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datatime: 2022-12-05 19:38:06 Author:BIvQCFEw

Morgon found a few days later a cache of lovely red and purple glass in a corner of the chamber they were working in. He took the fragments to Astrin's house, brushed off the dirt and puzzled over them. It rained heavily the next day; they could not go out. The small house smelled damp, and the fire smoked. Xel prowled restlessly, wailing complaints every now and then to Astrin, who sat murmuring over a spell-book he could not open. Morgon, some rough paste Astrin had made in front of him, began to fit together, piece by piece, the shards of glass.

He slept motionlessly, exhausted, waking only once near dawn, when Xel came whining to the door, and Morgon sleepless by the fire, rose to open it for the wet, bedraggled huntress.

Astrin said, "Wind Tower. No man has ever been to the top of it... no wizard either. Aloil tried; he walked up its stairs for seven days and seven nights and never reached the end of them. I've tried, many times. I think at the top of that tower there must lie the answer to questions so old we've forgotten to ask them. Who were the Earth-Masters?What terrible thing happened to them that destroyed them and their cities? I play like a child among the bones of it, finding a fine Stone here, a broken plate there, hoping that one day I find a key to the mystery of it, the beginning of an answer. ... I took a chip off these great stones also to Danan Isig; he said he knew of no place in the High One's realm where they quarried such stone."He touched Morgon briefly, to get his eyes. "I'll be there, in that chamber without a roof. Join me when you wish."

Astrin came out of his grim thoughts, finally, near sunset. He closed a book with a sigh, its iron bonds locking automatically, and said, staring out at the plain, "I should tell Heureu." Then his hand snapped down flat on the book and closed. He whispered, "No. Let him see with his own eyes. The land is his business. Let him put his own name to this. He drove me out of Caerweddin five years ago for speaking the truth; why should I go back?"

Morgon sat down on the stool. Astrin, standing across from him, grew still, a dark shape in the flickering light. Morgon felt an odd shifting in the room, as if another vision of the same room had superimposed itself over his own, and refocused slightly. Odd pieces of thought rose in his mind: the plain he had looked at, Xel's face, the skins he had hung to dry. Then there was nothing but a long darkness and a withdrawal.

He said, as Morgon put out his torch underfoot and went to help him, "I'm all right." His face was mist-colored in the light from the window; he flung an arm around Morgon heavily, and together they stumbled across the threshold, Astrin sat down on the pallet. His hands were scratched raw; his hair was tangled with sea spray. He held his right hand against his side and would not move it, until Morgon, watching the dark stain bloom under his fingers, made a harsh noise of protest. Astrin's head dropped back on the pallet; his hand slid down. He whispered as Morgon ripped a seam open, "Don't. I'm short of clothes. He saw me first, but I killed him. Then he fell in the sea, and I had to dive for him among the rocks and tide, or they would have found him. I buried him in the sand. They won't find him there. He was made ... He was shaped out of seaweed and foam and wet pearl, and the sword was of darkness and silver water. It bit me and flew away like a bird. If Xel hadn't warned me, I would be dead. If I hadn't turned..." He flinched as Morgon touched his side with a wet cloth. Then he was silent, his teeth locked, his eyes closed, while Morgon washed the shallow wound gently, closed it and bound it with strips from his dry robe. He heated wine; Astrin drank it and his shivering stopped. He lay back again. "Thank you. Xel... thank you. If Xel comes back, let her in."

Astrin came out of his grim thoughts, finally, near sunset. He closed a book with a sigh, its iron bonds locking automatically, and said, staring out at the plain, "I should tell Heureu." Then his hand snapped down flat on the book and closed. He whispered, "No. Let him see with his own eyes. The land is his business. Let him put his own name to this. He drove me out of Caerweddin five years ago for speaking the truth; why should I go back?"

Astrin came out of his grim thoughts, finally, near sunset. He closed a book with a sigh, its iron bonds locking automatically, and said, staring out at the plain, "I should tell Heureu." Then his hand snapped down flat on the book and closed. He whispered, "No. Let him see with his own eyes. The land is his business. Let him put his own name to this. He drove me out of Caerweddin five years ago for speaking the truth; why should I go back?"

Walking home at dusk, their finds carefully wrapped in old cloth, Astrin said to him, "You are so patient here. Perhaps you belong here, working among these forgotten things, in silence. And you accept my strange ways so unquestioningly, as though you can't remember how men do live with one another.. .." He paused a moment, then went on slowly, as if remembering himself, "I haven't always been alone. I grew up in Caerweddin, with Heureu, and the sons of our father's High Lords, in the beautiful, noisey house Galil Ymris made out of the Earth-Master's stones. Heureu and I were close then, like shadows of each other. That was before we quarrelled." He shrugged the words away as Morgon looked at him. "It makes no difference here. I'll never go back to Caerweddin, and Heureu will never come here. I had just forgotten that once I wasn't alone. You forget easily."

Morgon heard him stirring at sunrise the next day and got up. The rain had stopped; the clouds hung broken above Wind Plain. They ate a breakfast of cold hare, wine and bread, then, carrying Astrin's tools, Xel following, they walked across the plain to the ancient, ruined city.

He worked all day at Astrin's side, digging quietly in a little room whose floor was sunk beneath the earth, crumbling the earth in his hands, searching it for bits of metal, glass, pottery. Once, his hands full of the moist black earth, he caught the strong, good smell of it, and something leaped in him, longing, responding. He made a sound without knowing it. Astrin looked up.

Once Astrin said, as they walked through the gentle, constant fall of dead oak leaves, "I should take you to Caithnard. It's just a day's journey south of these woods. Perhaps someone knows you there." But Morgon only looked at him blankly, as if Caithnard lay in some strange land at the bottom of the sea, and Astrin did not mention it again.

What is it? Did you find something?

He looked up as Astrin said irritably, "Xel, be quiet. I've run out of words. Yrth was the most powerful of the wizards after the Founder, and he locked his books too well."

He did not go out again at night for a while. Morgon worked at his side during the days, digging in the city; in the long, quiet evenings he would try to piece together shards of pottery, of glass, while Astrin searched through his books. Sometimes they hunted with Xel in the wild oak forest just south of them, which stretched from the sea far west beyond the limits of Ymris.

He did not go out again at night for a while. Morgon worked at his side during the days, digging in the city; in the long, quiet evenings he would try to piece together shards of pottery, of glass, while Astrin searched through his books. Sometimes they hunted with Xel in the wild oak forest just south of them, which stretched from the sea far west beyond the limits of Ymris.

Morgon sat down on the stool. Astrin, standing across from him, grew still, a dark shape in the flickering light. Morgon felt an odd shifting in the room, as if another vision of the same room had superimposed itself over his own, and refocused slightly. Odd pieces of thought rose in his mind: the plain he had looked at, Xel's face, the skins he had hung to dry. Then there was nothing but a long darkness and a withdrawal.

He did not go out again at night for a while. Morgon worked at his side during the days, digging in the city; in the long, quiet evenings he would try to piece together shards of pottery, of glass, while Astrin searched through his books. Sometimes they hunted with Xel in the wild oak forest just south of them, which stretched from the sea far west beyond the limits of Ymris.

He dropped the earth and shook his head, feeling tears behind his throat and not knowing why.

When the wind died finally, a silence dropped like thin fingers of moonlight across Wind Plain. The tower rose out of broken stone, whole and solitary, yielding nothing to the moon's eye. Morgon added wood to the fire, made a torch of an oak branch, and went outside. He heard heavy breathing suddenly from the side of the house, an odd, dragging step. He turned and saw Astrin hunched against the wall of the house.

Morgon's hands touched his mouth. He nodded, his eyes holding Astrin's, and Astrin drew a breath. "All right. Sit down. Sit quietly. The first step is to become as the stone..."

He left Morgon that night after supper. Morgon, brushing dirt off pieces of pottery they had found, waited patiently. The wind rose hours after sunset; he grew uneasy, feeling them pull at the joints of the small house, heave at it as if to uproot it. He opened the door aimlessly once to look for Astrin; the wind tore it from his grip, sent it crashing back and fought with him, face-to-face, as he edged it closed.

Once Astrin said, as they walked through the gentle, constant fall of dead oak leaves, "I should take you to Caithnard. It's just a day's journey south of these woods. Perhaps someone knows you there." But Morgon only looked at him blankly, as if Caithnard lay in some strange land at the bottom of the sea, and Astrin did not mention it again.

He did not go out again at night for a while. Morgon worked at his side during the days, digging in the city; in the long, quiet evenings he would try to piece together shards of pottery, of glass, while Astrin searched through his books. Sometimes they hunted with Xel in the wild oak forest just south of them, which stretched from the sea far west beyond the limits of Ymris.

He did not go out again at night for a while. Morgon worked at his side during the days, digging in the city; in the long, quiet evenings he would try to piece together shards of pottery, of glass, while Astrin searched through his books. Sometimes they hunted with Xel in the wild oak forest just south of them, which stretched from the sea far west beyond the limits of Ymris.

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