Eagle Sage (Lon Tobyn Chronicle Series #3)by David B. Coe
The winds of war are blowing through the fast-changing land of Tobyn-Ser. This peaceful land of verdant forests is being ravaged by those who are destroying its natural beauty in the name of "progress". Jaryd, a young, powerfully gifted mage fulfills an ancient prophesy that heralds war when he binds to an eagle, becoming and Eagle-Sage. But which of the Mage-Craft
The winds of war are blowing through the fast-changing land of Tobyn-Ser. This peaceful land of verdant forests is being ravaged by those who are destroying its natural beauty in the name of "progress". Jaryd, a young, powerfully gifted mage fulfills an ancient prophesy that heralds war when he binds to an eagle, becoming and Eagle-Sage. But which of the Mage-Craft's many enemies will they fight in the coming conflict?
Across the water, unrest is growing in the Nals of Lon-Ser. Melyor, a street-smart woman with her own magic, who rose from nothing to become ruler, struggles to bring peace with Tobyn-Ser. But her efforts make her a pariah in a land with a long history of deadly coups.
It will be up to Jaryd and Melyor to avert war. But can even these two young leaders keep their lands from falling into chaos as they seek to stave off the winds of war?
Read an Excerpt
Even with the establishment of commerce between our two lands, even with seven years having passed without additional conflicts, the people of my land remain deeply distrustful of Lon-Ser. They accept the goods you send, but only because these goods ease the burdens of their daily chores. They are curious about your land and eagerly seek knowledge about your customs and society. They even acknowledge that our languages are similar and that this implies a shared ancient history. Still, they remain convinced that war with Lon-Ser is not only possible but perhaps inevitable. Many of us in the Order have tried to convince them that this is not the case, that we have little to fear from you, but even the people who live in Order towns remain skeptical. More than ten years have passed since the outlanders burned our villages and killed our people, but the scars are still fresh.
-Hawk-Mage Orris to Melyor i Lakin, Sovereign and Bearer of Bragor-Nal, Winter, God's Year 4633.
He is standing in a field he does not recognize, squinting up into a bright blue sky. Above him, two birds do battle, wheeling and stooping, talons outstretched and beaks open. They are enormous, and framed as they are against the sun and the blue, they appear almost utterly black.
For one terrifying instant he fears that the outlanders have returned. But the outlanders' birds would not fight each other, and both of these creatures are crying out stridently, something the mechanical hawks from Lon-Ser never did. So he watches, marveling at the size and grace of the winged combatants, though troubled at the sight of their slashing claws and beaks. Yet, even with his eyes riveted on the struggle taking place above him, he senses another presence in the clearing.
Tearing his gaze from the birds, he sees a woman standing on the far side of the field. She has straight brown hair and pale eyes, and there is something vaguely familiar about her. For a disorienting moment he wonders if this s his daughter, grown suddenly into a woman. But when he hears her laugh, malicious and bitter, he knows that this cannot be. He opens his mouth to ask her name, but before he can he hears a piercing wail from above.
The two birds are locked together now, their talons digging into each other's flesh and their wings beating desperately though in unison, as if even in the throes of battle they are working together to keep themselves aloft. But their efforts are in vain. Toppling one over the other, they fall to the ground, landing at his feet. They are dead, though whether from the impact or the damage they have inflicted on one another, it is impossible to tell. And seeing them at last, their carcasses bathed in the sunlight that had obscured their color and features just seconds before, he cries out in despair.
• • •
Jaryd awoke with a start and found himself immersed in darkness. He heard Alayna beside him, her breathing slow and deep, but otherwise all was still. Lying back against his pillow, he took a long, steadying breath and closed his eyes. He knew better than to try to go back to sleep. His heart was racing, and his hair was damp with sweat. He was awake for the day. He opened his eyes again and stared up toward the ceiling, although he could see nothing for the darkness.
"You up again?" Alayna asked him in a muffled, sleepy voice.
"Yes," he whispered. "Go back to sleep." She said something in reply that he couldn't make out, and a moment later her breathing slowed again.
He couldn't remember the last time he had slept through the night. It wasn't that he slept poorly. For the first several hours, he slept like the dead. But every day for weeks on end he had awakened before dawn, sometimes spontaneously and other times, as today, out of a dream. At first he had taken his sleeplessness as a sign that something was coming; that perhaps, not too long from now, he would bind again, and end this interminable wait. But slowly, as each day passed without a new familiar appearing, he began to accept that there was nothing more to it than the obvious: he was just waking up too early.
Usually during these predawn hours he tried to clear his mind using the exercises he had first learned so many years ago, when he was a Mage-Attend to his uncle Baden. If he wasn't going to sleep, he reasoned, he might as well prepare himself for his next binding. But invariably, rather than quieting his emotions and taming the confused thoughts that came to him in the darkness, the exercises only served to heighten his feelings of loss.
His hawk, Ishalla, was gone. She had been since late summer. And though he had hoped that the agony of losing his first familiar would begin to abate with time, he was forced to admit that it hadn't. He had so much in his life: a cherished wife and daughter, a brother and mother to the north whom he loved, and friends throughout the land for whom he would gladly have given his life. He had served the communities on the western shores of Tobyn-Ser for nearly a dozen years, and in return he enjoyed the respect and affection of many of those who lived there. And yet, with all this, Ishalla's absence still left a void within him that he could scarcely fathom. Even the death of his father had not affected him so.
Time and again, he had watched people he loved, Baden, Trahn, Radomil, cope with the loss of their familiars. Orris had lost two familiars in the time Jaryd had known him, both of them as a result of violence. The first, a large impressive hawk, had been killed at Theron's Grove by the great owl carried by the traitor, Sartol. And the second, a dark falcon, died just over three years ago during one of Orris's many battles with members of the League, who had decided long ago that the burly mage deserved to die for what they viewed as his betrayal of the land.
Most recently, Alayna had lost Fylimar, the great grey hawk who had looked so much like Jaryd's Ishalla, that many in the Order had said that in sending them such similar familiars, the gods had marked Jaryd and Alayna for each other. Like Ishalla, Fylimar had died a natural death, one she had earned after a life of service to the land. This, of course, had not softened the blow for Alayna, any more than it had for Jaryd. But Alayna found a new familiar quite soon after Fylimar's death.
And what a binding it had been. She had left their home early in the day, leaving Jaryd to care for Myn, their daughter, and when she returned late that afternoon, she bore on her shoulder a large, yellow-eyed owl with great ear tufts. It was the same kind of bird to which Sartol, her mentor, had been bound, and it occurred to both Jaryd and Alayna that the gods were offering her a chance at redemption. "Sartol failed the land," they seemed to be saying. "Go now and make right all that he made wrong."
The others had bound again as well. Indeed, Trahn's binding to an owl had come just a few days after the death of his hawk, prompting Orris to suggest that owls had actually been waiting in line to become Trahn's familiar. Orris, too, had found his new familiar rather quickly. He was bound now to another falcon, this one larger than his last bird and as white as snow.
None of his friends had spent more than a season un-bound. Yet here was Jaryd, still without a familiar after nearly half a year. Alayna assured him that, notwithstanding her experience or Trahn's, being unbound for long stretches was a normal part of being a mage. And Baden, who communicated with him periodically using the Ceryll-Var, reminded him during one merging that Owl-Sage Jessamyn, Myn's namesake, who had been leader of the Order when Jaryd received his cloak, had spent more than a year unbound.
Such reassurances helped, but only a little. Certainly he didn't begrudge the others their bindings. He was deeply proud of Alayna, who had become the youngest Owl-Master within memory. But he could not help but wonder if he was ever going to bind again, or if he was destined to die unbound and become yet another victim of Theron's Curse.
He had spoken with Phelan, the Wolf-Master. He had endured the terrors of Theron's Grove, and he now carried Theron's staff as his own. He had seen what it was to be unsettled, and the very idea of it filled him with a cold, penetrating dread. But after all this time without finding a new familiar, Jaryd was forced to acknowledge that this might be his fate, that the sense of foreboding that hovered at his shoulder all day, and followed him to bed at night, might carry the weight of prophecy.
After struggling with his fears privately for some time, he mentioned this possibility to Alayna, who reacted predictably.
"That's ridiculous," she told him. "We're all afraid of Theron's Curse. That's just part of being a mage. It certainly doesn't mean that you're fated to become one of the Unsettled."
He nodded silently, accepting the logic of what she said. But later that day he noticed her watching him, concern etched on her delicate features. And he knew what she was thinking. He has been unbound for such a long time…
Oddly, Jaryd found comfort not in anything Alayna or Baden said to him, but rather in a lesson he had learned long ago from his father. Jaryd had never been very close to his father, and the distance between them had only increased after Jaryd became a mage. But while Bernel had been brusque and taciturn, he also had possessed a pragmatic wisdom that had manifested itself late in his life in terse, pointed maxims that he offered without warning to anyone who cared to listen.
One of these Jaryd heard for the first time when he took Alayna and Myn to Accalia so that his mother and father could meet their granddaughter for the first time. During the journey, Myn slept poorly, often refusing to nurse, and Jaryd and Alayna worried that something might be wrong with her.
"Worrying's a fine way to waste some time," Bernel finally said, after listening to them fret for an entire afternoon, "but it sure doesn't accomplish very much, except to annoy the rest of us."
Alayna had taken offense, prompting Drina to scold her husband for the balance of the day. But lying now in his bed, watching the room he and Alayna shared brighten slowly with the first grey glimmerings of daylight, Jaryd could only smile at the memory.
He glanced over at Alayna, who was still asleep. Her long dark hair was streaked with strands of silver, and her face was leaner than it had been when they first met eleven years ago. But the passage of the years had not diminished her beauty.
I can worry about becoming one of the Unsettled, Jaryd told himself. Or I can enjoy what the gods have given me until they decide that I'm ready for my next binding.
He smiled in the silver light. It didn't strike him as a difficult choice.
He leaned over and kissed Alayna lightly on her forehead. Then he silently slipped out of bed, dressed, and wrapped his green cloak tightly around himself. Spring was approaching, but there was still a chill in the air.
He started toward the common room, intending to light a fire in the hearth, but as he walked past Myn's room he glanced inside and saw his daughter sitting beside her small window, bundled in a thick blanket, and reading a worn book of Cearbhall's fables.
"Good morning, Love," Jaryd said in a whisper.
She looked up from the book and smiled at him. With her long chestnut hair, perfect features, and dazzling smile she was the image of Alayna. All except her eyes, which were pale grey, just like Jaryd's and those of his own mother.
"Good morning, Papa!" she said.
Jaryd held a ringer to his lips and pointed back toward his bedroom. Myn covered her mouth, her eyes wide.
"What are you doing up so early?" he asked her quietly.
"I always wake up when you do," she whispered.
"How do you know when I wake up?"
She shrugged. "I don't know. I just do."
Jaryd gazed at her for several seconds, then nodded. That she showed signs of having the Sight, already, at the age of six, did not surprise them. Both he and Alayna had understood from the beginning that their child would not be ordinary. But she was attuned to both of her parents in strange and wondrous ways, some of them remarkably subtle and completely unexpected.
Jaryd stood in her doorway for another moment, watching her and grinning. She just looked back at him, saying nothing.
"I was going to make a fire and have some breakfast," he finally told her. "Are you hungry?"
She nodded, put the book on her bed, and, keeping the blanket around her shoulders as if it were an overly large cloak, followed him into the common room.
After lighting the fire, Jaryd cut two large pieces of the dark currant bread he had made the day before and covered them with sweet butter. They sat in the kitchen, and as they ate, Myn told him about the fable she had been working her way through when he found her. She was just learning to read, and Cearbhall's work was not the easiest to figure out. The fable she had been reading, however, was one of his favorites, The Fox and the Skunk, and he had read it to her many times when she was younger.
"It was smart of you to start with one you know already," he said, still speaking in a whisper.
She smiled, her mouth full of bread. "Mama picked it out."
Jaryd laughed. "Well, then it was smart of her."
He got up to cut some more bread, and as he did he heard the rustling of blankets in the other room.
"I think your mother's awake."
"She has been for a little while," Myn said. "I think she was listening to us."
Jaryd turned to look at her again.
"How did you know that, Myn-Myn?" Alayna asked, appearing in the kitchen doorway with Wyrinva, her great owl, sitting on her shoulder.
Myn looked at her mother and then at Jaryd, a shy smile on her lips. "I just know," she said, seeming embarrassed. "I can feel it when you're awake. Both of you."
Alayna glanced up at Jaryd and grinned.
"Is it bad that I can tell?"
"Not at all," Jaryd said.
"Does it mean I'm going to be a mage?"
Jaryd suppressed a laugh.
"I'd be very surprised if you weren't a mage," Alayna said, her eyes still on Jaryd. "And so would everyone else in Tobyn-Ser."
This time Jaryd couldn't help but laugh out loud. Since before she could walk, Orris and Baden had been saying that she was destined to be Owl-Sage, and though Jaryd and Alayna were determined to let Myn find her own path, neither of them doubted that she would bind someday, probably to Amarid's Hawk, just as they both had. The question was: would she join the Order or the League? Indeed, Jaryd could not even be certain that both would still exist by the time Myn was ready to choose. He shook his head. It was not a line of thought he cared to pursue just then.
"Good," Myn said. "I want to be a mage. I like going to Amarid."
"I'm glad you like going there," Alayna said, crossing to the bread and picking up the knife to cut herself a piece. "We like it, too."
"That's why I'm happy today."
Alayna turned to look at Myn, the knife poised over the loaf. "What do you mean, Myn-Myn?"
"I'm happy because we're going to Amarid soon."
"No, we're not, Love," Jaryd said gently. "It's still winter. The Gathering isn't until summer."
Myn smiled at him as if he were a child. "I know that. We're going anyway."
Alayna walked to where the girl was sitting. She squatted down and looked Myn in the eye. "What makes you think we're going to Amarid, Myn?"
"I saw us going there in a dream."
Alayna's eyes flicked to Jaryd for an instant, and then she forced a smile. "There are different kinds of dreams, Myn-Myn. Your Papa and I have explained"
"It was a real dream, Mama," Myn said earnestly. "I promise."
Jaryd took a deep breath. Myn's Sight had grown stronger over the past year. He and Alayna had learned to trust her visions almost as fully they trusted their own. He had no idea why they would need to undertake the journey to Amarid so suddenly, but neither did he truly doubt that they would. "How soon, Love?" he asked her. "When do you think we'll be going?"
Myn looked at him and wrinkled her forehead in concentration. 'Tomorrow, I think," she finally said. "Maybe the day after."
He faced Alayna again and saw his own concern mirrored in her expression. What had happened? What would lead Owl-Sage Radomil to summon the mages of the Order to Amarid for a Gathering? Had something happened to Radomil himself? Had he fallen ill or died? Jaryd looked at his staff, which was leaning against the wall near the door of their small home. The sapphire stone mounted atop the ancient charred wood still glowed steadily. Neither Radomil nor First of the Sage Mered had awakened the Summoning Stone yet. If one of them had, Jaryd's stone, as well as that of every other mage in Tobyn-Ser, would have been flashing by now.
"We've still got some time," Alayna said, as if reading his thoughts. "We should probably let Narelle know."
Jaryd nodded. Narelle was the leader of the town council in Lastri, the nearest of the villages located along the shores of South Shelter. Or rather, the nearest of those villages that remained loyal to the Order rather than the League. Narelle needed to know that Jaryd and Alayna would be departing for Amarid, leaving Lastri and the other villages without their services for some time.
"I'll go and tell her," Jaryd said. "And I'll also get us some food. You and Myn can start closing up the house."
Alayna sighed. "All right," she said. "This is the last thing I was expecting."
"I know. Me too."
"I'm sorry," Myn said, her voice quavering slightly.
Jaryd and Alayna both looked at her.
"For what, Love?" Jaryd asked.
Myn shrugged, refusing to look up. A single tear fell off her cheek and darkened the table.
Alayna placed a hand on her shoulder and bent to kiss her forehead. "It's not your fault that we have to go, Myn. Just because you have a vision, that doesn't mean you make it happen. We've told you that before. Remember?"
"Yes," the girl said softly, wiping another tear from her face.
"So we don't blame you. In fact, it's better that we know now, so we can get ready and warn the people in town."
Myn looked up. "Really?"
Alayna nodded and cupped Myn's cheek in her hand. "Really. Now go get dressed and wash up, and then we'll get to work."
"All right, Mama," Myn said. She stood, pulling her blanket around her shoulders once more, then returned to her bedroom.
"You don't have any doubts, do you?" Alayna asked Jaryd, staring after their daughter.
Jaryd shook his head. "No. A year ago I might have, but every vision she's had since last spring has been true. I don't see any reason to start doubting her now."
Alayna passed a hand through her hair. "Neither do I."
He let out a sigh. "I guess I'll go put a saddle on one of the horses."
"You can't," she said, grimacing. "I promised Myn I'd start teaching her to ride today."
"This isn't the best time, Alayna."
"I know, but I've been promising her since midwinter. And now that we're going to Amarid, who knows when I'll have another chance?"
"She'll be riding every day for the next fortnight," Jaryd said.
"But with one of us sitting behind her. You know that's not the same."
He stared at her for several moments, shaking his head. The sunlight shining through a small window behind him made her eyes sparkle. Brown and green they were, like a forest in midsummer.
"Do you know how beautiful you are?" he said, smiling and kissing her lightly on the lips.
She gave a wry grin. "Does that mean you'll walk to the village?"
"What choice do I have?" he answered, laughing.
"Then you'd better get going. We have a lot to do today."
She pushed him toward the door, but not before letting him kiss her again.
He put on his leather shoes, which had been sitting on the floor beside the door, and stepped out into the cold morning air. A light westerly wind stirred his cloak and hair, carrying the familiar scents of brine and seaweed. A few featherlike clouds floated overhead, but otherwise the sky was nearly as blue as his ceryll. In winters past, on a morning like this one, he might have taken Ishalla to the water's edge and watched her fly or hunt.
He shook his head. "You're not doing yourself any good," he said aloud. He let out a long breath and started toward town.
The walk to Lastri usually took him nearly an hour. Once it had been a pleasant journey along a narrow trail that wound among towering forests of oaks, maples, ashes, and elms. Occasionally, the path angled toward the coast and the woods thinned, allowing a traveler to catch glimpses of Arick's Sea pounding endlessly at the rocky shoreline below.
Over the past few years, however, the trail had changed, as had everything else in Tobyn-Ser. Vast stretches of the magnificent forest had been cut down so that the wood could be shipped to Lon-Ser, or in some cases, Abborij. Where the trees had been there was now little more than bare patches of exposed rock and dirt. Only the mangled roots and stumps left behind by the woodsmen gave any indication of what once had stood there. The trail had been widened and straightened into a broad, rutted road, so that the timber could be hauled to town in large carts drawn by teams of horses. And Lastri itself had become heavily de-pendent upon the wood trade. From all that Jaryd and Alayna had heard, Lastri was one of the largest wood ports in Tobyn-Ser. Many of its people had grown wealthy as a result, and it was hard to find a single family in the town that did not prosper in some way from the cutting of the forests. So whenever he visited the town, Jaryd tried to mask his distaste for what had been done to the landscape.
Not all the trees were gone. There were still sections of the journey that remained just as Jaryd remembered them, except for the road itself, which was wide and relatively straight all the way to town. But the areas of forest seemed smaller each time Jaryd saw them, and recently he had realized that there were now more stumps to be seen along the way than there were trees.
Indeed, he had last made the journey only a fortnight ago, and yet on this day, as he walked to Lastri wondering what crisis would compel them to Amarid, Jaryd could see that there had been even more cutting done during the interval. It was frightening how quickly the trees were disappearing.
His one consolation was that there were no woodsmen at work as he made his way to town. Not that they had ever treated Jaryd or Alayna with anything but courtesy and respect. In fact, several of them now greeted Myn by name when she made the journey with one of her parents. But they seemed to know how Jaryd and Alayna felt about the work they did, and they regarded the mages with suspicion.
More than that, the woodsmen had been hired by the Keepers of Arick's Temple, who now owned much of the land on either side of the path and who had profited more than any other group from Tobyn-Ser's recent forays into transisthmus commerce. Everyone in Tobyn-Ser was aware of the hostility that had existed since the time of Amarid between the Keepers and the Order. The emergence of the League and, more recently, of a growing number of so-called free mages, had done nothing to lessen this animosity, and it seemed to Jaryd that the Temples' commercial ventures had actually deepened it. Even if the woodsmen understood nothing of the issues that had divided the Children of Amarid and the Children of the Gods for a thousand years, they must have sensed that by working for the Temples they had made themselves parties to the feud.
Or perhaps Jaryd was merely imagining it all. Perhaps the woodsmen were just uncomfortable around the mages because, like so many of Tobyn-Ser's people, they were awed and a bit frightened by the power he and Alayna wielded. Or perhaps they supported the League rather than the Order. In a way it didn't matter. Whatever the reason, Jaryd was just as happy to find himself alone on the road. It gave him time to think.
The Summoning Stone hadn't been used in some time, not since the death of Sonel's owl necessitated the election of a new Owl-Sage nearly four years ago. Before then, it hadn't been used since just before the sundering of the Order, when Owl-Master Erland demanded that Sonel convene a Gathering so that he could accuse Orris, Baden, and others of treason.
Even before Erland and his followers formed the League, use of the Summoning Stone was limited to dire emergencies. But with the Mage-Craft divided, use of the stone all but ceased. For in altering the giant crystal and tuning it to the cerylls of every mage in the land, Amarid and Theron had not allowed for the possibility that the Order might someday be challenged by a rival. While the mages of Tobyn-Ser were divided by personal resentments and profound differences over matters of conduct, they were still united by the stone. And each time the great ceryll was used to call together what remained of the Order, every free mage and every member of the League saw his or her ceryll flash as well.
Which meant that whatever it was that would cause Radomil or Mered to convene the coming Gathering would have to be grave indeed.
Driven by the thought, Jaryd glanced at his stone again. Nothing yet. But turning his gaze back to the path, he spotted something out of the corner of his eye that made him freeze in the middle of his stride.
He was in an open area, where the trees had long since been cut and hauled off to Lastri. One of the few remaining forested sections loomed before him. And just beside the path, only a few feet in front of this next stand of trees, an enormous dark bird sat on a scarred stump. Its feathers were rich brown, save for those on the back of its neck, which shone in the bright sunlight as if they were made of gold. Its dark eyes regarded Jaryd with an unnatural intelligence that made the mage shiver. It almost seemed to him that the bird had been waiting for him, that it had known he would be coming.
He knew, of course, what it meant, what the gods and this bird expected of him. And he shook his head.
More than anything in the world he wanted to be bound again. But even this longing had its limits. He didn't want a familiar this badly.
"I don't want this," he said, his voice sounding small.
The great creature stared at him impassively.
Jaryd turned away. He wanted to run, to turn his back on this gift from the gods, if such a binding could even be considered a gift. What would happen if I were to refuse a binding? he wondered briefly. Would the gods ever favor me with a familiar again? He shook his head. Probably not. Because in this case, refusing the binding meant far more than defying the gods. It meant breaking his oath to serve Tobyn-Ser and its people.
The gods had sent him an eagle. And though his blood ran cold at what that meant, Jaryd knew that he had no choice but to accept this binding and all that came with it.
He took a long, steadying breath, readying himself for the onslaught of images and emotions he knew would come as soon as he met the eagle's gaze again.
I've been through this before, he told himself, remembering his binding to Ishalla. I know that I can do it.
He took another breath, then faced the great bird once more.
Their eyes met. Jaryd had time to remark to himself that this was the most magnificent bird he had ever seen. And then it hit him.
For any ordinary binding, his experience with his first familiar might have been ample preparation. But this was an eagle, and, Jaryd realized in that final instant of clarity, there would be nothing ordinary about their time together. It was his last rational thought for some time.
Visions and memories suddenly coursed through him like the floodwaters of the Dhaalismin: hunting along the crest of the Seaside Range; flipping over in mid-flight to ward off the attack of two smaller hawks; swooping and diving with another, smaller eagle in what he recognized instinctively as a courtship flight; pouncing on a rabbit, digging his talons into its soft fur and flesh, killing it with a quick slash of his razor beak.
He reached for the eagle, feeling her presence in his mind and remembering that he had done this with Ishalla. But the bird resisted him, as if she were not ready to accept him yet. There is more, she seemed to be telling him. It is not yet time.
The images continued to cascade through him so swiftly that he barely had time to make sense of them. The next one seemed to begin before the last was done. He saw the eagle's parents, its siblings, all the creatures it had ever killed, ail the rivals it had ever fought off. He saw its one mate, and he saw that bird die with a hunter's arrow in its breast. He saw the eagle's entire life pass before him in a spiraling procession of memory, thought, and emotion. Yet, dizzying and bewildering as this was, he had expected it. The pattern was familiar in a way. He had shared his consciousness with a bird before. And so he resisted the overwhelming urge to fight against this tide of thought. Instead he allowed the eagle's consciousness to carry him where it might.
But despite his experience, despite his attempts to heed the lessons he had learned from his first binding, what came next shocked him, humbled him, frightened him. Abruptly, he wasn't an eagle anymore. Or rather, he wasn't this eagle anymore.
He was circling above a tall, powerfully built mage to whom he was bound. And as he watched, two armies approached each other under a hazy sky. One army flew the flag of ancient Abborij. The other was led by a phalanx of mages. In the distance, beyond the warriors, he could see the waters of the Abborij Strait, and he knew that he was on Tobyn-Ser's Northern Plain, watching the first war with Abborij. The armies came together amid shouts of death and fear, and almost immediately the Abboriji army fell back, their weapons shattered by magic.
An instant later, he was bound to a different mage, this one a woman, tall and hale like the man who came before her. Her silver hair flew in a stiff, cold wind, and the cerylls of her fellow mages glittered in the bright winter sun. Again an army approached across the plain, a larger force this time. It marched under a flag different from the first, but still recognizable as a banner of Abborij. And once more the soldiers of Abborij were no match for the mages of Tobyn-Ser.
A third mage, this one also a woman. She was young and small of stature, though no less fierce than her predecessors in her defense of the land. The army approaching her through a fine grey mist was larger than the first two combined, and the magic of the mages she commanded took far longer to prevail. But prevail it did. He saw the people of Tobyn-Ser rejoicing in their victory even as they wept for the dead. He saw Glenyse hoisted onto the shoulders of an enormous, bearded man who wielded an ax and bore welts and bloody gashes on his forehead and arms. This man walked with the mages and held a ceryll, but he carried no familiar on his shoulder. And in the remote corner of his mind that was still his own, Jaryd recognized this man as Phelan, the Wolf-Master, who had lost Kalba, his one familiar, just before the third Abboriji invasion, and who had vowed never to bind again.
Other images washed over him. Lifetime after lifetime after lifetime. It almost seemed that he was binding not to one bird, but to many, each carrying its own memories and those of the mage it had loved. He saw scenes from the lives of the three Eagle-Sages who had come before flashing through his mind so swiftly that he had no time to interpret them, no time even to divine from whose life they had come. He kept waiting for a pattern to emerge, for the flood of images to begin again, as it had during his binding to Ishalla. But there was no ending here; there was nothing to grasp. Yes, he had been through a binding before. But nothing could have prepared him for this. He was being carried away by the deluge. He was drowning.
And in mat moment, when at last he saw a familiar image and sensed that a pattern had finally emerged, that there was an ending after all, he was very nearly too exhausted to assert his own consciousness again.
Jaryd felt the eagle touch his mind once more, nudging him as if to awaken him from slumber. This time, when Jaryd opened himself to her, offering her his memories and emotions as she had done for him, she accepted. Once more, he saw her flying, hunting, fighting, but this time his own life was interwoven with hers. The images of the Abboriji wars did not return, and seeing the images of her life again, Jaryd understood why. They had not truly been her memories to give. This was not the same eagle who had bound to Fordel, Decla, and Glenyse, the three Eagle-Sages. But somehow, this eaglehis eagle, who now named herself to him as Rithlarcarried those memories within her. It was impossible. The wars had taken place hundreds of years ago. But Jaryd knew what he had seen.
Rithlar seemed to sense his doubts, for a moment later he saw the armies again, and the sequence of events repeated itself in his mind, exactly as it had a short time before. Then he understood.
"This is how it was given to you," he said aloud.
His voice appeared to break the spell woven by their binding. Suddenly he was standing in the clearing again. It was over. He felt the eagle's presence in his mind, and he knew that they were bound to each other.
Jaryd continued to gaze at the bird, who still had not moved from her perch beside the road. He felt awkward in a way. The instant he bound to Ishalla, he loved her as he had no other person or creature. Even his love for Alayna, powerful as it was, did not exceed his feelings for his first hawk.
But he knew already that he and Rithlar would have a different kind of relationship. She was an eagle, and because she had chosen him, he would be the fourth Eagle-Sage in the history of the land. The gods had brought them together for one reason: Tobyn-Ser was destined for war. Soon. Theirs was not to be a binding based upon love or even friendship, although in time it might come to be characterized by those things. Theirs was a bond born of necessity and forged by their devotion to the land. He wondered briefly, if it might have been otherwise had he not at first resisted the binding, but he sensed no resentment in the bird's thoughts. Only a reserved pride and the same preternatural intelligence he had seen in her eyes when he first encountered her. Had it been this way for Glenyse and the others?
Thinking this, he began to tremble. I am an Eagle-Sage, he told himself. I'm going to lead Tobyn-Ser into a war. But against whom? There had been no new conflicts with the outlanders since Orris returned from Lon-Ser over six years ago. Certainly Abborij posed no threatTobyn-Ser had been at peace with its northern neighbor for more than four centuries.
"At least now I know why we have to go to Amarid," he said grimly.
That of all things caused the great bird to stir. She opened her wings and let out a soft cry. Jaryd walked to where she was sitting and held out his arm for her. Immediately she hopped to it, and Jaryd gasped with pain. Not only were her talons considerably larger than Ishalla's and just as sharp, she also weighed far more than his first familiar. Her claws stabbed through the skin of his forearms like daggers. He quickly conveyed to her that she should move to his shoulder, where his cloak was reinforced with leather. Even this did not help much, however. The padding on his shoulder was as effective as parchment against those talons.
"We're going to have to do something about that," Jaryd said, wincing as he resumed his journey to Lastri. After only a few steps though, Jaryd realized that he could not carry Rithlar the way he had Ishalla. The eagle was simply too large and heavy. Every step he took caused her to grip his shoulder, and he could feel his shirt and cloak becoming soaked with blood.
I'm sorry, he sent, but you'll have fly.
She sent an image of herself gliding above him as he walked to show that she understood, and Jaryd braced himself, knowing that when she leaped off his shoulder, her claws would gouge him again. Instead, however, she hopped down to the ground and then took off with great, slow, sweeping wing beats. And as Jaryd started to walk again, entering one of the few remaining wooded sections of the road, Rithlar soared overhead, just above the tops of the bare trees.
In flight she appeared even more enormous than she did when she was sitting. The combined length of her wings easily exceeded Jaryd's height, and he was by no means a small man. When the mage stepped back into an open area, she swooped down low and circled just above him, and he marveled that so great a creature could move with such grace.
It was not the binding he had expected or hoped for. In truth the implications of the eagle's appearance terrified him. But Jaryd could not help but smile as he watched her fly. It had been so long since he had shared his thoughts with a familiar, or felt the enhanced awareness of his surroundings that came with being bound. For the first time in longer than he could remember, he felt like a mage again.
Copyright © 2000 David B. Coe
Meet the Author
David B. Coe, winner of the William L. Crawford Award for Best First Fantasy or Fantasy Series for the LonTobyn Chronicle, is the author of Rules of Ascension, the first Winds of the Forelands novel. He lives in Sewanee, Tennessee with his wife and daughters.
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