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datatime: 2022-09-30 16:37:20 Author:hLzPELEi

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.

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, 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.

Astrin moved, the fire reflected strangely in his eyes. He whispered, "There was nothing. It is as though you have no name. I couldn't reach the place where you have your name and your past hidden from yourself. It's deep, deep..." He stopped as Morgon rose. His hands closed tight on Astrin's arms; he shook Astrin a little, imperatively, and Astrin said, "I'll try. But I've never met a man so hidden from himself. There must be other spells; I'll look. But I don't know why you care so much. It must be the essence of peace, having no name, no memory. ... All right. I'll keep looking. Be patient."

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 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 worked all day at Astrin's side, digging quietly in a little room whose floor was sunk beneath the earth, crumbling the earth in his hands, searching it for bits of metal, glass, pottery. Once, his hands full of the moist black earth, he caught the strong, good smell of it, and something leaped in him, longing, responding. He made a sound without knowing it. Astrin looked up.

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..."

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.

What is it? Did you find something?

He looked up as Astrin said irritably, "Xel, be quiet. I've run out of words. Yrth was the most powerful of the wizards after the Founder, and he locked his books too well."

Astrin came out of his grim thoughts, finally, near sunset. He closed a book with a sigh, its iron bonds locking automatically, and said, staring out at the plain, "I should tell Heureu." Then his hand snapped down flat on the book and closed. He whispered, "No. Let him see with his own eyes. The land is his business. Let him put his own name to this. He drove me out of Caerweddin five years ago for speaking the truth; why should I go back?"

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.

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.

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.

Somewhere in here is the spell that made the stone talk on King's Mouth Plain. Do you know that tale? Aloil was furious with Galil Ymris because the king refused to follow Aloil's advice during a seige of Caer-weddin, and as a result Aloil's tower was burned. So Aloil made a stone in the plain above Caerweddin speak for eight days and nights in such a loud voice that men as far as Umber and Meremont heard it, and the stone recited all Galil's secret, very bad attempts at writing poetry. From that the plain got its name. He glanced up to see Morgon's smile. He straightened. "I haven't talked so much in a month. Xel can't laugh. You make me remember I'm human. I forget that sometimes, except when Rork Umber is here, and then I remember, all too well, who I am." He looked down, turned a page. "Here it is. Now if I can read his handwriting..." He was silent a few moments, while Morgon read over his shoulder and the candlelight spattered over the page. Astrin turned to him finally. He held Morgon gently by the arms and said slowly, "I think if this spell can make a stone speak, it may make you speak. I haven't done much mind-work; I've gone into Xel's mind, and once into Rork's, with his permission. If you are afraid, I won't do this. But perhaps if I go deep enough, I can find your name. Do you want me to try?"

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.

What is it? Did you find something?

Astrin moved, the fire reflected strangely in his eyes. He whispered, "There was nothing. It is as though you have no name. I couldn't reach the place where you have your name and your past hidden from yourself. It's deep, deep..." He stopped as Morgon rose. His hands closed tight on Astrin's arms; he shook Astrin a little, imperatively, and Astrin said, "I'll try. But I've never met a man so hidden from himself. There must be other spells; I'll look. But I don't know why you care so much. It must be the essence of peace, having no name, no memory. ... All right. I'll keep looking. Be patient."

Astrin sat down with a sigh beside him. He said abruptly, "You are as secret as Wind Tower. I've been here five years in exile from Caerweddin. I speak to Xel, to an old man I buy fish from in Loor, to occasional traders, and to Rork, High Lord of Umber, who visits me every few months. By day I go digging out of curiosity in the great ruined city of the Earth-Masters on Wind Plain. By night, I dig in other directions, sometimes in books of wizardry I've learned to open, sometimes out there in the darkness above Loor, by the sea. I take Xel with me, and we watch something that is building on the shores of Ymris under night cover, something for which there is no name... But I can't go tonight; the tide will be rough in this wind, and Xel hates the rain." He paused a moment. "Your eyes look at me as though you understand everything I'm saying. I wish I knew your name. I wish..." His voice trailed away; his eyes stayed, speculative, on Morgon's face.

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.

What is it? Did you find something?

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 looked up as Astrin said irritably, "Xel, be quiet. I've run out of words. Yrth was the most powerful of the wizards after the Founder, and he locked his books too well."

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