- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
There had not always been hunger in Erda. Even Teera, who was only eight years old, could remember when food had been, if not plentiful, at least sufficient to keep the stomachs of Erdling children from crying out so continuously that they were unable to sleep. It was no longer so.
Lying in her warm cocoon of furs, staring into the darkness, Teera listened to the cries of her stomach, and waited for the time of awakening when the fires would be fed and there would be a small food-taking of pan-fruit and rootbread. As she waited, she thought long thoughts about many things, but first and last and most often she thought of food.
It was most helpful to think of pleasant happy things, things that might distract her mind and help the time to pass swiftly. Remembering, imaging vividly, she relived good times spent with her favorite clan-siblings, Charn and Raula. Unlike most Erdling children, Teera had no true brothers and sisters, but Raula and Charn were cavernclan and thus almost as close, since their families' nid-caves opened into the same cavern and shared living space and cooking fires with her own. There were many good memories to review of happy hours spent in games, in exploration, and in the exuberant romping and wrestling indulged in by all Erdling children—at least before the time of hunger.
Teera had loved the romping. Often, before hunger made Raula weak and listless and Charn touchy and irritable, there had been hours spent in wild rollicking chases around the cavern, tickling, teasing, hugging, pushing and pulling one another, while their parents watched laughing. Relaxing on their benches around the central fire, the adults of the cavernclan, tired from long hours of labor, nevertheless delighted in the high spirits of their offspring.
Those times, wild and warm and exciting, Teera had loved best of all, but there were other favorite things to think about in the long dark time of sleeping. She liked, too, to think of hours spent in the surface tunnels beneath the Kindar orchards, where the sun came down strong and warm through the grillwork of Root and turned skin warm and brown and tingly. And where, at any time, a great juicy pear, or nut, or even a pan-fruit, might drop down through the grillwork, into outstretched hands. Just to imagine it, to think of pan-fruit, rich and sweet and filling, flooded Teera's mouth with water, and for the dozenth time she counted ahead to her next orchard visit. Not that she would eat a whole pan-fruit if she were lucky enough to find one. To do so would be unthinkably greedy and selfish. She would, of course, turn it over to the food wardens to be fairly divided, as was all food in Erda, but first she would at least be able to hold and feel it. To hold it against her lips and breathe its rich, warm, tantalizing scent. But it would be many hours yet, a full day and a half, before she was scheduled to visit the orchards.
There had been a time, not many years before, when there had been no restrictions on time spent in the orchard passageways. In those days, before the increase in their numbers had forced the Erdlings to regulate and ration so many things, the orchard tunnels had been open to anyone at any time. It had still been so when Teera's parents, Kanna and Herd Eld, were children. Teera sighed, envying her parents their unregimented and well-nourished childhoods. It would have been wonderful to have lived in those days of freedom and plenty. Often, to pass the long empty hours, Teera imagined herself backwards through time into those days and even earlier ones.
Like every Erdling child, Teera knew the history of her people through song and story and legend. She knew the sad, dark songs of exile and the rich, warm tales of early ancestors who survived to build a subterranean society based on a closely shared experience of sorrow and hope. She could easily imagine what life had been like in Erda when the enormous caves and caverns and myriad tunnels had been shared by less than a thousand Erdlings, and before that by less than one hundred, and on back to the time, many generations ago, when the first twenty exiles had been banished, robbed of their heritage by the powerful Ol-zhaan leader known in Erda as Dolwissener.
And long before that, Teera knew, there had been no Erda, and all people were Kindar together in the beautiful forest world of Green-sky. Except, of course, even then there were the Ol-zhaan, who were not truly people at all, but wizards, men and women of unnatural Spirit-force and cruel inhuman power. And so it had been, until the legendary Dolwissener, becoming angry at a small group of his followers who dared to question his decrees, sent them down into the great empty caves and caverns beneath the forest floor. Then Dolwissener had summoned the great force of his evil powers and sent it into a native vine that grew in great abundance throughout the forest. And the vine had leaped and writhed, and its roots had crawled forth over the surface of the land in an enchanted and indestructible barrier.
The story of those first Erdlings and the evil wizard, Dolwissener, was the subject of many of the long mournful sagas, or song stories, which the Erdling workers sang as they went about their work in mine or craftcave. They sang sadly of the cold, fierce, strength of the woven Root, a cold so fierce that it shriveled metal and reduced fire to pale frozen ashes. They sang of the huge dark caverns of Erda where the light carefree nature of the imprisoned Kindar grew dark and heavy, and where anger and sorrow smouldered like the banked coals of an Erdling hearthfire. They sang, too, of what they had lost, of birds and flowers, of great green-lit spaces, and of the easy splendor of the glide from height to height. In song and story they mourned a beautiful and carefree life that only a very few among them had ever actually known and experienced. Those few, known in Erda as the Verban, were celebrated in even more mournful songs and lamentations.
Besides the Verban there were also a number of the citizens of Erda who had been born as Kindar, but who had come to Erda as infants with little or no memory of their former life. Born to Kindar families, high in the forest cities of Green-sky, these infants had fallen from a window or branchpath before they were old enough to wear a shuba and, thus, to glide. Landing on the forest floor where, although often only slightly injured, due to the gentle gravity of Greensky, they were doomed. Doomed either to death by starvation—or to rescue by the Erdlings and a life of exile below the Root. Only now and then, an Olzhaan searching party came in time and an infant was retrieved from where it lay wailing among the giant ferns of the forest floor. But more often the searchers came too late, or looked in entirely the wrong place, and the watching Erdlings were forced to try to entice the little one to an opening in the Root large enough for it to pass through—into a lifetime in the dark underworld of tunnel and cave.
But although there was a special sympathy extended to these Fallen, the greatest pity was for the Verban, who came to Erda as full grown men and women, banished from Green-sky by the wrath of the Ol-zhaan. These few, having incurred the anger or suspicion of the vindictive wizards who ruled Green-sky, had been put into a deep stupor and while in this state transported through the barrier Root by means of magic power. Thus the Verban came into exile with full remembrance of all that they had lost, and for them the yearning for light and sky, so well known to all Erdlings, was surely much more intense and painful. So the Verban were greatly pitied in Erda, and Erdling children were taught to treat them with the same solemn respect shown to a bereaved family at a Ceremony of Weeping.
Teera had known only a few Verban and only one well, a woman known as Lunaa D'ohn, who served as a teacher at the lower academy where Teera was still at the first level. Teera's father, Herd Eld, said that so many of the Verban served as teachers in Erda because the schools of the Kindar were much better than Erdling schools. Having been educated in the highly organized and efficient Gardens, the Verban were very advanced in such skills as reading and writing and memorizing. They were, therefore, very helpful in Erda schools, where a lack of books and a certain relaxed and informal approach to learning tended to result in a scarcity of graduates capable of even a rudimentary use of written language. Thus it was that Lunaa D'ohn, who had learned to form her letters on silk and grundleaf, taught Erdling children to make the same intricate shapes on slate and stone, and spent a great deal of her time answering their insatiable questions about Green-sky and the life of the Kindar. Teera, herself, although she knew that she shouldn't, asked the most questions of all.
In spite of the fact that she had been carefully admonished to respect the grief of the Verban and to refrain from asking questions that would remind her teacher of her loss, Teera's burning curiosity often overcame her scruples. And, truly, Lunaa D'ohn did not seem to mind. Speaking in her curiously crisp Kindar accent, she spoke of things that were endlessly fascinating to the cavern-born children. And Teera could have listened endlessly. Like the other children, she particularly loved to hear descriptions of Kindar food, rich and varied and abundant; but even more particularly, Teera yearned to know about gliding.
All her life Teera had desperately wanted to glide. She thought about it, dreamed about it, and quite often she pretended she could. Once, by transforming a lapan-skin cloak into makeshift wing-panels, and then jumping off a rocky ledge, she had managed to achieve a rather short glide with an abrupt and awkward landing. It had been an exhilarating and rather frightening experience, and Raula and Charn had both refused to try it.
"Play Kindar! Play Kindar!" Raula often said to her. "That's all you ever want to do. Why can't we play rock-toss or chase-the-lapan for a change? The way you're always wanting to play about gliding and being a Kindar, a person would almost think you were a Verban, or at least a Fallen."
"I am a Kindar," Teera sometimes said, "or almost."
"I don't see why anyone would want to be a Kindar," Charn said, frowning. "They hate us. They call us Pash-shan and tell lies about us. They say we're monsters—beasts with long fur and claws."
"No, they don't hate us," Teera said. "They are afraid of us. Because of the Ol-zhaan. Because the Ol-zhaan tell them lies about what we're like. It's only the Ol-zhaan that hate us. The Kindar are kind and gentle and don't hate anybody. Lunaa D'ohn says so. She says the Kindar never hurt anything, not even animals. And my own grandmother—"
"We know," Raula interrupted. "Your grandmother was a Fallen. You've told us that a million times."
"Yes," Teera said dreamily, ignoring Raula's rudeness. "My own grandmother—a Kindar!" And holding out her arms and closing her eyes, she imaged the graceful fall of silken wing-panels. She could see them plainly, just as Lunaa D'ohn had described them.
Imaging, the production of vivid mental images, drawn from memory or borrowed from others, was a favorite pastime of Erdling children. All children were capable of producing remember-images, or summoning up vivid reproductions of scenes once experienced. And many were able to borrow-image, to share in the images of their peers by means of close contact of mind and body. And once Teera thought she had experienced a much rarer form of imaging. She had been certain that just once, she had time-imaged.
She had been playing with Raula and Charn, imaging in the usual way, when she suddenly became aware of a strange feeling of space and motion, and then a confusion of sensations that seemed unrelated to anything she could see or hear. The sensations sharpened and she, herself, seemed to become a part of them. It must have lasted for some time because when at last she began to see and hear in the ordinary way, she became aware that Raula and Charn were standing close to her, their palms pressed against her face. Pensing the excitement and intensity of her experience, they had been trying to borrow-image, but apparently without success. Becoming impatient, Charn had, at last, begun to shake her.
"Stop it, Teera," he said. "Stop imaging. Let's play something."
"What was it, Teera?" Raula asked, her palms still pressed against Teera's cheeks. "What were you imaging?"
"I time-imaged," Teera had said eagerly. "I really did. I saw myself gliding. I saw that I really am going to do it someday, just like a Kindar."
Charn looked skeptical. "I'll bet you weren't really time-imaging," he said. "I'll bet you were just plain imaging. Only Gystigs believe in time-imaging anymore, and they believe that only very special people like old Vatar can do it. And even Vatar has to do all kinds of special rituals first."
"And fasting," Raula said. "My mother says that old Vatar fasts and meditates for a long time before he makes a prophecy."
"Well, I've been fasting," Teera said. "All there was left for food-taking this morning was a little piece of rootbread, and I gave most of mine to Haba." It was true, she was sure. Whether caused by simple hunger or something more mysterious, she had been feeling rather dreamy and light-headed for some time. "I did time-image," she insisted. "It was a fore-telling time trance, and it means that someday I will be a real Kindar and live high up in the forest." And spreading her arms, Teera had raced away, leaving Charn and Raula staring after her indignantly.
Remembering, Teera sighed, and snuggled deeper into the comfort of her nid. "It was real," she told herself, "and someday I am going to glide—high up through the highest branches of the grundtrees—and live in a beautiful nid-place woven of snow-white tendril and hung with beautiful draperies—and I'll eat and eat and eat."
Images of food, piles and stacks and tumbling heaps of food, were just beginning to soften into dream, when a voice intruded, and the lovely fruits and nuts and mushrooms faded away into darkness.
It was Kanna, Teera's mother. "Wake up, Teera," she was saying. "Your father is leaving soon for the Center, and he wants to speak to you before he goes."
Kanna was lighting the lamp in the alcove as she spoke, and her back was to Teera, but even without eye-touch, Teera could pense that her mother was greatly troubled. Teera pensed emotions almost without effort, as did many Erdlings, although the more advanced forms of pensing, such as receiving exact thoughts or words, did not exist in Erda. At this moment Teera knew without doubt that her mother was in distress, and that her sorrow was for Teera, herself.
"What is it?" she said slowly, not wanting to ask, because she was quite sure that she already knew. Her father wanted to talk to her about Haba. Teera knew because he had warned her only a few days before that there might come a time when Haba would have to be killed and eaten.CHAPTER 2
Haba was a graybrown lapan. Small, rounded, long-eared creatures, native to the forest floor, lapans had long been trapped by the Erdlings for their flesh and fur. Docile and easily tamed, they had, in years past, also been kept by Erdling children as pets. But since the time of hunger, pets had become an unwarranted luxury. Haba, cuddly, playful Haba, whose soft warm fur was beautifully flecked with subtle shades of earth and leaf, was one of very few tame lapans left in all Erda.
As Kanna left the chamber, Teera sprang from her nid and, stumbling in her haste, half fell to the floor beside a small cage of woven copper wire. He was still there. Startled by her sudden appearance, he gazed up at her anxiously, his soft dark eyes showing white rims of fear. Then, reassured, he sat up on his hind legs, his nose twitching, and put his soft front paws on her fingers where they clutched the wires of his cage. As soon as the door was opened, just as he had always done, he jumped out into her outstretched arms. Holding him tightly, she buried her face in the warm fur.
"I'll never, never, never," she whispered fiercely into the warm softness. "I'd starve first. I'd starve a hundred times first."
"Teera," it was her father who spoke now, and looking up, Teera saw that he was standing in the doorway of her chamber. Shutting her Spirit to his pity and regret, she let her grief turn into anger.
"No!" she shouted. "No! I won't let you. You don't love me or you wouldn't let them. You could make them change their minds if you wanted to. I know you could. You just don't want to. You don't want to because you're—" She stopped, holding her breath, letting her anger build inside her like steam in a cooking pot, and then said something terrible. "—you're a wissener," she cried. "You are. You are. You're an awful wissener!"
Excerpted from And All Between by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. Copyright © 1976 Zilpha Keatley Snyder. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted April 10, 2005
I read this book, and the others in her trilogy, and loved each and every one of them. They are beautifully written; a great way for the young future-fan of LOTR to get their feet wet.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 13, 2013
No text was provided for this review.
Posted March 13, 2013
No text was provided for this review.