City of sorcery, p.1
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       City of Sorcery, p.1

         Part #19 of Darkover series by Marion Zimmer Bradley
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City of Sorcery


  Marion Zimmer Bradley

  A Darkover novel - Renunciates 03

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  A 3S digital back-up edition 1.0

  click for scan notes and proofing history

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  A Note from the Author:

  This novel, like all Darkover novels, is complete in itself. However, for those who have followed the chronology of Darkover, City of Sorcery takes place approximately seven years after Thendara House, at a time when Terran and Darkovan relationships were at their most friendly; a period which lasted until the time when Dorilys Aillard, known as Cleindori, achieved status as Keeper in Arilinn Tower. Her martyrdom, murder, and the subsequent swing to extreme conservatism under the Regency of Danvan Hastur, ended this period of friendly relations between the two societies, and by the time of The Bloody Sun, few Terrans and fewer Darkovans even remembered that there had been years when Terran and Darkovan had co-existed on such amiable terms.

  One of the few who remembered, afterward, that there had been such a time was Magdalen Lorne, of Terran Intelligence; otherwise known as Margali n’Tsabet, Free Amazon, Comhi’letziis; Oath-bound of the Guild of Renunciates.

  —M. Z. B.

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  Darkover LandFall

  The Spell Sword

  The Heritage of Hastur

  The Shattered Chain

  The Forbidden Tower


  Two to Conquer


  Hunters of the Red Moon

  Sharra’s Exile

  Thendara House

  With The Friends of Darkover:

  Sword of Chaos

  The Keeper’s Price

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  1633 Broadway, New York, NY 10019

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  Copyright ©, 1984, by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

  All Rights Reserved.

  Cover art by James Gurney.

  DAW Book Collectors’ Number 600

  First Printing, October 1984

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  To Donald A. Wollheim

  This, as all my books

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  Although every character and event in this novel is entirely my own invention, the theme and structure of the story were suggested by a novel by the late Talbot Mundy; THE DEVIL’S GUARD, copyright 1926 by the Ridgeway Company. I read it in 1945 or thereabout, and have felt for many years that this kind of Ideal Search or Quest novel should be retold in a Darkovan context

  Also my grateful thanks to my elder son, David Bradley, for preparation of the final manuscript. David went above and beyond the call of duty by retyping, at an hour’s notice, from a very imperfect print, the first 15 chapters into a second word processor after the first one had blown up in my face, losing all the early disks and backups. This is why Darkovans are said to hate technology. And thanks to my secretary, Elisabeth Waters, who gave up the use of her word processor for three weeks so that we could finish the book on time.

  —M. Z. B.

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  ^ »

  The messenger was a woman, and though she was wearing Darkovan clothing, she was not Darkovan, and not accustomed to the streets of Thendara’s Old Town at night. She walked warily, reminding herself that respectable women were seldom molested in the streets if they minded their own business, acted and looked as if they had somewhere to go; did not loiter, kept moving.

  She had learned this lesson so well that she strode along briskly even through the marketplace, looking neither to one side nor the other, keeping her eyes straight ahead.

  The red sun of Cottman Four, informally called the Bloody Sun by Terran Empire spaceport workers, lingered at the rim of the horizon, casting a pleasant red-umber twilight. A single moon, like a pale violet shadow in the sky, hung high and waning. In the marketplace, the vendors were closing the front shutters of their stalls. A fried-fish seller was scooping up the last small crispy crumbs from her kettle, watched by a few stray cats; she scattered the crumbs, provoking a cat-scrimmage underfoot, which she watched, amused, for a moment before she hoisted the kettle on its side, straining the fat through several layers of cloth. Close by, a saddlemaker slammed down the front shutters of his stall and padlocked them shut.

  Prosperous, thought the Terran woman in Darkovan clothing. He can afford a Terran metal lock. Darkover, Cottman Four to the Terrans, was a metal-poor planet. Other vendors were tying their shutters down with ropes and cords and trusting to the night watchman to notice any unauthorized person fumbling with the ropes. A baker was doing a haphazard business selling the last few stale buns in her stall; she looked up as the Terran messenger passed with her quick stride.

  “Hey there! Vanessa n’ha Yllana, where are you going in such a rush?”

  Vanessa was moving so swiftly that she had gone several steps past the baker’s stall before she really heard the words. She stopped and came back, smiling tentatively at the plump woman who was making change for a small boy with a bun in his fist.

  “Sherna,” she acknowledged, “I didn’t see you. ”

  “I could have imagined that,” said the baker with a grin. “Striding along as if you were on your way to exterminate a colony of banshees, at the least, my dear! Have a bun?” When Vanessa hesitated, she urged, “Go on, take one, there’s no sense in hauling this lot all the way back to the Guild-house; it’s not as if there were enough left for everyone to have one at supper!”

  Thus urged, Vanessa picked up one of the leftover buns and bit into it. It was hearty, made with nut-flour to eke out the grain, and sweet with dried fruits. She stood nibbling, moving automatically to one side as the stall-keeper a few feet away began to bumble about with a broom, sweeping the front of his shop.

  “Were you going to the Guild-house, or on some other errand?” Sherna asked.

  “To the Guild-house,” Vanessa admitted. “I should have thought to come here at once so that I could go through the streets with you.” Secretly she was annoyed at herself; where had her mind been?

  “Good,” Sherna said. “You can help me carry the baskets. But tonight is not a Bridge meeting, is it?”

  “Oh, no, no, not that I remember,” Vanessa said, picking up one of the breadbaskets. “I have a message for Margali n’ha Ysabet. I cannot see why the Guildmothers refuse to have a communicator in the Guild-house; it would save sending messengers through the streets this way, especially after dark. ”

  Sherna smiled indulgently. “You Terranan ,” she said, laughing. “So that the noise of the thing can invade our privacy in season and out, to save a messenger the trouble of walking a few minutes’ walk in good weather? Ah, your poor abused feet, my heart aches for the lazy things!”

  “The weather isn’t always so good,” Vanessa protested, but the argument was an old one, habitual between the women, and the protests were good-natured.

  Both women were members of the Bridge Society, Penta Cori’yo, which had been formed a few years ago, when members of the Free Amazons—Comhi’ Letziis, the Guild of Renunciates—had been the first Darkovans to offer themselves for work in the Terran Headquarters; as medical technicians, as mountain guides and travel-advisers, as translators and language teachers. The Bridge Society offered a home, a place to live, friends among Darkovan women; for Terrans who agreed to live by Renunciate laws, but could not commit themselves fully
to the Guild-house, there was even a specially modified form of the Oath. The Bridge maintained homelike quarters for Darkovan women, mostly Renunciates, required by their work to live in the Terran HQ.

  It was open to any Darkovan woman who had worked for three of the forty-day moon cycles in the Terran HQ or any Terran woman who spent the same time within a Guild-house. Sherna n’ha Marya, a Renunciate from Thendara Guild-house, had worked half a year as a translator, helping to compile standard works in casta and cahuenga, the two languages of Darkover. Vanessa ryn Erin, a graduate of the Terran Intelligence Academy on Alpha, had now been four years on Darkover, and had lived in the Guild-house most of the last year, preparing for field work outside Headquarters.

  Sherna handed the last of the sweet buns to a woman with a small child in her arms, another clutching her skirt. “Take them for the little ones. No, no,” she protested as the woman began to fumble for coins, “they’d only go into the pail for the hens. So, Vanessa, we managed that well, only two loaves to carry back, and the kitchen-women can make us a bread-pudding with them. ”

  “Are we ready to go back to the Guild-house, then?”

  “There’s no hurry,” Sherna said, and Vanessa had been on Darkover long enough not to protest, despite the urgency of her errand. She helped Sherna tie up the front shutters of the bake-stall in leisurely fashion, and collect the scattered baskets.

  There was a sudden flurry of activity at one of the gates visible from the marketplace, and a caravan of pack animals clattered over the stones. A cluster of small children playing king-of-the-mountain from the top of an abandoned stall scampered out of the way. A tall, thin woman, clad in the ordinary garb of a Renunciate, loose tunic and trousers tucked into low boots, carrying an Amazon knife as long as a short sword, strode toward them.

  “Rafi,” Sherna greeted her. “I didn’t know you’d be back tonight. ”

  “Neither did I,” said Rafaella n’ha Doria. “These people have been bumbling about the pass for three days. I think the pack animals smelled home, or they’d still be wandering up there looking at the green grass growing and hunting for mushrooms on apple trees. Let me go and pick up my pay. I’d have left them at the city gates, but I’m sure they’d have lost themselves between here and their stables, judging by the way they’ve behaved all along. And Zandru whip me with scorpions if I ever again accept a commission before it’s firmly understood who’s bossing the trail! Believe me—I could tell you some stories—” She hurried off to talk briefly with the head of the caravan. Some money changed hands. Vanessa saw Rafaella carefully stop to count it—even the Terran woman knew what an insult that was, in an open marketplace. Then Rafi came back to them; greeted Vanessa with a casual nod, swung the last of the wicker breadbaskets to her shoulder, and the three women set off together through the cobbled streets.

  “What are you doing here, Vanessa? News from HQ?”

  “Not much,” Vanessa said evasively. “One of our planes from Map and Ex is down in the Hellers. ”

  “Maybe there will be work for us, then,” Rafaella said. “Last year, when they sent us out on a salvage contract for a downed plane, there was plenty for everyone to do.” Rafaella was a travel-organizer, and was in considerable demand among Terrans who must venture into the little-known and trackless mountains of the northern Domains.

  “I don’t know if that’s what they have in mind. I don’t think it’s where anyone can salvage it,” Vanessa said. The women walked along silently through one of the quieter streets of the city, and paused before a large building of stone, turning a windowless front wall on the street. A small placard on the front door said:



  Sherna and Vanessa were laden with the baskets; Rafaella alone had a free hand to ring the bell. In the front hall, a heavily pregnant woman let them in, closing and locking the door after them. “Oh, Vanessa, is it the night for the Bridge Society? I had forgotten.” But she gave Vanessa no chance to answer. “Rafi, your daughter is here!”

  “I thought Doria was still busy among the Terranan,” said Rafaella, not very graciously. “What is she doing here, Laurinda?”

  “She is giving a lecture, with the box which makes lighted pictures on the wall, to seven women who are to be trained as healing assistants, beginning next tenday,” said Laurinda. “ ‘Nurses,’ the Terranan call them, isn’t that a funny word? It sounds as if they were going to work breast-feeding Terranan babies, and that’s not what they’re being trained for at all. Just caring for the sick and bedridden, and looking after wounds and the like. They must be nearly finished now; you could go in and speak to her. ”

  Vanessa asked, “Is Margali n’ha Ysabet within the house? I am here with a message for her. ”

  “You are fortunate,” the woman said, “she is to set out tomorrow morning for Armida, with Jaelle n’ha Melora. They would have gone today, before noon, but one of the horses cast a shoe and by the time the smith had done with her work, it was threatening rain; so they put off their departure till tomorrow. ”

  “If Jaelle is still in the house,” Rafaella said, “I should like to speak with her. ”

  “She is helping Doria with the lecture; we all know she has worked among the Terranan,” Laurinda said.

  “Why don’t you look inside and see? They’re in the music room. ”

  “I will go and put away my baskets first,” said Sherna, but Vanessa followed Rafaella toward the music room at the back of the building, and opened the door, quietly slipping inside.

  A young woman, her hair cropped Renunciate style, was just finishing a slide lecture; she ticked off several points on her fingers, clicking off a colored slide as the women entered.

  “You will be expected to write accurately; they will expect you to read well, and to remember what you read, and to write it down precisely. You will be given preparatory lectures in anatomy, in personal hygiene, in scientific observation and how to record what you observe, before ever you are allowed even to bring a patient a tray of food or a bedpan. You will work as assistants and aides, helping the qualified nurses to care for patients, from the very first day of your lectures; and as soon as you are taught any nursing procedures you will be allowed to do them at once on the wards. Not until your second half year of training will you be allowed to assist the surgeons, or to study midwifery. It is hard, dirty work, but I found it very satisfying, and I think you will too. Any questions?”

  One of the young women curled up on the floor listening raised her hand.

  “Mirella n’ha Anjali?”

  “Why must we have lessons in personal hygiene? Do those Terrans think that Darkovan people are dirty or slovenly, that they must teach us this?”

  “You must not take it personally,” said Doria. “Even their own women must learn new and different ways of cleanliness when they study nursing; cleanliness for everyday use, and surgical cleanliness for when they must work around people who are very ill, or who have unhealed wounds, or are exposed to disease germs and contagion, are not at all the same, as you will learn. ”

  Another woman asked, “I have heard that the uniforms—” she stumbled over the unfamiliar word, “worn by the Terran workers are as immodest as the wear of a prostitute. Must we wear them, and will it violate our Oath?”

  Doria indicated the white tunic and trousers she was wearing. She said, “Customs differ. Their standards of modesty are different from ours. But the Bridge Society has been successful in creating a compromise. Darkovan women employed by Medic wear a special uniform designed not to offend our standards, and it’s so comfortable and warm that many of the Terran nurses have chosen to adopt it. And before you ask, the symbol on the breast of the uniform—” She indicated the red emblem, a staff with entwined snakes. “It’s a very old Terran symbol indicating Medical service. You will be expected to know a dozen such symbols in order to find your way around the HQ. ”

  “What does it mean?” one young girl, not more
than fifteen, asked.

  “I asked my own teacher this. It is supposed to be the symbol of a very old Terran God of Healing. No one now worships him, but the symbol has remained. Any other questions?”

  “I have heard,” said one woman, “that the Terrans are licentious, that they regard Darkovan women as being—being like the women of the spaceport bars. Is this true? Must we carry knives to protect ourselves there?”

  Doria chuckled. She said, “Jaelle n’ha Melora lived among them for a time. 1 will let her answer that. ”

  A small woman with flaming red hair stood up at the back of the room. “I cannot speak for all Terran men,” she said, “even among the Gods, Zandru and Aldones have not the same attributes, and a cristoforo monk behaves differently than a farmer in the Valeron plains. There are boorish men and roughnecks among the Terrans as well as on the streets of Thendara. But I can assure you that among the Terrans in the Medic Department, you need not fear discourtesy or molestation; their Medics are sworn by oath to treat everyone, patients of professional associates, with proper courtesy. In fact, it may disturb you that they will not seem to take any note of whether you are a man, a woman, or a piece of machinery, but will treat you as if you were novice Keepers. As for carrying knives, it is not the custom among the Terrans, and you will not be allowed to bring any weapons for defense into the Medic Department. But then, the Terrans will not be carrying them either: it is forbidden by their regulations. The only knives you will see anywhere in Medic are the surgeon’s scalpels. Are there any other questions?”

  Vanessa realized that the questions could go on until the bell rang for the evening meal. She said, from where she stood by the door, “I have a question. Is Margali n’ha Ysabet within this room?”


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