When he had marked their places, he went down to the sentinels and killed them silently, one by one. And this, to slay seven men who watched for their enemy with weapons in their hands, without sign or outcry, and lay their bodies down in the dark, was not the least of things done by him in his lifetime and the many wars and battles and feats of arms of it; but it is not told of, for of his own deeds he never boasted, but only those who served him.
The Lady Toressa read through the letter, holding it as if idly in one hand. Then she laid it aside and looked directly at the man before her. Her eyes were pale, ice-gray, their centers wide and depthlessly black. Those eyes stared him down as though they could see through the cloth of his tunic and through his skin, down to the sinew and blood and bone beneath.
Mors started. He had not realized for several seconds that she had left her chair and was approaching. She moved lightly, almost without sound.
She halted while still paces distant and reached out her right hand, flexing her long fingers in the open air as if to touch his shoulder, the stump of his arm.
He felt nothing, not even a stir of air.
She returned to her chair only to stand by it, resting one hand on its high back. Her gaze was indirect again, diffident. Her voice, too, was diffident, but what she said was: “His was made of silver. Yours will have to be copper, or such. Come to the workshop in three days.”
Mors rose. He bowed. He had not yet said a word to this woman. He wondered how one did.
“Who killed the giant that broke your arm?”
“….It was the captain-general. Ihlander.”
“Of course.” said Toressa.
She did not reach for the letter again until he was gone from the chamber and the doors shut behind him, and the swirling dust-motes had settled again to the stone-flagged floor.
They were undetectible from deep space in the low lunar orbit, and there was no motion at all from the great Ship. But Chane was still edgy. He’d gotten tenser as the moment arrived. Helping her armor up, he’d been white-lipped with pain and—probably—envy.
“There could be drones probing the debris belt.”
“There could be a moon made out of cheese and a sun made out of stone.”
Avatar 2: The Way of Wisdom
“You promised the Na’vi–weapons?”
“Yes. They’re going to guard our borders and ensure that no hostiles go out, or in. While they think they’re keeping us prisoner, we will go about our business unmolested.”
“You gave the people who are actively trying to murder us the guns to do it with! HQ will have your head for this.”
“I’m beginning to understand why your organization has failed so completely here. What did I tell you when I let those children go? I want information. And now I have it. I offered them technological supplies. Sully jumped at the offer. What does that mean?”
“It means they’re going to have smartguns to shoot us with!”
“It means that they haven’t got the ability to make or repair their own. Everything they’ve used they’ve stolen or has been supplied to them. And now we’ve cut that supply off, except for a trickle. Which will be used, as I said, keeping us safe.”
“You believe that? You really believe that?”
“Sully might be lying. But I’m not. When I give my word, I keep it. Especially about the Rods from God.”
We watched him go. I rubbed my hands together to scrub away the cold feeling and moved closer to Jack. It felt safer closer to him. “Jack, he has no heartbeat.”
Jack nodded without looking at me. He was watching the captain climb the broken stairs to continue his unending watch on the half-destroyed walls. He said, “He casts no shadow.”
I dreamed I was a dragon, sinuous, limbless, of the flying kind that soared and twisted and dived and glided through brilliant air like water, and was beautiful, and was mighty, and was incomparable. Nothing beset me. Nothing reached me. Nothing hindered me. No matter how I rose or plunged, I could not breach the vastness, the heighth, the depth, the breadth of that air-ocean.
My eyes were dream-dazzled, and there were blind spots directly below my forward-pointing eyes, but compensating for this were the sensitive streaming tendrils about my mouth and nose. Through them I could feel the changes in pressure, the temperature of the air-streams and their shifts in direction. I could feel, also, through the rippling vane along my dorsal spine, the life-sparks of the things that swam those currents, though none came nigh me. Some things were small and darting and noisy, safe only in their numbers; some things were slow and wary. Some things were swift and silent. All of these things were apart from me, and none of them came nigh to me in my swiftness or my greatness or my pride. None of these things, in that great sea where I danced and exulted, were dragons.
Even though I rejoiced in my power, and even though the brightness of that sea was the beauty of sun and stars, even though, in this dream, I could fly, I felt longing and heart-ache, for I was alone.
Dragons mate with dragons, and I was alone….
And then Jurt rapped on the door and woke me up.
I knew that I was home, safe, but it took me a moment to focus around the fact that I was lying in bed, not sinuously twisted along the floor of several rooms and the hallway. This was not helped by my blankets’ having crawled off to attempt escape and/or suicide.
matter of fact
Surprisingly, Cassidy showed no sign of fear. Blood was pouring from his nose and the corner of his mouth, but he didn’t flinch back even from the threatened blow. Kneeling, bound, bleeding, he even managed a shrug. “You’re dead.” he said calmly. “I don’t speak to dead men.”
There were no leaders to lead us to honor. (What honor, what honor was there?) Yet without leaders, we gathered (In the devil, the devil's own lair). There were no bugles to sound our rally, No scribes to mark up our tally. There were no cannon to shield us, Nor generals were there to wield us; No training had we to field us, Except for our numberless hate. (No training, O Lord, but hate) There was no glory to battling; (All glory, O Lord, be thine) And came no deep drums rattling To mark out and steady our line. There were no heroes among us, For vengeance or honor or fame; The tides of dim heavens flung us-- (The tides no man may tame) The circumstance that stung us No man may turn or blame. There were no mourners to sing us Home to our well-earned rest. No angels came down to wing us (O Lord, at thy behest) Nor shield-maids to bring us To feast with the bold and the best. Unmarked and undefeated, Our fallen brothers bide. Our blades rust where they meted Death and their owners died. Where men and wolves competed The carrion buzzards glide. There are no omens to herald our waking (All gone to better men). No prophesies grant us betaking Life and a new life again, Nor sight foretell us partaking The world in building, then. Yet we shall be there, remaking-- The world beyond all ken.
The old king was dying.
The power that had once dwelt in his frame was gone, its only relic the knotted hands that once had been strong. His voice was dim and his face gone hollow-boned and stark. Now and again, when he raised his eyes, something of that old, imperious glare was in them; now and again, his voice had the snap of its old command. Oftener, though, it failed in mid-word, and men did not catch its meaning.
He spoke in a rasping whisper: “Where is my Elissa? I have not seen her today.”
His chancellor, who had been speaking of the captain who held the west, the levies that mustered to the north, and the lords that gathered to the city, went abruptly silent. It was another, a lesser counsellor, who said: “She is at the tower gate, Sire. She will come with news, soon.”
“I have not seen her today,” the old king said. His eyes, half-open, regarded them. “What news will she bring?”
The chancellor said, “My son sends his word to her word daily, Sire. She will have all the news that comes from the north.”
“At the tower….” the old king said. “…she will look down to the way of kings to Zamora. What news from Zamora?”
Again, the chancellor hesitated. The other lord said: “My lord, there is no news from Zamora.”
“Then Zamora stands.”
“Aye, my lord.”
“Aye, my lord.”
“–And Jalra the Younger gathers men in Vanaheym.”
His chancellor said, “He has sent all word of the latest levy, my lord. I have their numbers–”
The old man laid back his head. His eyes were a gray glint beneath the blue-veined lids. “Where is my Elissa? Send for her. I have not seen her today.”
“But we aren’t human.” Sam cut him off, still cold and controlledly furious, and under the coldness he threw a sneer into his voice as well. “We aren’t even alive. Consider that, when you think what lives–all of your lives–are worth to us.”
It really was a good thing Sam was handling all the talking. I wouldn’t have been able to deliver that threat without bursting into tears.
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