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Young Warriors

Tamora Pierce

  Table of Contents

  Title Page








  DEVIL WIND - India Edghill














  About the Author


  Copyright Page


  Tamora Pierce

  FOR MY FIRST-EVER TRY at editing an anthology, I wanted both a co-editor who was an established professional, like my friend Josepha (Jo) Sherman, and a theme we could both be comfortable with, such as that of young warriors. It was a theme very well suited to us both: Jo has spent much of her career thinking and writing about all kinds of warriors, while I pretty much specialize in girls and boys who, when called upon to defend things that are dear to them, find it within themselves to do just that, however difficult it may be. With all of our years of study on the subject, we were still fascinated to see how our anthology’s authors viewed both warriors and the function of warriors, particularly when Jo and I chose to leave our definition of a warrior wide open. Here a warrior is someone who takes a stand resulting in conflict that she or he feels obligated to face.

  This entire examination of warriors and their choices picked up resonances from our current period of world upheaval, in which we are forced to ask hard questions about the nature of war, of those who order it, and of those who fight it. Like most books, this one picks up the flavor of our time, so that in these stories you will find the idea of the warrior and of what makes one, particularly a young warrior, thoroughly explored. The writer’s viewpoint may be primarily comic—as in the stories of Esther Friesner and Mike Resnick—or dramatic, but you will be asked to do some serious thinking by every writer. Each story reveals the writer’s peculiar relation not only with the image of the warrior, but with the reality.

  Since warriors often make sacrifices to achieve their goals, our young warriors must do the same. Brent Hartinger’s hero discovers his best solution will call for him to surrender ambitions of wealth and glory. Janis Ian’s young scholar will be forced to surrender youthful dreams and innocence alike. India Edghill’s young bride, if she is to achieve her desires, will have to give up a normal life, while Lesley McBain’s girls will face exile among strangers. Doranna Durgin’s hero will face the warrior’s test, to see what she is ultimately made of, as so many young people do when they are forced into battle.

  Some stories will make you question the traditional image of the warrior and what the warrior does. Are you able to recognize the warrior’s heart in someone who doesn’t fit the traditional bill, such as Esther Friesner’s Helen, the much-swapped most beautiful woman in classical Greece, or the Stirlings’ mermaid, or my own goatherd? Might there be a time when a warrior must not do what policy, tradition, or faith demands, when it is possible to lose by winning? You will read Mike Resnick’s story of enemies who discover they have more in common than they have with their own people. Margaret Mahy shows us a magician who fails to recognize a true warrior because that warrior doesn’t fit the standard definition.

  In this anthology are those who have trained to be warriors and have chosen to turn aside from that path, as well as those who have never trained for it, yet picked up weapons to defend those they loved from some looming threat. In Laura Anne Gilman’s story you will encounter a frightened yet polite young aborigine, a builder, who understands that if he is to succeed as a warrior, he needs to think as well as act. In Janis Ian’s tale a would-be soldier discovers the truth about the troops he aspires to join and learns to use his wits as a weapon, confronting an ancient evil alone in the woods. Mike Resnick’s warrior-to-be, clad in secondhand armor, goes out to prove his skill as a fighter, only to question his goals with a stranger.

  While the stories are dressed in the costume of historical and fantasy fiction, they hold the same hard questions we ask ourselves after every news broadcast. Is India Edghill’s native girl who takes up alien weapons to defeat an oppressor exacting vengeance for her dead, or engaging in terrorism? Is Pamela F. Service’s religious heroine, who lures a foreign commander and his guards into a rocky desert, a rebel insurgent, or a national defender? Is it a crime to hide a fleeing prisoner from the enemy who seeks to kill her, or an act of heroism? And what do you call Bruce Holland Rogers’s warrior who understands that he is afraid to die? One of the subtle questions Margaret Mahy asks is, who is the truer patriot, the immigrant or the scion of the upper classes who cares only for national security on his terms?

  Ultimately, how do we reckon the costs of battle? Is the damage worth it? Is what we give up of ourselves worth it? Which is better: to be the heartless battlefield reaper at the beginning of Holly Black’s tale, unaffected by the dangers and the death around her, or the shattered, grieving woman at its end? Bruce Holland Rogers’s hero comes to see the cost of war, but how can true peace be won?

  There are other, nonhuman powers in some of these stories, powers that give the young protagonists a nudge—or in one case, pretend to give the young warrior what he desires, only to deliver a surprising twist. Once again these powers are there to make you think through the ideas our authors have placed before you. Each story has its own outcome, but you are left to make your own conclusions about the rightness or wrongness of that outcome. This is what each of our young warriors has to do. This is what we have had to do as writers and editors, and it is what we hope you will do: only think. The world could change completely, as it does in one of these stories. Our landscape could remake itself. Who would have the mental agility, the vision, and the pure courage to turn her or his back on the past and face the battles of an unknown future, as Rosemary Edghill’s priestess does? To use the weapons of mind and hands to remake the world? How many of us could make the choice my own hero does, to see that her old life is over and she must make a new one?

  In a way, we ask all of our children to be this kind of warrior: to face the future, to fight its battles, and to know when fighting is not just unnecessary, but harmful. In this respect all of our children are these young warriors, preparing their weapons and, more importantly, their minds. We owe it to them and to ourselves to see to the sharpness of our own minds by testing them on the visions of others, to see if we aren’t ready for a new way of looking at war and those who fight it.


  Bruce Holland Rogers

  I LAY ON MY BACK, watching the little patches of blue sky that I could see through the jungle canopy. My brother Baxmal and Chulchun, an older warrior, had climbed into the trees to spy on our neighbors. Baxmal had threatened to clout me with his war club if I tried again to join them up there. “You’re too clumsy. You’ll shake a branch, and someone in the city will see you. Then we’ll all be dead.”

  “Why would they kill us?” I had said. Scaled Jaguar, ruler of the city, was our ally.

  “That just proves that you don’t think like a warrior yet,” Baxmal said. That stung. He was only a few years older than me, but those years had broadened his shoulders, and his arms were much thicker and stronger than mine. I was almost as tall as he was, but he took pleasure in treating me like a child. I wasn’t a child—I had trained with a spear and shield—but I wasn’t allowed to carry a weapon yet. I was a runner. I served the warriors with my speed and endurance.

  Baxmal had said, “A warrior knows that this world is full of treachery. He keeps his eyes and his mind open.” He nodded toward the city. “Already we have seen strange things.”

  “Like what?”

  But Baxmal wouldn’t tell me. Chulchun was even less talkative.

  So I watched the sky, as I did every day when it was our turn to come here to the mountainside and spy on the city below. My view was boring. At least my brother and his companion could see people walking from the houses to the fields, or from the palace to the temples. I watched nothing more interesting than ants or lizards on the tree trunks. Once a pair of macaws flashed through an open patch of sky.

  I spent my time imagining how it would be when I was a warrior taking captives in battle. Our family was poor, so there wouldn’t be any feathers on my shield at first. But I’d be quick on my feet. Before they knew I was coming, I’d be among the enemy, hitting them with my club. Kaak! Kaak! Spears would bounce off my shield. I wouldn’t have to use my own spear, I’d be so fast. I could rely on the blunt side of my club. Kaak! Kaak! Kaak! Just like that, I would have three captives sitting dazed at my feet before the main line of our warriors had even joined me in battle. Lord Tayomam would see how I was fighting. After the victory, he would reward me with so many quetzal feathers that my shield would be as dazzling as any highborn warrior’s. I would be invited to the palace to stand behind my bound-up captives and accept Lord Tayomam’s praise before the captives were taken off to the temple to die. When I walked through my neighborhood, I would hear girls in the shadows of their houses, talking to their sisters: “There he goes, the warrior Mactun!” “Don’t get your hopes up,” their mothers would say. “He’s going to marry into a noble family, a great fighter like him!”

  Thump! Something hit my leg.

  “I said, stand up!”

  Baxmal stood over me. He had struck my thigh with the butt of his spear. “You can finally make yourself useful, if you wake up!”

  “I’m awake!”

  “If I were the enemy, you’d have never heard me coming.”

  “I heard. I knew it was you.” I got to my feet.

  “Here is a message. You must take it straight to the palace. These words are for the generals and Lord Tayomam himself.”

  That got my attention. Before, I had always taken messages to one of the captains, and the messages were rarely anything other than that Baxmal and Chulchun were coming behind me. My brother liked to make me run out ahead of him, with a message that amounted to nothing, just because he could.

  “Are you listening?” My brother leaned in, his face close to mine. “A procession of warriors came into Scaled Jaguar’s city. They were unopposed and came first to the temple. Then to the palace. Their leaders were two men in feather robes, and they were received in both places. Food and water were brought to the warriors, who number six twenties or more. They are the people of Smoke Bat.”

  Baxmal might not have believed that I knew how to think like a warrior, but I understood. Smoke Bat was the ruler of a distant city. He was our enemy, the enemy of all our friends. Or so we had thought. Scaled Jaguar now seemed very friendly with him. And that was a lot of men. Six twenties of warriors would be more than a raiding party.

  “Repeat it back to me.”

  I did. I had it memorized already. I knew what each detail meant. My message would be an early warning of betrayal and invasion.

  “Now go!” said my brother.

  In some of the old hero stories, there are runners who fly like a bow from an arrow to deliver their messages. But I would not be able to fly like an arrow until I had made my way through the jungle on the mountainside and down to the path. Vines and branches barred my way. The mud was slick. I hurried as best I could, ducking low branches and climbing over lower ones, descending. I rehearsed my message in my head as I went. A procession of warriors. They went first to the temple.


  Their leaders, two men in feather robes, were received in the palace.


  Six twenties of warriors. Or more. Smoke Bat’s people . . .

  I parted palm fronds that grew at eye level. I stepped into a small clearing, and the peccary grunted.

  I froze. It was an old boar with a scarred snout, not five arm’s lengths away down the slope. One of his tusks was broken, but the remaining one looked like a yellow knife.

  The pig grunted again, softly. Slowly I looked around for others. I didn’t see any. That would have been bad, stumbling into a herd of them. Not that this one didn’t look formidable enough by himself.

  I stood my ground. I looked for something to throw, but there was only mud, leaves, and tangled roots. If he charged, which tree would I try to climb?

  Idiot! I had smelled him before I saw him. I hadn’t been paying attention to what was right in front of me.

  The boar hadn’t moved from where he stood. There were more scars on his head, and one on his side could have come from a spear. He was old. His legs trembled. I took a step back. “Peccary,” I said softly, “I’m young and fast. You’d have to chase me uphill. You don’t want that, do you?”

  I backed into the palm fronds, hoping that he wouldn’t rush me in those first moments of my retreat, when I couldn’t see him any longer.

  He was still grunting softly. I retreated up the slope. When I couldn’t hear him anymore, I detoured around him. At last I couldn’t smell his musk.

  That was stupid. I hadn’t been thinking like a warrior at all. I was thinking all about my message, rather than noticing what was before me. What if I had stumbled onto something more dangerous than a solitary old boar?

  Then I truly had a warrior’s thought. What if I had rushed into the arms of my enemy?

  If I were Scaled Jaguar and I were planning betrayal and a surprise attack, I would anticipate that my plans might be discovered. I would watch the roads.

  If Scaled Jaguar’s guards were hiding near the road, I’d be caught if I ran like a runner with an important message. I could follow the river instead, but Scaled Jaguar would have probably posted guards on the river, too.

  It would be better to go straight through the deep jungle and avoid the roads, but that would mean going where hardly anyone ever went. I’d have to go over Rain Mountain.

  There was no priest to bless me for such a journey, but the more I thought about it, the more necessary it seemed. The risk of encountering a witch or a spirit did not seem any worse than the risks of following the road or the river. Going through the jungle, I wouldn’t be able to run, but my route would be more direct.

  I crossed a stream, paused to drink, and thought once more about the choice I was making. If Scaled Jaguar’s people were my enemies, they would definitely try to kill or capture any messenger. Whatever spirits I encountered on Rain Mountain might or might not oppose me.

  I chose.

  The jungle of Rain Mountain was like the jungle anywhere. The same trees and lianas. The same mud. The same butterflies. But it was different, too. The same birds called to one another in the forest canopy, but the silences between their calls were longer. The wind up there in the canopy seemed different, too. It wasn’t steady. It came and went, as if the wind were roaming its territory like an animal. Or a spirit. The patches of sunlight that reached the forest floor seemed especially bright. The deepest shadows were especially dark.

  I tripped on a root and fell. I got up and hurried on.

  A voice said, “Where are you going, that you’re in such a rush to get there?”

  I stopped and looked all around me. I didn’t see anyone. My heart started to pound. I continued.

  “I said, where are you going?”

  This time there was a young man standing directly in front of me. I nearly ran right into him.

  “Oh,” I said. “I didn’t see you.”

  “Not until I wanted to be seen,” he said. His smile was relaxed, not at all threatening. He was about my brother’s age, it seemed. Not much older than me. �
�Tell me why you are hurrying.”

  He could be one of Scaled Jaguar’s warriors, I thought. But his hands were empty. He wore no armor. Then I noticed his eyes. In his young man’s face, his eyes were the eyes of an old man. They were eyes that would detect a lie.

  “I carry a message for my father,” I said. It was not a lie. Lord Tayomam was father to all his people.

  “So there is news in the world of men,” he said. Two deer, a doe and a buck, came out of the shadows and stood on either side of him, near enough that he could have reached out to touch them. “Come, stay with me awhile.” He gestured toward the door of a stone house that I hadn’t seen before. “We will drink and eat and smoke a cigar.”

  “You are a gracious host,” I said, for I gathered that this was no mere spirit. “With your permission, I must decline. My father needs me.”

  “You are a loyal son,” he said. “But if you will stay with me but a moment, you will find that I am powerful over many things, visible and invisible. I could give you a gift of armor and a fine spear.”

  “I thank you,” I said again. But I repeated, “My father needs me.”

  “Go, then,” he said.

  I hurried on. When I looked over my shoulder, the place where he had stood was empty.

  Not long after, who should I see in front of me but the same young man with old eyes. “I do like to hear news of men,” he said. “Come, you are wet with sweat, and breathing hard. In the cool of my house, you can rest and refresh yourself.” Again he gestured at the door of a house that looked just the same as the one I had left behind.

  “I must decline,” I said.

  “If you will but keep me company for a while, I will give you these.” From the shadows, he picked up a set of wood-and -leather armor, and a shield. There was a spear, too. A very fine one. I was tempted.

  At the same time, the beings that owned mountains were known for their wit and trickery, and the owner of Rain Mountain would be no different. The safety of my people depended on the message that I carried.

  “Lord,” I said, “I thank you. But I must continue, for my father needs me.”