Authors: Jr. L. E. Modesitt
Tags: #Fiction, #Fantasy, #Epic
I tried not to choke on the bile in my throat and looked toward Krystal.
She had sheathed her sword, and we looked inside each other, at the darkness in our eyes. Her hair was silver-white, and so, I knew, was mine.
“I never even got to say good-bye...” Not to my father, my mother, Justen, or Dayala. Not to my aunt, or to Uncle Sardit who had made me a crafter. My mother had known, and so had they all, even Tamra, and I alone had not. I alone had failed to understand.
“It's all right,” Krystal said. But it wasn't, except for her being there. She put her arms around me, and I sobbed, because there was too much I had learned too late.
I couldn't see for a long time, and neither, I think, could Krystal, but I needed her, and she was there for me.
The whole world had changed in a day. How could we deal with that? I'm not sure any of us did really, almost moving in a daze.
As I had known, Tamra was order-blind.
“Blind? I don't want to be blind. I suppose Lerris can see?” she asked.
I squinted, and winced with the pain of trying to make out her words.
Finally, Krystal answered for me.
“He can't hear, and sometimes he can't see. When he does, it hurts-a lot.”
That I did make out.
Finally, later, in the warm drizzle that followed the cold rain raised by Tamra and my father, by all of us, really, I picked up my staff.
Even with the remaining mounts, it would be a long trip north to Land's End, but that was where we had to go, now. Nylan was still the Black City, but black with ashes, black with death, and shelled into a black and gray mass of ashes and gravel, and all I had of Nylan were two dragon hinges.
And all I really had of Recluce were memories-and the two dragon hinges.
“You have your crafting,” Krystal said. “Sardit and your parents gave you that, and nothing can take that gift from you.”
I could mostly understand her. That helped, and so did her thoughts. Not enough, not near enough, but they helped.
Tamra said something, and she shuddered. I looked at Krystal, and she repeated the words. “To the death of chaos?”
I looked dumbly downhill at the remains of Nylan. Had it been worth it to raise order and chaos to strike down machined order?
“The death of chaos?” echoed Weldein as dumbly as I felt.
Krystal touched my arm.
I sighed. “In a way. In a way. There's not much free order or chaos left.” I didn't want to talk about it.
Instead, I looked back along the narrow grassy strip, and slowly walked through the warm drizzle out toward the slumped end of the wall that overlooked the Gulf. Not a sign remained-not clothes, not ashes, not flesh, not bone. I'd looked before, but I had to look again. I didn't find anything, and I knew I wouldn't, but I had to look, and those arrows of pain slashed at my eyes. Would I be like Creslin, in a different way, with each vision filling me with pain? For how long?
I looked again, ignoring the stabbing into my skull, although I wanted to double over.
I owed them all my life, in different ways, and they were gone, giving what they had to help me... and Krystal, and even she had given her youth.
For what? For the death of chaos?
I stood and watched and listened-and remembered-and Krystal stood by me... and I realized that she, too, would feel the pain of each vision.
I closed my eyes for a time, not just for my own surcease.
WE RODE NORTHWARD beyond the wall, toward Wandernaught, where we could rest before pushing on. A light rain continued to fall. My legs ached, and so did my arms, and my thighs. I could feel that Krystal's did, too, and we both knew it, and kept riding. It was better than walking. I didn't want to think about crossing the new Feyn Strait, or whatever they'd call it someday, but we'd find a way, somehow.
“When will it ever end?” said Krystal, turning in the saddle and speaking slowly so that I could see her lips.
After two repetitions I answered, “Never.”
She winced at my efforts to read her lips, because when I had to concentrate it hurt. Darkness! Even my pain for my efforts was passed on to her. I closed my eyes for a moment. When I opened them, Weldein was talking.
“You... stopped the Emperor... won't send another fleet.” Weldein rode on Krystal's right, so that I could see them both, and I thought that was what he said. Tamra rode beside him.
I shook my head. “Not for a few years, but unless things change in Recluce and Candar, this will happen again.”
Krystal nodded, surprisingly, while Tamra stopped her mount.
“Wait a moment. Explain that,” Tamra demanded. “All this, and it was for nothing? All this?” Again, Krystal had to help get the question across to me, because Tamra still couldn't see and wasn't looking in my direction.
My eyes hurt, from both squinting and trying to see, and I could sense Krystal's discomfort. So I stopped and closed my eyes. It felt good not to have everything I looked at hurt, and not to have to move for a bit. The horse whuffed, and I patted his neck, and then wiped my face to clear away some of the wetness from the rain. Krystal touched my arm, and I got the sense that I should explain.
I opened my eyes and tried. “This can't happen again. Not for a long time. I had to release all the order in the iron beneath Recluce and the Eastern Ocean, maybe even as far as Candar and Nordla-I'm not sure. There's so much order that every bit of chaos...” I shook my head, and that hurt, too. “That's not quite right. What we-what I-did was break apart order and chaos into little tiny bits, tiny bits, and somehow, twisted them all together in tiny bits-that's what created all the heat. Order and chaos are linked together, in things, not by themselves, so that they can't join together. There won't ever be-not for a long, long time-much free chaos, or any chaos-masters. No order-masters, either.”
Tamra's mouth dropped open. “Justen... your father... knew... the death of chaos meant the death of order... ?” She said more, but I couldn't make out the words, even through Krystal.
I swallowed and nodded. It was getting hard to speak.
“It was easier for her, I think. She never thought they ought to be separate.” My throat was thick, and I didn't want to say any more.
Tamra looked down at the cold hard stones of the High Road.
Weldein rode up beside her and touched her shoulder. She began to sob.
At that moment, I wished I could cry or sob, or something, but I had cried all I could, and my guts were still knotted tight inside me. Krystal took my hand.
“Why?” I asked helplessly, knowing the answer, but having to say something.
She knew the answer, and knew I had to speak the words. So I did. “Justen and my father weakened chaos enough that metalworking could improve with steel. Chaos could no longer tear apart machines. Dorrin saw that problem a long time ago, but he must have felt that the machines would be limited by chaos-and they were. When Justen and my father reduced the power of chaos, they made possible the growth of machines, not ones based on ordered black iron, the way Dorrin did it, but ones built like a crafter builds a table or a desk.”
“... no order magic or chaos magic... again?” When she touched my skin and talked, understanding was easier for me, and for her, because I didn't have to strain to see her lips so much.
I had to laugh, but it was a bitter laugh. “Not for a long time. But chaos always has a tendency to separate out, and order has to be maintained, and the extra order in the world will slowly dissipate, and the chaos will grow and separate, and all the twists and hooks we established will fray...”
“... back where Creslin started...” asked Krystal.
“Not in a long time... maybe by the time of people's children's children's children's children-or longer.”
She reached over and squeezed my shoulder.
I shrugged. “The Brotherhood didn't understand-and neither did the Emperor-not until later, anyway, that concentrating the free order and chaos in Candar and Recluce made it possible for Hamor to build its ships and machines. One way or another, order-mastery and chaos-mastery were on the way out-for a while-after the fall of Fairhaven.”
“... a big wheel... turning... sometimes magic works... sometimes... doesn't?”
I caught enough of her words to answer. “I suppose so, in a way, except it always works on some level. Right now, Candar, and what's left of Recluce, have a chance to build their own ships and machines before Hamor regains its power.”
“That's not all.”
“No. The smaller countries in Candar will have to unite, somehow, or Hamor will still take them over.”
“More wars.” Krystal shaped her words carefully, and I understood.
“Sooner or later,” I admitted. “Everything seems to lead that way. At least I haven't found anything that doesn't. Only strength stops war, and nothing changes that, and I hate it, but it doesn't matter.”
“Now... you know.” Krystal smiled faintly, and squeezed my hand.
I knew what she meant, perhaps really for the first time, knew what carrying a blade meant when you were as good as she was.
We looked at the gray sky. Before long, it would clear, at least for a while. Behind us, Tamra held Weldein's hand, their mounts linked by their closeness, but she had stopped sobbing.
Krystal held my hand, but the knots in my guts didn't feel as if they would be leaving soon, nor would the knives in my eyes, and who knew when I'd be able to hear again. Closing my eyes, I thought about the dragons in my pack. Dragons-though I had never seen one-they would hold a chest together. Maybe in the end crafting was all that held anything together.
From that confusion shall the dark ships of the sun seek refuge, but neither the mountains nor the oceans shall provide succor. Mountains shall be rendered into dust, and oceans shall be burned and boiled, and ashes shall cover all, and chaos shall die.
Likewise, shall order die, and all manner of changing the way of the world, save through the tools of the hands, and the tools of the tools.
For, as a woman shall sow, so shall she reap, not as she wishes or would order that seed, but as the sun and the rain see fit, or as the water and nourishment she may bring unto her crops with her own hands.
Unto each generation shall the tales be passed, of how order and chaos once served, and how tools enhanced that service, and of how, in the end, order and chaos grew to such might as threatened the heavens, and were cast down.
And, in the fullness of time, it shall come that the children of the angels will fail to heed those words, and come to believe that as one sows, so shall one reap, forgetting that once it was not thus.
Yet neither order nor chaos shall be vanquished, but each shall sleep unto the generations, gathering powers until, near the end of time, each shall awaken.
The Book of Ryba Canto DL
KRYSTAL HELD MY hand as we walked toward the stable. I felt the strong, supple fingers, the warmth under the hardness and closed my eyes for a moment, letting the stabbing in my eyes subside and wondering how long everything I looked at would remind me-and Krystal-of the death of chaos, and of all the deaths that had ensured it.
When I opened my eyes, I saw the square-faced cow peering from the pen beyond the stable, and a goose arching its neck in a hiss from beyond the new, and already ramshackle, henhouse.
“A goose... I still don't...” I turned and glanced back toward the kitchen door where Rissa just shrugged. I tried not to smile.
Weldein waited, mounted as the squad leader. Beside him, Tamra rode Rosefoot, somehow fitting, and using her now-limited senses to compensate for her blindness, though they were good only near her in our greatly order-reduced world. Some of the gray had left her hair, but not all. Behind them were mounted Jinsa and Haithen.
Krystal's hair was black and silver, with more silver than black. I had done what I could, with the few shreds of order and skill I had left, but no one would ever mistake us for less than middle-aged.
“Glad to be home,” Krystal turned and spoke slowly so that I could see her words.
Although I caught them, the effort left spears stabbing through my skull, and I felt guilty as I could feel Krystal sense my pain. “I'm glad you're glad.”
I closed my eyes to relieve the stabbing she felt, and the early winter wind slashed out of the north, out of a clear blue-green sky, and we held each other for a moment, and I left my eyes shut until we stepped away from each other.
“I'll be home tonight.” Her lips exaggerated “home.”
“And tomorrow night?” I asked playfully.
The ground vibrated with the impact of hoofs, and the carriage, drawn by matched chestnuts, stopped in the middle of the yard. On the front seat were the driver and a guard with both a blade and one of the Hamorian rifles that were going to become all too prevalent, I feared. Their gray leathers matched, and so did their boots. A single recently painted A adorned the glass of the carriage door, and I had to smile, because the letter matched the inlaid one that Wegel had carved for the desk. Antona opened the carriage door herself and half stepped, half vaulted into the yard.
Krystal looked at me and shook her head. “You will have a busy day.” She touched my wrist and spaced the words evenly.
By the barn, Weldein sat astride his mount, grinning.
“Master Lerris?” Antona marched up to me, then turned to Krystal, and, I presumed, introduced herself. That was the feeling I got from Krystal, along with some muted amusement.
I watched Krystal as she spoke, catching the key words and guessing at the rest.“He did mention that he was undertaking a dining set for you.”
“... he has been... involved... in saving... world-or something...”
Once more, when I had to concentrate on Antona's words, the stabbing in my eyes intensified. Krystal winced inside, but her face remained calm. I tried to keep my expression undisturbed.
“He... took... time... from his woodworking.” Krystal was trying not to grin-that I could sense-and ignore the discomfort I created.
Antona finally smiled at her, but erased the expression and looked at me. “When will it be ready?”
“Less than a season.” I shrugged.
“You promised... a season ago.” She brushed something off the sleeve of the green silk shirt.
I had to look at the ground. I had promised. Antona turned to Krystal again. I couldn't catch too much of it, but she was clearly suggesting that Krystal use her powers to keep me in line and to ensure I delivered the goods.
Whatever Antona ended with, it had some effect. Krystal laughed beneath a solemn nod, and behind the carriage driver, Weldein rolled his eyes. So did Haithen. Jinsa just grinned.
I watched Krystal as she answered.
“I do have... commissions, but I am certain that he will undertake the commission of your dining set at his earliest haste.”
Antona looked from her to me. “Not too much haste.” She winked. “In anything.” Then she inclined her head to us. “I look... to seeing your workmanship... all your commissions.” Once more, I missed some of what she said, hopefully not anything important.
She turned and reentered the carriage. We watched as she and her small entourage departed.
Krystal was still smiling as she turned to me. “All my commissions?”
“You will have to expand the house.”
“You have plans.”
“I always have.”
I hugged her again, and Weldein rolled his eyes. So did Tamra, but she reached out and held Weldein's arm for a moment, as though she were not still blind most of the time. She had plans also.
I stood in the yard as the five rode down the drive toward Kyphrien, watching until I could see them no longer. The goose stretched her neck in a hiss as I walked into the shop, but geese hiss, and at least I couldn't hear her. Besides, what would I do about it anyway?
Wegel had picked up the broom and was sweeping the floor around his space, somewhat cleaner than the area around my bench.
I picked up the length of cedar from the corner of the workbench, taking comfort in the wood, a soothing that helped reduce the pain of those knives behind my eyes. I studied the cedar, realizing that I now knew the face that the wood held, and that the image I had of my father would hold, and I could only hope that he would have been pleased.
Then I picked up the knife.
L. E. Modesitt, Jr., lives in Cedar City, Utah.
TOR BOOKS BY L. E. MODESITT, JR.
THE SAGA OF RECLUCE
1 The Magic of Recluce
2 The Towers of the Sunset
3 The Magic Engineer
4 The Order War
5 The Death of Chaos
6 Fall of Angels
7 The Chaos Balance
8 The White Order
9 Colors of Chaos
10 Magi'i of Cyandor
11 Scion of Cyandor
THE SPELLSONG CYCLE
The Soprano Sorceress
The Spellsong War
THE ECOLITAN MATTER
The Ecologic Envoy
The Ecolitan Operation
The Ecologic Secession
The Ecolitan Enigma
THE FOREVER HERO
Dawn for a Distant Earth
The Silent Warrior
In Endless Twilight
Of Tangible Ghosts
The Ghost of the Revelator
The Hammer of Darkness
The Parafaith War
The Green Progression (with Bruce Scott Levinson)
Lerris returns in the
long-awaited sequel to
The Magic of Recluce
Candar is being invaded and Lerris must become the greatest wizard of all time-or see his whole world destroyed!
“An intriguing fantasy in a fascinating world, with characters that catch you up. Modesitt presents an interesting study of Chaos versus Order, Good versus Evil...and the attractions each of them has for all of us.”
-Robert Jordan on The Magic of Recluce
“This is a very special fantasy, original...in its thoughtful use of familiar fantastic elements and its skillful development of character.”
-Asimov's SF Magazine on The Magic of Recluce
“The author's ability to concentrate on the personal lives of the characters as well as their involvement in world-shaking decisions gives depth and believability to a unique fantasy environment.”
-Library Journal on The Order War
A Tom Doherty Associates, Inc. Book