With her world facing annihilation, one of three powerful sisters must cross over into a forbidden dimension of vanished gods to confront an all-consuming terror in the continuation of the phenomenal Saga of the Trillium
The three royal daughters of the Black Trillium brought a welcomed peace to Ruwenda and the World of the Three Moons by defeating the dark sorcerer Orogastus. Now it is time for Kadiya, the Seeker-Warrior, to return the powerful Three-Orbed Sword to its place of origin. But a journey that began in the wild marshlands of her devoted allies, the aboriginal Oddlings, soon leads to the domain of a race of dream catchers created by the inscrutable Vanished Ones—and to the terrible revelation of a coming plague destined to obliterate Kadiya’s world. Unable to contact her sisters and complete the triumvirate, Kadiya must now act alone to prevent the Apocalypse, and follow her destined path into a timeless dimension where the Vanished Ones have taken refuge. There she will confront the most devastating horror her world has ever known.
The Saga of the Trillium, created by three of the most revered writers in the realm of fantasy and science fiction, is now in the hands of the incomparable Andre Norton. With Golden Trillium, the acclaimed master continues the story she began with Julian May and Marion Zimmer Bradley, carrying the epic tale into a new dimension of magic, peril, and breathtaking self-discovery.
About the Author
For well over a half century, Andre Norton was one of the most popular science fiction and fantasy authors in the world. With series such as Time Traders, Solar Queen, Forerunner, Beast Master, Crosstime, and Janus, as well as many standalone novels, her tales of adventure have drawn countless readers to science fiction. Her fantasy novels, including the bestselling Witch World series, her Magic series, and many other unrelated novels, have 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. An Ohio native, Norton lived for many years in Winter Park, Florida, and died in March 2005 at her home in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
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The Saga of the Trillium
By Andre Norton
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1993 Andre Norton
All rights reserved.
Rain lashed the swamp. The waterways flooded, roiled with mud, carried burdens of uprooted trees and brush. Vines writhed in the water like serpents, and true serpents were belly up and tangled fatally among reeds. Some of the monstrous growth swirled out making temporary traps to catch flotsam, to the danger of any craft daring to attempt upstream travel. The pounding of wind deafened all sound except the roar of rain and water.
Yet there was travel against all odds. Even as much as those who knew the swamp feared their world gone wild, this one season they had dared it. An army had come out of the mires: clans had drawn to clans, peoples to peoples.
There had been such a battle as even the ancient songs had never pictured. Evil had struck with a power of fire and sorcery beyond knowledge, and had gone down to a defeat of charred ashes. Now those who dared the streams and rivers felt only an overpowering need to turn their backs upon that battlefield, to withdraw into their own places. Victory had been theirs, yet the shadow of what had happened was like the storm clouds above.
Their number shrank constantly during the journey. This force and that took to side ways, peeling away to seek out their home islets or the lake villages of the clans. The Nyssomu went early since their holdings lay the closest. Their distant cousins, the Uisgu, rode in shallow skiffs drawn by those who were both fighting comrades and aides — the water-dwelling rimoriks, even their great strength taxed by the fury of the waters. They disappeared more and more into half concealed tributaries which led to their fortresses, still unknown to those not of their kind save a few far venturers, none welcomed.
Though the fast diminishing army fought hard to leave the past behind them, there were gruesome reminders of what horror had held sway here. Trussed in one patch of mud burdened reeds were the remains of a human, one of the ill-fated invasion force.
The girl, swinging her paddle violently in one of the foremost skiffs, looked away hurriedly. Some Skritek had feasted there — satisfied the abominable hunger of his kind upon the flesh of his onetime ally.
Skriteks — many now must be on the run before the storm fury. They knew only too well what would happen to any of their kind who had survived the defeat of the invaders within reach of the victors.
The small party left had pushed on now into the Thorny Hell, a place of dread in which the innermost heart of fear seemed trapped in the tangle of thorn-sprouting growth. A sense of peril appeared to cling in leprous patches to the trunks of dead trees. Those who ventured here because it was the straightest path to their destination did not attempt to see beyond the bristling curtain which walled the river on either hand.
The rain formed shrouds across the open water which shut out much of the view ahead. Bowed head and hunched shoulders could not help. Kadiya — who had once been a Princess housed in all the soft life known to her kind — endured, even as she endured the weight of the sheathed weapon which dug against her ribs when she swung to the paddle's need. The same stubbornness which had brought her an army held. Kadiya could not and would not turn aside with any of those who continued to urge her to shelter with them. Nor could she have remained at the Citadel, now cleansed of the evil which had struck down those of her house. Payment had been taken. However, she was not yet free ...
Once more that weight resting upon her was greater than all that the storm could hurl at her, stronger than any floating trap she and her companions fought their way through.
Why did she feel this driving urge, this pressure which was sometimes close to frantic? She felt she was being moved by a will which was not her own. The first time she had fled there had been red death, fire, the end of all the life she had known. Now ... now what drove her?
Drive it did — through the very maw of the storm. Islets on which they tried to camp were only sinks of mud and water-heavy brush. There was no real shelter. Sleep was only a temporary end to an exhaustion that left the body one great ache. Still each time she roused she was quick to settle once more into hazardous traveling.
At least the storm kept their drenched world free of some dangers. No voor cruised above, no scale-armored xanna arose from murky paths with sucker-encrusted limbs to threaten them. Those plants which had their own vicious weapons were curled in upon themselves to outwait the floods.
On the seventh day they came to the end of the river road. Now there was only their single craft left to nose the sticky mud of the bank. At least here the thorns did not repel.
Kadiya threw her pack ahead to a mound of earth which looked stable enough to hold it. Reaching out for a trailing vine, she used it to drag herself ashore. Then she turned to face those who had accompanied her without complaint and wearily raised one hand in salute.
Many things had changed in the days just past, but old Oaths were still honored. No matter how valorous they had been in a battle which had wrenched their world out of the hands of the Dark, no man or woman of the Oddlings would venture beyond this landing into a long-forbidden land — none except Jagun, the huntsman who had taught her the swamp ways and was now swinging ashore in her water-filling tracks. Oathed against this he had been, but that Oath was lifted by her own belief and act.
Yet those others watching her now, their great yellow-green eyes unblinking as if those very stares would hold her, were plainly loath to let her go.
"Light-bearer." One of the two women warriors raised her hand in entreaty. "Come with us. You have carried our hope." For a moment her eyes sought the heavy burden at Kadiya's belt. "There is peace — the peace which we have won. Let us shelter you. Seek not this place which is not to be seen ..."
The girl pushed back a sodden string of hair dangling from under her xanna-bone helm. She found that she still had the power to summon a smile.
"Joscata, this has been laid upon me." Her hand went to the bulbous hilt of that talisman which was also a sword. "It would seem that I cannot rest until I have fulfilled yet another duty. Let me but do this and I promise I shall return with a full heart to you all — for such comradeship I wish more than all else in the world. The choice is not yet mine to make. I have something still to do."
The Nyssomu looked beyond the girl's shoulder to the drenched land. On her face there was a shadow which might have been set by fear.
"May all good go with you, Farseer. Firm be the land for your footing, clear the path to where you must trod."
"Swift be your boats, comrades," Kadiya replied as she hoisted her pack to her shoulders, "quick the way. If fortune wills I shall see you again."
Jafen, war speaker of the clan who had brought them here, still held the tie rope. "Lady of the Sword, remember the signal. There will be always a watcher. When you have done what you must do ..."
Slowly Kadiya shook her head, then blinked her eyes against the stream of water the gesture dislodged from her helm. "War Captain, do not expect a quick return. In all truth I do not know what lies before me now. When I am free, then surely I shall seek out those whose spears were a wall against the Dark."
Memory struck for a moment. It was as though not a Nyssomu faced her but that awesome figure she had seen but once before, who had come to her when she had been a hunted fugitive with despair nipping at her heels. And because of the courage born from that meeting with the mysterious presence in the garden of the lost city, she now felt the flash of memory as a spur, urging her on.
The five left behind did not push off but held their craft steady as long as she and Jagun were in sight.
Luckily the mud slime in which one could not find steady footing did not last. There were sometimes pools across their path that Jagun depth-tested with the butt of his spear. Their pace was necessarily slow and the way was long.
There was little shelter. Game was scarce and the provisions which made up the larger part of their packs were fast disappearing despite all their care. There came the time when they went without food for the night and were no better off in the morning. However, under that gray sky the rain had mercifully slackened, and Kadiya at last caught sight of the huddle of ruins ahead.
It was the Place of Learning — the stronghold of the Sindona, the Vanished Ones. She paused. Would the old magic touch her once she passed through that broken semblance of a gate? She began to splash toward it — then remembering, she glanced back.
His face was set as if he were battle ready, yet he was following. Looking to neither side, he marched as one does to a danger which must be faced. The age-old Oath put upon his people: even though she had loosened it for him when they journeyed this way before, did it burden him still?
He did not answer but he came on. There was a great burst of wind driven rain, as if the monsoon itself would bar their passage at this last moment. Then they stumbled forward, through the wreckage of the gate, falling to their knees from a last blow of the wind.
But ... the beat of the storm was gone! They might have passed under a roof, though the sky was open over them. In the air hung a heavy moisture, more like a morning fog. While before them —
No ruins, no tumble of age-struck stone. Kadiya had seen the transformation work before, passing in the opposite direction. Ruins without to the eye; within, a city silent, deserted, yet unpitted by years. Streets stretched empty before them. The buildings bordering them, though half clothed with the green of vines, showed no crumbling. Just as the Citadel in which she had been born had survived time without decay, so had this place though all other sites the Vanished Ones had left behind were tumbled stone.
Jagun's pack thudded from his back to the pavement. He muttered something as might one who lived by natural laws and did not welcome a confrontation with what put those in abeyance.
"This is a place of ..." He hesitated as if he could not find the proper words.
The clouds were darker. Night was overtaking the storm. Kadiya was on her feet. Twilight, or black night, she was now so close —
"This is a place of Power," she said, and her words seemed softened by the mist which was growing stronger. "And I have something to do."
She did not turn her head to see if he would follow, nor did she linger for any word of agreement. Instead she hurried onward. To either hand the intact buildings loomed. The curtains of vines which draped them took on a darker hue in the twilight. Windows like great lidless eyes watched her from behind those living screens. No flicker of lamp, flare of torch gave honest welcome. Still she felt no alarm, no fear that anything here lay in wait.
From street, to square, to street, she went to find that which she knew was the heart of this place. She rounded a mist-veiled pool to come to a stairway. There she stopped, both hands gripping the sword she wore but had not drawn. On either side, mounted on each rising step, were life-size (or perhaps larger than life-size) statues, facing each other so that none could pass between them unseen.
The artist who had carved them had given them a kind of shimmering life as if each were bespelled. Men and women in company, they were surely representations of the Vanished Ones. Each countenance differed from the others so that one could well believe they were portraits of the once-living.
Kadiya slipped off her pack, then drew the sword. This she held by the pointless blade. As if the gesture assured her right to entrance, the girl climbed the stairs.
Gaining the columned platform above, she paused. There was the second stairway which she sought, leading downward to a garden which was not of any world she knew. Here fruit and flower shared the same branch. Time vanished: There was no past, no future, only the moment in which she moved. The mist was nearly gone. Even the twilight lingered, as if night had no place here.
Sparks of light danced in the air. They were many-colored, as if jewels had taken wings. From flower to flower, swelling fruit to fruit, they wheeled and spun. She had never seen their like elsewhere in the swamplands.
With a sigh Kadiya dropped to the top step. At that moment all the weariness of her travel settled upon her. She raised her hand to push off the helm which suddenly had taken on an intolerable weight. It fell, to clang on the white stone, and she frowned at the noise.
Her hair was plastered to her mud splattered cheeks, or lay in lank strings upon her mail clad shoulders. It held the darkness of peat waters. Swamp smells were strong about her body. The fragrance of the garden seemed a reproach.
Across her knees rested the sword. The three eyes which formed the pommel were sealed, closed as tightly as if they had never been opened to loose raw powers. Kadiya slipped her hands along the blade. Once her touch had awakened tingling life, but that was gone now. This was certainly what was meant to be.
Though she caressed the sword, her eyes were on the garden. The one who had come to her here, who had sent her into battle with the Dark to learn for herself a little of what she was, or could be, would that one come again now?
No. Instead the twilight was slowly dimming at last. Nothing moved save the gemmed flyers. With a sigh, her shoulders slumped, Kadiya arose and went down step by lingering step into the garden.
The thick turf which covered all the open land between shrubs, beds of flowers, and twining vines was broken in only one place. Where that patch of earth was visible there seemed to be also a hovering luminosity.
Kadiya stumbled toward it. She stooped and, with both hands clasped tightly over the ovals which held the eyes, drove the squared-off blade tip of her talisman into the spot of bared earth. The blade entered, but not easily. There was strong resistance which drew heavily on her already taxed energy. But the sword stood erect when she moved back a step, a strange new growth in this place of comfort and peace.
Her hands went to her throat to clasp that other symbol of Power which she had worn from birth — the amulet of amber with a tiny embedded flowerlet within it. Kadiya waited.
She had returned this sword of Power to the place from which it had grown. It did not change as she had thought it would. The girl tensed, her shoulders straightened. She loosed hold of the amulet to sweep back the lank locks of hair and fully clear her sight. Nothing moved.
Kadiya cleared her throat. Though she spoke aloud, her words sounded deadened, far off.
"All is finished. We have completed that task which was set us. The evil is vanquished — Haramis is Archimage. Anigel reigns over both friend and those who were once foes. What would you have of me?"
The answer? Was the unchanging sword to be her only answer? Was she, in the place which knew no time, showing her old impatience? Resolutely she spoke again:
"I was told when I was here before, by that one who met me, that this is a place of learning. My ... my need then seemed great, for I was going up against all the forces our enemies could range against us." She paused and sought for words anew. "Now also my need is great. What would you have of me? What lies in my future that I must give in return? Haramis has her learning and her desired power, Anigel her kingdom. If I have truly earned a future, what is it to be? I have had no answer, but I have been drawn here for some reason. Give me answers, you who shelter in this place, as once before you showed me the way!"
Still nothing moved save the glowing things. Night had darkened, but a pale light encircled the planted sword.
Kadiya half reached for it, then snatched back her hand. She must understand more first. Turning, she climbed the stairs to the top refusing to look back.
Weariness was now trifold, and with it she felt a sense of emptiness and loss. It was not that she had left her portion of Power behind, but more as if some other will had walled her out, stepped between her and knowledge.
Excerpted from Golden Trillium by Andre Norton. Copyright © 1993 Andre Norton. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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