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       Gilden-Fire, p.1

           Stephen R. Donaldson
 
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Gilden-Fire


  FOREWORD

  GILDEN-FIRE is, in essence, an 'out-take' from THE ILLEARTH WAR. For that reason, it is not a complete story. Rather, it describes an episode which occurred to Korik of the Bloodguard and his mission to Seareach during the early days of THE ILLEARTH WAR, after Thomas Covenant's summoning to the Land but before the commencement of the actual war. This material survived through two drafts of the manuscript, but is entirely absent from the published version of the book

  On that basis, I think it requires some explanation. As a general rule, I use my out takes for wastepaper. But I've made an exception In this case for a variety of reasons.

  Some of them have to do with why GILDEN -FIRE was taken out of THE ILLEARTH WAR in the first place. The version of the manuscript which originally crossed the desk of Lester del Rey at

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  Ballantine Books was 916 pages long - roughly; 261,000 words- That was manifestly too long. With much regret, Lester gave me to understand that I would have to cut 250 pages.

  Well, I'm a notorious over-writer; and I was able to eliminate 100 pages simply by squeezing the prose with more than my usual ruthlessness. But after that I had to make a more difficult decision.

  As it happened, the original version of THE ILLEARTH WAR was organized in four parts rather than the present three. Part II in that version dealt exclusively with Korik's mission to Seareach; and it eventually provided me with the 150 pages of cuts I still needed. Not because I considered the material to be of secondary importance (I have little sympathy for anyone who considers the fate of the Unhomed, the fidelity of the Bloodguard, and the valour of the Lords to be of secondary importance). On the contrary, I was quite fond of that whole section. No, I put my axe to the roots of my former Part II for reasons of narrative logic.

  From the beginning, that section had been

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  a risky piece of writing. In it, I had used Korik as my viewpoint character. For the first time in the trilogy, I had stepped fully away from

  Thomas Covenant (or any direct link to the 'real' world). And that proved to be a mistake. It was crucial to the presentation of Covenant's character that he had some good reasons for doubting the substantial 'reality' of the Land. But all his reasons were undercut when I employed someone like Korik - a character with no bond, however oblique, to Covenant's world - for a narrative centre. (THE ILLEARTH WAR does contain two chapters from Lord Mhoram's point of view. But in both cases Mhoram is constantly in the company of either Covenant or Hile Troy. Korik's mission lacked even that connection to the central assumptions on which LORD FOUL'S BANE and THE ILLEARTII WAR were based.) In using Korik as I had, I had informed the reader that the people of the Land were in fact 'real': I had unintentionally denied the logic of Covenant's Unbelief. Which was allready too fragile for its own good.

  Therefore I took the absolutely essential

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  sections of that Part II and recast them as reports which Runnik and Tull brought back to Covenant and Troy - thus preserving the integrity of the narrative perspective from which the story was being viewed. And in the process I achieved the 150 pages of cuts I needed.

  But all of GILDEN-FIRE was lost.

  That does not exactly constitute high tragedy. Cutting is part of writing; and narrative logic is more important than authorial fondness. My point is simply that GILDEN-FIRE was cut, not because it was bad, but because it didn't fit well enough.

  However, the question remains: if this. material didn't fit THE ILLEARTH WAR, why am I inflicting it upon the world now?

  The main reason, I suppose, is my aforementioned fondness. I like Korik, Hyrim, and Shetra, and have always grieved over the exigency which required me to reduce their role in the story so drastically. But, in addition, I've often felt that the moral dilemma of the Bloodguard is somewhat obscure in the published version of my books; too much of their back-

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  ground was sacrificed when I cut GILDEN-FIRE. In fact, too much development of the people who would eventually have to face the destruction of the Unhomed was sacrificed. (How, for instance, can Lord Hyrim's achievements be fully understood when so little is known about him?) By publishing GILDEN-FIRE, I'm trying to fill a subtle but real gap in THE ILLEARTH WAR.

  Finally, I should say that I think the logic which originally required me to cut out this material no longer applies. Since it cannot stand on its own as an independent story, GILDEN-FIRE will surely not be read by anyone unfamiliar with 'The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever'. And those readers know that the question of whether or not the Land is ultimately real' (whether or not a character like Korik is sufficiently 'actual' to serve as a narrative view-point) no longer matters. In reality as in dreams, what matters is the answer we find in our hearts to the test of Despite. By publishing GILDEN-FIRE, I hope to give more substance to the answers Korik, Hyrim, and Shetra found.

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  GILDEN-FIRE

  AS SUNRISE ECHOED the fire of farewell which High Lord Elena had launched into the heavens from the watchtower of Revelstone, Korik Bloodguard and his mission to Seareach wheeled their Ranyhyn, tightened their resolve about them, and went running into the east.

  With the new sun in his eyes, Korik could not see clearly. Yet he moved comfortably to the rhythm of Brabha's strides, faced the prospect ahead without a qualm. He had been riding Brabha for nearly fifty years now; but his experience of Ranyhyn was far longer than that: the great horses of Ra by the score had borne him in turn, one after another as their individual lives ended and their fidelity passed from generation to generation. He knew that the Ranyhyn would not miss their footing. The

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  terrain near Revelstone was much-travelled and reliable; yet even in the cluttered rigour of the Northron Climbs, or in the subtle deceptions of Sarangrave Flat, the Ranyhyn would remain sure-footed. Their instincts were founded on something more constant than the superficial details of hills and plains. They bore Korik's mission down through the foothills of Revelstone as confidently as if the great horses were part of the ground itself - a part made mobile and distinct by their quicker life-pulse, but still sharing the same bone, the same ancestry, so that no orphaning misstep or betrayal could occur between hoof and earth.

  And around Korik rode his companions, those who shared his mission to the Giants of Seareach: fourteen more Bloodguard and two Lords, Hyrim son of Hoole, and Shetra Verement-mate. The memory of their parting from the people of Revelstone - Shetra's grief over her separation from her un-Ranyhyn-chosen and self-doubting husband, Hyrim's argute attempts to probe the difference between what the Bloodguard remembered and what they

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  knew, Thomas Covenant's refusal to share this mission - was vivid to Korik. But more vivid still was the urgent need which gave cause to this journey. Summon or succour. A need so compulsory that it had been given into his hands, to the Bloodguard themselves, rather than to the Lords, so that if Hyrim or Shetra fell their defenders would go on.

  For there had been a special timbre of exigency in Terrel's silent voice earlier that night as he had sent out his call to First Mark Morin.

  -Summon the High Lord, Terrel had said,. following a grim-eyed and haggard Lord Mhoram toward the Close. There is a peril upon the Giants of Seareach. He has seen it.

  Lord Mhoram had seen it. Seer and oracle to the Council, he had described the death of the Unhomed stalking them across all the leagues between Revelstone and Coercri - a death no more distant than a score of days. When the High Lord and all the Council had gathered with him in the Close, he had told them what he had seen. His vision had

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  left them grey with many kinds of dread.

  In this Korik knew the Lords well. With-out sleep or let, he had se
rved the Council in all its manifestions for two millenia: he knew that the pain in Hyrim and Callindrill and Mhoram, the bitten hardness of Shetra. and Verement, the wide alarm of the Lords Amatin, Loerya, and Trevor arose from concern for the life-loving Unhomed - a concern as deep as the. ancient friendship and fealty between the Giants and the Land. But Korik also understood the other dreads. Corruption was mustering war against the Council; and that jeopardy had become so imminent that only scant days ago the High Lord had felt compelled to summon the Unbeliever from his unwilling world. In such a need, all the eyes of the Land naturally turned toward Seareach for assistance. And for three years there had been silence between the Giants and Revelstone.

  A year of silence was not unusual. Therefore the first year had not been questioned. But the second gave birth to anxiety, and so messengers were dispatched to Seareach. None of them

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  returned. In the third year, one Eoman was sent and not seen again. Unwilling to hazard more of the Warward, the High Lord had then commanded the Lords Callindrill and Amatin to carry word of the Land's need eastward. But hey had been turned back by Sarangrave Flat; and still the silence endured. Thus the Council had already known fear for the Giants as well as for themselves. Lord Mhoram's vision gave that fear substance.

  The High Lord did not hesitate to conceive aid for the Giants. Summon or succour. But Corruption's hordes were believed to be marching for the Land's ruin; and few warriors and little power could be spared from the defence. So the mission was given to the Bloodguard. Given by First Mark Morin to Korik by reason of his rank and years. And by the High Lord to the Lords Hyrim and Shetra: Hyrim son of Hool, a corpulent, humorous, and untried man with an avowed passion for all fleshly comforts and a silent love of Giants; and Shetra Verement-mate, whose pain at her husband's self-doubt made her as bitter as the hawk she

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  resembled. It was a small force to hurl into the unknown path of Corruption's malice. No Bloodguard required reminder that there were

  only two roads to bear the Despiser westward one to the south of Andelain, then northward against Revelstone; the other to the north of Mount Thunder, then westward through Grimmerdhore Forest. And Korik's way toward Seareach also lay through Grimmerdhore.

  However, the road of Corruption's choice was uncertain; and the Bloodguard did not pang themselves with uncertainties. Korik and his people were not required by their Vow to know the unknown: they were required only to succeed or die. It was not in that fashion that they had been taught doubt. The test of their service was one of judgement rather than knowledge.

  When Korik left the Close, he went without hesitation about the task of selecting his comrades.

  He had no qualm about his choices. the Bloodguard shared a community of prowess

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  and responsibility; and any individual member of the community could be elected or replaced without causing any falter in the service of the Vow Yet he exercised care in his decisions. Cerrin and Sill he included as a matter of course: they had borne the direct care of Shetra and Hyrim since those Lords had first joined he Council. Then he added Runnik and Pren because they were among the senior members of the two ancient Haruchai clans, the Ho-aru and Nimishi, that in the mountain fastnesses of their home had warred together for generations until the Bond which had united them. Similarly, he Included five younger Bloodguard from each clan, so that both would have a fair hand in the mission. Among these was Tull, the youngest of the Bloodguard.

  Some time ago, when Lord Mhoram had made his scouting sojourn to the Spoiled Plains and Hotash Slay, and had been forced to flee, the Bloodguard with him had fallen. In keeping with the ritual of the Vow, the fallen had been Ranyhyn-borne to Guards Gap and the Westron Mountains for burial in native grave-

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  grounds, and the Haruchai had sent new men to replace them. Tull was among them. He was centuries younger than Korik; and though the Vow bound him and straitened him and sustained him and kept him from sleep, so that he was a Bloodguard like any other, still he did not know the Giants as his older comrades did. For this reason, Korik chose him. It would gratify Tull to see that the unflawed fealty of the Bloodguard was not unmatched: the Giants of Seareach could also be trusted beyond any possibility of Corruption.

  As he walked soundlessly through the halls of Revelstone, sending out his mental summons, Korik considered the advantages in taking either Morril or Koral with him. They were the Bloodguard who watched over the Lords

  Callindrill and Amatin: Morril and Koral had

  accompanied. those Lords when they had attempted to reach the Giants and were driver back by some lurking power in the Sarangrave Both these Bloodguard had previous experience with the dangers which faced the mission. But Korik had heard all that Morril and Koral

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  could tell concerning the danger. And they had the right to remain with the Lords whom they had personally warded.

  The choosing completed, Korik went to the place where his comrades would meet him- the one place in Revelstone reserved for the Bloodguard. It was a dim uncompromising hall, with unrubbed walls and a rough raw floor on which no one but a Bloodguard would walk barefoot. The whole space was unfurnished and unadorned, but it served them as it was. They needed only an open space with a punishing floor and freedom from observation.

  Korik did not have to wait long for his chosen comrades. They came promptly, though without any appearance of hurry, for the word of Mhoram's vision had gone out ahead of Korik's summons: they had heard it in the mental talk of the Haruchai, in the orders of the Lords, in the altered and quickened beat of Revelstone's rhythms. But when Cerrin and Sill, Runnik and Pren; Tull and the others gathered around him, Korik still took the time to speak to them. The mission which First Mark

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  Morin had given him was special, perhaps higher than any other burden the Bloodguard would bear in this war. Their responsibility had always been to the Lords: they had Vowed to preserve the Lords while the Council went about its work. Rarely had any Bloodguard been given a command which was not part of his direct service. But the mission to the Giants had been entrusted to the Haruchai. Summon or succour. To meet this uncommon charge, Korik gathered his company about him for the old rites.

  - Faith, he greeted them.

  - Fist and faith, they replied together.

  - Hail, chosen brothers, Korik returned. The mission to the Giants of Seareach is in our hands. These are Bloodguard times. War

  marches. The end of the Giants' exile is near, as foretold by Damelon Giantfriend. Dour fist and unbroken faith prevail.

  The Bloodguard answered in the words of the ancient Haruchai Vow:

  - Ha-man rual tayba-sah carab ko-eeal neeta par- raoul. We are the Bloodguard, the keepers the Vow - the keepers and the kept, sanctified

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  beyond decline and the last evil of death. Tan Haruchai. We accept.

  - Tan-Haruchai, Korik said. Bowing to his comrades, he repeated the old war-cry: Fist and faith

  They bowed in turn, stepped back so that there was a clear space around him. Then they began the trial of leadership, as prescribed by the rites he had invoked. One by one, they came forward to fight with him, to measure their strength against his.

  Although he had been given the mission by the First Mark, Korik wanted to affirm his leadership among his company, so that in any future extremity no question of his right to command could arise. Therefore he fought for his leadership as he had once fought to be among the commanders of the army which had invaded the Land in the early years of High Lord Kevin son of Loric.

  This trial came instinctively to the proud Haruchai, for they had been born to fighting in the same way that their forefathers had been born to it, and their forefathers before them, as

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  the old tellers described. For them, it was not enough that they made their home in one of the most demanding places of the Earth. It was not enough that the fastnesses which
they inhabited, the caves and crags, the ice-grottoes and crevasses and eyries, were snow-locked three seasons a year and in places perpetually clamped in blue glaciers - that simple survival from day to day, the preservation of the home-fires, and the tending of the goats and the bare gardening they did when in summer some of the valleys were free of snow and ice, took all the strength and fortitude which any people could ask of themselves - that blizzards and mountain winds and avalanches provided them with so much disaster that even the hardiest and most cunning of them could not look to have a long life. No, in addition the Haruchai were always at war.

  Before the Bond, they had fought each other, battling Ho-aru against Nimishi, generation after generation, across cliffs and cols and scree and ravines, wherever they met. They were a hot people, strong-loined and prolific:

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  but without food and shelter and warmth, children died at birth -and often the women died as well. Caught thus constantly between the need to replenish the people and the mortality of love, the clans strove to wrest every possible scrap of food or flicker of heat or shadow of shelter from each other, so that their wives and children might not die.

  Yet in time a kind of understanding came to the Ho-aru and Nimishi. They saw that they fought a feud they could not win. First, the clans were too evenly matched for one side to retain for long any brief ascendance. And second, even victory offered no solution to the need, for a

  victorious family would quickly grow in size until it was as large as two; and then the lack of food and warmth and shelter would kill as before. So the leaders of the clans met and formed the Bond. Enmity was set aside, and hands were joined. From that time onward, Ho-aru and Nimishi warred together against their common need.

 
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