“You are alleged to have referred to the Director as–” Stuart raised the sheaf of notes to eye level without actually looking at them– “A ‘patriarchal pig-dog dinosaur.‘ Is that the case?”
Valentine, on whom theatrics were currently wasted, merely squinted at him. It wasn’t clear whether the bright lights, the noise, or his presence were more torturous at the moment. She said cautiously, “I don’t recall saying that….but it would be an assertion, if so, not an allegation.”
Wit I was waked to
When the world was dawning
My shape was set
To serve with skill:
Swiftness to answer
The hand that hold me
Sharpness to sunder
The foes that face.
Faith I will keep
With my master forever
The will that wrought me
And the mind that made.
The task I have taken
I will turn from never:
Shielding his sons
From the sway of the stranger;
Guarding his gate
Lest the serpent strike there.
I will uphold his house
Keep hearth and haven,
Warding its ways
Til he follow them home.
Dawn it was then;
Now the dusk descending
Veils my view
That is hapless of hope.
Far have I sought him
And found not ever
Sight nor shadow
That goes before!
“Turn, Jalra!” A harsh voice challenged.
Jalra spun, the downward executioner’s strike flowing into a high hanging guard. The line of his men had broken open, and the light of the torches streamed in. A tall knight stood in the gap, his face and his features blending into the shadows he cast. Only the long, heavy sword in his hand shone clearly.
Both blades flashed as they leapt to strike.
“–A man who can defy the combined Courts obviously commands considerable resources.”
Nina ground the prongs of her fork into the web of her left thumb. “Obviously.”
When he reached that woman, he took her by the shoulders and looked down upon her; but there was that in her upturned face that caught the words in his throat. His gaze wavered, though hers did not.
She said in a low, dreaming voice: “Have you come for me, Jalra?”
“Yes.–Yes, I have come for you, Elissa.”
“Your father tried to make me queen. Shall I be your queen, Jalra?”
“You shall. You are! By your father’s word and will, you are his heir!”
“It is swords that decide. How many swords do you have now, Jalra?” And still her voice had lost none of its whispering, winsome, sweetness.
A pause. Then Jalra said hoarsely: “Where is the will, Elissa?”
She did not answer.
When he spoke, he shook her, to one side and then the other. “Where is it? Where is the will? Where is it?”
No answer, but she turned her head and her pale eyes towards the maidservant who crouched beside the bier; the girl clutched a painted jewel-box in both arms, to her chest, trembling.
Jalra pushed Elissa sharply away. He turned to the girl–who gave a faint, terrified cry–snatching the box from her hands. Ignoring her frantic dart aside, he fumbled with the catch and flung open the top.
There were no jewels in that box, nor letters.
Packed in salt, and snow, and its own clotted blood, Jalra the Younger looked down upon his own father’s head.
Jalra’s voice steadied from the rasping snarl as he mastered himself. He turned from the box, breathing heavily; his eyes were wild. “It does not signify. He who will be king will be king by blood!”
The woman shook with pain and cold, but she did not flinch, nor turn. Swift footsteps crunched the snow, hastening towards them, shouts and shadows. Her eyes were full of tears. “No,” she said, “No–by conquest.”
I have broken the bonds of the narrow land
Laid open the book of dreams,
Drawn doorways in the sand, a dark traveling
With high fellowship or dread companion
From the last castle to the end of eternity;
strangers and pilgrims in a strange land,
The stars my destination.
When the world turned upside down,
From the earth's core to a starpilot's grave,
For a breath I tarried a long time until now:
I saw the doors of his mouth open
the lamps of his eyes shine
A final rose bloom for Ecclesiastes
and no night, ever, without stars.
I will fear no evil,
not the black god's kiss,
or the red nails' gleam;
Daemon, sidhe-devil, or devil in iron:
For the stars are ours,
and the stars
What's it like out there,
Down Skagganauk Abyss,
At the birthplace of creation,
At the crossroads of time?
In this moment of the storm,
There is time enough for love,
Soul music sung by no woman born,
The light of other days upon
A many-colored land.
The door into tomorrow opens
A house of many ways;
The eyes of the overworld
seek patterns in chaos,
Equal rites are observed,
And no man sayeth call him lord.
Somewhither east of Eden,
children of the mind
awaiting childhood's end--
All mimsy are the borogoves!
Who goes there, out of the dark
To the light fantastic?
Creatures there are of light and darkness:
When true night falls on the borders of infinity
The dark side of the sun casts slithering shadows
Down the long tomorrow.
Nightfall. After dark,
Ancient, my enemy,
the old gods waken.
Alas, Babylon! The city and the stars!
Something wicked this way comes.
Beyond the black river, a man rides through,
And only I am escaped to tell thee.
Soldier, ask not, lest darkness fall,
Of unfinished tales or a dry, quiet war.
Take iron counsel of the cold equations;
Ours is the fury--a high crusade--
To bring in the steel with our brothers in arms,
Til the mountains of mourning crumble
And a fire is upon the deep,
Til the shards of honor are gathered
The forever war is won,
The guns of Avalon go silent,
And the long patrol come home.
Where the path of the fury takes us
Though foundation and empire crumble,
And the stars asunder wrend,
If the price of the stars
Be the broken sword;
If the price of the stars
Be the human edge,
By God, we have paid it dear!
Sleeper, awaken! Out of the silent planet
To your scattered bodies go;
Sail beyond the sunset
in a boat of a million years.
Bid farewell again to the homes of men
and the cool, green hills of earth.
A citizen of the galaxy,
I have space suit and I will travel
Beyond the farthest star.
Such a story unremembered
Fades not, even fallen further
From the firesides where the farers
Long remember men’s light doings,
Lightly tell of mortal glories
As of children, teaching children
All the fresh names they have fabled
Of these new things they have numbered:
In the fire, seeing sunshine
Out of lamplight, naming stars.
Such a story unremembered,
In the gray rocks high is graven,
Where the sundering sea has set it:
Cut in stone, is read there eyeless;
In the wind is carried voiceless,
In the waters borne on, tongueless;
And the silent trees remember,
All the seeing boughs recall it,
And the speaking limbs will tell it
True to him who e’er will listen
For the forest’s tongue is faithful
And the tale told is true.
That old woman was she who carried the fire, who remembered the histories, who buried the dead. When there were no men left, she went to her house and shut its door, and made a magic spell in the weave of her loom. None knew the price of its making: only they knew there was wind and no storm; lightning, and no rain; night, and no stillness.
When day was come, she bade the other women go into the fields, and sow and gather; sent them down to the rivers to draw water and wash; to grind grain at the millstones while day was in the sky. All that day the women worked, far from the houses or near them. Some sang as they worked. Some wept.
At dusk each woman returned to her house in the village, and a great, gray wolf walked by her.
“Ye have taken our men from us, our sons and our brothers, our husbands and the fathers of our children. This is the recompense we will have of you: that ye take their place.”
So each when he crossed foot over the thresholds, became a man: the first of them was chieftain. In time he became king, the first king to rule by that name. He ruled by power and terror, and love. He it was who bore the weapon called Long-Tooth, till it fell from his hand and another took it up, and took his name and his place.
The Wolf Boy was but a stripling then, bright-eyed, and eager, and hungry. “You have a name,” he said. “All humans have names—save me.”
“You will have a name one day, Little Brother.”
“Those who do great things are always known.”
“It is not so great a thing to kill jack-rabbits, even if they run.” he objected.
“Well, you are not mighty yet,” The Witch laughed. “One day, all will know when you go out to hunt. All will say, ‘he is coming. Ye know the one. Be still if ye be not prey.–and if ye be prey: hide.‘”
“Are humans afraid?”
“If they are alone, if they have no friends, then they are always afraid.”
“I am your friend,” he pointed out.
The Witch smiled upon him with her eyes. “I am glad of it, Little Brother.”
“–Then why are you afraid?”