Authors: Randall Garrett
The Bronze of Eddarta
Copyright © 1983 by Randall Garrett and Vicki Ann Heydron.
All rights reserved.
Published as an e-book in 2014 by Jabberwocky Literary Agency, Inc.
Cover design by Tara O'Shea
Images © Dreamstine
Ah, it is you. Is it time to begin once more?
If it suits you, Recorder.
And your shoulder?
The pain of the remembered wound has faded, as you said it would. I feel quite well again, and ready to continue.
Then be comfortable, and we will prepare by reviewing the material you have already given to the All-Mind.
You spoke of the uniting of two lives, one nearly ended, one barely begun. You were Ricardo Carillo, in a world outside the Walls of Gandalara. You saw a fireball, which you call a meteor, and after an undetermined period of unconsciousness, you awoke in Gandalara, sharing the body—and some of the memories—of a young man named Markasset.
And sharing his telepathic bond with a member of Gandalara’s intelligent feline species, a sha’um.
Markasset’s father, Thanasset, was implicated in the theft of a political treasure, a jewel called the Ra’ira.
At first, I wanted only to prove that Thanasset—a man I liked and respected as soon as I met him—was innocent. Later, however, I accepted the task of recovering the gem and returning it to its protected place in Raithskar.
A duty you shouldered reluctantly.
That’s a little unfair, Recorder. I had no idea, at first, that the Ra’ira was anything more than an ordinary, if uncommonly valuable, gemstone. In Ricardo’s world, such beautiful jewels had often been surrounded with a mystique of charm or danger. I assumed that the Ra’ira had attracted a connection with the transfer of political power.
I meant no implication of blame. I Record; I do not judge.
And I must apologize for my short temper. The fact is, I suppose, that I blame myself. Perhaps if I hadn’t spent so much time trying to avoid responsibility for the Ra’ira …
Such speculation is useless to the All-Mind.
Of course it is. Again, my apologies.
In any case, when you discovered the true nature of the Ra’ira, you didn’t hesitate to commit yourself to its recovery.
By then, I felt I had no choice. Only a few people knew how dangerous the Ra’ira could be. It was a telepathic tool, a transmitter which could amplify the native mind-talent of a Gandalaran. The ancient Kings had used the Ra’ira to keep absolute control over Gandalara.
You shiver. Are you cold?
The image of the old Kingdom makes me shudder. Ricardo had some experience with societies in which expressing an opinion that disagreed with governmental precepts could send an individual into confinement, or worse. The concept of watching every word you say is appalling enough, but under the corrupt Kings, your very thoughts could betray disloyalty or discontent. I hadn’t quite believed Thanasset when he told me that the slaves, sent as tribute to the last Kings, never rebelled against their lot. Once I understood about the Ra’ira, I could see how fearful they must have been … how demoralized … how utterly without hope.
You said you felt you had no choice but to pursue the Ra’ira. Was it because of your sympathy for the ancient slaves?
Yes, and because somebody had to do it. Thymas and Tarani and I were convinced that we had been brought together for the purpose of opposing Gharlas’s insane plan to reconstruct the Kingdom. If he tried, we were sure he would succeed only in creating a civil war that would destroy and demoralize Gandalara. We weren’t sure we could stop him—but we knew we had to try to return the Ra’ira to the protective custody of the Council of Supervisors in Raithskar.
Are you ready to continue the Record?
I am ready, Recorder.
Then make your mind one with mine, as I have made mine one with the All-Mind …
I was on my way back to Volitar’s old workshop. I had been to the market area of the city to “mail” some letters and buy a map. Both letters were already on their way to Raithskar—one by caravan, the other tied to the leg of a
, the fast-flying message bird of Gandalara.
Caravans could move no faster than their
, the goat-size pack animals that were only slightly more stupid than stubborn. It would take Illia’s “Dear Jane” letter nearly fifty days to reach her. It was possible—not likely, but possible—that I could be back in Raithskar with the Ra’ira before she got that letter, and I approved of that idea.
Illia had loved Markasset, and his memory of that relationship made Illia very special to me. I felt I owed it to her to tell her, in person, that I couldn’t just settle into the ordinary domestic life she and Markasset might have shared.
It was also possible that I wouldn’t get back to Raithskar alive. That’s why I had written the letter—it was better than letting her believe that I hadn’t thought of her at all after our sweet farewell.
Thanasset would receive his letter in only a few days, the bird-handler had assured me. His maufa wouldn’t take it directly to Raithskar, because he couldn’t direct a bird to a place where he, himself, had never been. His maufa would take the message to another
in Chizan, who would send it with one of his own birds.
I had watched, fascinated, while the old man had held the small gray-green bird in front of his face. He had laid his forefinger against its white bill, and stared into one bright eye for a few seconds before flinging it up into the air. I watched the bird fly, the thin strip of leather trailing after it, until it was out of sight.
That’s another kind of mind skill
, I realized.
Like a Recorder’s conscious link with the collective memory of the All-Mind. Like a Rider’s telepathic bond with his sha’um. Those skills are—well, not common. But accepted, at least.
It’s the “mindpower,” the ability to influence another persons mind, that’s scary. Tarani has it, and it scares her. Gharlas has it, and HE scares ME. I have some resistance to his power because I’m “double-minded,” and it’s non-Gandalaran Ricardo who controls Markasset’s body and memories. But even I’m not immune to it. The sooner we take Gharlas out of action, the better.
The letter to Thanasset told him, in guarded terms, what I was doing. He was one of the Supervisors, and he knew what the Ra’ira was. He had tried to get me appointed to the Council so that I could be told the truth. My message to him was, essentially: “I understand. I’ll bring it back.”
When the bird had finally disappeared, I had gone to several letterers, looking for a map that would tell me where Eddarta was. Markasset had only the vaguest notion, which didn’t surprise me. His interests had been more physical than scholarly—a trait which had saved “our” life more than once.
I was delighted to find a map which showed
of Gandalara, and with that important piece of parchment folded and tucked into my belt, I started the climb back to Tarani and Thymas.
Dyskornis sprawled across the feet of the rising hills which supported three tiers of glassmaking workshops, built out from steep slopes so as to make annual replacement of the breakable firebowls under the glass kilns practical. Further down the hill, a smaller, noisier city catered to the trade of transients. Beyond that lay marked lots planted with the hard-wooded trees that provided glassmakers with heat during one work season, and ash for the glass mix in the next.
Following the road, I walked between open fields with their grasslike ground cover. A writhing shape of tan, bright against the green, caught my eye—Keeshah, rolling in the glossy field.
Come here, and I’ll scratch that itch for you,
* I invited him.
He rolled once more, then stood up from the greenery. He was more than ten yards away from me, but I could see the glint of his tusks as his lips pulled back from a huge yawn. He came toward me slowly, and I left the road to meet him halfway. I was fascinated by the ripple of muscle across his broad chest, which was almost on the same level as my shoulder. When we met, I reached under the massive wedge of his head to scratch his chest first.
* he told me. He laid his bulk on the ground and rolled half over.
Hey, I thought it was your back that itched,
* I thought though I put both hands to work, combing torn plants out of the thick, pale fur on the sha’um’s belly.
* he complained. *
Don’t like this place.
When we leave, Keeshah, we’ll be on the road for a long time. How are your wounds doing?
Following the directions of my hands and mind, he rolled over to his stomach and crouched patiently while I searched through his fur for the remnants of the scratches and gouges he had taken during his fight with the other sha’um. They were no more than faint lines in the newly healed skin.
I was surprised, but in the next instant I reminded myself that Tarani’s gift of healing sleep had shortened my own recovery by at least half. I flexed my right shoulder; all that remained of the double stab wound was a twinge, and even that seemed noticeably less sharp than it had yesterday.
A far-off rumbling sound washed down the hillside to us, and Keeshah and I both looked up toward Volitar’s workshop. Standing half in, half out of the downslope shade was Thymas’s sha’um, Ronar. He looked in our direction for a moment, then paced into the light, paused, turned, and paced back into shadow.
Was that comment directed at us?
* I asked Keeshah.
His mind closed down around that answer, as it always did when he discussed the other sha’um—or, for that matter, the sha’um’s master. I scratched idly where Keeshah liked it the most, just at the base of his neck, while I watched the other cat pacing.
As far as I had learned in Gandalara, the direct mind-to-mind communication which Keeshah and I shared was a unique bond between a sha’um and his Rider. I had talked with Tarani about her link with the huge white bird who had been with her for four years. It was a limited kind of communication, consisting only of images, and requiring intense concentration. It also seemed hard for the maufel to give his instructions to his bird. Keeshah and I maintained a constant, nearly subconscious link. Intense emotions, especially fear or anger, flowed readily along that link. Conversation required a conscious decision, but not much effort.
Among themselves, sha’um used vocal and physical signals, and except for rare people like Tarani and Gharlas, the Gandalarans had to depend on voice and attitude. But Riders had a special … well, sometimes it might be considered a handicap. No matter what a man pretended, or really wanted to believe, his true feelings were mirrored in the action of his sha’um.
Tarani had been the one to tell me that. Ronar had refused to allow her to ride him, but Keeshah had accepted her as second rider without hesitation. She had pointed out that their behavior reflected our attitudes, and there was no denying the truth of it.