Authors: Elizabeth Moon
This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.
The Legacy of Gird
has been published in two parts as
, copyright © 1990 by Elizabeth Moon, and
, copyright © 1992 by Elizabeth Moon.
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form.
A Baen Books Original.
Baen Publishing Enterprises
P.O. Box 1403
Riverdale, N.Y. 10471
Cover art is a computer-generated composite from the art for
, by Larry Elmore, and
, by Gary Ruddell
First printing, September 1996
Distributed by SIMON & SCHUSTER
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, N.Y. 10020
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
The legacy of gird / Elizabeth Moon.
"A Baen books original"—T.p. verso.
ISBN 0-671-87747-X (trade pbk.)
I. Fantastic fiction, American. I. Title.
Printed in the United States of America
"You lost children?" Others shushed that voice, someone in a leather cloak, but Gird answered it, counting them on his fingers.
"My first two sons died of fever; the lord refused us herb-right in the wood. My wife lost two babes young, one from hunger and one from fever. My eldest daughter they raped; killed her husband. The babe died unborn. My youngest son they struck down; he lives. Another daughter they struck down, breaking her arm; I know not if she lives or dies. And my brother's children, that I'd taken in: two of them dead, by the lords' greed. And that's children. I lost friends, my parents, my brother.
"You ask yourselves: if they can take one child, will they stop there? Will all your submission, all your obedience, get you peace and enough food? Has it
worked? You can sit here and let them take you one by one, or you can decide to fight back."
Oath of Gold
The Deed of Paksenarrion
The Legacy of Gird
with Anne McCaffrey
with Anne McCaffrey
In memory of Travis Bohannon
a country boy from Florence, Texas
who gave his life to save his family from fire.
Not all heroes are in books.
Too many people helped with technical advice and special knowledge to mention all and leaving any of them out is unfair. But special thanks to Ellen McLean, of McLean Beef masters, whose stock has taught me more than a college class in Dairying ever did, to Joel Graves for showing me how to scythe without cutting my ankles off, and to Mark Linger for instruction and demonstration of mixed-weapon fighting possibilities. Errors are mine; they did their best to straighten me out.
The Rule of Aare is rule one:
"Esea's light on him," muttered the priest, as the midwife mouthed, "Alyanya's sweet peace," and laid the wet pink newborn on his mother's belly. The priest, sent down hurriedly in the midst of dinner from the lord's hall, dabbed his finger in the blood and touched it to a kerchief, then cut with silver scissors a lock of the newborn's wet dark hair, which he folded in the same kerchief. With that as proof, no fond foolish peasant girl could hide the child away from his true father. The stupid slut might try that; some of them did, being so afraid of the lord's magic, although anyone with wit enough to dip stew from a kettle ought to realize that the lords meant no harm to these outbred children. Quite the contrary. With a final sniff, the priest sketched a gesture that left a streak of light in the room long after he'd left, and departed, to report the successful birth. Not a monster, a manchild whole of limb and healthy. Perhaps this one would inherit the birthright magic . . . perhaps.
Behind, in the birthing room, the midwife glowered at the glowing patch of air, and sketched her own gesture, tossing a handful of herbs at it. It hung there still, hardly fading. The new mother grunted, and the midwife returned to her work, ignoring the light she was determined not to need. She had the healing hands, a legacy of a great-grandmother's indiscretion in the days when such indiscretions meant a quick marriage to some handy serf. She hardly believed the change, and having a priest of Esea in the birthing room convinced her only that the high lords had no decency.
In the lord's hall, the infant's future was quickly determined. His mother could be his nurse, but his rearing would be that of a young lord, until his ability or lack of it appeared.
The boy showed a quick intelligence, a lively curiosity; he learned easily and could form the elegant script of Old Aare by the time he had seen six midwinter festivals. He had no peasant accent; he had no lack of manners or bodily grace. He also had no magic, and when the lord lost hope that he might show a useful trace of it, he found the boy a foster family in one of his villages, and sent him away.
It could have been worse. His lord provided: the family prospered, and the youth, as he grew to be, had no trouble finding a wife. He would inherit a farmstead, he was told, and in due time he had his own farm. With his father's gifts, he started well above the average, and as well he had the position of a market judge in the nearest town. It was not enough to live on, but it supplemented his farm's production. He knew he was well off, and shrugged away the hopes he'd once had of being adopted into the lord's family. Yet he could not forget his parentage, or the promise of magic.
In the year of his birth, and far away, the boy already lived who would make his parentage worthless.
"You're big enough now," said the boy's mother. "You don't need to be hanging on my skirts any more. You're bold enough when it's something you want to do." As she spoke, she raked at the boy's thick unruly hair with her fingers, and wiped a smudge of soot from his cheek. "You take that basket to the lord's steward, now, and be quick about it. Are you a big boy, or only a baby, then?"
"I'm big," he said, frowning. "I'm not scared." His mother flicked her apron over his shirt again, and landed a hand on his backside.
"Then get on with you. You're to be home right away, Gird, mind that. No playing about with the other lads and lasses. There's work to be done, boy."
"I know." With a grunt, he lifted the basket, almost hip-high, and leaned sideways to balance the weight; it was piled high with plums, the best from their tree. He could almost taste one, the sweet juice running down his throat . . . .
"And don't you be eating any of those, Gird. Not even one. Your Da would skin you for it."
"I won't." He started up the lane, walking cantways from the weight, but determined not to put the basket down for a rest until he was out of sight of the house. He wanted to go alone. He'd begged for the chance, last year, when he was clearly too small. And this year, when she'd first told him, he'd—he frowned harder, until he could feel the knot of his brows. He'd been afraid, after all. "I'm not afraid," he muttered to himself. "I'm not. I'm big, bigger than the others."
All along the lanes he saw others walking, carrying baskets slung over an arm or on a back. A handbasket for each square of bramble-berries; an armbasket for each tree in its first three years of bearing; a ruckbasket for each smallfruit tree over three years, and a back-basket for apples in prime. Last year he'd carried a handbasket in each hand: two handbaskets make an armbasket, last year's fee. This year was the plum's fourth bearing year, and now they owed the lord a ruckbasket.
And that leaves us, he thought bitterly, with only an armbasket for ourselves. It had been a dry year; most of the fruit fell before it ripened. He had heard his parents discussing it. They could have asked the lord's steward to change their fee, but that might bring other trouble.
"It's not the name I want, a man who argues every measure of his fee," said his father, leaning heavily on the table. "No. It's better to pay high one year, and have the lord's opinion. 'Tis not as if we were hungry."
Gird had listened silently. They had been hungry, two years before; he still remembered the pain in his belly, and his brother's gifts of food. Anything was better than that. Now, as he walked the lane, his belly grumbled; the smell of the plums seemed to go straight from his nose to his gut. He squinted against the bright light, trying not to think of it. Underfoot the dust was hot on the surface, but his feet sank into a coolness—was it damp? Why did wet and cold feel the same? He saw a puddle left from the rain a week ago, and headed for it before remembering his mother's detailed warnings. No puddles, she'd said; you don't come into the lord's court with dirty feet.
The lane past his father's house curved around a clump of pick-oak and into the village proper. Gird shifted his basket to the other side, and stumped on. Up ahead, just beyond the great stone barn where the whole village stored hay and grain was the corner of the lord's wall. The lane was choked with people waiting to go in the gate, children younger than Gird with handbaskets, those his own age with armbaskets, older ones with ruckbaskets like his. He joined the line, edging forward as those who had paid their fee came out and left room within.
Once inside the gate, he could just see over taller heads one corner of the awning over the steward's table. As he tried to peek between those ahead of him, and see more, someone tapped his head with a hard knuckle. He looked around.
"Good looking plums," said Rauf, Oreg the pigherd's son. "Better than ours." Rauf was a hand taller than Gird, and mean besides. Gird nodded, but said nothing. That was safer with Rauf. "They'd look better in my basket, I think. Eh, Sig?" Rauf nudged his friend Sikan in the ribs, and they both grinned at Gird. "You've more than you need, little boy; that basket's too heavy anyway," Rauf took a handful of plums off the top of the basket, and Sikan did the same.
"You stop!" Gird forgot that loud voices were not allowed in the lord's court. "Those are my plums!"
"They may have been once, but I found them." Rauf shoved Gird hard; he stumbled, and more plums rolled out of the basket. "Found them all over the ground, I did; what's down is anyone's, right?"
Gird tried to snatch for the rolling plums. Sikan kicked him lightly in the arm, while Rauf tipped his basket all the way over. Gird heard some of the other boys laughing, a woman nearby crying shame to them all. The back of his neck felt hot, and he heard a wind in his ears. Before he thought, he grabbed the basket and slammed it into Rauf's face. Sikan jumped at him; Gird rolled away, kicking wildly. In moments that corner of the courtyard was a wild tangle of fighting boys and squashed fruit. The steward bellowed, the lord's guards waded into the fight, using their hands, their short staves, the flats of their swords. And Gird found himself held immobile by two guards, with Rauf lying limp on the stones, and the other boys huddled in a frightened mass behind a line of armed men.
"Disgraceful," said someone over his head. Gird looked up. The lord's steward, narrow-faced, blue-eyed. "Who started it?"
No one answered. Gird felt the hands tighten on his arms, and give a shake. "Boy," said a deeper voice, one of the men holding him. "What do you know about this? Who started it?"
"He stole my plums." Before he spoke, he didn't realize he was going to. In the heavy silence, with Rauf lying still before him, and the courtyard a mess of trampled fruit, his voice sounded thin. The steward looked at him, met his eyes.