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