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DEVERRY AND ELDIDD
In the cold gray morning, when the mists rose from the surface of Loc Tamig, one could understand why the local farmers thought it haunted. All Aderyn could see of the lake surface was a few patches of rippled water, broken by a drowned tree and four steel-gray rocks, while on the far shore the pine-black mountains rose up in peaks and shadows. The sound of a hundred waterfalls chattered and murmured through the mists like spirit voices. At the moment, though, Aderyn was more worried about the coming rain than possible ghosts. He was, of course, still a young man then, with his hair a nondescript brown and always hanging in an untidy lock over his forehead rather than swept up in the owl shape it would later assume, and he was even skinnier, too, because half the time he forgot to eat when he was deep in his dweomer studies. That particular morning he was down on his knees in the tall spring grass, digging up valerian roots with a small silver spade.
Wildfolk clustered round to watch him work—two small gray gnomes, skinny and long-nosed, three blue-green sprites with pointed teeth and pretty faces. Just like children, they crowded close, pointed mute questions, and generally got in the way. Aderyn named everything they pointed at and worked fast with one eye on the lowering clouds. Just as he was finishing, a gnome picked up a clod and threw it at his fellow. Snarling and baring their teeth, the sprites joined in a full-scale dirt fight.
“Stop it! Your great lords would find this most discourteous!”
One sprite pinched him on the arm. All the Wildfolk vanished with little puffs of air and dust and a gust of smell like clean leaf mold, Aderyn gathered up his things and ran for shelter in the spattering rain. Down among a stand of trees was the round stone hut he shared with his master in the dweomercraft. Two years before, he and Nevyn had built the hut with their own hands and made a small stable for their horses and mules. Out in back was their garden, where practical beans and cabbages grew as well as exotic cultivated herbs, and a flock of chickens had their own little house. Most of their food, though, came from the farming villages at the north end of the lake, where the local people were glad to trade supplies for medicine.
When Aderyn dashed into the single round room, he found Nevyn sitting by the fire circle in the center and watching the play of flame. A tall man, with a thick thatch of white hair and deep-set blue eyes, Nevyn was close to a hundred years old, but he had more vigor than most men of twenty, a striding walk and the erect carriage of the great prince of the realm that once he had been.
“Back just in time, you are. Here comes the storm.”
A gust of wind eddied smoke through the drafty hut as the drops began pattering on the roof. Nevyn got up and helped Aderyn lay the valerian to dry on clean cloths. The roots had to be sliced thin with a small silver knife, a nose-wrinkling smell, and they had to wear fine leather gloves, too, lest the strong juices poison them.
“Nevyn? Will we be leaving Loc Tamig soon?”
Aderyn sat back on his heels and stared at him.
“It’s time for you to go off on your own. I’ve taught you all I know, and your Wyrd runs different than mine.”
Even though he’d always known this day would come, Aderyn felt close to tears. Nevyn laid down one last slice of root and turned to look at him, his piercing blue eyes unusually gentle.
“It’ll ache my heart to see you go. I’ll miss you, lad. But it’s time. You’ve reached the third nine of your years now, and that age marks a turning point for everybody. Come now, you know it, too. You’ve got your herbcraft to feed and clothe yourself, and I’ve opened the gates of the dweomer for you as far as I can. Now you have to walk through those gates and take up your own Wyrd.”
“But what will my Wyrd be?”
“Oh, that’s not for me to say. No man can see another’s Wyrd. You have the keys to open that door. It’s time for you to work a ritual and use them. The Lords of Wyrd will reveal what you need to know—and not a jot more, doubtless.”
On the morrow, when the rain stopped, Nevyn took his horse and two pack mules and rode off to the villages to buy food. He told Aderyn that he would stay away three days to leave him alone for the working, but as to what that working would be, he said nothing at all. Only then did the apprentice realize that the most important moment of his life was strictly in his own hands. He would have to draw on all his knowledge and practice to devise a ritual that would open his Wyrd and put him in contact, at least for a few brief moments, with his secret and undying soul, the true core of his being that had invented and formed the young man known as Aderyn for this lifetime the way a potter takes clay and makes a bowl. As he stood in the doorway and watched Nevyn ride away, Aderyn felt a panic tinged with excitement, an exultation touched with dread. It was time, and he felt ready.
That first day, while Aderyn did his usual chores in the garden and hut, he kept thinking about the task ahead. He had at his disposal a vast amount of ritual lore—tables of correspondences, salutations to the gods, invocations and mighty calls to the spirit world, signs, sigils, and gestures to set in motion streams of force and direct inner energies. In his excitement, his first thought was to use them all, or at least as many as possible, to create a ritual that would sum up and climax all rituals, as elaborately decorated, braided, laced, and spiraled as a beautiful brooch fit to give a king. While he weeded cabbages, his mind raced this way and that, adding a symbol here, a prayer there, trying to fit twenty years of work into a single mighty pattern. All at once he saw the irony: here he was, grubbing in the dirt like a bondsman and making grandiose plans. He laughed aloud and contemplated his mud-stained fingers, callused with years of menial work such as this. The Great Ones had always accepted his humble status and lowly sacrifices before. No doubt a simple ritual would be best now. With the insight came a feeling of peace, because he’d passed the first test.
But just as with a simple meal or a simple garden, every element would have to be perfect of its kind and perfectly placed. The second day, Aderyn worked furiously all morning to finish his chores by noon. He ate a light meal, then went outside to sit under a willow tree by the shore of the lake, sparkling in the soft spring sun. On the far shore the stony, hard mountains rose dark against a blue sky. He looked at them and thought over his lore, rigorously pruning instead of proliferating it. A simple approach to a central symbol—he looked at the peaks and smiled to himself. For the rest of the day he practiced every word and gesture he would use, mixing up the order so no true power would run through them. In the evening, by firelight he prepared his magical weapons—the wand, cup, dagger, and pentacle that he had made and consecrated years before. He polished each one, then performed the simple rituals of consecration again to renew their power.
On the third day, he was quiet as he went through his work. His mind seemed as still as a deep-running river, only rarely disturbed by what most men would call a thought. Yet in his heart he renewed, over and over, the basic vows that open the secret of the dweomer: I want to know to help the world. He was remembering many things, sick children he’d helped heal, children who died because they were beyond the help of herbs, bent-back farmers who saw the best of their harvests taken by noble lords, the noble lords themselves, whose greed and power-lusts drove them like spurs and made them suffer, though they called the suffering glory. Someday, far in the future, at the end of the ages of ages, all this darkness would be transmuted into light. Until that end, he would fight the darkness where he found it. The first place he would always find darkness would be in his own soul. Until the light shone there, he could do little to help other souls. For the sake of that help, he begged for the light.
At sunset, he put his magical weapons in a plain cloth sack and set off for the shore of the lake. In the twilight, he made his place of working, not a rich temple glittering with golden signs and perfumed with incenses, but a stretch of grassy ground. He used the dagger to cut a circle deosil into the turf, then laid his cloth sack down for an altar in the middle. On the sack he laid the dagger, the wand, and the pentacle, then took the cup and filled it with lake water. He set the cup down among the other objects and knelt in front of the sack to face the mountains. Slowly the twilight deepened, then faded as the first few stars came out, only to fade in turn as the full moon rose, bloated and huge on a misty horizon. Aderyn sat back on his heels and raised his hands, palms flat upward, about shoulder high. As he concentrated his will, it seemed the moonlight streamed to him, tangible light for building. He thrust his hands forward and saw to the east of his rough altar two great pillars of light, one all pure moon-silver, the other as dark as black fire shining in the star-strewn night. When he lowered his hands, the pillars lived apart from his will. The temple was open.
One at a time, he picked up each weapon, the dagger for the east, the wand for the south, the cup for the west, and the pentacle for the north, and used it to trace at each cardinal point of the circle a five-pointed star. Above and below him he finished the sphere, using his human mind alone to trace the last two stars, the reconcilers of the others. When he knelt upon the ground, he saw the temple glowing with power beyond his ability to call it forth. The Lords of Light were coming to meet him. Aderyn rose and raised his hands to the east between the pillars. Utterly calm, his mind as sharp as the dagger’s point and deep as the cup, he made light gather above him, then felt and saw it descend, piercing him through like an arrow and rooting itself in the ground. His arms flung out as he felt the cross shaft pierce him from side to side. It seemed he grew huge, towering through the universe, his head among the stars, his feet on a tiny whirling sphere of earth far below, enormous, exalted, but helpless, pinned to the cross of light, unmoving and spraddled, at the mercy of the Great Ones.