The Hammer of Darknessby L. E. Modesitt Jr.
Interstellar adventure in a galaxy of gods and spaceships! Are the gods really gods? Or men and women with larger-than-life powers playing god over a planet that wasn't really a planet? Whatever the answer, Martin Martel must battle the gods for his life, love, and the fate of the galaxy.
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The Hammer of Darkness
By L.E. Modesitt Jr.
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 1985 L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
All rights reserved.
In toward Galactic Center, the myth implies, there is a star so hot it is a mere dot in the sky of that planet where the God of Darkness and the Lady of Light live. Just as this sun has only one planet, so is there only one God, the God of Darkness.
In fact, stars that hot, FO or hotter, don't have planets. And if they did, the star wouldn't last long enough to allow planetary development of a terrestrial environment.
Even if such a god existed and if he could build a planet from scratch, why would he be humanoid or interested in humanity?
— Lectures on Pan-Humanoid Myths
Prester Smythe Kinsel
University of New
The young woman sits on the edge of the ornate bed where she is being watched.
"Everyone watches the Duke's daughter," she says in a low voice. Even the Duke's security force. More since the accident, she suspects. She cannot remember much of what she knows she should know.
The Duchess was solicitous, and her father the Duke growled. Yet he cares.
She frowns and leans forward, letting her long black hair flood over the shoulders of her pale blue travel suit.
Why should her memories be so cloudy? She can remember everything since she returned so clearly, but the people around her, the rooms, they all have a clarity that the past does not have.
Yet she belongs. The well-thumbed holobook in her father's study shows images of her growing up, standing at her father's knee, holding his hand.
Perhaps her studies at the Institute will help. Perhaps time will remove the awkwardness of relearning her past. Perhaps ...
"Back into the fishbulb," she says out loud, crossing the room that would have held five of the single sleeping room she had occupied at Lady Persis'.
Somehow, the long row of garments hanging in the wardrobing room does not surprise her, although she has not remembered them. She walks through the wardrobe to the tiles and direct light of the bath.
Neither does she remember its luxury.
Half shrugging, she catches sight of herself in one of the full-length mirrors.
"Disheveled," she observes, looking at her hair. Something is right about it, for the first time in a long while, and something is not, nagging feelings she cannot place.
She squints until her eyes close. She opens them again. Her reflection awaits her.CHAPTER 3
"I don't understand, Martin. You're not registered ..."
Not registered ... a Query on your name ... blocked even from the Duke's code ...
Kryn's words are clipped, and even without the underlying concern he can sense, Martin knows of her unrest from the shortened speech.
The courtyard, the one where they always meet, is chill, as chill as the weather controls ever allow on the Planet of the Prince Regent of the Empire of Man. The little winds shuffle the small needles from the miniature cone-pines back and forth along the interior walls. No shadows, for the overcast is heavy enough to block the winter sun, and the climatizers have not succeeded in dispersing the clouds.
Kryn shivers, and the blue-clad guard involuntarily steps forward out of the corner, then back into the columns.
Always the guards, Martin reflects, always the trappings of power.
His eyes flicker over the communit bracelet that links her into the Regency data system, the blue leather overtunic that costs more than his total tuition, the sunpearls on her ring fingers.
He clears his throat.
"It's not that simple, Kryn." Not simple at all. He cannot register for further grad study, not with the Query stamped against his name.
No reason is given, and the junior registrar with whom he'd managed to get a face-to-face appointment had not known anything ... nothing except a few vague thought fragments unvoiced to Martin.
... has to be dangerous ... deadly ... not even Darin will meet him ... why me? ... Darin's ex-Marine ... afraid of a student ... why me?
"The real reason?" Martin had pressed.
"Imperial Security, Citizen Martel. That is all the University is told." Her smooth dark brow and open thoughts had revealed nothing else, even when he had probed deeply. And no one wanted to talk to him.
That had been it. Someone, somehow, had fed the results of the damned paracomm tests to Imperial Security, and he was out of grad school and on his way to the mines or the Marines ... the only employment open to someone who was Queried.
"Why not?" snaps Kryn, her cold words bringing him back from his thoughts into the chill of the Commannex courtyard.
"Because I can't get a job, any job, on Karnak. With no credits, I can't freelance. If I could, no one could hire my services. So it's either off Karnak, or the Marines and off Karnak shortly. That's the choice."
"There has to be another one." Her voice is matter-of-fact. So are her feelings, Martin can tell, and she is as calm as her mother, the Iron Duchess, in telling a subject he is mistaken. Kryn will be Duchess, or more, Martin knows.
"If you could be so kind, Lady Kryn Kirsten, as to suggest another alternative for your obedient subject, Martin Martel, I would be most deeply obliged. Particularly since my student status will be terminated rather shortly."
"Tomorrow ... today ... perhaps three days. The term is over, and the minimum guarantees of the Regency toward a Free Scholar have been met."
He looks down at the flat white of the marble pavement, then lifts his eyes to watch the dust devil in the far corner scatter a small heap of cone needles.
The sunlight floods abruptly into the courtyard.
"The climatizers succeed again," the ex-Scholar remarks, "bringing light into darkness, except for a few of us."
He realizes that she wants to stamp her foot but refrains because the action would be unladylike.
He chuckles, and the low sound eddies through the columns. The guard in the shadows, now that there are shadows with the full winter sunlight beaming down, edges forward.
"What will you do?" Her question comes almost as a dismissal, an acceptance.
"I don't look forward to spending five years in the ore mines ... and I don't have the heroic build of the successful Imperial Marine. So I'm somewhat limited."
"You aren't answering the question."
"I know. You don't want to hear the answer."
"You could leave the Empire ..."
"I could. If I had the creds for passage. But no one can hire me to pay my way, except an outsider, and outsiders aren't allowed to downport here. And I don't have passage to the orbitport."
"I could help."
"I've already made arrangements."
"The Brotherhood is looking for comm specialists, so ..."
"But" — her voice sharpens — "that's treason."
"Not unless the Regent changes the law."
He ought to. Brotherhood is nothing but trouble.
"Perhaps he will," Martin supplies the follow-on to her thought. "But they do pay, and will clear me from Imperial space, if necessary."
"Because, Lady Kryn Kirsten," Martin answers the question she meant, "I came off the dole, and I will not spend five years at slave labor in the hope that a black mark will be lifted from my name."
"Maybe Da —, the Duke, I mean, could take care of that."
Martin refrains from trying to read her thoughts.
"I doubt that even the Duke could remove the Prince Regent's Query. And why would he? For a penniless scholar who's attracted to the very daughter he's planning to marry into the Royal Family?"
"Martin Martel! That's totally uncalled for." How did he know? Never said ... paracomm?
"Realistic," he says in a clipped tone, trying to allay her suspicions. "Duke of Kirsten holds the most powerful House on Karnak next to the Regent. What else?"
So obvious, so obvious even to poor sweet Martin.
He cannot keep the wince from his face.
"Martin ... what, how do you know?" He reads thoughts, I know he does. How long? What does he really know?
"Nothing that the gossip tabs haven't already spread. Nothing every student in the Commannex hasn't speculated."
Sweat, dampness, runs down Martin's back, with the perception that the guard is drawing his stunner, edging the setting beyond the stun range toward lethal.
Martin concentrates on the energy flows in the stunner, puzzling how to divert them, to distract Kryn from her iron-cold purpose, to just leave without raising any more fear and suspicion.
Aware of his sleeve wiping perspiration off his forehead, strange itself in the courtyard chill, he stammers.
"Nothing ... nothing more to be said, Lady Kryn, time to depart ... fulfill my contract to the Brotherhood ... and then if you hear of a newsie named Martel on a far planet ... think about corel."
No ... no! Treason? Corel. Romance and flowers to the last. But a Duchess is as a Duchess does.
Her hands touch the stud on her wide belt, the stud that screams "emergency" to the guard. The tight-faced man in blue aims the stunner.
Zinnnng! The strum of the weapon fills the courtyard.
"I wish you hadn't, Kryn. Wish you hadn't," mumbles Martin, knowing that he has bent the focus of the beam around him, knowing that such is impossible.
The guard knows it also, looks stupidly down at the stunner, then raises it again, only to find that the blackclad student has disappeared, and that tears stream down the cheeks of the Lady Kryn Kirsten.
Along the courtyard wall, behind the black marble bench, lit by the slanting ray of the afternoon sun, the dust devil restacks the pile of cone needles.CHAPTER 4
No shadows has the noon; no darkness has the night,
And no man wears a shade in that eternal light.
The night has not a star; the sky has not a sun,
Nor is there dusk nor dawn to which a man can run.
No breakers crash at night, nor fall on sand unlit.
No lightning flares the dark where coming years might fit.
No dawn will break like thunder; no eve will crash like surf.
No shadows seep from tombs to mark its golden turf.
And if that's so, then why does darkness stalk the sky,
And only one god cast a shade to those who die,
And only one god cast a shade for those who die?
The overhead is pale yellow. The color is the first thing he notices. That, and that he is on his back, stretched out on a railed bed of some sort.
The second observation is that he wears a loose yellow robe, nothing more, that is hitched up close to his knees.
There is no pillow, no sheeting, just a yielding surface on which he lies. He lifts his head, which aches with the pain he associates with stunners. Kryn's guard had missed, but not Boreas.
"You'd think you'd learn, Martin," he mutters.
You'd think you'd learn, Martel.
He scans the room. No one else is present. The portal is shut. A single red light on the panel next to the portal is lit. The unlit light, he presumes, is green.
The railing lowers with the touch of a lever, and Martin swings his legs over the edge and eases himself into a sitting position. Rubbing his forehead with his left hand, he continues the survey of his quarters.
"Wonder if I'm being monitored."
Wonder if I'm being monitored.
Besides the bed, there are two chairs, a low table rising out of the flooring between them, a higher bedside table, an opaqued window screen, and a closet. The sliding doors of the wardrobe/closet are half open, and Martin can see that his few belongings have been laid out on the shelves or hung up. The travelbag is folded flat on the top shelf.
He shakes his head, winces at the additional pain the movement generates, and studies the room silently.
No speakers, no inconsistencies in the walls that could conceal something.
As he lowers himself to the floor the room wavers in front of his eyes.
"Not again!" He recalls the paratest that led to his confinement, that test which seems so distant, even though just days past.
Not again! The echo pounds into his skull.
Slow step by slow step, he covers the meter or so from his bed to the wardrobe, putting each foot down carefully, unsure of his perceptions and his footing. By the time he puts out a hand to lean on the wall edge of the wardrobe, he is dripping sweat.
The robe, which had felt almost silky when he awoke, grits against his skin like sandpaper. Martin fingers the cuff, but the material still feels smooth to his fingertips.
He shivers again, but ignores the chill to concentrate on the personal belongings laid out on the chest-level recessed wardrobe shelf.
Two items leap to his eye. The first is the solidio cube of Kryn, which glows with a new inner light.
The second is the Regent's Scholar belt clasp. Before, it had been a dull maroon. Now it glowers at him with a crimson malevolence.
One hand against the wall, still propping himself up, the former scholar and present fugitive/prisoner checks the garments. The robes provided by the Brotherhood have all been replaced with simple pale yellow tunics and trousers, three sets, and two new pairs of soft brown formboots lie on the floor.
After wiping his forehead with the back of his cuff, still looking silky and feeling gritty, he checks through the underclothes and folded personal items.
Most are missing ... anything that might have linked him to the Brotherhood or to his time as a Regent's Scholar.
"But why leave the clasp?"
But why leave the clasp?
... leave the clasp ...
... leave the clasp ...
The room twists upside down, then right-side up, then upside down.
Martin closes his eyes. The brochure he'd been studying before Boreas had stunned him had mentioned disorientation. But this wasn't disorientation. It verges on torture.
He opens his right eye. The room is right-side up. He opens his left eye, and the room jumps to the left and stays in the same place, all at once, so that Martin sees doubled images.
He concentrates on fixing the images into one, just that, keeping his visions of things firmly in place. The images merge.
The sweat streams from his forehead again.
Suddenly the floor looms in front of his face, and pain like fire screams from his nose. And darkness ...
The overhead is still pale yellow, and his head still aches. So do his nose and a spot on his forearm.
Again he is flat on his back on that same pallet, in the same hospital, if that is what it is.
"Flame!" he mutters without moving his head.
He closes his eyes and tries to think.
He must be on Aurore. So why is it so painful? Aurore is a vacation spot, a wonderful place to visit, where sensuality has its special delights and where some people gain extra powers. So why is one Martin Martel having such difficulty?
Too aware! The idea flashes into his thoughts. For whatever reason, his body is more sensitive to the environment.
Eyes still closed, he begins to let his thoughts, his perceptions, check out his body, starting with his toes, trying somehow to dampen the ultrasensitivity, to dull that edge, to convince himself that such perceptions should be voluntary, not involuntary.
He can feel the sweat again pour down his forehead, scented with fear, fear that he will not be able to regain control of his own body.
Others do it, he thinks, suppressing the urge to talk aloud.
The headache and the soreness in his nose and neck retreat. Martin opens his eyes. The room is a shade darker now, and yet the light levels from the walls have not changed, he realizes.
He lifts his head slowly, turns on his side, and fingers the rail release. After a time, he again sits up, legs dangling over the edge of the bed, heels touching the cold metal of the lowered rail.
He wills his vision to lighten the room. Nothing happens.
He relaxes the iron control on his perceptions.
The room wavers; his back itches; the soreness across the bridge of his nose throbs; the light intensifies.
Martin clamps down on his control.
Not a matter of will, but of control. Of perception.
He experiments, trying to isolate one sense after another, until the room begins to waver. He lies down, lets himself drift into a sweating sleep.
He dreams. Knows he dreams.
He is on a narrow path, except there are no edges, no walls, and the path arcs through golden skies. In front of him is Kryn. Her golden eyes are cold, and her mouth is tight-lipped.
Martin does not care, and yet he does. He takes a step toward Kryn, and another one. With each step he takes, she is farther away, though she has not moved.
Soon he is running toward her, and she dwindles into the distance. ...
He sleeps and, presently, dreams. Again.
Martin watches a mountain spire, covered with ice, which thrusts up from a floor of fleece-white clouds. A part of his mind insists that he watches a meteorological impossibility, but he watches.
In the thin air above the peak, from nowhere appears a black cloud, modeled after the Minotaur. Across from the bull-cloud stands a god, male, heroic, clad in sandals and a short tunic. His crown is made of sunbeams, and it hurts Martin's eyes to look at his perfect face.
Between the two arrives another, a full-bearded barbarian who carries a gray stone hammer, red-haired, bulky, fur cape flowing back over his shoulders. He sports leg greaves and a breastplate, both of bronze.
Excerpted from The Hammer of Darkness by L.E. Modesitt Jr.. Copyright © 1985 L.E. Modesitt, Jr.. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
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.
Meet the Author
L. E. Modesitt, Jr., is the bestselling author of over forty novels, including the Imager Portfolio series and the Saga of Recluce series, as well as several other novels in the science fiction genre. He has also published technical studies and articles, columns, poetry, and a number of science fiction stories.
Kyle McCarley, a graduate of the University of Southern California, is a voice-over actor and AudioFile Earphones Award-winning narrator. His credits include audiobooks, video games, TV pilots, Web cartoons and commercials, radio and TV commercials, radio dramas, and podcasts.
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With a Query next to his name Martin Martel is unable to live as a student on the planet Karnak and his girlfriend Kryn, the duke¿s daughter, has the guards fire at him when she realized he was an esper. The Brotherhood takes him to Aurore a planet many scientists believe should not exist, a place where people with esper powers have a chance to grow into them and use them at will.-------------------- It is also a place where gods walk among the populace only Martel believes at first they are more powerful espers such as the galaxy has never seen and the gods rule to keep from getting bored. Martel has the potential to become one of them but because he turns his back on them, both sides know a confrontation will eventually occur. A millennium has passed and Martel is viewed as a god by the people who worship him, he can control his powers which are greater than the so called gods and Kryn is now the Viceroy ruler of a galaxy. Martel does the impossible to get what he wants and if he is successful, for the first time in a thousand years, he will finally be happy.---------------- THE HAMMER OF DARKNESS is a reprint of a book first published in 1985. Although the plot is not as fast-paced and exciting as the later works of L.E. Modesitt, Jr., it is evident by the storyline that he showed back then he was destined to be a highly regarded master storyteller. What hasn¿t changed in over two decades is his ability to create characters that are interesting and larger than life placed in a future setting.-------------- Harriet Klausner