LoG 2 Liar's Oath, p.1Moon, Elizabeth
Books by Elizabeth Moon
The Legacy of Gird
--2 Liar’s Oath (1992)
The Legacy of Gird
--2 Liar’s Oath (1992)--
This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.
The Legacy of Gird has been published in two parts as Surrender None, copyright © 1990 by Elizabeth Moon, and Liar’s Oath, copyright © 1992 by Elizabeth Moon.
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form.
A Baen Books Original
Baen Publishing Enterprises P.O. Box 1403 Riverdale, NY 10471 www.baen.com
Cover art is a computer-generated composite from the art for Surrender None, by Larry Elmore, and Liar’s Oath, by Gary Ruddell
First printing, September 1996 Second printing, August 2000
Distributed by Simon & Schuster 1230 Avenue of the Americas New York, NY 10020
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
The legacy of gird / Elizabeth Moon. p. cm.
“A Baen Books original”—T.p. verso. ISBN 0-671-87747-X (trade pbk.) 1. Fantastic fiction, American. I. Title PS3563.0557L4 1996
Printed in the United States of America
The king—Falkieri Amrothlin Artfielan Phelani, once Duke Phelan of Tsaia and now ruler of Lyonya—sat before the fire, brooding, his fingers tented together before his face. “I have heirs enough now; my lands are safe. It is time to undo the damage my folk did long years since. Time to redress old grievances, time to bring ancient enemies together in peace.”
“Are you sure this is your task?” The woman stood by the fireplace, leaning one arm on the mantel; it shadowed her face, but the firelight brought out the gleam of silver in her belt, in the hilt of a dagger at her hip, and glinted from the crescent symbol of Gird that hung from a thong around her neck. And in shadow or sun or firelight, nothing dimmed the silver circle on her brow. Paksenarrion, paladin of Gird, the king’s friend and former soldier.
“I’m sure. My grandmother, that Lady you met, said the present ruin was in part my fault—I cannot argue. And the original problem, too, comes from my ancestors.” He gestured to the table behind him, with its litter of scrolls and books. “The Pargunese, in their rough way, have the right of it: they were free Seafolk, whom my ancestors sought to enslave—”
“As they had enslaved the Dzordanyans?”
“Perhaps. I don’t know that, but I do know—I am sure—that the Old Aareans routed the Seafolk from their homes. They came here, to the Honnorgat valley, and settled the north shore of the river as far up as they could sail or row—and then found themselves faced with the Aareans again, moving north from Aarenis.”
“A long time ago,” said Paksenarrion, frowning.
“Very long, for humans.” The king smiled briefly. He himself looked no older than she, though in truth he could have been her father; he had not seemed to age for a score of years. He would live as long again, or more: his elven mother’s inheritance. “But when I asked my lady grandmother, she confirmed the Pargunese account. They sailed upriver; the Tsaians and human Lyonyans came over the mountains. And a few have memories of complaints made then, and wars begun then. The Pargunese and Kostandanyans have quarrelled with Tsaians and Lyonyans as long as any human remembers. And now with Sofi Ganarrion’s heirs loose in Aarenis, with Fallo and Andressat at odds—”
“Not all that is your fault,” Paksenarrion said. She moved to the chair across the firelight from him and sat down. “Surely you know that.”
“As I know what is my fault,” he said. “A king must never excuse himself. Gird would say that.”
“Gird did,” she said wryly, with a grin. “But how will you proceed?”
He stared at the fire, as if it had answers to give. “I must find some way to convince the southerners that I do represent Old Aare as well as the north. You remember Andressat: those old lords believe no northern title. If it were possible to find some buried talisman, some ancient relic…”
“Is a sword worth more than a swordsman?” Paksenarrion rested in her chair as if weightless; no hawk ever had more vigilant eyes.
“No, but I’m not likely to find a convenient army of Aareans ensorceled for an age, ready to my command—” He stopped abruptly; she had held up her hand. Her face seemed closed a moment, then she grinned as happily as the young girl he remembered.
“Are you not? Can you doubt the gods’ influence, sir king, in asking me here?”
“I would never doubt the gods where you’re concerned, but what—?”
“Kolobia,” she said, Kolobia. His breath caught in his throat. Where she had been captured by iynisin, the elves’ cruel cousins who hated all living things, who corrupted the very stone by dwelling in it. Where she had lost what made her what she was, a paladin of Gird… he thought of what she had gone through to regain it and winced away from the memory. She shook her head, impatient with his sentiment. “Kolobia,” she said again, joyfully. “Luap’s Stronghold—the sleeping knights there—”
“But you told me they waited some god’s call to wake—”
“So Amberion said, when we found them. But as you know the Marshal-Generals have sent scholars there to read through their archives; they have not shared all they learned abroad. Those were not Gird’s closest followers, as we first thought, but mageborn, descendents of those lords against which Gird fought. And in their own time, they believed themselves descended from the lords of Old Aare.”
“Were they?” he asked.
She shrugged. “How can we know? We know what they said of themselves in their records, but not if they spoke truth—or even knew it.”
“And you think I should try to wake them?”
“I think you should ask the gods, and possibly your elven relatives. The scholars found as many mysteries as answers; they are not sure why the stronghold was founded, or why an end came—even what the end was. The records end abruptly, as if it came suddenly, or as if the writers expected no one to read their words again.”
The king stood and paced the length of the room without speaking. Then he came back to the table, and leaned on it, as if reading the maps and books thereon. She watched him, silent.
“I know the way,” he said finally. “I know, and cannot tell you, how to wake the sleepers… but without knowing why they sleep, and if some great power intended another awakening for them, dare I intrude?”
“The gods will tell you, if you
“And what of the iynisin in Kolobia?” he asked. “If I waken the sleepers, what about them?”
A shadow crossed her face, as well it might. “Sir king, if you could persuade your elven relatives to explain more of the iynisin presence there it would help us all. In all the records from Luap’s time, there is no mention of iynisin, and only one or two comments of some mysterious danger. The neighboring kingdom was said to believe that demons of some kind lived in the canyons before Luap came. Perhaps they thought iynisin were demons, but that doesn’t explain why Luap and his folk never saw them.”
“It would help,” the king said, “if we knew more about Luap himself: who he was, and why he journeyed there, and what he thought he was doing.”
Fin Panir in summer could be as hot as it was cold in winter; every window and door in the old palace complex stood wide open. Luap had started work early, before the heat slicked his hands with sweat to stain the parchment. Now, in midmorning, the heat carried ripe city smells through his broad office window. He paused to stretch and ease his cramped shoulders. For once Gird had not interrupted him a dozen times; he had finished a fair copy of the entire Ten Fingers of the Code. He reached for the jug of water and poured himself a mug, carefully away from his work. Could he write another page without smudges, or should he quit until evening’s cool? He wondered, idly, why he had heard nothing from Gird that morning, and then remembered that a Marshal from a distant grange had come to visit. Doubtless they were still telling stories of the war.
He stretched again, smiling. It was nothing like the life he had imagined for himself when he was a boy, or a young farmer, but somewhat better than either of those vanished possibilities. As Gird’s assistant and scribe, he had status he’d never had before; he was living in the very palace to which his father had never taken him. And he knew that without him, Gird could not have created, and revised, the legal code that offered some hope of lasting peace. His skill in writing, in keeping accounts, in drawing maps, had helped Gird win the war; his skill in writing and keeping records might help Gird win the peace.
“Luap…” One of the younger scribes, a serious-faced girl whose unconscious movements stirred him brought her work to his desk. “I finished that copy, but there’s a blot—here—”
“They can still read it,” he said, smiling at her. “That’s the most important thing.” She smiled back, shyly, took the scroll and went back downstairs. He wished he could find one woman who would chance a liaison with him. Peasant women, in the current climate, would not have him, as some had made painfully clear. They had suffered too much to take any man with known mageborn blood as lover. The few mageborn women who sought him for his father’s name he could not trust to bear no children; he suspected they wanted a king’s grandson, and in his reaction to their pressure he could understand the peasant women’s refusal. As for those women who sold their bodies freely, he could not see them without thinking of his daughter’s terrible death. He needed to feel that a woman wanted him, the comfort of his body, before he could take comfort in hers.
But he knew that would not happen, any more than wishing would bring back Gird’s wife or children, or restore any of the losses of war. All the Marshals had lost family; everyone around him had scars of body and mind both. His were no worse, he reminded himself, and decided to work on another page. Work eased his mind, and kept it from idle wishes—or so the peasants always said, in the endless tags and ends of folktales that now colored every conversation. He was lucky to have his work indoors, in this heat, or in winter’s cold. He was lucky to have Gird’s understanding, if he could not have his indulgence.
He had just pulled another clean sheet toward him when he heard the old lady’s voice all the way up the staircase. He covered his inkwell; perhaps he would be needed. With that accent, she had to be mageborn, and with the quaver in it, she had to be old. The young guards, he suspected, would have no experience with her sort.
“I don’t care what you say, young man.” A pause, during which some male voice rumbled below his hearing. “I must see your Marshal-General, and I must see him now.”
Luap rolled his eyes up and wondered how far the respect for age would get her. Her voice came nearer, punctuated by puffs and wheezes as she came up the stairs.
“Yes, it is important. It is always important to do things right. If your Marshal-General had had the advantages of good education, he would know that already, but since he has not—” A shocked interruption, from what Luap judged to be a very young yeoman, whose words fell all over each other in disarray. He grinned, anticipating the old lady’s response. She did not disappoint him. “You see, young man, what I’m talking about. You’re very earnest, I’m sure, and very dedicated to your Marshal-General, but you cannot express yourself in plain language with any grace…”
Just as he realized that she would inevitably end up in his office, the yeoman’s apologetic cough at the door brought his eyes to the spectacle. She was, undoubtedly, mageborn: a determinedly upright lady with snowy hair and slightly faded blue eyes, who dressed as if the former king were still ruling. A pouf of lace at the throat, a snug bodice with flaring skirt and puffed sleeves, all in brilliant reds and blues and greens: he had not seen such clothes since childhood. Luap wondered how that gorgeous robe had survived the looting. Then, with the appearance at her back of a stout, redfaced servant in blue and brown, he realized she must have impressed her staff with more than her money. The younger woman gave him look for look, challenging and defensive both.
“This is the Marshal-General’s luap,” the yeoman said. He was sweating, his eyes wide. “He’ll be able to help you.”
“I want the Marshal-General,” the old lady said. Then, as Luap rose and came toward her, she raked him with a measuring glare, and her voice changed. “Ohh… you’ll understand. Perhaps you can help me.” Whatever she had seen convinced her he was one of her kind. Behind her, the peasant woman smirked, and Luap felt his ears redden. Of course everyone knew about him—at least that he had mageborn blood on his father’s side, which was not that uncommon. But the way this woman said it, she might have known who his father was.
The old lady favored him with a surprisingly sweet smile, and laid a long fingered hand on her chest. “Could I perhaps sit down?” Luap found himself bowing. “Of course… here…” His own chair, onto which he threw a pillow. She rested on it with the weightless grace of dandelion fluff, her rich brocaded robe falling into elegant folds. The peasant woman handed her a tapestry bag, then settled herself against the wall. The old lady rummaged in the bag, her lips pursed, and finally drew out a strip of blue gorgeously embroidered in gold and silver; it glittered even in the dim indoor light.
“You will understand,” she began, peering up at Luap with a smile she might have bestowed on a favorite nephew. “They all tell me that the Marshal-General doesn’t like fancy things, that he was a mere peasant, but of course that’s nonsense.” Luap opened his mouth, then shut it slowly at the expression on the peasant woman’s face. Best hear the old woman out. “Being a peasant doesn’t mean having no taste,” she went on, looking up to be sure he agreed. “Peasants like fancy things as much as anyone else, and some of them do very good work. Out in the villages, you know.” She seemed to expect some response; Luap nodded. “Men don’t always notice such things, but I learned as a young wife—when my husband was alive, we used to spend summers at different vills on his estates—that every peasant vill had its own patterns. Weaving, embroidery, even pottery. And the women, once they found I was interested, would teach me, or at least let me watch.” Another shrewd glance. Luap nodded again, then looked at the peasant woman leaning against the wall.
“So I know,” the old woman went on, “that Gird will like this, if he only understands how important it is.” She unfolded the cloth carefully, almost reverently, and Luap saw the stylized face of the Sunlord, Esea, a mass of whorls and spirals, centering a blue cloth bordered with broad band of silver interlacement. “For the altar in the Hall, of course, now that it has been properly cleansed.” She gave Luap a long disapproving stare, and said “I always told the king, may he rest at ease, that he was making a terrible, terrible mistake by listening to that person from over the mountains, but he had had his sorrows, you understand.” When he said nothing, finding nothing to say, she cocked her head and said “You do understand?”
“Not… completely.” He folded his arms, and at her faint frown unfolded them. “This cloth is for the Hall, you say? For the High Lord’s altar?”
She drew herself even more erect and almost sniffed. “Whatever you call it—we always called Esea the Sunlord, though I understand there has been some argument that the High Lord and the Sunlord are one and the same.”
“Yes, lady.” He wondered what Arranha would say about this. For a priest of the Sunlord he was amazingly tolerant of other peoples’ beliefs, but he still held to his own.
“I could do nothing while the Hall was defiled. And of course the cloths used then could not be used again; I understood that. But now that the Hall is clean, these things must be done, and done properly. Few are left who understand that. You must not think it was easy.”
“No, lady,” Luap said automatically, his mind far astray. How was he going to explain her to Gird? How would Gird react?
“First,” she said, as if he’d asked, as if he would be interested, “the wool must be shorn with silver shears, from a firstborn lamb having no spot of black or brown, neither lamb nor ewe. Washed in running water only, mind. And the shearer must wear white, as well. Then carded with a new pair of brushes, which must afterwards be burned on a fire of dry wood. Cedar is best. Then spun between dawn and dusk of one day, and woven between dawn and dusk of another, within one household. In my grandmother’s day, she told me, the same hands must do both, and it was best done on the autumn Evener. But the priests said it was lawful for one to spin and another to weave, only it must be done in one household.”
LoG 2 Liar's Oath by Moon, Elizabeth / Science Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes