The Firsts waited in a respectful circle around the Old One, squatting in the morning sun while she swayed back and forth, eyes closed, hands pressed against the earth before her. At length she sat upright and spoke. ‘The earth speaks.’
‘The earth speaks,’ they responded.
‘We must move from this place. Something awakens in the land with this morning’s sun. Something wakens. We must watch and wait. But for now we must move from this place. The earth has spoken.’
‘The earth has spoken.’ One by one the Firsts stood and left the circle, moving quickly and quietly to direct the people in the breaking of their camp.
Each boy knew his assigned task and soon they were moving about, chattering a little amongst themselves but mostly too busy for gossip. Some lifted the lids of great earthenware crocks and drew out many loaves, which they began to slice up, heaping the slices upon wooden platters. Some went to the hearth and raised the covers of the heavy iron cauldrons in which the brose for the morning had been slowly cooking all night. With long-handled wooden spoons they stirred and tasted the mixture, adding pinches of salt and tiny lumps of old butter before ladling it out into deep serving dishes. Other boys filled jug after jug in the cold storeroom at the far end of the kitchen from the cooking fires. There were jugs of milk for the junior novices; a mixture of water and thin wine for the older boys and the young priests; while a stronger blend of wine and water was prepared for the senior priests. Upon one splendid tray of brass the boys set an equally magnificent jug brimming with good wine of Mardara for the three great ones of the temple. Soon the children were toiling back up the stairs with their burdens, which they set out upon the long wooden tables in the refectory; bread, brose, bowls and spoons, mugs and milk and watered wine. Upon the high table set across the end of the hall they arranged dishes and spoons of silver and spread a morning feast of bread, butter, preserves and wine, fresh fruits and the pungent goat’s cheese that was the favourite of Jar-Den, the voice of Jaren, greatest of the three.
The new sun came climbing over the peaks of the Spine Range to spread its merciless rays across the land of IssKor. In the city, light came first to rest upon the statue of Jaren raised above the empty square. Daylight brought no softening of the god’s fierce gaze.
Upon the shuttered windows of elegant apartments in the royal palace the daylight fell. It slipped between delicately carved screens to caress the sleeping face of the princess Arnett, half rousing her from innocent dreams. Through another window nearby the light crept, and awoke from a lighter slumber the newly-betrothed vizier and prince attendant, Tel-Kor the beloved of Jaren. Turning his face to the new morning, the young man smiled and lay relaxed, fingering the heavy golden ring upon his finger that held his future.
Sian Glirdain has managed to terrify and enthrall me with this book. Her depictions of the beings of Evil at their cruel work are chilling, and the story fills me with pity and sorrow at the suffering of the captives and thralls.
They say love will always find a way, but this story takes its protagonists to hell – and not necessarily back again, at least not completely. What if the only way to show your love is an act of evil?
A devastating tale, that made me cry out in shock at times. Produced from imaginative depths that I envy.
In the finest tent, set at the heart of the cluster, the Old One turned over in her sleep and came suddenly awake, her heart racing. She sat up and peered into the dark, struggling for breath. ‘A dream, just a dream, old fool.’ Reaching out in the dark she found both lamp and tinder, struck a dim and flickering light. Then she groped under her pillow and drew out a bundle of cloth. Unwinding this she revealed a small bottle of dark glass, tightly corked and sealed with wax. The Old One brought the lamp closer to the bottle and peered through the glass. The light awoke an answering flicker within and a movement, as if something were trapped inside yet still lived and struggled for freedom. She nodded, satisfied, and smiled as she saw the fluttering inside the glass.
On they paced for three more circuits, two plump old priests in their dusty black robes, their arms raised in token of supplication. Behind them came two novices in sleeveless gowns, their hands folded across their breasts as a mark of humility. Mal-Den sighed, and turned away from the window. He moved to his table of burnished cedar-wood and sat down. From the darkest corner of the room a life-sized statue, carved in dark wood, of a man in archaic robes stared blindly at the priest. Mal-Den gazed back at the image of his lord and god, Jaren the Terrible, Scourge of the Desert, Breath of the Burning Wind.
The overriding reaction I have is ‘elegant’, closely followed by ‘absorbing’ and ‘miraculous’. I like your gods, even Jaren, and the solutions you find for their followers, including Saranna. I also loved the ‘not doing magic’ aspects, (also the Old One’s guardianship of ‘bottled’ Jaren, which wasn’t a ‘not magic’ thing, but was a goddess thing!) Just letting your mortals (and demi-goddess) walk in miracles is a great cosmic solution, letting you off the grand-standing spell-casting and focusing on searching for liberty and hope. – Jan Hawke
Felix, basically, is getting plumper and more relaxed and more affectionate since we lost Mystic. There’s no doubt he feels a big rival has gone.
He still retains an urge to chase and hit Fluff, but this is slowly reducing and the incidents are less alarming when they do happen.
His greatest interest in life is food, and whenever he sees me moving anywhere near the kitchen he’s behind me, assuming I must be fetching him another meal, as after all what else do humans need to do in the kitchen?
Felix’s affection comes on his own terms – he’s most likely to come and sit very upright on the arm of the sofa beside me, and look imperiously accepting as I stroke his head of tickle his chest. When he advances to sitting on my lap, he retains that upright pose and his direct stare, quite unnerving at times – I feel I ought to salute, and call him ‘Sir.’
Once in a while he curls up and goes to sleep on my lap. If he purrs, it’s too soft for me to heat. But it feels good to be admitted to closeness!
It’s time I confessed – poor Fluff is suffering at the hands of a Mummy who has no idea how to cope with a long-hair. 😦
Since my holiday I’ve been forced to admit that there are more matts on the poor boy than I can deal with, and I’ve booked him in to see a nice lady who will de-matt him, clean his ears, trim his nails and generally beautify his lovely coat as he deserves.
Don’t tell him though!
A further confession is that despite the years of living with cats (about 60-65 years in fact – I have still made an elementary mistake in my attempts to groom him myself. I kept the implements of torture near my habitual seat and tried to brush/comb him during cuddle times. Of course this upset him and he got down. (D’uh!)
I’ve now put this right and moved grooming to the utility room – no-one is emotionally attached to the utility room. He still needs the lady who is going to be his new friend but I’m getting some useful grooming done and he’s having nicer cuddles (so am I!)
Engage brain before deciding when and where to groom cat – my new motto.
Next time an update on Felix.