The prophecies are coming true and the ancient race of the Kantri-or true dragons-have come back to the world of Men. It was through the actions of Young Lanen Kaelar that the Kantri were reminded of the larger world. It was bravery (and a mad belief in the old tales) that caused the young woman to start a perilous journey to find the great dragons of legend. In doing so, she found not only the reality of the myth but her own true love. He was the great Dragon King, an immensely powerful creature out of time who ultimately chose life over death, a puny mortal form rather than the power of a kingship to be with this most extraordinary woman. As he is Dragon in Man's form, the being known as Varien has risked much to stay by Lanen's side.
Their haven destroyed, the Kantri have chosen instead of seeking a new home to return to the land of their greatest defeat and to the fear of the people who rejected their aid so long ago. They bring ancient power and knowledge and the Kantri have come to see what the "littlings" have made of their world.
And much of what they find distresses them. For humans have squandered much of their heritage, the small dragons that were left behind are little more than cattle...and there are those who do remember the ancient ways...and have allied themselves with the race of demons who long to destroy all the world. The Kantri are disturbed and look to Varien and Lanen help them redeem what has been lost so long ago and make the world right again.
But Lanen is captured by the human demon-master Berys, who seeks to corrupt the ancient prophecy. He will try to use Lanen's new-found powers to gain control of the very fabric of the universe and in doing so, secure the demon forces of the otherworld and rule forever.
It is up to her true love Varien and one of the most unlikely alliances ever seen to rescue Lanen. And if Varien fails, not only will Lanen's life and the fates of his beloved Kantri hang in the balance. For the stage is now set for a confrontation between the forces of light and darkness...and if the good fail, not only will the Kantri fail but the human world will be doomed as well...
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Elizabeth Kerner, as the daughter of a Navy doctor, has always found the simple question 'where are you from?' one of the most difficult. Born in Florida in 1958, she spent much of her early life being moved around the Northeast and the South of the US, including a brief but glorious sojurn in Kodiak, Alaska in 1969. She started writing while in high school in New Orleans and no-one has managed to stop her since. She received her MA in English Language (Philology) from St. Andrews University in Scotland in 1981, being one of the first Americans to complete a full degree course at that institution, and promptly joined the unemployment line. She spent a number of years as a non-fiction editor of medical and scientific books and journals, but when she moved to Hawaii in 1988 a whole series of new possibilities arose and she was variously employed as a grunt in the woodworking industry, an office manager for the Big Island AIDS Project, a trainee in furniture restoration and an apprentice goldsmith. By this time, however, her writing was starting to go somewhere, and her first novel, Song in the Silence, was published in 1997 by Tor.
She now lives with her best-beloved husband Steven in a small town just outside of Edinburgh Scotland, and from her upstairs window can just see, if she leans out, the looming towers of the nearby power station. If anyone would care to dynamite several inconvenient homes that are in the way, she would have a sea view. Any reasonable offers considered.
Redeeming the Lost
The joy of our homecoming was too soon over. None had the strength left to stay aloft for long, and we all soon drifted, weary but grateful, to the ground. My heart was pulled in a dozen directtions at once. My joy at seeing my people come safe again to their ancient home, after an exile lasting full five thousand years, was uppermost. The Kantri, we whom the Gedri--no, Shikrar, in their tongue they are called humans--we whom the humans call True Dragons, were come home at last, to share this vast land with the only other creatures who speak and reason. I knew fear also, of course. In this place where we were largely forgotten as living creatures, where we were become little more than tales to frighten children, we had no way to know what our welcome might be. Behind and through all, however, was deep heart's-sorrow for Varien, my soulfriend Akhor, whose beloved wife Lanen had been stolen away mere days before.I had not the leisure to give any of these feelings the attention they deserved, for I was bound to go and welcome my people to a land I had only known for the last four days. It was enough,I think, for most of them to see me here before them--Eldest, Keeper of Souls, guardian of our people in the place of their transformed King, Varien.Most of the Kantri lay exhausted where they had landed. We all had flown, with only one brief rest, for many days on the back of the Winds. Our home for so many years, the Isle of Exile that the humans name the Dragon Isle, was gone. The earthshakes that had plagued us these last years had grown worse and worse, and at the last the fire mountains had erupted, spewing molten rock over our home. It was gone forever. We had had no choice. Kolmar was the home of our ancestors, after all, and it surely must be clear to the Gedri that neither caprice nor passing fancy drove us to dare the crossing of the Great Sea. The Winds had decided for us that it was time we returned. Our oldest teaching was clear: "First is the Wind of Change, second is Shaping, third is the Unknown, and last is the Word."I could only hope that the Gedri would see it the same way.There were a number of our folk ranged along the edge of the field, where a shallow little stream danced over stones, drinking thirstily. I wandered among the weary souls, scattering praise and encouragement where I thought it would be accepted.As I passed, I noted that the great sealed golden cask containing the soulgems of the Lost was safe, resting now between the forelegs of my son's beloved mate Mirazhe. The Lost! The cursed legacy of the great evil that was the Demonlord, the reason the Kantri left Kolmar so long ago. Born a child of the Gedri, the Demonlord sold his name and his soul for a terrible power over us. In the dreadful final battle fully half the Kantri alive in those times, two hundred of our people, had their soulgems ripped from them by demons. They fell from the sky, reduced to the size of mere younglings, and the powers of speech and reason were taken from them; it was that day upon which they were first called the Lesser Kindred. The Demonlord was eventually destroyed--but he died laughing. It is widely believed even now that he will return to trouble us one day. In the normal way of things, when one of the Kantri dies, the soulgem shrinks to a quarter of its sizeand resembles a large faceted gemstone. Every soulgem is retained reverently, for they are the means by which, through the Kin-Summoning, we may bespeak the Ancestors when need arises. When the soulgems of the Lost were gathered up, however, it was seen that they flickered with some unknown inner fire. From that day to this we have tried to contact them, but neither the Kin-Summoning nor truespeech nor heartfelt prayers to the Winds have made any difference.Mirazhe managed a nod to me, and lifted one wing slightly to show the sleeping form of her youngling Sherók. I breathed again. Strange, is it not? I knew that Sherók must be well, but it was not until I saw him safely asleep with his mother curled round him that my heart believed it. A little beyond Mirazhe, piled carefully on the ground, were the lansip trees we had brought with us, the only remembrance of our old home. The Gedri prized lansip, leaf and fruit, beyond all imagining. For thousands of years it had grown only on the Dragon Isle that lay now below the sea. I foresaw a thriving trade in a few years, if we managed to plant the trees quite soon. If they would grow here. The poor creatures who had borne them hither also slept, even more tired than the rest.Their weariness was not to be wondered at, for they had flown high and far for the best part of three days and nights, without cease and without hope of rest--and before that, two full days of flight to reach the tiny isle where we had rested and drunk from a small, brackish pool. None had eaten since the fires of the earth had taken our island home from us, and although we do not normally require large amounts of food, we were all in desperate need of sustenance.Here, however, came one in whom pride was stronger than exhaustion--Idai, weary but unbowed, striding towards me from the eastern side of the field. She it was who, following me, had led the Kantri through the everlasting Storms and across the wide expanse of the sea. I walked to meet her and bowed formally in the mingled Attitudes of Joy and Praise, in acknowledgement of all that she had accomplished."Iderrisai! My heart rejoices to see thee safe," I said aloud,adding in truespeech, "Safe and well, and with all our people. It is a great thing that you have done, Idai. You will be remembered among the Kantri forever.""I thank you, Hadreshikrar," she said gravely, aloud. She remained silent otherwise. I turned to follow her gaze--ah. Yes, she would not bespeak me on seeing him, lest truespeech betray her deeper thoughts. The Gedri--no, human, I must remember--the human called Varien approached us swiftly from the edge of a small stand of trees in the west. Varien, the Changed One. He who had lived a thousand years as Akhor, the Lord of the Kantrishakrim, soulfriend and dear as a son to me, and who for most of his life had been dearly loved by Idai. Poor Idai. Akhor had never returned her love or encouraged her regard: but even among the Kantri we cannot choose whom we will love. It was less than a full year past that he had been changed, through a kind of death and rebirth, impossibly, from his true form to a creature with the form of the Gedri children, but with his soul and his mind as they had ever been.I glanced again at Idai and knew the pain in her heart, though she tried to hide it. Truespeech does not always require words, after all. She had loved Akhor for most of her life, knowing full well that he did not return that love but unable to deny her own heart. For her to see him now was little less than agony, It was a measure of her greatness of soul that she did not hate Lanen, who had caught Akhor's heart between one breath and another while yet he was of the Kantri. She and Lanen had made their peace: but now Lanen was stolen away by great evil, and all Akhor's thought and all his mind and all his soul were focussed, waking and sleeping, on getting her back. A lesser creature would have rejoiced inwardly at Lanen's misfortune. Idai has a great soul.I had known Akhor from his birth, a thousand and some winters past; he was soulfriend to me, and apart from my son was the only soul on live who knew my full true name. He had possessed the form of a human for less than six moons. It was still very hard for us all to accept, this strange being who was undeniably Akhor in his soul but withal so very different. So small, so fragile! Iprayed to the Winds that he would not be so short-lived as the children of the Gedrishakrim usually were. By all rights he should live yet another thousand years, in the common way of our people.Varien hurried over to meet us. Idai bowed her head low, and without thinking he leant over and stretched out his neck as if to greet her in the Kantri manner. The very feel of it must have stricken him wrongly, though, for he swiftly stood upright. Instead, he reached out with his hand and placed it, oh, so gently upon her cheek, where the solid faceplates of my people curve back to protect the great vein in the neck. She trembled a little at the contact."Idai! Oh, welcome and welcome, my namefast friend, my heart soars at sight of thee," he said. He dared to gently stroke her dark copper faceplate, gazing into her steel-grey eyes. "When we parted I feared I would not see you for many long years, and lo, even in this dark hour, the Winds have sent you as a flame to brighten my soul's darkness. It is good to see you, Iderrisai." He smiled then, and his soulgem--no longer part of him, as nature meant it, but worn in a circlet of gold that held the stone against his forehead--burned for that moment bright and clear. "I see you were not content to let mine be the only great tale of these times! You and Hadreshikrar have between you accomplished a work that will be remembered as long as our people live and memory lasts. You have brought us all home." He leaned forward and touched his soulgem briefly to Idai's faceplate, a deeply personal gesture used only between the nearest of friends.I was grateful that Idai closed her eyes in that moment, for Varien's sake. He could not see the years-long sorrow rise in them, pain and weary loneliness that struck my own heart in the instant. I had to close my eyes against the depth of it. By the time Varien pulled back from the contact, though, Idai was in control of herself again."You are well, then, Ak--Varien?" she asked. Her voice wavered only slightly. Varien might well put it down to her weariness."I rejoice to see thee and my people safe at last, but in truth, I tell thee I have seldom been worse, Idai," he said, and as his voice deepened I heard the anger in it rising. If he had been in his oldshape his wings would have begun to rattle. In this body, his hands curled in upon themselves and the skin of them began to turn white. "Hath Shikrar told thee of the great ill that hath befallen us, Lady? That a demon-master hath stolen away my beloved from my very side, and I helpless to stop him?" A tremor in his voice betrayed the depth of his feeling. "And that I know not where she bides, or whether she is quick or dead?"Even I was shaken. Varien in his fury was using the style of Gedri speech he had learned hundreds of years before. "I have told her, Varien," I said aloud, adding silently, "Your speech betrays your anger. You must not fail now, Akhor: We are here and our strength is yours. Do not let your heart's wound blind you. We cannot fly in force and destroy this Berys at once--he is a demon-master and we know not the extent of his strength. Remember the Demonlord, who destroyed the half of our Kindred upon a single day! I do not counsel cowardice, my friend, only prudence. And such a battle, such a war, would not be kind to those innocents around about. We are new-come to this land. Would you arrive as a destroyer?""I would arrive as one bent on saving the life of my beloved!" he cried."We will find Lanen, by my soul I swear it," I answered solemnly aloud, "but we must go softly at first, lest we break all hope of living here in peace with the Gedri, or break ourselves like fools upon the power of this demon-master.""Oh, I expect you'll have a good chance of living in peace here," said a calm voice from near the ground. The Lady Rella stepped forward and bowed briefly to Idai. "Welcome--you're the Lady Idai, aren't you?" Idai nodded once, and Rella grinned. "I remember you from the Dragon Isle. I don't think we ever exchanged names, but Lanen told me about you. Well-met, Lady, and welcome to your new home. I for one am delighted to see you."Idai hissed her amusement. "Rrrellla, the strong arm that kept Llanen safe from her own kind. Yess, I recall you. Well-met, and I thank you for the welcome, but I do not know if it will outlast my first request" She turned to me. "Have you eaten, Hadreshikrar?"I instantly wished she had not said that, for of a sudden I was aware of my empty belly and a raging hunger surged through me. "No," I replied shortly, and both Rella and Idai laughed as a noisy rumble from my interior nearly drowned out my answer. "No, I have not eaten, apart from a morsel here and there since I arrived. The prospect of fighting a Raksha has sustained my spirit, but my belly longs for meat.""As does mine. We have none of us eaten since we left the Dragon Isle sinking into the sea below us, and we have endured many days of desperate toil. We are hungry and we are weary, Shikrar, and we thirst. Whither shall we go now to find sustenance?""This is where I come in useful," said a quiet voice, and a man with golden hair and light blue eyes stepped forth. He bowed to Idai, his eyes taking in the host of the Kantri behind us. I was impressed that he managed to contain his astonishment as he spoke. "I'm Willem of Rowanbeck, but only my mother calls me Willem, I'm Will. I live near here, and I know of a farmer not ten miles away with a herd of good cattle. If you have anything to trade for them, I suspect Timeth wouldn't mind being the first in Kolmar to have dealings with dr--with you."Idai stood in Concern. "We have brought the lansip trees, Shikrar, they are safe, but they must be planted soon and cared for. When once they are established the leaves and the fruits will serve us for trade--but what we shall do in the meantime I cannot imagine. What else have we to offer the Gedri?""There is khaadish, Idai," said Varien, at the same time that Rella said, "You have gold, don't you?""Khaadish?" asked Idai. Concern flowed into Confusion. "What might be done with khaadish?""Even a very little of it can do a great deal, Idai," said Varien. "It is peculiar, I know, but the Gedri value khaadish greatly. A small quantity, enough only to fit in my hand, will purchase food and a place to rest for us all." He turned to Will. "Would that suffice for your friend?"Will raised one eyebrow, and I marvelled again at the mobilityof Gedri faces. "I expect he'll faint dead away. I don't think he's ever seen gold before. But his farm is two long days distant, in the steep hills to the north--"A hiss of amusement from behind me took me unawares, and Kédra, coming up beside me, laughed. "Ah, my father, it is good to know I can still surprise you!" he said. We touched soulgems by way of greeting, as only parent and child ever do. "You are not known to me, friend, but as you stand with Lord Varien and the Lady Rella I trust that you are a good soul. I am called Kédra, the son of Shikrar.""Willem of Rowanbeck," said Will, bowing. "I am glad to meet you, Kédra, and I don't want to be rude, but we were talking about finding a way to get you and your friends something to eat.""That is why I arrived so swiftly to offer my services," Kédra said, his eyes alight. "I heard your objection. A two-day walk uphill for one of the Gedri is a very, very short way to fly, I suspect. Will you come with me in token of our good faith, and treat with your friend on our behalf? For I have khaadish with me." He opened his hand, and there between the great claws was a small lump of khaadish, gleaming and pretty enough but useless for most purposes. Why the Gedri value it I will never know.Will, however, ch...
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