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Authors: Marion Zimmer Bradley

Sharra's Exile

BOOK: Sharra's Exile
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Sharra's Exile

Heritage and Exile 02 - A Novel of Darkover

Marion Zimmer Bradley

in DAW editions:








THE SURVIVORS (with Paul Zimmer)





1633 Broadway, New York, N.Y. 10019


All Rights Reserved.

Cover painting
by Hannah M. G. Shapero.



Chapter Two of Book One appeared in a slightly different form, as a short story entitled “Blood Will Tell” in the volume
The Keeper’s Price
, DAW 1980.


Like all previous Darkover novels, this story is complete in itself and does not depend on knowledge of any other. More than any other Darkover book, however, this one was written by popular demand.

One result of writing novels as they occurred to me, instead of following strict chronological order, was that I began with an attempt to solve the final problems of the society; each novel thus suggested one laid in an earlier time, in an attempt to explain how the society had reached that point. Unfortunately, that meant that relatively mature novels, early in the chronology of Darkover, were followed by books written when I was much younger and relatively less skilled at storytelling; and of all these, the least satisfactory was
The Sword of Aldones
, perhaps because this book was, in essence, dreamed up at the age of fifteen.

In 1975 I made a landmark decision; that in writing
The Heritage of Hastur
, I would not be locked into the basically immature concepts set forth in
, even at the sacrifice of consistency in the series.

appeared in print,
Sword of Aldones
seemed even less satisfactory—for years, it seemed that everyone I met asked me when I was going to rewrite it. For years I replied “Never,” or “I don’t want to go back to it.” But I finally decided that I had, in
Sword of Aldones
, developed a basically good idea, without the skill or maturity to handle it as well as it deserved; and that the characters deserved serious treatment by a matured writer. I decided not to rewrite, but to write an entirely new book based on events in the same time frame as
. The present book is the result.



To Walter Breen, whose knowledge of the Darkover universe is “extensive and peculiar” and to our son Patrick Breen, who read this page by page as it emerged from the typewriter, sometimes actually reading it over my shoulder as I wrote, in his eagerness to find out what happened next.


The second year of exile

This was the home of my ancestors.

But I knew, now, that it would never be

My eyes ached as I stared at the horizon where the sun sank out of sight—a strange yellow sun, not red as a sun should be, a glaring sun that hurt my eyes. But now, for a moment just before twilight, it was suddenly red and huge and sinking behind the lake in a sudden crimson glory that made me ache with homesickness; and across the water a streak of crimson— I stood staring until the last gleams of crimson faded; and over the lake, pale and silver, the solitary moon of Terra showed the thinnest of elegant crescents.

Earlier in the day there had been rain, and the air was heavy with alien smells. Not alien, really; they were known, somehow, in the very depth of my genes. My ancestors had climbed down from the trees of this world, had lived out the long evolution which had patterned them into human, and had later sent out the seedling ships, one of which—I had heard the tale—had crash-landed on Darkover and settled there, rooting into the new world so deeply that I, exiled from my race’s homeworld and returning, found homeworld alien and longed for the world of my people’s exile.

I did not know how long ago, or for how long my people had dwelt on Darkover. Travel among the stars has strange anomalies; the enormous interstellar distances play strange tricks with time. There would never be any way for the folk of the Terran Empire to say, three thousand years ago, or fifteen thousand years ago, which particular colony ship founded Darkover— The elapsed time on Terra was something like three thousand years. Yet elapsed time on Darkover was somehow more like ten

thousand, so that Darkover had a history nearly as long as Earth’s own history of civilization and chaos.

I knew how many years ago Terra, in the days long before the Terran Empire had spread from star to star, had sent out the ship. I knew how many years had elapsed on Darkover. And there was no way for even the most accurate historian to reconcile them: I had long ago stopped trying.

Nor was I the only one with hopelessly torn loyalties, as deep as the very DNA in my cells. My mother had been earth born under this impossibly blue sky and this colorless moon; yet she had loved

Darkover, had married my Darkovan father and borne him sons and, at last, been laid to rest in an unmarked grave in the Kilghard Hills on Darkover.

And I wish I were lying there beside her

For a moment I was not sure that the thoughts were not my own. Then I shut them out, savagely. My father and I were too close… not the ordinary closeness of a Comyn telepath family (though that in itself would have been freakish enough to the Terrans around us) but entangled by common fears, common loss… shared experience and pain. Bastard, rejected by my father’s caste because my mother had been half Terran, my father had gone to endless pains to have me accepted as a Comyn Heir. To this day I did not know whether it was for my sake or his own. My futile attempts at rebellion had entrapped us all in the abortive rebellion under the Aldarans, and Sharra—

Sharra. Flame burning in my mind…the image of a woman of flame, chained, restless, tresses of fire
rising on a firestorm wind, hovering… rising, ravening… Marjorie caught in the fires, screaming,

No! Merciful Avarra, no

Black dark. Shut out everything. Close my eyes, bend my head, go away, not there at all, nowhere at all

Pain. Agony flaming in my hand

“Pretty bad, Lew?” Behind me I felt the calming presence of my father’s mind. I nodded, clenching my teeth, slamming the painful stump of my left hand against the railing, letting the cold strangeness of the white moon-rim flood me.

“Damn it, I’m all right. Stop—” I fought for the right word and came up with “stop hovering.”

“What am I supposed to do? I can’t shut it out,” he said quietly. “You were—what shall I say?

Broadcasting. When you can keep your thoughts to yourself, I’ll leave you alone with them. In the name of all the Gods, Lew, I was a technician in the Arilinn Tower for ten years!”

He didn’t elaborate. He didn’t have to. For three years, the happiest years of my life, perhaps, I too had been matrix mechanic in the Arilinn Tower, working with the complex matrix crystals which linked telepaths and minds in linkages to provide communication, technology to our metal-poor, machinery-poor world. I had learned, in Arilinn, what it was to be a telepath, Comyn of our caste, gifted or cursed with the linking of minds and the hypersensitivity to the other minds around me. You learned not to pry; you learned not to let your own thoughts entangle with others, not to be hurt too much by the pain, or the needs, of others, to remain exquisitely sensitive and at the same time to live without intruding or demanding.

I had learned this, too. But my own control had been burned out by the ninth-level matrix which I had tried, insanely, to handle with a circle of half-trained telepaths, we had hoped, vainly, to restore the old, high-level Darkovan technology, handed down as legend from the Ages of Chaos. And we had nearly done it, too, experimenting with the old Darkovan crafts, called sorcery and magic by the commoners.

We knew that in truth they were a complex technology, which could have done anything—powered

spaceships for Darkover to stand equal to the Empire, rather than remain poor relations, dependents of the Terran Empire, a cold, metal-poor planet.

We had nearly done it… but Sharra was too powerful for us, and the matrix which for years had been chained, peacefully bringing fire to the forges of the mountain smiths, had been freed, ravening and raging in the hills. A city had been destroyed.
And I, I had been destroyed too, burnt in those monstrous
fires, and Marjorie, Marjorie was dead

And now within my matrix, now I could see nothing but flame and destruction and Sharra

A telepath keys himself into the matrix stone he uses. At eleven I had been given such a matrix: if it had been taken from me, I would swiftly have died. I do not know what the matrix stones are. Some people say they are crystals which amplify the psychoelectrical emanations of the brain’s activity in the

“silent” areas where the Comyn powers reside. Others call them an alien life-form, symbiotic with the special powers of the Comyn. Whatever the truth, a Comyn telepath works through his own matrix; the larger matrixes, multilevel, are never keyed to the body and brain of the individual matrix worker, but relayed and transformed through his stone.

But Sharra had reached out for us all, and taken us into the fire…

!” My father spoke with the particular force of an Alton, forcing his mind on mine, wresting the image away. Grateful darkness descended behind my eyes; then I could see the moon again, see something other than flames.

He said quietly, as I rested my eyes, covering them with my good hand, “You don’t believe it now, but it
better, Lew. It comes when you let your guard down, yes. But there are long periods when you can break the domination of the Sharra matrix—”

“When I don’t talk about it, you mean,” I interrupted angrily.

“No,” he said, “when it isn’t there. I’ve been monitoring you. It’s not nearly as bad as it was that first year. In the hospital, for instance… I couldn’t get you out of it for more than a few hours at a time.

Now there are days, even weeks—”

Yet I would never be free. When we went offworld, from Darkover, hoping to save the hand burned in Sharra’s fires, I had taken the Sharra matrix, hidden in its elaborate sword; not because I wished to take it, but because after what had happened, I could no more be separated from it than parted from my own matrix. My own matrix hung around my neck; it had hung there since my twelfth year, and I could not remove it without pain and probably brain damage. Once it had been taken from me—a kind of

deliberate torture—and I had come nearer to death than I like to think. Probably if it had been kept from me another day, I would have died, of heart failure or cerebral accident.

But the Sharra matrix… somehow it had overpowered my own. I need not wear it hanging round my

neck, or be in physical contact with it, but I could not go beyond a certain critical distance, or the pain would begin, and the fire images surge in my brain, like static blurring out all else. My father was a competent technician, but he could do nothing; the technicians in the Arilinn Tower, where they had tried to save my hand, could do nothing. Finally they had taken me offworld, in a vain hope that Terran science could do more. It was illegal for the Warden of the Alton Domain, my father, Kennard Alton, to leave Darkover at the same time as his Heir. He had done it anyway, and for that I knew that I should have been grateful to him. But all I felt was weariness, rage, resentment.

You should have let me die.

My father stepped out into the light of the dim moon and stars. I could only barely see his outline; tall, once heavy and imposing; now stooped with the bone disease which had crippled him for many years; but still powerful, dominating. I was never sure whether I saw my father’s physical presence or the mental, commanding force which had overpowered my life since, at eleven, he had forced my mind open to the telepathic Alton Gift—the gift of forced rapport even with non-telepaths, which

BOOK: Sharra's Exile
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