He landed badly, but the reflexes of an athlete took him rolling through the fall, and at the end of it he was on his feet, unhurt. Very angry, though.
He had opted out, damn it! What the hell right did Kim Ford have to grab his arm and haul him to another world? What the…
He stopped; the fury draining as realization came down hard. She had, she really had taken him to another world.
A moment ago he had been in a room in the Park Plaza Hotel, now he found himself outdoors in darkness with a cool wind blowing, and a forest nearby; looking the other way, he saw wide rolling grasslands stretching away as far as he could see in the moonlight.
He looked around for the others, and then as the fact of isolation slowly came home, Dave Martyniuk’s anger gave way to fear. They weren’t friends of his, that was for sure, but this was no time or place to have ended up alone.
They couldn’t be far, he thought, managing to keep control. Kim Ford had had his arm; surely that meant she couldn’t be far away, her and the others, and that Lorenzo Marcus guy who’d got him into this in the first place. And was going to get him out, or deal with severe bodily pain, Martyniuk vowed. Notwithstanding the provisions of the Criminal Code.
Which reminded him: looking down, he saw that he was still clutching Kevin Laine’s Evidence notes.
The absurdity, the utter incongruousness in this night place of wind and grass acted, somehow, to loosen him. He took a deep breath, like before the opening jump in a game. It was time to get his bearings. Boy Scout time.
Paras Derval where Ailell reigns, the old man had said. Any cities on the horizon? As the moon slipped from behind a drift of cloud, Dave turned north into the wind and saw Rangat clear.
He was not, as it happened, anywhere near the others. All Kim had been able to do with her desperate grab for his arm was keep him in the same plane as them, the same world. He was in Fionavar, but a long way north, and the Mountain loomed forty-five thousand feet up into the moonlight, white and dazzling.
“Holy Mother!” Dave exclaimed involuntarily.
It saved his life.
Of the nine tribes of the Dalrei, all but one had moved east and south that season, though the best grazing for the eltor was still in the northwest, as it always was in summer. The messages the auberei brought back from Celidon were clear, though: svart alfar and wolves in the edgings of Pendaran were enough for most Chieftains to take their people away. There had been rumors of urgach among the svarts as well. It was enough. South of Adein and Rienna they went, to the leaner, smaller herds, and the safety of the country around Cynmere and the Latham.
Ivor dan Banor, Chieftain of the third tribe, was, as often, the exception. Not that he did not care for the safety of his tribe, his children. No man who knew him could think that. It was just that there were other things to consider, Ivor thought, awake late at night in the Chieftain’s house.
For one, the Plain and the eltor herds belonged to the Dalrei, and not just symbolically. Colan had given them to Revor after the Bael Rangat, to hold, he and his people, for so long as the High Kingdom stood.
It had been earned, by the mad ride in terror through Pendaran and the Shadowland and a loop in the thread of time to explode singing into battle on a sunset field that else had been lost. Ivor stirred, just thinking on it: for the Horsemen, the Children of Peace, to have done this thing… There had been giants in the old days.
Giants who had earned the Plain. To have and to hold, Ivor thought. Not to scurry to sheltered pockets of land at the merest rumor of danger. It stuck in Ivor’s craw to run from svart alfar.
So the third tribe stayed. Not on the edge of Pendaran—that would have been foolhardy and unnecessary. There was a good camp five leagues from the forest, and they had the dense herds of the eltor to themselves. It was, the hunters agreed, a luxury. He noticed that they still made the sign against evil, though, when the chase took them within sight of the Great Wood. There were some, Ivor knew, who would rather have been elsewhere.
He had other reasons, though, for staying. It was bad in the south, the auberei reported from Celidon; Brennin was locked in a drought, and cryptic word had come from his friend Tulger of the eighth tribe that there was trouble in the High Kingdom. What, Ivor thought, did they need to go into that for? After a harsh winter, what the tribe needed was a mild, sweet summer in the north. They needed the cool breeze and the fat herds for feasting and warm coats against the coming of fall.
There was another reason, too. More than the usual number of boys would be coming up to their fasts this year. Spring and summer were the time for the totem fasts among the Dalrei, and the third tribe had always been luckiest in a certain copse of trees here in the northwest. It was a tradition. Here Ivor had seen his own hawk gazing with bright eyes back at him from the top of an elm on his second night. It was a good place, Faelinn Grove, and the young ones deserved to lie there if they could. Tabor, too. His younger son was fourteen. Past time. It might be this summer. Ivor had been twelve when he found his hawk; Levon, his older son—his heir, Chieftain after him—had seen his totem at thirteen.
It was whispered, among the girls who were always competing for him, that Levon had seen a King Horse on his fast. This, Ivor knew, was not true, but there was something of the stallion about Levon, in the brown eyes, the unbridled carriage, the open, guileless nature, even his long, thick yellow hair, which he wore unbound.
Tabor, though, Tabor was different. Although that was unfair, Ivor told himself—his intense younger son was only a boy yet, he hadn’t had his fasting. This summer, perhaps, and he wanted Tabor to have the lucky wood.
And above and beyond all of these, Ivor had another reason still. A vague presence at the back of his mind, as yet undefined. He left it there. Such things, he knew from experience, would be made clear to him in their time. He was a patient man.
So they stayed.
Even now there were two boys in Faelinn Grove. Gereint had spoken their names two days ago, and the shaman’s word began the passage from boy to man among the Dalrei.
There were two in the wood then, fasting; but though Faelinn was lucky, it was also close to Pendaran, and Ivor, father to all his tribe, had taken quiet steps to guard them. They would be shamed, and their fathers, if they knew, so it had been only with a look in his eye that he had alerted Tore to ride out with them unseen.
Tore was often away from the camps at night. It was his way. The younger ones joked that his animal had been a wolf. They laughed too hard at that, a little afraid. Tore: he did look like a wolf, with his lean body, his long, straight, black hair, and the dark, unrevealing eyes. He never wore a shirt, or moccasins; only his eltor skin leggings, dyed black to be unseen at night.
The Outcast. No fault of his own, Ivor knew, and resolved for the hundredth time to do something about that name. It hadn’t been any fault of Tore’s father, Sorcha, either. Just sheerest bad luck. But Sorcha had slain an eltor doe that was carrying young. An accident, the hunters agreed at the gathering: the buck he’d slashed had fallen freakishly into the path of the doe beside it. The doe had stumbled over him and broken her neck. When the hunters came up, they had seen that she was bearing.
An accident, which let Ivor make it exile and not death. He could not do more. No Chieftain could rise above the Laws and hold his people. Exile, then, for Sorcha; a lonely, dark fate, to be driven from the Plain. The next morning they had found Meisse, his wife, dead by her own hand. Tore, at eleven, only child, had been left doubly scarred by tragedy.
He had been named by Gereint that summer, the same summer as Levon. Barely twelve, he had found his animal and had remained ever after a loner on the fringes of the tribe. As good a hunter as any of Ivor’s people, as good even, honesty made Ivor concede, as Levon. Or perhaps not quite, not quite as good.
The Chieftan smiled to himself in the dark. That, he thought, was self-indulgent. Tore was his son as well, the whole tribe were his children. He liked the dark man, too, though Tore could be difficult; he also trusted him. Tore was discreet and competent with tasks like the one tonight.
Awake beside Leith, his people all about him in the camp, the horses shut in for the night, Ivor felt better knowing Tore was out there in the dark with the boys. He turned on his side to try to sleep.
After a moment, the Chieftain recognized a muffled sound, and realized that someone else was awake in the house. He could hear Tabor’s stifled sobbing from the room he shared with Levon. It was hard for the boy, he knew; fourteen was late not to be named, especially for the Chieftain’s son, for Levon’s brother.
He would have comforted his younger son, but knew it was wiser to leave the boy alone. It was not a bad thing to learn what hurt meant, and mastering it alone helped engender self-respect. Tabor would be all right.
In a little while the crying stopped. Eventually Ivor, too, fell asleep, though first he did something he’d not done for a long time.
He left the warmth of his bed, of Leith sound asleep beside him, and went to look in on his children. First the boys; fair, uncomplicated Levon, nut-brown, wiry Tabor; and then he walked into Liane’s room.
Cordeliane, his daughter. With a bemused pride he gazed at her dark brown hair, at the long lashes of her closed eyes, the upturned nose, laughing mouth… even in sleep she smiled.
How had he, stocky, square, plain Ivor, come to have such handsome sons, a daughter so fair?
All of the third tribe were his children, but these, these.
Tore had been having a bad night. First the two idiots who had come to fast had managed to end up, totally oblivious, within twenty feet of each other on precisely opposite sides of a clump of bushes in the wood. It was ridiculous. What sort of babies were they sending out these days?
He had managed, with a series of snuffling grunts that really were rather unnerving, to scare one of them into moving a quarter of a mile away. It was an interference with the ritual, he supposed, but the fast had barely begun, and in any case, the babies needed all the help they could get: the man smell in those bushes had been so strong they’d have likely ended up finding only each other for totem animals.
That, he thought, was funny. Tore didn’t find many things funny, but the image of two fasting thirteen-year-olds becoming each other’s sacred beasts made him smile in the dark.
He stopped smiling when his sweep of the grove turned up a spoor he didn’t recognize. After a moment, though, he realized that it had to be an urgach, which was worse than bad. Svart alfar would not have disturbed him unless there were a great many. He had seen small numbers of them on his solitary forays westward towards Pendaran. He’d also found the trail of a very large band, with wolves among them. It had been a week before, and they were moving south fairly quickly. It had not been a pleasant thing to find, and he’d reported it to Ivor, and to Levon as leader of the hunt, but it was, for the time being, no direct concern of theirs.
This was. He’d never seen one of the urgach, no one in the tribe had, but there were legends enough and night stories to make him very cautious indeed. He remembered the tales very well, from before the bad time, when he’d been only a child in the third tribe, a child like all the others, shivering with pleasurable fear by the fire, dreading his mother’s summons to bed, while the old ones told their stories.
Kneeling over the spoor, Tore’s lean face was grim. This was not Pendaran Wood, where creatures of Darkness were known to walk. An urgach, or more than one in Faelinn Grove, the lucky wood of the third tribe, was serious. It was more than serious: there were two babies fasting tonight.
Moving silently, Tore followed the heavy, almost overpowering spoor and, dismayed, he saw that it led eastward out of the grove. Urgach on the Plain! Dark things were abroad. For the first time, he wondered about the Chieftain’s decision to stay in the northwest this summer. They were alone. Far from Celidon, far from any other tribe that might have joined numbers with them against what evils might be moving here. The Children of Peace, the Dalrei were named, but sometimes peace had been hard won.
Tore had no problems with being alone, he had been so all his adult life. Outcast, the young ones called him, in mockery. The Wolf. Stupid babies: wolves ran in packs. When had he ever? The solitude had made for some bitterness, for he was young yet, and the memory of other times was fresh enough to be a wound. It had also given him a certain dour reflectiveness born of long nights in the dark, and an outsider’s view of what humans did. Another kind of animal. If he lacked tolerance, it was not a surprising flaw.
He had very quick reflexes.
The knife was in his hand, and he was low to the gully and crawling from the trees as soon as he glimpsed the bulky shadow in a brief unsheathing of moonlight. There were clouds, or else he would have seen it earlier. It was very big.
He was downwind, which was good. Moving with honed speed and silence, Tore traversed the open ground towards the figure he’d seen. His bow and sword were on his horse; a stupidity. Can you kill an urgach with a knife, a part of him wondered.
The rest of him was concentrating. He had moved to within ten feet. The creature hadn’t noticed him, but it was obviously angry and it was very large—almost a foot taller than he was, bulking hugely in the shadows of the night.
He decided to wait for moonlight and throw for the head. One didn’t stop to talk with creatures from one’s nightmares. The size of it made his heart race—tearing fangs on a creature that big?
The moon slanted out; he was ready. He drew back his arm to throw: the dark head was clearly outlined against the silvered plain, looking the other way, north.
“Holy Mother!” the urgach said.
Tore’s arm had already begun its descent. With a brutal effort he retained control of the dagger, cutting himself in the process.
Creatures of evil did not invoke the Goddess, not in that voice. Looking again in the bright moonlight, Tore saw that the creature before him was a man; strangely garbed, and very big, but he seemed to be unarmed. Drawing breath, Tore called out in a voice as courteous as the circumstances seemed to permit, “Move slowly and declare yourself.”
At the snarled command, Dave’s heart hit his throat and jack-knifed back into his rib-cage. Who the hell? Rather than pursue this inquiry, however, he elected to move slowly and declare himself.
Turning toward the voice with his hands outspread and bearing only Evidence notes, he said, as levelly as he could, “My name is Martyniuk. Dave Martyniuk. I don’t know where I am, and I’m looking for someone named Loren. He brought me here.”
A moment passed. He felt the wind from the north ruffling his hair. He was, he realized, very frightened.
Then a shadow rose from a hollow he hadn’t even seen, and moved towards him.
“Silvercloak?” the shadow asked, materializing in the moonlight as a young man, shirtless despite the wind, barefoot, and clad in leggings of black. He carried a long, quite lethal-looking blade in his hand.
Oh, God, Dave thought. What have they done to me? Carefully, his eyes on the knife, he replied, “Yes, Loren Silvercloak. That’s his name.” He took a breath, trying to calm down. “Please don’t misunderstand anything. I’m here in peace. I don’t even want to be here. I got separated… we’re supposed to be in a place called Paras Derval. Do you know it?”
The other man seemed to relax a little. “I know it. How is it that you don’t?”
“Because I’m not from here,” Dave exclaimed, frustration hitting his voice. “We crossed from my world. Earth?” he said hopefully, then realized how stupid that was.
“Where is Silvercloak, then?”
“Aren’t you listening?” Martyniuk exploded. “I told you, I got separated. I need him to go home. All
I want to do is get home as fast as I can. Can’t you understand that?”
There was another silence.
“Why,” the other man asked, “shouldn’t I just kill you?”
Dave’s breath escaped in a hiss. He hadn’t handled this too well, it seemed. God, he wasn’t a diplomat. Why hadn’t Kevin Laine been separated from the others? Dave considered jumping the other man, but something told him this lean person knew how to use that blade extremely well.
He had a sudden inspiration. “Because,” he gambled, “Loren wouldn’t like it. I’m his friend; he’ll be looking for me.” You are too quick to renounce friendship, the mage had said, the night before. Not always, Dave thought, not tonight, boy.
It seemed to work, too. Martyniuk lowered his hands slowly. “I’m unarmed,” he said. “I’m lost. Will you help me, please?”
The other man sheathed his blade at last. “I’ll take you to Ivor,” he said, “and Gereint. They both know Silvercloak. We’ll go to the camp in the morning.”
“Why not now?”
“Because,” the other said, “I have a job to do, and I suppose you’ll have to do it with me now.”
“There are two babies in that wood fasting for their animals. We’ve got to watch over them, make sure they don’t cut themselves or something.” He held up a bleeding hand. “Like I did, not killing you. You are among the Dalrei. Ivor’s tribe, the third. And lucky for you he is a stubborn man, or the only thing you would find here would be eltor and svart alfar, and the one would flee you and the other kill. My name,” he said, “is Tore. Now come.”
The babies, as Tore insisted on calling the two thirteen-year-olds, seemed to be all right. If they were lucky, Tore explained, they would each see an animal before dawn. If not, the fast would continue, and he would have to watch another night. They were sitting with their backs against a tree in a small clearing midway between the two boys. Tore’s horse, a small dark gray stallion, grazed nearby.
“What are we watching for?” Dave asked, a little nervously. Night forests were not his usual habitat.
“I told you: there are svart alfar around here. Word of them has driven all the other tribes south.”
“There was a svart alfar in our world,” Dave volunteered. “It followed Loren. Matt S"oren killed it. Loren said they weren’t dangerous, and there weren’t many of them.”
Tore raised his eyebrows. “There are more than there used to be,” he said, “and though they may not be dangerous to a mage, they were bred to kill and they do it very well.”
Dave had an uncomfortable, prickly feeling suddenly. Tore spoke of killing with disquieting frequency.
“The svarts would be enough to worry about,” Tore went on, “but just before I saw you, I found the spoor of an urgach—I took you for it, back there. I was going to kill first and investigate after. Such creatures have not been seen for hundreds of years. It is very bad that they are back; I don’t know what it means.”
“What are they?”
Tore made a strange gesture and shook his head. “Not at night,” he said. “We shouldn’t be talking of them out here.” He repeated the gesture.
Dave settled back against the tree. It was late, he supposed he should try to sleep, but he was far too keyed up. Tore no longer seemed to be in a talking mood; that was okay by him.
On the whole, it looked all right. Could have been a lot worse. He appeared to have landed among people who knew the mage. The others couldn’t be too far away; it would probably work out, if he didn’t get eaten by something in these woods. On the other hand, Tore obviously knew what he was doing. Roll with it, he thought.
After about three-quarters of an hour, Tore rose to check on his babies. He looped east, and came back ten minutes later, nodding his head.
“Barth is all right, and well hidden now, too. Not as stupid as most of them.” He continued west to look hi on the other one. A few minutes later, he reappeared again.
“Well—” Tore began, approaching the tree.
Only an athlete could have done it. With purest reflex, Dave launched himself at the apparition that had emerged from the trees beside Tore. He hit the hairy, ape-like creature with the hardest cross-body block he could throw, and the sword swinging to decapitate Tore was deflected away.
Sprawled flat with the breath knocked out of him, Dave saw the huge creature’s other hand coming down. He managed to parry with his left forearm, and felt a numbing sensation from the contact. God, he thought, staring into the enraged red eyes of what had to be the urgach, this sucker is strong! He didn’t even have time to be afraid: rolling clumsily away from the urgach’s short-range sword thrust, he saw a body hurtle past him.
Tore, knife in hand, had hurled himself straight at the creature’s head. The urgach dropped its awkward sword, and with a terrifying snarl, easily blocked Tore’s arm. Shifting its grip, it threw the Rider bodily away, to smash into a tree, senseless for a moment.
One on one, Dave thought. Tore’s dive had given him time to get to his feet, but everything was moving so fast. Whirling, he fled to where Tore’s tethered horse was neighing in terror, and he grabbed the sword resting by the saddle-cloth. A sword? he thought. What the hell do I do with a sword?
Parry, like crazy. The urgach, weapon reclaimed, was right on top of him, and it levelled a great two-handed sweep of its own giant blade. Dave was a strong man, but the jarring impact of blocking that blow made his right arm go almost as numb as his left; he staggered backwards.
“Tore!” he cried desperately. “I can’t—”
He stopped, because there was suddenly no need to say anything more. The urgach was swaying like a toppling rock, and a moment later it fell forward with a crash, Tore’s dagger embedded to the hilt in the back of its skull.
The two men gazed at each other across the dead body of the monstrous creature.
“Well,” said Tore finally, still breathing hard, “now I know why I didn’t kill you.”
What Dave felt then was so rare and unexpected, it took him a moment to recognize it.
Ivor, up with the sun and watching by the southwest gate, saw Barth and Navon come walking back together. He could tell—it was not hard—from the way they moved that they had both found something in the wood. Found, or been found by, as Gereint said. They had gone out as boys and were coming back to him, his children still, but Riders now, Riders of the Dalrei. So he lifted his voice in greeting, that they should be welcomed by their Chieftain back from the dreamworld to the tribe.
“Hola!” cried Ivor, that all should hear. “See who comes! Let there be rejoicing, for see the Weaver sends two new Riders to us!”
They all rushed out then, having waited with suppressed excitement, so that the Chieftain should be first to announce the return. It was a tradition of the third tribe since the days of Lahor, his grandfather.
Barth and Navon were welcomed home with honor and jubilation. Their eyes were wide yet with wonder, not yet fully returned from the other world, from the visions that fasting and night and Gereint’s secret drink had given them. They seemed untouched, fresh, which was as it should be.
Ivor led them, one on either side, letting them walk beside him now, as was fit for men, to the quarters set apart for Gereint. He went inside with them and watched as they knelt before the shaman, that he might confirm and consecrate their animals. Never had one of Ivor’s children tried to dissemble about his fast, to claim a totem when there had been none, or pretend in his mind that an eltor had been an eagle or a boar. It was still the task of the shaman to find in them the truth of their vigil, so that in the tribe Gereint knew the totems of every Rider. It was thus in all the tribes. So it was written at Celidon. So was the Law.
At length Gereint lifted his head from where he sat cross-legged on his mat. He turned unerringly to where Ivor stood, the light from outside silhouetting him.
“Their hour knows their name,” the shaman said.
It was done. The words that defined a Rider had been spoken: the hour that none could avoid, and the sanctity of their secret name. Ivor was assailed suddenly by a sense of the sweep, the vastness of time. For twelve hundred years the Dalrei had ridden on the Plain. For twelve hundred years each new Rider had been so proclaimed.
“Should we feast?” he asked Gereint formally.
“Indeed we should,” came the placid reply. “We should have the Feast of the New Hunters.”
“It shall be so,” Ivor said. So many times he and Gereint had done this, summer after summer. Was he getting old?
He took the two newest Riders and led them into the sunlight, to where all the tribe was gathered before the door of the shaman’s house.
“Their hour knows,” he said, and smiled to hear the roar that went up.
He gave Navon and Barth back to their families at last. “Sleep,” he urged them both, knowing what the morrow would be like, knowing he would not be heeded. Who slept on this day?
Levon had, he remembered; but he had been three nights in the grove and had come out, at the last, hollowed and other-worldly. A difficult, far-voyaging fast it had been, as was fitting for one who would one day lead the tribe.
Thinking so, he watched his people stream away, then ducked back into the darkness of Gereint’s house. There was never any light in that house, no matter which camp they occupied.
The shaman had not moved.
“It is well,” Ivor said, hunkering down beside the old one.
Gereint nodded. “It is well, I think. They should both do, and Barth may be something more.” It was the closest he ever came to giving the Chieftain a hint of what he had seen in the new ones. Always Ivor marvelled at the shaman’s gift, at his power.
He still remembered the night they had blinded Gereint. A child, Ivor had been, four summers from his hawk, but as Banor’s only son, he had been taken out with the men to see it done. Power for him all his life would be symbolized by deep-voiced chanting and torches weaving on the night plain under the stars of midsummer.
For some moments the two men sat quietly, each wrapped in his own thoughts, then Ivor rose. “I should speak to Levon about tomorrow’s hunt,” he said. “Sixteen, I think.”
“At least,” the shaman said in an aggrieved tone. “I could eat a whole one myself. We haven’t feasted in a long time, Ivor.”
Ivor snorted. “A very long time, you greedy old man. Twelve whole days since Walen was named. Why aren’t you fat?”
“Because,” the wisest one explained patiently, “you never have enough food at the feasts.”
“Seventeen, then!” Ivor laughed. “I’ll see you in the morning before they go. It’s up to Levon, but I’m going to suggest east.”
“East,” Gereint agreed gravely. “But you’ll see me later today.”
This, too, Ivor had grown accustomed to. The Sight comes when the light goes, the Dalrei said. It was not Law, but had the same force, it seemed to Ivor at times. They found their totems in the dark, and all their shamans came to their power in blindness with that ceremony on midsummer night, the bright torches and the stars suddenly going black.
He found Levon with the horses, of course, tending to a mare with a bad fetlock. Levon rose at his father’s footstep and came over, pushing the yellow hair back from his eyes. It was long, and he never tied it back. Seeing Levon lifted Ivor’s heart; it always did.
He remembered, probably because he’d been thinking of it earlier, the morning Levon had returned from his three-day fast. All day he had slept, bone-weary, the fair skin almost translucent with exhaustion. Late at night he had arisen and sought his father.
Ivor and his thirteen-year-old son had walked out alone into the sleeping camp.
“I saw a cerne, father,” Levon had said suddenly. A gift to him, the deepest, rarest gift. His animal, his secret name. A cerne was very good, Ivor thought with pride. Strong and brave, proudly horned like the god for which it was named, legendary for how it would defend its young. A cerne was as good as could be.
He nodded. There had been a difficulty in his throat. Leith was always teasing him about how quick he was to cry. He wanted to put an arm about the boy, but Levon was a Rider now, a man, and had given him a man’s gift.
“Mine was a hawk,” Ivor had said, and had stood beside his son, their shoulders touching as they looked together at the summer sky above their sleeping people.
“Eastward, right?” Levon said now, coming up. There was laughter in his brown eyes.
“I think,” Ivor replied. “Let’s not be foolhardy. It’s up to you, though,” he added quickly.
“I know. East is fine. I’ll have the two new ones, anyhow. It’s easier country to hunt. How many?”
“I thought sixteen, but Gereint wants an eltor to himself.”
Levon threw back his head and laughed. “And he complained about not enough feasting, didn’t he?”
“Always,” his father chuckled. “How many hunters, then, for seventeen?”
“Twenty,” Levon said immediately.
It was five fewer than he would have taken. It put great pressure on the hunters, especially with the two new ones in the band, but Ivor held his peace. The hunting was Levon’s now, and his son knew the horses and hunters, and the eltor like no one else did. He believed in putting pressure on them, too, Ivor knew. It kept them sharp. Revor was said to have done the same thing.
So “Good” was all he said. “Choose well. I’ll see you at home later.” Levon raised a hand; he was already turning back to the mare.
Ivor hadn’t eaten yet, or talked to Leith, and the sun was already high. He went home. They were waiting for him in the front room. Because of Gereint’s parting words, he wasn’t totally surprised.
“This,” said Tore, without ceremony, “is Davor. He crossed from another world with Loren Silvercloak last night, but was separated from him. We killed an urgach together in Faelinn last night.”
Yes, Ivor thought, I knew there was something more. He looked at the two young men. The stranger, a very big man, bristled with a certain aggressiveness, but was not truly so, Ivor judged. Tore’s terse words had both frightened and pleased the Chieftain. An urgach was unheard-of news, but the Outcast’s saying “we” made Ivor smile inwardly. The two of them had shared something in that killing, he thought.
“Welcome,” he said to the stranger. And then, formally, “Your coming is a bright thread in what is woven for us. You will have to tell me as much as you care to of your story. Killing an urgach—that was bravely done. We shall eat first, though,” he added hastily, knowing Leith’s rules with guests. “Liane?” he called.
His daughter materialized instantaneously. She had, of course, been listening behind the door. Ivor suppressed a smile. “We have guests for the morning meal,” he said. “Will you find Tabor and have him request Gereint to come? Levon, too.”
“Gereint won’t want to,” she said impertinently. “It’s too far, he’ll say.” Ivor observed that she was keeping her back to Tore. It was shameful that a child of his should treat a tribesman so. He would have to speak to her of it. This business of the Outcast must be ended.
For the moment he said merely, “Have Tabor say that he was right this morning.”
“About what?” Liane demanded.
“Go, child,” Ivor said. There were limits.
With a predictable toss of her hair, Liane spun and left the room. The stranger, Ivor saw, had an amused look on his face, and no longer clutched the sheaf of papers he carried quite so defensively. It was well, for the moment.
Loren Silvercloak, though, and an urgach in Faelinn Grove? Not for five hundred years had such a creature been reported to Celidon. I knew, Ivor thought, there was another reason why we stayed.
This, it seemed, was it.