The story that began with Black Trillium—the brainchild of Julian May, Andre Norton, and Marion Zimmer Bradley, three of fantasy fiction’s greats—takes glorious flight in Sky Trillium as author May carries the magnificent saga of magic, sisterhood, and destiny to breathtaking new heights.
The Petals of the Living Trillium—Anigel the Queen, Kadiya the Warrior, and Haramis the Archimage—have defeated great evil to keep their realm safe, thanks in part to three magical talismans dating back to the War of Enchantment that nearly destroyed the world in the time of the Vanished Ones. Now, with one relic missing and another rendered powerless, the World of the Three Moons is vulnerable—and a devastating outbreak of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and other natural disasters suggests that a dark and terrible magic is descending once again. The last hope for the planet’s salvation lies in the fabled Sky Trillium, but its creation depends on the three sisters being able to recover what was stolen from them and escape the poisonous intrigues of the royal court, banding together one more time to forge a Scepter of Power. But the old wounds of an ancient war continue to fester—and the Star Men are waiting to see the Petals wither and fall.
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The Saga of the Trillium
By Julian May
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1996 Starykon Productions, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Prince Tolivar lay there in the dark, fully clothed except for his boots, trying desperately not to fall asleep.
He had not dared to leave the silver oil lamps or even a candle lit, for fear someone would see the light shining beneath the door. The only illumination in the chamber came from fitful lightning flashes through the window, and from the clock on the stand beside his bed, an artifact of the Vanished Ones with a face that glowed softly green. It had been a gift on his last nameday from his aunt Kadiya, the Lady of the Eyes. She was the only one in the world — aside from good old Ralabun — who did not despise him.
Someday he would show them all, especially his hateful elder brother and sister, Crown Prince Nikalon and Princess Janeel. The time would come when they would no longer tease him and call him a useless second prince. They would fear him instead and grant him the respect he deserved!
If he got his treasure back ...
Lying there, Tolivar gritted his teeth and willed that the slow-crawling minutes go faster. Ralabun would not come until two hours after midnight — if he came at all.
"He must come!" the Prince whispered to himself. But he had not dared to tell Ralabun why he was needed, and the old creature might have dismissed the unusual summons as a boyish whim. He might forget to come, or even fall asleep waiting. Tolivar himself was having great trouble keeping his eyes from closing.
"Holy Flower, don't let me nod off," he prayed. He was already badly frightened at the prospect of what lay ahead. If he slept — and the awful dream came again — he might be tempted to give it up.
It probably had been foolish of him to hide the treasure out in the Mazy Mire, but the stratagem had seemed necessary. Ruwenda Citadel's ancient stones were themselves permeated with magic, and sacred Black Trillium blossoms bloomed everywhere now on the knoll, thriving beneath the light of the Three Moons. Worst of all, his other aunt — the formidable Archimage Haramis — had taken to visiting his mother too often here in the Summer Capital, which was their childhood home. Tolivar could not risk the White Lady discovering his secret, so he had found a place away in the swamp to hide the precious things.
No one would take them from him. Not ever.
"They are mine by right of salvage," he reassured himself. "Even if I am only twelve years old and still unable to make use of them fully, I will die rather than give them up."
The unwelcome thought stole again into his mind that he might very well perish tonight, drowned in the surging black river.
"Then so be it," he muttered, "for if I leave the treasure behind in Ruwenda during the rains, it might be swept away in a great tempest. Or it could be buried in mud before we return next spring, or even found by some stray Oddling and handed over to the White Lady. Then I would have nothing to live for."
If only the Wet Time had not come so inconveniently early this year! But Aunt Haramis had said that the world was badly out of balance, and the strange weather reflected it, as did the restlessness of the volcanoes and the increasing number of earthquakes.
The River Mutar, which skirted Citadel Knoll, had surged to flood stage almost without warning. King Antar and Queen Anigel had decided that the Court of the Two Thrones dared not wait until the end of the month to adjourn to the Winter Capital of Derorguila in Labornok. Instead, the royal entourage must depart within six days, before the mire waters rose too high.
Prince Tolivar, the youngest of the royal family, had reacted to the announcement with panic. So long as the storms continued, the Mutar's current would be too strong for him to paddle upstream alone in the skiff he kept hidden for his secret excursions. He had prayed both to the Holy Flower and to the Dark Powers who aided wizards, begging for just a few dry days and a respite in the flood. But the entreaties were in vain. The time of the royal retinue's departure drew closer and closer until now there were only two days left. Tomorrow the caravan would begin to form. In daylight he would not be able to sneak out of the Citadel without being seen. He had to get the treasure tonight, or leave it behind.
Tolivar tried to banish his desperation as he listened to the rain beating at his bedchamber window. It was a sound that provoked sleep. Several times the Prince found his eyes closing and managed to snap back into wakefulness. But the time passed so slowly, and the raindrops' drumming was so monotonous, that eventually he could not help drifting off.
Once again, the familiar nightmare began.
It had haunted him for the past two years: the rumbling terror of the great earthquake, smoke from burning buildings, himself a sniveling captive, his small-boy fear colored with the guilt of betrayal. And then miraculous escape! A sudden surge of courage in his heart that had emboldened him to take the great treasure! In the dream, he vowed to use it and become a hero. He would save the city of Derorguila from the attacking army, save his royal parents and all the embattled people. Even though he was only eight years old, he would do it by commanding magic ...
In the dream, he used the magical device, and they all died.
All of them. Loyal defenders and vicious invaders, the King, the Queen, his brother and sister, even the Lady of the Eyes and the Archimage Haramis herself, dead because of the magic he had wrought! A great pile of bodies lay in the bloody snow of the palace courtyard outside Zotopanion Keep, and he himself was the only one left alive.
But how could it have happened? Was it really his fault?
He fled the horrible scene, running through the devastated city. Snow fell thickly from a dark sky, and the gale wind that drove it spoke with the voice of a man:
Tolo! Tolo, listen to me! I know you have my talisman. I saw you take it four years ago. Beware, foolish Prince! The thing's magic can kill you as easily as it killed the others. You will never learn to use it safely. Give it back! Tolo, do you hear me? Leave it out there in the Mazy Mire. I will come for it. Tolo, listen! Tolo —
"No! It's mine! Mine!"
The Prince woke with a start. He was safe in his own bedroom in Ruwenda Citadel. Thunder was faintly audible through the thick stone walls, and the echo of his own terrified cry rang in his ears. He checked the clock on the bedside stand, discovered that it was still too early, and fell back onto his pillow uttering childish curses.
The nightmare was so stupid! He had killed no one with magic. His family was alive and well and suspected nothing. The sorcerer was dead, but that was his own fault. Everyone knew that.
"I will retrieve my treasure in spite of the rains," he said to himself, falling back onto his pillow. "I will take it with me to Derorguila and continue practicing its use. And one day, I will be as powerful as he was."
At last the little clock chimed two. Prince Tolivar sighed, sat up on the edge of the bed, and began to tug on his stoutest pair of boots. His frail body was weary after a day spent gathering and packing the things he would take with him to Labornok. The servants had dealt with his clothes, but packing everything else had been his responsibility. Six large brass-bound wooden chests now stood ready in his darkened sitting room next door, and four of them were filled mostly with his precious books. There was also a smaller strongbox of iron with a stout lock, which the Prince hoped to fill and tuck in among the other things.
If Ralabun would only hurry!
The clock now showed a quarter past the designated hour. Tolivar put on his raincloak; he wore both a short-sword and a hunting dagger. Opening the casement window and peering out, he saw that the rain had let up, although lightning still flickered in the west. The river was not visible from this side of the Citadel, but he knew it would be high and swift.
At last there came a soft scratching at the door. Tolivar dashed across the room and admitted a sturdy old Nyssomu male, dressed in dark brown rainproof leathers handsomely decorated with silver stitching. Ralabun, the retired Keeper of the Royal Stables, was Tolivar's crony and confidant. His usual aspect was one of sleepy amiability; but tonight his broad, wrinkled face was ashen with anxiety and his prominent yellow eyes seemed almost ready to pop out of his skull.
"I am ready, Hiddenheart. But I beg you to tell me why we must go out in such weather."
"It is necessary," the Prince replied curtly. He had long since given up urging Ralabun to bestow a more auspicious mire-name upon him.
"It is a foul night to be abroad in the Mazy Mire," the old one protested. "Surely this mysterious errand of yours can wait until morning."
"It cannot," the Prince retorted, "for we would surely be seen in daylight. And early tomorrow the Lord Steward gathers all of the baggage of the royal family and begins forming up the wagon train. No, we must go tonight. Quickly now!"
The boy and the aborigine hurried down a back stairway, ordinarily used only by chambermaids and other lackeys who tended to the royal apartments. On the floor below, a mezzanine overlooking the great hall, was the chapel, together with the small presence chambers of King Antar and Queen Anigel and the adjacent offices of the royal ministers. Guardsmen of the nightwatch were on patrol here, but Tolivar and Ralabun eluded them easily and slipped into a tiny alcove next to the chancellor's rooms where boxes of old royal correspondence filled three tall shelves.
"The secret way is here," Tolivar said softly. As Ralabun gaped in astonishment, the Prince took out a single letterbox and reached behind it. He then replaced the box, and the entire middle shelf swung soundlessly outward like a door, revealing a black opening beyond. "Do you have your dark-lantern, as I requested?"
Ralabun drew it from beneath his cloak, sliding open the aperture so that light from the glowing swamp-worms within shone out in a wan beam. The two of them entered the secret passage. Tolivar closed it behind them, took charge of the lantern, and began to walk briskly along the narrow, dusty corridor, bidding the Nyssomu to follow.
"I have heard tales of these hidden passages in the Citadel from Immu, the Queen's nurse," Ralabun said, "but never have I been in one. Immu says that long years ago, when the three Living Petals of the Black Trillium were still young princesses, she and Jagun led the Queen and her sister Lady Kadiya out from the Citadel through such a passage when the evil King Voltrik would have murdered them. Was it your Royal Mother who showed you this secret way?"
Tolivar's laugh was bitter. "Nay. I learned of it from a more obliging teacher. Look sharp! We must go down these steep stairs here and they are damp and slippery."
"Who then told you of the passageway? Was it Immu?"
"Did you learn of it then through one of the ancient books you are so fond of perusing?"
"No! Stop asking questions!"
Ralabun fell into a wounded silence as they descended more cautiously. The walls of the cramped staircase were now very wet. In the crevices grew masses of pale fungi that harbored faintly glowing creatures called slime-dawdlers. These little beasts crept along the steps like luminescent slugs, making the footing treacherous and producing an evil smell when they were trodden upon.
"It's not much farther," Tolivar said. "We are already at the level of the river."
After a few more minutes they came to another secret portal, with wooden machinery that creaked when the Prince operated it. They emerged into a disused shed full of decayed coils of rope, sprung barrels, and broken crates. A couple of startled varts squeaked and ran away as Tolivar and Ralabun went to the shed's exterior door. The Prince shuttered the lantern and peered cautiously outside. Only a light drizzle fell now and it was very dark. There were no guards, for this quay had been abandoned years ago following the war between Ruwenda and Labornok, and its entrance into the Citadel sealed.
They cautiously made their way over the rotting planks of the dock with Ralabun now leading the way. The Nyssomu's night vision was much keener than that of humankind and they dared not show a light that might be detected by patrols on the battlements above.
"My boat is yonder," Tolivar said, "hidden below the broken bollard."
Ralabun inspected the craft dubiously. "It is very small, Hiddenheart, and the Mutar flood is strengthening each hour. Will we have to go very far upstream?"
"Only about three leagues. And the boat is sturdy enough. I will row with the central oars while you scull with the stern sweep, and together we will breast the current and cross the river. Once on the other side, there will be slack water and the going will be much easier."
Ralabun grinned. "I was not aware that you were such an experienced waterman."
"I am experienced in more things than you know," the boy said shortly. "Let us be going."
They climbed aboard and cast off. Tolivar rowed with all his strength, which truly was not much. But Ralabun, while elderly, had muscular arms after years of heavy work in the stables, and so the boat moved steadily across the broad river. They dodged floating debris, including whole trees uprooted from the Black-mire upstream. Once there was even a log with a huge vicious raffin aboard, that sailed along as nonchalantly as a Trevista tradeboat. The beast roared as it passed less than three arm-lengths away, but it made no move to leave its safe perch and attack them.
Along the opposite shore from Citadel Knoll, which was mucky and uninhabited, the current was much less strong, just as the Prince had predicted. He wearily put up his oars and left the propelling of the boat to Ralabun. They made good headway upstream, and were able to converse above the noise of the rushing water.
Tolivar said, "There is a very shallow tributary creek that joins the river on the north shore, in the braided section just above Market Pool. That is where we are going."
Ralabun nodded. "I know what you're talking about: a nameless waterway clogged with fodderfern and lanceweed. But it is not navigable —"
"It is, if one fares carefully. I have traveled the creek often during the Dry Time, in secret, disguising myself as a common wharfboy."
Ralabun gave a disapproving grunt. "That was most imprudent, Hiddenheart! Even so close to Citadel Knoll, the Mazy Mire is not a safe place for a lone human lad. If you had only asked, I would have been glad to take you swamp-romping —"
"I was in no danger." The Prince spoke haughtily. "And my business in the mire was both serious and personal. It had nothing to do with the sort of idle funseeking we are accustomed to pursue together."
"Hmph. What great mystery does this creek conceal, then?"
"It's my business," Tolivar snapped.
This time the Nyssomu's feelings were clearly hurt. "Well, I humbly beg Your Worship's pardon for prying!"
The boy's voice softened. "Do not be offended, Ralabun. Even the dearest companions must have some things private from one another. I was forced to ask your help in traveling to my secret place tonight because of the strength of the river. There was no other soul I could trust."
"And gladly will I accompany you! But I confess that I am sad that you will not confide in me. You know I would never tell any secret of yours to a living soul."
Tolivar hesitated. He had not intended to disclose the nature of the treasure to his friend. But he was strongly tempted now to have at least one other person know about the wondrous things he owned. And who better than Ralabun? Tolivar said, "Do you swear that you will not tell the King or the Queen about my secret? Nor even the Archimage Haramis herself, if she should command it?"
"I swear upon the Three Moons and the Flower!" said Ralabun stoutly. "Whatever privity you entrust to me I will guard faithfully until the Lords of the Air carry me safely beyond."
The Prince nodded somberly. "Very well then. You shall see my great treasure when I fetch it tonight from its hiding place in the mire. But if you reveal what it is to others, you may forfeit not only your own life, but also my own."
Excerpted from Sky Trillium by Julian May. Copyright © 1996 Starykon Productions, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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