Monthly Archives: May 2018

Banner of the Hawk 8

“A man, Marquart s’Beshu, will come here to take up lordship of this valley. He is of the Shambler’s lineage and he stands at the crossroads of his life. You must guide him, and I will give you the knowledge and strength to do this. Whatever else befalls, he must not come to know his heritage, and neither must his coming son. As long as Marquart lives, he must not become known to the Shambler.”

“As long as he lives! No! No!” Baralia’s terror and loathing echoed through Hea as the girl realized the term of her servitude. “It is too long. Too long.” For an instant the abahara’s features strengthened and Hea saw her as she had been in life, with the clear copper skin and black hair of that region and her face still unlined by pain or care. Twenty-five years old, dead of bearing a child too large for her body. Tears trickled down her translucent cheeks and Baralia threw herself at Hea’s feet, crying out, “Please release me. What terrible thing have I done? What crime, to deserve this?” 

But Hea hardened her heart.

# # #

Lyré could not change Hea’s mind. The g’dame was immune to pity, and unwilling to take council that this was an unwise action. A pivotally, irretrievable unwise action.

So Lyré returned to Bihag and called up her runeboard of pure ai, and sat mehakan through long hours, tracing influences to build up arguments to back her intuition.

Seeing was her gift, and she saw disaster in Hea’s actions. The craving for a final rest through enreithment was an emotion peculiar to this world. Lyré had been born here, and understood it dimly. Hea Santala did not comprehend it at all, and could not appreciate the extremity of Baralia’s need.

Baralia would betray them. It was as plain as sunlight on water. If she must live in limbo through Marquart’s life, then Marquart would not live long.

But what would come after that was unclear, and Lyré was not one to act on partial knowledge.

This was the crossroad of Lyré’s life, as well. In this hour she came to know that seeing was itself a responsibility. One who saw, had to act. It was time to turn away from her search for a separate peace, to begin to look for actionable knowledge, and to seek a time and place to apply that knowledge.

# # #

Now the stage was set. In her bungling attempt to influence the future, Hea herself had skewed the forces that controlled her world, and set in motion a confrontation she would soon be unable to control. more Monday

Advertisements

493. Lost Classics

I have been cleaning out a house where I used to live. It’s a little like archaeology. This was the house where I wrote some of my early novels, and it is the place I have been keeping the older and less often accessed half of my books. Every place I go in the house, a good memory looks back, and every box of books I open brings a forgotten smile.

I found an old A Common Reader catalog. I wish I had kept all the ones I received in those days, but who knew that A Common Reader would go out of business and make them irreplaceable. I’ll tell you about it in a future post.

One of the odd books I ordered from that odd catalog also turned up, Lost Classics by Michael Ondaatje, Michael Redhill, Esta Spalding, and Linda Spalding. You only need the first name to find it on Amazon, but fair is fair. I quote from the introduction:

A book that we love haunts us forever . . . it is in the act of reading, for many of us, that forged out first link to the world. And so, lost books . . . gnaw at us.

I know the feeling. Although, to be honest, I try not to lose my favorites, which is why it takes two houses to hold my library.

Lost Classics comes from Brick: a literary journal. In 1998, the editors ran a Lost Classics issue, and thereafter they were inundated with additional material from their readers. This was collated into the volume on the desk in front of me. You can still get it from Amazon, even though it came out in 2000.

Seventy-four writers provide short essays on somewhat more than that many lost books. They range from slightly forgotten to seriously obscure, but they all fascinate. Searching the index, I find that when I first read Lost Classics nearly two decades ago, I had already read two, The Highwayman by Phillip Noyes (one of only two which really weren’t lost) and N by E by Rockwell Kent. A couple were on my to-read list, and I made a point of finding and purchasing Islandia by Austin Tappan Wright. On full disclosure, it was too dense to penetrate.

That leaves nearly eighty unaccounted for, and that is the point. These are books you will probably never see, but the joy here is reading what they meant to those who did read them.

These are strange people, but I think they will be familiar to you. I will give you just one example:

I cannot find the book and the two or three people to whom I might have lent it have no memory of it, have never heard of it. But I have a clear memory of a Saturday in the summer of 1990, during the year when I tried to live one month in Dublin followed by one month in Barcelona and managed not to live much at all . . . the book hit me hard. I started reading . . . and I am still recovering, in certain ways, from what I learned.

Which reader was that? Which book? I won’t tell you. You will have to find a copy and seek it out for yourself. If you like old things, or odd things, or obscure things, you owe it to yourself.

Banner of the Hawk 7

Hea moved her hands in a peculiar gesture, and Baralia asked, “What are you doing?”

“I am binding you.”

“What do you mean? I don’t understand.”

“I need you to do a task for me. Only one like you can do it.”

“What can I do? I am dead. I can’t touch or move material things, or make myself heard. In a few hours the priests will enreith me and I won’t even remember you. Let me alone!”

“You will not be enreithed.”

“What do you mean? What are you? Who are you?”

“I am Hea Santala.”

There was a moment of incomprehension, and then a moment of pure panic as Baralia realized that she was face to face with the Goddess she had worshipped all her life. And then she screamed, as she became aware of what Hea intended.

“What are you doing to me?”

“I am siphoning a little ai from the menhir and binding it to you. You will not attenuate. You will not fade into nothingness as other abaharas do. You will live.”

“This is not living. This is not living and this is not death; this is obscene. Why are you doing this to me?”

The still singular individual that had been, in life, Baralia, cried out, “Release me. Let me go to my fellows. Let me merge into the menhir. Please!”

“Merge with the menhir and you will cease to be yourself,” Hea pointed out, but the soul of Baralia only became more frantic. Hea sighed, still unable to understand. “Baralia,” she said, “I will grant your release, but first you must serve me. Will you do this?”

“Let me go now! Please!” The voice that rang in Hea Santala’s head was like the crying of a heartbroken child, although Baralia was a woman grown. “Why are you doing this to me? I never mocked you. I always brought you tribute. Why?”

The abahara’s face was contorted with an agony of loneliness, as she cried, “Why do you torment me?”

Hea closed her heart to pity and said, “I am sorry, Baralia, but I am not omnipotent. I need you for a task that only you can do.”

“I will not!”

“Then I will never release you.”

Hea’s siphoning of ai from the menhir was like a pinprick into a sleeping beast. The menhir roused itself, but only slightly. Baralia faded, torn by the winds of ai that rose from the menhir and the surge of life around her. Caught between the living and the dead; torn apart by both and claimed by neither. Finally she cried out, “What must I do?” more tomorrow

Banner of the Hawk 6

“Do you feel them?” Hea asked. “And do they feel you?”

“I feel it and it feels me. All the souls enreithed here have lost their individualities.”

“So it is said. I never understood it.”

“You never wanted to understand it,” Lyré said, smiling. “You are of Poinaith, completely. I am half of this world and I have tried to understand my other people.”

Hea moved up beside her g’daughter and laid her hands on the stone, trying to find even the slightest trace of a discrete soul, but it was like trying to isolate one drop of water in the surging surf. Yet souls were here, vast in number, powerful in their combined ai, but all submerged.

Hea shuddered. “I have seen menhirs on a hundred worlds,” she said, “but nothing like this. And this they do willingly; even hungrily. I have lived among them for a century, and it still repels me.”

“To these people,” Lyré replied, “death is loneliness. Not fear, nor pain, nor heaven, nor hell, nor mere cessation. Loneliness. And enreithment is a full bonding with all the ones who have gone before, into an eternity where loneliness is not even possible. Can that be so hard to understand?”

Hea turned sourly away from the menhir and strode through the gap in the surrounding hedge. A light touch of her ai had directed the priests elsewhere, so Hea and Lyré moved unseen among the outbuildings of the temple complex. They entered a long, low wooden structure that was completely overgrown by thorngall. Within were two corpses awaiting enreithment. One was a young woman of perhaps twenty-five; the other was her stillborn infant.

Lyré gripped Hea’s arm and whispered, “You mustn’t.”

“I will do what I have to. With the Shambler ascendant, I can no longer leave his Lost Get unmonitored. But if I watch him myself, the Shambler will know.”

Hea touched the dead girl’s forehead with her staff. There was no change on the tortured face, for the body was truly dead. But her soul was still unenreithed, abahara, and it hung in the room, still tethered by rapidly attenuating bonds. Hea said, “Asuras astorus!” and it stood revealed, coming slowly into focus as a nearly transparent simulacrum of the body on the pallet.

Lyré said, “Please!”

Hea hissed, “Silence,” then said to the abahara, “What was your name?”

“Baralia. Who are you? You aren’t a priest.”

“Why did you expect a priest?”

Baralia looked disgusted at the question. “I have been hanging her all day, looking down at my body. Do you think I don’t know I’m dead? I knew I was dying anyway. There was too much pain, and too much blood. I didn’t expect that. This was my second child. Girls who die like I did, usually die with their first child. But she was just too big.”

Lyré looked down at the ruddy, twisted face of the stillborn and said, “Is your daughter here?”

“Of course she’s here. Where else would she be? She’s just a crazy thing, flitting around like a bat. She doesn’t know she’s dead. She doesn’t know she never got to live. She doesn’t know anything, except pain and fear. I wish the priests would come. It hurts to be alone; even I hurt, and I know it will only be a few hours.”

Lyré said, “You can’t do this,” but Hea ignored her. more tomorrow

492. Runeboards

If you are wondering what a runeboard is, look at the top of all the menhir posts. It is a stars-within-stars tool of divination used all over the world of the menhir. Dymal and Taipai were using one in the opening last Wednesday’s Serial and Hea Santala herself has one incised on a truncated stalagmite in her island fortress Whitethorn.

Normal folks, like Taipai, have runeboards incised on wood with counters of brass. There are seventy-one spaces on the runeboard, and seventy-one counters. Each counter bears a rune, but I’m no Tolkien. I didn’t design seventy-one unique runes. That is left for your imagination.

Each rune has several different possible meanings, so simply spilling counters on wood doesn’t mean much. There is a role for intuition in reading which meaning is appropriate to the moment. Also, in a typical spilling of counters about half of the counters just bounce off and lie mute around the board. The ai (personal power) of the caster is involved in a proper scrying.

Really exceptional runecasters, like Lyré, conjure up three dimensional runeboards out of their own personal ai, but normal people, including the rest of the gods, stick to wood and brass.

The inverted star in the center of the board is called the Heartstar. The pentagon that forms its center is called the Heart of the Heartstar. In a true reading, the rune carrying the personal symbol of the caster, or the subject of the casting, falls on the Heart of the Heartstar. If it does not, the scrying is suspect.

By the way, there is no diabolical reason for the inversion. It just lines up better that way with the small stars on either side. Aesthetics rule, in this case.

On very rare occasions, when the caster is a dziai or dziain (man or woman of power) a full mandala emerges. This means that all the counters fall on the board, one per space, with the kladak (personal symbol) in the Heart of the Heartstar. From such a casting, much can be learned about its subject, so achieving a full mandala gives the possessor power over the subject of the mandala. You will see that occur late in Banner of the Hawk.

Incidentally, if you want to pronounce dziai properly, the d is nearly silent, just a whisper of air over the tip of the tongue, as if you were saying “tisk“. Pronounced properly, dziai sounds almost like tziai. But not exactly. A native speaker would hear the difference.

I suppose there are writers who work all this kind of thing out in advance. I further suppose that those people are good at video games. Not me. I played video games with my nephew one time and found it supremely boring. In my case, I discovered (rather than invented) the rules of the runeboard as I wrote the first draft of the menhir books, and refined them while I refined the rest of the work.

That’s also how the language of the Inner Kingdom crept in, one word at a time. Grammar came later.

Also, Lyré is pronounced lee-ray.

Banner of the Hawk 5

Lyré spent her life far from the fierce company of the Damesept. Now she was in her native place, the forests of Bihag, when she sensed a troubling of the air.

She tensed momentarily, then rose gracefully to her feet as Hea Santala rotated into existence before her. The elder dame’s eyes were still bright, but her mouth was a tight line across the loose skin of her face. She counted her years in centuries and tonight, coming fresh from Rem Ossilo’s death, she looked them all. Hea nodded and said, “G’daughter, you are just about my only consolation.”

“But a poor one?”

Hea reached out her hand to touch Lyré’s cheek. It was a thing they both understood. Lyré was weak when Hea needed strength, but she was also kind and she loved her g’mother. Hea shook her head and said, “Lyré, my gentle child, your virtues are many. I only wish strength were among them.”

“Perhaps you underestimate me?”

Hea Santala shook her head impatiently and said, “I would not go into battle with a broken shield. But you see well. Sometimes you see things better than I do. Lend me your eye of ai and let us contemplate what lies before us.”

They sank down together, locking hands. An aura came upon them like a nightmist out of the ground and swelled up into a new sphere pinpointed with moving lights. There each read according to her abilities.

They could see the future, but only in a cloudy fashion. It was the past that Hea and Lyré reviewed, as they strove to foresee what would come.

“Beshu will die soon, far from his sons and unlamented,” Hea said. “Melcer will have no issue, but Marquart will sire a son.”

Lyré agreed.

“I cannot read the coming child. His power distorts all prophesy.”

“One thing is certain . . .” Lyré began, and Hea finished the thought, “. . . he is the key to this world’s future.”

“For good or for ill?”

“It is extraordinarily cloudy,” Hea said, “but this much is certain: if the Shambler discovers his Lost Get we are destroyed, and this world will be cast into evil times. It would be better for the child to die in his mother’s womb.”

Lyré was horrified. “You must not do that,” she demanded.

Hea rose and gathered her cloak around her. “I will not end the child’s life, because his power clouds my vision. He may be the damnation of this world, but he may also be its salvation. I will set a guardian to watch Marquart, and wait to see what Marquart’s son becomes.”

Lyré also rose, and asked, “Who can you set to such a task?”

“Not one of us, or the Shambler would soon know. Nor would I trust a human.”

Lyré smiled a bit and said, “That narrows your choices to none.”

Hea replied, “I have been considering this for a long time. There is one kind of creature I can compel.”

She began the movements that would transport her from that place, but Lyré placed a restraining hand upon her arm and said, “You need to take me with you.”

“Need?”

“I need to see this.”

“Why?”

“Events force me. My vision of what is to be forces me.”

Hea nodded assent, moved her hands, and they were gone from Bihag.

# # #

Together, they emerged within the menhir. The priests were at their places within the temple beyond the thorngall hedge. Taipai and Dymal had withdrawn from the menhir an hour since. It lay guarded but empty.

Hea furled her cloak and pulled it through her hands. It became stiff like a traveler’s staff, and she struck it twice upon the ground. About her, the menhir stirred to sluggish life. Lyré reached out to touch one of the upright stones and felt the stirring of the gestalt consciousness which lay there. The menhir had no coherent will of its own, only a great inertia, but it held within it the ai and the souls of the tens of thousands who were enreithed there. more tomorrow

Banner of the Hawk 4

Within Whitethorn, Hea Santala waited alone, leaning against the truncated stalagmite whereon she had incised a runeboard three-quarters of a century ago. Her face was lined and dark, her body heavy with age. For two centuries on Poinaith, Rem Ossilo had been her mate.

Tears flowed down her face as she waited for the return of her offspring who had gone to watch his death.

# # #

An orifice opened in the air in the middle of the room and Argat stepped through. Argella followed him, cursing monotonously. “He made it too easy!” she muttered. “Damn him, I would have let the old breecher suffer for days!”

She stopped in mid-curse. Hea Santala had turned away from the runeboard, and the power of her ai came down to fall upon Argella. Hea’s anger was a flame about her.

“Shut up, Slut! What do you know? You’ve spend a few years on one backward world, and half of that time caged here on this rock. What do you know? Who are you to say who should die, or how?

“Rem was my husband and my lover for two hundred years. I bore him thirty children. How many have you borne? Go, get out of my sight!”

Argella swallowed back her thoughts, and left the room, avoiding her mother’s wrath. Hea Santala turned back to her runeboard. 

Argat approached her diffidently and said, “I am sorry for your sorrow, g’Dame. But he was evil and we are better off that he is dead.”

“He was not always evil.”

“No? I have heard you say that there was a time when you were blind to what he was.”

“He was not always evil,” she repeated.

Argat shrugged and also turned away. Hea Santala picked up the counters and rolled them in her hands. She let a tear fall upon them and cast them down. The pattern of her life with Rem Ossilo lay before her, harsh and bright with anger and sweetness. She could not bear to look at it, and scattered the pieces.

She drew the counters together again and said to herself, “He was not always evil. But he became evil. Now he is dead, and the evil still lives.”

The Shambler; no kin of hers, but son to Rem Ossilo. And Argella, her daughter by an old lover out of Poinaith, carried to this world in her womb in the days of their exile. She said their names in the Godtongue and cast the counters. Again she read the truth, that their natures were too alike for alliance. Their mutual angers would destroy any rapprochement. For that, at least, Hea was thankful.

There was no hope for this world in the first generation of Gods born here. They were the curse, not the cure.

There was no hope in her own second generation; no hope in gentle Lyré. She lacked the strength even to stand against her mother Argella. And Argat, for all his military skill, was the weakest of them all in the harnessing of real power.

There was no one in the Damesept to stand against the Shambler but Hea herself, and she was too old.

She cast her counters again.

The Shambler had a son, Beshu, of whom he was not aware. Beshu would die soon. Hea could have determined the nature of his fate, but it did not matter to her. There had never been any hope in him. He was a rapechild; a product of his mother’s fear and hatred and neglect.

Beshu’s sons, then?

Melcer was still relatively untainted, but irresolute and irresponsible — a dreamer, whose dreams were without substance. Marquart? Perhaps. He might yet become a force, although he had much to overcome.

Marquart would have a son. The Firedrake would be his sign. This coming son of Marquart threw all prophesy into confusion. Hea Santala looked at his counter and the constellation of counters that gathered around it and thought, “He will be my bane.”

She stared at the board for a little longer, then moved her hands and was gone from that place. more Monday