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Authors: Jo; Clayton

Changer's Moon

BOOK: Changer's Moon
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Changer's Moon

Jo Clayton

For the nurses and teachers of this world who do impossible things under impossible conditions with little reward or recognition.

FOREWORD

Once upon a time there were a Sorcerer and a Goddess, and the World they each claimed for their own; the Game they invented to settle the question amused them awhile, but was not so good for the World and the folk who lived on it.

WHAT HAS GONE BEFORE

For many generations there was peace in the land; a man knew what his son's life would entail, knew the path his son's son would walk. And a woman knew the same of her daughter and her daughter's daughter. Those who had food to fill their bellies, a bit of land or a trade to keep them secure were content to have it so, but there were more and more who were frustrated and restless, younger sons, unmarried daughters, tie-children whose parents could not feed or clothe them, people without place or hope. Under the calm surface turmoil was building toward explosion.

Into this volatile mix stepped Ser Noris. He had long since halted the processes of growth and decay within his body and passed the time he had thus acquired honing his skills, gathering knowledge, dueling with other norissim until there was none left with the power or skill to challenge him. The day came when he looked about and found himself with no more worlds to conquer within the limits allowed him; he eyed those limits with distaste and speculation but found no way around them. More years passed. He grew bored, monumentally, extravagantly, disastrously bored. Thus, the Game.

In MOONGATHER, the challenge is issued, the pieces are selected, the long Game begins.

In MOONSCATTER, the Game continues, the pieces are maneuvered to set them up for the final confrontation, each Player trying to take out or somehow nullify the other Players' pieces, to gain advantage in position or strength or both.

THE MAJOR PIECES

SERROI

She is a misborn of the windrunners, saved from a death by burning and taken by Ser Noris to his Tower, raised and taught by him, her gifts used by him to create new types of life (the child his gate into the forbidden), life he could command, something he could not do with the World's life, for that was outside his limits. She was abandoned when she was twelve in a desert east of the mijloc, when his disregard for her feelings and her understanding made her useless to him, her gifts inaccessible; abandoned because he didn't understand his own emotions, ensuring that he'd spend futile years trying to retrieve her—because he'd unexpectedly come to love her, something he had not thought possible. She is a sliding piece, first his strength, then his weakness.

Having walked out of the desert to a tribe of nomadic pehiiri she is welcomed by their janja or wisewoman, Reiki (who is also the form of flesh the Goddess puts on when she visits the World), then makes her way to the Biserica Valley where she lives in peace for a number of years, studying and learning the skills of a meie and refusing to hear about her talents for magic.

On her second ward—this time as a guard to the women's quarters in the Plaz of Oras, watching over Floarin and Lobori, the Domnor Hern's two wives, and his multifarious concubines—she and her shieldmate Tayyan learn of a plot against the Domnor. Tayyan is killed and Serroi runs. When her panic dissipates, she returns to Oras, acquiring a companion called Dinafar, meeting the Gradin family on their way to celebrate the Gather in Oras.

In Oras, with the aid of Coperic (thief, fence, smuggler, Tavern owner and Friend to the Biserica in his spare time), she thwarts the plot against Hern, but only in part because he is driven into exile by Floarin and the Nearga Nor. She returns to the Biserica taking Hern and Dinafar with her.

But even that quiet place is no longer a refuge for her. Ser Noris sends her dreams, using her to disrupt the peace of the Valley. Because she is a weakness in the defenses of the Biserica, she is forced to leave it; because Hern is also a storm center there, disturbing the order Yael-mri works to preserve, the prieti-meien sends them on a quest with two purposes, to remove them from the Valley, to acquire a weapon to help them all in their struggle against Floarin and her forces, against the Nearga Nor.

In the midst of the unnatural heat—sent by Ser Noris to wear them down—Serroi and Hern ride in uneasy partnership on their quest to find the Changer who also calls himself—or itself—Coyote.

Under attack by Ser Noris whenever he can find her—Serroi is protected from nor longsight and nor spells by the tajicho, the crystallized third eye of a Nyok'chui, a lethal giant earthworm—they cross the continent, attacked by minark soldiers after they humiliate a minark lordling, attacked by Sleykynin, chased and nearly killed by Assurtiles for what they did to those Sleykynin, forced onto an eerie plateau where they meet small flying people and great glass dragons and are so affected by the magic there that they walk in each other's bodies, share each other's dreams, where Serroi finally succumbs to the magic that is her nature, the magic she has denied so long.

Given shelter by Hekotoro to the fenekel in Hold Hek, she learns the imperatives of her newly acquired talent for healing while she and Hern reach a tentative peace with each other.

Attacked in Tuku-kul by ambushing Sleykynin, she learns the other side of her healing power, that what heals can also kill. She and Hern quarrel and make peace again.

They cross the Sinadeen to the southern continent, then sail out on the Dar, a great featureless swamp where their only enemies are the leeches and biting bugs. And the boredom. On the far side of the Dar they climb a mountain, meet the Changer, have a confrontation with Ser Noris. Serroi touches Ser Noris's hand and that frightens him so badly he is driven into instant flight and at the same time loses the concentration that has been holding off winter and focusing heat on the Valley and the mijloc. As Serroi and Hern are taken into Changer's Mountain, the weather reverts to normal for the time of year and the first flakes of snow come drifting down on Valley and mijloc.

HERN HESLIN

Fourth domnor in the Heslin line since Andellate Heslin united the mijloc and established the Biserica.

He is nearly yanked out of his skin and replaced by a demon, is rescued by Serroi, a poison knife, small horde of rats and roaches and his own skill with the sword.

He is a man who likes women (definitely in the plural) who has wasted his abilities because there is no real call to use them, who has been as bored with his life as Ser Noris, who finds he likes to stretch himself to meet challenges, who is possessive even of that which bores him, who learns in the long journey the value of letting go.

TULI GRADINDAUGHTER

Twin sister of Teras Gradinson, the Gradinheir. Tuli and Teras have been inseparable since birth, but biology and custom are catching up with them. Tuli resents the changes in her body and in her brother; though she has always been the leader, able to best him whenever she wanted, now her brother is inches taller, stronger and faster and he won't listen to her as he used to though she can still talk him into things. In addition to that, the time is coming when she will not be permitted to run the night like a wild thing and will be expected to settle into courtship and marriage.

One night around the middle of autumn the twins climb from their bedroom windows to spy on their older sister Nilis. To their astonishment and horror, they hear her betraying their father's plan to conceal a part of his harvest so his ties and family won't starve, they hear her betraying her blood to the Agli and the Followers of the Flame. After a series of setbacks they get away and ride to warn their father that a noose waits for him in Oras where he is going to try convincing Floarin to abate part of the grain tithe. On the way they come across an ex-meie named Rane who recognizes them and helps rescue their father.

Tesc takes his family—except for Nilis and his youngest son, Dris, who has been named tarom in his place—into the mountains where he joins other outcasts to set up a Haven where they will have shelter and a base from which they can harass the forces of Floarin.

Teras goes off with Hars (an old Sankoise stockman who taught them a lot about hunting and stalking and the habits of beasts) to seek information and do a little sniping at the Guards and the tithe collectors.

Left forlorn and more than a little angry at her brother, Tuli feels more than ever an outsider; she doesn't like ties, especially to the girls; she isn't allowed to wander far from camp and feels that she is going to smother at the constraint; she can't take teasing and is the more teased because of that; she doesn't want to be forced into the female mold she despises; trying to find a replacement for her brother, she plots a night hunt with a newcomer, a boy called Fayd who is a few years older, a neighbor, but he mistakes her interests and forces sex on her, too involved with his own sensations to realize that she is trying to stop him, to fight him off.

Rane comes by Haven to pass on information and gather what news they have for the Biserica and when she is finished there, she takes Tuli away with her; they stop at the Biserica where Tuli learns more about Rane, where a healwoman confirms her worst fears—she is pregnant by Fayd, only two weeks but the woman is sure—and where she makes up her mind that she is neither old enough for motherhood nor temperamentally suited to it so she flushes herself out with a series of herbal drinks, then leaves the Biserica with Rane to continue the ramble about the mijloc, gathering information about the mind-state of the mijlockers and about the strength of Floarin's forces.

MINOR PIECES (Ser Noris)

LOBORI who thinks she's the instigator of the plot against Hern and who is very surprised by dying at the moment she expects to triumph. FLOARIN who thinks she's running her country and her war and in charge of the nor working for her. The NEARGA NOR who are slaves to the will of Ser Noris.

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