In Earth's distant future, Tyndel is both teacher and mentor, a staunch devotee to his conservative and rigidly structured religious culture. Then a rogue infection of nanotechnology transforms him into a "demon", something more than human, and he is forced into exile, fleeing to the more technologically advanced space-faring civilization that lies to the north, one that his own righteous people consider evil. Although shaken by his transformation, he has the rare talent required to become a space pilot. What no one, least of all Tyndel, expects, is his deep-space encounter with a vastly superior being--perhaps with God.
Other Series by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
The Saga of Recluce
The Imager Portfolio
The Corean Chronicles
The Spellsong Cycle
The Ghost Books
The Ecolitan Matter
The Forever Hero
The Green Progression
Hammer of Darkness
The Parafaith War
The Octagonal Raven
The Ethos Effect
The Eternity Artifact
The Elysium Commission
Empress of Eternity
The One-Eyed Man
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|Publisher:||Tom Doherty Associates|
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About the Author
L. E. Modesitt, Jr. was born in Denver, CO in 1943. In the years since, he has been a delivery boy; a lifeguard; an unpaid radio disc jockey; a U.S. Navy pilot; a market research analyst; a real estate agent; director of research for a political campaign; legislative assistant and staff director for a U.S. Congressman; Director of Legislation and Congressional Relations for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; a consultant on environmental, regulatory, and communications issues; a college lecturer and writer in residence; and unpaid treasurer of a civic music arts association. In addition to his novels -- most notably the Recluce saga, Spellsong series and Corean Chronicles -- Mr. Modesitt has published technical studies and articles (generally with boring titles), columns, poetry, and a number of science fiction stories. He and his wife, a lyric soprano, make their home in Cedar City, UT.
L. E. Modesitt, Jr., is the bestselling author of the fantasy series The Saga of Recluce, Corean Chronicles, and the Imager Portfolio. His science fiction includes Adiamante, the Ecolitan novels, the Forever Hero Trilogy, and Archform: Beauty. Besides a writer, Modesitt has been a U.S. Navy pilot, a director of research for a political campaign, legislative assistant and staff director for a U.S. Congressman, Director of Legislation and Congressional Relations for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a consultant on environmental, regulatory, and communications issues, and a college lecturer. He lives in Cedar City, Utah.
Read an Excerpt
By L. E. Modesitt Jr., David G. Hartwell
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 1999 L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
All rights reserved.
[The Caldron: 4513]
To that which is born, death is certain;
to that which is dead, birth is certain.
My eyes flashed to the rain-swollen stream, and then to the swirl of water that geysered out of the gray rocks of the defile. Heavy clouds melded with the granite to the north. Mist droplets clung to my hair, and water seeped down my neck and back. Sweat and fear enveloped me, a combined odor that the rain could not wash away, that would guide my pursuers through the ancient trees to me.
"The Demons' Caldron." The words mumbled from my chilled and chapped lips, and I looked eastward, seeing again the cart road.
A thousand meters or so to the right was the cart path that headed northward toward Rykasha and the Demons' Niche—one thousand, seven hundred and ten point four meters jumped into my thoughts, reminding me again of the demon I had become or was fast becoming. The paved path followed the once-larger road of the ancients, or so the maps showed, although it supposedly ended short of the boundary markers, and only a trail continued north into Rykasha.
I shook my head. Too close by far. I had thought I had been jogging farther westward, moving away from that serviceway, but my feet had betrayed me and carried me gradually downhill and back toward the gliders that tracked me. Back toward Foerga?
My eyes burned, and I shook my head. Poor Foerga, linked to a man who had become a demon, yet still loving him to the end, against the tenets of Dorcha, against the Townkeeper and the Shraddans. Against the Shraddans I had trusted and upheld in all my teachings of Dzin.
Underfoot the ground grew hard, with the ancient pavement that still endured around the Caldron. My stomach growled, a reminder that I had gone through all the food in the rucksack I had discarded kilos behind me, enough food for a normal man for weeks. It had scarcely lasted days for me.
An image of a vast glowing ball of light—an intense, yet peaceful, spinning pinwheel—rose before my eyes, and the grayness and the rain vanished for a moment. Just as suddenly, the image vanished, and I shook my head as I beheld the darkness of firs and rain-damped oak and maple trunks, and rain.
Rain ... the mist was turning into rain, and I had no time to think about mysterious balls of light appearing. I forced my eyes back to the wet and gray granite and the twisted trees before me. From the Caldron, the green-and-white stream water swirled up in a foaming cascade, then subsided. I paused and took a deep breath.
A glow of silver flashed through the trees to my right, the silver teardrop shape of a rough terrain glider—one with self-induction risers. I turned away from the stream and the Caldron and sprinted uphill.
The rain burst down in gusted waves interspersed with the near-continual rumbling of thunder, as I ran westward and then neared the crest of the first low rise, northward, trying to keep an even pace ahead of the gliders and the grim-faced Shraddans they contained.
So long as they could not get in front of me before I reached the border ... I had to reach the border, if only for Foerga's sake.
The ground rose and smote me, doubtless because I had been thinking more of geography than where my feet should go.
I staggered up, ignoring the line of fire across my forearm, the blood that mixed with rain, and dull aches too numerous to count. Then I had to bend and untangle the boot laces from the root that had tripped me, retying them before straightening. The mustiness of damp leaves and mud filled my nostrils.
Two more gliders whirred out of the mist and over the stream south of the Caldron and began to climb the low hill.
I began to run once more, tired as I was, running like a hare compared to how I had once run, even in my younger years.
Benefits of becoming a demon ...
The hill and granite outcroppings seemed to slow the Shraddans and their gliders, and the whining and whirring faded. Faded but did not disappear, lingering in my hearing, lingering in too many perceptions that had become too acute.
I slowed to a jog, insisting that one foot follow the other, then lead the other—any sort of mental imagery to keep moving, keep ahead of the Shraddans and what they wanted to do to me.
Lines of golden red fire filled the skies like arches holding back the depth of the void beyond the planet. That sky was not purple, nor blue, but nielle, blackness beyond black, with stars that jabbed like knives of light. I shook my head, concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other, and the vision vanished.
Some time later, when my legs ached into cramping, my lungs heaved, burning so that I could barely breathe, I lurched to a halt beside the dark-trunked fir. For a moment, all I could do was pant, although I tried to force deeper breathing.
Before I had taken much more than a dozen breaths, the silver teardrop shape of the first rough terrain glider loomed out of the rain to the east, whining and groaning as it forced its way through the undergrowth, not dodging bushes as I had done, but still weaving to avoid the man-thick pine and hardwood trunks.
With a gasp that was half sob, I dodged uphill around an outcrop of rain-stained rocks and back into the darkwood forest, forcing my legs, gasping for air, ignoring the agony that stabbed through my lungs with each breath.
Anything was better than starving in a stone cage. Than dying quickly by slow grams entombed in immovable stone. But I wasn't supposed to die. I couldn't let them kill me ... not after everything that had occurred.
I pushed my body, using every Dzin technique I had ever learned. Once more, the whining and whirring faded to the edge of consciousness as I plunged northward, knowing another set of gliders followed the road to the east, ready to slide in front of me should I falter.
Did they wish to capture me? Or just drive me out of Dorcha?
Containment pattern, ninety-nine percent probability ... Was that the demon, or was the demon liberating my own demons?
Having no answers, no time for answers, I avoided the berry patches, but even the other bushes ripped at my already-rent gown, and my boots skidded across clay and damp leaves and slick needles.
How had it all happened?
Less than a month earlier, I'd been a respected master of Dzin in Hybra. A low-level master tasked to educate the children of the town, but a master. Not quite a decade earlier, I'd been a candidate scholar in Henvor, learning the way of Dzin, learning the very skills that had stabilized the world and reclaimed it from the unbridled selfishness and chaos of the demons.
Now I was being hunted ... as a demon ... as an outcast and hated remnant of a despicable past forced on today's world by the unspeakable depravity of the ancients.
I slowed somewhat on a level stretch, a trail carpeted in rain-slicked needles, trying to catch my breath, to let jarred shins and fatigued muscles recuperate ever so slightly.
Me? A demon? Because I suddenly could think more clearly, run more quickly?
The long baying of a hound to the right spurred my flagging steps. Hounds were not used for herding and containment. Hounds were for the kill.
The blood on scratched arms forgotten, the cramps in overstrained legs ignored, I stepped up my pace, continuing to run up a gradual incline through the hills that never seemed to end.
Again, the sense and sounds of the gliders retreated. More important, that awful baying diminished. The mist cooled, became thin pellets of ice that bounced off my shoulders, off my soaked hair. In the stillness came the odor of sweat and fear, of panic.
The trees thinned, fir and spruce replacing the leafless oaks and maples. Fine snow sifted through the woods, settling on the needles and undergrowth not covered with the coniferous canopy.
In spite of my efforts, my pace slowed, and the whirring neared. Another pair of hounds bayed, their howling lower, more mournful.
The forest ended, and I stopped, caught by the openness running from left to right, an openness covered with snow. Flat, as though the snow covered pavement or grass, with no sign of undergrowth.
Fifty meters—forty-eight point three meters—to my left a tall silver pillar rose out of the ankle-deep snow, shimmering in the dim light.
A cleared swathe that cut off the tree growth as sharply as a knife or a laser ran east and west—marking the boundary between Rykasha and Dorcha, between civilization and chaos, and, incidentally, added that newly autonomous part of my thoughts, the forty-fourth parallel.
Behind me rose the whining of the pursuit gliders, a sound so faint I could not have heard it a month earlier, a sound so fearsome I would have pushed the idea out of my thoughts a decade earlier. The hounds bayed again.
I glanced back, sensing the approach of three, perhaps more, of the gliders, then looked at the pillar, then downhill to where I knew there was another, and another beyond that—a silver line marking the north boundary of Dorcha and the south boundary of Rykasha, the land of the demons.
Finally, as the whining rose, I shivered once more, then bolted past the boundary and into the land of my damnation.
The snow got deeper as I continued northward, seemingly centimeters higher with each few hundred steps, until I was plodding through knee-deep and clinging heavy white powder that soaked through the thin undertrousers and chilled my legs.
The trees grew farther apart, yet larger, and the mist became a white powder that filtered down from the darkness overhead.
I kept putting one foot in front of the other, glad at least that the whining and whirring of the gliders had been left behind at last. Bitter-glad, doing what duty—and love—required.
As I stepped out into a long empty space, with granite cliffs rising to the left and the right, another sound, more like a whooshing hum, intruded, grew louder by the moment, seemingly coming from no direction and all at once.
I stood still, calf-deep in snow that chilled even my heated body, turning in every direction before looking up ...
Light transfixed me—then darkness.CHAPTER 2
Dzin must be seized with bare hands and open eyes.
Outside the school, the late fall winds carried the fallen leaves past the half-open windows, creating a pleasant rustling. For a moment, rather than concentrate on the sixteen students sitting on their mats before me, I just listened, was just aware, holding to that single Dzin instant, accepting the moment.
Melenda held up her hand.
I nodded. There would be other moments.
"How did Dzin come into the world?" asked the long-haired young woman. "You tell us about it and teach us how to apply it, but ..." Her words trailed off uncertainly.
"Dzin has always been in the world; we just need to discover it." I smiled. "That's both true and incomplete. Knowledge of Dzin extends farther than the great collapse. It could have existed long before that. We don't know." I paused, wondering how to connect what I had said to what we had been discussing. "What we do know is that Dzin is not like a mountain or a glider repair manual. It is neither an immovable object nor a step-by-step guide to life. It is the way to become aware of reality, not to explain reality or to describe it. That's why we don't spend much time on telling what it is or how it came to be. It is. We try to teach you to become aware of everything, not to explain everything."
"Is it like the clouds?" Wryan smiled broadly. "There, but you really can't touch it or feel it?"
"Like the clouds?" I chuckled. "Not exactly ... although there is an old Dzin saying, 'The clouds are in the sky; the water is in the well.' But that's another reminder that Dzin teaches us to understand reality directly, without becoming lost in descriptions of descriptions."
There were several frowns at that, including one from Sergol, the blond fisherman's son in the middle of the second row.
"What's wrong with descriptions?" asked the thin-faced Sirena, squirming slightly on her mat.
"We need descriptions to deal with some aspects of our life. Yet we must recognize that while descriptions are necessary, they are only approximations of the world. That was one of the reasons for the downfall of the ancients. The ancients could describe anything. They had descriptions of subatomic particles so small that their most powerful instruments could not detect them, yet they described them. They described how the world was built from the smallest forces, forces so infinitesimal that they could be detected only by interactions created by machines that were as big as the entire city of Henvor."
The blank looks from the younger children in the second row told me I was well over their heads. I fingered my beard. How could I make what I'd said simpler, yet accurate? "Dimmel? Do you like chocolate?"
"Yes, Master Tyndel, yes, ser."
"Tell me about chocolate. What makes it good?"
"It's brown, and it's sweet, and it tastes soooo good."
I nodded, looking from student face to student face. "Lycya? Can you taste chocolate from Dimmel's description?"
"No, Master Tyndel."
I looked at an older face. "Can you, Erka?"
"Can anyone tell me more about chocolate?"
"It has milk and sugars in it," added Wryan, "and it melts in your hand on a hot day."
"How does it taste? How do you feel when you eat it and after you eat it?" I pressed.
"Good ... really good!" exclaimed young Dimmel.
"I'm sure you do." I paused, letting my eyes sweep over the group. "Do all these descriptions really tell you how chocolate tastes?"
A few heads shook, then a few more.
"You see how hard it is? And you know about chocolate. The ancients tried to explain things far bigger, far more complicated than chocolate. ... Yet for all their explanations, for all their search for more explanations that they could use, they failed, and they perished. As the Abbo Sanhedran said, 'Explanation is not awareness.'" I paused. "What does that mean?" I looked toward the end of the first row at Dynae.
"Ah, ser ... I am not sure. It wasn't in the lesson," replied the brunette, the Townkeeper's daughter.
I concealed the wry amusement I felt and looked back at the thin-faced older girl beside her. "What do you think, Sirena?"
"An explanation ... it doesn't ... it's not the same ... as feeling something."
I nodded. "That's right. There's more. When you describe something you feel or see, immediately the truth of what you've seen becomes false."
"Oh ... like the tale of the elephant and the blind men ... except we can't possibly explain everything we see," interjected the redheaded Wryan. "So when we talk about it, we leave things out."
"That's part of it," I agreed.
"And there are things we feel but can't describe, and those get left out, too?" asked Wryan.
"You're right." I smiled and nodded. "That's enough for now. I want you all to think about it. We'll take a break before we start physical science."
I smiled. Not always did the Dzin sessions go so well, but I was pleased, though I took care to remind myself that all too much of what I imparted I had gained from others. Still, most of them seemed to understand, and some, like Wryan, had a feel for Dzin.CHAPTER 3
Truth is not somewhere else.
In the shadow of the cataclypt of Dyanar, two children kissed, and I let them, although in my new and deep aquacyan gown, I should have stepped forward, frowned, let the silence of my disapproval separate them, for such familiarity so young leads to the arrogance of unbridled knowledge.
Rather than act, I studied the carvings on the cataclypt, the images of the winged figures who represented the ancients and the tailed figures in the background, the representation of the demons who had been created by the technology of those ancient angels. Dzin had saved us, those of Dorcha, from degenerating into the soullessness of the north, just as, I supposed, Toze had saved those of West Amnord.
From the carvings, my eyes went back to the two children, kissing. That was the beginning, though I did not see it. Instead, I forbore intervening and smiled, for I well remembered a day years before when I had kissed Esolde behind the grape trellis in her parents' garden.
On this later day of my posting, in my aquacyn gown, with the slow swirl of the river below and the dampness of the morning mist in my nostrils, I let the two kiss unmolested and turned to walk along the foot-polished stones of the River Walk, the sun not quite warm on my right cheek as it struggled over the eastern hills and through the late-morning mist of spring.
Henvor is an old city, its origins on the banks of the Greening River lost in myths of time before the Great Hunger and Devastation. The weather-auspexes claim that it was colder then, much colder, but now the winter rains were soft, and the morning mists and clouds of summer kept the sun's heat from drying the marshes that bordered the watercourse south of Henvor, the marshes and their grasses that purified the waters once again before they flowed between the Whitened Hills, winding ponderously toward the merchant cities on the Summer Sea, past Leboath and Wyns, and eventually to Mettersfel, where the sunships brought in the ocean nodules and carried the wines and cheeses of Dorcha eastward, eastward across the Rehavic Ocean south of the Pillars of Fire and around the Barren Isles to Thule ... and occasionally to Dhura.
Excerpted from Gravity Dreams by L. E. Modesitt Jr., David G. Hartwell. Copyright © 1999 L. E. Modesitt, Jr.. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
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