Roger Taylor: The waking of Orthlund

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Roger Taylor The waking of Orthlund
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    The waking of Orthlund
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Roger Taylor


The waking of Orthlund

"The time of Hawklan is so far in the past that it could be the distant future"


Prologue

When the Guardians, Sphaeera, Enartion, and Theowart, had formed the world as a celebration of their being, they found such joy in it that they bade the First Comer Ethriss to create others so that they in their turn might celebrate the miracle of being.

And with his three soul-friends, Ethriss created many others and taught them the Guardians’ ways and gave them of their power so that they too could create and take joy in being.

And amongst these was man.

But Sumeral, the Great Corrupter, saw the flaw that must be in all things, and hated it and all the creations of the Guardians, especially those of Ethriss. And He saw that man was possessed of greater power of creation than any other. So as the Guardians slept, He came to him and with soft words said, ‘Blessed are the gifts of Ethriss that bring such joy unto yourself and your neighbour.’ And He passed on.

But in the word ‘neighbour’ He laid a subtle snare, and discontent was born, and men began to seek him out, saying, ‘You are wise. Tell us, are we as blessed as our neighbours?’

And Sumeral did not answer, but showed them the gift of the power of creation that Ethriss had given them, and said, ‘In the use of this power will your joy be increased.’ Which was both true and false, for though joy may lie in creating, it is in the totality of the creating and that which is created that the true joy of being lies.

And men found indeed that joy was to be found in the power of creating, but under His guidance their creations were without harmony, and knowing there was no true joy in them, men’s discontent grew, and they sought Him out further.

But He dismissed them, saying again, ‘I have told you. In the use of this power will your joy be increased. Trouble me not. Create yet more.’ Though privily He would say to some, dropping His soft, sweet words into the gaping maw of their desire, ‘If your neighbour’s creations are more joyous, perhaps it is a flaw in the way of things that should be mended.’

And when they asked how this might be done, He said yet again, ‘In the use of this power will your joy be increased.’

And looking on the perfection of His beauty, many men believed Him, and began to gather power to themselves not only to create yet more of His flawed designs but to mar the creations of their neighbours. And their discontent grew beyond measure, until the time came when many were utterly lost in bewilderment and followed His words blindly.

Thus His stain spread across the world, and the air and the sea and the earth became fouled with the poisons of His works, and many humbler creatures were slaughtered utterly. And He led His followers to create war, and wage it upon those who remembered the Guardians and the ways of true joy, for His own discontent grew also.

Chapter 1

Sylvriss struggled desperately to control the frenzied horse beneath her. Riddin born and Muster bred, dealing with difficult mounts would not normally present her with any serious problem, but this was different. The horse was almost demented with terror, and its screaming seemed to fill her very soul. It was as though the animal were trying to obliterate the terrible rumbling clamour that had reached out from the City towards them, shaking and buffeting the countryside as if it were not solid Fyorlund earth, but the surface of a wind-whipped lake.

Almost unseated when the horse had stumbled on the heaving ground, Sylvriss too had felt a terror the like of which she had never known before, and for a moment it was only the deep knowledge that her body possessed that kept the reins in her hand and any semblance of control over the terrified mount.

Slowly her mind entered the whirling turmoil of emotions, and wilful skills began to replace the reflexes that had saved her so far. She knew that the horse could be quieted by being made more afraid of her than the terror that had just thundered over the countryside and, deep inside, part of her relished that. It rose temptingly before her: primitive anger formed from primitive fear. But that was a demon the Riddinvolk had tamed generations ago, and she spurned it. Rider and horse should be one, and Sylvriss knew that the horse’s terror was in part a response to her own; the horse could not be properly stilled until she herself was still.

And stilled it must be. Despite the questions that pounded for her attention, this was no time for debating causes. Suffice it that if she lost her mount, she could not do her husband’s bidding.

‘Go to the Lord Eldric’s stronghold as you planned, my love,’ he had said. ‘As fast as only you can. Raise his High Guard and ride back to meet us. I’ll follow as soon as I’ve had him released amp;mdashand his son.’

Then he had embraced her, almost painfully, and with a simple command had effectively dismissed her. ‘As you love me, Sylvriss. And our child. Go. Go quickly. Prepare the way, First Hearer.’

And she had left, all questions momentarily silenced by the driving urgency of his manner. When they gradually returned they could not then overwhelm the momentum of her own galloping spirit. But they lingered. What was he going to do? How could he get the Lord Eldric and Jaldaric released? How was he going to face Dan-Tor? And now, what was that terrible noise amp;mdashno, more than a noise amp;mdashthat force, that had shaken the countryside?

But Rgoric’s plea impelled her more than any com-mand could have, and she must regain control of her horse if she was to answer it. To falter here might be to jeopardize all. There would be time enough later to find out what had happened in the City, and time enough when they met again to learn of his plans and schemes.

The thought of Rgoric, renewed and whole again, burst into her mind like the sun through thunder-clouds, and briefly she had a vision of riding by his side at the head of the Lords’ High Guards, sweeping Dan-Tor and his Mathidrin out of Vakloss and into perdi-tion, to restore again the Fyorlund that had been and the life they should have had.

Despite her struggle with the horse, she smiled rue-fully at the thought, so childlike in its simplicity. However, its effect was oddly cathartic, and sensing the renewed control of its rider, the horse gradually slowed in its frenzied thrashing until at last Sylvriss was able to lean forward and embrace its neck, saying softly, ‘We’re whole again. Whatever that was, we’re here together, and unhurt.’

The horse was still fretful and its eyes rolled white, but gently Sylvriss released the reins and let it have its head until its circling and pawing gradually stopped.

Sitting back in her saddle she instinctively reached up to pull back her black hair that had flown free and wild in her struggle with the horse. As she did so she felt the wind cold on her forehead and wiping her hand across it she found it was wet with perspiration.

Looking up from her glistening fingers she stared for a moment at the ragged clouds flying overhead, carried on the gusting wind that had shaken the City all day, like an uncertain harbinger carrying messages of change. Now it seemed that even the clouds were fleeing.

Turning, she gazed back to look at the City, but it was out of sight, hidden by the brow of the tree-covered hill she had been descending when the noise and shaking had so nearly ended her journey. What could it have been? came the thought again. Now in control of her mount she felt she could allow some concession to this question, and gently she urged the horse back up the hill until the City came partly into sight.

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