Authors: Christopher Stasheff
Tags: #Fiction - Science Fiction, #Epic, #Fantasy, #Juvenile Fiction, #Science Fiction; Fantasy; Magic, #Fantastic fiction, #General, #Science fiction, #Science Fiction - General, #Adventure, #Fiction
This book is an Ace Science Fiction original edition, and has never been previously published.
An Ace Science Fiction Book/published by arrangement with the author
Ace Science Fiction edition/December 1985
All rights reserved.
Copyright © 1985 by Christopher Stasheff
Cover art by Stephen Hickman
This book may not be reproduced in whole or in part, by mimeograph or any other means, without permission. For information address: The Berkley Publishing Group, 200 Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10016.
Ace Science Fiction Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group, 200 Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10016.
For some time now, I've been getting worried about the steadily increasing number of hopeful historians on this Isle of Gramarye. There weren't any when I came here—none that I was aware of, anyway. Then Brother Chillde started keeping his chronicles, and, first thing I knew. there were five more just like him. Not that this is all bad, of course—
Gramarye'II be much better off if it has an accurate record of its history. What bothers me is that each one of these young Thucydideses is conveniently forgetting all the events that make his own side look bad, and definitely overdoing it more than a bit, about the happenings that make his side look good. I'm mostly thinking of the Church here, of course, but not exclusively—for example, I know of one young warlock who's taken to keeping a diary, and a country lord's younger son who's piling up an impressive number of journals. So, in an effort to set the record straight, I'm going to set down my version of what happened. Not that it' II be any more objective, of course; it'll at least be biased in a diff" 'Tis my place, Delia!"
"Nay, Geoffrey, thou knowest 'tis not! This end of the shelf is mine, for the keeping of my dolls!"
" 'Tis not! I've kept my castle there these several weeks!" 2 Christopher Stasheff
Rod threw down his quill in exasperation. After three weeks of trying, he'd finally managed to get started on his history of Gramarye—and the kids had to choose this moment to break into a quarrel! He glared down at the page... And saw the huge blot the quill had made.
Exasperation boiled up into anger, and he surged out of his chair. "Delia! Geoff! Of all the idiotic things to be arguing about! Gwen, can't you..."
"Nay, I cannot!" cried a harried voice from the kitchen.
"Else thou'lt have naught but char for thy.... Oh!" Something struck with a jangling clatter, and Rod's wife fairly shrieked in frustration. "Magnus! How oft must I forbid thee the kitchen whiles I do cook!"
"Children!" Rod shouted, stamping into the playroom.
"Why'd I ever have 'em?"
"Di'nit, Papa." Three-year-old Gregory peeked over the top of an armchair. "Mama did."
"Yeah, sure, and I was just an innocent bystander. Geoffrey! Cordelia! Stop it!"
He waded into a litter of half-formed clay sculptures, toys, and pieces of bark twisted together with twigs and bits of straw that served some fathomless and probably heathen purpose known only to those below the age of thirteen.
"What a mess!" It was like that every day, of course. "Do you realize this room was absolutely spotless when you woke up this morning?"
The children looked up, startled, and Cordelia objected,
"But that was four hours ago. Papa."
"Yeah, and you must've really worked hard to make a mess like this in so short a time as that!" Rod stepped down hard—into a puddle of ocher paint. His foot skidded out from under him; he hung suspended for a split second, arms thrashing like the wings of a dodo trying to fly; then his back slammed down to the floor, paralyzing his diaphragm. For an instant of panic, he fought for breath, while Cordelia and Geoffrey huddled back against the wall in fright. Then Rod's breath hissed in and bounced back out in a howl of rage. "You little pigs! Can't you even clean up after yourselves!"
The children shrank back, wide-eyed.
Rod struggled to his feet, red-faced. "Throwing garbage
on the floor, fighting over a stupid piece of shelf space—
and to top it off, you had the gall to talk back!"
"We didn't... We..."
"You just did it again!" Rod levelled an accusing forefinger. "Whatever you do, don't contradict me! If I say you did it, you did it! And don't you dare try to say you didn't!" He towered over them, a mountain of wrath. "Naughty, stupid, asinine brats!"
The children hugged each other, eyes huge and frightened. Rod's hand swept up for a backhanded slap.
With a crack like a pistol shot, big brother Magnus appeared in front of Cordelia and Geoffrey, arms outspread to cover them. "Papa! They didn't mean to! They..."
"Don't try to tell me what they were doing!" Rod shouted. The eleven-year-old flinched, but stood up resolutely against his father's rage—and that made it worse.
"How dare you defy me! You insolent little..."
"Rod!" Gwen darted into the room, wiping her hands on her apron. "What dost thou?"
Rod whirled, forefinger stabbing at her. "Don't you even try to speak in their defense! If you'd just make your children toe the line, this wouldn't happen! But, oh no, you've got to let them do whatever they want, and just scold them, and that's only when their behavior's really atrocious!" Gwen's head snapped back, stung. "Assuredly, thou'rt scarce mindful of what thou sayest! 'Tis ever thou who dost plead leniency, when I do wish to punish..."
"Sure, when!" Rod glared, striding toward her. "But for the thousand and one things they do that deserve spanking, and you let them off with a scold? Use your head, woman—
if you can!" His gaze swept her from head to toe, and his lip lifted in a sneer.
Gwen's eyes flared anger. "'Ware, husband! Even to thine anger, there doth be a boundary!"
"Boundaries! Limits! That's all you ever talk about!" Rod shouted. '"Do this! Do that! You can't do this! You can't do that!' Marriage is just one big set of limits! Will you ever..."
"Peace!" Magnus darted between them, holding out a palm toward each. "I prithee!" His face was white; he was Christopher Stasheff
4 oniioiu^nu. _.__
trembling. "Mother! Father! I beg thee!" Rod snarled, swinging his hand up again.
Magnus stiffened; his jaw set.
Rod swung, with his full weight behind it...
... And shot through the air, slamming back against the wall.
He rolled to his feet and stood up slowly, face drained of color, rigid and trembling. "I told you never to use your
'witch powers' on me," he grated, "and I told you why!" He straightened to his full height, feeling the rage swell within him.
Geoffrey and Cordelia scurried to hide behind Owen's skirts. She gathered Magnus to her, but he kept his face toward his father, terror in his eyes, trembling, but determined to protect. Rod stared at them, all united against him, ready to pick him up with their magic and hurl him into his grave. His eyes narrowed, pinning them with his glare; then his eyes lost focus as he reached down inside himself—deep down, reaching across an abyss—to the psi powers that had lain so long dormant, but which had been awakened by the projective telepathy of Lord Kem, in another universe, one in which magic worked. His powers weren't as readily accessible as his family's; he couldn't work magic just by willing it, as easily as thinking, but once he'd drawn them up, his were at least as great as theirs. He called those powers up now, feeling their strength build within him.
"Mother," came Magnus's voice, across a huge void,
"Nay!" Gwen said fiercely. "He is thy father, whom thou dost love—when this fit's not on him."
What did that mean! The powers paused in their building... A smaller figure entered his blurred field of vision, to the side and a little in front of the family group, gazing up at him, head tilted to the side—three-year-old Gregory.
"Daddy is'n' there," he stated.
That hit Rod like a bucketful of cold water; the complete, calm, sanity of the child's tone—so open, so reasonable—
and the totally alien quality of the words. His eyes focused
in a stare at his youngest son, and fear hollowed his vitals—
fear, and a different anger under it; anger at the futurians who had kidnapped him and the rest of his family away from this child while Gregory was still a baby. The desertion, Rod feared, had totally warped the boy's personality, making him quiet, indrawn, brooding, and sometimes, even weird. His gaze welded to Gregory's face, his fear for Gregory burying his anger at the rest of the family; it ebbed, and was gone.
"Who's not there?" he whispered.
"Lord Kem," Gregory answered, "that Daddy like thee, in that Faerie Gramarye thou'st talk of."
Rod stared at him.
Then he stepped closer to the boy. Magnus took a step toward Gregory, too, but Rod waved him away impatiently. He dropped to one knee, staring into the three-year-old's eyes. "No... no. Lord Kem isn't anywhere—except, maybe, in his own universe, that Faerie Gramarye. But why should you think he was?"
Gregory cocked his head to the other side. "But didst thou not, but now, reach out to touch his mind with thine own, to draw upon his powers?"
Rod just gazed at the boy, his face blank.
"Gregory!" Gwen cried in anguish, and she took a step toward him, then drew back for Rod still knelt staring at the child, his face blank.
Then he looked up at Gwen, with an irritated frown.
"What am I—a bear? Or a wolf?" He raked the children with his glare. "Some kind of wild animal?" They stared back at him, eyes huge, huddled together. His face emptied again. "You think I am. You really think I am, don't you?"
They stared back, wordlessly, eyes locked on him. He held still, rigid.
Then he swung up to his feet, turning on his heel, and strode to the door.
Cordelia darted after him, but Gwen reached out and caught her arm.
Rod paced out into the bleakness of a day veiled by clouds. A chill wind struck at him, but he didn't notice. 6 Christopher Stasheff
• • •
Rod finally came to a halt at the top of a hill, a mile from home. He stood, staring down at the broad plain below, not really seeing it. Finally, he sank down to sit on the dry grass. His thoughts had slowed in their turmoil as he walked; now, gradually, they sank away, leaving a blank in his mind. Into that, a niggling doubt crept. Softly, he asked, "What happened, Fess?"
The robot-horse answered, though he was a mile away in the stable. Rod heard him through the earphone embedded in his mastoid process, behind his ear. "You lost your temper, Rod." Rod's mouth twitched with impatience. The robot's horse body might be a distance away in the stable, but the old family retainer could see into him as well as if they were only a foot apart. "Yes, I do realize that much." The microphone embedded in his maxillary, just above the teeth, picked up his words and transmitted them to Pess. "But it was more than simple anger, wasn't it?"
"It was rage," Fess agreed. "Full, thorough, open wrath, without any restraints or inhibitions."
After a moment. Rod asked, "What would have happened if my family hadn't been able to defend themselves so well?" Fess was silent. Then he said, slowly, "I would hope that your inborn gentleness and sense of honor would have protected them adequately. Rod."
"Yes," Rod muttered. "I would hope so, too." And he sat, alone in his guilt and self-contempt, in si-lence. Even the wind passed him by. Quite some while later, cloth rustled beside him. He gave no sign of having heard, but his body tensed. He waited, but only silence filled the spaces of the minutes. Finally, Rod spoke. "I did it again."
"Thou didst," Gwen answered gently. Her voice didn't blame—but it didn't console, either.
Something stirred within Rod. It might have risen as anger, but that was burned out of him, now. "Been doing that a lot lately, haven't I?"
Gwen was silent a moment. Then she said, "A score of times, mayhap, in the last twelvemonth."
Rod nodded, "And a dozen times last year, and half-aTHE WARLOCK ENRAGED 7
dozen the year before—and two of those were at the Abbott, when he tried his schism."
"And a third with the monster which rose from the fens..." Rod shrugged irritably. "Don't make excuses for me. It still comes down to my losing my temper with you and the kids, more than with anyone else—and for the last three months, I've been blowing up about every two weeks, haven't I?"
Gwen hesitated. Then she answered, "None so badly as this, my lord."
"No, it never has been quite as bad as this, has it? But every time, it gets a little worse."
Her answer was very low. "Thou hast offered hurt to us aforetime...."
"Yes, but I've never actually tried it have I?" Rod shuddered at the memory and buried his head in his hands. "First, I just threw things. Then I started throwing them without using my hands. Today, I would've thrown Magnus—if Gregory hadn't interrupted in time." He looked up at her, scowling. "Where in Heaven's name did you get that boy, anyway?"