Bradley, Marion Zimmer - SSC 03

BOOK: Bradley, Marion Zimmer - SSC 03
10.3Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub






Marian Zimmer Bradley








Suddenly it was there, a great gray
shape, leaping high at Lythande's throat. The mage whirled, whipping out the
dagger on the right, and thrust, hard, at the bane-wolfs throat.

It went through the throat as if
through air. Not a true beast, then, but a magical one. . . . Lythande dropped
the right-hand dagger, and snatched, left-handed, at the other, the dagger
intended for righting the powers and beasts of magic; but the delay had been
nearly fatal; the teeth of the bane-wolf met, like fiery needles, in
Lythande's arm, then in the knee thrust up to ward the beast from the throat.

The bane-wolfs blazing eyes flashed
against the light of the Blue Star, which grew fainter and feebler. As
Lythande's struggles weakened, the thought came, unbidden:

Have I come this far to die in a
dark cellar in the maw of a wolf, not even a true wolf, but a thing created by
the filthy misuse of sorcery at the hands of a thief?





compelling novels of DARKOVER,

of the Bloody Sun:

The Founding

The Ages of Chaos


The Hundred Kingdoms

The Renunciates (Free Amazons)


Against the Terrans: the First Age


Against the Terrans: the Second




Zimmer Bradley


1633 Broadway,

Copyright © 1986 by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

All Rights Reserved. Cover art by
Walter Velez.



The Secret of the Blue Star
copyright © 1979 by Marion
Zimmer Bradley.


The Incompetent Magician
copyright © 1983 by Marion Zimmer


Somebody Else's Magic
copyright © 1984 by Mercury Press,


copyright © 1985 by Mercury Press, Inc.


The Wandering Lute
copyright © 1986 by Mercury Press, Inc.


Looking for Satan
copyright © 1981 by Vonda N. Mclntyre.


DAW Book
Collectors No. 686.

printing August, 1986




Printed in the



to Secret of the Blue Star:


remember first hearing Bob
Asprin talk about a new concept that he referred to as THIEVES WORLD

I think it was at the
Worldcon, which was in 1978
or thereabout. Bob described the concept enthusiastically and it sounded like
fun, so I said, "Okay, I'm in," without thinking much about it . . .
which is how writers get into trouble. A few months after I got back from
I received in the mail a
fascinating packet of stuff from Bob and others who had agreed to join in this
business of writing connected stories in a common shared background. There were
maps, a basic description of the gods and customs of this place
and so forth. We were asked to contribute a sketch of our
basic character or characters, and I obliged with a few paragraphs about the
mysterious Lythande, about whom nothing is known, not even gender.
. . .

this sort of thing is fun to play with, but when it got down to having to do
some serious writing, that was something else. I wasn't the only one who was
perfectly willing to share in the planning of the initial stages; but as to
actually getting down to the typewriter and turning stories in

well, in his original (the Ace edition of volume one, not
the super hardback reprint of the first volumes), Bob tells about his
near-nervous-breakdown; because at least half of us, having thought it was a
proved to think we were too busy to do actual writing. When Bob said he had to
have the story, I was about to fly to Phoenix, then New York, and from there to
fly to England for research on a project which eventually turned out to be the
most lucrative of my life's work; but Bob persuaded me, so I wrote the story on
the plane and in my hotel room in Phoenix, borrowed Margaret Hildebrand's
little typewriter and typed it, then left it with my secretary to be proofread,
corrected, and mailed off to the Asprins. It's the only story I wrote in
longhand after my seventeenth
and 1 hope the
last. I gave it to the
con committee (the original
version, that
is) to auction off for the
benefit of their convention, and I have no idea who has it or what they did
with it. But they have a unique item

handwritten manuscript of a professional story ever.

for Lythande, she is as much a mystery to me as she is to the inhabitants of
Sanctuary/Thieves World. When I first conceived this character, I did not know
that she was a woman; I thought her an eccentric male. When I wrote Poul
Anderson's Cappen Varra (the only honest man Sanctuary) into my story, it was a
simple plot device; but Cappen Varra's saying, "You are like no other man
I have ever met," made me wonder: but what about women? From there it was
only a little step to saying; of course, Lythande is a woman cursed to conceal
her true self forever.

antecedents of Lythande are simple

and C.L. Moore's
Jirel of Joiry

I also attempted, in making Lythande a musician and magician, to bring out
something of Manly Wade Wellman's
Silver John,
whose silver-stringed guitar is a potent
weapon against sorcery. Besides, even in a thieves-world of magic, practicing
no art but magic is a thin living, or, as Lythande would say, "puts no
beans on
the table." A minstrel can always get a good supper for a

of Lythande's songs in these works are paraphrases of Sappho, a subtle key to
a side of her character which I chose not to emphasize overmuch. 1
no political point to make by Lythande's
eccentricities; it is simply, I think, one more stress on a woman whose life
must be already overcomplicated. I have often been urged to write about lesbian
women; unfortunately, the audience for this kind of thing is usually confined
to the unhealthily curious male, and I choose not to cater to this kind of
interest. Lythande is as she
and even the
characters in a book deserve some privacy. I wouldn't mind other people
about Lythande

people who
and people who
are my kind of people and they can have anything I have. In any case, here
is my Lythande and her world. Welcome to it. For the many people who have asked
me: Lythande is pronounced (by me, at least) as Lee THOND.





a night in Sanctuary, when the streets bore a false glamour in the silver glow
of full moon, so that every ruin seemed an enchanted tower and every dark
street and square an island of mystery, the mercenary-magician Lythande sallied
forth to seek adventure.

had but recently returned

if the mysterious comings
and goings of a magician can be called by so prosaic a name

from guarding a caravan across the Grey Wastes to Twand.
Somewhere in the Wastes, a gaggle of desert rats

rats with poisoned steel teeth

had set upon the caravan,
not knowing it was guarded by magic, and had found themselves fighting
skeletons that howled and fought with eyes of flame; and at their center a tall
magician with a blue star between blazing eyes, a star that shot lightnings of
a cold and paralyzing flame. So the desert rats ran, and never stopped running
until they reached
and the tales they told
did Lythande no harm except in the ears of the pious.

so there was gold in the pockets of the long, dark magician's robe, or perhaps
concealed in whatever dwelling sheltered Lythande.

at the end, the caravan master had been almost more afraid of Lythande than he
was of the bandits, a situation which added to the generosity with which he rewarded
the magician. According to custom, Lythande neither smiled nor frowned, but
remarked, days later, to Myrtis, the proprietor of the Aphrodisia House in the
Street of Red Lanterns, that sorcery, while a useful skill and rilled with many
aesthetic delights for the contemplation of the philosopher, in itself puts no
beans on the table.

curious remark, that, Myrtis pondered, putting away the ounce of gold Lythande
had bestowed upon her in consideration of a secret which lay many years behind
them both. Curious that Lythande should speak of beans on the table, when no
one but herself had ever seen a bite of food or a drop of drink pass the
magician's lips since the blue star had adorned that high and narrow brow. Nor
had any woman in the Quarter ever been able to boast that a great magician had
paid for her favors, or been able to imagine how such a magician behaved in
that situation when all men were alike reduced to flesh and blood.

Myrtis could have told if she would; some of her girls thought so, when, as
sometimes happened, Lythande came to the Aphrodisia House and was closeted
long with its owner; even, on rare intervals, for an entire night. It was said,
of Lythande, that the Aphrodisia House itself had been the magician's gift to
Myrtis, after a famous adventure still whispered in the bazaar, involving an
evil wizard, two horse-traders, a caravan master, and a few assorted toughs who
had prided themselves upon never giving gold for any woman and thought it funny
to cheat an honest working woman. None of them had ever showed their faces

what was left of them

Sanctuary again, and Myrtis boasted that she need never again sweat to earn her
living, and never again entertain a man, but would claim her madam's privilege
of a solitary bed.

then, too, the girls thought, a magician of Lythande's stature could have
claimed the most beautiful women from Sanctuary to the mountains beyond Ilsig;
not courtesans alone, but princesses and noble women and priestesses would have
been for Lythande's taking. Myrtis had doubtless been beautiful in her youth,
and certainly she boasted enough of the princes and wizards and travelers who
had paid great sums for her love. She was beautiful still (and of course there
were those who said that Lythande did not pay her, but that, on the contrary,
Myrtis paid the magician great sums to maintain her aging beauty with strong
magic) but her hair had gone grey and she no longer troubled to dye it with
henna or goldenwash from Tyrisis-beyond-the-sea.

if Myrtis were not the woman who knew how Lythande behaved in that most
elemental of situations, then there was no woman in Sanctuary who could say.
Rumor said also that Lythande called up female demons from the Grey Wastes, to
couple in lechery, and certainly Lythande was neither the first nor the last
magician of whom that could be said.

on this night Lythande sought neither food nor drink nor the delights of
amorous entertainment; although Lythande was a great frequenter of taverns, no
man had ever yet seen a drop of ale or mead or fire-drink
the barrier of the magician's lips. Lythande walked along the far edge of the
bazaar, skirting the old rim of the governor's palace, keeping to the shadows
in defiance of footpads and
cutpurses, that
love for
shadows which made the folk of the city say that Lythande could appear and
disappear into thin air.

and thin, Lythande, above the height of a tall man, lean to emaciation, with
the blue star-shaped tattoo of the magician-adept above thin, arching eyebrows;
wearing a long, hooded robe which melted into the shadows. Clean-shaven, the face
of Lythande, or beardless

none had come close enough,
in living memory, to say whether this was the whim of an effeminate or the
hairlessness of a freak. The hair, beneath the hood was as long and luxuriant
as a woman's, but greying, as no woman in this city of harlots would have
allowed it to do.

quickly along a shadowed wall, Lythande stepped through an open door, over
which the sandal of Thufir, god of pilgrims, had been nailed up for luck; but
the footsteps were so soft, and the hooded robe blended so well into the
shadows, that eyewitnesses would later swear, truthfully, that they had seen
Lythande appear from the air, protected by sorceries, or by a cloak of invisibility.

the hearthfire, a group of men were banging their mugs together noisily to the
sound of a rowdy drinking-song, strummed on a worn and tinny lute

Lythande knew it belonged to the tavern-keeper, and could
be borrowed

by a young man, dressed in
fragments of foppish finery, torn and slashed by the chances of the road. He
was sitting lazily, with one knee crossed over the^ other; and when the rowdy
song died away, the young man drifted into another,-a quiet love song from
another time and another country. Lythande had known the song, more years ago
than bore remembering, and in those days Lythande the magician had borne
another name and had known little of sorcery. When the song died, Lythande had
stepped from the shadows, visible, and the firelight glinted on the blue star,
mocking at the center of the high forehead.

was a little muttering in the tavern, but they were not unaccustomed to
Lythande's invisible comings and goings. The young man raised eyes which were
surprisingly blue beneath the black hair elaborately curled above his brow. He
was slender and agile, and Lythande marked the rapier at his side, which looked
well handled, and the amulet, in the form of a coiled snake, at his throat. The
young man said, "Who are you, who
the habit
of coming and going into thin air like that?"

"One who compliments your skill
" Lythande flung a coin to the tapster's
boy. "Will you drink?"

minstrel never refuses such an invitation. Singing is dry work." But when
the drink was brought, he said, "Not drinking with me, then?"

man has ever seen Lythande eat or drink," muttered one of the men in the
circle round them.

then, I hold that unfriendly," cried the young minstrel. "A friendly
drink between comrades shared is one thing; but I am no servant to sing for pay
or to drink except as a friendly gesture!"

shrugged, and the blue star above the high brow began to shimmer and give forth
blue light. The onlookers slowly edged backward, for when a wizard who wore the
blue star was angered, bystanders did well to be out of the way. The minstrel
set down the lute, so it would be well out of range if he must leap to his
feet. Lythande knew, by the excruciating slowness of his movements and great
care, that he had already shared a good many drinks with chance-met comrades.
But the minstrel's hand did not go to his sword hilt but instead closed like a
fist over the amulet in the form of a snake.

are like no man I have ever met before," he observed mildly, and Lythande,
feeling inside the little ripple, nerve-long, that told a magician he was in
the presence of spellcasting, hazarded quickly that the amulet was one of
those which would not protect its master unless the wearer first stated a set
number of truths

usually three or five

about the owner's attacker or foe. Wary, but amused,
Lythande said, "A true word. Nor am I like any man you will ever meet,
live you never so long, minstrel."

minstrel saw, beyond the angry blue glare of the star, a curl of friendly
mockery in Lythande's mouth. He said, letting the amulet go, "And I wish
you no ill; and you wish me none, and those are true sayings too, wizard, hey?
And there's an end of that. But although perhaps you are like to no other, you
are not the only wizard I have seen in Sanctuary who bears a blue star about
his forehead."

the blue star blazed rage, but not for the minstrel. They both knew it. The
crowd around them had all mysteriously discovered that they had business elsewhere.
The minstrel looked at the empty benches.

must go elsewhere to sing for my supper, it seems."

meant you no offense when I refused to share a drink," said Lythande.
"A magician's vow is not as lightly overset as a lute. Yet I may
guest-gift you with dinner and drink in plenty without loss of dignity, and in
return ask a service of a friend, may I not?"

is the custom of my country. Cappen Varra thanks you, magician."

Your best dinner for my guest, and all he can
drink tonight!"

such liberal guesting I'll not haggle about the service," Cappen Varra
said, and set to the smoking dishes brought before him. As he ate, Lythande
drew from the folds of his robe a small pouch containing a quantity of
sweet-smelling herbs, rolled them into a blue-grey leaf, and touched his ring
to spark the roll alight. He drew on the smoke, which drifted up sweet and

for the service, it is nothing so great; tell me all you know of this other
wizard who wears the blue star. I know of none other of my order south of
Azehur, and I .would be certain you did not see me,
my wraith."

Varra sucked at a marrow-bone and wiped his fingers fastidiously on the tray-cloth
beneath the meats. He bit into a ginger-fruit before replying.

you, wizard, nor your fetch or doppelganger; this one had shoulders brawnier by
half, and he wore no sword, but two daggers cross-girt astride his hips.

His beard was black; and his left
hand missing three fingers."

"Us of the Thousand Eyes!
Rabben the Half-handed, here
in Sanctuary!
Where did you see him, minstrel?"

saw him crossing the bazaar; but he bought nothing that I saw. And I saw him
in the Street of Red Lanterns, talking to a woman. What service am I to do for
you, magician?"

have done it." Lythande gave silver to the tavernkeeper

so much that the surly man bade Shalpa's cloak cover him as
he went

and laid another coin, gold
this time, beside the borrowed lute.

your harp; that one will do your voice no boon." But when the minstrel
raised his head in thanks, the magician had gone unseen into the shadows.

BOOK: Bradley, Marion Zimmer - SSC 03
10.3Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

La dama del alba by Alejandro Casona
In the Penal Colony by Kafka, Franz
Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal
Swept Away by Mary Connealy
Definitely Maybe by Arkady Strugatsky, Boris Strugatsky
Black Tuesday by Susan Colebank
Christmas at Stony Creek by Stephanie Greene