Bradley, Marion Zimmer - Shadowgate 02

BOOK: Bradley, Marion Zimmer - Shadowgate 02
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Witchlight

 
 

 
 
          
TOR  
BOOKS   BY
 
MARION
   ZIMMER   BRADLEY

 

 
          
Dark Satanic

           
The Inheritor

 
          
Witch Hill

 
          
Ghostlight

 
 
          
 

 
          
 

 

 
 
          
MARION

 
          
ZIMMER

 
          
BRADLEY

 
          
 
 

 
          
TOR®

 
          
A
TOM DOHERTY ASSOCIATES BOOK
NEW  YORK

 
 
          
This
is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this novel are
either fictitious or are used fictitiously.

 
          
WITCHLIGHT
Copyright © 1996 by Marion Zimmer Bradley

 
          
All
rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portions
thereof, in any form.

 
          
This
book is printed an acid-free paper.

 
          
A
Tor
Book Published by Tom Doherty Associates, Inc.

 
          
175 Fifth Avenue
New York
,
NY
10010

 

 
          
Tor
Books on the World Wide Web: http://www.tor.com

 
          
Tor
® is a registered trademark of Tom Doherty Associates,
Inc.

 
          
Library
of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

 
          
Bradley,
Marion Zimmer.

 
          
Witchlight
/ Marion Zimmer Bradley. — 1st ed.
p.       cm.

 
          
"A
Tom Doherty Associates book." ISBN 0-312-86104-4 (acid-free paper)
I.    Title

 
          
PS3552.R228W5    
1996 813'.54—dc20

 
          
96-20703
CIP

 
          
First Edition: September 1996

 

 
          
Printed in the
United States of America

 

 
          
0987654321

 

 
 
          
Another kind of poltergeist activity may be
the expression of psychic force in tension, not around a hysterical or
maladjusted child, but around a relatively well-adjusted adult. When this
occurs, there is some unresolved psychic force in action; it could be said that
the Unseen is coming in search of the individual concerned, and this does not,
strictly speaking, come under the scope of this book.

 
          
In addition to the case histories in this
book, consult Carrington and
Fodore
, cited elsewhere,
as well as the monograph by Margrave and
Anstey
, in
the Autumn, 1983, issue of The
Journal of Unexpected Phenomena,
reissued by
Silkie
Press, San Francisco, as
The Natural History of the Poltergeist.

 
          
—The
Inheritor

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

A WINTER'S TALE

A sad tale's best for winter.

 
I have one of sprites and goblins.

 

 
          
— WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

 

 
          
THE HOUSE WAS CALLED GREYANGELS. 
IT HAD BEEN built in the last years of the old colony and added to in
the first years of the new nation. Old orchards from its days as a farm still
surrounded the house; their hundred-year-old trees long past fruiting but still
able to bring forth a glory of apple blossoms each spring. But the house's days
of ruling over acres of corn and squash and rows of neatly barbered apple trees
were long past. Now, only the house remained. Its pegged, wide-planked floors,
its lath-and-horsehair plastered walls, its low ceilings with their
smoke-blackened beams, its tiny windows with their
wavery
,
hand-rolled glass, had dwindled from luxurious to old-fangled to quaint to
dowdy, before being forgotten entirely and abandoned to the mercy of time and
the seasons.

 
          
Years
passed. The house was nearly dead when it came to the attention of the living
once more, to be gently renovated to suit the tastes of a generation raised
with indoor plumbing and furnace heat, a generation which summered outside the
city. But tastes and fashions continued to change, and soon New Yorkers had
less desire for an old summer house on the banks of the
Hudson River
.

 
          
The
house passed from hand to hand to hand, drifting farther even from the memory
of its initial purpose, as cars got faster and roads improved and the suburbs
moved north and north again, until
Dutchess
County
was filled with New York commuters racing for their daily trains and it seemed
that Amsterdam County, too, would soon fall to tract housing and the desire of
the city's residents to reside in the peace of what once had been country.

 
          
But
for now the house was spared, sitting on its dozen acres between the railroad
and the Hudson, its nearest neighbor a private college with a lurid reputation
and an artists' colony that sought anonymity above all things. For a while
longer the old farmhouse still sat quietly in the quiet countryside, and
nothing disturbed its peace.

 
          
That must be why I came here,
Winter
Musgrave told herself, although to be brutally accurate, she could not remember
the precise details of her flight here, and prudence—or fear—kept her from
reaching too forcefully into the ugly confusion where the memory might lie.
There were things it was better not to be sure of—including the frightening knowledge
that her memory had—sometime in the unrecorded past—ceased to be her willing
servant and had become instead a sadistic jailer waiting to spring new and more
horrible surprises on her. A day that did not bring some jarring revelation,
however small, was a day Winter had learned to treasure.

 
          
The
quiet helped, and the slow pace of the countryside as it ripened into spring.
She had a vague understanding that she had not been here long; old snow had
still lingered in shadows and hollows when she had driven her white BMW up the
curving graveled driveway, and now only the palest green of half-started leaves
softened the outline of the surrounding trees: birch, maple, dogwood—and the
apple trees in gnarled files marching down to the river.

 
          
Winter
did not like the apple trees. They worried her and made her feel vaguely
ashamed, as if something had been done among the apple trees that must never be
remembered, never spoken of. The orchard formed an effective barrier between
Winter and the river that could be glimpsed only from the second-floor bedroom.

           
But she could see the apple trees
from there, too, and so Winter had made her bedroom downstairs, in the tiny
parlor-turned-spare-bedroom off the kitchen, which was both warmer and hidden
from the sight of the flowering orchard.

 
          
So
long as no one knew where she was, she was safe.

 
          
The
notion was a familiar one by now; familiar enough that it might even be safe to
think about.

 
          
Why should no one know where I am?

 
          
Winter
picked up a heavy carnival-glass paperweight from the Shaker table and stared
down at its oil-slick surface as if it were a witch's crystal and she could
find answers there. Wordless reluctance and fear surged over her, making her
hastily return the paperweight to the table and nervously pace the room.

 
          
The
front parlor of the farmhouse was sparsely furnished; there was the Shaker
table with a lamp on it, a
Windsor
rocker made of steam-bent ash, and a long settle angled before the
fieldstone hearth. A hand-braided rag rug softened the time-worn oak-planked
floor, and on one whitewashed wall hung a mirror, its thick glass green with
age, set in a curving cherry frame.

 
          
Winter
stopped automatically in front of the mirror and forced herself to look. It
could not hurt more than coming upon her reflection by surprise, when the
clash between what she saw and what she remembered fashioned another of the
small humiliations and terrors by which she marked out her days.

 
          
Hair:
not wavy and chestnut any longer, but flat and lank and dark. The skin too
pale, its texture somehow fragile, flesh drawn tight over prominent bones that
said the border between slender and gaunt had been crossed long ago. Hazel
eyes, sunken and shadowed and dull; a contrast to the days when more than one
admirer had sworn he could see flecks of
baltic
amber
in their sherry-colored depths. Her mouth, pinched and pale and old. She
couldn't remember the last time she'd worn lipstick, or what color it had
been. Did she even have a lipstick here? She couldn't remember—did it matter?

 
          
Of course it does

-Jack always said I should wear as much war-paint as I wanted; it made
them nervous. . . .

 
          
The
scrap of the past flashed to the surface like a bright fish and was gone;
pushed away; sacrificed to the need to hide.

           
From
what?
Frustration almost made Winter willing to risk the pain of trying to
remember. Restlessly, she made the circuit of her world again: the front
parlor, with its welcoming hearth; the kitchen, looking out on the remains of
someone's garden and a windbreak of tall pines; the downstairs bedroom, bright
and homelike with patchwork quilts on the white iron bed and a bright copper
kettle atop the pot-bellied wood-stove; the entryway with its door to the
outside world and the staircase leading to the second floor—the place that held
so many frightening possibilities. From the front hall she could see the
woodshed that held half a
rick
of oak and pine split
for burning, and that held her car as well. She'd need to bring in more wood
soon, for the electric heat that provided the farmhouse's heat was feeble and
unreliable, and she'd learned to keep fires burning both in the bedroom stove
and the fireplace in the parlor to fend off the chill of early spring.

 
          
But
that would mean she'd have to leave the house; to walk outside in the open air.

 
          
How long has it been since I've gone
outside?
Sheer stubbornness made her demand an answer of her memory, and at
last the image surfaced: Winter, carrying suitcases—
suitcases?

 
          
—slipping
on patches of rotting ice in her haste to get into the house, running away from
. . .

 
          
The
knowledge was so close she could nearly grasp it; she shied away, knowing that
the balance between fear of knowing and fear of ignorance would soon shift,
and she would reclaim at least that fragment of her past. Even though it must
be something terrible, to drive her to hide here, crouching behind closed
shutters and drawn curtains like a wounded animal in its burrow.

 
          
/
haven't been out of this house in . . .
weeks,
her thought finished lamely. It was no good knowing that this was
April—surely it was April; the new leaves and the masses of daffodils she could
see from the window told her it must be April at least—if she did not know when
she'd gotten here. March? Was there still snow on the ground in March? Maybe it
had been February . . .

 
          
But
whenever it had been, she had spent enough time since then indoors. More than
enough. Spring was the season of rebirth; it was time for her to be born.

           
There was a sudden copper taste in
her mouth, but this time the fear seemed to spur her determination rather than
hinder it. Before she could think what she was doing, Winter strode into the
hall and flung open the door to the outside.

 
          
The
living air of the countryside spilled in, and the sunlight and the breeze on
her skin were like messengers from another world. The spaded earth alongside
the flagstone path was dark and fragrant with recent rain, and tiny sharp grass
blades lanced up through the soil beside the darker, more established green of
daffodil and iris, tulip and lily of the valley. The flagstones curved down and
to the left, to meet the graveled drive that led from the garage to the outside
world.

 
          
There
was no one anywhere in sight. Not even the road was visible, and no traffic
noise disturbed the illusion that time had not gone forward since the farmhouse
had first been built.

 
          
It's okay. It really is. There's nothing out
here that can hurt me,
Winter told herself bracingly. With as much
determination as courage, she stepped from the house to the
flagstoned
path.

 
          
One
step, two ... As she left the shadow of the house a wave of giddy
disorientation broke over her; she felt the same faint light-headedness that
she imagined one would feel opening a tiger's cage. The rolling pastoral
landscape around her seemed to rear up like an angry bear, threatening to crash
down upon her and rend her to bits.

 
          
It's just your imagination! That's what they
always said.
... A sudden flash of memory swirled out of the vortex of
sensation, striking
sharklike
without warning.

 
          
Another vista of green, but this time tamed
and tended. Bright autumn sunlight warming the terrace, where patients in
discordantly cheery bathrobes stared mutinously out at the sanatorium's
landscaped grounds.

 
          
The sanatorium

yes! I remember
Fall River
.
Did I escape from . . .

 
          
But
no. The memory was clear of the weeks of desperate courage: first to refuse her
medication, then, to leave. She was an adult, she had checked in of her own
free will; they really had no reason to hold her.

 
          
And at thirty-six one ought to know one's
own mind!
Winter thought with a flash of gallows humor. So she had left—
why
had she left?—had they said she was
cured?—surely she ought to feel better than this if she had been pronounced
sane and well?

BOOK: Bradley, Marion Zimmer - Shadowgate 02
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