Valentine pontifex, p.1
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       Valentine Pontifex, p.1

           Robert Silverberg
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Valentine Pontifex


  ROBERT SILVERBERG

  Contents

  I

  The Book of the Coronal

  Epigraph

  . . . I live in mighty fear that all the universe will. . .

  1 Valentine swayed, braced himself with his free hand against. . .

  2 Hissune would not soon forgive himself for coming late. . .

  3 On a day in high summer when the sun hung. . .

  4 Six hundred miles east of brilliant crystalline city of. . .

  5 Downward Hissune traveled; feeling rumpled and sweaty and apprehensive, through. . .

  6 This is the dream of the Pontifex Tyeveras:

  7 “A little wine, if you will,” Valentine said. Sleet put. . .

  8 “The Coronal wants to see you,” Shanamir said.

  9 The first rays of morning sun touched the ragged gray. . .

  10 With a mechanical flourish he signed his name to what. . .

  11 The second sign of trouble that Etowan Elacca noticed was. . .

  12 Carabella, who had been staring all day out of the. . .

  13 Because it was the fifth day of the fifth week. . .

  14 The message was more than an hour old when it. . .

  15 “—And that is the temple of the Lady,” said Lord. . .

  II

  The Book of the Water-Kings

  1 “Your task is to reach Ertsud Grand,” the instructor had said.

  2 This is the dream of the Piurivar Faraataa:

  3 The Coronal said, “Ask Y-Uulisaan to come in here.”

  4 Whenever it rained, and at this time of the year. . .

  5 Elidath said, looking carefully around the council room at the. . .

  6 That lone sea dragon, so strangely beating its wings against. . .

  7 The estate was virtually deserted now. All of Etowan Felucca’s. . .

  8 Though she had merely intended to rest her eyes a. . .

  9 The entry to Numinor harbor took all the skill the. . .

  10 “Again,” Hissune said, swinging about to face Alsimir and. . .

  11 The wind was out of the south, and hot and hard,. . .

  III

  The Book of the Broken Sky

  1 Millilain would always remember the day when the first of. . .

  2 “He’s going where?” Elidath said in astonishment.. . .

  3 In the darkness Y-Uulisaan lay awake and tense, listening to. . .

  4 As he rode westward toward the Steiche all that day. . .

  5 In early afternoon, before the regular daily Council meetings, Hissune. . .

  6 When she was still a dozen blocks from home, Millilain . . .

  7 The deeper they journeyed into the Shapeshifter province, the more. . .

  8 Throughout the journey down from Castle Mount through the valley. . .

  9 “Now let the word go forth,” Faraataa said.

  IV

  The Book of the Pontifex

  1 “A strange day, my lord, when the Coronal must come. . .”

  2 An hour before twilight the chanting started again down in. . .

  3 Though it was barely past dawn, brilliant sunlight illuminated the. . .

  4 Once more, then, to sea: through heat-haze and swelter. . .

  5 It was a small triumph, Faraataa thought, but one well. . .

  6 “The Coronal Lord Valentine is with his mother the Lady . . .”

  7 Three of the five great ministers of the Pontificate were. . .

  8 Endlessly back and forth across the sea, now sailing once. . .

  V

  The Book of the Reunion

  1 When the royal expeditionary force was some hours yet downriver. . .

  2 When he reached Khyntor at last Valentine directed Asenhart to. . .

  3 What sounded like a loud argument seemed to be going. . .

  4 The rain was beginning again, washing away the outlines of. . .

  5 In early afternoon they halted at a place in the. . .

  6 “We have captured a Shapeshifter, my lord,” Alsimir said, “who. . .”

  7 For this, Valentine thought, he would need the circlet of. . .

  8 They held the coronation ceremony outdoors, in the great grassy. . .

  Maps:

  Majipoor

  Zimroel

  Alhanroel

  Castle Mount and Glayge Valley

  Isle of Sleep

  About the Author

  The Majipoor Chronicles

  Credits

  Copyright

  About the Publisher

  for

  KAREN

  SANDRA

  CATHERINE

  JERRY

  CAROL

  ELLEN

  DYANNE

  HILARY

  DIANA

  —bulwarks in a season of stormy weather

  . . . I live in mighty fear that all the universe will be broken into a thousand fragments in the general ruin, that formless chaos will return and vanquish the gods and men, that the earth and sea will be engulfed by the planets wandering in the heavens. . . . Of all the generations, it is we who have been chosen to merit this bitter fate, to be crushed by the falling pieces of the broken sky.

  —SENECA

  Thyestes

  The Book of the Coronal

  VALENTINE SWAYED, braced himself with his free hand against the table, struggled to keep himself from spilling his wine.

  This is very odd, he thought, this dizziness, this confusion. Too much wine—the stale air—maybe gravity pulls harder, this far down below the surface—

  “Propose the toast, lordship,” Deliamber murmured. “First to the Pontifex, and then to his aides, and then—”

  “Yes. Yes, I know.”

  Valentine peered uncertainly from side to side, like a steetmoy at bay, ringed round by the spears of hunters.

  “Friends—” he began.

  “To the Pontifex Tyeveras!” Deliamber whispered sharply.

  Friends. Yes. Those who were most dear to him, seated close at hand. Almost everyone but Carabella and Elidath: she was on her way to meet him in the west, was she not, and Elidath was handling the chores of government on Castle Mount in Valentine’s absence. But the others were here, Sleet, Deliamber, Tunigorn, Shanamir, Lisamon and Ermanar, Tisana, the Skandar Zalzan Kavol, Asenhart the Hjort—yes, all his dear ones, all the pillars of his life and reign—

  “Friends,” he said, “lift your wine-bowls, join me in one more toast. You know that it has not been granted me by the Divine to enjoy an easy time upon the throne. You all know the hardships that have been thrust upon me, the challenges that had to be faced, the tasks required of me, the weighty problems still unresolved.”

  “This is not the right speech, I think,” he heard someone behind him say.

  Deliamber muttered again, “His majesty the Pontifex! You must offer a toast to his majesty the Pontifex!”

  Valentine ignored them. These words that came from him now seemed to come of their own accord.

  “If I have borne these unparalleled difficulties with some grace,” he went on, “it is only because I have had the support, the counsel, the love, of such a band of comrades and precious friends as few rulers can ever have claimed. It is with your indispensable help, good friends, that we will come at last to a resolution of the troubles that afflict Majipoor and enter into the era of true amity that we all desire. And so, as we make ready to set forth tomorrow into this realm of ours, eagerly, joyously, to undertake the grand processional, I offer this last toast of the evening, my friends, to you, to those who have sustained me and nurtured me throughout all these years, and who—”

  “How strange he looks,” Ermanar murmured. “Is he ill?”

  A spasm of astonishing pain swept through him. T
here was a terrible droning buzz in his ears, and his breath was as hot as flame. He felt himself descending into night, a night so terrible that it obliterated all light and swept across his soul like a tide of black blood. The wine-bowl fell from his hand and shattered; and it was as if the entire world had shattered, flying apart into thousands of crumbling fragments that went tumbling crazily toward every Scorner of the universe. The dizziness was overwhelming now. And the darkness—that utter and total night, that complete eclipse—

  “Lordship!” someone bellowed. Could that have been Hissune?

  “He’s having a sending!” another voice cried.

  “A sending? How, while he is awake?”

  “My lord! My lord! My lord!”

  Valentine looked downward. Everything was black, a pool of night rising from the floor. That blackness seemed to be beckoning to him. Come, a quiet voice was saying, here is your path, here is your destiny: night, darkness, doom. Yield. Yield, Lord Valentine, Coronal that was, Pontifex that will never be. Yield. And Valentine yielded, for in that moment of bewilderment and paralysis of spirit there was nothing else he could do. He stared into the black pool rising about him, and he allowed himself to fall toward it. Unquestioningly, uncomprehendingly, he plunged into that all-engulfing darkness.

  I am dead, he thought. I float now on the breast of the black river that returns me to the Source, and soon I must rise and go ashore and find the road that leads to the Bridge of Farewells; and then will I go across into that place where all life has its beginning and its end.

  A strange kind of peace pervaded his soul then, a feeling of wondrous ease and contentment, a powerful sense that all the universe was joined in happy harmony. He felt as though he had come to rest in a cradle, where now he lay warmly swaddled, free at last of the torments of kingship. Ah, how good that was! To lie quietly, and let all turbulence sweep by him! Was this death? Why, then, death was joy!

  —You are deceived, my lord. Death is the end of joy.

  —Who speaks to me here?

  —You know me, my lord.

  —Deliamber? Are you dead also? Ah, what a safe kind place death is, old friend!

  —You are safe, yes. But not dead.

  —It feels much like death to me.

  —And have you such thorough experience of death, my lord, that you can speak of it so knowingly?

  —What is this, if it is not death?

  —Merely a spell, said Deliamber.

  —One of yours, wizard?

  —No, not mine. But I can bring you from it, if you will permit. Conic awaken. Awaken.

  —No, Deliamber! Let me be.

  —You must, my lord.

  —Must, Valentine said bitterly. Must! Always must! Am I never to rest? Let me stay where I am. This is a place of peace. I have no stomach for war, Deliamber.

  —Come, my lord.

  —Tell me next that it is my duty to awaken.

  —I need not tell you what you know so well. Come.

  He opened his eyes, and found himself in midair, lying limply in Lisamon Hultin’s arms. The Amazon carried him as though he were a doll, nestling against the vastness of her breasts. Small wonder he had imagined himself in a cradle, he thought, or floating down the black river! Beside him was Autifon Deliamber, perched on Lisamon’s left shoulder. Valentine perceived the wizardry that had called him back from his swoon: the tips of three of the Vroon’s tentacles were touching him, one to his forehead, one to his cheek, one to his chest.

  He said, feeling immensely foolish, “You can put me down now.”

  “You are very weak, lordship,” Lisamon rumbled.

  “Not quite that weak, I think. Put me down.”

  Carefully, as though Valentine were nine hundred years old, Lisamon lowered him to the ground. At once, sweeping waves of dizziness rocked him, and he reached out to lean against the giant woman, who still hovered protectively close by. His teeth were chattering. His heavy robes clung to his damp, clammy skin like shrouds. He feared that if he closed his eyes only for an instant, that pool of darkness would rise up again and engulf him. But be forced himself toward a sort of steadiness, even if it were only a pretense. Old training asserted itself: he could not allow himself to be seen looking dazed and weak, no matter what sort of irrational terrors were roaring through his head.

  He felt himself growing calmer after a moment, and looked around. They had taken him from the great hail. He was in some brightly lit corridor inlaid with a thousand intertwined and overlapping Pontifical emblems, the eye-baffling Labyrinth symbol repeated over and over. A mob of people clustered about him, looking anxious and dismayed: Tunigorn, Sleet, Hissune, and Shanamir of his own court, and some of the Pontifex’s staff as well, Hornkast and old Dilifon and behind them half a dozen other bobbing yellow-masked heads.

  “Where am I?” Valentine asked.

  “Another moment and we’ll be at your chambers, lordship,” Sleet said.

  “Have I been unconscious long?”

  “Two or three minutes, only. You began to fall, while making your speech. But Hissune caught you, and Lisamon.”

  “It was the wine,” Valentine said. “I suppose I had too much, a bowl of this and a bowl of that—”

  “You are quite sober now,” Deliamber pointed out. “And it is only a few minutes later.”

  “Let me believe it was the wine,” said Valentine, “for a little while longer.” The corridor swung leftward and there appeared before him the great carved door of his suite, chased with gold inlays of the starburst emblem over which his own LVC monogram had been engraved. “Where is Tisana?” he called.

  “Here, my lord,” said the dream-speaker, from some distance.

  “Good. I want you inside with me. Also Deliamber and Sleet. No one else. Is that clear?”

  “May I enter also?” said a voice out of the group of Pontifical officials.

  It belonged to a thin-lipped gaunt man with strangely ashen skin, whom Valentine recognized after a moment as Sepulthrove, physician to the Pontifex Tyeveras. He shook his head. “I am grateful for your concern. But I think you are not needed.”

  “Such a sudden collapse, my lord—it calls for diagnosis—”

  “There’s some wisdom in that,” Tunigorn observed quietly.

  Valentine shrugged. “Afterward, then. First let me speak with my advisers, good Sepulthrove. And then you can tap my kneecaps a bit, if you think that it’s necessary. Come—Tisana, Deliamber—”

  He swept into his suite with the last counterfeit of regal poise he could muster, feeling a vast relief as the heavy door swung shut on the bustling throng in the corridor. He let out his breath in a long slow gust and dropped down, trembling in the release of tension, on the brocaded couch.

  “Lordship?” Sleet said softly.

  “Wait. Wait. Just let me be.”

  He rubbed his throbbing forehead and his aching eyes. The strain of feigning, out there, that he had made a swift and complete recovery from whatever had happened to him in the banquet hall had been expensive to his spirit. But gradually some of his true strength returned. He looked toward the dream-speaker. The robust old woman, thick-bodied and strong, seemed to him just then to be the fount of all comfort.

  “Come, Tisana, sit next to me,” Valentine said.

  She settled down beside him and slipped her arm around his shoulders. Yes, he thought. Oh, yes, good! Warmth flowed back into his chilled soul, and the darkness receded. From him rushed a great torrent of love for Tisana, sturdy and reliable and wise, who in the days of his exile had been the first openly to hail him as Lord Valentine, when he had been still content to think of himself as Valentine the juggler. How many times in the years of his restored reign had she shared the mind-opening dream-wine with him, and had taken him in her arms to draw from him the secrets of the turbulent images that came to him in sleep! How often had she given him ease from the weight of kingship!

  She said, “I was frightened greatly to see you fall, Lord Valentine, and you know I a
m not one who frightens easily. You say it was the wine?”

  “So I said, out there.”

  “But it was not the wine, I think.”

  “No. Deliamber thinks it was a spell.”

  “Of whose making?” Tisana asked.

  Valentine looked to the Vroon. “Well?”

  Deliamber displayed a tension that Valentine had only rarely seen the little creature reveal: a troubled coiling and weaving of his innumerable tentacles, a strange glitter in his great yellow eyes, grinding motions of his birdlike beak. “I am at a loss for an answer,” said Deliamber finally. “Just as not all dreams are sendings, so too is it the case that not all spells have makers.”

 

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