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White gold wielder, p.1
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       White Gold Wielder, p.1

           Stephen R. Donaldson
White Gold Wielder

  White Gold Wielder is a work of fiction. Names, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

  A Del Rey eBook

  Copyright © 1983 by Stephen R. Donaldson

  All rights reserved.

  Published in the United States of America by Del Rey, an imprint of the Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

  Originally published in Mass Market in 1983 by Del Rey, an imprint of the Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

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

  eISBN: 978-0-307-81922-2




  Title Page



  What Has Gone Before

  PART I: Retribution

  1: The Master’s Scar

  2: Leper’s Ground

  3: The Path to Pain

  4: Sea of Ice

  5: Landward

  6: Winter in Combat

  7: Physician’s Plight

  8: The Defenders of the Land

  9: March to Crisis

  10: The Banefire

  PART II: Apotheosis

  11: Aftermath

  12: Those Who Part

  13: The Eh-Brand

  14: The Last Bourne

  15: Enactors of Desecration

  16: “Andelain! forgive!”

  17: Into the Wightwarrens

  18: No Other Way

  19: Hold Possession

  20: The Sun-Sage

  EPILOGUE: Restoration

  21: “To Say Farewell”



  Other Books by This Author

  What Has Gone Before

  The Wounded Land, Book One of The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, describes the return of Thomas Covenant to the Land—a realm of magic and peril where, in the past, he fought a bitter battle against sin and madness, and prevailed. Using the power of wild magic, he overcame Lord Foul the Despiser, the Land’s ancient enemy, thus winning peace for the Land and integrity for himself.

  Ten years have passed for Covenant, years that represent many centuries in the life of the Land; Lord Foul has regained his strength. Confident that he will succeed in his efforts to gain possession of Covenant’s white gold ring—the wild magic—Lord Foul summons Covenant to the Land. Covenant finds himself on Kevin’s Watch, where once before Foul prophesied that Covenant would destroy the world. Now that prophecy is reaffirmed, but in a new and terrible way.

  Accompanied by Linden Avery, a doctor who was unwittingly drawn to the Land with him, Covenant descends to the old village of Mithil Stonedown, where he first encounters the heinous force that the Despiser has unleashed: the Sunbane. The Sunbane is a corruption of the Law of Nature; it afflicts the Land with rain, drought, fertility, and pestilence in mad succession. It has already slain the old forests; as it intensifies it threatens to destroy every form of life. The people of the Land are driven to bloody sacrificial rites to appease the Sunbane for their own survival.

  Seeing the extremity of their plight, Covenant begins a quest for an understanding of the Sunbane, and for a way to heal the Land. Guided by Sunder, a man from Mithil Stonedown, he and Linden fare northward toward Revelstone, where lives the Clave, the lore-masters who most clearly comprehend and use the Sunbane. But the travelers are pursued by Ravers, Lord Foul’s ancient servants, whose purpose is to afflict Covenant with a strange venom that will eventually drive him mad with power.

  Surviving the perils of the Sunbane and the attacks of venom, Covenant, Linden, and Sunder continue northward. As they near Andelain, a once-beautiful region in the center of the Land, they encounter another village, Crystal Stonedown, in which a woman named Hollian is being threatened by the Clave because of her power to foresee the Sunbane. The travelers rescue her, and she joins them on their quest.

  She informs Covenant that Andelain, while still beautiful, has become a place of horror. Dismayed by this desecration, Covenant enters Andelain alone to confront the evil therein. He learns that Andelain is not a place of evil: rather, it has become a place of power where the Dead gather around a Forestal who defends the trees. Covenant soon meets this Forestal, who was once a man named Hile Troy, and several of his former friends—the Lords Mhoram and Elena, the Bloodguard Bannor, and the Giant Saltheart Foamfollower. The Forestal and the Dead give Covenant gifts of obscure knowledge and advice; and Foamfollower offers Covenant the companionship of a strange ebony creature named Vain, who was created by the ur-viles of the Demondim, and whose purpose is hidden.

  With Vain behind him, Covenant seeks to rejoin his companions, who, in his absence, have been captured by the Clave. His search for them nearly costs him his life, first in the desperate village of Stonemight Woodhelven, then among the Sunbane victims of During Stonedown. However, with the aid of the Waynhim, he at last wins his way to Revelstone. There he meets Gibbon, the leader of the Clave, and learns that his friends have been imprisoned so that their blood can be used to manipulate the Sunbane.

  Desperate to free his friends and to gain knowledge of Lord Foul’s atrocity, Covenant submits to a soothtell, a ritual of blood in which much of the truth is revealed. His visions show him two crucial facts: that the source of the Sunbane lies in the destruction of the Staff of Law, a powerful tool that formerly supported the natural order; and that the Clave actually serves Lord Foul through the actions of the Raver that controls Gibbon.

  Unleashing the wild magic, Covenant frees his friends from Revelstone; he then resolves to find the One Tree, from which the original Staff of Law was made, so that he can fashion a new one to use against the Sunbane.

  In this purpose he is joined by Brinn, Cail, Ceer, and Hergrom: Haruchai, members of the race that spawned the Bloodguard. With Linden, Sunder, Hollian, and Vain, Covenant turns eastward toward the sea, hoping there to find the means to pursue his quest. On the way, he encounters a party of Giants who name themselves the Search. One of them, Cable Seadreamer, has had an Earth-Sight vision of the Sunbane, and they have come to the Land to combat the peril. Guiding the Search to Seareach and Coercri, the former home of the Giants in the Land, Covenant uses his knowledge of their ancestors to persuade them to commit their Giantship to the service of his quest for the One Tree.

  Before his departure from the Land, Covenant performs a great act of absolution for the Dead of Coercri, the former Giants who were damned by the manner of their death at the hands of a Raver. He then sends Sunder and Hollian back to the land, hoping they will be able to inspire the villages to resist the Clave, and prepares himself to begin the next stage of his quest.

  The One Tree, Book Two of the Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, details that quest—the voyage of the Giantship Starfare’s Gem in search of the One Tree.

  From the first, the journey is beset by treachery. Linden discovers too late that a Raver has boarded the vessel. The Raver uses a pack of rats to attack Covenant, triggering a venom-relapse which increases his power. Delirious, Covenant fears that he will destroy his friends, so he seals himself off from help. Linden is able to save him only by attempting a superficial possession of his spirit.

  As he recovers, the quest sails toward the land of the Elohim, a reclusive and mystic people who the Giants believe will be able to reveal the location of the One Tree. But when Covenant and his companions reach Elemesnedene, home of the Elohim, they are met with distrust and mystification rather than aid. The Elohim proclaim Linden the Sun-Sage, denigrate Covenant because he lacks her health-sense, and refuse to provide the location of th
e One Tree except by entering Covenant’s mind to lay bare the knowledge hidden there by the Forestal in Andelain. As a result, the Giants learn how to find the One Tree; but Covenant’s mind is lost.

  Meanwhile Vain is captured and imprisoned by the Elohim, who fear his presence. But when Linden leads the quest away from Elemesnedene, he manages to make his escape.

  Aboard Starfare’s Gem, the quest sets out for the One Tree. To their surprise, the companions are joined by an Elohim, Findail the Appointed, who has been sent by his people to promote their secret purposes and to guard against Vain. And Linden finds that she cannot heal Covenant’s mind without taking full possession of him—an act which she considers evil.

  Damaged by a terrible storm, Starfare’s Gem is forced to seek supplies and repairs in the seaport of Bhrathairealm, the home of the Bhrathair, a people who have spent most of their history in a way against the feral Sandgorgons of the Great Desert. They are ruled by an ancient thaumaturge, Kasreyn of the Gyre, who covets Covenant’s ring. Kasreyn attempts to free Covenant’s mind so that Covenant can be compelled to release it to him. These initial efforts fail, so Kasreyn seeks to coerce Linden to obtain the ring for him by exposing the Haruchai to the violence of the Sandgorgons—slaying Hergrom, crippling Ceer—and imprisoning the entire company when they try to flee Kasreyn’s castle, the Sandhold.

  However, Linden turns Kasreyn’s machinations against him. She takes the damage done to Covenant’s mind upon herself, thus restoring him to consciousness and power in time to save the quest by mastering a Sandgorgon and bringing about Kasreyn’s death. As the companions and Starfare’s Gem escape Bhrathairealm, Ceer is slain. But Linden recovers from the loss of mind she absorbed from Covenant, and the quest continues.

  When the companions reach the Isle of the One Tree, Cable Seadreamer strives to dissuade Covenant and Linden from their purpose; but his muteness prevents him from making his Earth-Sight understood. In the name of the Haruchai people, and for Covenant’s sake, Brinn battles the Guardian of the One Tree to obtain access to the Isle. In the process he becomes the Guardian himself and allows the company to descend into the deep cave which holds the One Tree.

  There Seadreamer sacrifices his life to reveal the truth of Lord Foul’s secret manipulations: Covenant has been made so powerful by venom that he can no longer raise wild magic without threatening the Arch of Time. In addition, the One Tree is guarded by the Worm of the World’s End: any attempt to touch the Tree will rouse the Worm, and all the companions will be destroyed unless Covenant fights to protect them.

  Seeing the trap, Linden calls Covenant back from battle. In turn, he tries to return her to their former world so that she can tend his mortally wounded body, but she causes his attempt to fail so that she can remain with him. In despair, the company retreats to Starfare’s Gem without a new Staff of Law, while the Isle of the One Tree sinks into the sea.

  Here begins White Gold Wielder, Book Three of The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant.

  “To go wherever dreaming goes”



  ONE: The Masters Scar

  Awkward without its midmast, Starfare’s Gem turned heavily toward the north, putting its stern to the water clogged with sand and foam which marked the passing of the One Tree. In the rigging, Giants labored and fumbled at their tasks, driven from line to line by the hoarse goad of Sevinhand’s commands, even though Seadreamer lay dead on the deck below them. The Anchormaster stood, lean and rue-bitten, on the wheeldeck and yelled up at them, his voice raw with suppressed pain. If any compliance lagged, the Storesmaster, Galewrath, seconded him, throwing her shout after his like a piece of ragged granite because all the Search had come to ruin and she did not know any other way to bear it. The dromond went north simply to put distance between itself and the deep grave of its hope.

  But Grimmand Honninscrave, the Giantship’s Master, huddled on the afterdeck with his brother in his arms and did not speak. His massive face, so strong against storms and perils, looked like a yielded fortification; his beard tangled the shadows as the sun declined toward setting. And beside him stood the First of the Search and Pitchwife as if they were lost without the Earth-Sight to guide them.

  Findail the Appointed stood there also, wearing his old misery like a man who had always known what would happen at the Isle of the One Tree. Vain stood there with one heel of the former Staff of Law bound around his wooden wrist and his useless hand dangling. And Linden Avery stood there as well, torn between bereavements: outrage and sorrow for Seadreamer swimming in her eyes, need for Covenant aching in her limbs.

  But Thomas Covenant had withdrawn to his cabin like a crippled animal going to ground; and he stayed there.

  He was beaten. He had nothing left.

  Harsh with revulsion, he lay in his hammock and stared at the ceiling. His chamber had been made for a Giant; it outsized him, just as his doom and the Despiser’s manipulations had outsized him. The red sunset through the open port bloodied the ceiling until dusk came and leeched his sight away. But he had been blind all along, so truncated of perception that he had caught no glimpse of his true fate until Linden had cried it into his face:

  This is what Foul wants!

  That was how his former strengths and victories had been turned against him. He could not feel Cail standing guard outside his door like a man whose fidelity had been redeemed. Beyond the slow rolling of the Giantship’s pace, the salt of futility in the air, the distant creak of rigging and report of canvas, he could not tell the difference between this cabin and the dungeon of the Sandhold or the betrayed depths of Revelstone. All stone was one to him, deaf to appeal or need, senseless, He might have destroyed the Earth in that crisis of power and venom, might have broken the Arch of Time as if he were indeed the Despiser’s servant, if Linden had not stopped him.

  And then he had failed at his one chance to save himself. Horrified by love and fear for her, he had allowed Linden to return to him, abandoning the stricken and dying body of his other life. Abandoning him to ruin, though she had not intended any ruin.

  Brinn had said to him, That is the grace which has been given to you, to bear what must be borne. But it was a lie.

  In darkness he lay and did not move, sleepless although he coveted slumber, yearned for any oblivion which would bring surcease. He went on staring upward as if he too were graven of dead stone, a reification of folly and broken dreams snared within the eternal ambit of his defeat. Anger and self-despite might have impelled him to seek out his old clothes, might have sent him up to the decks to bear the desolation of his friends. But those garments he had left in Linden’s cabin as though for safe-keeping; and he could not go there. His love for her was too corrupt, had been too severely falsified by selfishness. Thus the one lie he had practiced against her from the beginning came back to damn him.

  He had withheld one important fact from her, hoping like a coward that it would prove unnecessary—that his desire for her would be permissible in the end. But by the lie of withholding he had accomplished nothing except her miscomprehension. Nothing except the Search’s destitution and the Despiser*s victory. He had let his need for her blind both of them.

  No, it was worse than that. He did need her, had needed her so acutely that the poignance of it had shredded his defenses. But other needs had been at work as well: the need to be the Land’s rescuer, to stand at the center of Lord Foul’s evil and impose his own answer upon it; the need to demonstrate his mortal worth against all the bloodshed and pain which condemned him. He had become so wrapped up in his isolation and leprosy, so certain of them and what they meant, that they had grown indistinguishable from Despite.

  Now he was beaten. He had nothing left for which he might sanely hope or strive.

  He should have known better. The old man on Haven Farm had spoken to Linden rather than to him. The Elohim had greeted her as the Sun-Sage, him as the wrongness which imperiled the Earth. Even dead Elena in Andelain had said plainly that
the healing of the Land was in Linden’s hands rather than his. Yet he had rejected comprehension in favor of self-insistence. His need or arrogance had been too great to allow comprehension.

  And still, with the destruction of everything he held precious laid squarely at his door, he would not have done otherwise—would not give up his ring, not surrender the meaning of his life either to Linden or to Findail. It was all that remained to him: to bear the blame if he could not achieve the victory. Failing everything else, he could still at least refuse to be spared.

  So he lay in his hammock like a sacrifice, with the stone vessel spread out unreadably around him. Fettered by the iron of his failures, he did not move or try to move. The first night after the dark of the moon filled his eyes. In Andelain, High Lord Mhoram had warned, He has said that you are his Enemy. Remember that he seeks always to mislead you. It was true: he was the Despiser’s servant rather than Enemy. Even his former victory had been turned against him. Sucking the wounded places of his heart, he returned the sightless stare of the dark and remained where he was.

  He had no measure for the passage of time; but the night was not far advanced when he heard a stiff, stretched voice rumble outside his door. It uttered words he was unable to distinguish. Yet Cail’s reply was precise. ‘The doom of the Earth is upon his head,” the Haruchai said. “Will you not pity him?”

  Too weary for indignation or argument, Honninscrave responded, “Can you believe that I mean him harm?”

  Then the door opened, and a lantern led the Master’s tall bulk into the cabin.

  The light seemed small against the irreducible night of the world; but it lit the chamber brightly enough to sting Covenant’s eyes, like tears he had not shed. Still he did not turn his head away or cover his face. He went on staring numbly at the ceiling while Honninscrave set the lantern on the table.

  The table was low for the size of the cabin. From the first day of the quest’s voyage, the Giantish furniture had been replaced by a table and chairs better suited to Covenant’s stature. As a result, the lantern threw the hammock’s shadow above him. He seemed to lie in the echo of his own dark.

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