Andrea Höst: Blue

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Andrea Höst Blue
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    Blue
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    Фэнтези / на английском языке
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    Английский
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Blue: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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For centuries the Seleighe have kept imprisoned a nameless, monstrous God. But the seal is failing, and Veresan of the Summer Fire must travel far beyond his own land to prevent disaster.

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Veresan of the Summer Fire, Lord of the Dawn Marches, Ban-Keeper of the Seleighe, flew cattle class with Qantas. After a day spent wedged between a garlic-scented businessman and a youth all elbows and twitches, he crept through Sydney’s snarled traffic to a charmless suburban box embellished with a metal plate: "Rumiko Kent, Arrangements". Six hours before the world took up residence in a hand basket, and the witch didn’t even answer her door.

After a calming breath, Veresan touched the symbol of the Ban hanging heavy around his neck, then followed a mechanical droning to the rear of the house. The need to add a new power to the Ban was too important to be jeopardised by petty games played with travel bookings, or the failings of the locals.

Finding a side gate open, Veresan rounded the corner of the house only to stop in disgust before a broad expanse of grass dominated by a central tree. A eucalypt of textured milk rose to sprawl branches dripping spear-head leaves, its trunk circled with a shimenawa, the sacred rope of purification of a Shinto shrine. Beneath it a diminutive woman wearing a sunhat was mowing a pentagram into the lawn.

Charlatan tricks. Veresan had been told his contact in this young-old country was a skilled user of power, not one of the many who adopted mystic symbols wholesale, without thought or understanding. Too aware of the scant hours remaining, he studied patience as the woman added an outer circle, the machine cutting into manicured turf. She was a gnat, a facilitator, but this soil was not his, and he could not blithely trespass.

The engine died away, and the woman approached, dragging the machine behind her. "You’re the Seleighe?"

"I am Veresan of the Summer Fire," he replied, wincing at what her light drawl did to the name of his people. "By Pact and Covenant, conduct me to this land’s Power."

"No worries," she said, taking off her hat to free waving brown hair, a frame to skin only a degree lighter, though her eyelids were folded in the Eastern manner. "Parramatta’s only a half hour from here. Once you’ve purified yourself we can head out. You’ll need these."

A bundle of candles as long as his arm, each a different colour and scent. Rosemary, garlic, heather, geranium, mint.

"For each point," the witch said, adding matches. "Light them, stand before the tree, and douse yourself three times." She pointed to a waiting silver pitcher.

Veresan drew himself up, fury no doubt turning him as red as his hair. Enough. Too much. He had swallowed his temper so often this past day he was choking.

"Do you even understand why I’m here?" he demanded, the words ringing out. "This matter is too great, too grave, for any further delay. I will not participate in this – this cobbled-together insult to the powers you think to call upon. By Star and Silence, do what you have agreed to without delay, if only for the sake of your own skin. Or would you see this world crumble?"

"Can’t say I’d ever be keen on some ancient evil god-thing breaking loose to bring on Ragnarok, or Judgment Day, or whatever you call it," she said, unmoved. "And the Dharug have agreed to lend strength to the renewal of this binding of yours. But if you want to be brought to the Place, candles, pitcher, douse three times."

Sweat-stained and negligible, she should not be so implacable. And, powerful as he might be, there was nothing Veresan dare do, or say, to force the issue.

"I will make ready," he said, stiffly.

With a nod she departed, and Veresan fetched his suitcase then stripped to his drawers. Placing and lighting the candles, he tipped tepid water over his head. Indifferent, the great tree towered above, and he felt only a lifting wind, chilling the knot of the Ban resting against his chest. A fool’s charade, but he could not allow the Ban to fail for the sake of pride.

Dressed, he found the witch at his elbow; cleaner, and holding a sledgehammer over one shoulder. "I’ll drive."

Beyond arguing, Veresan handed her the keys of his insipid rental, glancing at the sledgehammer as she turned. The word "Gabriel" was inscribed into the handle.

"You think to draw on the power of the Archons?" Was there no limit to her idiocy?

"The power of eighties music, maybe," the witch said. "Veresan means true, right?"

"Truth-speaker."

"Looks like I’m not the only one who thinks they’re funny. So what’s the name of this god the Seleighe have been saving the world from the last few millennia?"

Veresan ground his teeth, more for the implied insult than her ignorance. "Can you not know that to speak the name of such a one is to give it power? Its name has been put beyond thought."

"Be interesting to know why it wants to destroy the world, hey?" she said, but Veresan had had enough of her inanities and held his tongue as she took them past a dreary progression of fast-food outlets and used car lots until, as the last light bleached from the sky, they parked at a tavern emblazoned in neon. "The Sink".

"This way," the witch said, lifting her hammer. "I asked one of the locals to meet you, welcome you to country."

She led the way beside the building, down a grassy slope to a salt-tanged river. The light of the building picked up the pale shirt and tie of an office worker, but the waiting man was little more than a shape in the dark.

"Hey Ru." The voice was soft, relaxed. "Expecting trouble?"


The witch shifted her hammer. "Not really. Doesn’t sound like there’s an opposing team. Trev Wilson, elder of the Dharug, this is Blue, Truth-seeker."

The Australian convention of naming for opposites. Before Veresan could correct her, the elder had reached out to clasp his hand. "Welcome to Parra, Blue."

Place flooded over him, all murmur of traffic and artificial light fading. Unlike the mayfly city-builders, this Trev had a deep connection to land and power, had given him entry. Veresan’s senses filled with water, and the susurrus of sinuous forms sliding through mud. He would be able to complete his task, with ease and in time. Here in the place where the eels lie down.

"Come up for a drink after," Trev Wilson said, and faded soft-footed into the night.

Veresan turned and waded into the water. Slick bodies twined about his ankles, filling him with a power the nameless one would not soon overcome. Opening his shirt, he began to trace the intricate metal knot, reciting the injunction as lines of white fire stretched around him to echo the Ban’s shape.

"From the past, I bind. From the future, I bind. From the present, I bind. Know not this nor the next world. From any sense or thought or feeling, I bind. By my name, V-"

The witch, neglected on the shore, lifted her oversized hammer and brought it down on the nearest line of force, striking a brilliant flare. As Veresan spoke his name, pouring all his power, and the borrowed power of Place, into the binding, she said: "Blue, Truth-seeker."

Madness! But, by all the graces, her strength was too small. The binding wavered, but contracted with only the slightest flaw.

The man standing just off the bank of the Parramatta River gaped and shuddered, lifting his hand to the knot of metal he wore around his neck. "What – what have you done?"

"You tell me."

"The binding – the binding is…sealing me. It–" He could scarcely believe. "It has all along. My own power, used to keep me from knowing what – what am I?"

"Good question. Since we’d given our word to ensure the binding, the most I could do was bring a real truth to your attention."

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