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Until The Celebration
Book Three of the Green Sky Trilogy
By Zilpha Keatley Snyder
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1977 Zilpha Keatley Snyder
All rights reserved.
Since early childhood, the farheights had been Raamo's refuge in times of mind-pain, and in the evening of the day that came to be called the Rejoyning, he climbed far and fast. Far above temples and nid-places, rampways and ladders, he pushed his way upward with almost frantic haste, through clustered end-branches and sun-stunted webbings of tendril. At last he stopped in the swaying fragile endgrowth and fashioned a resting place of leaf and twig. Lying there with only a lacy fan of rooftree frond between him and the endless sky, he stilled his racing mind and sent his Spirit in search of Peace and understanding.
The day was already fading, and the clouds of first rain were beginning to gather. Soon the soft gray blanket would be complete, and the planet would be shut away from the cold eternity of space, enclosed and comforted by soothing rain-song, warm and light and generous in gifts of growth and greening. It was a time and place of Joy and peacefulness, and, as always, Raamo joyed in the high, clear silence and the fragile hopeful reach of the high forest. But this time the Joy was not deep enough to drown the fear that he had fled.
The fear had begun only a short time before, there on the stage of the Geets-kel's secret meeting chamber, at a moment when all the others were still caught up in a great wave of hope and faith. The scene returned to Raamo with such vividness that it blotted out the sky; and when he closed his eyes against it, it continued, a clear and detailed imaging against the dark curtain of his eyelids.
He saw the children, as he had seen them there, bound and helpless, against the far wall of the high stage—his sister Pomma, great-eyed and fragile, and the sturdy, vivid Erdling child, Teera Eld. He saw their outstretched hands and felt again the great rushing force that had lifted the ancient weapon from where it lay and sent it drifting through the air. And he felt once more the wonder and awe, and the wildly contagious surge of courage and hope, as the Geets-kel had one by one stepped forward to pledge themselves to the cause of truth.
It had been one of the Geets-kel, the old man D'ol Wassou, who had spoken first. "I have seen a miracle," he said, "and to me, its meaning is clear. I wish to pledge myself to the reuniting of the people of Green-sky, Kindar with Erdling, and to the wisdom of D'ol Falla and the vision of D'ol Raamo. And to the great gift that has been restored to us by these children—one Erdling and one Kindar—both Spirit-blessed and holy, as once we all were, in the early days before a part of us was shut away to live in prison, below the Root."
Then others among the Geets-kel came forward to speak, naming Pomma and Teera beautiful and blessed and holy. And many spoke also of Raamo, praising him and calling him prophet and seer.
It had been D'ol Birta who spoke of the "Answer Song," calling it a true prophecy, and of Raamo himself, as a foreseer, akin to the ancient prophets who had guided the people in the early days.
Remembering how he had sung the song, a nonsense chant of children, in hopeless desperation because no other answer had come to him when D'ol Falla had begged him for a foretelling, he flinched with anguish. He could see now how it might seem a foretelling. The words could have many meanings:
And all between becomes among,
And we are they and old is young,
And earth is sky,
And all is one.
And yet, he knew that he had not sung it as a revelation, but only as children had sung it for generations—haunted by its surprising rhythms and by the mysterious uncertainties of its meaning.
The memory was acutely disturbing, as was also the memory of the children, still standing against the tendril-woven wall, with the tool-of-violence at their feet—their small faces tensed by a strange bright excitement as they listened to the words of praise and adoration.
But then Kanna, the mother of Teera, had gone to them, and Raamo had run to Pomma. Loosened from their bonds and held and caressed, they had clung like infants, whimpering with relief and Joy.
It was then that Hiro D'anhk had stepped forward and suggested a ceremony of welcome be made for the Erdlings—for Teera and for Karma and Herd, also. The Geets-kel agreed eagerly, and so the ceremony was made, and then the planning had begun—plans for the Rejoyning, a name given by D'ol Falla to this time of truth and reunion—and great change. It had been decided that the changes would begin at once, on the morning of the next day, when the truth would be taken to the leaders of the Kindar.
It had been D'ol Falla who insisted that the Kindar be told first. It had seemed to the others, and in the beginning, even to Raamo himself, that the first meeting should be with the Ol-zhaan. Such an ordering seemed not only proper, but prudent—for although the Ol-zhaan were not, as the Kindar believed, all-wise and all-powerful, they were trained for leadership and far better equipped by knowledge and background to deal with the problems that were sure to lay ahead. But D'ol Falla had insisted that the first meeting should be with guild and grandmasters, scholars and instructors, with those who were most honored and respected within the Kindar society. And D'ol Falla had prevailed.
Remembering how she had prevailed, Raamo smiled, forgetting his anxiety for the moment, in his Love and admiration for the tiny ancient woman. Truly, she had not reached her high position among the Ol-zhaan by accident. Using the force of the Geets-kel's newfound faith and blending it skillfully with the old established authority of her high position, she had led them to a reluctant agreement. That very evening the summons would be sent to the Kindar leaders, and in the morning the truthtelling would take place in the great meeting hall of Orbora.
It had been then, when those final plans were made, that Raamo had first noticed the faces of some of the men and women of the Geets-kel stiffen with fear. They had turned in those moments from the ecstasy of their faith in the miracle they had witnessed to the grim possibilities of its consequences. From their faith in the power that had flowed from the children—to the fact that they, themselves, must stand revealed as deceivers and betrayers. It was not until then, reminded by thoughts of guilt and blame, that they had remembered D'ol Regle, and seen that he was gone.
Raamo had not seen him go, nor had anyone else. Sometime before, probably during the ceremony of welcome, the novice-master must have slipped behind the tapestries at the rear of the stage, through the small robing room that lay behind it, and out into the open forest. But after a brief moment of shocked indignation, most of the Geets-kel seemed to believe that D'ol Regle's disappearance was of little consequence.
"What does it matter?" someone had asked.
"Yes, what harm can he do now? He has probably run back to his palace to nurse his wounded pride. And if he has run away into the forest, what harm can he do there—alone and in disgrace?"
But Raamo was afraid. His fear had grown at D'ol Regle's disappearance, but it had begun earlier. It had started as a dim and distant warning, a sense of turnings being made down dangerous pathways, and of pitfalls that lay ahead full of dangers and horrors beyond imagining. As the first hints of fear had grasped him, Raamo had looked around him, searching the faces and the minds of those who stood with him on the high stage—the others who, with him, had begun the changes—to see if they, too, sensed the dangers.
He looked from face to face—from Neric to Genaa, to Hiro to D'ol Falla, and to the Erdlings, Kanna and Herd—and he saw that they were worried and fearful, but also proud and joyous. And he saw that their fear was not the same as his.
He knew then that his fear arose, in part, from a strange vague beckoning that told him it was his task to find and confront a great danger. D'ol Falla had always insisted that he was meant to be a Spirit-messenger, a foreteller, but he had always doubted. Now this inner beckoning seemed to tell him he was destined to some purposing as yet far beyond his understanding, and he found himself resisting, not with doubt, but with terror. He did not know what he would be required to do, but he felt evil nearby and growing, like a brooding presence. He felt it to be deep-rooted and of great power, and he was terribly afraid that he was meant to seek it out and protect the children—and perhaps others as well—from its consuming darkness.
When the planning was accomplished, the talk had turned once more to uniforce and miracles, and the men and women of the Geets-kel, troubled and shaken by their contemplation of the days to come, had returned eagerly to the Joy they had discovered in their newfound faith. And it was then that Raamo had left the hall, removing his private fear and doubt from the midst of so much hopefulness.
At the doorway he turned for a moment to look back. The attention of the Geets-kel, clustered below the stage, as well as of those on the platform was centered on the children. Only Hiro and D'ol Falla stood apart, Hiro holding the tool-of-violence. He spoke to D'ol Falla, and she answered, and then she reached out and took the weapon carefully in both hands. And once again Raamo had felt an evil presence, moving through the bright Joy and trembling excitement, like the seeping waters of a dark river.
And so he had come to the farheights to look for Peace, and perhaps for some understanding of the beckoning—of what it was that had called to him and why. But even there, rocked in the swaying leaf-cushioned nid, and soothed by the enfolding cloud-softened sky, the fear remained unchanged, and still hidden.
Then at last, it came to him that if he were truly Spirit-summoned, it could not be without reason—and when the time came, he would understand what was needed and what was required of him. With the first warm drops of rain, a kind of Peace fell on him, and he drifted in it, tempted for a time to go on lying there all through the night. But he sat up instead, and as his leafy nid rocked wildly, he was suddenly aware that the fear had become bearable. It was not so much diminished, but more as if he, himself, had changed. As if he had made an accommodation so that the fear's space no longer crowded out hope and many other things as well.
He left the farheights and climbed downwards to where the thinning top-growth left space for gliding. Shaking out the wing-panels of his shuba, he leaned forward into a glide. But here in the uninhabited forest there were no cleared glidepaths, and he was forced to turn and bank sharply. As he dropped lower, the dark quickly deepened, making such maneuvering more dangerous, and he was soon forced to land and continue by branchpath.
He was moving southward, towards Orbora, and had almost reached the boundaries of Temple Grove when he stopped suddenly and listened. Someone was approaching, below him and slightly to the south. Faint sounds reached his ears, the soft brush of feet on branchpath, the occasional snap of a broken twig, and now and then the cautious hiss of whispering voices. Dropping to his stomach, Raamo slid forward and peered over the edge of the branch.
Not far below him a small procession was making its way along a large branchpath. Of the six figures, four were heavily laden with portage baskets; and even in the semi-darkness, it was apparent that the other two were dressed in the shimmering white shubas of Ol-zhaan. The first was tall and thick-bodied, his step slow and ponderous, while the other, who scurried beside him in stumbling haste, was short and formless as a tree tuber.
Clearly the large Ol-zhaan was D'ol Regle, and the short formless one, his ardent disciple, D'ol Salaat. The other four were, perhaps, servants from the palace of the novice-master. It seemed that D'ol Regle had, indeed, decided to flee to the open forest and live in exile.
Perhaps it was for the best, Raamo told himself. What good could come of his presence in Orbora? It would be only a continual reminder of what he had tried to do, and such a reminder would surely cause only fear and mind-pain. But when the novice-master and his followers had disappeared from sight in the thick untrimmed growth of the open forest, Raamo's fear did not go with them.CHAPTER 2
Early the next morning, two people descended the rampway from Broadgrund and slowly crossed the wide platform that served as an entryway to the assembly hall of Orbora. The great hall, built during the glorious early days of the planet, was still unsurpassed—a monument to the time when the creative genius of the Kindar was at its height. Securely supported by two great grundbranches, it appeared to be almost floating among masses of greenery, its soaring arches and lacy screens blending in perfect harmony with the surrounding forest. But its wonders were lost on the man and woman who were approaching it at that moment. Deep in conversation, they spoke in tense urgent voices of matters that clearly concerned them greatly. The woman was D'ol Falla, and the man upon whose arm she was leaning was Hiro D'anhk.
"It is indeed a pity," D'ol Falla was saying, "that so much must be asked of you—such a great burden of responsibility placed on you—when you have so recently returned from exile. I know you would much prefer to be free to enjoy your reunion with Jorda and with Genaa. But there is no one else among us who can speak to the Kindar as one of their own. Except for Kanna and Herd, who are Erdling and alien, we are all Ol-zhaan, and therefore tainted."
"But surely Neric will be able to earn their trust," Hiro said, "when they learn that it was he who began the search for the truth."
"Perhaps," D'ol Falla said, "but Neric is very young and inexperienced. I fear his certainty and his impulsiveness. In the days to come there may be great need to move slowly and with caution if we are to avoid disaster."
Hiro sighed deeply. "That is true," he said. "I will speak to the Kindar as you ask. But what would you have me say?"
"Tell them where you have been, and why. The rest will follow. I will speak first and tell them the truth concerning the past—of the true fate of the ancestral planet, and of the dispute that led to the banishment of the first exiles. And then, when the Kindar see you—when they see that you are still alive—they will be prepared to hear the truth concerning the Pash-shan."
"I don't know," Hiro said. "When they see me, they may be forced to accept the truth; but I am afraid that nothing can prepare them for it. How can you prepare a people to lose, in so short a time, not only their saints, the Olzhaan, but their demons as well? I'm afraid that they will not easily relinquish their fear of the Pash-shan."
They reached the doorway of the great hall then, and entering, they made their way down the long sloping aisle between the rows of tendril benches and mounted the curving rampway that led to the high stage. Soon after, the others began to arrive. First the young Ol-zhaan—Raamo, Genaa and Neric—and with them the two Erdlings, dressed now in Kindar shubas, but still alien in their appearance, with their golden skin tones and dark, uncropped hair.
Genaa was glowing, and Neric's round eyes gleamed with eager anticipation; but Raamo's face was shadowed as if by sleeplessness or mind-pain. D'ol Falla would have questioned him, but the others were coming now, the Geets-kel, in groups of two or three. And not long after, the Kindar began to enter the great hall.
In contrast to the Geets-kel, who were tense and strained, the Kindar leaders were relaxed and at ease. Curious, perhaps, at the sudden summons, but entirely unaware of the shattering revelations that were soon to come. Dressed in richly ornamented shubas, many adorned with sashes of high office, they took their places on the tendril benches and addressed their attention to the high stage where the group of Ol-zhaan were seated. And with the Ol-zhaan, two Kindar—odd, swarthy people, groomed in an unlikely manner—possibly visitors from Farvald or one of the other more provincial cities.
But then D'ol Falla, the ancient and honored priest of the Vine, came forward and began to speak to them. Beginning bluntly, without the accustomed rituals of greeting between Ol-zhaan and Kindar, she began to tell them things they had never thought to hear.
Excerpted from Until The Celebration by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. Copyright © 1977 Zilpha Keatley Snyder. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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