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

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