Sorceress of the Witch World ~ Rodney Matthews

 

The Chronicler:

by Andre Norton

This is an interesting set of shorts by Andre as she narrates the opening and closing of each story within the three books that make up Witch World: The Turning. One could also argue that each of the three books is either an anthology or an omnibus, you decide.

 

 

The Chronicler: “There was a time…” ~ Short [Read it Here]

 

Synopsis ~

Introduction and Afterwards for Port of Dead Ships and Seakeep as told by Duratan the Chronicler.

 

Bibliography ~

  • Storms of Victory (1991) Published by TOR, HC, 0-312-93171-9, LCCN 90049030, $19.95, 432pg ~ cover by Dennis A. Nolan

 

The Chronicler: “Once I was Duratan…” ~ Short [Read it Here]

 

Synopsis ~

Introduction and Afterwards for Exile and Falcon Hope as told by Duratan the Chronicler.

 

Bibliography of English Edition ~

  • Flight of Vengeance (1992) Published by TOR, HC, 0-312-85014-X, $21.95, 383pg ~ cover by Dennis A. Nolan

 

The Chronicler: “There are places…” ~ Short [Read it Here]

 

Synopsis ~

Introduction and Afterwards for We the Women and Falcon Magic as told by Duratan the Chronicler.

 

Bibliography of English Editions ~

  • On Wings of Magic (1994) Published by TOR, HC, 0-312-85026-3, $23.95, 409pg ~ cover by Dennis A. Nolan

Introduction to Storms of Victory 

THERE was a time when the hilt of a sword or the butt of a dart gun rested more easily in my grip than this pen. Now I record the deeds of others, and strange tales have I gathered. That I find myself a chronicler of others' deeds is one of those tricks which fate can play upon a man. In the backwater of quiet which is Lormt a man must make his own work. I have been fortunate in that I am drawn more and more to the seeking of knowledge, even though it chances that I am but a beginner and must do so vicariously through the recounting of the deeds of others. Though sometimes, more and more, it comes to me that I have not yet done with an active role in that eternal war of the Light against the Dark.

My name is Duratan and I am of the House of Harrid (which means nothing now). Though I take commissions these days to search family rolls for many divided clans, I have never found any bloodkin to my house. It is sometimes a lone thing not to call any kin.

I came into Estcarp as a babe, having been born just at that black time when Duke Yvian horned all the Old Race and there was a mighty bloodletting. My nurse brought me hither before she died of a fever and I was fostered.

From then my destiny followed the pattern known to all my exiled people. I was trained to arms from the time I could hold a weapon made to my measure—for there was no other life then when the Kolder devils loosed all our enemies upon us.

In due time I became one of the Borderers, adding to my knowledge of weapons that of the countryside and survival in the wilderness. Only in one respect did I differ from my fellows—I seemed able to bond with animals. Once I even faced a snow cat, and we looked eye to eye, before the impressive hunter of the heights went his way. In my mind it was as if I had dwelt for a short moment within his furred skin, kin to him as I was to no other.

For a time thereafter I was wary and disturbed, fearing that I might even be were, one of those who divide spirits—man and animal, able to be each in turn. Yet I showed no tendency to grow fur or feather, fangs or talons. So at length I accepted this as a minor talent—to be cherished. In border service I met also the younger Tregarths, and from that grew in me a desire to something more than a triumph at arms and always more bloodletting. Of those two storied warriors it was Kemoc, the younger, to whom I was most drawn. His father being Simon Tregarth, the outworlder, his mother the Witch Jaelithe, who had not lost her power even when she wedded, bedded, and bore. There was also another unheard-of thing—that their children, all three, were delivered at a single birthing. There was Kemoc, and Kyllan, and their sister, Kaththea, who was taken for Witch training against her will.

Her brothers rode to prevent that but were too late. Kemoc returned from that aborted mission very quiet, but henceforth there was a deadliness in his eyes when he spoke of his sister. He asked questions of those who rode with us, and any we met. However, I think he gained little of what he wanted, for we who had fled Karsten had retained even less of the old lore than was known in Estcarp.

Then, in one of those swift forays which were our life, Kemoc suffered a wound too serious for our healer to deal with and was taken from the heights we guarded.

Shortly thereafter there came a period of quiet, almost a truce, during which our captain wished to send orders for supplies and I volunteered for that. With Kemoc gone I was restless and even more alone.

I carried the captain's orders but it meant a gathering of material which would take some time and I had nothing to do save find Kemoc. In me there has never been the gift of easy friend making and with him only I had felt akin. I knew that since his sister's taking he had been searching for something, and in that I also felt I might have a part. When I asked concerning him I was told that his wound (which had left him partly maimed) had healed well enough for him to go to Lormt.

Lormt was then to us mainly legend. It was said to be a repository of knowledge—useless knowledge the Witches avered—but it was older even than Es City, whose history covers such a toll of years that it would take the larger part of a lifetime to count. The Witches avoided it, in fact seemed to hold it in aversion. There were scholars said to have taken refuge within its walls, but if they learned aught from their delving they did not share it abroad.

I followed Kemoc to Lormt. It is true that one may be laid under a geas, set to a task from which there is no turning back. I had angered no one (that I knew of) with the power to set that upon me. But I was firmly drawn to Lormt.

Thus I came to a vaster and more unusual group of buildings than I had ever seen. There were four towers and those were connected by walls. Yet no sentries walked those walls and there was no guard at the single gate. Rather that was ajar, and must have been so for some time, as there was a ridge of soil holding it thus. Inside were buildings but not like those of a keep, and around, against the walls, smaller erections most little more than huts—some of which were a-ruin.

A woman was drawing water at a well as I dismounted and, when I asked her where I might find the lord, she blinked and then grinned at me, saying here were no lords, only old men who ruined their eyes looking at books which sometimes fell to pieces while they did so. So I went searching for Kemoc. Later I discovered that the affairs of housing were managed by Ouen (leader by default of the scholars, he being a younger and more active man) and by Mistress Bethalie, whose opinion of the domestic arts of most men was very low indeed. There was also Wessel, a jewel of a steward. It was because of these three that Lormt flourished as well as it did.

Nor were there only males among the scholars. For I heard of a Lady Nareth, who kept much to her own company, and one Pyra, a noted healer, whose country and clan were unknown but who Kemoc revered for her knowledge and help with his own injury.

Five days I stayed with him, listening with growing excitement to his discoveries. Those about him were for the most part so elderly that they might have been our grandsires. Each had a quest of his own and no time for us.

The night before I left Kemoc faced me across one of the timeworn tables, having pushed aside a pile of books bound in worm-eaten wood. He had a small pouch in his hand and from this he scattered between us some beads of crystal which lay winking fire in the lamplight.

Without any thought my hand went out and I pushed one here, and one there until a pattern I did not understand lay before my eyes. Kemoc nodded.

"So it is right, Duratan, knowledge lies here for you, also. And believe it or not, you have talent” I looked at him openmouthed. "I am no maid—" I protested.

He smiled at me. "Just so, you are no maid, Duratan. So let me say this to you. There may be secrets within secrets and the Witches are mortals for all their powers. There is infinitely more in this world than they know. I have discovered much here and soon I shall be able to follow my own road. Take these." He swept up the crystals, returning them to the pouch. "You shall find use for them." When I left at dawn the next morning he was at the gate to see me forth.

"If peace ever comes to this land of ours, shield mate, ride you here again, for I think that there is to be found a greater treasure than any wrecker lord of the eastern coast can dream of. Luck be with you and fortune your shield."

But his wish did not hold. Within a month of my return to the mountains a rock moved under my mount's feet when I was on scout, to plunge both me and the poor beast into a narrow valley. The chance I would be found was slim and pain sent me drifting into a darkness I welcomed. Yet I had not come to the Last Gate. I was discovered by a deaf-and-dumb beast of a man who carried me forth, though his rough handling was a torment. I awoke in the house of a wisewoman he served. With all her skill she fought to save my crushed leg. Heal it did, but I knew that I would never stride easily again and the Borderers would ride without me.

With a knotted stump of cane in hand I made myself walk daily. I had fallen onto a stool after such a push when she came to me, in her hand Kemoc's bag. She held that out and for some caprice I fumbled within and drew out a few of the crystals, throwing them on the floor. By some chance they were all of the same color—blue—and, as they fell, they shaped, as cleanly as if I had pushed them, into the shape of a dart head pointing to the door. I felt as if someone had given me a sharp order. It was time to be about business as yet unknown to me.

"You have," the woman said to me, "the talent. This is uncanny—ward yourself well, Borderer, for you will find few to welcome you." She tossed the pouch to me as if she wished it quickly away from her.

I decided it was time I searched for Kemoc in Lormt once more but first I helped that awkward servant enwall his mistress's herb garden. When I finally rode forth there was in me even a small hope that I might find knowledge to buy me freedom from my lurching steps.

Only Kemoc was gone when once more I entered that uncloseable gate. Ouen told me that Kemoc had been greatly excited when he had ridden forth a tenth day earlier, nor had he mentioned where he was going.

Because I did not know his goal and because I believed that my handicap would make me a hindrance to him, I settled in the room which had been his, paying into the common fund of the scholars the last of my small store of coins. For a short time a shameful weakness of spirit took me and I railed at fate.

But I roused myself to fight such despair and now and then I tossed the crystals. Thus I began to learn that I could influence the patterns which came, even move separate ones by staring at them. That drove me to the reading halls, though I had no idea what I sought. I drew upon scraps I had found in Kemoc's room on which he had scrawled some results of his own delving. But I felt I faced a maze in which I could be easily caught, for I had no one purpose.

I strove to speak to one of the scholars who seemed more approachable than the others, Morfew, who welcomed me as a pupil.

When it seemed that I must have action, for it was not easy to settle into a niche of books and scrolls, I went into the fields of the farms which fed the establishment and worked, exercising my leg and forcing myself to walk without a staff. Though I had not sought her out, Pyra came to me and offered surcease from pain, greatly in agreement with what I strove to do for myself. She was a woman of great inner strength and it was only by chance that I discovered what else she was. For one day, when a stumble in a field brought back a measure of my pain, she found me sitting in the hall, crystals in hand. I threw them in idleness and those of blazing yellow separated from the others and formed a pattern to seem a pair of eyes. Such eyes I had seen in a bird's head and these appeared to live for a moment and gaze at Pyra. I

heard a quickly drawn breath and at that moment, as if I had heard it shouted aloud I was sure. I glanced from those eyes on the table to the eyes in the woman's head, and I said to myself, "Falconer!" Though few, if any, men not of their own breed had ever seen one of their women. She put out her hand and caught mine, turning it palm up, and she studied that calloused flesh as one might study the roll on the table. There was a frown on her face; as she abruptly dropped her hold on me she said only:

"Tied, Duratan—how and why I do not know." Swiftly then she left me.

But tied to the bird warriors I was though I did not guess it then or for years to come. Time passed and I did not count the days.

However, my power grew. That which had stirred in me when I had fronted the snow cat strengthened by use even as did my limb. I began to put more thought to such things, casting my crystals, seeking out birds and small field creatures. Then I gained a liege one of my own.

There had been a storm and after its fury had passed I rode out to the edge of the wild lands. These were hedged by forest which made a living wall around Lormt save for where the road (somewhat overgrown) passed and where the river Es curled. There came to me a whimpering, and it was the space of several breaths before I realized that I had caught that, not by ear, but by thought. I took it as a guide and it led me to where, trapped much as I had been in the mountains, lay a thin, shaggy-coated hound. It was a beast of fine breeding though it was all bones and its long hair showed neglect. Nor did it wear a collar. As I knelt it drew lip to show teeth and I noted a mark across its muzzle as if a whip lash had left a scar, I looked into eyes which were fearful and I loosed thought to calm and comfort. It sniffed my fingers and then licked them.

Luckily it had shared my fate no further, for it was only a prisoner and wounded by the matter of a scratch or two. I worked apart the branch of bramble which was its last binding and it arose to four feet and shook itself, took one step and then two away from me. Then it looked over its shoulder and came back, while from it to me flowed gratitude.

Thus I found Rawit and she was no common hound, but one that had been hardly used and had come to know my sort only as an enemy who punished. Though from the moment she came to me there was no barrier between us. Her thoughts flowed, even if sometimes they were hard to understand, but there was exchange between us and I found this a wonder which seemingly was as great a one to her.

We had visitors—mainly a trader or two who brought that which could not be raised in our well-tended fields, salt, scrap iron which Janton, the smith, used with great expertise. Also there were Borderers passing and from them we learned of the war. I asked of Kemoc and only once did I have news. That came from a horse dealer who had sold him a Torgian. But more than that I did not know. There was a time when restlessness gnawed at me. I took to riding the woods' boundaries, Rawit running by my side. Though we were well away from the mountains and no raiders came, still I felt a need for such patrols.

Morfew told me once that the ancients who had built here had set over the whole site a guard of Power and those sheltering within the walls need have no fear. Still I borrowed a spade and smoothed out that ridge of earth which kept the great gate from being closed.

As my unease increased I fell into the habit of each morning throwing the crystals as I arose. Oddly, Rawit always came from her bed at the foot of mine to watch. And each day I threw only those which were the red of blood and the smoke grey of dying fires. Yet when I tried to share my foreboding with Morfew, he shook his head and told me the ancients guarded well their own.

My wariness was given credit when a troop of Borderers came. These were no scouts nor being sent to turn some raid. Rather they carried with them all that they owned packed on ponies. From both men and animals-even more from the animals—I sensed some strange peril.

Their captain gathered those scholars who would heed him, and the farm people, to share the warning which had sent them on the move. Pagar of Karsten had set on march the largest army that men in this part of the world had ever seen. Already their van had penetrated well into the mountains across so wide a front that there was no way Estcarp could hold against them.

"But it is no longer our war," the captain said. "For the Council has sent forth the Great Call and we are for Es City. If you would have safety prepare to ride with us. But do not think we can linger long for you."

Ouen glanced from one to another of his fellow scholars and then spoke up.

"Lormt is guarded well, Captain." He gestured to walls and towers. "I do not think we can do better than to trust the guardianship which was set here when the last wall stone was fitted into place. We have no life beyond these walls. Also there is among us a wisewoman, Mistress Bethalie. She is strong in power though no Witch."

The captain grimaced and turned to Janton. "Your people then—" he began.

Janton looked around but one head shook and then another. He shrugged.

"Our thanks to you, Captain. But we've lived here father-son, son-father, for so long we would be like wheat pulled up untimely from the fields—to wither into nothingness."

"The folly is yours then!" The captain was sharp. His gaze lighted on me and he frowned again. For, that morning having thrown the fire and ash twice and felt a great weight of oppression, I had put on my scale shirt, and fastened my arms belt over it.

"You—" I caught his thought and felt anger, then also knew that he had the right to resent a fighting man to be at this time apart from any troop. I answered that thought easily as I limped forward.

"Captain, how came that Great Call?”

"The seeresses," he answered, "and the falcons of the Falconers. The Council move but they have not told us how or what. We have heard that Sulcar ships are in the bay and perhaps they wait for those who must flee."

Then he added, "Do you ride with us?"

I shook my head. "Captain, I found refuge here when there was no other to bid me welcome. I take my chance with Lormt."

They rode on towards the river and I heard them speak of rafts. I laid hand on the gate I had freed and wondered how well it would serve us as a barrier if Karsten fury spilled into this pocket nigh forgotten by the world.

The next day was awesome. I awakened before light and heard the whines in Rawit's throat, her shadow fear heightening mine. There was that about us which fairly shouted of Power, Power aroused, Power brooding, Power about to leap.

Even the most dreaming and wooly witted of the scholars felt it and so did those on the farms, for they came, family by family, to gather within Lormt's walls.

Ouen and I welcomed all within. Even old Pruett, the herbmaster, did what he could to bring forth those gifts of nature which would do the most good in times of trouble. While Mistress Bethalie and Pyra stood together, a strange look lay upon them both, as if they strove to see what lay before us. So did it come, first like a vast drawing, and I saw men and women sway as they stood, just as I felt within me the same pull. The ponies screamed as I have never heard their like do before and Rawit howled, to be answered by all the farm dogs. Then—

I lived through it as we all did. But never have I found words to describe what came. It was as if the very earth strove to rid itself of us and all we had planted on her back. No sun broke through the fallen darkness. Those clouds were blacker than any night, except that through them cut great jagged blades of lightning.

Someone caught my arm and by a lightning flash I saw it was Morfew.

"They do it again—they move the mountains!" He clung to me so closely that I caught his words. Much has been told of the Witches and their power, but in those hours what they did was greater than any feat of their planning before. Literally did they move the southern mountains, and Pagar and his invaders were gone, even as much else went also. Forests fell and were swallowed up, birds and animals died, rivers were shaken from their beds to find other courses. It was the ending of the world through which we lived.

There came a bolt of lightning which cracked the sky above our heads and struck full upon one of the towers. From the foot of that followed so great an explosion of light as was blinding. We huddled on the ground and strove to see, fearing our sight had been rift from us. Yet when dim shadows appeared again it was to reveal a continued glow of blue light which centered now on two towers. Then those stones, which had been so firmly set, began to fall and we who could gain our feet pulled others away from the crumbling towers and walls.

It seemed that that time of destruction went on forever. But there came a moment as if some great beast which had used its claws to ravage our world was at length tired of the destruction it had wrought, and the day cleared to a grey through which we looked once more on Lormt. Perhaps, though the two towers were partly rubble and the wall which linked them only an unsteady mound, fortune had favored us. For no one had been killed and injuries were slight. Even the animals we had brought into the courtyard were safe.

There was something else—just as we had felt drawn by what we could not understand, so now were we all worn of strength. Those who dazedly found themselves alive moved only slowly. It was close to nightfall before we made our first discovery.

In their fall the towers, the walls, opened hidden places and rooms, crannies which had been sealed perhaps even at the first building were now visible. Our scholars went a little wild at what was displayed there. Forgetful of bruises, cuts, even hurts, which might have kept such old ones abed, they strove to climb tottering piles of rubble, to bring forth coffers, chests, sealed jars which stood as high as one's waist.

The rest of the ten days which followed was a strange time. From one of the remaining towers we could see that the Es had vanished from the course we knew. Trees in the forest leaned haphazardly one against the other. However, the houses which had been in the open were not greatly harmed. That tower which had taken the first blow of all was split to its roots and I strove to keep the scholars away from it, for stones still rattled down into the depths. There was a dim glow there which flickered and grew less by the hour. Morfew joined me, wriggling out on his belly even as I to look down into the hollow.

"So the legend was right," he commented. "Smell that?" There was dust in the air and a much stronger mustiness such as forever clung to the libraries. Still there was also another odor, sharp and acrid, which made us cough.

"Quan iron," Morfew said. "It is one of the old secrets. Yet I found one account last season which said that great balls of it were set at the foot of each tower and that is what was to keep Lormt from harm."

In a way it had, for we had been saved. However, we were careful of the unsteady piles of stone. After they had inspected their own homes many of the farm men came back and aided us, for the scholars had little strength and had to be discouraged from much they would do. In spite of my weakened leg I discovered that I could carry and push such as I would have thought I could not manage, as if some superior energy had come to me. So we were busied over many days, freeing the wealth of the hidden rooms and piling so much in the general hall that one could only follow narrow paths between. On the third day I was heading for labor when Rawit whined and then her unhuman thought touched mine.

"Hurt—help—" She pointed her nose toward the ragged top of the second tower. There something moved. It flapped wildly back and forth and I saw it was a bird, caught by one foot so it could not right itself. Also one wing drooped while the other beat frantically.

To climb to that was dangerous, still I made the ascent testing each hand and foothold. The bird ceased its struggles and hung limp. Yet it was not dead, for I could just touch the edge of its thought and that was one of terror and helplessness. Thus I brought down at last a falcon, and no ordinary bird. This was a female of that same species whose males were the other selves of the Falconers, those dour fighters who had held the mountains for so long. Managing to loose the foot was easy once I had reached the trapped bird, but caring for the damaged wing was a task beyond me and only Pyra's skill brought it back to partial use again.

Galerider (I learned her name early) was never to soar freely again but she became as much of a companion as Rawit. Though she mantled warningly at any other, she allowed me to handle her. She had been torn from her nesting place by a sucking wind and had no idea how far or from what direction she had been borne.

At length we settled into a new life. There were refugees who found their way to Lormt, but none stayed past the time when they had regained their energy. Many of the scholars had disappeared into their cubbies with the newfound knowledge, so intent that they had to be brought forth for meals or rest, so enchanted by their finds that they might have been ensorcelled as we are told men can be. There came news. In that mighty task of turning, many of the Witches—nearly all of the Council—had been killed or so emptied of power that they were only husks in which a life flame burned feebly. One such as brought to us by a young woman who begged our aid. But there was nothing yet uncovered which could answer her need.

The Witches remaining no longer in command, we were told by the leader of a scout troop sent south to assess damages, Koris of Gorm was now declared leader. It was the scout captain also who brought news of Kemoc—saying that he with his brother had managed to free his sister and they had all disappeared.

If they fled toward the mountains—had they been caught up in the torture of the land? I often wondered that when I had time to think of anything except what was happening in Lormt. By chance I had become a keeper of bits of information about the present not the past, and wayfarers who came down the old road would ask concerning this kin, that holding, and the like. So I began to assemble records and my knowledge of clans and houses became known so that some came from a distance to see me and ask of their kin.

Then one came in a dream.

Parting a haze with a sweep of his arm as one might pass through a curtain Kemoc stood before me. There was surprise on his face but that faded and a smile took its place.

"Duratan!" His voice—did it touch my thought only, or did it ring in my ears? I could have sworn to neither. However, there was much he told me to add to my store of knowledge and be of greater aid to those who sought me out.

For he and his brother and sister had dared the east and found what they sought—the land from which our blood had first come. There was struggle there, for their own coming had unsteadied a balance of power. They now fought great evil and those who serve the Dark. Thus they wanted aid from any willing to give it—let such only travel east and they would find guidance.

When he had done he drew one hand down the haze against which he stood and said, "Look you here, shield mate, and you will know my words are true and you are not dreaming." He was gone and there was darkness, but that was the edge of waking and I opened my eyes. Rawit was on her feet—her hind feet, her front paws against the wall—and she gave a sharp bark. But I had already seen it—a streak of blue running down the stone as if a finger had drawn it there. Nor was that the last time that Kemoc sought me so, and what he had to tell me I kept record of. Twice I was able to tell seekers those they sought had gone over mountain to the east. It appeared that some ancient bond which had kept those of our race from thinking of that direction had been swept away. We heard tell of whole households—all kin together—gathering their possessions and setting out in that direction. Of each I made record.

So there was still war, though now largely of another kind. For the Dark which had slept or been sealed in Escore, as Kemoc said, stirred and awoke, not only within that land but elsewhere. Thus one of the tales I have to set down here was given me by Kemoc himself when he returned from a-voyaging into the unknown, though it was not his tale alone, and he but added somewhat to it before he gave it into my hands. Through it I learned of the sea—of which I knew little—and of dangers which might abide there.

 

Afterword - Port of Dead Ships

That a place of such menace as that eater of life force from captured seafarers could exist was a strong warning that much might haunt our world of which we knew nothing. That it had been destroyed was indeed a blow against the ancient Dark and I set the account of she who now calls herself the Voice of Gunnora to the fore for the noting of those who will themselves begin new ventures. For with Kemoc and Ouen it was my thought that other such traps might well be hidden. Since after all we appear now to know very little beyond the world wherein we ourselves travel.

Still, after Kemoc and his lady had ridden on to Escore, I was not given much time to meditate upon such speculations for within a ten days after Kemoc's going there came another needing my aid. He was a Falconer and such had not ridden our way before (save for Pyra and she was no dour fighting man). Still I had met his comrades among the Borderers and had always felt well disposed towards them though as all men they varied. Some being more approachable and others not welcoming any gesture of goodwill from those beyond their closed unitsThis one wished of us histories concerning his own people. This also had been a mission of Pyra'a but I knew better than to call his attention to her. In fact she made some excuse to ride out the day after his arrival to go herb hunting. The strange situation between the Falconers and their women had long been a topic of gossip in our land and a matter of much speculation, some of it often lurid but never voiced near any of the breed.

The bird of this one bespoke Galerider and that awakened the man's closer interest in me, I think. One night when he was wearied of much searching and little reward for that, he came to my quarters, which astounded me a little. The Falconers, even those best disposed to outsiders, seek no close speech beyond their own ranks. But sometimes the need to talk comes on a man and thus I recognized it was for him. I listened still all his story I did not then hear from him because he saw it through his eyes only. The rest I gained in another way later on and it was indeed a tale which made even plainer how the travail of the mountain changes had altered our world.

 

Afterword - Seakeep

This tale of seakeep was more than one night in the telling. Having once begun it I could sense the he who lived it must press on to voice the rest. Perhaps so he made clear to himself certain feelings and questions he had not faced before.

When he finished it at last I was moved to throw the crystals. The pattern did not form falcon eyes as it had for Pyra, rather there was a jagged red line and above it grey so that I knew ill was close upon him. I would have spoken so to this bird warrior save that a message came to him that the Lady Una had come at last across the sea to join his quest. And straightaway he went forth from Lormt to meet her.

Only I was oddly shaken and once more I paced outside the walls of Lormt, with Galerider and Rawit as my only companions. Twice it seemed to me that shadow clouds gathered strangely---not in the east where Escore knew those Dark skirmishes and danger which might burst swiftly out of nowhere, but westward---over that land where we thought war was safely over.

My sword hand itched and I reached for that weapon I no longer wore. I found myself listening for a Border horn to sound downwind. Then I knew within me that, for all my thought of being one who no longer had any active part to play in action, strange destiny still lay ahead.

No---the end of the fight was not yet, nor would pass me by.

 

 

Introduction to Flight of Vengeance

ONCE I was Duratan of the Borderers—now what shall I call myself? I am in part a Chronicler of the deeds of others, I am one of such as Ouen and Wessel who help with the preserving of the framework of Lormt so that those who come to delve there for knowledge have lodging, food, that which will keep life in their bodies while they labor among the records of the past they love. I am also a seeker. Bit by bit I gain a little here, a fraction there, striving to make clear to the questions within me answers of what I have to do in a world which was overturned by Power and in which so many of us have been set adrift.

When Estcarp stood in direct threat from Pagar of Karsten, and all who were clear-thoughted could foresee (without any recourse to the uses of Power) that we must be indeed overrun, it was the Witches who themselves interposed all that they were or could be between the coming of chaos and their land. Binding together in one embattled body and mind they brought all their famed strength to bear upon the earth itself, forced nature to bow to their united wills.

Those mountains, through which Pagar's forces moved to crush us, were shaken, put down, raised up. The land split, was gashed, wounded, scarred. Forests disappeared, rivers were rent from their age-old beds, there was a madness in the world. For this there was a heavy price. Of the Council in Es City, there were no survivors. Others were as husks, burnt out by the force they had summoned. The Witch Rule died with the majority of those who had held it. Though still along the borders there were enemies such as Alizon where Witch Rule was considered an abomination.

The Kolders, who had come upon us through one of the gates, bursting outward as might the vile flow from the lancing of a festering wound, began the last travail of the world as we knew it. But Champions arose. The Witches gave those their full backing. Simon Tregarth, an outlander from another gate world, came. To him joined the Witch Jaelithe, also Koris of Gorm (that ill-named place the Kolders had first befouled), and Loyse of Verlaine; others also whose deeds the songsmiths have wrought into many ballads. It was Simon and Jaelithe who closed the Kolder gate. Yet war continued, for the evil the Kolders had sown was far from harvested.

In the Dales of High Hallack there was fierce fighting, for the Kolders had encouraged those of Alizon, aiding them in an invasion of that land with strange weapons, that a path might be cut into storied Arvon beyond where the Old Ones were rumored to have concealed treasures of power. When the Kolders fell, Alizon's failure followed and her force was hunted through the Dales to the sea and died there because there was no escape. For the Sulcars, ever friendly to Estcarp, had swept away their fleet.

Yet Alizon was not yet defeated in the minds of those sword lords who ruled there. They licked their wounds, ever looking south. For, though they hated the Power, they also cherished secrets which were of the Dark.

Karsten arose out of the Kolder chaos under Pagar, but what happened there after the Witches put an end to the invasion? Or was it a beginning?

For, just at the turning, the Tregarths again played a part. There were three of them, the children of Simon and his Witch wife, Jaelithe, born at a single birthing which was a thing unknown before: Kyllan, the warrior; Kemoc, the warlock; and Kaththea the Witch. They broke the age old block laid upon our minds and went eastward, over mountains, into Escore, from which our race had fled a millennium before.

However, their coming into Escore had troubled the ancient balance held between the Light and the Dark. Once more war and fearsome things, born of the filth of evil, broke forth. However, there were those of the Old Race who arose, took their households, and kin-lieges, to cross the eastern mountains and use their swords there, to bring once more forces of Light to meet Dark. I was in Lormt and not at the forefront of any battle when the turning came upon us. Kemoc was my shield comrade and he had dwelt in that storehouse of knowledge for a space before he had ridden to free his sister from Witch hold. I had visited him there. Surely no geas was laid upon me, still the desire to return to that place held me after I was sore hurt in a rock fall and my fighting days so ended.

Though Kemoc was already gone, I stayed, sometimes torn two ways—yearning for the Border life I had always known, and again for this seeking among the many old and rotting accounts of an earlier world and time. I would have sworn while I was a warrior that I had none of the Talent in me. It was always believed that that went only in the female line among us. Yet I discovered that I did have strange gifts.

Since I was young and active, and not too hindered by my limp, I had much to do with Ouen in Lormt after the Turning. Of the four towers of that age-old fortress of knowledge, one and part of another fell as a result of the great earth movement, taking with them the connecting wall.

However, though there were injuries among us, there were no deaths. But what was the most surprising was that the structural collapse revealed sealed chambers and crypts in which had been stored chests and great jars filled with all manner of scrolls and books.

Our scholars were frantic and it took those of us who were more level-headed and less wrapped up in research to make sure that none of them came to harm in their assault on places where there was treacherous rubble. Thus I was greatly busied in those first days and hardly aware of what chanced, except for what was directly under my eyes.

We sheltered a trickle of refugees. Among them was a young woman who had ridden to us in search of healing for her aunt. I did not see the older woman, but I was told that she had suffered a head injury which put her into a sleepwalking state. There was with the two of them a Borderer whose troop had been scattered during the catastrophe and he had taken service to see them safely to us. Those who employed him spent much time with Morfew, one of the scholars always more helpful than others. Shortly the three of them made a sudden departure, as I was told by Wessel who supplied them. Morfew said that the maid Nolar had discovered among some of the newly salvaged material reference to an ancient place of healing. I was a little disturbed, for surely the many changes in the landscape might have obliterated any landmarks they would travel by. Almost I was moved to ride after them but there was so much to be done and I fully expected them to return shortly in disappointment.

When I had first visited Kemoc at Lormt he had given me a bag of colored crystals and I had discovered that these answered to some talent of my own. When I threw them they would fall into patterns. Dwelling upon those, thoughts and warnings sometimes became clear. So it became my daily custom upon arising each morning to throw a handful and try to read what might lie before me for the day.

There were no thoughts of the three who had gone on the morning days later when I made my throw. But what lay there was indeed a warning.

That red which is near black (signifying the worst of evil) was centered. Fronting it were three other sparks, one of green, which was small but clear, and two others which blazed higher. One of those was blue, the other a clear white, and from each came a beam to lick at that smear of dark. As if I stood in sight of what passed I knew I witnessed a mighty battle. My hand clenched upon the edge of the table. The hound Rawit, who always witnessed my throw growled, and from the back of my chair the female falcon Galerider screamed as she might when about to war. Three lights against the dark—in my mind those three were the ones who had gone forth from Lormt. Mightily I strove to reach them by thought-send. Instead there was a rush of the crystals and not by my will. I feared—unnaturally. Perhaps something had been loosed again, even as the Tregarths had unwittingly loosed the Dark in Escore. Yet I thought this was no warning from Escore, but what happened was not far from Lormt itself.

That day and for four following, I rode the boundaries of our fields and watched my crystals, throwing them twice, thrice a day. I visited Morfew. He showed me a copy the maid Nolar had made from fragments of an ancient scroll which spoke of the Stone of Konnard. That this was part of a dire ensorcelment I was sure, and I was angry with them for what they might have loosed upon us. Arming myself I gathered supplies, though what good I might do I had no idea. Yet there was danger and I was still fighting man enough to be drawn to it. For the last time I threw the crystals. And this time I was successful. That which blazed with evil was gone. There remained only the white, and those pulsed evenly like the beating of a heart.

I heard the barking of Rawit and sudden sharp cry of Galerider. So I looked out beyond that space where the gate to Lormt had once hung and saw riding, with weary drooping of body in saddle, the two who came again. Though at that moment I did not truly realize why there was such a surge of gladness in me, I thought it was only because some threat was past.

Urging my mount forward I went to meet Nolar and Derren. And indeed they had for me a mighty venture to add to the Chronicles. 

 

Continued with - The Chronicler - Page 2


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Edited by Jay Watts ~ aka: Lots-a-watts ~ July, 2020

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