirran there was a task I would not have considered had I not believed that it would be fatal if we did not.
We devised a litter between the two most surefooted ponies—one such as the Borderers use for the seriously wounded—and with Derren, who also knew the road, together with Anylse his wife, a young woman who had midwife training, we headed towards the hidden shrine.
Eirran did not seem aware of our travels and Nolar considered that a blessing, ready at each halt we made with herb drinks and consultations with Anylse. Yareth spoke little, and I did not press him. Arona also appeared to ride as one whose body was present but her mind elsewhere. From time to time I saw her lips move as if she spoke to herself or something we could not see. She carried that wand with care. Oddly enough both Galerider and Yareth's falcon Boldwing seemed disturbed, now and then voicing screams which might almost be challenges. At such times Rawit would answer with sharp barking.
So we came to the shrine and Elgaret met us. Eirran cried out and twisted on the litter so that Nolar and Anylse, who had chosen to walk beside her that morning, were quick to restrain her. Though I knew little of birthing I guessed that her time was not far off.
We unfastened the litter and would have borne it within, but Elgaret stood between us and the door, her hands upon her jewel.
“Do not bring her to the Stone.” Her voice was harsh as I had never heard it before. “This is of the Dark.”
Yareth was carrying the forepoles of the litter. Had his hands been free I think he would have struck the Witch to the earth. His face was thunderous and his falcon flew low, screeching, yet not seeming to dare to attack.
Arona moved to stand shoulder to shoulder with Nolar before the Witch. Anylse cried out:
“Her time is upon her! In the name of Gunnora, dame, have pity!”
“Evil cannot be so easily turned away, Lady,” Arona said to Elgaret. “It must be fought and in Jonkara's name I will fight. By whom or what will you do battle? Are you not sworn, as I have heard tell, by mighty oaths to use your Power when and where the needs arise? Or do you only turn mountains and blast lives in grand gestures of battle?”
So they fronted each other, one, hand on jewel, the other, fingers gripping rod, and, to my great astonishment, it was Elgaret who gave way and let us carry Eirran into the rock chamber which was the outer room of the shrine.
Then Derren went to see to our mounts. But Yareth fell to his knees and caught Eirran's hands as she writhed and moaned. Now Nolar and Anylse watched her with wise eyes and I made to leave. However, Nolar shook her head at me—pointing to a place by the door. I could feel about us something gathering as a threat.
I tried to probe it. From a formless dark it became a brooding bird, a falcon. Galerider thrust claws painfully into my shoulder. I did not know that a bird could whimper, but the sounds which came from her were close to that. When Yareth had knelt, his bird had flown to the back of a chair and I saw its eyes shine as bright as flames as it watched. While Rawit crouched at my feet, her fear harsh upon her, but she would not leave me.
At Eirran's head stood Elgaret and from the jewel she wore light glowed down about Eirran's head and face. At her feet was Arona, the wand she held pointing to that passage through which the newborn must emerge. Still I sought, to the utmost straining of my talent, to learn what harm was about to come on us.
Eirran gave a great gasping cry and the babe came into the birthing cloth Anylse held ready. There was a sound but was no normal child's wail—rather a wild, triumphant laugh such as a man might give.
Arena's wand swung down but did not quite touch the child at heart level. There was an odor, strong and foul, of burnt flesh and singed feathers.
“Name yourself, by the Great Falcon which the Dark took, by the Power of the Lady denied, aye, by Jonkara's full might—name yourself!” Her voice stilled that laughter.
There was a great silence and then, even birds and hound were still.
“Weldyn.”
A single word, a name. I saw Yareth start as if a lash had been laid across his shoulders. His head jerked around, his eyes searching.
“Weldyn.” It was Arona who repeated that. “There is a challenge to be given.”
Almost I could hear heavy breathing, as if there were some animal—or man—crouched and waiting.
“By the Great Falcon, Weldyn,” she spoke again, “do you accept challenge? Come forth and try your strength if you are what you think yourself to be.”
“Against a female!” The contempt in that was as great as if it were the foulest of obscenities.
“Against me!” Yareth had leaped to his feet, his eyes still searching. “If I did not see you die, if it were all illusion—Yes, my challenge, Weldyn!”
That laugh again. “Not so, Falconer. Much as you have betrayed your kind, the kin-oath still binds you. Draw steel if you can!”
Yareth's hand did move towards sword hilt. Then I saw it stayed as if some great weight pinned it fast. There was a curdling of the air and from that formed one in Falcon helm and armor while the charnel odor grew stronger.
If Yareth could not move there were no such bonds on me. What stood there now was solid and real. Dark talent can be as great as any power if wielded strongly.
“You have done me well, half-breed.” The bird-surmounted helm turned and whatever lurked behind the eyeholes of that regarded the limp body of the child. “I live and will be about my battle.”
“There was a challenge,” I said. “And I am not bound by any oath, nor am I a woman—”
The head swung towards me with the speed of a striking snake. Eyes which were spots of unholy fire regarded me.
Once more that thing laughed. But it made no move to draw weapon. Instead, with an empty hand, it made a contemptuous gesture—followed by a bolt of fire. Only, that which I had earlier aroused and set on guard found me alert and ready.
It was a battle strange beyond all telling which we fought there. Twice was I very hard pressed and new energy flowed into me which I knew came from Nolar. The Witch took no part in our struggle; her light held steady over Eirran though it did not touch the motionless child whom I believed dead.
My weakened legs shook, I was drained. For the third time Nolar reached me. I saw the lips of that half-masked face form a snarl. Then the whole body of that apparition swung around, away from me, toward Anylse and the child. I knew what this thing which called itself by a dead man's name would do—enter again into that waiting body.
Only there was Arona, her wand held like the sword he would have denied her.
“By your strength, Lady, by your will!” She struck at that snarling face.
There was a jagged burst of darkness. I heard Arona gasp as her wand became flame and she had to hurl it from her. Only at the same time Galerider and Boldwing screamed and took to the air, circling the column of blackness which fell in upon itself and was gone.
Nolar caught at Anylse and clutched at the child, gathering the small form to her breast and running onward through doorway which gave upon the place of the Stone.
The last of the blackness was gone. Whatever had attempted to enter our world through the newborn had vanished from sight. I followed Nolar in time to see her kneel beside the Stone and hold out the unmoving body. The light was clear and bright upon the birthing cloth and its burden. But—if the child had been only a husk to hold that other—its true spirit dead before birth—
There was a cry, a wail. A small fist beat the air. Nolar gave a small cry also and caught that babe close to her. This was all human child. My thought had reached out and touched only that which was normal and right. The Stone of Konnard had completed our struggle and we of the Light had once more won.
Thus ends our Chronicles—each in a manner linked, close or far. And the rolls shall rest until there come those who may be of another kind, yet desirous to know of us who learned to change. It is fair and right that what was once be again known—and credit given to other days.
Duratan of LormtWE had Eirran's and Yareth's tale from their own hps some time after their return. For in search of the herb lore in Lormt Eirran insisted upon making us a visit even as Yareth had thought she might. She was big with child when she came and Nolar and I both sensed there was something amiss.
It was not that they grieved for their daughter, for both of them realized that a child of Talent moved, by nature, beyond the bonds of kin. There was some other shadow upon them. Or rather, as I sensed, upon Eirran, and Yareth's uneasiness was rooted in concern for his wife.
She was busied with Nolar one morning, copying out some healing spells and the lists of herbs to go with such, when she asked suddenly:
“Why should I have such ill dreams, lady? It was not so when I was carrying before. Then all was happiness.” She put down her pen and pressed her hands to her belly as if to shield against what she did not know.
“What manner of dreams?” Nolar asked.
“I cannot remember when I wake, but just that they are ill sendings. I know for when I do wake I am all asweat with fear, my throat aches as if I have screamed for long, and sometimes I have an urge to vomit as if I have eaten some foulness. Yet I must not let Yareth know and so— It is very hard to hide it from him as he grows more and more concerned and does not wish to leave me alone. This is not a proper bearing and I fear, oh, how I fear! That is the truth which really brought me here.”
At the same time Eirran spoke to Nolar, Yareth who had been watching his falcon's careful approach to Galerider, said abruptly, speaking with his back towards me:
“Is it true that you have something of the Talent even though you be no maid Witch?” His question was sharp and, I knew, one of import to him. I answered with the truth:
“Some small power, yes, I have gained.” My hand went to the pouch of crystals which rode ever at my belt.
He swung around to face me and came closer. “Then tell me,” he said, his hands clasping so tightly on his belt that the knuckles stood out sharply, “is there a hold of the Dark upon me?” He faced me as a man unflinchingly faces the charge of an enemy.
Seldom had I used that mindknowing of which I am still more than a little afeared for more than surface reading, and once or twice with Nolar when we unite. Yet at this demand from him I probed deeply. However, I met with nothing but that which is human and akin to all our species. Save there was a shadow of fear, partly for himself but mainly for Eirran.
“I can find nothing.”
I do not know whether he accepted that for the truth. I believe what I said brought him no relief.
“What is it that you fear?” I added.
He shook his head as one who shakes away an irritating fly. “That is it, I know not. Save there is something—like a dream.”
“And do you dream?”
“I do not know—for at waking the memory goes. But it is evil and—and that evil—it is turned towards Eirran. Nothing shall come near Eirran, nothing! By me or any other thing. That I swear, by the Great Falcon!” But as those words left his lips he suddenly looked at me, his eyes wide as he repeated in a whisper which was broken by a shudder—"the Great Falcon!”
“Did you not see that evil laid?” I asked. “It may well be that the memory of that comes to you as a dream. If so, such shadows fade.”
“Grant that is so.” However, a shadow remained upon him as he left me.
I made a decision of my own and for the first time I took my way up stair and down a hall where long ago I had been made unwelcome. There I rapped firmly on a door. The woman who opened it stood, pen in hand, showing me as closed a face as the door had been.
“There is a need,” I stated bluntly.
“What need?” she countered, but Arona, whom I had seen but a finger count of years since her coming here, could not evade me now.
“Tell me, what do you know of the Great Falcon?”
I might have drawn that sword which necessity had set me wearing again, for her hand went to her mouth and she gave back a step or two. I followed eagerly for I believed that while so shaken she might indeed forget her long-held aloofness and share something of importance.
She continued to retreat until she sat down abruptly in a chair, her eyes no longer focusing on me but past my shoulder as if there hung a roll from which she must read.
“Jonkara—the great trap of the Dark—but it was flawed, flawed because men willed it so!”
“Have you read the Chronicle of Eirran and Yareth?”
Her tongue passed across her lips as if her mouth was suddenly dry. “Yes.” Her voice was hardly above a whisper.
“Then what might those two have to fear?” I pressed her.
Again she wet her lips and then asked, in a brittle voice. “Do they fear?”
“Yareth does.”
“And Eirran,” Nolar had come upon us both. “Would your Jonkara have any quarrel with an innocent woman bearing new life within her body? Surely what you have told me would give lie to that.”
Nolar passed me to Arona's side and put hand on her shoulder. Now when she spoke her voice was softer and somehow put a wall about them, leaving me outside.
“You have the key, unlock the door.”
Arona looked up into Nolar's eyes.
“But it is a legend, a story—it tells nothing of what—” Suddenly she paused almost in midword.
“There is something you remember, Arona? Let me warn you, Eirran is nearer to her time than we thought. She cannot make the trip back to her home, and she is also convinced that there is something wrong with the child. From what she has told me there may have been a sending—”
Now my hand did grip sword hilt, though I knew that no blade could defend against such a thing. Only Power itself. So I tried to believe that of all of us there might be enough of that.
Within Lormt there was knowledge certainly but it required the proper talent to wield it. I had a fraction, Nolar far more. The Stone of Konnard, was that not meant for healing? Still, for years that had served, or had been bent to serve, the Dark. Was it wholly free, even with this long space under Elgaret's guardianship?
“Arona?” Nolar prompted again.
The pen in the Falconer woman's hands snapped. Her face was white with more than just the leaching given by life ever indoors. Swiftly she arose and went to the table where lay piles of scrolls, sheets of time-tattered parchment.
“Jonkara.” The name might have been breathed as an invocation. Then her head raised so she looked at me. “This is for women,” she said with winter frost.
I shook my head. “Power knows neither male nor female—it answers to whomever calls it forth. When there is need what I have waits to be used. There is only Light and Dark and that depends upon the caller.”
Arona did not dispute me though I expected her to. Rather she turned her attention once more to what lay on the table, and Nolar said:
“Look you to Yareth. I think we all may meet an enemy who may be one he knows—let him be prepared.”
The time of our battle was not long delayed. Eirran awoke from a broken sleep that night and her screams quickly brought Nolar and me from a nearby chamber. As Yareth held his wife in his arms he fought her, her eyes wild and unseeing. It was only after Nolar had signaled me to help break his hold on the girl and had herself grasped Eirran that she quieted. There was movement at the door and Arona brushed past me.
She held a small, wand-like stick in her hand and with that she touched Eirran's swollen belly and spoke words I did not know. The girl convulsed and Yareth aimed a blow at Arona which I parried, taking the force of it myself. I do not know she even realized what he would have done, for she said to Nolar:
“That within her is possessed.”
Yareth cried out and I was shaken. For possession by the Dark can be worse than any true death. Eirran had fallen back on the bed and now her heavy breathing made her whole body shudder. Yareth looked to me, his face stricken:
“What is to be done?”
Nolar had made a quick examination of the girl.
“Birth is not yet. We must get her to the Stone!”
Though over the years we had made a fair trail on our visits to Elgaret, that was no real road. We had kept it so that others might not be moved to follow. To transport Eirran there was a task I would not have considered had I not believed that it would be fatal if we did not.
We devised a litter between the two most surefooted ponies—one such as the Borderers use for the seriously wounded—and with Derren, who also knew the road, together with Anylse his wife, a young woman who had midwife training, we headed towards the hidden shrine.
Eirran did not seem aware of our travels and Nolar considered that a blessing, ready at each halt we made with herb drinks and consultations with Anylse. Yareth spoke little, and I did not press him. Arona also appeared to ride as one whose body was present but her mind elsewhere. From time to time I saw her lips move as if she spoke to herself or something we could not see. She carried that wand with care. Oddly enough both Galerider and Yareth's falcon Boldwing seemed disturbed, now and then voicing screams which might almost be challenges. At such times Rawit would answer with sharp barking.
So we came to the shrine and Elgaret met us. Eirran cried out and twisted on the litter so that Nolar and Anylse, who had chosen to walk beside her that morning, were quick to restrain her. Though I knew little of birthing I guessed that her time was not far off.
We unfastened the litter and would have borne it within, but Elgaret stood between us and the door, her hands upon her jewel.
“Do not bring her to the Stone.” Her voice was harsh as I had never heard it before. “This is of the Dark.”
Yareth was carrying the forepoles of the litter. Had his hands been free I think he would have struck the Witch to the earth. His face was thunderous and his falcon flew low, screeching, yet not seeming to dare to attack.
Arona moved to stand shoulder to shoulder with Nolar before the Witch. Anylse cried out:
“Her time is upon her! In the name of Gunnora, dame, have pity!”
“Evil cannot be so easily turned away, Lady,” Arona said to Elgaret. “It must be fought and in Jonkara's name I will fight. By whom or what will you do battle? Are you not sworn, as I have heard tell, by mighty oaths to use your Power when and where the needs arise? Or do you only turn mountains and blast lives in grand gestures of battle?”
So they fronted each other, one, hand on jewel, the other, fingers gripping rod, and, to my great astonishment, it was Elgaret who gave way and let us carry Eirran into the rock chamber which was the outer room of the shrine.
Then Derren went to see to our mounts. But Yareth fell to his knees and caught Eirran's hands as she writhed and moaned. Now Nolar and Anylse watched her with wise eyes and I made to leave. However, Nolar shook her head at me—pointing to a place by the door. I could feel about us something gathering as a threat.
I tried to probe it. From a formless dark it became a brooding bird, a falcon. Galerider thrust claws painfully into my shoulder. I did not know that a bird could whimper, but the sounds which came from her were close to that. When Yareth had knelt, his bird had flown to the back of a chair and I saw its eyes shine as bright as flames as it watched. While Rawit crouched at my feet, her fear harsh upon her, but she would not leave me.
At Eirran's head stood Elgaret and from the jewel she wore light glowed down about Eirran's head and face. At her feet was Arona, the wand she held pointing to that passage through which the newborn must emerge. Still I sought, to the utmost straining of my talent, to learn what harm was about to come on us.
Eirran gave a great gasping cry and the babe came into the birthing cloth Anylse held ready. There was a sound but was no normal child's wail—rather a wild, triumphant laugh such as a man might give.
Arena's wand swung down but did not quite touch the child at heart level. There was an odor, strong and foul, of burnt flesh and singed feathers.
“Name yourself, by the Great Falcon which the Dark took, by the Power of the Lady denied, aye, by Jonkara's full might—name yourself!” Her voice stilled that laughter.
There was a great silence and then, even birds and hound were still.
“Weldyn.”
A single word, a name. I saw Yareth start as if a lash had been laid across his shoulders. His head jerked around, his eyes searching.
“Weldyn.” It was Arona who repeated that. “There is a challenge to be given.”
Almost I could hear heavy breathing, as if there were some animal—or man—crouched and waiting.
“By the Great Falcon, Weldyn,” she spoke again, “do you accept challenge? Come forth and try your strength if you are what you think yourself to be.”
“Against a female!” The contempt in that was as great as if it were the foulest of obscenities.
“Against me!” Yareth had leaped to his feet, his eyes still searching. “If I did not see you die, if it were all illusion—Yes, my challenge, Weldyn!”
That laugh again. “Not so, Falconer. Much as you have betrayed your kind, the kin-oath still binds you. Draw steel if you can!”
Yareth's hand did move towards sword hilt. Then I saw it stayed as if some great weight pinned it fast. There was a curdling of the air and from that formed one in Falcon helm and armor while the charnel odor grew stronger.
If Yareth could not move there were no such bonds on me. What stood there now was solid and real. Dark talent can be as great as any power if wielded strongly.
“You have done me well, half-breed.” The bird-surmounted helm turned and whatever lurked behind the eyeholes of that regarded the limp body of the child. “I live and will be about my battle.”
“There was a challenge,” I said. “And I am not bound by any oath, nor am I a woman—”
The head swung towards me with the speed of a striking snake. Eyes which were spots of unholy fire regarded me.
Once more that thing laughed. But it made no move to draw weapon. Instead, with an empty hand, it made a contemptuous gesture—followed by a bolt of fire. Only, that which I had earlier aroused and set on guard found me alert and ready.
It was a battle strange beyond all telling which we fought there. Twice was I very hard pressed and new energy flowed into me which I knew came from Nolar. The Witch took no part in our struggle; her light held steady over Eirran though it did not touch the motionless child whom I believed dead.
My weakened legs shook, I was drained. For the third time Nolar reached me. I saw the lips of that half-masked face form a snarl. Then the whole body of that apparition swung around, away from me, toward Anylse and the child. I knew what this thing which called itself by a dead man's name would do—enter again into that waiting body.
Only there was Arona, her wand held like the sword he would have denied her.
“By your strength, Lady, by your will!” She struck at that snarling face.
There was a jagged burst of darkness. I heard Arona gasp as her wand became flame and she had to hurl it from her. Only at the same time Galerider and Boldwing screamed and took to the air, circling the column of blackness which fell in upon itself and was gone.
Nolar caught at Anylse and clutched at the child, gathering the small form to her breast and running onward through doorway which gave upon the place of the Stone.
The last of the blackness was gone. Whatever had attempted to enter our world through the newborn had vanished from sight. I followed Nolar in time to see her kneel beside the Stone and hold out the unmoving body. The light was clear and bright upon the birthing cloth and its burden. But—if the child had been only a husk to hold that other—its true spirit dead before birth—
There was a cry, a wail. A small fist beat the air. Nolar gave a small cry also and caught that babe close to her. This was all human child. My thought had reached out and touched only that which was normal and right. The Stone of Konnard had completed our struggle and we of the Light had once more won.
Thus ends our Chronicles—each in a manner linked, close or far. And the rolls shall rest until there come those who may be of another kind, yet desirous to know of us who learned to change. It is fair and right that what was once be again known—and credit given to other days.
Duratan of Lormt

 


The Sorcerer’s recommend that you read next: La Verdad: The Magic Sword


 

 

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Formatted and Edited by Jay Watts ~ April, 2019

 Copyright ~ Elwher, Metaldragon, Indagare & Lotsawatts
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