Wandering Fire (Fionavar Tapestry)

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9780451451569: Wandering Fire (Fionavar Tapestry)
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Set in Fionavar, a world populated by wizards, warriors, spirits, and the heroes of myths, this story follows five young mortals trapped in deadly combat against the forces of the High Kingdom of Brennin

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About the Author:

Guy Gavriel Kay is an internationally bestselling author. He has been awarded the International Goliardos Prize for his work in the literature of the fantastic, is a two-time winner of the Aurora Award, and won the 2008 World Fantasy Award for Ysabel. His works have been translated into twenty-five languages.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter 1

Winter was coming. Last night’s snow hadn’t melted and the bare trees were laced with it. Toronto woke that morning to see itself cloaked and made over in white, and it was only November.

Cutting across Nathan Philips Square in front of the twin curves of the City Hall, Dave Martyniuk walked as carefully as he could and wished he’d worn boots. As he maneuvered toward the restaurant entrance on the far side, he saw with some surprise that the other three were already waiting.

“Dave,” said sharp-eyed Kevin Laine. “A new suit! When did this happen?”

“Hi, everyone,” Dave said. “I got it last week. Can’t wear the same corduroy jackets all year, can I?”

“A deep truth,” said Kevin, grinning. He was wearing jeans and a sheepskin jacket. And boots. Having finished the obligatory apprenticeship with a law firm that Dave had just begun, Kevin was now immersed in the equally tedious if less formal six-month Bar Admission course. “If that is a three-piece suit,” he added, “my image of you is going to be irrevocably shattered.”

Wordlessly, Dave unbuttoned his overcoat to reveal the shattering navy vest beneath.

“Angels and ministers of grace defend us!” Kevin exclaimed, crossing himself with the wrong hand while making the sign against evil with the other. Paul Schafer laughed. “Actually,” Kevin said, “it looks very nice. Why didn’t you buy it in your size?”

“Oh, Kev, give him a break!” Kim Ford said. “It is nice, Dave, and it fits perfectly. Kevin’s feeling scruffy and jealous.”

“I am not,” Kevin protested. “I am simply giving my buddy a hard time. If I can’t tease Dave, who can I tease?”

“It’s okay,” said Dave. “I’m tough, I can take it.” But what he was remembering in that moment was the face of Kevin Laine the spring before, in a room in the Park Plaza Hotel. The face, and the flat, harshly mastered voice in which he’d spoken, looking down at the wreckage of a woman on the floor:

“To this I will make reply although he be a god and it mean my death.”

You gave some latitude, Dave was thinking, to someone who’d sworn an oath like that, even if his style was more than occasionally jarring. You gave latitude because what Kevin had done that evening was give voice, and not for the only time, to the mute rage in one’s own heart.

“All right,” said Kim Ford softly, and Dave knew that she was responding to his thought and not his flippant words. Which would have been unsettling, were she not who she was, with her white hair, the green bracelet on her wrist, and the red ring on her finger that had blazed to bring them home. “Let’s go in,” Kim said. “We’ve things to talk about.”

Paul Schafer, the Twiceborn, had already turned to lead them through the door.

*  *  *

How many shadings, Kevin was thinking, are there to helplessness? He remembered the feeling from the year before, watching Paul twist inward on himself in the months after Rachel Kincaid had died. A bad time, that was. But Paul had come out of it, had gone so far in three nights on the Summer Tree in Fionavar that he was beyond understanding in the most important ways. He was healed, though, and Kevin held to that as a gift from Fionavar, some recompense for what had been done to Jennifer by the god named Rakoth Maugrim, the Unraveller. Though recompense was hardly the word; there was no true compensation to be found in this or any other world, only the hope of retribution, a flame so faint, despite what he had sworn, it scarcely burned. What were any of them against a god? Even Kim, with her Sight, even Paul, even Dave, who had changed among the Dalrei on the Plain and had found a horn in Pendaran Wood.

And who was he, Kevin Laine, to swear an oath of revenge? It all seemed so pathetic, so ridiculous, especially here, eating fillet of sole in the Mackenzie King Dining Room, amid the clink of cutlery and the lunchtime talk of lawyers and civil servants.

“Well?” said Paul, in a tone that made their setting instantly irrelevant. He was looking at Kim. “Have you seen anything?”

“Stop that,” she said. “Stop pushing. If anything happens I’ll tell you. Do you want it in writing?”

“Easy, Kim,” Kevin said. “You have to understand how ignorant we feel. You’re our only link.”

“Well, I’m not linked to anything now, and that’s all there is to it. There’s a place I have to find and I can’t control my dreaming. It’s in this world, that’s all I know, and I can’t go anywhere or do anything until I find it. Do you think I’m enjoying this any more than you three are?”

“Can’t you send us back?” Dave asked, unwisely.

“I am not a goddamned subway system!” Kim snapped. “I got us out because the Baelrath was somehow unleashed. I can’t do it on command.”

“Which means we’re stuck here,” Kevin said.

“Unless Loren comes for us,” Dave amended.

Paul was shaking his head. “He won’t.”

“Why?” Dave asked.

“Loren’s playing hands-off, I think. He set things in motion, but he’s leaving it up to us now, and some of the others.”

Kim was nodding. “He put a thread in the loom,” she murmured, “but he won’t weave this tapestry.” She and Paul exchanged a glance.

“But why?” Dave persisted. Kevin could hear the big man’s frustration. “He needs us—or at least Kim and Paul. Why won’t he come for us?”

“Because of Jennifer,” said Paul quietly. After a moment he went on. “He thinks we’ve suffered enough. He won’t impose anymore.”

Kevin cleared his throat. “As I understand it, though, whatever happens in Fionavar is going to be reflected here and in the other worlds too, wherever they are. Isn’t that true?”

“It is,” said Kim calmly. “It is true. Not immediately, perhaps, but if Rakoth takes dominion in Fionavar he takes dominion everywhere. There is only one Tapestry.”

“Even so,” said Paul, “we have to do it on our own. Loren won’t demand it. If the four of us want to go back, we’ll have to find a way ourselves.”

“The four of us?” Kevin said. So much helplessness. He looked at Kim.

There were tears in her eyes. “I don’t know,” she whispered. “I just don’t know. She won’t see the three of you. She never goes out of the house. She talks to me about work and the weather, and the news, and she’s, she—”

“She’s going ahead with it,” Paul Schafer said.

Kimberly nodded.

Golden, she had been, Kevin remembered, from inside the sorrow.

“All right,” said Paul. “It’s my turn now.”

Arrow of the God.

She’d had a peephole placed in the door so she could see who was knocking. She was home most of the day, except for afternoon walks in the park nearby. There were often people at the door: deliveries, the gas man, registered mail. For a while at the beginning there had been, fatuously, flowers. She’d thought Kevin was smarter than that. She didn’t care whether or not that was a fair judgment. She’d had a fight with Kim about it, when her roommate had come home one evening to find roses in the garbage can.

“Don’t you have any idea how he’s feeling? Don’t you care?” Kimberly had shouted.

Answer: no, and no.

How could she come to such a human thing as caring, anymore? Numberless, the unbridged chasms between where she now was, and the four of them, and everyone else. To everything there yet clung the odor of the swan. She saw the world through the filtered unlight of Starkadh. What voice, what eyes seen through that green distortion, could efface the power of Rakoth, who had shoveled through her mind and body as if she, who had once been loved and whole, were so much slag?

She knew she was sane, did not know why.

One thing only pulled her forward into some future tense. Not a good thing, nor could it have been, but it was real, and random, and hers. She would not be gainsaid.

And so, when Kim had first told the other three, and they had come in July to argue with her, she had stood up and left the room. Nor had she seen Kevin or Dave or Paul since that day.

She would bear this child, the child of Rakoth Maugrim. She intended to die giving birth.

She would not have let him in, except that she saw that he was alone, and this was sufficiently unexpected to cause her to open the door.

Paul Schafer said, “I have a story to tell. Will you listen?”

It was cold on the porch. After a moment she stepped aside and he entered. She closed the door and walked into the living room. He hung up his coat in the hall closet and followed her.

She had taken the rocking chair. He sat down on the couch and looked at her, tall and fair, still graceful though no longer slim, seven months heavy with the child. Her head was high, her wide-set green eyes uncompromising.

“I walked away from you last time, and I will again, Paul. I will not be moved on this.”

“I said, a story,” he murmured.

“Then tell it.”

So he told her for the first time about the grey dog on the wall of Paras Derval and the fathomless sorrow in its eyes; he told her about his second night on the Summer Tree, when Galadan, whom she also knew, had come for him, and how the dog had appeared again, and of the battle fought here in the Mörnirwood. He told her about being bound on the Tree of the God, and seeing the red moon rise and the grey dog drive the wolf from the wood.

He told her of Dana. And Mörnir. The powers shown forth that night in answer to the Darkness in the north. His voice was deeper than she remembered; there were echoes in it.

He said, “We are not in this alone. He may break us into fragments in the end, but he will not be unresisted, and whatever you may have seen or endured in that place you must understand that he cannot shape the pattern exactly to his desire. Or else you would not be here.”

She listened, almost against her will. His words brought back words of her own, spoken in Starkadh itself: You will have nothing of me that you do not take, she had said. But that was before. Before he had set about taking everything—until Kim had pulled her out.

She lifted her head a little. “Yes,” Paul said, his eyes never leaving her face. “Do you understand? He is stronger than any of us, stronger even than the God who sent me back. He is stronger than you, Jennifer; it is not worth saying except for this: he cannot take away what you are.”

“I know this,” said Jennifer Lowell. “It is why I will bear his child.”

He sat back. “Then you become his servant.”

“No. You listen to me now, Paul, because you don’t know everything either. When he left me . . . after, he gave me to a Dwarf. Blöd was his name. I was a reward, a toy, but he said something to the Dwarf: he said I was to be killed, and that there was a reason.” There was cold resolution in her voice. “I will bear this child because I am alive when he wished me dead—the child is random, it is outside his purposes.”

He was silent a long time. Then, “But so are you, in and of yourself.”

Her laugh was a brutal sound. “And how am I, in and of myself, to answer him? I am going to have a son, Paul, and he will be my answer.”

He shook his head. “There is too much evil in this, and only to prove a point already proven.”

“Nonetheless,” said Jennifer.

After a moment his mouth crooked sideways. “I won’t press you on it, then. I came for you, not him. Kim’s already dreamt his name, anyhow.”

Her eyes flashed. “Paul, understand me. I would do what I am doing whatever Kim said. Whatever she happened to dream. And I will name him as I choose!”

He was smiling, improbably. “Stick around and do that then. Stay with us, Jen. We need you back.” Only when he spoke did she realize what she’d said. He’d tricked her, she decided, had goaded her quite deliberately into something unintended. But she couldn’t, for some reason, feel angry. Had this first tenuous spar he’d thrown across to her been a little firmer she might, in fact, have smiled.

Paul stood up. “There is an exhibition of Japanese prints at the Art Gallery. Would you like to see it with me?”

For a long time she rocked in the chair, looking up at him. He was dark-haired, slight, still frail-seeming, though not so much as last spring.

“What was the dog’s name?” she asked.

“I don’t know. I wish I did.”

After another moment she rose, put on her coat, and took her first careful step on the first bridge.

Dark seed of a dark god, Paul was thinking, as he tried to simulate an interest in nineteenth-century prints from Kyoto and Osaka. Cranes, twisted trees, elegant ladies with long pins in their hair.

The lady beside him wasn’t talking a great deal, but she was there in the gallery, and it was not a small grace. He remembered the crumpled figure she had been seven months before, when Kim had brought them desperately from Fionavar with the wild, blazing power of the Baelrath.

This was Kim’s power, he knew: the Warstone and the dreams in which she walked at night, white-haired as Ysanne had been, two souls within her, and knowledge of two worlds. It had to be a difficult thing. The price of power, he remembered Ailell the High King telling him, the night they played their game of ta’bael. The night that had been overture to the three nights that became his own hard, hardest thing. The gateway to whatever he now was, Lord of the Summer Tree.

Whatever he now was. They had moved into the twentieth century now: more cranes, long, narrow mountain scenes, low boats riding on wide rivers.

“The themes don’t change much,” Jennifer said.

“Not much.”

He had been sent back, he was Mörnir’s response, but he had no ring with which to burn, no dreams down which to track the secrets of the Tapestry, not even a horn such as Dave had found, no skylore like Loren, or crown like Aileron; not even—though he felt a chill at the thought—a child within him like the woman at his side.

And yet. There had been ravens at his shoulder in the branches of the Tree: Thought and Memory were their names. There had been a figure in the clearing, hard to see, but he had seen horns on its head and seen it bow to him. There had been the white mist rising up through him to the sky in which a red moon sailed on new moon night. There had been rain. And then the God.

And there was still the God. At night, sometimes, he could feel the tacit presence, immense, in the rush and slide of his blood, the muffled thunder of his human heart.

Was he a symbol only? A manifestation of what he had been telling Jennifer: the presence of opposition to the workings of the Unraveller? There were worse roles, he supposed. It gave him a part to play in what was to come, but something within—and there was a god within him—said that there was more. No man shall be Lord of the Summer Tree who has not twice been born, Jaelle had said to him in the sanctuary.

He was more than symbol. The waiting to learn what, and how, seemed to be part of the price.

Almost at the end now. They stopped in front of a large print of a river scene: boats being poled along, others unloading at a crowded dock; there were woods on the far side of the stream, snowcapped mountains beyond. It was badly hung, though; he could see people behind them reflected in the glass, two students, the sleepy gu...

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