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datatime: 2022-11-28 12:30:20 Author:VvRNalVo

Once Astrin said, as they walked through the gentle, constant fall of dead oak leaves, "I should take you to Caithnard. It's just a day's journey south of these woods. Perhaps someone knows you there." But Morgon only looked at him blankly, as if Caithnard lay in some strange land at the bottom of the sea, and Astrin did not mention it again.

Once Astrin said, as they walked through the gentle, constant fall of dead oak leaves, "I should take you to Caithnard. It's just a day's journey south of these woods. Perhaps someone knows you there." But Morgon only looked at him blankly, as if Caithnard lay in some strange land at the bottom of the sea, and Astrin did not mention it again.

He said, as Morgon put out his torch underfoot and went to help him, "I'm all right." His face was mist-colored in the light from the window; he flung an arm around Morgon heavily, and together they stumbled across the threshold, Astrin sat down on the pallet. His hands were scratched raw; his hair was tangled with sea spray. He held his right hand against his side and would not move it, until Morgon, watching the dark stain bloom under his fingers, made a harsh noise of protest. Astrin's head dropped back on the pallet; his hand slid down. He whispered as Morgon ripped a seam open, "Don't. I'm short of clothes. He saw me first, but I killed him. Then he fell in the sea, and I had to dive for him among the rocks and tide, or they would have found him. I buried him in the sand. They won't find him there. He was made ... He was shaped out of seaweed and foam and wet pearl, and the sword was of darkness and silver water. It bit me and flew away like a bird. If Xel hadn't warned me, I would be dead. If I hadn't turned..." He flinched as Morgon touched his side with a wet cloth. Then he was silent, his teeth locked, his eyes closed, while Morgon washed the shallow wound gently, closed it and bound it with strips from his dry robe. He heated wine; Astrin drank it and his shivering stopped. He lay back again. "Thank you. Xel... thank you. If Xel comes back, let her in."

He said, as Morgon put out his torch underfoot and went to help him, "I'm all right." His face was mist-colored in the light from the window; he flung an arm around Morgon heavily, and together they stumbled across the threshold, Astrin sat down on the pallet. His hands were scratched raw; his hair was tangled with sea spray. He held his right hand against his side and would not move it, until Morgon, watching the dark stain bloom under his fingers, made a harsh noise of protest. Astrin's head dropped back on the pallet; his hand slid down. He whispered as Morgon ripped a seam open, "Don't. I'm short of clothes. He saw me first, but I killed him. Then he fell in the sea, and I had to dive for him among the rocks and tide, or they would have found him. I buried him in the sand. They won't find him there. He was made ... He was shaped out of seaweed and foam and wet pearl, and the sword was of darkness and silver water. It bit me and flew away like a bird. If Xel hadn't warned me, I would be dead. If I hadn't turned..." He flinched as Morgon touched his side with a wet cloth. Then he was silent, his teeth locked, his eyes closed, while Morgon washed the shallow wound gently, closed it and bound it with strips from his dry robe. He heated wine; Astrin drank it and his shivering stopped. He lay back again. "Thank you. Xel... thank you. If Xel comes back, let her in."

Morgon's hands touched his mouth. He nodded, his eyes holding Astrin's, and Astrin drew a breath. "All right. Sit down. Sit quietly. The first step is to become as the stone..."

Morgon, left to his own in the hollow, singing city, wandered through the roofless halls and wall-less chambers, between piles of broken stones rooted deep to the earth by long grass. The winds sped past like wild horses, pouring through empty rooms, thundering down the street to spiral the tower and moan through its secret chamber. Morgon, following them, drawn to the huge, bright structure, put one hand flat on its blue-black wall, one foot on its first step. The gold steps curved away from him; the winds pushed at him like children, tumbled past him. He turned away after a moment, went to find Astrin.

Astrin said little of the incident the next day. He moved stiffly, with a tight, sour expression that eased only when his eyes fell on Morgon's mute, worried face. They spent the day indoors, Astrin prowling through wizards' books like an animal scenting, and Morgon trying to wash and mend Astrin's robe while questions he could not ask struggled like trapped birds in the back of his throat.

Morgon heard him stirring at sunrise the next day and got up. The rain had stopped; the clouds hung broken above Wind Plain. They ate a breakfast of cold hare, wine and bread, then, carrying Astrin's tools, Xel following, they walked across the plain to the ancient, ruined city.

When the wind died finally, a silence dropped like thin fingers of moonlight across Wind Plain. The tower rose out of broken stone, whole and solitary, yielding nothing to the moon's eye. Morgon added wood to the fire, made a torch of an oak branch, and went outside. He heard heavy breathing suddenly from the side of the house, an odd, dragging step. He turned and saw Astrin hunched against the wall of the house.

Astrin said, "Wind Tower. No man has ever been to the top of it... no wizard either. Aloil tried; he walked up its stairs for seven days and seven nights and never reached the end of them. I've tried, many times. I think at the top of that tower there must lie the answer to questions so old we've forgotten to ask them. Who were the Earth-Masters?What terrible thing happened to them that destroyed them and their cities? I play like a child among the bones of it, finding a fine Stone here, a broken plate there, hoping that one day I find a key to the mystery of it, the beginning of an answer. ... I took a chip off these great stones also to Danan Isig; he said he knew of no place in the High One's realm where they quarried such stone."He touched Morgon briefly, to get his eyes. "I'll be there, in that chamber without a roof. Join me when you wish."

Morgon's hands touched his mouth. He nodded, his eyes holding Astrin's, and Astrin drew a breath. "All right. Sit down. Sit quietly. The first step is to become as the stone..."

Morgon found a few days later a cache of lovely red and purple glass in a corner of the chamber they were working in. He took the fragments to Astrin's house, brushed off the dirt and puzzled over them. It rained heavily the next day; they could not go out. The small house smelled damp, and the fire smoked. Xel prowled restlessly, wailing complaints every now and then to Astrin, who sat murmuring over a spell-book he could not open. Morgon, some rough paste Astrin had made in front of him, began to fit together, piece by piece, the shards of glass.

Astrin said little of the incident the next day. He moved stiffly, with a tight, sour expression that eased only when his eyes fell on Morgon's mute, worried face. They spent the day indoors, Astrin prowling through wizards' books like an animal scenting, and Morgon trying to wash and mend Astrin's robe while questions he could not ask struggled like trapped birds in the back of his throat.

Once Astrin said, as they walked through the gentle, constant fall of dead oak leaves, "I should take you to Caithnard. It's just a day's journey south of these woods. Perhaps someone knows you there." But Morgon only looked at him blankly, as if Caithnard lay in some strange land at the bottom of the sea, and Astrin did not mention it again.

Morgon, left to his own in the hollow, singing city, wandered through the roofless halls and wall-less chambers, between piles of broken stones rooted deep to the earth by long grass. The winds sped past like wild horses, pouring through empty rooms, thundering down the street to spiral the tower and moan through its secret chamber. Morgon, following them, drawn to the huge, bright structure, put one hand flat on its blue-black wall, one foot on its first step. The gold steps curved away from him; the winds pushed at him like children, tumbled past him. He turned away after a moment, went to find Astrin.

Morgon heard him stirring at sunrise the next day and got up. The rain had stopped; the clouds hung broken above Wind Plain. They ate a breakfast of cold hare, wine and bread, then, carrying Astrin's tools, Xel following, they walked across the plain to the ancient, ruined city.

Morgon's hands touched his mouth. He nodded, his eyes holding Astrin's, and Astrin drew a breath. "All right. Sit down. Sit quietly. The first step is to become as the stone..."

Morgon sat down on the stool. Astrin, standing across from him, grew still, a dark shape in the flickering light. Morgon felt an odd shifting in the room, as if another vision of the same room had superimposed itself over his own, and refocused slightly. Odd pieces of thought rose in his mind: the plain he had looked at, Xel's face, the skins he had hung to dry. Then there was nothing but a long darkness and a withdrawal.

He slept motionlessly, exhausted, waking only once near dawn, when Xel came whining to the door, and Morgon sleepless by the fire, rose to open it for the wet, bedraggled huntress.

What is it? Did you find something?

He said, as Morgon put out his torch underfoot and went to help him, "I'm all right." His face was mist-colored in the light from the window; he flung an arm around Morgon heavily, and together they stumbled across the threshold, Astrin sat down on the pallet. His hands were scratched raw; his hair was tangled with sea spray. He held his right hand against his side and would not move it, until Morgon, watching the dark stain bloom under his fingers, made a harsh noise of protest. Astrin's head dropped back on the pallet; his hand slid down. He whispered as Morgon ripped a seam open, "Don't. I'm short of clothes. He saw me first, but I killed him. Then he fell in the sea, and I had to dive for him among the rocks and tide, or they would have found him. I buried him in the sand. They won't find him there. He was made ... He was shaped out of seaweed and foam and wet pearl, and the sword was of darkness and silver water. It bit me and flew away like a bird. If Xel hadn't warned me, I would be dead. If I hadn't turned..." He flinched as Morgon touched his side with a wet cloth. Then he was silent, his teeth locked, his eyes closed, while Morgon washed the shallow wound gently, closed it and bound it with strips from his dry robe. He heated wine; Astrin drank it and his shivering stopped. He lay back again. "Thank you. Xel... thank you. If Xel comes back, let her in."

When the wind died finally, a silence dropped like thin fingers of moonlight across Wind Plain. The tower rose out of broken stone, whole and solitary, yielding nothing to the moon's eye. Morgon added wood to the fire, made a torch of an oak branch, and went outside. He heard heavy breathing suddenly from the side of the house, an odd, dragging step. He turned and saw Astrin hunched against the wall of the house.

He slept motionlessly, exhausted, waking only once near dawn, when Xel came whining to the door, and Morgon sleepless by the fire, rose to open it for the wet, bedraggled huntress.

Morgon, watching from the hearth as he struggled with needle and seam, made a questioning sound. Astrin, a hand to his side, turned to add wood to the fire for their evening meal. He paused a moment, to drop one hand on Morgon's shoulder. "I am glad you were here last night. If there is anything I can possibly do for you, I will do it."

Walking home at dusk, their finds carefully wrapped in old cloth, Astrin said to him, "You are so patient here. Perhaps you belong here, working among these forgotten things, in silence. And you accept my strange ways so unquestioningly, as though you can't remember how men do live with one another.. .." He paused a moment, then went on slowly, as if remembering himself, "I haven't always been alone. I grew up in Caerweddin, with Heureu, and the sons of our father's High Lords, in the beautiful, noisey house Galil Ymris made out of the Earth-Master's stones. Heureu and I were close then, like shadows of each other. That was before we quarrelled." He shrugged the words away as Morgon looked at him. "It makes no difference here. I'll never go back to Caerweddin, and Heureu will never come here. I had just forgotten that once I wasn't alone. You forget easily."

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