Authors: Elizabeth Kerner
Lanen Kaelar, Book 3
Tor Books by Elizabeth Kerner
Song in the Silence
The Lesser Kindred
Redeeming the Lost
the Glory of God
Martha Newman Morris Ewing
Sarah Alice Morris Gramley
The Marvellous Morris Girls
My mother, Martha, so desperately missed,
so dearly loved,
even if we did fight like cats and dogs
for quite a few years:
so far away in death, and as near as my mirror
where I sometimes catch a heart-stopping glimpse of
the ache in my heart that never forgets that you are
the joy that remembers all that you were
and the indomitable warrior spirit in you
to fight for those who could not fight for themselves
My dear Aunt Sarah, whose love and affection have
in the good times, the bad times, and the dry, hard
whose strength and tenacity and sheer zest for life
have inspired me for many years,
whose faith in me has braced a flagging heart,
and whose truth-speaking is as rare and precious a
as the loving heart that prompts it—
to you, who have become my second mother
I dedicate this work
Bone to iron, blood to flame—hammer, anvil,
tongs, coal, water, air, fire, hammer—thus the blacksmith’s soul.
At last. Nearly there. I can find the way from
here, and have finally been able to release the Silent Service guide who has
led me thus far. I’ve a feeling I should arrive on my own.
I have been ninning after my daughter these
last six months, across half of Kolmar. Wretched girl. When I saw her return
from the Dragon Isle with that man who was no man, when I saw my dear friend
Rella stabbed the moment she stepped off the boat, I knew the time was come
when I would have to face my child at last.
I have had to watch my daughter all her life
from a distance. From her first step to her first kiss I have been with her
half a world away and she has known nothing of me. She passed through all of
childhood’s more dreadful moments well enough, as far as I could tell, but when
she came up against a demon-master I realised I could dwell in shadows no
longer. What worse could happen, after all?
I can hear you. Already you have decided who
and what I am. You think me evil, or at the very least unfeeling and unnatural.
You are wrong. Listen with a mind open to wider possibilities and you may learn
Or perhaps there is some justice to your point
of view. To be honest, I wonder about it myself in the long nights. It’s not an
easy question, and there’s no simple answer that I can find. Life’s like
that—messy and mixed, heroes and cowards in the one skin. It’s only in the bard’s
tales that good and evil are so cleanly divided.
Or in people like my daughter.
When I was young and just coming of age I was
desperate to leave my home to see the wider workl—not unlike Lanen, as it
happens. My mother loved me well enough, but it suited her that I should go
a-wandering, for I was not to her taste as a child. My blacksmith father
Heithrek loved me best of all his children and feared for me out in the world
alone. I have never been a fool and understood the dangers well enough, so I
waited, but each day the waiting grew harder.
Working beside my father made it at least
bearable. When I first grew taller than my brothers, he laughed and put me to
work in the forge. As I stayed and learned the beginnings of the craft, he
would have me tend the iron in the fire, pumping away at the leather bellows
until the sparks and the colour of the metal told him the iron was ready to
work. I loved the fire, the warm darkness of the forge, the music of my father’s
hammer against the anvil, the air of mystery and creation that blew through the
glowing coals as he transformed stubborn iron into well-behaved tools. The
forge called me unto itself as some are called to serve the Goddess, and I
My father was pleased with me, but the whole
idea of a female blacksmith unsettled my mother who soon asked him to dissuade
me from such a strange pursuit. Heithrek did his best. He put me to drawing
down the pig iron, hoping that the sheer weight of the stuff and the dullness
of the work involved would put me off, but I found it a challenge and laughed
with delight the first time I managed to draw down half a pig in a day without
having to stop and rest.
Each of my three brothers had come to the
forge to try if they were true smiths. Each one left after a short season when
he found it was not in him. The eldest has become a scholar, the second a
farmer, the third a shaper of wood rather than iron. My two younger and more
delicate sisters, Hildr and Hervor, simply thought I was insane, and told me so
when they were old enough and brave enough.
“Maran, you’ll never find a man if you spend
every waking moment with fire and iron,” Hildr told me. “The only time the lads
ever see you is when you’re soot-black from the forge.” She had a point, but
there again, given the lads in our village, I didn’t really care. It wasn’t
those puny lads I wanted to know more of, but the world that lay about me,
enticing, so wide and so unknown. We lived in Beskin, on the edge of the
Trollingwood within sight of the great East Mountain range. I grew up in the
sight of mountains that reached halfway to the sky, and my heart longed for
them as other maidens longed for a man.
The wanderlust grew as the years passed, as I
worked beside my father and grew to my full height and strength. I had known
for years that the village lads would never be a match for me m any sense.
Truth be told, I was all but ready to set out into the wide world alone if
there was no other way, but as luck would have it there came through our
village, just in time, a mercenary looking for work. He was well-enough
looking, built small but wiry, and there was that about his eyes that intrigued
me—a strangeness, as of pain long borne; an otherness that spoke of distant
lands; a depth in him that I could not fully understand, but that spoke of
wisdom hard-gained and worth the knowing.
In any case he was obviously a man well able
to keep himself. He came looking for work, and said he’d be willing to act as
bodyguard—well, my father knew that I would leave soon in any case, and Jamie
was a good compromise.
Jamie. The man I have loved best in all the
world, though my best love has been shoddy enough. Not Lanen’s father, though
he should have been. Jameth of Arinoc. My Jamie.
Rella’s Jamie now, damn it.
I can hardly grudge them their happiness. I
left him alone to raise my daughter, and Rella has known me and been my
friend these twenty years
gone. I should have known this would happen were they to meet.
I knew they travelled together with my
daughter, some three moons past now. When I saw Jamie every day as I watched
Lanen, I tried to convince myself that the long years had loosed Jamie’s hold
on me, but when finally I realised that Jamie and Rella were become lovers I
felt a pain sharp as a knife in my breast. Part of me cries even now, like a
spoiled child, but he was mine!
Aye. If he was mine, I should have been with
Why wasn’t I with him, a neat near-family with
Lanen as our daughter, and mayhap other childer for our own?
Ah. It never was meant. And it’s all the fault
of Marik and that Hells-be-damned Farseer.
Jamie and I had travelled together some three
years, and we had been lovers much of that time. He asked me to wed him,
several times, but I was young and did not want to be tied to the first man I
had ever known. Fool that I was, too stupid to realise how fortune had favoured
me! He taught me to defend myself, and though I never took to the blade
properly, I learned enough to keep my head on my shoulders. We roamed the
length and breadth of Kolmar together—oh, the tales I could tell!—until, upon a
day in early autumn, in Illara during the Great Fair, I met Marik of Gundar.
A kind of madness took me. For the first and
last time in my life I was stricken as by a blow by the sheer presence of a
man, and I desired him with all my being. I’ve never done nor felt such a thing
before or since, and I have long wondered if even then he was practicing
Alas, I fear he was not.
Marik and I were of a height, which was
unusual enough, and although he was easy to look at—his hair was golden red,
his eyes the yellow-green of the first grass of spring, and his nose bent like
a fine hawk’s—it was not his appearance alone that swayed me, nor even the fact
that there was a scent about him that made my knees weak. No, the truth is, I
heard him speak only once and I was lost. Dear Shia. His voice. Goddess
preserve us, it was pure seduction. Light, clear as crystal, with the soft
accent of the East Mountains, and bis every word sang to some part of me that
had nothing to do with words. Or with thought, come to that.
I fobbed Jamie off with some stupid excuse,
which he recognised for what it was, but he was older in the ways of the world
than I.I can only think that Jamie assumed I would enjoy a night’s pleasure
with this stranger and come back to seek him out again the next day, ashamed
but with this madness out of my heart. Would that I had been so wise.
Marik and I were lovers that very first night,
and many nights after. For two months we—well, never mind. At the end of it I
learned, purely by chance, that he was dealing with a demon-master name of
Berys to gain power for bis Merchant House. Between them, Marik and Berys created
the Farseer, sacrificing an innocent babe in the making, and promising further
the life of Marik’s firstborn to the demons that made it. The Farseer itself
Jamie and I took with us, to keep its power from the benighted souls that
created it. I have it yet, an innocent-looking smoky glass globe about the size
of a small melon.
Marik knew no more than I did that Lanen lay
under my heart already. He meant to rise to power through the stupid thing, to
make a way for demons to enter Kolmar under his control, for his own profit and
power, with never a thought of the evil that would come down upon us all. Jamie
and I stole the Farseer from him the instant it was made and took it with us
when we ran. We escaped, but only by the width of a hair, from Berys’s revenge.
Jamie and I kept running, far to the north and west, where I met Hadron of
Ilsa, a horse-breeder in an obscure comer of Kolmar. He fell head over heels
for me and I wed him.
Well, what would you?
Of course I should have wed Jamie, of course I
knew it, but Jamie—oh, Hells. I hate this.