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The One-Armed Queen (Great Alta Saga #3)

The One-Armed Queen (Great Alta Saga #3)

3.0 1
by Jane Yolen

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A one-armed child found on a battlefield is adopted by Jenna, a great warrior queen, and becomes heir to the throne. But over in a kingdom of their enemies is Jenna's natural son, who has been raised to resent his foster sister's power and covet the throne for himself. Bloodshed and betrayal results.


A one-armed child found on a battlefield is adopted by Jenna, a great warrior queen, and becomes heir to the throne. But over in a kingdom of their enemies is Jenna's natural son, who has been raised to resent his foster sister's power and covet the throne for himself. Bloodshed and betrayal results.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Following the format of the two earlier books in the White Jenna oeuvre (Sister Light, Sister Dark and White Jenna), the third shows how myth, legend, song, history and story interweave to create a magical tale that is neither wholly truth nor simply fancy. Focusing primarily on the adopted and natural children of Queen Jenna and King Carum, the narrative details the trials and tribulations of the royal family, who are trying to maintain an unstable peace more than a decade after the Gender Wars. Disturbing the royals' harmony is the need of Scillia, oldest daughter and heir to the throne, to find her path by traveling the "mother road" and learning more about her natural parents. More dangerous to the kingdom are eldest son Jemson's desires after he is exchanged for another prince in a land where women are lower than peasants, and peasants have no rights at all. Trying to keep everyone happy is good-natured middle child Corrie, who loves life, fancy clothes and his family. Far less prominent in this novel than in its predecessors are the dark sisters, mystical twins brought forth by trained women who appear only during appropriate conditions of light and shadow. Indeed, readers looking for the fantasy element nurtured in the previous books primarily by the twins would do well to reread those novels, since this one concentrates on the interactions of more mundane family members. But those who want to see the story of Jenna continued to what is probably its logical end will find that Yolen spins a mean yarn here. Also included are music and lyrics for 10 songs by Yolen's son Adam Stemple. (Nov.)
VOYA - Donna Scanlon
After a nine-year pause, Yolen demonstrates her ability to translate common human experience into high quality fantasy in this third book of her Chronicles of Great Alta following Sister Light, Sister Dark (Tor, 1988/VOYA April 1989) and White Jenna (Tor, 1989). Queen Jenna's adopted daughter, Scillia, is groomed to rule the Dales. Scillia struggles for identity in the light of her mother's heroic fame and her own largely unknown past. She must also deal with the physical reality of having only one arm, for which she more than compensates. Conflict comes from Jemson, Scillia's younger brother; raised as a "hostage" prince by the Garuns, former occupiers of the Dales, Jemson believes that he should be king.

Yolen uses subheadings such as "The Legend," "The Myth," "The Ballad," and so forth, with "The Story" indicating the main narrative. A subheading called "The History" looks at the tale from a twentieth-century perspective-including the inevitable rivalries among schools of thought. This device allows Yolen to provide background information without resorting to pages of expository dialogue, and the different perspectives round out the story in a thought-provoking way. The ballads, written by Yolen and scored by her son, are a particularly nice addition.

The story is tightly woven, and the book stands very well on its own although the ending may not appeal to all readers in its summation of the characters' fates. Characterization is very good, the mother-daughter relationship is particularly well portrayed, and Scillia's personal struggles parallel Jenna's need to balance her various roles of mother, queen, and hero. The cover art is attractive and appealing.

VOYA Codes: 5Q 4P J S A/YA (Hard to imagine it being better written, Broad general YA appeal, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9, Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12 and adults).

Kirkus Reviews
Third of Yolen's fantasies (White Jenna, 1989, etc.) about the matriarchal land of the Dales, where women trained in mirror-magic can call forth dark twins who appear by moonlight or candlelight. This one, however, has turned into a family saga in more ways than one. The text includes ten songs co-written by Yolen's son Adam Stemple, and otherwise is cluttered with annoying sections headed "The Myth," "The Legend," "The Ballad," "The History," and so forth. The story, when we finally get to it, mostly concerns the children of Jenna, the White Queen. Her adoptive daughter and heir, the one-armed warrior Scillia, is rebelling against Jenna's strictures and training. Meanwhile, King Kras of the Garuns, the Dales' patriarchal rival, is fervently attempting to persuade Jenna's sons Jemson and Corrie to challenge their sister for the monarchy. The expected complications ensue. An all-singing entry in this waterlogged and insipid series.

From the Publisher
"Yolen resumes the saga that began in Sister Light, Sister Dark and continued in White Jenna. As has come to be usual for Yolen, the tale is well told in all particulars. Excellent fantasy fare."-Booklist

"High quality fantasy."-VOYA

"Myth, legend, song, history and story interweave to create a magical tale."-Publishers Weekly

Product Details

Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC
Publication date:
Great Alta Saga Series , #3
Edition description:
1 ED
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.62(h) x 1.21(d)
Age Range:
13 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


Then Great Alta took the warrior, the girl with one arm, and set her in the palm of Her hand.

    "There is none like you, daughter," quoth Great Alta. "Not on the earth nor in its shadow. So I shall make you a mate that you might be happy."

    "And why must I have a mate to be happy?" asked the one-armed girl. "Do you, Great Mother, have a mate? And are you not happy? Perhaps I could be your blanket companion."

    "To reach too high is to fall too far," Great Alta replied.


When the White Queen Jenna was sail alive, she brought her three children to the town of New-Melting-by-the-Sea where she still, herself, had cousins.

    The children were twin boys and a girl whose short cropped hair and leather trousers led her to be mistaken for a third boy.

    The queen planted a rowan by the old Town Hall, the boys each planted a birch. But that night, the girl sneaked out from the encampment and broke off the tops of her brothers' saplings, leaving only the rowan standing whole.

    In the morning she confessed her crime and was whipped in front of her mother by the head of the royal guards with switches from those same damaged trees.

    But lo! After the queen's entourage left the town, the rowan tree died. However, the birches grew round and about one another, twisted and twined.

    You can see them there still by the tumbled wail. They are old and weathered, their trunks supported by metal poles. They are so grown together, they are often mistaken for a single tree.


The queen's party had passed by the Old Hanging Man early in the day, but the weather was so foul, nothing of the rocks could be seen. Jem and Corrie had been fighting since dawn, the sort of squabbling that seemed to be made up of endless name-calling. Even the queen's good captain Marek could not keep them separated for long.

    "Is it the weather?" the queen asked, peering into the gloom. "Or the nature of this place?"

    "It is the nature of the boys, Jenna," Marek said, his long friendship with the queen allowing him such familiarity.

    "It is the nature of all boys," Scillia complained.

    Her mother shot her a sharp glance.

    "Well, it is," Scillia muttered. The stump of her left arm ached, which was odd. It was not an old wound that could be expected to pain her in rain or cold. She had been born without the arm and for her to be one-armed was as normal as for her brothers to have two. But somehow today, riding next to her mother on the endless track, her brothers quarrelsome as pups, she felt an ache there as if she had but recently lost the limb. Reaching up with her right hand, she massaged the shoulder and partway down the stump.

    "I will rub oil into your shoulder when we rest, child," the queen said. Scillia did not like the servants to touch her.

    "I am fine, mother," Scillia answered. "If only the boys would be silent."

    But they would not. Or could not. Calling one another "Catch-pole" and "Woodworm," "Gar-head" and "Toad," they had settled into a rhythm of slander, beating the names back and forth between them till it got to be a game that eventually had them both laughing.

    Scillia only scowled the more.

    "It is a boy's nature to make games of troubles," Marek remarked to the queen. "And a girl's nature to disapprove of game-playing."

    Jenna sighed deeply and ran a hand through the fringe of her white hair, "I thought, my dear old friend, that we fought a war not thirteen winters past over such gross statements: a boy does this, a girl does that. It does not become you to speak this way."

    He smiled wryly at her. "Don't we say in the Dales: A snake sheds an old skin but still he does not go skinless."

    She had the grace to laugh back at him. Shaking her head, she added, "Then I will expect to have to skin you now and again. Just for old time's sake."

    "As you wish, my queen." He saluted and kicked his horse into a trot till he had caught up with the boys. By riding between them and telling them some of his old war stories, he managed to turn their attentions elsewhere and the game of calumny was ended.

    "Why do you put up with him, mother?" Scillia asked when Marek was too far away to hear. "Why do you just make light of such things? Why do you ..."

    Jenna turned to her daughter. "Do you remember the old saying, Before you make a friend, eat dirt with him?"

    Scillia shook her head. "I always thought that a particularly dim bit of wisdom."

    "Not if you had eaten the dust of travel and the clods of battle with him. Not if you had buried dear ones and had him weep silently by your side."

    "Battles and wars. It is all you ever talk about."

    Jenna's face went first red, then white. "I talk peace and pacts, child. I talk of rebuilding lives."

    "When I was young you talked of that. Now it is all rumbling about war. The war that was, the war that will come." Scillia's voice was high and harsh.

    The queen's white horse seemed to take exception to the tone of the girl's voice and shied from it as if from a serpent on the ground. It took Jenna a moment to calm the mare down. When the horse had at last returned to its good ground-eating walk, she looked at her daughter with as mild an expression as she could muster. "You are still young and therefore I forgive you."

    "I am thirteen. And the boys are nine and ten. Old enough, mother."

    "Old indeed," her mother said. Then, fearful of saying more, she kicked her horse into a canter, passing Scillia, the boys, Marek, and the small bodyguard with ease.


          The Two Kings

There were two kings upon the throne,
Lonely, oh lonely, the queen rides down.
There were two kings upon the throne,
When one was gone, one ruled alone,
The queen rides in the valley-o.

The one ruled East, the one ruled West,
Lonely, oh lonely, the queen rides down.
The one ruled East, the one ruled West,
And neither ruled the kingdom best,
The queen rides in the valley-o

Ill fares the land where two are king,
Lonely, oh lonely, the queen rides down.
Ill fares the land where two are king,
For names and swords and bells do ring,
And blood flows down the valley-o


Lunch was a dismal affair, as they ate at a local farmhouse. Eating with the villagers — usually the lowest of villagers at that — was one of the things the queen always insisted upon. She would never eat at a Village Hall under the watchful eye of some magistrate or other. She considered it the mark of her reign that she cared for the poorest folk first. And she always paid for what food they ate. Unfortunately, that was no guarantee of the cook's skill.

    Scillia toyed with the stew on her plate. It had not been a good winter; two months of deep frost had frozen even the deepest of root cellars. The vegetables in the stew were tasteless, the chicken clearly had starved to death. And the farm wife, a matronly woman with a half-cast in her right eye, had never been taught the use of strong spice. Scillia thought of the castle's kitchen with longing.

    The boys ate it all uncomplaining. They even asked for seconds. The farm wife gave it to them cheerfully, chucking each of them familiarly on the cheek. She was unaware that it was sheer bulk they were after.

    The pudding was a swollen, pasty thing. Jenna smiled as she ate it, and the boys shared Scillia's helping after she refused it. Marek ate his without complaint, used to such fare himself since a boy. The bodyguard had their supper of trail rations outside and when the farm wife brought them what was left over from the queen's table, they were grateful for every bit.

    Once the farm wife disappeared outside with the scraps, Jenna turned to her daughter. "You must learn to disguise what you feel."

    "Why?" Scillia toyed with one of her braids. "Don't you always tell me to be honest?"

    "There is honesty — and brutal honesty," Jenna said. "Something I have learned these last years on the throne. Villagers have quite enough of honest weather and honest frost. But if they believe you believe in them, they will follow anywhere a queen leads."

    "I will never be queen, so what does it matter," Scillia said. "I am not deaf; I have heard the talk. I am not your true daughter. I was the daughter of some warrior killed in the war. Jemson will be king." Her face was bleak and there was the beginning of a line settling between her eyebrows, drawn in by anger or sorrow.

    Jenna was furious. "Who dared tell you that?"

    "Well, is it true?"

    Her mother was silent.

    "True, Queen Jenna. Without disguising what you feel. I am no farm wife to be cozened."

    "Where did you hear such a thing?" Marek asked gently, seeing that Jenna was too stunned to reply.

    For once the boys remained silent, staring down at their bowls. Jem twiddled with his spoon, as if he could not will his fingers to be still, but young Corrie sat like a stone. When he dared look over at his sister, her face was white and hard.

    "Where?" Marek asked again, only not so gently this time.

    "Everywhere," Scillia said. She shrugged but it was no casual gesture. "There is even a rhyme about it."

    "A rhyme about it?" Jenna's voice was barely a whisper.

    Jem's voice sang out:

"Jenna's girl is nowt a queen,
Hair is black and eyes are green,
Only one arm to be seen,
And she's got no father!

    Corrie kicked him under the table and the last word ended on a scream.

    "Toad!" Jem cried. "Stupid, sucking toad."

    "Marek, take the boys outside," Jenna said, and when no one moved, she added imperiously, "Now!"

    Marek stood, his eyes like flint, and ushered the boys out, though it was clear that neither one of them wanted to go. Jem even opened his mouth to protest, and Marek clipped him on the back of the head. That Marek would do such a thing to one of the princes so startled Jem, whatever he had been going to say was forgotten. He put his hand to the back of his head and escaped through the door like a hare through its bolthole.

    Jenna waited until the door closed behind them, then took a deep breath, and faced her daughter. Scillia's eyes were clouded with tears, but there were no tears on her cheeks.

    "You are my daughter," Jenna began.

    "The truth, mother," Scillia whispered hoarsely.

    "That is the truth," Jenna said. "Someone else gave birth to you, a fine warrior, murdered in the Gender Wars. You were strapped to her back. I took you from her and slew the man who had killed her. And from that moment on, you were mine."

    "And what was my name?" One tear had started out of Scillia's left eye and ran straight down her cheek. She did not bother to wipe it away.

    "Your name then — and now — Scillia." Jenna did not move. The light coming in from the window lay across her shoulders like a shawl. She would have welcomed its warmth, but it seemed cold. So cold for a spring day. She shuddered with the chill.

    Only then did Scillia scrub at her face with her fist, leaving a dark smear where the tear had traveled. "Why was I not told?"

    "What was I to tell you?" Jenna asked. "You are my daughter. My only daughter. Nothing anyone says can change that."

    Scillia's shoulders trembled visibly.

    "Perhaps I should have said something. Your father wanted you to know. And Skada."

    "Your dark sister and father agreeing on something?" That almost brought a smile from the girl.

    Jenna took that almost-smile and gave it back to her. "When it is about something I have left undone, they always agree," she said. "Oh, my darling child, I would not harm you for the world." She stood shakily and went over to Scillia. Kneeling beside her, Jenna encircled her daughter's small waist with her arms.

    It took almost a minute before Scillia trusted herself to reach down and begin stroking her mother's long white hair. It was stiff and wiry to the touch.

    They sat that way, not speaking, till the light from the windows dimmed and the cottage was dark with shadows.

    "Come, Mother," Scillia whispered at last, "time to have the farm wife light the fire. You can tell Skada all."

    "I am sure she knows it already," Jenna said with a sigh. Then almost as an afterthought, she murmured, "And will never let me forget it."

    "Neither will I," said Scillia.

    Jenna could not tell if that was a promise or a threat.


Memo: Dalian Historical Society

    For a biography of my late father, who was a past member of the Society and two-term General Secretary, I am seeking anecdotal material as well as letters concerning his lifelong quarrel with certain individuals in the Society on the subject of the true history of the Dales.

    As you are all aware, he felt that history should remain uncorrupted by legend, myth, balladry, and folklore, considering them "cultural lies." And while his own lens may have been somewhat shortsighted, I am not so sure that he was otherwise incorrect in his assessment of matters concerning the indigenous populations of the Dales.

    Because of his untimely and tragic death, I have taken on the task of organizing his papers and publishing what will be both a critical and yet loving book about his work, as only a daughter — and fellow historian — can.

    Thanking you in advance,


The farm wife came back into the house to light the fire. Then bowing her way out again, she left Jenna and Scillia together.

    Once the fire had caught well enough to throw shadows across the grate, there was a low chuckle from the chair next to Jenna's.

    "Sister, too late by half and too short for a whole," Skada said.

    "And too cryptic by far for me to understand," Jenna retorted. She pushed her fingers once again through the fringe of hair on her forehead and Skada imitated her. "I hate that kind of talk."

    "She means, mother, that you should have told me years ago and you have not told me all of it now."

    "She's always been the brightest of your children," Skada said. "Though Corrie's a love."

    "Don't push me." Jenna turned angrily to her dark sister.

    "I only say what you will not." Skada glowered back at her. "And Jem..." Jenna's face was suddenly drawn in on itself, like an apple left out all winter. Skada stopped whatever it was she'd been about to say.

    "Jem is going off to the Continent when we are back from this trip. A little less family and a little more schooling is all he needs," Jenna said steadily.

    "Then I am not to be queen," Scillia interrupted. "Nowt a queen." Her voice was eerily like Jem's. "He'll learn about ruling with a hard hand there. I could never do such a thing."

    "Of course you are to be queen," Jenna said. "You are the oldest, and that's all there is to it. Your brothers will make you excellent counselors."

    "If they ever give up squabbling," Skada added.

    "We never have," Jenna said.

    She rose and Skada rose with her. They matched pace for pace to the door. Jenna turned suddenly, but not too quick for Skada. Their faces held the same concern as they gazed back at Scillia.

    "When I die ..." Jenna began. "And your father as well. You will..."

    "If you die, mother. You are a hero. You are a legend. Such people do not die. They just ... are no longer physically in the Dales. But they aren't dead." Scillia's face in the shadow looked much older, as if a mask of age had suddenly slipped down over it. "They are always with us."

    "Definitely the brightest!" Skada said.

    Jenna turned on her heel and flung open the farmhouse door. The afternoon light slanted down to outline her in the doorway. When she stepped outside, no one was by her side.

    "Mother!" Scillia called. There was pain in her voice but little hope. "Mother..."

    "We ride," Jenna cried out. And without thanking the farm wife, she got onto her horse, kicking it hard enough to surprise it into a canter, leaving Marek to organize the children and guard to follow.

They rode till past supper and into the dusk. As there was no moon to call Skada forth, Jenna rode at the forefront alone.

    She was tired. Thirteen years as a queen had exhausted her. She had long found the throne a troubling seat and missed being able to spend weeks off in the deep woods. On the other hand, Carum reveled in the details of the royal work: the sums and substitutions of a kingdom's finance, the niggling judgments, the exacting language of the law. But Jenna hated it, escaping whenever Carum could spare her.

    This time he had let her out of a meeting with the mayors and aldermen of the northwest Dales. She had taken both the boys and Scillia with her, promising Carum that they would all stay with the guard. That promise was dragged from her, but she argued more from form than need. Both Jenna and Carum knew she needed the trip and they hoped it would be good for the children as well.

    "I will go back to Selden Hame," Jenna had said. "Scillia has never been inside. It has been years since I've gone myself. Once we are safe within, the boys and the guard can stay in the village."

    "I know how much you have missed Pynt and the women," Carum had answered. The years sat more lightly on his brow than on Jenna's, though his hair was now as white as hers. "And I know all the letters back and forth between you and Pynt have still not salved the wound of parting. You were friends long before I found you. Selfishly I took you from her. But it was for the kingdom. The people needed their Anna, their White One."

    She had waited, not smiling, but knowing that he would say the words which, as ever, she could not resist.

    "As do I, sweet Jen. As do I."

    "I will not stay at the Hame, Carum. I will return. I am like the old tale, the girl who could not stray from home." She had smiled then, putting her hand on his.

    "But which is your home, I wonder?"

    She knew he asked the question to himself and so did not return him an answer.

    As they rode, Jenna remembered the scene with some sorrow. She bit her lip, guessing how Skada would have played it out. "But I am not my dark sister," she whispered to herself, knowing full well that she had talked to Carum about the trip in the palace garden in daylight just so Skada could not intrude her sharp, wit into their conversation. Just as Jenna always lay with Carum in the full dark of their room, the great wine-colored drapes pulled tight across the oriel windows and the fire burned down to embers. Skada might be her shadow, her other self, but there were some things Jenna preferred to do without her.

    She remembered suddenly the birth of her first son. Jem had arrived with difficulty, laboring thirty hours to creep from her womb. He had tried to make up for it ever since: walking early, talking early, fighting early, always at odds with both his brother and his sister, the uneasy in-between. She loved him the more for it, her difficult first-born.

    Skada had insisted on sharing the second birth and, as she predicted, the birth had been easier therefore. But then Corrie had always been an easy child. Easy and stubborn at once. Jenna could not sort it out.

    But of the three, Scillia was the child of Jenna's heart, and she had always hoped that, woman-to-woman, they would live into old age together. More like sisters than mother and daughter; they were not, after all, that many years apart. And so it had been, until this last year when Scillia had changed beyond reckoning: critical, unhappy, listless — and always angry. Jenna could not remember having herself gone through such a change.

    "You spent your change-time fighting a war," Skada reminded her. "With me by your side. Who had time for such drama when people were dying? Who had time for selfishness when there was blood being spilt?"

    But that did not explain it. Not at all.

They entered the town of Selden in the dark. The Hanging Man hostel had been forewarned of their coming, and had warm food waiting.

    "Scillia and I will go on to the Hame," Jenna told Marek. "We will not stop here with you."

    "The guard will ride with you to the walls," Marek said.

    "They will not." Jenna yanked on the reins and her mare half rose on her hind legs, whinnying annoyance. "I am not a child to need a nurse."

    "You are the queen and need safe passage," Marek said, but found he was speaking to her back.

    Shaking her head, Scillia kicked her gelding into a canter. She caught up with her mother a half mile up the road.

    They went along in less-than companionable silence until they came to a bridge where they paused.

    "The water is not yet in flood," Jenna remarked dryly, hoping to cut through the uncomfortable tension between them.

    "Unlike your temper," Scillia said.

    "A woman's mouth is like a spring flood? That is a Garunian adage," Jenna said. "I would not have you speaking so."

    "Then why are you sending Jem across the sea to the Garuns? That is the very sort of thing he will learn there, and he will be the worse for the getting of such wisdom." Scillia's voice broke in the middle, anger and sadness competing in it.

    "I send him for the peace," Jenna said, "which you have so recently accused me of forgetting. And we are taking one of their princes into our court in his stead. It is a kind of exchange to guarantee amity between our lands. Besides, Jem is excited about it."

    "What kind of peace is it, Mother, that takes little boys to hold it?"

    "I thought you didn't like Jemmie."

    The wind had begun puzzling through the trees. Jenna remembered that particular sound, such a part of her childhood in the Hame: trees, river, and the mountainside changing the tone.

    "He is my brother and I love him. Even when I cannot abide him."

    "He is my son, Scillia, and though I cannot stand the thought of sending him away, it is what is best for our land. Once the Dales had little girls fighting a war. Surely a little boy can be charged with the peace." She kicked the mare into a trot across the bridge and her voice threaded back through the clatter of hooves. "I am tired of talking."

    But Scillia would not let it go, and she chattered for another mile up the winding mountain path before the thick, close dark finally stopped her.

When Scillia finally quieted, Jenna relaxed into memory. Even though the forest had changed somewhat in the plus twenty years since she had wandered it alone — fourteen years as queen, the several years of war, the five years under the hill with Great Alta — by squinting she could still see the place as it had been. It was a palimpsest forest, with enough of the old growth left, the old turnings of the road, to remind her.

    But she could not get back the child she had been, who had played the Game of Memory so well, who could sort out the scratchings of coon and cat and bear with a single glance.

    She sighed, a sound well lost in the mix of pounding hooves. But the sigh reverberated inside. It was Scillia's youth and her lack of passion for rather than passion against that irritated Jenna. She remembered herself at age thirteen, and Scillia was no mirror of that girl. Skada's answer that it had been a war that made the difference between them was not answer enough.

    Perhaps, Scillia will find that child at the Hame, she thought. But she did not dare finish that thought: that perhaps she might find the child she had been there as well.


From a letter to the editor, Nature and History, Vol. 45:


    Your recent article on "The Last Goodly Hame — A Look at the Walls of Selden" by that eccentric scholar, Lowentrout, makes much of the folk history of the area. But to state, as he does, that Selden Hame remained a center of culture and learning for women of Alta and their dark sisters, merely perpetuates the myth that the Dale females were able to call up some mysterious Other Self. I thought we had long ago dismissed such maunderings as mere fairy stories.

    It is clear from the stones that have been examined by careful scientists, that the walls that stand on the site are but several hundred years old, not a thousand. The wall construction is typical of the Middle Period, not the Old Dales. Lowentrout's assumption that there had been new buildings built exactly over the bones of the old, because of stories of ghosts or some such, merely flies in the face of science and technology.

    As long as we repeat the old legends and folk tales as something more than simple imaginative stories, using them to reconstruct a historical base, we will continue to make the same old mistakes in our archeology. There were no dark sisters; the great Queen Jenna was but a jumped-up folk hero, more legend than real. And as for those beliefs that state she and her consort still sleep Under the Hills till the Dales shall need them again ... well, really! That's a folk motif that can be traced all around the world and is typical of hero tales in most primitive lands.


As they approached a seemingly impenetrable rock face, Jenna waved her hand oddly at it. The trail twisted abruptly to the right and up and the mare followed it without urging. Scillia's gelding plodded placidly along behind.

    "Was that some kind of signal?" Scillia asked.


    "Wouldn't they have changed the sign after so many years?" Scillia's voice held a measure of amusement.

    "I do not even know if they still use watchers at the turnings," Jenna said. "But the hand has its own memory. I could no more have gone past here without signalling than ... Wait!"

    They both reined in their horses, for a light of some kind seemed to be coming down the mountainside toward them. When the light came closer, they saw it was not a single light, but two torches — held aloft by a pair of women.

    "Hail, Jenna," the watchers said together. "Hail, Scillia, daughter of women."

    As the torchlight touched her horse's back, Jenna felt the familiar warmth of Skada behind her.

    "And what do you return to them?" Skada whispered into her ear.

    "Hail, sisters," Jenna said. And all her anger and troubled thoughts slipped away with the words.

They rode slowly along the path, following the torchbearers. The light only occasionally fell upon Jenna and so Skada flickered in and out of hearing. But whenever she was there, comfortably behind Jenna on the mare's broad back, she continued to comment on everything along the way.

    At last Jenna held up her hand for silence. "Enough! You are worse than a jay."

    "I would prefer conversation," Skada said. "But who is to supply it? Scillia is all but asleep on her horse and the two up ahead are paying us no heed. As for your sulking presence ..."

    "I am remembering, not sulking."

    "With you the two are often the same," Skada said.

    "And with you ..." But whatever it was Jenna was about to answer was never spoken aloud, for just then the great wooden gates of Selden Hame were pushed open by the torchbearers and light blazed forth in welcome.

    The doorway of the main house was crowded with women, all in pairs, except for one small woman at the front who was singularly alone. Her black hair was worn long in a warrior's braid but curled like a crown atop her head. It added little to her height. So fine-boned, she seemed almost a girl but for the great strength of purpose that shone in her face.

    "Pynt!" Jenna cried out, leaping from her horse. She held out her hands to the small woman.

    "I am called Marga now," the woman said sharply. "Or as the M'dorans among us say, Marget. No one but you knows me by that old name." She touched hands with Jenna, then Skada, then turned to help Scillia down. "And this, of course, is the M'doran child."

    "My child," Jenna said.

    Scillia held out her one hand to the small woman but did not say anything, being slightly overwhelmed by fatigue and the fact that the woman — Marga — had challenged her mother. No one — except maybe Skada and her father, Carum, and old Marek — no one spoke like that to Jenna. As much as her mother liked to believe she was of the people, Scillia knew they held her in too much awe, as both a legend and their queen, to talk back to her.

    "Her womb mother was Iluna. You have raised her in a hero's place."

    "Pynt, she is my child in all but birth. How can you, above all people, say other?" Jenna's face was no longer shining with pleasure, but beginning to darken. Skada's face was glowering even more.

    Marga pulled Scillia close to her and with the light on them for a moment — just a moment — they looked like a pair of dark and light sisters. "I am True Speaker for the M'dorans, Jenna. I say what must be said. I do not say it in anger or in chastisement. But it must be spoken for truth's sake." She turned a moment and whispered something to a woman near her, then turned back. "But come, we have a light meal for you. It is never good to sleep on an empty stomach, worse to sleep right after too great a meal." She smiled briefly and drew Scillia into Selden Hame, forcing Jenna and Skada to follow.


          PYNT'S LULLABY

Sleep, my child, wrapped up in a dream,
The stars looking down where you lie.
The stars have no words to tell of your past
And neither, my child, have I.

Sleep, my child, for the past is a dream,
And women do weep that it's gone.
But we shall not weep anymore for the past
For after each sleep comes the dawn.

Sleep, my child, into dawn's eager light
And wake to the song of the dove.
Forget all the dreams of the past, for the past
Is present in all of my love

(Continues ...)

Meet the Author

Born and raised in New York City, Jane Yolen now lives in Massachusetts. She attended Smith College and received her master's degree in education from the University of Massachusetts. The distinguished author of more than 170 books, Jane Yolen is a person of many talents. When she is not writing, Yolen composes songs, is a professional storyteller on the stage, and is the busy wife of a university professor, the mother of three grown children, and a grandmother. Yolen's graceful rhythms and outrageous rhymes have been gathered in numerous collections. She has earned many awards over the years: the Regina Medal, the Kerlan Award, the World Fantasy Award, the Society of Children's Book Writers Award, the Mythopoetic Society's Aslan Award, the Christopher Medal, the Boy's Club Jr. Book Award, the Garden State Children's Book Award, the Daedalus Award, a number of Parents' Choice Magazine Awards, and many more. Her books and stories have been translated into Japanese, French, Spanish, Chinese, German, Swedish, Nowegian, Danish, Afrikaans, !Xhosa, Portuguese, and Braille.

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