Continued from - The Chronicler - Page 1

 

Afterword - Exile

We had news of the Witch Elgaret from time to time. Derren visited her with supplies, in spite of the heavy storms of a winter more severe than any we had known before. Once I rode with him. That was when great good came to me, for, when I looked upon the Stone of Konnard, two things happened. One, the constant ache in my leg was gone, though my injury was not entirely cured, for the once shattered limb was now some shorter than the other. But, which for me was more important, there came inside my mind the sensation (which with it first carried fear, for there is always uneasiness in the unknown) of a door opening. Straightway I found my talent was enlarged so I could communicate wordlessly with my own kind as well as with animals. Knowing this was unchancy and, in ways, an invasion of another's self I did not practice it much, only when there was great need.

Only once did I use it and then only because I was greatly angered, though I knew also that anger is a weakening of that control which those of the talent must learn.

That anger came through a young girl who rode into Lormt and announced herself as Arona Bethishsdaughter. She had been record keeper for one of the Falconers' women villages which had been cast adrift when the Falconers left the Eyrie, a village in which there was hatred for my sex. She demanded that she be taken to a "she scholar," showing the greatest aversion to any communication with the rest of us. Nolar escorted her to the Lady Nareth, another who was without kindness for us, though she was a scholar.

When Nolar returned she was very quiet and I was concerned. She sat across from me at the table where I had been at work. Then, as if speaking of something she disliked, she said: "Duratan, with that one comes bitterness—perhaps justly in her eyes because of her past. We must not let such cut us down. Try her!"

I let my thought range out as she bade. Then I recoiled, for it was true. There was deep anger there such as might well breed danger.

"But how may this harm us?" I asked aloud, both of myself and of Nolar. "Bitterness eats at the core of the one who holds it."

"True, yet…" she paused and fingered that pocket within her skirt, where she carried the shard of Konnard which was to her as a jewel is to a Witch. "Yet I feel. "

No more did she say then nor, for a long time afterward, but Arona Bethishsdaughter kept to quarters near the Lady Nareth and we saw little of her, nothing after the coming of the Falconer who searched for his race history. Arona did not even company with Pyra. Sometimes I hardly remembered her presence, for Lormt has so many rooms and corridors one could live a year within and not meet another who did not wish it.

With Nolar's discovery of that which had been brought to Lormt after Ostbor's death—and we had a weary search for that since it had been mislaid among the newly discovered treasures—we searched for something which might aid the bird warrior for whom I had a liking and deep respect.

Arona might have well aided us at that but she would not, though Nolar tried to get from her some ideas of what history she had brought. She told me frankly that when she urged this, Arona had looked upon her with some of the same contempt that her stepmother had once shown: that she was a marred thing. And to me, of course, the girl would not have listened at all.

However, I continued to hope. Until one morning, when, with the Falconer in mind, I threw the crystals, only to start up from the table in haste.

There was an arrow there, pointing toward me—or perhaps to Lormt—but it was red, the red of blood still flowing.

I loosed a thought search. Pain of body—pain of mind—a terrible driving need for haste as death rode close behind. I hurried to call Pyra, for help was needed, all that which we might offer, as for the second time the Falconer came to us.

 

Afterword - Falcon Hope

Thus they went forth from Lormt, this handful of those who would stand against as dire a flood of the Dark as any monster this world could raise. While the thought of the Kolders and all the ruin those had wrought in their time, clung, to feed our foreboding.

We thought of what we might do, for, let those invaders get a foothold, a port, a settlement in the Dales, how else might the rest of oue world be able to thrust them forth again?

Nolar and I once more visited Elgaret in her guardianship of the great Stone. In its sanctuary we sought that which would enhace what talets we pocessed. Elgaret spoke mind to mind with those who remained of the Witches. Nolar channeled and fed that sending with all she could control.

I searched for Kemoc with the farthest mind reach I had ever tried. And I was successful, but it was also true that no army might be mustered in time to reach overseas to the Dales. However, there might be, he thought, other forces which could possibly set astir for us. He spoke of Hilarian, the adept who dwelt by a western sea of which we knew but little, but who, because of his verry dwelling place, had knowledge of wind and wave greater than that of ordinary mankind.

Even as it had done for the Turning of the mountains, Power gathered, yet time was against us and also distance. For those of the greatest talent were now very few---and what they could do half a world away was little.

We paid three visits to the Stone and at last I threw the crystals which I had not the heart to do earlier. I read therein what seemed to crush all hope.

They fell but did not scatter---so I thought I looked upon a constricted battlefield. A ring of yellow, which I believed marked the Falcon breed and, within it, a vast upsurge of blood red---the enemy.

Yet the yellow did not give way and, while the line thinned, there was no faltering. My hand moved without my willing and I shook the bag until it was almost empty.

The crystals which fortold ill seperated themselves into an ugly pile and lay to one side, dull and cold. However, those of green, and blue, of white, all the colors of power which ment life to us, and those akin in blood or deed, flickered to the battle.

And the red--went down--buried!

Nolar cought my arm and cried aloud as might one on a field where right had triumphed. I too, voiced a shout, that which came fron a Borderer's throat when he charged.

Our cries echoed about the chamber of the Stone and there settled within me such a feeling of joy as I had never before known. My hand clasped Nolar's and I looked into her great eyes, which were of such deep beauty, which now gldly sought mine.

Thus long before the coming of the Sulcar messenger that mountain Hawk* sent to us with the full story of that valiant stand, we knew that the balance between Light and Dark still held stady for us.

 

 

Introduction to - On Wings of Magic

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.

 

Afterword - We the Women

That is what she brought us." There was disappointment in Nolar's voice. "Oh, I have copied all the earliest legends. But the daily records of that prison-town, what are they to us, save a curious bit of sidelight in history?"

She shifted in her chair, and impatiently brushed back a wandering wisp of hair which fluttered against her cheek in the warmth of a new spring breeze. "Though it is true that now I can even better understand her—"she added. "Once I thought my lot, until I met Ostbor, was a hard one, but I think I was blessed not to have been born in a Falconer village."

"Not all villages are alike," I said. "Surely Mountain Hawk and his men could not have been so feared and hated. I know little of their ways, and that hued by rumor and gossip. But of men I know more and he was not so cruel, nor could any under his ordering be."

Nolar hesitated and then nodded. "That may indeed be true. There are all manner of men—my father and Ostbor—yes, as winter and spring those two differed. But also there may be more of worth in her accounts than I first thought. Those who may have to deal with her kind in the future will have a guide. So—" she looked a little happier, "at least all this may serve some good purpose in days ahead."

"Change works. Two days ago when I rode with Derren, to see the newly planted forestland he is so justly proud of, I met a Falconer—"

"A messenger from the Lady Una, from Mountain Hawk?"

"On the contrary, a young man who has chosen his own change and made it well, though it was not easy. He has a wedded wife and a daughter, and finds life, if strange, very pleasant. They have settled in a village not too far away and he is a hunter for the people there. I would call him a happy man and we should arrange a meeting between Eirran, his very capable—and beloved—wife and Arona so she can see that change need not come harshly. His name is Yareth, and he spoke of visiting us with his family later in the season. His wife is a student of herb lore and would like advice for that."

Only that visit was not to be, because the Dark reached out to blot out the brightness for that eager young hunter, and from his own despair, rage, fear and triumph came… but that was the end of his story before it struck at us.

 

Continued with - The Chronicler - Page 3


Copyright ~ Estate of Andre Norton
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Edited by Jay Watts ~ aka: Lots-a-watts ~ July, 2020

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