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Three Hands for Scorpio

Three Hands for Scorpio

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by Andre Norton
     
 

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Andre Norton, the celebrated author of Witch World and many other fantasy adventures, offers a new novel unique among her works, set in a realm not dissimilar to northern England in the sixteenth century: also, the Dismals of Northern Alabama are the model for part of the exotic setting.

Drucilla, Sabina, and Tamara, identical sisters born to Desmond, Earl

Overview

Andre Norton, the celebrated author of Witch World and many other fantasy adventures, offers a new novel unique among her works, set in a realm not dissimilar to northern England in the sixteenth century: also, the Dismals of Northern Alabama are the model for part of the exotic setting.

Drucilla, Sabina, and Tamara, identical sisters born to Desmond, Earl of Skorpys, understand the price of being princesses in a realm bordered by fractious neighbors. For generations their land has been plagued by incursions, raiding parties, and more serious conflicts with Gurlyon, the land to their North. But when these three plucky young ladies are kidnapped as part of a plot to undermine their father's domain, they are taken to a mysterious realm where they experience terrors unlike anything they could imagine.

Their captors, fearing pursuit, thrust the princesses into a deep recess in a bizarre underworld called the Dismals. Once there, they must fend off hideous creatures, and a young man who claims to be lord of this dark, forbidding realm. Not sure whether he is friend or foe, they must depend on their wits, on each other, and on the mind-link that binds them together. Only thus can they escape the bizarre nether-realm they must roam in search of a way home.

Their travails test them in ways they cannot foresee, both physically and magically. Powerful forces work against them, but together they may yet escape, and help right the wrong that brought them to the strange realm in the first place.

Editorial Reviews

VOYA
Eighteen-year-old triplets Tamara, Sabina, and Drucilla of the Scorpy clan possess the unique Gift of being able to communicate with one another without words, an act that they call Sending. Wise and inquisitive, these girls are well equipped for both intellectual and physical combat thanks to their father, the Earl, for teaching them many skills normally reserved for boys. When the girls are kidnapped by a rival clan from Gurlyon and abandoned in a horrific underworld known as the Dismals, they must rely on their past training and their endowments to escape. In the Dismals, they encounter not only nightmarish creatures but also a strange man named Zolon, who might be a friend and might just be the long lost and rightful king, the one who could put a stop to all the fighting above ground. Together they battle their way out of the Dismals and go in pursuit of Tharn, the traitorous leader of the spirits of the Dismals. Zolan and the sisters cobble together a small troop to defeat Tharn from taking over. The sisters take turns narrating the tale of their epic battle, bringing unique perspectives and personalities to the late writer's last novel. At times the plot becomes confusing, especially during their lengthy stay in the perplexing Dismals. Readers who persevere will be rewarded with an ending that satisfactorily puts all the pieces together. This novel will appeal to Norton's large fan base and most aficionados of female fantasy. VOYA CODES: 3Q 3P S A/YA (Readable without serious defects; Will appeal with pushing; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult-marketed book recommended for Young Adults). 2005, Tor, 288p., Ages 15 to Adult.
—Amanda MacGregor
Library Journal
Tamara, Drucilla, and Sabina, triplet sisters of the Scorpys family, are kidnapped by a rival border lord and stranded in the underground Dismals, from which few people have escaped. Aided by a mysterious young man and a powerful catlike creature, the sisters try to make their way to safety and restore the balance of power along the Borderlands. Mind magic and herbal knowledge form the supernatural element in this coming-of-age tale that features three strong female protagonists and should appeal to both adult and YA readers. Grand Master Norton's first solo novel in five years belongs in every library. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Three brave, bold daughters of the House of Scorpy recount their kidnapping and subsequent escape from an underground wasteland. Norton's first solo appearance since 1999's Wind in the Stone presents Tamara, Drucilla and Sabina, who share a special birthright. Possessors of mystical power, they can also connect telepathically with each other. Kidnapped in a political ploy-their land resembles medieval Europe, divided into tiny spheres of familial power-and dumped into a place of terrors known as the Dismals, they quickly discover the great extent of their abilities. They make friends with a fierce, catlike creature they dub Climber. They're shocked to find a man named Zolan living as a hermit in this place of no return. But that's not the only odd thing about the Dismals. Though at times described as being underground, the area is in fact covered by dense forest. Tribes of something (human? alien?) used to live here and are now communicating with Zolan through their spirits. An ancient evil power rising in the girls' homeland is also somehow connected to these lost folk in the Dismals. One thing is very clear: the monsters in the area are truly horrible and to be avoided. The girls narrate the segments of their adventures by turn, and the interplay of three voices, perceptions and personalities does much to enrich the text, even when the plot becomes difficult to follow. For lovers of strong female fantasy characters, a delight. For those in search of clearly imagined alternate worlds, a muddle.
From the Publisher
"A superb storyteller with a narrative pace all her own."

The New York Times

"One of the most distinguished living SF and fantasy writers."

Booklist

"She remains one of the most underrated masters of science fiction and fantasy."

Minneapolis Star-Tribune

"In giving us amazing stories, she serves as an ongoing inspiration for more than one generation of fantasy writers."

—Mercedes Lackey

"I've seen a complete collection of Andre Norton's books and it haunts me to this day, sort of like the sight of an unscalable Everest."

—C.J. Cherryh

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781429914215
Publisher:
Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date:
01/15/2007
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
690,931
File size:
477 KB

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt

Three Hands for Scorpio


By Andre Norton, James Frenkel

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2005 Andre Norton
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-1421-5


CHAPTER 1

This by the hand of Tamara, daughter to Earl Scorpy of Verset. Her Most Gracious Majesty, Queen Charlitta of Alsonia, commands us to chronicle our strange and remarkable adventure in Gurlyon, the North Land that has ever been to our nation as a thorn beneath the saddlecloth is to the rider of an ill-trained horse. Our sovereign believes that our story may aid and warn those who follow us. Thus we three have been supplied with quills, paper in plenty, and the carefully guarded palace library for a workplace.

We are the Scorpys, a name neither likely to set bards to plucking harpstrings in stirring song nor one honey-coated for general repeating. However, as Duty, our mother's trusted deputy, has always said, with a scornful sniff, a good name is worthy of honor.

We were three-in-one at our birthing — a cause, at that time (we have been told), for no small surprise and chatter. We were duly named Tamara, Sabina, and Drucilla, for two granddames and a great-aunt, forceful women in their day.

We were also born on the very day of the Battle of Erseway wherein our sire, Desmond Scorpy, the Earl of Verset, played a heroic role which all properly tutored Alsonian children can remember from their schooling.

That passage of arms was to have subdued the Gurlys of the North, and so it did for a short space — long enough, at least, for them to rearm and prepare wood for watch-fires along the border. It goes without saying that our own borderers, long used to raiding and thereby tweaking Gurly tails, also laid plans.

A twisted kind of law served the debated boundary areas: Border Law. Its rules were to be enforced by Warders appointed by our ruler, Lybert the Second, as well as by the King of Gurlyon. These leaders were responsible for protecting their countrymen, as well as for preventing raids from either North or South.

However, such efforts were like attempting to hold back water's downhill rush with a dam of sand. Bribery was rife, and raids continued whenever a Gurlyon clan leader or greedy Alsonian baron spied a chance to snatch cattle, horses, or material goods from his cross-border neighbor. This piratical policy continued cheerfully for years, with neither side having a leader strong enough to curb it.

Then, some six years after the battle, King Lothar died suddenly, after a feast laid to entice foreign merchants for trade with Gurlyon. His heir apparent was Gerrit, a mere lad of seven. The king's untimely demise began a bloody battle over which clan would claim his son's guardianship — a minor war that ended with the disappearance of the child king. Many believed him to have been the prey of either the Mervens or the Raghnells, while others said he had been taken South and was held in secret by enemies there.

However, Summon Fires were not lit and, though the South gathered an army, they remained on our side of the border until their commander could no longer feed them and they must needs be dismissed without drawing their swords.

We three may seem to dwell overlong upon history which must be well-known to most who read this, but in this past lies the root of our own story.

We Scorpys are among the women who possess some form of the Talent. This name is as a large money-bag holding coins of various values, but it is applied to a group of gifts from the Lords of Light that require the channeling of Power through the wielder. We inherited our Gifts through our mother, who comes of a cadet branch of the Scorpy line. We were taught early, under the sharp eyes of Mother and Wise-wife Duty, who served as our nurse, the use of healing herbs and the development of our own special endowments. We sisters not only shared blood and appearance but also thoughts, so that, when necessary, we could communicate silently, as if a single mind served the three of us. And now, in our eighteenth year, sometimes it seems we think and near act as one.

There is little of note to report from our early life. Though we suffered from enough of the physical ills of childhood to cause our elders the fidgets, our mother was well-learned in healcraft and dealt promptly with our ailments.

In conduct, we displayed the alternating arrogance, shyness, and rigid will of those of supposedly tender years. Of all behaviors, whining was regarded by Mother as the most unwelcome. She was strict but always just and loving — virtues that might be quickly sensed and appreciated by us even as tiny children.

In appearance, we are as like to one another as our birth would suggest. This likeness, we discovered very early, might profitably be used to manipulate other members of the household, save for Father, Mother, and Duty — we never tried any such trick with them. Despite the unpleasantness of this trait, we must chronicle it as part of our ability to blend personas when needed, for it figures importantly in our great adventure.

We possess our father's hair. In the normal light of the hall, it seems deeply black, but under strong sunlight, it appears burnished by threads of fiery red. This crowning glory frames ivory skin and the large green eyes we received from our mother.

In Grosper dwelt few of our rank; they were mostly visitors, and none lingered for long. Lacking much basis for comparison, we had, perhaps, too high an opinion of ourselves. However, that estimation came to be sorely tested ere our tale was complete.

Our father, in his uneasy appointment as High Warden dealing with unruly neighbors, maintained a tighter than customary hold, traveling from one fortress to another through the year, save in the months holding Year Turn and High Winter.

Having no son to "shield his back," as the country saying goes, Father gave a new twist to our education from the very month we arrived at Grosper Castle in our tenth year. He rode well, and he taught us to do so, for horsemanship was a skill greatly needed in this land of few roads, and many of those hardly more than trails. In addition, we learned to use conventional weapons. We rebelled at the training from time to time — why, was our collective thought, should we exert ourselves unduly in practicing with a sword or snaplock when our mental talents would serve nicely to bewilder any opponent? But Father lessoned us severely when we made too-easy recourse to our Gifts, on the grounds that the Gurlys held an ever-growing hatred for what they deemed the Black Arts, and it was best not to give any clansman cause to suspect we had been tutored in arcane lore. Southerners, in general, were rumored by the men of the North to be learned in dark practices; thus even a hint about the Earl of Verset and his family, kin to Her Gracious Majesty, could engender great trouble.

After the Gurly defeat at Erseway, where the Northerners had been forced to accept orders from the South, a strange and charismatic man had come forth whom the Gurlys believed to be a holy Man of Power. He descended from the Yakin Mountains, which were largely unknown territory to the nearby lowlanders. Into an ever-growing company of followers, this outland priest was able to draw commoners, clan lords, and court members alike to give ear to — and soon to enforce — his preaching.

The kidnapped king had been replaced by another child: Arvor of Clan Merven. Though now full-grown and a leader able to subdue overseas raiders, Arvor was obviously still under the orders of Yorath of Merven and appeared likely to always be so. However, the young king made the newcome religious leader welcome at court, and he himself appeared at all public services ordered by Chosen Forfind.

Thus affairs stood until the Tenth Day of Non in the year of Gorgast Six when our world began to be wrung, then wrung again as a goodwife twists new-laundered cloth in order to speed its drying. That afternoon, we sat midway between the cavernous fireplace with its still-glowing coals and a window unshuttered to freshen the room with spring breeze-breath now and again. We were working together on a new embroidery conceit that demanded great concentration.

Though deeply united, we each had individual talents. Bina's particular skill lay in working with herbal lore, and her knowledge surpassed many of greater age than hers. I liked nothing more than to ride in a stirring hunt with a fine mount beneath me, a sharp-nosed hound beside me, and a fine weapon to hand. Cilla could gaze intently at a weaving, such as the backing for embroidered tapestry and, simply by concentrating, produce markings for needlework of the most fascinating designs.

We now labored to fashion one of Cilla's creations. The cloth was tautly stretched on a frame, and a cushion spiked with threaded needles stood ready for our selection.

"This design," Bina commented as she searched for a needle with the proper-colored wool, "is quite different from any you have created before, Cilla." She did not at once thrust her needle into the cloth, but studied that small portion she had already worked, a wrinkle deepening between her eyes.

"Is this truly Raft's Tower as Father described it? It has certain features that I find" — with her left forefinger, Bina traced an unfilled guideline — "somehow disturbing."

Beside her, I poised my own needle but did not take another stitch. I, too, was studying the portion nearest my seat on the opposite side of the frame.

"Hmm — exactly what do we see?" I asked, using the point of her needle to trace a fraction of a curve.

Cilla had turned her head as if to examine the coals in the fireplace. "I dreamed," she answered after a short pause, "and the pattern I saw within the dream did not fade with waking. I felt — compelled, as if I must form it here and now."

Bina attempted to touch our minds but found the connection closed to her. She stared at her sister, as did I, tapping the edge of the frame.

"Have you shown this to anyone else?"

Cilla most often sketched a pattern to see it plainly before she readied the cloth and frame; then she would submit the motif for Mother's final approval.

"You feel it, too, Sister?" Cilla answered slowly. She turned her head again to look at the tracings.

The cluster of lights directly above us seemed to dim a little. Bina thrust her needle into the cloth and then placed fingertips on the small section I had earlier filled. She did not summon union, but our minds were now open as we faced each other across the frame. Cilla pushed away from the work.

"What — what is it?" she asked shakily as one who lifts a garden-pool stone and discovers something repugnant beneath.

I rose. "I would say" — my thought sped — "that something is present here that we are unwise to meddle with further. The closer we look, the more clear that becomes."

"A manifestation of Power? That is Mother's concern!" declared Bina.

"No!" Two of us linked to deny her statement.

"Or" — Cilla modified that denial — "perhaps, but not yet."

She leaned forward to pull her needle from its thread, and we did likewise, returning our tools to the pillow. Taking care not to touch the pattern, we moved to loose the cloth from the frame; and, as the square came free, Cilla bundled it together. In the same moment, the chamber door opened suddenly.

The only one of the household empowered to enter any chamber without a knock, Mother entered, and we curtseyed as she faced us. She had taken only two steps into the room when she halted abruptly, head lifted and nostrils expanded, as if she caught a scent that was at once alien and threatening.

We knew that her Talent greatly overshadowed ours, and to see her respond thus made us uneasy. Her eyes narrowed as she came purposefully forward, and I was quick to push the frame out of her way. The closer our parent approached, the deeper grew the crease between her brows.

Mother pointed to the bundle Cilla had dropped. As she moved her long beringed fingers, the bundle lifted weightlessly, then wriggled and unfolded itself. We could clearly see the curious design as it remained aloft. Our mother studied the crumpled surface for a moment and turned her attention to us, though chiefly to Cilla.

"This pattern is one of yours, rash girl?"

Cilla faced her squarely, head high. "I dreamed it, nor would it go from my mind when I awoke."

Our sorceress mother's hand shot forward and closed on the designer's shoulder. "You — dabble — in — fearsome — things!" She shook Cilla to emphasize each word, then paused.

"I know that now." Our sister's voice was close to a whimper. We moved to flank her protectively, but Mother had already loosed her grip.

"You must repudiate it, Cilla, for, in a manner, you have tried to give a shadow birth."

The trailing cloth still floated. Our sister stepped forward, lips working; then she spat a droplet of moisture that landed on one of the tufts already set in brilliant wool. We followed Cilla's example in making the formal denial of ill-work.

"Go hence," we declared in unison, "our hands will not give you substance. In the name of the Great One, we dismiss you!"

"Shall we send it to the fire?" Cilla asked after we had spat and spoken.

Our mother once more considered the crumpled square. "What was your intention?" she asked slowly, as though she had been knotting several thoughts together. "What would you have done with it when it was finished and you had brought what it might carry to full life?"

"I intended it as a hanging for the Gathering Hall."

"So." Our mother nodded. "Did that thought also accompany your dream?"

Cilla was silent for a long moment, during which we shared her sudden astonishment. "No! Yes, I believe so."

Mother clapped her hands sharply. The cloth drew itself once more into a bundle, the disturbing guidelines now hidden, then fell to the flagstones just as a scratching sounded at the door.

At that signal, Mother called, "Come, Duty. Here is a problem such as you are best equipped to deal with." Duty thrust her capped head past the corner of the slowly opening door before us. Her spare body, in the mouse gray gown she always favored, was taut as a stem of autumn-killed possweed with the tension she, too, sensed in the room. She glanced at Mother and then to the bundle on the floor.

The wise-wife snapped her fingers as she might at one of our father's sleuthhounds, and the untidy mass of cloth answered like a well-trained dog by rising and following her. Duty turned back to the door as the bundle wafted across the room in her wake and followed into the hall beyond.

"It will trouble us no more," Mother observed. "In such cases, it is best not to rely on fire alone. It would seem, my daughters, that you are still not too old for oversight. But no more about that now; we have other matters to consider."

She drew a small square of paper from the low bodice edging of her gown. "Visitors are arriving — and soon." We were acute enough to read the trouble behind her announcement. "Your father's call for a general truce has at last been answered with favor by the Gurly Lord Starkadder. In three days' time, he and his train will spend two days here, and then we shall depart with him to Losstrait to meet with the other clans and draw up terms."

"And belike stage a horserace or two, also," I commented. "Though to call these Border ponies horses belittles a noble breed."

"See that you keep such remarks and thoughts to yourselves!" Mother snapped. "No matter that you can sit a saddle as well as any man; young females of the noble clans do not make a show of riding — "

"No," interrupted Cilla, "the men would not permit a true contest." She spread her skirts, touched the fingertips of her right hand to her chin, and summoned up a simpering smile.

While clansmen and women were granted equality of rank, the important families within the heritage employed a particular set of manners in public life. What was done in private, we knew, was quite another matter. Highly placed clan ladies dressed with ribbons and lace, and they also fluttered fans and bedizened themselves with simply cut gemstones set in silver and gold from the mountains. Our preferred garb of riding habits with divided skirts met with their disdain as often as their stilted formal manners provided us much silent amusement. Having visited both northern peel castles and the Alsonian court, we opined that a servingmaid to our gracious queen could show more refinement and intelligence than many of the self- important grand dames of Gurlyon.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Three Hands for Scorpio by Andre Norton, James Frenkel. Copyright © 2005 Andre Norton. 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

For well over a half century, Andre Norton has been one of the most popular science fiction and fantasy authors in the world. Since her first SF novels were published in the 1940s, her adventure SF has enthralled readers young and old. With series such as Time Traders, Solar Queen, Forerunner, Beast Master, Crosstime, and Janus, as well as many stand-alone novels, her tales of action and adventure throughout the galaxy have drawn countless readers to science fiction.

Her fantasy, including the best-selling Witch World series, her "Magic" series, and many other unrelated novels, has been popular with readers for decades. Lauded as a Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America, she is the recipient of a Life Achievement Award from the World Fantasy Convention. Not only have her books been enormously popular; she also has inspired several generations of SF and fantasy writers, especially many talented women writers who have followed in her footsteps. In the past two decades she has worked with other writers on a number of novels. Most notable among these are collaborations with Mercedes Lackey, the Halfblood Chronicles, as well as collaborations with A.C. Crispin (in the Witch World series) and Sherwood Smith (in the Time Traders and Solar Queen series). An Ohio native, Ms. Norton lived for a number of years in Winter Park, Florida, and now makes her home in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where she continues to write.


For well over a half century, Andre Norton was one of the most popular science fiction and fantasy authors in the world. Since her first SF novels were published in the 1940s, her adventure SF has enthralled readers young and old. With series such as Time Traders, Solar Queen, Forerunner, Beast Master, Crosstime, and Janus, as well as many stand-alone novels, her tales of action and adventure throughout the galaxy have drawn countless readers to science fiction.

Her fantasy, including the best-selling Witch World series, her "Magic" series, and many other unrelated novels, has been popular with readers for decades. Lauded as a Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America, she is the recipient of a Life Achievement Award from the World Fantasy Convention. Not only have her books been enormously popular; she also has inspired several generations of SF and fantasy writers, especially many talented women writers who have followed in her footsteps. In the past two decades she worked with other writers on a number of novels. Most notable among these were collaborations with Mercedes Lackey, the Halfblood Chronicles, as well as collaborations with A.C. Crispin (in the Witch World series) and Sherwood Smith (in the Time Traders and Solar Queen series). Andre Norton passed away in 2005.

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Three Hands for Scorpio 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Princess triplets Drucilla, Sabina, and Tamara of the House of Skorpys share a telepathic connection that has made the three siblings best friends. Their homeland is constantly under threat and assault by feral neighbors wanting to destroy their father the Earl. Especially troublesome is the constant raids from Gurlyon, which this time includes the abduction of the trio................ With Skorpys in pursuit to resche his daughter, their abductors decide to dump the women in order to foster their escape. However, they don¿t discard the females anywhere; they thrust the women inside the Dismals, a deadly underground world filled with dangerous strange creatures and oddly, a large forest. Rather then fold, Drucilla, Sabrina, and Tamara begin their trek out of these badlands starting by allying with a ferocious feline creature, the Climber and next with a human hermit Zolan, who insists there is no way out of the Dismals and that he communicates with the spirits of the former lost tribes that once resided in this wasteland. While the ladies struggle to survive, their home is under siege by a malevolence that once ran rampant in the Dismals.................. Though triplets sharing so much in common, the three females come across as unique individuals with diverse tastes due to Andre Norton rotating the narration enabling the audience to see the same event from differing perspectives. The story line is action-packed with the alternate Dismal underground realm an interesting locale though the connection to Skorpys is not clear until very late in the tale. Fans of strong female fantasy characters will gain immense pleasure from THREE HANDS FOR SCORPIO as Andre Norton remains the Grand Dame of fantasy.................... Harriet Klausner