Zandru's Forge, Page 1Marion Zimmer Bradley
Table of Contents
Lord of Light, what do I do now?
They went on. The tunnel fell away to the right and disappeared. Varzil caught a musky reek like that of a mountain cat. The torch, which Eiric had lifted high above his head, suddenly plummeted to the floor. An inhuman yowl fractured into a pandemonium of echoes. The tunnel exploded with frenzied action, dimly glimpsed in the light of the fallen, guttering torch. One moment, there had been a column of men, moving single file, the next, there were twice as many bodies, some of them furred in gray or ocher, all of them struggling, dodging, leaping.
A sword, short and curved, glinted. A man screamed. Adrenaline and battle heat drenched the air.
Varzil, standing behind the other men, could not get a clear view of the fight, beyond confusion. The torch, kicked to one side, would last only a few moments. He didn’t know how well the catmen could see in perfect darkness, but he couldn’t.
The fighting surged farther along the tunnel. Standing pressed against the wall, Varzil spied the torch on the ground. Without thinking, he dashed for it. His fingers curled around the base, the strips of resinous wood bound together.
In the flare of brightness, the face of a catman leaped into focus. Eyes met his, green-gold with slitted pupils flared wide but now constricting. Great curved ears tufted with black lifted, then flattened against the short neck.
Varzil sensed a tumble of emotions—hunger ... desperation... hatred, deep and wordless...
A Reader’s Guide to
A “lost ship” of Terran origin, in the pre-Empire colonizing days, lands on a planet with a dim red star, later to be called Darkover.
THE AGES OF CHAOS
1,000 years after the original landfall settlement, society has returned to the feudal level. The Darkovans, their Terran technology renounced or forgotten, have turned instead to freewheeling, out-of-control matrix technology, psi powers and terrible psi weapons. The populace lives under the domination of the Towers and a tyrannical breeding program to staff the Towers with unnaturally powerful, inbred gifts of laran.
THE HUNDRED KINGDOMS
An age of war and strife retaining many of the decimating and disastrous effects of the Ages of Chaos. The lands which are later to become the Seven Domains are divided by continuous border conflicts into a multitude of small, belligerent kingdoms, named for convenience “The Hundred Kingdoms.” The close of this era is heralded by the adoption of the Compact, instituted by Varzil the Good. A landmark and turning point in the history of Darkover, the Compact bans all distance weapons, making it a matter of honor that one who seeks to kill must himself face equal risk of death.
TWO TO CONQUER
THE HEIRS OF HAMMERFELL
THE FALL OF NESKAYA
A FLAME IN HALI
During the Ages of Chaos and the time of the Hundred Kingdoms, there were two orders of women who set themselves apart from the patriarchal nature of Darkovan feudal society: the priestesses of Avarra, and the warriors of the Sisterhood of the Sword. Eventually these two independent groups merged to form the powerful and legally chartered Order of Renunciates or Free Amazons, a guild of women bound only by oath as a sisterhood of mutual responsibility. Their primary allegiance is to each other rather than to family, clan, caste or any man save a temporary employer. Alone among Darkovan women, they are exempt from the usual legal restrictions and protections. Their reason for existence is to provide the women of Darkover an alternative to their socially restrictive lives.
THE SHATTERED CHAIN
CITY OF SORCERY
AGAINST THE TERRANS — THE FIRST AGE (Recontact)
After the Hastur Wars, the Hundred Kingdoms are consolidated into the Seven Domains, and ruled by a hereditary aristocracy of seven families, called the Comyn, allegedly descended from the legendary Hastur, Lord of Light. It is during this era that the Terran Empire, really a form of confederacy, rediscovers Darkover, which they know as the fourth planet of the Cottman star system. The fact that Darkover is a lost colony of the Empire is not easily or readily acknowledged by Darkovans and their Comyn overlords.
REDISCOVERY (with Mercedes Lackey)
THE SPELL SWORD
THE FORBIDDEN TOWER
STAR OF DANGER
WINDS OF DARKOVER
AGAINST THE TERRAINS— THE SECOND AGE (After the Comyn)
With the initial shock of recontact beginning to wear off, and the Terran spaceport a permanent establishment on the outskirts of the city of Thendara, the younger and less traditional elements of Darkovan society begin the first real exchange of knowledge with the Terrans—learning Terran science and technology and teaching Darkovan matrix technology in turn. Eventually Regis Hastur, the young Comyn lord most active in these exchanges, becomes Regent in a provisional government allied to the Terrans. Darkover is once again reunited with its founding Empire.
THE BLOODY SUN
HERITAGE OF HASTUR
THE PLANET SAVERS
THE SHADOW MATRIX
THE DARKOVER ANTHOLOGIES
These volumes of stories, edited by Marion Zimmer Bradley, strive to “fill in the blanks” of Darkovan history and elaborate on the eras, tales and characters which have captured readers’ imaginations.
THE KEEPER’S PRICE
SWORD OF CHAOS
FREE AMAZONS OF DARKOVER
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MIRROR
RED SUN OF DARKOVER
FOUR MOONS OF DARKOVER
DOMAINS OF DARKOVER
RENUNCIATES OF DARKOVER
LERONI OF DARKOVER
TOWERS OF DARKOVER
MARION ZIMMER BRADLEY’S DARKOVER
SNOWS OF DARKOVER
Copyright © 2003 by The Marion Zimmer Bradley Literary Works Trust
All Rights Reserved.
DAW Book Collectors No. 1257.
/> DAW Books are distributed by the Penguin Group (USA).
All characters in this book are fictitious.
Any resemblance to persons living or dead is coincidental.
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First paperback printing, June 2004
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HECHO EN U.S.A.
eISBN : 978-1-101-14190-8
Hold fast to your dreams!
My gratitude to those who have graced my life with their compassion, kindness, courage, and hope. You know who you are.
The observant reader may note discrepancies in some details from more contemporary tales. This is undoubtedly due to the fragmentary histories which survive to the present day. Many records were lost during the years following the Ages of Chaos and Hundred Kingdoms and others distorted by oral tradition.
Immensely generous with “her special world” of Darkover, Marion loved encouraging new writers. We were already friends when she began editing the DARKOVER and SWORD & SORCERESS anthologies. The match between my natural literary “voice” and what she was looking for was extraordinary. She loved to read what I loved to write, and she often cited “The Death of Brendan Ensolare” (FOUR MOONS of DARKOVER, DAW, 1988) as one of her favorites.
As Marion’s health declined, I was invited to work with her on one or more Darkover novels. We decided that rather than extend the story of “modern” Darkover, we would return to the Ages of Chaos. Marion envisioned a trilogy beginning with the Hastur Rebellion and Zandru’s Forge, the enduring friendship between Varzil the Good and Carolin Hastur, and extending to the fire-bombing of Hali and the signing of the Compact. While I scribbled notes as fast as I could, she would sit back, eyes alight, and begin a story with, “Now, the Hasturs tried to control the worst excesses of laran weapons, but there were always others under development ...” or “Of course, Varzil and Carolin had been brought up on tales of star-crossed lovers who perished in the destruction of Neskaya...”
Here is that tale.
Deborah J. Ross
“It is not lily days which shape our souls, but the frozen winter nights, when we find ourselves in the pit of Zandru’s Forge and discover who we truly are.”
The boy came to bid farewell to his father as the light of dying embers flickered across the fieldstone hearth. He shivered, thinking of the night outside and the horseman who would come to take him away. With a patience beyond his twelve years, he waited for his father to speak the words that would send him away, perhaps forever.
For a long moment, the man swathed in tattered blankets did not move. Only the slow, stuttering rise and fall of his chest and the glitter of his eyes indicated he still lived. The old injury to his lungs, from a time he would never speak of, had brought him to the brink of death before, and each time, he had recovered.
Father, please don’t die, the boy thought, and wondered again if this were why he was being sent away. To Arilinn, so far, to live among beasts and wizards.
“Eduin.” A whisper, like a fall of ashes. “My son.”
Tears stung the boy’s eyes, but he fought the longing to throw himself into his father’s arms, to bury his face in the wiry gray beard, to feel the iron-thin arms around him.
“I do not know if I shall ever see you again. You are my last hope.”
“I won’t fail you, Father.”
The man’s shoulders lifted and fell under the layers of blankets. “And what is it you are to do?”
“To go to Arilinn. To become a—” the child stumbled over the unfamiliar word, “—a laranzu. The most powerful wizard on all Darkover.”
“Like your father before you.”
Eduin nodded, brow furrowing. If his father was the mightiest laranzu in the world, why did they live so far from everyone? Why did they go hungry and cold in the winter, and wear patched clothing? He knew the Hasturs had something to do with it. His mother, while she still lived, had taught him never to ask. But if he did not, he might never have another chance.
As if sensing his questions, the boy’s father gestured him closer and drew him into the shelter of one arm. “You are so young to carry such a burden, yet you are all I have left. Your brothers...” His voice trailed off.
“Who are you?” his father asked in a different tone.
“Why, Eduin MacEarn, as you named me, Father.”
“Listen carefully. Your mother knew nothing of what I am about to tell you. She knew only that I had been wounded in war and that I sought peace and forgetfulness. So I took her name and began a new life here. But the past must be made right.”
Eduin shivered on the brink of an enormous mystery.
“Your true name, my son, is Eduin Deslucido and you are the sole heir to what was once a vast kingdom. Your uncle was King Damian Deslucido, a man of surpassing vision, ruler of Ambervale and Linn—” the names rolled off his tongue like incantations, “—and High Kinally and Verdanta and Hawks-flight and then Acosta. But it’s all gone now, even the memory of that great man. Destroyed by the treacherous Hasturs, may their punishment last a thousand years! In their lust for power, they slaughtered your uncle and your cousin Belisar, who would have been king after him. They rained fire from the heavens and brought two Towers down in ruins. They thought I had perished, too.”
“No, Father, not you!”
“But Zandru smiled upon me and I escaped. I came here, took your mother’s name, and waited. I thought if I regained my strength, I could go back into the world and bring the Hastur fiends to justice. But,” gesturing toward his chest with his free hand, “this body has suffered too much at their hands.”
Breath rasped in the old man’s lungs. “When your brothers came of age, I began to hope again, that I might send them out in my place. They were good boys, loving sons. They tried their best. I realized then that the Hasturs are too powerful for any ordinary assassin, no matter how just the cause.”
Eduin shivered again. He barely remembered his brothers, only that they were tall and strong. How could he possibly succeed where they had failed?
“There is a great sense of justice in all this,” the old man said with a wry grin. “That you, the child of Rumail Deslucido, will bring to destruction the children of the accursed witch, Taniquel Hastur-Acosta, and everyone else in that miserable Nest who aided her!”
He broke off into a cascade of racking coughs. The boy scurried to the table across the room and brought back a battered wooden cup of herbal infusion.
“You must never oppose the Hasturs by force of arms,” the old man said, “for that way leads only to disaster. Instead, cultivate your talent. Earn your place in the Towers. Watch and learn. Wait. The right time will come. You will meet Hasturs there, of that I am sure. Laran talent runs deep in that family, as it does in ours. Make friends with them, gain their trust, obtain entrance into their homes. But never fear their strength. You have a Gift far beyond any of theirs. When the time is right, I will show you how to use it.”
The old man paused, but the boy knew there was still more. “Do not betray yourself by striking out at lesser members of that House. Save your efforts for your true targets—the guilty and their descendants. The ghosts of Damian Deslucido, of Prince Belisar, and all those who died in their glorious cause are counting on you. I am counting on you!”
Hoofbeats sounded in
the yard outside. The boy glanced at the folded cloak laid atop the bundle beside the door. He threw his arms around his father and whispered once more—perhaps for the last time—
“I won’t fail you, Father. I won’t fail!”
The great red sun of Darkover slanted across the courtyard at the entrance to Arilinn Tower on a morning in early autumn. Polished granite interspersed with translucent blue stone formed the floor and two walls. They were shaped and pieced together so artfully that not a blade of grass or tendril of ivy rooted there. Rising sharply, the walls framed a canyon where the chill of the night lingered. At the far end, the graceful sweep of arch enclosed the rainbow-hued Veil through which only those of pure Comyn blood, the caste of Darkovan aristocracy Gifted with psychic powers, could pass. In the dawn’s oblique light, the Veil resembled a waterfall of coruscating rainbow colors.
When he’d crept into the courtyard in the darkest hour of the night, Varzil Ridenow had not dared to approach the Veil too closely. Even here, in this comer where he’d curled up to doze fitfully until dawn, he felt its power dancing along his nerves.
If there had been any other way...
The words echoed in his mind like the refrain of a ballad. He was a Ridenow and he had the gift of laran, the true donas. He had known this since he first heard the Ya-men singing their laments in the far hills under the four Midsummer moons. He’d been eight, old enough to realize there was something beyond what could be seen or touched, and old enough to know he should keep quiet about it. He’d seen the way his father, Dom Felix Ridenow, grew silent and tight-jawed on the subject. Now he was sixteen, older than most when they began their Tower training, and his father would like nothing better than to forget the whole matter and pretend his youngest son was normal.