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Authors: Shirley Rousseau Murphy

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Ivory Lyre

BOOK: Ivory Lyre
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From the reviews of
The Ivory Lyre

 


A riveting sequel
to
Nightpool
. . . . A finely crafted story filled with
scenes of chilling horror as well as courage and beauty. Murphy's
dragon lore exhibits an exciting immediacy; her scenes of dragons
in flight exalt the reader. . . . Anne McCaffrey,
make room.” —
ALA Booklist

 


This well-crafted
fantasy has a depth and scope reminiscent of Tolkien.”

Publisher's Weekly

 

 

 

The Ivory Lyre

 

(Dragonbards Trilogy, Book Two)

 

by

 

Shirley Rousseau Murphy

 

 

Smashwords Edition

 

 

Copyright © 1987 by Shirley Rousseau
Murphy

 

All rights reserved. For information contact
[email protected]. This ebook is licensed for your personal
enjoyment only, and may not be resold, given away, or altered.

 

 

This is the second book of a trilogy. It is
preceded by
Nightpool
and followed by
The
Dragonbards
.

 

 

Harper & Row edition (hardcover)
published in 1987

HarperPrism edition (paperback) published in
1988

 

Ad Stellae Books edition, 2010

 

Author website:
www.joegrey.com

 

 

Cover art © by
Fernando Cortés De Pablo
/ 123RF

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1

 

The four dragons fled through the sky, their
wings hiding stars, the wind of their passing churning the sea
below. The two black dragons were nearly hidden against the night,
but the two white ones shone bright as sweeping clouds. The larger
white dragon carried a rider, a slim lad. He was barely sixteen,
well muscled, tanned, dressed in stolen leathers, with a stolen
sword at his side. He stared down between the white dragon’s
beating wings at occasional islands fast overtaken. Then he looked
ahead with rising anger at the island that was this night’s target.
His rage matched the dragons’ fury for what they sensed there on
Birrig.

“The dark unliving rule there,” the dragons
screamed. “They are soul killers—the dark side of
mortal. . . .”

“Yes,” Tebriel answered, “but they will die.
We free Birrig this night.”

They dove in a rush of wind, Teb bent low to
see between Seastrider’s wings as the dragons dropped toward
Birrig’s wood.

Meadows lay on the far side of the island,
dotted by eight villages. The dragons gained the shore on
widespread wings, then folded their wings close to their sides and
slipped in among the twisted oaks of the grove in silence, pressing
under the great branches, the leaves sliding noiselessly across
their scales. Teb slid down.

He paced the wood, then returned to stand
beside Seastrider, listening with his mind and inner senses just as
the four dragons did. They could see in their minds the dark
leaders who ruled here, and knew that the enslaved islanders slept
a sleep as featureless as death. Even waking they would know little
pain or wonder, so drugged were they with the powers of the dark.
The dragons moved deeper among the giant trees. To be discovered
was too great a danger, not for themselves, but for the cause they
served.

“There are nine leaders,” Teb said softly,
stroking Seastrider’s white cheek. She leaned her head against him,
feeling his hatred of the dark; their thoughts were in perfect
sympathy, these two who were so powerfully paired.

They are sheltered in the stone manor
house,
she said in silence.
Two of the true dark, the
unliving, and seven humans turned to the ways of the dark.
She
scraped her scales nervously against the rough sides of the
oaks.

The other three dragons moved uneasily. Teb
walked among them, touching and reassuring them. He could feel
their tension nearly exploding, their hatred of the dark grown to a
force almost visible in its intensity. It matched his own.

Of the dark leaders they saw in vision, five
slept. Two of the humans were awake, locked in obscene embrace with
the two unliving. The unliving never slept, though they never
seemed to come fully to life, either. The pale, man-shaped beings
were as coldly expressionless as spiders. Their color would rise a
little at the lure of new evil or lust. They sucked upon men’s
spirits and souls as certain spiders suck upon human blood.

Teb stood a moment filled with disgust,
putting down his instinctive fear.
Un-men, unliving, you will
not take this land, not while dragons live to defeat you. You will
give back the minds you have robbed. We will
take
them
back.

In the vision that Teb and the dragons
shared, the blank faces of the sleeping villagers were scarred and
bruised and dirty. Many slept on the ground, tied by ropes to their
places of work, too obedient to the dark to untie themselves. The
miller was shackled beside the mill wheel; a carpenter sprawled
among logs and tools; shepherds were leg-tied together beside a
dung heap. A small child with a twisted arm lay huddled on rags in
the corner of a barn, tied to a post where she had been pounding
grain.

The dragons were clawing now into the soft
mulch of the forest, tense with rage at the slavery the dark had
created, ready to battle it. Teb leaped to Seastrider’s back,
stroked her.
Now,
he said,
now begin,
and power
filled them as they raised their voices in song, dragon and
boy.

Power swelled as they made visions explode
in the minds of the sleeping slaves.
Now you will see truly once
more.
They warped time into another dimension so that the past
came alive. People long dead came alive, as real as Teb himself. A
forgotten time exploded into life, a time before Birrig was slave
to the dark.

Now, suddenly, busy people filled the lanes
and sheepfolds, shearing, lambing, making the dyes and grooming the
wool and weaving the fine tapestries for which Birrig was famous.
Loud, hard-living people. Dragon song brought alive the hot glances
of the young as they sought their mates. A girl cuddled a baby.
Small children ran among the looms. The blending voices of bard and
dragon peopled the village and filled the minds of the present-day
slaves, who woke and stumbled to their doors to gape. Before them
in the streets, the past lived.

Folk came forth hesitantly, out into the
busy lanes. They stepped into a world nothing like their drab one,
and their faces lost confusion and brightened with
understanding.

Untie yourselves,
Teb shouted in
song,
tear off your chains.

Men and women fought to free themselves and
reached out to touch the strangers who were their own ancestors.
They could not touch them, yet were not perplexed.

The past is the lost part of you,
Teb
shouted.
Feel whole again, now; defeat the dark,
now. . . .

The child inside the barn was awake, tearing
at the knots of her ropes. Freed, she stood for a moment not
knowing what to do. Then she began to run. She ran in circles
around the cottages, in and out among her ancestors like a colt
gone wild.

Folk began to approach the woods, coming to
the call of the songs. They moved through the Birrig of the present
and the Birrig of the past all at once, seeking the source of the
magic. But not all came toward the woods; some approached the manor
house. The nine dark leaders stood there in the doorway shoulder to
shoulder, their evil like a dark stench seeping around the
building.

Destroy them,
Teb said in song.
It
is your privilege to destroy them.

“The dark leaders know we are here,”
Seastrider said to him.

“They must not carry the news beyond this
island,” said Nightraider. “They must not live to do so.”

“They will not live,” said Tebriel. “Look.”
He stretched up to see over the topmost branches, but he need not
have. They could see it in their minds, the townsfolk drawing
closer to the dark leaders, who backed away.

Now,
Teb shouted.
Now
. . . It is your choice to kill them. They are the slave
masters, they have murdered your children, they steal the world
from you when they take your memory. . . .

The people of Birrig began to move toward
the dark leaders, slowly and with purpose. The faces of the
unliving turned from gray-tinged to deathly pale, and they mouthed
enchantments. The faces of the seven humans who had willingly
embraced the dark twisted into masks of terror, but Teb felt no
regret for them. They had chosen this evil freely. If it had not
been for their kind, the unliving would never have conquered these
lands. An un-man screamed a curse, two humans turned to flee; and
then the town was on them.

Teb slid down from Seastrider’s back. The
other three dragons pressed close, to nuzzle him. He hated the
killing, but it had to be done. The townsfolk truly had a right.
And the dark must not be allowed to leave Birrig to spread word
that there were singing dragons on Tirror. Not yet. Secrecy was
their weapon. They were too few in number now; they must find other
bards. He hoped they would find other dragons. They were not an
army yet, and it would take an army of bards and dragons to free
all of Tirror. The freedom fighters, secretly at work in many
lands, could free men’s bodies but could not free their spirits;
only the dragonbards could. If the dark thought it had driven out
all the dragons and bards, if it thought Teb himself was dead, then
let it believe that. It gave Teb more time. He watched the awakened
slaves destroy their dark masters; then he and the dragons rose
into the dawn sky, climbing fast to hide themselves among clouds.
They made their way south to the Lair and the dragon nest.

The wind of their wings tore a storm across
the sky that lashed at the branches of their nest as they
descended. They circled the high, bare mountain peak once, then
landed within the nest’s walls. It was like a fort made of great
trees pulled up by the roots. The dragons preened themselves,
cleaning their wings, wanting a short nap as is the way with
dragons. Seastrider yawned, her mouth like a closet bristling with
rows of white swords. She curled down beside her brothers and
sister, their wings folded, their heads resting on tangles of
smaller branches. Teb climbed the logs that formed the lip of the
nest.

The wind hit him so fiercely it would have
swept him over if he hadn’t held on to a thrusting branch. His dark
hair whipped around his face, tugging loose from the leather band
that tied it. He stood looking down at the land more than a mile
below.

His view of Tirror and the southern islands
was much as he would see in flight. Directly below him was the Bay
of Dubla; beyond it, the small continent of Windthorst; then the
sea stained red with the rising sun. He could see the Palace of
Auric, a pale dot in the south of Windthorst. It was his palace,
his kingdom, stolen from his family when his father was murdered.
Teb had been held captive there as a child by his father’s killers.
His father’s loyal horsemaster, together with the speaking animals,
had helped him escape from those dark leaders when he was
twelve.

His sister, Camery, had been left behind in
the tower. But now she, too, was free, somewhere on Tirror, thanks
again to Garit, the horsemaster.

East of Auric, beyond Windthorst’s coast,
lay a tiny island. He knew every detail of Nightpool—the black rock
caves, the green inner meadow and hidden lake. He had lived there
for four years among the otter nation after he had escaped his
captors. He missed the furry, fish-smelling otters. They had shaken
water over him and nattered at him and chased him in the sea. They
had cared for him all during his long illness when he hadn’t known
who he was. He wondered, when he stood thinking of them like this,
if the white leader, Thakkur, might be standing in the sacred
meeting ca/e seeing a vision of him in the magical clamshell. He
missed the island with its cozy caves, the gatherings and feasts.
He missed Nightpool.

BOOK: Ivory Lyre
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