Harry Turtledove: Into the Darkness

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Harry Turtledove Into the Darkness
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    Into the Darkness
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    Фэнтези / на английском языке
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Into the Darkness: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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Darkness series is a fantasy series about a world war between nations using magic as weapons. Many of the plot elements are analogous to elements of World War II, with countries and technologies that are comparable to the events of the real world. A duke’s death leads to bloody war as King Algarve moves swiftly to reclaim the duchy lost during a previous conflict. But country after country is dragged into the war, as a hatred of difference escalates into rabid nationalism.

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Into the Darkness

by Harry Turtledove


Ealstan’s master of herblore droned on and on about the mystical properties of plants. Ealstan paid him no more attention than he had to, no more attention than any other fifteen-year-old boy would have given of a warm summer afternoon. He was thinking about stripping off his tunic and jumping in the stream that flowed past Gromheort, about girls, about what his mother would fix for supper, about girls, about the health of the distant and ancient Duke of Bari, about girls… about everything under the sun, in short, except herblore.

He was a little too obviously not thinking about herblore. The master’s voice came sharp as a whipcrack: “Ealstan!”

He started, then sprang to his feet, almost knocking over the stool on which he’d been perched. “Master Osgar!” he said, while the other boys whom Osgar taught snickered at his clumsiness—and in relief because the master had caught him instead of them.

Osgar’s gray-streaked beard seemed to quiver with indignation. Like most men of Forthweg—like Ealstan himself—he was strong and stocky and dark, with an imperiously curved nose and with eyes that, at the moment, flashed fire a wardragon might have envied. His voice dripped sarcasm. “Perhaps you will do me the honor, Ealstan, of reminding me of the chiefest property of the herb snake’s-grass.” He whacked a switch into the palm of his hand, a hint of what Ealstan would get if he did not do him that honor.

“Snake’s-grass, Master Osgar?” Ealstan said. Osgar nodded, anticipation on his face: if Ealstan needed to repeat the question, he hadn’t been listening. And so, indeed, he hadn’t. But his uncle had used snake’s-grass the year before, which meant he knew the answer: “May it please you, Master Osgar, if you set the powder of snake’s-grass and three-leaved grass under a man’s pillow, he will not dream of himself afterwards ever again.”

It did not please the master of herblore. His expression made that plain. But it was the right answer. Reluctantly, Osgar nodded and said, “Resume your seat—without making the countryside fear an earthquake, if that be possible. And henceforth, make some effort to appear as if you care what passes here.”

“Aye, Master Osgar. Thank you, Master Osgar.” Ealstan sat as carefully as he could. For a little while, till the master of herblore stopped aiming glances sharp as a unicorn’s horn his way, he paid attention to Osgar’s words. There were apothecaries in his family, and he’d thought more than idly of going into that trade himself one day. But he had so many other things to think about, and …

Thwack! The switch came down, not on his back, but on that of his cousin Sidroc. Sidroc had been thinking of something else, too, and hadn’t been lucky enough to get a question he could handle with what he already knew. All the boys in Osgar’s class looked diligent then, whether they were or not.

After what seemed like forever, a brazen bell released them. As they filed out, Osgar said, “Study well. We meet again tomorrow afternoon.” He contrived to make that sound like a threat.

To Ealstan, tomorrow afternoon felt a million miles away. So did his morning classes in Forthwegian literature and ciphering. So did the work he would have to do tonight for all of those classes and more besides. For now, as he left the gloomy corridors of the academy and stepped out into bright sunshine, the whole world seemed his—or, if not the whole world, at least the whole town of Gromheort.

He glanced back over his shoulder at the whitewashed stone keep where Count Brorda made his residence. As far as he was concerned, neither Brorda nor Gromheort got their due from King Penda, nor from anyone else in Eoforwic, the capital. To them, Gromheort was just a medium-sized town not far from the border with Algarve. They did not grasp its magnificent uniqueness.

That this was also Count Brorda’s view of the situation, and one he assiduously cultivated in the folk of Gromheort, had never crossed Ealstan’s mind.

It didn’t cross his mind now, either. Sidroc made as if to hit him, saying, “Curse you, how did you come up with that about snake’s-grass? When I strip off for the baths, everyone’s going to tease me about the welt on my back.”

“Uncle Wulfher used the stuff, remember, when he thought he had a sending of nightmares,” Ealstan replied.

Sidroc snorted. He didn’t want an answer; he wanted sympathy. Ealstan was his cousin, not his mother, and had scant sympathy to give.

Bantering with their friends, they made their way through the streets of Gromheort toward their homes. Ealstan blinked against the impact of the strong northern sun against whitewash and red tile roofs. Until his eyes got used to the light, he sighed with relief whenever he ducked under an olive tree or one full of ripening almonds. Goodbyes came every couple of blocks as one boy after another peeled off from the group.

Ealstan and Sidroc were halfway home when one of Count Brorda’s constables held up a ceremonial sword to halt foot traffic and wagons on their street. He shouted curses at a luckless man who didn’t stop fast enough to suit him. “What’s going on?” Sidroc asked, but Ealstan’s ears had already caught the rhythmic clip-clop of cavalry.

Both boys shouted cheers as the unicorns trotted by. One of the officers made his mount rear for a moment. The sun shone bright as silver off its iron-shod horn and off its spotless white coat, a white that put whitewash to shame. Most of the troopers, though, had sensibly daubed their mounts with paint. Dun and sand and even muddy green were less likely to draw the notice of the foe and a streak of spurting fire, even if they seemed less magnificent than white.

A couple of slim, fair, trousered Kaunians, a man and a woman, cheered the cavalry along with everyone else. In their hatred of Algarve, they and the rest of the folk of the Kingdom of Forthweg agreed. After the constable waved traffic forward, Ealstan watched the woman’s hips work in those revealing pants. He licked his lips. Forthwegian women went out in long, loose tunics that covered them from neck to ankles and kept their shapes decently disguised. No wonder people talked about Kaunians the way they did. And yet the woman strode along as if unaware of the spectacle she was creating, and chattered with her companion in their own sonorous language.

Sidroc watched her, too. “Disgusting,” he said, but, by his avid voice and by the way he eyes kept following her, he was perhaps not altogether disgusted.

“Just because they dressed that way in the days of the Kaunian Empire, they think they have the right to keep on doing it,” Ealstan agreed. “The Empire fell more than a thousand years ago, in case they hadn’t noticed.” “Because the Kaunians de-gen-er-ated from wearing clothes like that.” Sidroc pronounced with exaggerated care the long word he’d learned from the history master earlier in the year.

He and Ealstan had gone a couple of more blocks when someone came running up the street behind them shouting, “He’s dead! He’s dead!”

“Who’s dead?” Ealstan called, but he was afraid he knew.

“Duke Alardo, that’s who,” the man answered.

“Are you sure?” Ealstan and Sidroc and several other people asked the question at the same time. Alardo of Bari had been at death’s door more than once in the nearly thirty years since his domain was forcibly detached from Algarve in the aftermath of the Six Years’ War. He’d been vigorous enough to pull through every time. If only, Ealstan thought, he’d been vigorous enough to sire a son

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