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datatime: 2022-11-27 16:55:00 Author:nsCinIdZ

Astrin came out of his grim thoughts, finally, near sunset. He closed a book with a sigh, its iron bonds locking automatically, and said, staring out at the plain, "I should tell Heureu." Then his hand snapped down flat on the book and closed. He whispered, "No. Let him see with his own eyes. The land is his business. Let him put his own name to this. He drove me out of Caerweddin five years ago for speaking the truth; why should I go back?"

Astrin said little of the incident the next day. He moved stiffly, with a tight, sour expression that eased only when his eyes fell on Morgon's mute, worried face. They spent the day indoors, Astrin prowling through wizards' books like an animal scenting, and Morgon trying to wash and mend Astrin's robe while questions he could not ask struggled like trapped birds in the back of his throat.

Astrin said little of the incident the next day. He moved stiffly, with a tight, sour expression that eased only when his eyes fell on Morgon's mute, worried face. They spent the day indoors, Astrin prowling through wizards' books like an animal scenting, and Morgon trying to wash and mend Astrin's robe while questions he could not ask struggled like trapped birds in the back of his throat.

Morgon found a few days later a cache of lovely red and purple glass in a corner of the chamber they were working in. He took the fragments to Astrin's house, brushed off the dirt and puzzled over them. It rained heavily the next day; they could not go out. The small house smelled damp, and the fire smoked. Xel prowled restlessly, wailing complaints every now and then to Astrin, who sat murmuring over a spell-book he could not open. Morgon, some rough paste Astrin had made in front of him, began to fit together, piece by piece, the shards of glass.

Astrin said, "Wind Tower. No man has ever been to the top of it... no wizard either. Aloil tried; he walked up its stairs for seven days and seven nights and never reached the end of them. I've tried, many times. I think at the top of that tower there must lie the answer to questions so old we've forgotten to ask them. Who were the Earth-Masters?What terrible thing happened to them that destroyed them and their cities? I play like a child among the bones of it, finding a fine Stone here, a broken plate there, hoping that one day I find a key to the mystery of it, the beginning of an answer. ... I took a chip off these great stones also to Danan Isig; he said he knew of no place in the High One's realm where they quarried such stone."He touched Morgon briefly, to get his eyes. "I'll be there, in that chamber without a roof. Join me when you wish."

Astrin said little of the incident the next day. He moved stiffly, with a tight, sour expression that eased only when his eyes fell on Morgon's mute, worried face. They spent the day indoors, Astrin prowling through wizards' books like an animal scenting, and Morgon trying to wash and mend Astrin's robe while questions he could not ask struggled like trapped birds in the back of his throat.

Astrin sat down with a sigh beside him. He said abruptly, "You are as secret as Wind Tower. I've been here five years in exile from Caerweddin. I speak to Xel, to an old man I buy fish from in Loor, to occasional traders, and to Rork, High Lord of Umber, who visits me every few months. By day I go digging out of curiosity in the great ruined city of the Earth-Masters on Wind Plain. By night, I dig in other directions, sometimes in books of wizardry I've learned to open, sometimes out there in the darkness above Loor, by the sea. I take Xel with me, and we watch something that is building on the shores of Ymris under night cover, something for which there is no name... But I can't go tonight; the tide will be rough in this wind, and Xel hates the rain." He paused a moment. "Your eyes look at me as though you understand everything I'm saying. I wish I knew your name. I wish..." His voice trailed away; his eyes stayed, speculative, on Morgon's face.

Astrin moved, the fire reflected strangely in his eyes. He whispered, "There was nothing. It is as though you have no name. I couldn't reach the place where you have your name and your past hidden from yourself. It's deep, deep..." He stopped as Morgon rose. His hands closed tight on Astrin's arms; he shook Astrin a little, imperatively, and Astrin said, "I'll try. But I've never met a man so hidden from himself. There must be other spells; I'll look. But I don't know why you care so much. It must be the essence of peace, having no name, no memory. ... All right. I'll keep looking. Be patient."

He looked up as Astrin said irritably, "Xel, be quiet. I've run out of words. Yrth was the most powerful of the wizards after the Founder, and he locked his books too well."

Walking home at dusk, their finds carefully wrapped in old cloth, Astrin said to him, "You are so patient here. Perhaps you belong here, working among these forgotten things, in silence. And you accept my strange ways so unquestioningly, as though you can't remember how men do live with one another.. .." He paused a moment, then went on slowly, as if remembering himself, "I haven't always been alone. I grew up in Caerweddin, with Heureu, and the sons of our father's High Lords, in the beautiful, noisey house Galil Ymris made out of the Earth-Master's stones. Heureu and I were close then, like shadows of each other. That was before we quarrelled." He shrugged the words away as Morgon looked at him. "It makes no difference here. I'll never go back to Caerweddin, and Heureu will never come here. I had just forgotten that once I wasn't alone. You forget easily."

Morgon's hands touched his mouth. He nodded, his eyes holding Astrin's, and Astrin drew a breath. "All right. Sit down. Sit quietly. The first step is to become as the stone..."

Astrin came out of his grim thoughts, finally, near sunset. He closed a book with a sigh, its iron bonds locking automatically, and said, staring out at the plain, "I should tell Heureu." Then his hand snapped down flat on the book and closed. He whispered, "No. Let him see with his own eyes. The land is his business. Let him put his own name to this. He drove me out of Caerweddin five years ago for speaking the truth; why should I go back?"

Astrin said little of the incident the next day. He moved stiffly, with a tight, sour expression that eased only when his eyes fell on Morgon's mute, worried face. They spent the day indoors, Astrin prowling through wizards' books like an animal scenting, and Morgon trying to wash and mend Astrin's robe while questions he could not ask struggled like trapped birds in the back of his throat.

Once Astrin said, as they walked through the gentle, constant fall of dead oak leaves, "I should take you to Caithnard. It's just a day's journey south of these woods. Perhaps someone knows you there." But Morgon only looked at him blankly, as if Caithnard lay in some strange land at the bottom of the sea, and Astrin did not mention it again.

Morgon's hands touched his mouth. He nodded, his eyes holding Astrin's, and Astrin drew a breath. "All right. Sit down. Sit quietly. The first step is to become as the stone..."

Astrin said, "Wind Tower. No man has ever been to the top of it... no wizard either. Aloil tried; he walked up its stairs for seven days and seven nights and never reached the end of them. I've tried, many times. I think at the top of that tower there must lie the answer to questions so old we've forgotten to ask them. Who were the Earth-Masters?What terrible thing happened to them that destroyed them and their cities? I play like a child among the bones of it, finding a fine Stone here, a broken plate there, hoping that one day I find a key to the mystery of it, the beginning of an answer. ... I took a chip off these great stones also to Danan Isig; he said he knew of no place in the High One's realm where they quarried such stone."He touched Morgon briefly, to get his eyes. "I'll be there, in that chamber without a roof. Join me when you wish."

He said, as Morgon put out his torch underfoot and went to help him, "I'm all right." His face was mist-colored in the light from the window; he flung an arm around Morgon heavily, and together they stumbled across the threshold, Astrin sat down on the pallet. His hands were scratched raw; his hair was tangled with sea spray. He held his right hand against his side and would not move it, until Morgon, watching the dark stain bloom under his fingers, made a harsh noise of protest. Astrin's head dropped back on the pallet; his hand slid down. He whispered as Morgon ripped a seam open, "Don't. I'm short of clothes. He saw me first, but I killed him. Then he fell in the sea, and I had to dive for him among the rocks and tide, or they would have found him. I buried him in the sand. They won't find him there. He was made ... He was shaped out of seaweed and foam and wet pearl, and the sword was of darkness and silver water. It bit me and flew away like a bird. If Xel hadn't warned me, I would be dead. If I hadn't turned..." He flinched as Morgon touched his side with a wet cloth. Then he was silent, his teeth locked, his eyes closed, while Morgon washed the shallow wound gently, closed it and bound it with strips from his dry robe. He heated wine; Astrin drank it and his shivering stopped. He lay back again. "Thank you. Xel... thank you. If Xel comes back, let her in."

He did not go out again at night for a while. Morgon worked at his side during the days, digging in the city; in the long, quiet evenings he would try to piece together shards of pottery, of glass, while Astrin searched through his books. Sometimes they hunted with Xel in the wild oak forest just south of them, which stretched from the sea far west beyond the limits of Ymris.

He worked all day at Astrin's side, digging quietly in a little room whose floor was sunk beneath the earth, crumbling the earth in his hands, searching it for bits of metal, glass, pottery. Once, his hands full of the moist black earth, he caught the strong, good smell of it, and something leaped in him, longing, responding. He made a sound without knowing it. Astrin looked up.

Astrin moved, the fire reflected strangely in his eyes. He whispered, "There was nothing. It is as though you have no name. I couldn't reach the place where you have your name and your past hidden from yourself. It's deep, deep..." He stopped as Morgon rose. His hands closed tight on Astrin's arms; he shook Astrin a little, imperatively, and Astrin said, "I'll try. But I've never met a man so hidden from himself. There must be other spells; I'll look. But I don't know why you care so much. It must be the essence of peace, having no name, no memory. ... All right. I'll keep looking. Be patient."

Once Astrin said, as they walked through the gentle, constant fall of dead oak leaves, "I should take you to Caithnard. It's just a day's journey south of these woods. Perhaps someone knows you there." But Morgon only looked at him blankly, as if Caithnard lay in some strange land at the bottom of the sea, and Astrin did not mention it again.

Astrin came out of his grim thoughts, finally, near sunset. He closed a book with a sigh, its iron bonds locking automatically, and said, staring out at the plain, "I should tell Heureu." Then his hand snapped down flat on the book and closed. He whispered, "No. Let him see with his own eyes. The land is his business. Let him put his own name to this. He drove me out of Caerweddin five years ago for speaking the truth; why should I go back?"

Morgon found a few days later a cache of lovely red and purple glass in a corner of the chamber they were working in. He took the fragments to Astrin's house, brushed off the dirt and puzzled over them. It rained heavily the next day; they could not go out. The small house smelled damp, and the fire smoked. Xel prowled restlessly, wailing complaints every now and then to Astrin, who sat murmuring over a spell-book he could not open. Morgon, some rough paste Astrin had made in front of him, began to fit together, piece by piece, the shards of glass.

Astrin said, "Wind Tower. No man has ever been to the top of it... no wizard either. Aloil tried; he walked up its stairs for seven days and seven nights and never reached the end of them. I've tried, many times. I think at the top of that tower there must lie the answer to questions so old we've forgotten to ask them. Who were the Earth-Masters?What terrible thing happened to them that destroyed them and their cities? I play like a child among the bones of it, finding a fine Stone here, a broken plate there, hoping that one day I find a key to the mystery of it, the beginning of an answer. ... I took a chip off these great stones also to Danan Isig; he said he knew of no place in the High One's realm where they quarried such stone."He touched Morgon briefly, to get his eyes. "I'll be there, in that chamber without a roof. Join me when you wish."

Astrin said, "Wind Tower. No man has ever been to the top of it... no wizard either. Aloil tried; he walked up its stairs for seven days and seven nights and never reached the end of them. I've tried, many times. I think at the top of that tower there must lie the answer to questions so old we've forgotten to ask them. Who were the Earth-Masters?What terrible thing happened to them that destroyed them and their cities? I play like a child among the bones of it, finding a fine Stone here, a broken plate there, hoping that one day I find a key to the mystery of it, the beginning of an answer. ... I took a chip off these great stones also to Danan Isig; he said he knew of no place in the High One's realm where they quarried such stone."He touched Morgon briefly, to get his eyes. "I'll be there, in that chamber without a roof. Join me when you wish."

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