Cazaril heard the mounted horsemen on the road before he saw them. He glanced over his shoulder. The well-worn track behind him curled up around a rolling rise, what passed for a hill on these high windy plains, before dipping again into the late-winter muck of Baocia’s bony soil. At his feet a little rill, too small and intermittent to rate a culvert or a bridge, trickled greenly across the track from the sheep-cropped pastures above. The thump of hooves, jangle of harness, clink of bells, creak of gear and careless echo of voices came on at too quick a rhythm to be some careful farmer with a team, or parsimonious pack-men driving their mules.
The cavalcade trotted around the side of the rise riding two by two, in full panoply of their order, some dozen men. Not bandits—Cazaril let out his breath, and swallowed his unsettled stomach back down. Not that he had anything to offer bandits but sport. He trudged a little way off the track and turned to watch them pass.
The horsemen’s chain shirts were silvered, glinting in the watery morning sunlight, for show, not for use. Their tabards of blue, dyes almost matching one with another, were worked with white in the sigil of the Lady of Spring. Their gray cloaks were thrown back like banners in the breeze of their passing, pinned at their shoulders with silver badges that had all the tarnish polished off today. Soldier-brothers of ceremony, not of war; they would have no desire to get Cazaril’s stubborn bloodstains on those clothes.
To Cazaril’s surprise, their captain held up a hand as they came near. The column crashed raggedly to a halt, the squelch and suck of the hooves trailing off in a way that would have had Cazaril’s father’s old horse-master bellowing grievous and entertaining insults at such a band of boys as this. Well, no matter.
“You there, old fellow,” the leader called across the saddlebow of his banner-carrier at Cazaril.
Cazaril, alone on the road, barely kept his head from swiveling around to see who was being so addressed. They took him for some local farm lout, trundling to market or on some errand, and he supposed he looked the part: worn boots mud-weighted, a thick jumble of mismatched charity clothes keeping the chill southeast wind from freezing his bones. He was grateful to all the gods of the year’s turning for every grubby stitch of that fabric, eh. Two weeks of beard itching his chin. Fellow indeed. The captain might with justice have chosen more scornful appellations. But…old?
The captain pointed down the road to where another track crossed it. “Is that the road to Valenda?”
It had been…Cazaril had to stop and count it in his head, and the sum dismayed him. Seventeen years since he had ridden last down this road, going off not to ceremony but to real war in the provincar of Baocia’s train. Although bitter to be riding a gelding and not a finer warhorse, he’d been just as glossy-haired and young and arrogant and vain of his dress as the fine young animals up there staring down at him. Today, I should be happy for a donkey, though I had to bend my knees to keep from trailing my toes in the mud. Cazaril smiled back up at the soldier-brothers, fully aware of what hollowed-out purses lay gaping and disemboweled behind most of those rich facades.
They stared down their noses at him as though they could smell him from there. He was not a person they wished to impress, no lord or lady who might hand down largesse to them as they might to him; still, he would do for them to practice their aristocratic airs upon. They mistook his returning stare for admiration, perhaps, or maybe just for half-wittedness.
He bit back the temptation to steer them wrong, up into some sheep byre or wherever that deceptively broad-looking crossroad petered out. No trick to pull on the Daughter’s own guardsmen on the eve of the Daughter’s Day. And besides, the men who joined the holy military orders were not especially noted for their senses of humor, and he might pass them again, being bound for the same town himself. Cazaril cleared his throat, which hadn’t spoken to a man since yesterday. “No, Captain. The road to Valenda has a roya’s milestone.” Or it had, once. “A mile or three farther on. You can’t mistake it.” He pulled a hand out of the warmth of the folds of his coat, and waved onward. His fingers didn’t really straighten right, and he found himself waving a claw. The chill air bit his swollen joints, and he tucked his hand hastily back into its burrow of cloth.
But Cazaril will come about...to redeem
a country and its ruling house of a curse of mischance...redeeming it
and himself (this is a partial spoiler of the most transfixing
redemptions in fantasy):
“You’re the whore, Martou! You sold Gotorget for Roknari money that I refused, and you sold me to the galleys to stop my mouth!” Cazaril glared around frantically at the hesitating troop. Fifty-five, fifty-six, fifty-seven… “This liar sells his own men. Follow him, and you risk betrayal the first moment he smells profit!”
Dy Jironal turned again, drawing his sword. “I’ll stop your mouth, you miserable fool! Hold him up.”
The two men holding Cazaril jerked a little apart, their eyes widening, as dy Jironal began to stride forward, twisting for a mighty two-handed swing. “My lord, it’s murder,” faltered the man holding Cazaril’s left arm. The beheading arc was blocked by Cazaril’s captors, and dy Jironal changed in mid-career to a violent low thrust, lunging forward with all the weight of his fury behind his arm.
The steel pierced silk brocade and skin and muscle and drove through Cazaril’s gut, and Cazaril was nearly jerked off his feet with the force of it.
Sound ceased. The sword was sliding through him as slowly as a pearl dropped in honey, and as painlessly. Dy Jironal’s red face was frozen in a rictus of rage. On either side of Cazaril, his captors bent and leaned away, mouths creeping open on startled cries that never emerged.
With a yowl of triumph that only Cazaril heard, the death demon coursed up the sword blade, leaving it red-hot in its wake, and into dy Jironal’s hand. With a scream of anguish, a black syrup that was Dondo poured after. Crackling blue-white sparks grew around dy Jironal’s sword arm like ivy twining, and then spiraled around his whole body. Slowly, dy Jironal’s head tilted back, and white fire came from his mouth as his soul was uprooted from him. His hair stood on end, and his eyes widened and boiled white. The driven sword still moved with his falling weight, and Cazaril’s flesh sizzled around it. White and black and red whirled together, braided round each other, and flowed away in no direction. Cazaril’s perception was drawn into the twisting cyclone’s wake, up out of his body like a rising column of smoke. Three deaths and a demon all bound together. They flowed into a blue Presence…
Cazaril’s mind exploded.
He opened outward, and outward, and outward still, till all the world lay below him as if seen from a high mountain. But not the realm of matter. This was a landscape of soul-stuff; colors he could not name, of a shattering brilliance, bore him up upon a glorious turbulence. He could hear all the minds of the world whispering, a sighing like wind in a forest—if one could but distinguish, simultaneously and separately, the song of each leaf. And all the world’s cries of pain and woe. And shame and joy. And hope and despair and aspiration…A thousand thousand moments from a thousand thousand lives poured through his distending spirit.
From the surface below him, little bubbles of soul-color were boiling up one by one and floating into a turning dance, hundreds, thousands, like great raindrops falling upward…It is the dying, pouring in through the rents of the worlds into this place. Souls gestated by matter in the world, dying into this strange new birth. Too much, too much, too much… His mind could not hold it all, and the visions burst from him like water falling through his fingers.
He’d once thought of the Lady of Spring as a sort of pleasant, gentle young woman, in his vague and youthful conceptualizations. The divines and Ordol had honed it scarcely further than to a mental picture of a nice immortal lady. This overwhelming Mind listened to every cry or song in the world at once. She watched the souls spiral up in all their terrible complex beauty with the delight of a gardener inhaling the scent of Her flowers. And now this Mind turned Her attention fully upon Cazaril.
Cazaril melted, and was cupped in Her hands. He thought She drank him, siphoning him out of the violent concatenation of the dy Jironal brothers and the demon, who shot away elsewhere. He was blown from Her lips again, back down in a tightening spiral through the great slash in the world that was his death, and once again into his body. Dy Jironal’s sword blade was just emerging from his back. Blood bloomed around the metal point like a rose.
And now to work, the Lady whispered. Open to me, sweet Cazaril.
Inventor, girl genius, Tinker lives in a near-future Pittsburgh which now exists mostly in the land of the elves. She runs her salvage business, pays her taxes, and tries to keep the local ambient level of magic down with gadgets of her own design. When a pack of wargs chase an Elven noble into her scrap yard, life as she knows it takes a serious detour. Tinker finds herself taking on the Elven court, the NSA, the Elven Interdimensional Agency, immortal brutish beings (not elves) from another dimension, technology smugglers, a college-minded Xenobiologist (her aunt)...and a host of dangerous creatures left over from an ancient elvish war: wargs (dire wolves that breathe killing frost), flesh eating (and mobile) willow trees, pleiosaur-sized electric eel catfish.....none of them stand a chance.
- Tinker (2003), 2004 Sapphire Award for the Best Science Fiction Romance novel
- Wolf Who Rules (2006)
- Elfhome (2012)
- Wood Sprites (2014)
- Project Elfhome
- Harbinger (forthcoming)
1: Life Debt
The wargs chased the elf over Pittsburgh Scrap and Salvage's tall chain-link fence shortly after the hyperphase gate powered down.
Tinker had been high up in the crane tower, shuffling cars around the dark sprawling maze of her scrap yard, trying to make room for the influx of wrecks Shutdown Day always brought in.
Her cousin, Oilcan, was out with the flatbed wrecker, clearing their third call of the night, and it wasn't Shutdown proper yet.
Normally, clearing space was an interesting puzzle game, played on a gigantic scale. Move this stripped car to the crusher. Consolidate two piles of engine
blocks. Lightly place a new acquisition onto the tower of to-be-stripped vehicles. She had waited until too late, though,
tinkering in her workshop with her newest invention. Shuffling the scrap around at night was proving nearly impossible. Starting with the crane's usual clumsy handling—its ancient fishing pole design and manual controls often translated the lightest tap into a several-foot movement of the large electromagnet strung off the boom—she also had to factor in the distorted shadows thrown by the crane's twin floodlights, the deep pools of darkness, and the urge to rush, since Shutdown was quickly approaching.
Worse yet, the powerful electromagnet was accumulating a dangerous level of magic. A strong ley line ran through the scrap yard, so using the crane always attracted some amount of magic. She had invented a siphon to drain off the power to a storage unit also of her own design.
The prolonged periods of running the crane were overwhelming the siphon's capacity. Even with taking short breaks with the magnet turned off, the accumulated magic writhed a deep purple about the disc and boom.
At ten minutes to midnight, she gave up and shut down the electromagnet. The electric company changed over from the local Pittsburgh power grid to the national grid to protect Pittsburgh's limited resources from the spike in usage that Shutdown brought. She had no reason to risk dropping a car sixty feet onto something valuable because some yutz flipped a switch early.
So she sat and waited for Shutdown, idly kicking her steel-tipped boots against the side of the crane's control booth. Her scrap yard sat on a hill overlooking the Ohio River. From the crane, she could see the barges choking the waterway, the West End Bridge snarled with traffic, and ten or more miles of rolling hills in all directions. She also had an unobstructed view of the full Elfhome moon, rising up through the veil effect on the Eastern horizon. The distortion came from the hyperphase lightly holding its kidnapping victim, a fifty-mile-diameter chunk of Earth complete with parts of downtown Pittsburgh, prisoner in the foreign dimension of Elfhome.
The 1962 dark fantasy novel by Ray Bradbury. It is about 13-year-old best friends, Jim Nightshade and William Halloway, and their nightmarish experience with a traveling carnival that comes to their Midwestern town one October, and how the boys learn about combatting fear. The carnival's leader is the mysterious "Mr. Dark", who seemingly wields the power to grant the citizenry's secret desires. In reality, Dark is a malevolent being who, like the carnival, lives off the life force of those they enslave. Mr. Dark's presence is countered by that of Will's father, Charles Halloway, who harbors his own secret fear of growing older because he feels he is too old to be Will's dad. The novel combines elements of fantasy and horror, analyzing the conflicting natures of good and evil which exist within all individuals.
A classic written in Ray Bradbury's rich almost psyhedelic prose
First of all, it was October, a rare month for boys. Not that all months aren't rare. But there be bad abd good, as the pirates say. Take September, a bad month: schoool begins. Consider August, a good month: school hasn't begun yet. July, well, July's really fine: there's no chance in the world for school. June, no doubting it, June's best of all, for the school doors spring wide and September's a billion years away.
But you take October, now. School's been on a month and you're riding easier in the reins, jogging along. You got time to think of the garbage you'll dump on old man Prickett's porch, or the hairyape costume you'll wear to the YMCA the last night of the month. And if it's around October twentieth and everything smokysmelling and the sky orange and ash grey at twilight, it seems Hallowe'en will never come in a fall of broomsticks and a soft flap of bedsheets around corners.
But one strange wild dark long year, Hallowe'en came early.
One year Hallowe'en came on October 24, three hours after midnight .
At that time, James Nightshade of 97 Oak Street was thirteen years, eleven months, twentythree days old. Next door, William Halloway was thirteen years, eleven months and twentyfour days old. Both touched toward fourteen; it almost trembled in their hands.
And that was the October week when they grew up overnight, and were never so young any more. . .
The seller of lightning rods arrived just ahead of the storm. He came along the street of Green Town , Illinois , in the late cloudy October day, sneaking glances over his shoulder. Somewhere not so far back, vast lightnings stomped the earth. Somewhere, a storm like a great beast with terrible teeth could not be denied.
So the salesman jangled and clanged his huge leather kit in which oversized puzzles of ironmongery lay unseen but which his tongue conjured from door to door until he came at last to a lawn which was cut all wrong.....
'Lightning needs channels, like rivers, to run in. One of those attics is a dry river bottom, itching to let lightning pour through! Tonight!'
'Tonight?' Jim sat up happily.
'No ordinary storm!' said the salesman. 'Tom Fury tells you. Fury, ain't that a fine name for one who sells lightningrods? Did I take the name? No! Did the name fire me to my occupations? Yes! Grown up, I saw cloudy fires jumping the world, making men hop and hide. Thought: I'll chart hurricanes, map storms, then run ahead shaking my iron cudgels, my miraculous defenders, in my fists! I've shielded and made snugsafe one hundred thousand, count 'em, Godfearing homes. So when I tell you, boys, you're in dire need, listen! Climb that roof, nail this rod high, ground it in the good earth before nightfall!'
'But which house, which!' asked Will.
The salesman reared off, blew his nose in a great kerchief, then walked slowly across the lawn as if approaching a huge timebomb that ticked silently there.
He touched Will's front porch newels, ran his hand over a post, a floorboard, then shut his eyes and leaned against the house to let its bones speak to him.
Then, hesitant, he made his cautious way to Jim's house next door.
Jim stood up to watch.
The salesman put his hand out to touch, to stroke, to quiver his fingertips on the old paint.
'This,' he said at last, 'is the one.'
Jim looked proud.
Without looking back, the salesman said, 'Jim Nightshade, this your place?'
'Mine,' said Jim.
'I should've known,' said the man.
'Hey, what about me?' said Will.
The salesman snuffed again at Will's house. 'No, no. Oh, a few sparks'll jump on your rainspouts. But the real show's next
door here, at the Nightshades'! Well!'
The salesman hurried back across the lawn to seize his huge leather bag.
'I'm on my way. Storm's coming. Don't wait, Jim boy. Otherwise - bamm! You'll be found, your nickels, dimes and Indianheads fused by electroplating. Abe Lincolns melted into Miss Columbias, eagles plucked raw on the backs of quarters, all run to quicksilver in your jeans. More! Any boy hit by lightning, lift his lid and there on his eyeball, pretty as the Lord's prayer on a pin, find the last scene the boy ever saw! A boxBrownie photo, by God, of that fire climbing down the sky to blow You like a penny whistle, suck your soul back up along the bright stair! Git, boy! Hammer it high or you're dead come dawn!'But the main event is the carnival coming to town, Cooger & Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show with a freak show beyond imagining and acarousel that can take years away...or add them...and the carny man is something like the Devil himself selling years...and collecting souls.
A sorcerous swordsmith desperately searches for the Power that will make him whole. A prince who fled his kingdom and the throne to which he was born now seeks the courage to return in the face of those who want him dead. A woman warrior scarred by her tragic past stakes her future on the strange new life that comes to share her mind. An outcast dragon abandoned by his kind to a solitary fate is drawn into the heretofore-forbidden territory of the conflicts of humankind. And a fire elemental determined to find out about the peculiarities of being human discovers far more than it ever expected. Together they will cross the Middle Kingdoms in pursuit of the single goal that binds them... and discover their destinies, and a world's.
The "Tale of the Five Omnibus" contains the first three critically-acclaimed volumes of mature fantasy fiction in the Middle Kingdoms series by Diane Duane: "The Door Into Fire," "The Door Into Shadow," and "The Door Into Sunset." All three appear here in the author's preferred texts, updated and revised from the previous print editions.
"Good strong stuff with the right light touch," said Terry Pratchet
All this in a world created and ruled over by the Goddess in her manifold aspects, where everyone meets Her, truly meets Her in person, at least three times in life: at birth, at death and once in the fulness of life. An adage from the book:
They tell the tale of the woman who went hunting the Goddess. She sought her in waste places and the sides of mountains, in deserts and on the high fells, in the empty fields and by the shore of every Sea, and in every grand and terrible and lonely place; and she found Her not. And that woman returned in sorrow to her home, that was in Darthis city, and there was no food in the larder, and sorrowful still she went to market. In the market she stopped at a shrimp-seller’s, and was picking over the shrimp,when she looked up and saw beside her a Woman wearing that Cloak which is the night sky, and with a basket over her arm, and bread in it and wine. And the woman looked at the Goddess in amazement, and the Goddess sighed and smiled, and said to her, “It’s such a nuisance, but sometimes you just have to go into town.” And She kissed the woman, and was gone....
First a male protagonist, that swordsmith, Herewiss, striving to be the first man in generations to again master the sorcery of Fire.
All right. Now, then—
Holding the image in mind, he began to construct the sorcery he had planned. It was an old formula, one of the very few sorceries that had any power over life at all—a binding used to temporarily prevent the dying soul from leaving the body. However, Herewiss had made certain changes in the formula, since the soul he planned to slip among the glittering points of metal was nowhere near death. The words of the spell were hard and dull like black iron in the back of his mind as he linked them one through another like chain mail, the stress on the last syllable of each word sealing each ring closed. He sang the poem softly over and over inside him, adding link to link, until the spell surrounded the bright bar of metal like a wide sheath.
Herewiss had some trouble finishing the spell, welding the two sides of it together—like most circular spells, it wanted only to go on and on, building itself back inward until it had trapped the sorcerer inside its own coils and choked the life out of him. But he prevailed, and sealed the spell shut, and pulled himself away from it, inspecting it for flaws and undone links. There were none.
Now for the interesting part, he thought.
Sorcerers and Rodmistresses had been speculating for as long as anyone could remember on the question of why the Science and the Art killed their practitioners so young. Many people believed that sorcery chipped away slowly at the soul, so that when the soul became too small to support the body, the body died; and the blue Flame, of course, since it had power over both the giving and taking of life, as mere sorcery did not, had the same effect but more quickly. Herewiss’s mother had been a Rodmistress, and he could remember hearing her laugh about the idea some years before. “Your soul is as big as you can make it,” she had said to him as she walked through the Woodward’s chicken yard, scattering grain for the hens, “and the only thing that can diminish its size is your decision to do so. Belief’s a powerful influence, too—it’s quite possible to talk yourself into an early grave, and climb in when the time comes.” She had died three years later, at the age of twenty-eight.
Herewiss felt around inside himself, looking for his soul. He found it where it usually was, an amorphous silvery mass tucked down just a bit below his breastbone, snuggled up against the spine. The blue Fire was threaded all through it, a faint half-seen tracery like the lines of veins beneath the skin, glowing a pale blue-white. Hold on, he told the Flame, affectionate; hold on for a while longer. It won’t be too long now. This should work.
He reached out and teased loose a strand of his soul-stuff; it stretched easily outward as he pulled at it. A faint trace of Flame came with it, twisting around its length, graining the strand with spiraling light like a unicorn’s horn. Gently, for he didn’t want to break the thread until he was ready, he eased it on outward and toward the dancing sparks of steel, into them, through them, and.......And a woman (Segnbora) who has always been thwarted in her Fire, abused as a child, possesed of a race of dragons, is in the middle of a titanic battle with evil, the Dark Goddess; here she seemingly seeks death to master her Fire:
The earth began to tremble. From the south, visible in this unnatural black as something blacker yet, a great wave of dark Power rose and rose above the mountains, leaned, and fell with a crash that couldn’t be heard, only felt. Like death, like drowning, it rolled over them, past them, and in that wave’s wake ten or twelve Darthenes fell, and Sunspark’s fire went out.
Even Herewiss’s blaze dimmed and shrank, failing like a candle placed under a cup. But he did not surrender. When the snuffed-out stallion clambered up the rocks to his side, it found him clutching Khávrinen. He was forcing the sword to burn, pouring out everything he had. It was not enough. In the darkness where the blade’s Firelight didn’t reach, forms moved and grew solid. Eagerly they lifted long-rusted swords, bared long-rotted fangs, and looked hungrily up toward the little shelf where the Darthenes stood.
(I can’t change, I can’t burn,) Sunspark cried in anguish, (what do I do now?)
Segnbora could feel it straining mightily, trying even to trigger that last burning in which a fire elemental ends its existence as an individual…anything to hold the threat away from its loved. He can’t hold off the Shadow alone, Segnbora thought, almost choking with the sheer hate that filled the air. There was nothing the Shadow hated so much as the Fire, except perhaps those who wielded it. Herewiss couldn’t last forever, and when his reserves gave out, he would simply be dead. The first man in a thousand years to have the Fire, the Queen of Darthen, the rightful King of Arlen, most of the forces that Darthen could field—all dead at once.
The Shadow around them, perhaps foreseeing a world all to Itself, darkened. But inside Segnbora the mdeihei [the dragon race] were rumbling deadly threats that seemed absolutely empty to her. What can they do? They’re dead!
Wait a moment. Dead?
When someone with the Fire died, regardless of whether that person had ever been focused during life, the moment of death itself focused the Fire for one final moment. Even those with just the spark of Flame that most men and women have managed to focus then. That was what gave one’s deathword its power.
Segnbora stared with sudden cold purpose at the rising tide of dark malice. Suddenly she understood why Lang had died when he did, and why her parents were murdered. The Shadow had wanted to stop her before this moment, this realization. She held up Skádhwë and looked at it. It will demand a life of you someday, Efmaer had said, and now Segnbora was sure which life the dead Queen had meant. The Shadow was betting she wouldn’t dare kill herself.
A lethal wound would be enough. She could add enough Fire to what Herewiss had to aid him in holding the Shadow off until the Binding was done. And afterward, he’d heal her—
It was a terrible chance she’d be taking. She didn’t want to die. But if the Fire she had trapped inside her could be of use here, then….....
Off on the southern horizon, another darkness began to take shape. This was a more solid one, a heaving black shape that Segnbora had seen before, but didn’t dare look upon now, being in a human body. The Shadow had become enraged enough to take on a physical shape and come after them Itself. And It had adopted a form It knew, from past history, to be very effective.
“Don’t look!!” she cried to the Darthenes.
They hardly needed the warning. Those still alive and conscious after the assault by their worst fears were already hiding their faces from the hideous prospect.
No time to wait for Herewiss to come back, Segnbora thought, shaking all over. Just have to do it myself—
Hurriedly she knelt and took Skádhwë two-handed, resting the point a shade to the left of her breastbone. Mdaha, she said, and in that moment was informed by her ahead-memory that Herewiss was not going to be healing her...
Oh wonderful! Sithesssch!
And she pushed the sword in, hard.
The greedy shadowblade slid into her with shocking ease. At last Segnbora found out what it was like to be run through, and tried to scream past the terrible feeling of her heart shuddering around the intruding blade, trying to beat, trying to beat, failing. All that came out of her throat was a choked cough.
Inside, she felt her Fire leap together with her heart’s blood and burst outward. Blind with pain, she groped for support, willing herself to stand and do what she had to. But she found no support. The darkness went red, and then black, and she fell forward….
I am Who I am. And knowing that, [Death] has no power over me.
[ I am ruthlessly truncating here at death's door, leaving out, among other things, her struggle in death and the Dark Goddess, her struggle with her childhood abuser in which she encompasses the abuse, forgives the abuser and banishes that darkness from her heart]
She pushed herself upright...
…on the cold snow, and opened her eyes. All around her men and women were covering their faces in horror of something that was coming. She had to get up. Where was Skádhwë?. . . still sheathed. Good.
Left-handed she fumbled for something with which to support herself, and found a stone. She levered herself up to her knees and managed to stand, though a wobbly stance it was, and probably very temporary. She drew Skádhwë, and saw with dismay that it was covered with blood. Shíhan, were he here, would be scandalized! If you must die, do it with a clean blade, he’d always said. She whipped the blood off the blade in a quick downward slash, third move of the edelle maneuver—
—and Fire whipped down after it.
I am dead, she thought in absolute disbelief, and lifted the sword to stare at it. Fire, raging blue and as impossible to look at as sunlight, trickled down Skádhwë’s black edge. Just a double-thread at first, and then more. It grew quickly, a torch’s worth of Fire, a Firebrand’s worth, a lightningbolt in her hands, burning like a star, throwing her shadow long and black against the cliff.
I have it! she thought in fierce joy, for that one mad moment not caring that she was about to die. She stared backwards at her shadow, the proof of the light—shortlegged, long of neck, wings where she had arms. I’m whole, she thought, and laughed, raising the hand that held Skádhwë. The right wing stretched upward, huge. No! We’re whole! The left arm up now; the wing reached up in response. We may die, sithesssch, but we’ll do it together!
—and abruptly, with a deathpain that shot down her right arm to her heart, that wing-shadow tore away from the cliff, casting a shadow of its own, impossibly coming real –
The second wing tore free, another pain. She saw webs that gleamed like polished onyx and struts rough with black sapphires. Then came the terrible length of tail, the deadly spine at the end of it whipping free, lashing outward, poised above her to protect. And after the tail, the taloned forelimbs, the diamond talons flashing in the blinding Firelight. A neck, the great head, glowing eyes burning not silver now but blue, leaning down over her and glaring past her with impartial challenge at Reavers and Fyrd and the dark something that approached—
“Hhn’ ae mrin’hen,” said the voice of wind and storm from right above her. “Whole at last, yes!”
She stared up at Hasai, so torn between wonder and terror that she couldn’t tell anymore whether her weakness came from impending death or sheer astonishment. Her mdaha gazed down at her, tilting his head in a gesture of greeting, and turned his attention again to the field and the forces attacking the scarp.
She had heard Dragons roar in her mind. But in the open it was something else. Rocks fell down from the cliff, and the ground shook almost as hard as it had before. Not just one voice roared, but two, ten, a score, a hundred. The mdeihei were there too, not as solidly as Hasai, but present enough to be a host of shifting wings and deadly razor-barbs and glowing, glaring eyes, all looking down at the attackers. They sang of a solution to this problem, one that was, for them, not a solution to be feared—a roaring chorus of frightening harmonies and dissonances: death, death, death!
Hasai reared his head back, bared the diamond fangs that few had ever survived seeing, and flamed.
The Reavers fled, panicked. Hasai’s blast of Dragonfire melted the ground where they had been standing. Even the slow-stalking shadow at the southern edge of the field halted at that, as if stunned. Fyrd scattered in all directions but eastward, where the Sun seemed to be coming up.
The scarp was fenced with fire again, but this time the consuming white of Dragonfire, with a tinge of blue to it; and inside the circle a tremendous shape with wings like thunderclouds was rearing up against the cliff, burning in iron and diamond, ineluctably real. And down by one of his hind talons, hanging onto it for support, a tiny figure bleeding Fire from a wound in the heart stared up and up at what had been, and now was.
Segnbora looked with grim, delighted purpose out at the field, at the fleeing Reavers and Fyrd, and down at the thing in her hand that burned with Fire. “Sithesssch’tdae,” she sang to Hasai and the other mdeihei who stirred in shadow along the ledge, “untidy to leave them running around like this, don’t you think?”
The mdeihei sang angry assent in a thunder that echoed from the surrounding mountains, causing a bass obbligato of avalanches to follow.
“Must we send them rdahaih?” Hasai sang.
Segnbora stepped forward to the edge of the shelf where they stood, only partially aware of Herewiss’s and Freelorn’s prone forms. Breathing or not, they’d have to wait until later. “I don’t know,” she said, and raised Skádhwë, thinking hard.
It can’t be done, they say—a gating for more than fifty. However—
She closed her eyes, not needing the physical ones to see at the moment, and drew up a great flood of Power from the tremendous supply they had always told her she’d have. In mind she saw them, every Fyrd in the valley and for miles around. She hated them, and loved them, and did what was necessary. She poured the Flame out of her as if opening a floodgate, until the valley was awash with it.
It was simple to gather up the minds of every Fyrd in the area and hold them all under the surface of that Flame until they drowned. Stop showing off, she told herself severely. You may drop dead in a moment, and there’s business to be done here. Yet she laughed in pleasure as she thought it, and Hasai and the mdeihei went off in a thunderous accompaniment of hissing Dracon laughter. Whether she lived or died, she was going to enjoy this. She had waited a lifetime for it.She does this so much better than Tolkien.....
Each chapter begins with a quotation or epigram from her world, viz:
- It is perhaps one of life’s more interesting ironies that, of the many who beseech the Goddess to send them love, so few will accept it when it comes, because it has come in what they consider the wrong shape, or the wrong size, or at the wrong time. Against our prejudices, even the Goddess strives in vain.
The Wound is healed by the sword that deals it:
the heart is knit by the pain that breaks it:
the life is made whole by the death that starts it:
the death is made whole by the life that ends it.
Sirronde stared at the Goddess. “Are You saying, then, that You were wrong to make heroes?”
“Indeed not,” She said. “But I should have warned them— if you save the world too often, it starts to expect it.”
- If you’ll walk with kings and queens, well; but take care. For the Shadow aims ever at them – and though it often misses, it doesn’t scorn to hit the person standing closest.
It’s dangerous to invoke the Goddess as you conceive Her to be,” said Tav, “and more dangerous still to invoke Her as She truly is.” “Right enough,” said Airru. “Breathing is dangerous too. But necessary...”
- “Well,” the Goddess said, “your heart didn’t heal straight the last time it broke. So we’ll break it again and reset it so it heals straight this time.”
- …the Goddess could not spend all Her time persuading the Kings and Queens of the world of the idiocy of war. Therefore She invented tacticians…
The picture of the loved, Long we hold in heart: then come home to find, the two have grown apart:
Which to keep, and which to kill: Should there be a doubt? But how we clip the dead to us and throw the living out...
So You Want to Be a Wizard is the first book in the Young Wizards series currently consisting of eleven books by Diane Duane. The second book is Deep Wizardry. The plot follows Nita Callahan, a thirteen-year-old girl who discovers a book titled So You Want to Be a Wizard while hiding from bullies in a library. She brings the book home with her and discovers that it is about the art of wizardry. She does not completely trust the book's claim that she can become a wizard if she takes the Wizard Oath, but she takes it nonetheless.
The book's preface
Wizardry is one of the most ancient and misunderstood of arts. Its public image for centuries has been that of a mysterious pursuit practiced in occult surroundings, usually at the peril of one’s soul. The modern wizard, who works with tools more advanced than bat’s blood, and beings more complex than any pop-culture demon, knows how far from the truth that image is. And wizardry, though exciting and interesting, is no glamorous business—especially in most of today’s cultures, where most wizards must work quietly so as not to attract undue attention.
However, for those willing to assume the Art’s responsibilities and do the work, wizardry has endless rewards. The sight of a formerly twisted growing thing now growing straight, the satisfaction of hearing what a plant is thinking or a dog is saying, of talking to a stone or a star, is thought by most to be well worth the labor.
Not everyone is suited to be a wizard. Those without enough of the necessary personality traits will never see this manual for what it is. That you have found it at all says a great deal for your potential.
Fifty or sixty eons ago, when Life brought itself about, it also brought about to accompany it many Powers and Potentialities to manage the business of creation. One of the greatest of these Powers held aloof for a long time, watching its companions work, not wishing to enter into Creation until it could contribute something unlike anything the other Powers had made, something completely new and original. Finally the Lone Power found what it was looking for. Others had invented planets, light, gravity, space. The Lone Power invented death, and bound it irrevocably into the worlds. Shortly thereafter the other Powers joined forces and cast the Lone One out.
Many versions of this story are related among the many worlds, assigning blame or praise to one party or another. But none of the stories change the fact that entropy and its symptom, death, are here now. To attempt to halt or remove them is as futile as attempting to ignore them.
Therefore there are wizards—to handle them.
A wizard’s business is to conserve energy—to keep it from being wasted. On the simplest level this involves such unmagical-looking actions as paying one’s bills on time, turning off the lights when you go out, and supporting the people around you in getting their lives to work. It also involves a lot more.
Because wizardly people tend to be good with language, they can also become skillful with the Speech, the magical tongue in which objects and living creatures can be described with more accuracy than in any human language. And what can be so accurately described can also be preserved—or freed to become yet greater. A wizard can cause an inanimate object or animate creature to grow, or stop growing; to be what it is, or something else. A wizard, using the Speech, can cause death to slow down, or go somewhere else and come back later—just as the Lone Power caused it to come about in the first place. Creation, preservation, destruction, transformation—all are a matter of getting the fabric of being to do what you want it to. And the Speech is the key.
“‘In Life’s name, and for Life’s sake,’“ she read, “‘I say that I will use the Art for nothing but the service of that Life. I will guard growth and ease pain. I will fight to preserve what grows and lives well in its own way; and I will change no object or creature unless its growth and life, or that of the system of which it is part, are threatened. To these ends, in the practice of my Art, I will put aside fear for courage, and death for life, when it is right to do so—till Universe’s end.’“
It begins with two kids facing down the Lone Power, who is, of course, Satan, Fairest and Fallen.