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Authors: Marion Zimmer Bradley,Paul Edwin Zimmer

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Stormqueen!

BOOK: Stormqueen!
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STORMQUEEN!
By
MARION ZIMMER BRADLEY
DEDICATION
To Catherine L. Moore
First Lady of Science Fiction
I have ceased, I hope, the imitation which is said to be the sincerest form of flattery. I shall never outgrow, I hope, the desire to emulate; nor the admiration, the affection, and the inspiration which she has created in every woman who writes science fiction and fantasy - and in most of the men, too!
- MZB
A NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR
Ever since the third or fourth of the Darkover novels, my surprisingly faithful readers have been writing in to me, asking, in essence, “Why don’t you write a novel about the Ages of Chaos?”
For a long time I demurred, hesitating to do this; to me the essence of the Darkover novels seemed to be just this - the clash of cultures between Darkovan and Terran. If I had acceded to their request to write about a time “before the coming of the Terrans,” it seemed to me, the very essence of the Darkover novels would have been removed, and what remained would be very much like any of a thousand other science-fantasy novels dealing with alien worlds where people have alien powers and alien concerns.
It was my readers who finally persuaded me to attempt this. If every reader who actually writes to an author represents only a hundred who do not (and I am told the figure is higher than this) there must be, by now, several
thousand
readers out there who are interested and curious about the time known as the Ages of Chaos; the time before the Comyn had firmly established an alliance of their seven Great Houses to rule over the Domains; and also the height of the Towers, and of that curious technology known then as “starstone” and later becoming the science of matrix mechanics.
Readers of
The Forbidden Tower
will want to know that
Stormqueen
deals with a time
before
Varzil, Keeper of Neskaya, known as “the Good,” perfected the techniques allowing women to serve as Keepers in the Towers of the Comyn.
In
The Shattered Chain
, Lady Rohana says;
“There was a time in the history of the Comyn when we did selective breeding to fix these gifts in our racial heritage; it was a time of great tyranny, and not a time we are very proud to remember.”
This is a story of the men and women who lived under that tyranny, and how it affected their lives, and the lives of those who came after them on Darkover.
- MARION ZIMMER BRADLEY
STORMQUEEN!
CHAPTER ONE
The storm was wrong somehow.
That was the only way Donal could think of it…
wrong somehow
. It was high summer in the mountains called the Hellers, and there should have been no storms except for the never-ending snow flurries on the far heights above the timberline, and the rare savage thunderstorms that swooped down across the valleys, bouncing from peak to peak and leaving flattened trees and sometimes fire in the path of their lightnings.
Yet, though the sky was blue and cloudless, thunder crackled low in the distance, and the very air seemed filled with the tension of a storm. Donal crouched on the heights of the battlement, stroking with one finger the hawk cradled in the curve of his arm, crooning half-absently to the restless bird. It was the storm in the air, the electric tension, he knew, which was frightening the hawk. He should never have taken it from the mews today - it would serve him right if the old hawkmaster beat him, and a year ago he would probably have done so without much thought. But now things were different. Donal was only ten, but there had been many changes in his short life. And this was one of the most drastic, that within the change of a few moons hawkmaster and tutors and grooms now called him - not that-brat-Donal, with cuffs and pinches and even blows, merited and unmerited, but, with new and fawning respect - young-master-Donal.
Certainly life was easier for Donal now, but the very change made him uneasy; for it had not come about from anything he had done. It had something to do with the fact that his mother, Aliciane of Rockraven, now shared the bed of Dom Mikhail, Lord of Aldaran, and was soon to bear him a child.
Only once, a long time ago (two midsummer festivals had come and gone), had Aliciane spoken of these things to her son.
“Listen carefully to me, Donal, for I shall say this once only and never again. Life is not easy for a woman unprotected.” Donal’s father had died in one of the small wars, which raged among the vassals of the mountain lords, before Donal could remember him; their lives had been spent as unregarded poor relations in the home of one kinsman after another, Donal wearing castoffs of this cousin and that, riding always the worst horse in the stables, hanging around unseen when cousins and kinsmen learned the skills of arms, trying to pick up what he could by listening.
“I could put you to fosterage; your father had kinsmen in these hills, and you could grow up to take service with one of them. Only for me there would be nothing but to be drudge or sewing-woman, or at best minstrel in a stranger’s household, and I am too young to find that endurable. So I have taken service as singing-woman to Lady Deonara; she is frail, and aging, and has borne no living children. Lord Aldaran is said to have an eye for beauty in women. And I am beautiful, Donal.”
Donal had hugged Aliciane fiercely; indeed she was beautiful, a slight girlish woman, with flame-bright hair and gray eyes, who looked too young to be the mother of a boy eight years old.
“What I am about to do, I do it at least partly for you, Donal. My kin have cast me off for it; do not condemn me if I am ill-spoken by those who do not understand.”
Indeed it seemed, at first, that Aliciane had done this more for her son’s good than her own: Lady Deonara was kind but had the irritability of all chronic invalids, and Aliciane had been quenched and quiet, enduring Deonara’s sharpness and the shrewish envy of the other women with goodwill and cheerfulness. But Donal for the first time in his life had whole clothing made to his measure, horse and hawk of his own, shared the tutor and the arms-master of Lord Aldaran’s fosterlings and pages. That summer Lady Deonara had borne the last of a series of stillborn sons; and Mikhail, Lord of Aldaran, had taken Aliciane of Rockraven as
barragana
and sworn to her that her child, male or female, should be legitimated, and be heir to his line, unless he might someday father a legitimate son. She was Lord Aldaran’s acknowledged favorite - even Deonara loved her and had chosen her for her lord’s bed - and Donal shared her eminence. Once, even, Lord Mikhail, gray and terrifying, had called Donal to him, saying he had good reports from tutor and arms-master, and had drawn him into a kindly embrace. “I would indeed you were mine by blood, foster-son. If your mother bears me such a son I will be well content, my boy.”
Donal had stammered, “I thank you, kinsman,” without the courage, yet, to call the old man “foster-father.” Young as he was, he knew that if his mother should bear Lord Aldaran his only living child, son or daughter, then he would be half-brother to Aldaran’s heir. Already the change in his status had been extreme and marked.
But the impending storm… it seemed to Donal an evil omen for the coming birth. He shivered; this had been a summer of strange storms, lightning bolts from nowhere, ever-present rumblings and crashes. Without knowing why, Donal associated these storms with
anger
- the anger of his grand-sire, Aliciane’s father, when Lord Rockraven had heard of his daughter’s choice. Donal, cowering forgotten in a corner, had heard Lord Rockraven calling her
bitch
, and
whore
, and names Donal had understood even less. The old man’s voice had been nearly drowned, that day, by thunder outside, and there had been a crackle of angry lightnings in his mother’s voice, too, as she had shouted back, “What am I to do, then, Father? Bide here at home, mending my own shifts, feeding myself and my son upon your shabby honor? Shall I see Donal grow up to be a mercenary soldier, a hired sword, or dig in your garden for his porridge? You scorn Lady Aldaran’s offer - “
“It is not
Lady
Aldaran I scorn,” her father snorted, “but it is not she whom you will serve and you know it as well as I!”
“And have you found a better offer for me? Am I to marry a blacksmith or charcoal-burner? Better
barragana
to Aldaran than wife to a tinker or ragpicker!”
Donal had known he could expect nothing from his grand-sire. Rockraven had never been a rich or powerful estate; and it was impoverished because Rockraven had four sons to provide for, and three daughters, of whom Aliciane was the youngest. Aliciane had once said, bitterly, that if a man has no sons, that is tragedy; but if he has too many, then worse for him, for he must see them struggle for his estate.
Last of his children, Aliciane had been married to a younger son without a title, and he had died within a year of their marriage, leaving Aliciane and the newborn Donal to be reared in strangers’ houses.
Now, crouching on the battlements of Castle Aldaran and watching the clear sky so inexplicably filled with lightning, Donal extended his consciousness outward, outward - he could almost
see
the lines of electricity and the curious shimmer of the magnetic fields of the storm in the air. At times he had been able to call the lightning; once he had amused himself when a storm raged by diverting the great bolt where he would. He could not always do it, and he could not do it too often or he would grow sick and weak; once when he had felt through his skin (he did not know how) that the next bolt was about to strike the tree where he had sheltered, he had somehow
reached out
with something inside him, as if some invisible limb had grasped the chain of exploding force and flung it
elsewhere
. The lightning bolt had exploded, with a sizzle, into a nearby bush, crisping it into blackened leaves and charring a circle of grass, and Donal had sunk to the ground, his head swimming, his eyes blurred. His head had been splitting in three parts with the pain, and he could not see properly for days, but Aliciane had hugged and praised him.
“My brother Caryl could do that, but he died young,” she told him. “There was a time when the
leroni
at Hali tried to breed storm-control into our
laran
, but it was too dangerous. I can
see
the thunder-forces, a little; I cannot manipulate them. Take care, Donal; use that gift only to save a life. I would not have my son blasted by the lightnings he seeks to control.” Aliciane had hugged him again, with unusual warmth.
Laran
. Talk of it had filled his childhood, the gifts of extrasensory powers which were so much a preoccupation with the mountain lords - yes, and far away in the lowlands, too. If he had had any truly extraordinary gift, telepathy, the ability to force his will upon hawk or hound or sentry-bird, he would have been recorded in the breeding charts of the
leroni
, the sorceresses who kept records of parentage among those who carried the blood of Hastur and Cassilda, legendary forebears of the Gifted Families. But he had none. Merely storm-watch, a little; he sensed when thunderstorms or even forest fire struck, and someday, when he was a bit older, he would take his place on the fire-watch, and it would help him, to know, as he already knew a little, where the fire would move next. But this was a minor gift, not worth breeding for. Even at Hali they had abandoned it, four generations before, and Donal knew, not knowing precisely how he knew, that this was one reason why the family of Rockraven had not prospered.
BOOK: Stormqueen!
13.88Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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