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The mirror of her dreams, p.1
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       The Mirror of Her Dreams, p.1

           Stephen R. Donaldson
 
The Mirror of Her Dreams


  The Mirror of Her Dreams 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 ©1986 by Stephen R. Donaldson

  All rights reserved.

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

  DEL REY is a registered trademark and the Del Rey colophon is a trademark of Random House, Inc.

  Originally published in hardcover in the United States by Del Rey Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., in 1986.

  eISBN: 978-0-307-81924-6

  www.delreybooks.com

  v3.1

  “Steeped in the vacuum of her dreams,

  A mirror’s empty till

  A man rides through it.”

  -John Myers Myers, Silverlock

  Contents

  Cover

  Title Page

  Copyright

  Epigraph

  Prologue: Terisa and Geraden

  BOOK ONE

  One: Calling

  Two: The Sound of Horns

  Three: Translation

  Four: The Old Dodderer

  Five: Wardrobes Full of Clothes

  Six: A Few Lessons

  Seven: The Dungeons of Orison

  Eight: Various Encounters

  Nine: Master Eremis at Play

  Ten: The Last Alend Ambassador

  Eleven: A Few Days with Nothing to Do

  Twelve: What Men Do with Women

  Thirteen: Folly in Good Faith

  BOOK TWO

  Fourteen: Out of the Rubble

  Fifteen: Romantic Notions

  Sixteen: Who Your Friends Are

  Seventeen: Terisa Takes Action

  Eighteen: A Little Conversation

  Nineteen: The Advantages of an Early Thaw

  Twenty: Family Matters

  Twenty-One: At Least One Plot Discovered

  Twenty-Two: Questions About Being Besieged

  Twenty-Three: Anticipating Disaster

  Twenty-Four: The Beginning of the End

  Twenty-Five: Master Eremis in Earnest

  Twenty-Six: Fratricide

  Dedication

  Other Books by This Author

  About the Author

  PROLOGUE: TERISA AND GERADEN

  The story of Terisa and Geraden began very much like a fable. She was a princess in a high tower. He was a hero come to rescue her. She was the only daughter of wealth and power. He was the seventh son of the lord of the seventh Care. She was beautiful from the auburn hair that crowned her head to the tips of her white toes. He was handsome and courageous. She was held prisoner by enchantment. He was a fearless breaker of enchantments.

  As in all the fables, they were made for each other.

  Unfortunately, their lives weren’t that simple.

  For example, her high tower was a luxury condominium building over on Madison, just a few blocks from the park. She had two bedrooms (one of them a “guest room,” fully furnished and entirely unused), a spacious living room with an impressive view west, a separate dining room which contained a long, black, polished table on which candles would have gleamed beautifully if she had ever had any reason to light them, and the kind of immaculate modern kitchen displayed in remodeling catalogues.

  Her home cost her father what the people she worked with would have called “a small fortune,” but it was worth every penny to him. The security guards in the lobby and the closed-circuit TV cameras in the elevators kept her safe; and while she was living there she wasn’t mooning passively around his house, gazing at him and his business associates and his women with those big brown calf-eyes that seemed too inert, or even too stupid, to intend what he read in them: the awareness of unlove that saw all his pampering and expense as a form of neglect. So he was glad to be rid of her.

  And she thought she was glad to be living where she was because the bills were paid, and she could afford to work at the only job she felt herself competent for, the only job in which she thought her life might count for something: she was the secretary for a modern-day almshouse, a mission tucked away in a small ghetto only a fifteen-minute walk from the shining windows and reflected glory of her condo building; and she typed letters of mild explanation and appeal, vaguely desperate letters, for the lost old man who ran the mission.

  Also, she thought she was glad to be living where she was because she had been able to decorate her rooms herself. This had been a slow process because she wasn’t accustomed to so much freedom, so much control over her environment; but in the end what it came to was that her bedroom, living room, and dining room were decorated completely in mirrors. Mirrors had a seductive beauty which spoke to her—but that wasn’t the point. The point was that there was virtually no angle in her apartment from which she couldn’t see herself.

  That was how she knew she existed.

  When she slept, her mind was empty, as devoid of dreams as a plate of glass. And when she was awake, moving through her life, she made no difference of any kind to anybody. Even the men who might have considered her beautiful or desirable seemed not to see her when they passed her on the street, so blind she was to them. Nothing around her, or in her, reflected her back to herself. Without dreams—and without any effect—she had no evidence at all that she was a material being, actually present in her world. Only her mirrors told her that she was there: that she had a face capable of expression, with brown eyes round with thwarted softness, a precise nose, and a suggestion of a cleft like a dimple in her chin; that her body was of a type praised in magazines; that both her face and body did what was required of them.

  She was completely unaware of the enchantment which held her. It was, after all, nothing more than a habit of mind.

  As for Geraden, he was in little better condition.

  He was only an Apt to the Congery of Imagers—in other words, an apprentice—and he had been given a task which would have threatened a Master. In fact, the opinion of the Congery was sharply divided about his selection. Some of the Masters insisted this task belonged to him because all their auguring seemed to imply that he was the only possible choice, the only one among them who might succeed. Others argued that he must be given the task because he was the only one of their number who was completely and irredeemably expendable.

  Those who claimed that the act of bringing any champion into being was inherently immoral were secretly considered toadies of that old dodderer, King Joyse—and anyway they were only a small minority of the Congery. Apparently, all auguries indicated that the realm couldn’t be rescued from its peril without access to a champion brought into being through Imagery. But how that translation should take place—and, indeed, who that champion should be—was less sure.

  The Masters who considered Geraden expendable had good reason. After all, he wasn’t just the oldest Apt currently serving the Congery: he was the oldest person ever to keep on serving the Congery without becoming skillful enough to be a Master. Though he was only in his mid-twenties, he was old enough to appear ridiculous because he had failed to earn the chasuble of a Master.

  He was so ham-handed that he couldn’t be trusted to mix sand and tinct without spilling some and destroying the proportions; so fumble-footed that he couldn’t walk through the great laborium which had been made out of the converted dungeons of Orison without tripping over the carefully arranged rods, rollers, and apparatus of the Masters. Even rabbity Master Quillon, who had surprised everyone by casting aside his self-effacement and speaking out loudly (as King Joyse might have done, if he weren’t asleep half the t
ime) against the immorality of wrenching some champion out of his own existence in order to serve Mordant’s need—even Quillon was heard to mutter that if Geraden made the attempt and failed, the Congery would at least gain the advantage of being rid of him.

  In truth, this capacity for disaster rendered moot the central ethical point. Normally, the Master who had made that particular glass could simply have opened it and brought the champion into being. But Geraden had again and again shown himself incapable of the simplest translation. He would therefore have to do exactly what King Joyse would have demanded: he would have to go into the glass to meet the champion, to appeal for the champion’s help.

  His advantages were a willing heart, ready determination, and a quality of loyalty usually ascribed to puppies. His short chestnut hair curled above his strong brow; his face would have well become a king; and the training of being raised with six brothers had left him tough, brave, and little inclined to hold grievances. But his expression was marred by an almost perpetual frown of embarrassment and apology, occasioned by the petty mishaps and knowledge gone awry that harried his heels. His instinctive yearning toward the questions and potential of Imagery was so potent that his unremitting dunderheadedness left a gloom on his spirit which threatened to become permanent until the Congery elected by augury and common sense to send him on the mission to save Mordant’s future.

  When that happened, he recovered his ebullience. Where he had formerly worked for the Masters with a will, he now labored in fervor, doing the things their art demanded—mixing the sand and tinct with his own hands so that the glass would welcome him, stoking the furnace with wood he cut himself, shaping the mold and reshaping it a dozen times until it exactly matched the one that had made the mirror in which the Masters watched their chosen champion, pouring the hot liquid while blood hammered like prayer in his veins, sprinkling the specially ground and blended powders of the oxidate. At every failure of attention, error, or mischance, he groaned, cursed himself, apologized to everyone in sight—and then threw himself back into the work, hope singing to him while sweat soaked his clothes and all his muscles ached.

  He had no more idea than Terisa did that she was under an enchantment. And if he had known, he might not have cared, so consumed was he by the opportunity the Masters had provided—an opportunity which might be a sentence of maiming or even death.

  She wasn’t the champion the Congery had chosen.

  She didn’t so much as inhabit the same world as that champion.

  In theory, at least, Geraden’s mirror would have had to be entirely different.

  BOOK ONE

  ONE: CALLING

  The night before Geraden came for her, Terisa Morgan had a dream – one of the few she could ever remember. In it, she heard horns: faint with distance, they reached her through the sharp air over the hills covered with crisp snow like the call for which her heart had always been waiting. They winded again—and while she strained to hear them, again. But they came no closer.

  She wanted to go looking for them. Past the wood where she seemed to be sitting or lying as if the cold couldn’t touch her, she saw the ridge of the hills: perhaps the horns – and those who sounded them – were on the far side. Yet she didn’t move. The dream showed her a scene she had never seen before; but she remained who she had always been.

  Then along the snow-clogged skirt of the ridge came charging men on horseback. As the horses fought for speed, their nostrils gusted steam, and their legs churned the snow until the dry, light flakes seemed to boil. She could hear the leather creaking of their tack, the angry panting and muttered curses of their riders: the ridge sent every sound, as edged as a shard of glass, into the wood. She yearned to block out those noises, to hear the horns again, while the three men abruptly swung away from the hills and lashed the snow toward the trees – directly toward her.

  As their faces came into focus for her, she saw their fierce hate, the intent of bloodshed. Long swords appeared to flow out of their sheaths into the high hands of the riders. They were going to hack her into the snow where she stood.

  She remained motionless, waiting. The air was whetted with cold, as hard as a slap and as penetrating as splinters. In the dream, she wasn’t altogether sure that she would mind being killed. It would bring the emptiness of her life to an end. Her only regret was that she would never hear the horns again, never find out why they spoke such a thrill to her heart.

  Then from among the black-trunked trees behind her came a man to impose himself between her and the riders. He was unarmed, unarmored – he seemed to be wearing only a voluminous brown jerkin, pants of the same fabric, leather boots – but he didn’t hesitate to risk the horses. While the first rider swung his blade, the man made a sidelong leap at the reins of the mount; and the horse was wrenched off balance, spilling its rider in front of her second attacker. Both horse and rider went down, raising clouds of snow as thick as mist.

  When a low breeze cleared her sight, she saw that her defender had snatched up the first rider’s sword and spitted the second with it. He moved with a desperate awkwardness which showed that he was unfamiliar with fighting; but he didn’t falter. In furious assault, he stretched the first rider out against the trunk of a tree before the horseman could strike back with his long poniard.

  Watching, Terisa saw the third rider poised above the young man who fought for her – mount firmly positioned, sword hilt gripped high in both fists. Though she understood nothing of what was going on, she knew that she ought to move. In simple decency and gratitude toward her defender, if for no other reason, she should fling herself against the rider. He wasn’t looking at her: surely she would be able to reach his belt and pull him out of his saddle before he struck.

  But she didn’t. In the dream, a small, vexed frown pinched her forehead as she regarded her passivity. It was the story of her life, that mute nothingness – the only quality she could ascribe to her uncertain existence. How could she act? Action was for those who didn’t seriously doubt their own presence in the world. During the more than twenty years of her life, her opportunities for action had been so few that she typically hadn’t recognized them until they were past. She didn’t know how to make her limbs carry her toward the rider.

  Yet the man who fought for her did so for no reason she could see except that she was being attacked. And he didn’t know his danger: he was still trying to wrest his blade from the body of the rider he had just felled, and his back was turned.

  Startling herself and the horseman and the sharp cold, she cried, “Watch out!”

  The effort of the warning jerked her into a sitting position. She was still in bed. Her shout made her throat ache, and an unaccustomed panic pounded through her veins.

  She recognized herself in the mirrors of her bedroom. Lit by the night-light plugged into the wall socket behind the bed, she was hardly more than a shadow in the glass all around her; but she was herself, the shadow she had always been.

  And yet, while her pulse still labored and a slick of sweat oozed from her face, she thought she heard beyond the comfortless noises of the city a distant calling of horns, too faint to be certain and too intimate to be ignored.

  ***

  Of course, nothing was changed. She got up the next morning when her alarm clock went off; and her appearance in her mirrors was as rumpled and wan as usual. Though she studied her face for any sign that it was real enough for men on horseback to hate so fiercely, it seemed as void of meaning as always – so unmarked by experience, decision, or impact that she was dimly surprised to find it still able to cast a reflection. Surely she was fading? Surely she would wake up one morning, look at herself in the mirror, and see nothing? Perhaps, but not today. Today she looked just as she remembered herself – beautifully made, but to no purpose, and slightly tinged with sorrow.

  So she showered as usual, dressed herself as usual in the sort of plain skirt and demure sweater her father preferred for her, breakfasted as usual – watching herself in the mi
rrors between bites of toast – and put on a raincoat before leaving her apartment to go to work. There was nothing out of the ordinary about the way she looked, or about her apartment as she left it, or about the elevator ride down to the lobby of her building. The only thing out of the ordinary was the way she felt.

  To herself, so privately that none of it showed on her face, she kept remembering her dream.

  Outside, rain fell heavily onto the street, flooding the gutters, hissing like hail off the roofs of the cars, muffling the noises of traffic. Dispirited by the gray air and the wet, she tied a plastic bandana over her head, then walked past the security guard (who ignored her, as usual) and out through the revolving doors into the downpour.

  With her head low and her concentration on the sidewalk, she moved in the direction of the mission where she worked.

  Without warning, she seemed to hear the horns again.

  Involuntarily, she stopped, jerked up her head, looked around her like a frightened woman. They weren’t car horns: they were wind instruments such as a hunter or musician might use. The chord of their call was so far away and out of place that she couldn’t possibly have heard it, not in that city, in that rain, while rush-hour traffic filled the streets and fought the downpour. And yet the sensation of having heard the sound made everything she saw appear sharper and less dreary, more important. The rain had the force of a determined cleansing; the streaked gray of the buildings looked less like despair, more like the elusive potential of the borderland between day and night; the people jostling past her on the sidewalk were driven by courage and conviction, rather than by disgust at the weather or fear of their employers. Everything around her had a tang of vitality she had never seen before.

  Then the sensation faded; and she couldn’t possibly have heard rich horns calling to her heart; and the tang was gone.

  Baffled and sad, she resumed her sodden walk to work.

  At the mission, her day was more full of drudgery than usual. In the administrative office, seated at her desk with the ancient typewriter crouching in front of her like a foul-tempered beast of burden, she found a message from Reverend Thatcher, the old man who ran the mission. It said that the mission’s copying costs were too high, so would she please type two hundred fifty copies of the attached letter in addition to her other duties. The letter was aimed at most of the philanthropic organizations in the city, and it contained yet another appeal for money, couched in Reverend Thatcher’s customary futility. She could hardly bear to read it as she typed; but of course she had to read it over and over again to get it right.

 
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