Crewel lye, p.1
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       Crewel Lye, p.1

           Piers Anthony
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Crewel Lye


  A Del Rey® Book

  Published by The Ballantine Publishing Group

  Copyright © 1984 by Piers Anthony Jacob

  All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published by The Ballantine Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto.

  Del Rey and colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.

  www.randomhouse.com/delrey/

  Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 84-90936

  eISBN: 978-0-345-45437-9

  v3.1

  Contents

  Cover

  Title Page

  Copyright

  Map

  1. Ghost Quest

  2. Pooka

  3. Callicantzari

  4. Elf Elm

  5. Bundle of Joy

  6. Hero’s Challenge

  7. Mountain of Flesh

  8. Tarasque

  9. Threnody

  10. Demon Striation

  11. Sword and Stone

  12. Gnobody Gnomes

  13. Knightmare

  14. Idiocy

  15. Cruel Lie

  16. Caustic Truth

  Author’s Note

  Other Books by This Author

  About the Author

  Chapter 1. Ghost Quest

  Ivy was restricted, for no reason at all, to Castle Roogna, and of course it was overwhelmingly boring. Her mother Irene had recently gotten quite fat in the tummy, but kept right on eating and pretending it was wonderful and didn’t seem to have much time for Ivy any more. To make things worse, her father King Dor had ordered a baby brother for her. Ivy did not need or want a baby brother. How could they have been so thoughtless as to order something like that without consulting the one most concerned? What good was a baby, anyway—especially a boy?

  But now the infernal thing had arrived, and Irene had evidently celebrated by using a thinning spell, because she was suddenly back to normal weight, but she still had next to no time for Ivy. To heck and darnation with all cabbage leaves! Even drear Mundania, she decided, could not be worse than this.

  For a time, she played with the items sent by her pun-pal, Rapunzel, who had very long hair and was similarly confined to her castle. Ivy was still too young to read and write, so they exchanged small objects, and that usually worked well enough. But there was only so much a person could do with puncils and hot-cross puns, and Ivy soon tired of them.

  She found herself watching the magic tapestry in her room for hours on end and more hours sidewise; the idiot cloth had become her amusement of last resort. Its moving pictures showed everything that had ever happened in the Land of Xanth. But the pictures were fuzzy, and she wasn’t much interested in history, anyway. It was so much more fun in the jungle, playing with clouds and tanglers and gourds!

  As the tapestry played over a sequence several hundred years in the past, Ivy became aware of company. One of the castle ghosts was in the room. In fact, it was watching the tapestry.

  Ghosts did not bother Ivy, of course; in fact, it tended to be the other way around. Ghosts avoided her because trouble seemed to follow only half a footstep behind her, and the haunts of Castle Roogna, like others of their kind, were basically settled creatures. So the presence of this one surprised Ivy, yet hardly alarmed her. She peered at it, but the outlines were fuzzy, and she could not make out which one it was. So she asked, “Who are you?”

  “Jordan,” the ghost replied faintly. It was hard for ghosts to speak with any volume, because their volume was mostly vapor, but they could do it when they concentrated.

  Oh, yes. Jordan was the one who had helped Mare Imbri save Castle Roogna from the Horseman oodles of time ago, before she arrived on the scene. “What are you doing?”

  “Watching my history.” The ghost became clearer as she concentrated on it, shifting from amorphous cloud shape to humped sheet shape, which was an improvement.

  Ivy suffered a flicker of interest. “Your history? That’s Xanth history, silly!”

  “I lived in Xanth four hundred years ago,” Jordan said, becoming a vague human form.

  “Was it as dull as it is now?”

  “No, it was exciting!” the ghost said with greater animation than before. “It was a terrific adventure—I think.”

  “You think?” Ivy wanted to nail this down, because if there was anything interesting in Castle Roogna, she wanted to find it.

  “Well, I died from it.”

  Oh. “I’m about to die from boredom,” Ivy asserted.

  “Oh, no,” Jordan protested. “You’re a Sorceress. You will grow up to be King of Xanth.”

  This was nothing new, but Ivy’s interest increased. Now Jordan was a fully formed man, partly white, partly translucent, fairly large, young, and handsome. A white lock of hair fell down partway over his right eye, which was also white. Most ghosts were white; Ivy wasn’t sure why. “How did you die?”

  Jordan shook his head. “I can’t quite seem to remember. I’ve been dead a long time.”

  “But that’s easy to remember!” Ivy exclaimed. “Dying is a big deal, like getting born.”

  “Do you remember getting born?”

  “Of course not. Animals get born. I was found under a cabbage leaf. I should have kicked over the cabbage behind me, because now they’ve found Dolph under it and they’re making him my baby brother.” She pouted, as the memory rankled. “If I’d been smart, I’d have sneaked out at night and thrown all the cabbages into the moat before Dolph arrived. It’s probably all his fault I’m grounded.”

  “Yes, boys are a lot of trouble,” the ghost agreed. “Almost as much trouble as girls.”

  “What?”

  The ghost drifted away from her, realizing that he had said something provocative and unwarranted. Everybody knew that boys were much worse than girls. But Ivy decided to forgive him his transgression, because even ghostly company was better than none. “Tell me the adventure of your life.”

  “Well, I don’t quite remember that, either. I know it was exciting, and that there were monsters and magicians and swords and sorcery and beautiful women, but the details have fogged out.”

  “Then how do you know your life is playing on the tapestry now?” Ivy asked alertly.

  “I recognize bits of my life when I see them played. Fighting a dragon, kissing a woman—it begins to come back. I know I was there.”

  “Fighting a dragon?” Ivy asked. “Not the Gap Dragon?”

  “I think I avoided that one,” Jordan said. “It’s alive today, isn’t it? So I couldn’t have slain it.”

  “Good.” Because the Gap Dragon had become Ivy’s friend, she didn’t want anything bad to have happened to him, even four hundred years ago. The Gap was now being patrolled by Stacey Steamer, the female of his kind. Eventually Stanley would grow up and return to the Gap, but that was long ago in the future and she didn’t worry about it. “Who’d you kiss?”

  The ghost concentrated. “Several beautiful women, I think, but the last was most. There was a cruel lie, and I died. So I hate her. But I found a better woman after I died, so maybe it’s all right after all.”

  This was getting downright fascinating! “How can you find a woman after you’re dead?”

  “A dead woman, naturally. A ghost, like me.”

  Ivy had always known the ghosts of Castle Roogna, but hadn’t thought to question them about their lives. “What happened to her?”

  “She’s still here, of course. She’s Renee.”

  “Oh, Renee! I hear her singing sometimes. Faint, sad songs.”

  “Yes, she is often sad. But she’s a wonderful person. If I were alive again, I’d marry her.”

  “Silly, ghosts can’t live a
gain!” Ivy chided him.

  “What about Millie?”

  Millie the Ghost had been a resident of Castle Roogna for eight centuries, until restored to life. She had married the Zombie Master and now had twin teen-aged children, Hiatus and Lacuna, who on occasion baby-sat for Ivy.

  “That was prehistoric,” Ivy said shortly. “Back when Good Magician Humfrey was still practicing as an old man. He helped bring her back to life. Everybody knows that. But Magician Humfrey isn’t animating ghosts any more, and nobody else knows how. How can you live again?”

  “Well, my talent is healing,” Jordan said. “So if my bones were found and brought together, maybe—”

  “Where are your bones?”

  “I’ve forgotten, if I ever knew,” the ghost confessed, abashed.

  So Jordan represented a mystery. Ivy was now fully intrigued. “This cruel lie—what was it?”

  Jordan spread his hands. “I don’t remember that, either. I thought if I watched it replayed on the tapestry, maybe—”

  “Why not,” Ivy agreed. They focused on the tapestry. It showed a towering wall of rock, the face of an almost vertical cliff. Down this cliff a huge snail was crawling—and a man clung to the snail’s shell.

  “Oh, yes, the snail,” Jordan said. “That’s me, riding it.”

  Ivy had never thought of snail-riding, but of course she had never encountered a snail big enough. “Where are you going?”

  “I don’t remember, but it was somewhere I had to get to.”

  “Why are you riding it, instead of walking there yourself? That snail’s pretty slow.”

  “I don’t remember that, either. But I think I had no choice. Maybe if we could see more detail—”

  They peered closely, and the picture enhanced itself somewhat, as things did when Ivy paid attention to them. They made out a shadow, as of some monstrous bird, but they could not tell where the cliff was or how extensive. The progress of the giant snail was tediously slow; it was evident they would have to wait for an hour to see significant progress. That was the problem with the tapestry; it ran scenes through at regular speed. It was possible to reset it, but that tended to jump the picture to some quite different scene, and the original one could be lost for days. So it was necessary simply to let it play through at its own rate if a person wanted to see how a particular scene ended. This was no good for a bored child.

  But Ivy’s curiosity, once fairly aroused, did not accept denial. “We must find out,” she declared. “I want to know all about that snail—and your life, and especially about the cruel lie.” She put her hands on her hips, in the manner her mother did, to show the severity of her resolve.

  “I’m sure I could remember, if the pictures were clearer,” Jordan said.

  Ivy contemplated the tapestry. “It’s gotten sort of grubby over the centuries,” she said. “And I guess my using it to wipe off my hands before dinner doesn’t help much, either.” Adults always had these pointless rules about clean hands for eating, so Ivy knew it really wasn’t her fault, but now she wished she had wiped her hands somewhere else. “Maybe if we can clean it off, it will have better pictures.”

  They tried. Ivy fetched a bucket and water, but found she couldn’t scrub the tapestry clean. The pictures were permanently dull, even when wet. “We need something better to clean it,” she said, frustrated.

  They tested everything they could think of, but nothing helped. Ivy was getting dangerously close to annoyance, which was another mood she had inherited from her mother. But she was determined to find a way. “Good Magician Humfrey would know, ’cept he’s pretty young now,” she said. “Still, he’s probably better than nothing.”

  But how was she to get to the Good Magician’s castle when she wasn’t allowed out of Castle Roogna? Certainly her folks wouldn’t take her there right now! Not when they were so confoundedly absorbed with the idiotic new baby. But she just couldn’t wait till she was ungrounded; that would be forever or three more days, whichever was longer.

  Fortunately, Jordan had a notion. “There’s an old night mare shoe in the cellar,” he said. “With that you could get in and out of the gourd.”

  Ivy clapped her hands, delighted. The gourd had turned out to be a pretty interesting place, but the problem of getting out of it made her cautious. She hadn’t realized that it was the horse shoes that enabled the night mares to do it, but of course that made sense. One of the mares must have lost a shoe when trying to flee an awakening sleeper, because night mares were never supposed to be seen by awake folk. “Show me!”

  Jordan guided her down to the cellar crevice where the shoe lay, and Ivy pulled it out. The thing was made of old rusty metal and was bent in the shape of a U; no wonder the mare had left it behind. “Ooo, ick!” Ivy exclaimed, shaking the gook off it. “How does it work?”

  “You have to go into a gourd,” Jordan said. “Then you travel through the gourd world until you come to one that’s near your destination, and—”

  “I know that, dummy! I mean how do I get in?”

  “The mare shoe should make the rind pervious, so—”

  “Where’s a gourd?” Ivy was edgy and impatient because she was getting nervous about this business, so she was rushing things before she could make the mistake of thinking about the matter sensibly.

  “There’s one growing at the castle wall,” Jordan said. “It’s not supposed to be there, but it’s hidden, so no living person has spotted it yet.”

  “Take me to it,” Ivy ordered. She had to go somewhere fast, for her knees were threatening to knock. The gourd world was, after all, the place of bad dreams, and she suspected there were more hideous things in there than the night mares ever let ordinary people see.

  Jordan took her to it. It was just outside a large crevice at ground level. She reached through, caught hold of the vine, and hauled the gourd in. “But don’t look at the peephole!” the ghost warned.

  “I know.” Ivy had learned about peepholes recently; it seemed her mother had been perturbed to learn that Grandpa Trent had been into one and somehow had thought it was Ivy’s fault. Possibly the grounding had something to do with that. “Now how does—?” She extended the bent shoe toward the gourd.

  “Wait!” Jordan cautioned, in the manner adults had. “I think you need a map, to—”

  The shoe touched the surface of the gourd—and sank in. Ivy, expecting resistance, lost her balance and fell forward. Her arm passed in and the rest of her did too, though the gourd was much smaller than she was. Suddenly she was inside and falling.

  She started to scream, but before she could work it up properly, she landed on something soft. It was a huge marshmallow. So she filed the scream away for later reference, got up, and looked about. This wasn’t nearly as bad as she had feared.

  She was in a candy garden. Lollipops grew from the ground, and the weeds were licorice. She started to pick a pop, then hesitated; she was inside the gourd. If she ate anything, would she be able to leave? She wasn’t sure; the gourd had funny rules. So she exerted supreme control well beyond the call of little-girl duty and left the candy alone. She had a feeling she would regret this the rest of her life, but she couldn’t take the chance.

  The night mares traveled through Xanth by going in one gourd and out another; there was always a gourd close by a sleeper who needed a bad dream. She had gone in at Castle Roogna; she needed to come out at the Good Magician’s castle. But where was it?

  Jordan was right; she needed a map—and she didn’t have one. Well, she would just have to find her own way.

  She walked down the hard chocolate path, past all the delicious-looking and -smelling confections, her mouth watering painfully, until she came to a house made of wood. She knocked on the door, but there was no answer except a faint chittering. So she turned the knob, opened the door, and stepped inside.

  The door swung closed behind her. Suddenly the chittering became loud. Things rustled over her feet. As her eyes adjusted to the interior gloom, she discovered that
the room was filled with insects. “Ooo, ugh!” she exclaimed with girlish distaste. “This is a bug-house!”

  Indeed it was. Bugs of every description crawled on the floor, the walls, the ceiling, and the door behind her. Others fluttered in the air. One bug-eyed monster buzzed up to her, waving its purple antennae.

  Ivy used the scream she had saved. She tried to use the mare shoe to fend off the bug, but the shoe missed and struck the wall instead. Shoe and hand sank through the wall, and Ivy stumbled after, stepping through as a ghost might.

  She blinked in bright sunlight. She stood on a beach, just outside a gourd. Across the water she saw a large island, and near the island was a raft with a centaur standing on it. That must be Centaur Isle, down at the south of Xanth. She had come a long way!

  But that wasn’t where she was going. So she nerved herself and touched the mare shoe to the gourd. She was getting the hang of this. She fell right into the bug-house again.

  Hastily she opened the door and plunged outside. She remained in the gourd, since she hadn’t used the shoe this time. But now the garden was not candy; it had changed radically for the worse. Awful spinach grew all about, along with turnips and radishes and onions and other terrible stuff, the kind that existed only to nauseate children at mealtimes. There were even—horrors!—cabbages. She held her nose and hurried along the garden path until it came to a lake of placid, brownish fluid.

  What could this be? Surely not anything worse than mashed squash! She touched her finger to it and tasted a drop, her curiosity leading her unerringly into mischief.

  Instantly she spat it out. This was the worst yet! It was castor oil—the stuff used to lubricate rolling castors, the bane of all children.

  She looked about. How could she get out of the gourd for another peek at real-life Xanth? She might be close to Humfrey’s castle, and didn’t want to pass it by. But with no walls to touch—

  Then she had a notion. Carefully she touched the mare shoe to the surface of the stinking oil lake. It sank through, drawing her along with it. She held her nose and her breath, closed her eyes tightly, and passed painlessly through the surface to come to rest on firm ground. She opened her eyes and found herself standing in front of a gourd in sight of the Good Magician’s castle. She had nerved herself to take the most obnoxious route, which naturally was the proper one, and she was there!

 

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