Continued from - The Chronicler - Page 2

 

Afterword - Falcon Magic 

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 End


Copyright ~ Estate of Andre Norton
Online Rights - Andre-Norton-Books.com
Edited by Jay Watts ~ aka: Lots-a-watts ~ July, 2020

Duplication of this collection (in whole or in part) for profit of any kind NOT permitted.