Blood Trillium

Blood Trillium

by Julian May

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781497675827
Publisher: Open Road Media
Publication date: 07/07/2015
Series: The Saga of the Trillium , #2
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 450
Sales rank: 236,190
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Julian May was the author or coauthor of eighteen adult science fiction and fantasy novels and over two hundred juvenile nonfiction books. She was an avid keyboard player, gardener, jewelry designer, and fly angler. She passed away in 2017 at the age of 86.

Read an Excerpt

Blood Trillium

The Saga of the Trillium


By Julian May

OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA

Copyright © 1992 Starykon Productions, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4976-7582-7


CHAPTER 1

Springtime and the end of the winter rains were long overdue that year in the world lit by the Three Moons. Lingering monsoons had flooded the lowlands of the Peninsula and piled the snowdrifts high round about the Tower of the Archimage on the southern slope of Mount Brom. And on the night that the small fugitive named Shiki came, there was sleet.

The lammergeier that bore him through the shrieking gale was too weary and battered to use its mental voice to call ahead to its fellows at the eyrie of the Archimage, so its arrival was a dismaying surprise. The gigantic bird had no sooner landed upon the slippery Tower roof than it collapsed and died, and the servants of the White Lady at first did not even see the burden it had borne so steadfastly southward. All parts of the great black-and-white body save the wings, tail, and head were sheathed in a glaze of ice. The leather cloak of Shiki, which had shielded him as he crouched on the bird's back during the awful journey, was as stiff as armor and all but welded to the huge corpse. The fugitive himself was so near death that he lacked the strength to creep out of his shelter, and he might have perished had the Archimage's voorkeepers not hastened to his rescue. They saw at once that he was a man of the Mountain Folk, of the same aboriginal Vispi race as they themselves, but by dint of his small stature obviously belonging to some unknown tribe.

"I am Shiki. I have news for the White Lady," he managed to say. "A terrible thing has happened in the north country — in Tuzamen. I — I must tell her —"

Before he could say more, he fell bereft of his senses, dreaming of his dead wife and two dead children. They seemed to beckon Shiki in his feverdream, urging him to join them in a golden realm of peace and warmth where sacred Black Trilliums bloomed under cloudless skies.

How he longed to follow his loved ones there! To be freed at last from pain and the relentless press of duty! But he had not yet delivered his portentous message, and so he begged the phantoms to wait for him only a little while, until he fulfilled this last mission and informed the Archimage of the great danger. Even as he spoke his family seemed to drift away smiling into a bright mist, shaking their heads.

And when he woke, he knew he would live.

He found himself abed in a dim and cozy chamber, tucked beneath a fur coverlet and with both frostbitten hands thickly swaddled in cloth. The small lamp beside the bed was strange, giving off a bright yellow light from a kind of crystal, without any trace of flame. Freezing rain rattled on the window of the room, but the place was very warm, even though there was no hearth or brazier of coals to be seen. A subtle perfume filled the air. He struggled to sit up and saw on a table at the foot of the bed a row of golden urns, and in them bloomed magical Black Trillium plants like those he had seen in his dream.

Standing in the shadows beyond them was a tall woman. She was cloaked and hooded in a shimmering white fabric that had fleeting blue glints like those in the ice of the great inland glaciers. Her visage was hidden and at first Shiki caught his breath in foreboding, for an aura of surpassing mystery and power seemed to emanate from her, unmanning him and setting him trembling like a terrified child. He had encountered a person having this kind of aura only once before, and he had nearly died of it.

The woman threw back her hood and came to his side. Gently, she pressed him back against the pillows. "Do not be afraid," she said. The fearful aura seemed to recede then, and she appeared to be only a handsome black-haired young female — human, not of the Folk — having eyes of opalescent blue with golden glints deep within, and a sweet mouth gravely smiling.

His fear changed to wild anxiety. Had his voor brought him to the wrong place after all? The legendary Archimage he sought was an ancient, the protector and guardian of the Mountain Folk from the days of the Vanished Ones. But this woman looked to be scarcely thirty years old —

"Be at ease," she said. "From time out of mind, one Archimage has followed another as was decreed in the beginning. I am the Archimage Haramis, the White Lady of this age, and I confess to you that I am yet a novice in using the powers of my great office, which I have held for only twelve years. But tell me who you are and why you have sought me, and I will do my best to help you."

"Lady," he whispered. The words came slowly, like the last drops wrung from a sponge. "I asked my faithful voor to bring me to you because I sought justice — the righting of a terrible wrong done to me and my family and the people of my village. But during my flight, as I came near to dying, I realized that we are not the only ones who need your help. It is the whole world that does."

She regarded him in silence for a long moment. Then he was amazed to see tears appear in her eyes, but they did not spill onto her pale cheeks. "So it is true!" she whispered. "All throughout the land there have been rumblings of unease, rumors of evil reborn among both the Folk and humankind — even contention between my own two beloved sisters. But I sought mundane reasons for the disturbances because I did not want to believe that the very balance of the world was once again threatened."

"It is indeed!" he cried, starting up. "Lady, believe me! You must believe me! My own wife would not believe and she was slain, as were our children and scores of our Folk. That evil one who came forth from the Sempiternal Icecap now holds all Tuzamen in his thrall. But soon — soon —"

He had a fit of coughing and could speak no more, and from frustration began to thrash about the bed like a demented thing.

The Archimage lifted her hand. "Magira!"

The door opened. Another female entered, came swiftly to the bedside, and regarded him with enormous green eyes. Her hair was like fine-spun platinum, with the upstanding ears adorned with sparkling red jewels. In contrast to the austere white dress of the Archimage, the newcomer was magnificently attired in gauzy but voluminous robes of a rich crimson color, and she wore a golden collar and bracelets all studded with multicolored gemstones. She carried a crystal cup of some steaming dark liquor, and at the command of the Archimage administered it to him.

His coughing eased, as did his panic. "In a moment you will feel better," the one named Magira said. "Have courage. The White Lady does not turn away those who petition her."

Magira wiped his pallid, beslimed forehead with a soft cloth, and he noted with relief that her hand bore three digits like his own. It comforted him to know that this person was of the Folk as he was, even though she was of human stature, and her features more finely drawn than his own, and the accents of her speech odd. It was in humankind, after all, that the impending calamity had its source.

The taste of the medicinal drink was bitter, but it both soothed and strengthened him. The White Lady seated herself on one side of the bed and Magira sat on the other, and in a few minutes he relaxed and was able to tell his story:


My name is Shiki [he said], and my people call themselves the Dorok. We dwell in those parts of far Tuzamen where glacial tongues of the Sempiternal Icecap thrust forth from the frozen center of the world and nearly reach the sea. Most of that land is treeless and grim, a place of windswept moors and desolate mountains. We Folk have our small settlements in deep valleys beneath the frozen crags. Geysers spout there, warming the air and soil so that trees and other vegetation may grow, and our cave-homes are simple but comfortable. Humans from the coastal settlements and the Flame-Girt Isles visit us only rarely. We also have little contact with other tribes of the Mountain Folk, but we know that we have kin living in the highlands in many parts of the world, and like them we cherish the far-flying voor, and associate with these great birds, and ride them.

(I realize now that the Lady Magira and those servants of yours who took me in must belong to an exalted branch of my race that is privileged to serve you, White Lady. And now I begin to understand why my poor departed voor Nunusio was so determined that I should bring my dire news to you ... But forgive my digression! I must get on with the tale itself.)

I earned my living as a trapper of the black fedoks and golden worrams that live only in the highest mountains, and betimes I also guided human seekers of precious metals into the remote ice-free enclaves where the great volcanoes mitigate the terrible cold.

Over two years ago, during the autumn Dry Time, three humans came to our village. They were not prospectors or traders, but said they were scholars from the south, from Raktum. They had been sent forth by Queen Regent Ganondri, they said, in search of a certain rare herb that would cure their boy-king Ledavardis of the malignant languor afflicting him. It was a plant alleged to grow only in the Kimilon, the remote Land of Fire and Ice that is a temperate island surrounded by glaciers, lying amidst rocks newly cooled after being belched forth from the belly of the world.

The First of our village, old Zozi Twistback, told the strangers that the Kimilon lay over nine hundred leagues west, entirely encompassed by the icecap. It is inaccessible by land, and only those great birds that we Folk call voor and the humans call lammergeiers can reach the place. The journey is all but impossible because of the monstrous storms that lash the Sempiternal Icecap. No other Mountain Folk save the Dorok have ever dared to venture to the Kimilon on voorback, and we ourselves have avoided the place for nearly two hundreds.

The three strangers promised an enormous reward to the Dorok guide who would take them to the Kimilon; but none would go. Not only was the expedition deemed too perilous, but also there was an ominous mien about the trio of humans, a smell of dark magic, that made us loath to trust them. One was dressed all in black, another in purple, and the third wore garments of vivid yellow.

The three then demanded that we sell voors to them so they could fly to the Kimilon themselves!

Our First restrained her outrage and explained that the great birds are free beings, not property, and carry us only out of friendship. She also reminded the strangers very courteously that the voor's talons and sharp-toothed beak make it a formidable creature to those who are not its friends. At this the trio renewed their offers of rich rewards for any Dorok guide who would accompany them. But no one would listen, and the humans finally mounted their fronials and seemed to quit the village.

Now, it is well known among the Dorok that I am the best guide of all, and the strangers no doubt found this out. One day when I returned from my traplines I found my home-cave deserted. My wife and two young daughters had disappeared, and none of the Folk could say what had become of them. I was mad with grief that night, and near drunk to the point of insensibility on mistberry brandy when the stranger dressed in black tapped at my door and said he had an important message for me.

Yes, you have guessed it: the human scoundrels had abducted my family in order to force me to be their guide! I was warned that if I spoke to any of my people of the deed, my wife and children would be killed. On the other hand, if I took the three men safely to the Kimilon and back, my loved ones would be returned safe to me, and the humans would pay me with a bag of platinum that would equal ten years' earnings.

"The dangerous trip could all be in vain," said I, "if we fail to find the medicinal herb that you seek."

At this the villains laughed merrily. "There is no herb," said the one garbed in purple. "But there is something else awaiting us that will brook no delay. So summon a flock of your sturdiest lammergeiers — four for us to mount and ten to carry certain supplies that we require — and we will leave before dawn."

I could only comply.

I shall not tell you of that horrible flight into the Sempiternal Icecap. It took seven days, with only a brief rest on the stormy surface of the ice allotted to the valiant voors each night. When we came at last to the Land of Fire and Ice, the volcanoes were in full spate, with molten lava pouring down their flanks and the sky full of black smoke all smeared with crimson, like a vision of the ten hells. A rain of ash was falling, whitening the ground and coating the meager vegetation like poisonous snow.

And there we found a lone human male.

He appeared to have built himself a sturdy house from blocks of lava. The place was as large as two ferol-barns and emplaced against a great cliff, and it was not only well made but even handsome. But the man's only food would have been the lichens encrusting the rocks, roots and berries from the few shrubs growing in the thin soil, and the slugs and shelled creatures inhabiting the hot springs. The ashfall was doubtless depleting these, and he had no more flesh on him than a skeleton when we first encountered him.

He was a man of tall stature, nearly twice my height. His filthy yellowish hair and beard reached nearly to his knees. His face was seamed and scarred and his eyes — of the palest blue, with a spark of gold deep within the dark pupils — peered out from deep caverns in his skull and had the glitter of madness. He wore clumsy sandals to protect his feet from the sharp lava rocks, and a stiff patchwork robe woven of plant fibers which served him well enough, since the subterranean fires render the Kimilon much warmer than the surrounding icecap.

I immediately understood that the purpose of our expedition had been to rescue this man, whose name was Portolanus. He was beyond doubt a powerful sorcerer. I must tell you straitly, White Lady, that he had about him the same awesome atmosphere of enchantment that invests your own person — but his magic evinced nothing of benevolence. Instead Portolanus seemed almost to glow with suppressed fury, as though his inner self were a sump of incandescent emotion. It seemed to me that this might gush forth as destructively as the red-hot magma rages from a volcano if he should ever unleash his soul's full power.

When we first found this Portolanus he was scarce able to utter human speech. I never learned how long he had been marooned in that hideous place, nor how he had managed to summon his three rescuers — who treated him with the most profound respect, commingled with fear. They had brought rich new snowy-white garments for him; and after he was well fed and cleaned and his hair and beard trimmed, he could not be recognized as the poor wretch who had bellowed like a triumphant beast when the voors first landed us near his dwelling.

The "supplies" that the henchmen of Portolanus had had me pack upon the extra voors were, in addition to our food and the tiny tents we slept in upon the icecap, nothing but sacks and ropes. The purpose of these wrappings soon became clear. While the voors rested and I remained outside with one villain to guard me, the sorcerer and the other two men busied themselves within the stone house. They eventually emerged with many packages, which they loaded onto the birds. Then we returned to Tuzamen by the same dangerous route we had come.

We did not fly to my village, however. We went to the coast, to the squalid human settlement of Merika at the mouth of the White River that calls itself the capital of Tuzamen. There the villains disembarked with their mysterious freight at a ramshackle place called Castle Tenebrose that overlooks the sea. I was discharged and given a small pouch of platinum coins, less than a tenth of the sum I had been promised. The balance of my fee, Portolanus said, would be paid "when his fortunes mended." (A likely story, thought I. But I wisely held my tongue.) The lackeys of Portolanus told me the location of the remote lava tube where they had walled up my family. I would find them safe enough, they said.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Blood Trillium by Julian May. Copyright © 1992 Starykon Productions, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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.

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