- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
The Star Law of the planet Agaron had never been questioned - until Bardek arrived in the city of Bar-Geda. His premature birth under the dreaded Dark Star had doomed him to be banished to the marshlands, but he found himself drawn like a magnet to the glittering Temple of the White Star. There he found a girl trapped in crystal. Who was she? Could he release her? ...
The Star Law of the planet Agaron had never been questioned - until Bardek arrived in the city of Bar-Geda. His premature birth under the dreaded Dark Star had doomed him to be banished to the marshlands, but he found himself drawn like a magnet to the glittering Temple of the White Star. There he found a girl trapped in crystal. Who was she? Could he release her? And could they, together, outwit the harsh lords of Agaron?
This is the gripping story of one man's fight to free his mind from the conditioning of a restrictive and powerful system... It is the story of a love that would not accept the Law... It is a story of the last days and the first...
The land lay stained and blotched with shadow. Only the high ground still caught the full rays of the setting star, the Red Star, star of guardians and governors, and of hunters.
Firilla knew that she should go back to the farmhouse before the dread Dark Star swallowed all the light and left the fields, the hills and the valleys in icy desolation. But the zorrel crop was good, and her foster-father Bridin needed all the coin he could earn to build the new barn he needed. Firilla was with child, her infant due at the next turning of the heavens, when the dark would have left and the glow of the Blue Star would illumine everything with a soft and beautiful light.
'Just one more row,' she thought, 'and I'll go back.'
The soil was already becoming hard and cold and the tough, prickly little plants more difficult to pluck. Her hands were stained with the juice that flowed from their fluted stems, and the hem of her skirt was dusty and full of marra burrs, the seeds of the pesty little weeds that always sheltered under the red zorrel. But she sang as she worked, happy to think that her child, conceived at the highest point of the White Star's influence and due to be born under the Blue Star, would have a good chance of being a priest-seer of exceptional ability.
She was smiling when a chill shadow touched her.
She looked up startled, the smile fleeing from her eyes. A giant garrar beast was there, hovering immediately above her, its huge wingspread cutting out what was left of the light, the heat of its breath scorching her skin.
She screamed and ran, dropping her load, stumbling over the furrowed field, thezorrel thorns catching at her legs. She tripped, and in steadying herself found a sharp stone which she seized and flung with all her might at the winged beast. It must have struck home, for the creature shrieked. Firilla scrabbled frantically for another sharp stone. The garrar was wounded, and it was angry.
It swooped, and Firilla, with the strength of a mother desperate to protect her young, rammed a stone into the creature's beak as it opened to tear at her. But as she turned, feverishly trying to avoid its claws, the weight of the child within her making her clumsy and slow, the talons closed over her and the garrar lifted to the sky in triumph, Firilla gripped in its claws.
With extraordinary clarity, as though the pain and the terror had sharpened her senses, she saw the landscape slide beneath her: crop-fields in neat triangular segments spreading from the central villages like spokes of vast wheels, and outside the cultivated circles the wild, waiting-to-reclaim-the-land tangled forests of tree-garths, their branches interlaced so tightly to feed off each other that no light reached the ground and only blind creatures hunting by dark could survive. Occasional flashes hurt her eyes as the wheeling flight of the garrar caused her to catch the reflection of the dying star in the smooth mirror of the waterways. But these soon disappeared as the open land disappeared. Beyond the forest, even darker and more sinister, a ridge of jagged mountains rose. For the villagers they had always been a source of legend, a place of thunder, remote and inaccessible – and Firilla saw with horror that her captor was making straight for them.
Strangely, she could hardly feel the pain now, nor see as clearly. It was as though darkness was rapidly spreading from the huge circle of the horizon until her vision constricted to one small brilliant point, and then that, in its turn, was snuffed out.
She did not see the scarlet figure of the hunter as he drew the gut string back and aimed his shaft, nor did she sense the rush of air as the wood and metal found its mark; only the spin and spiral as the garrar fell, still tenaciously gripping her.
Swiftly the hunter sent another arrow to the garrar's heart, and then, sure that it was dying, climbed down the cliffside from where he had first seen the beast and its burden. Precariously he held to root and outcrop, finding hand and footholds where he could. When he reached them the garrar was dead, its slimy blood soaking the soil. Mercifully the girl had been flung free in the beast's last convulsive twitching and was lying some distance from the body, her fall broken by a mezmer bush, most of its white puff-balls snapped clear and filling the air with a miasma of fine seed-dust.
The young hunter, barely able to control the nausea caused by the smell of the garrar's blood, and afraid that the hallucinogenic effect of the mezmer seeds would get to him and destroy his resolve and sap his strength, dragged the girl hastily clear, ripping her clothes on branches as they went. She was bleeding badly and several bones were clearly broken, but she was alive.
He lifted her over his shoulder and staggered off, determined not to stop until he was out of sight and up-wind of both the carcass and the debilitating seeds. He knew the garrar's mate might well be near and all his skill as bowman and strength as a man might be needed.
At last he found a safe place. It was beside a stream, and he bathed the girl's wounds, marvelling at the miracle of her survival. Her hair was harvest colour, brown and red-gold, her lashes long, her nose and mouth, as he wiped the blood from them, small and fine. Through her torn clothes he could see that her body, though at the moment distended with pregnancy, was young and beautiful.
She opened her eyes, staring with amazement into his. For a moment there was no fear, then memory returned. She started, her face darkened, her grey-green eyes anxiously seeking what she dreaded over his shoulder.
'It's dead,' he told her quietly. The shadow lifted from her face as the darkness lifts from the land at the rise of the White Star.
He squatted down beside her. Was it the effect of the mezmer seeds that made him feel as though, looking deeply into her eyes, he had always been with her? Tentatively he put out a hand and brushed a strand of hair from her cheek. She turned her head as though to hide a twinge of pain. The shadows were returning.
'What can I do?' he asked. He could see that she was trying to lift her head, though the effort was almost too much for her. He put his hand at the back of her neck and gently helped her. She looked down at her body. The leather of his shirt had been slit into strips and both her legs were bound to sticks.
'Broken,' he said as she stared at them.
Copyright © 1984, 2001, Moyra Caldecott.
Posted June 8, 2012