Dreams of the Compass Rose

 

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

Praise for…

Dreams of the Compass Rose

 


A clever concoction of vignettes and short stories knitted into a morality tale about the temptation of illusion and the price of truth... an exotic setting reminiscent of Tanith Lee’s Flat Earth series.... The author’s sumptuous language will resonate with Lord Dunsany and Clark Ashton Smith fans.... Nazarian’s vital themes and engaging characters are sure to entertain.”


Publishers Weekly

 


The colorful strong writing style that Vera has worked on for years has come to full fruition.”


Marion Zimmer Bradley

 


I love this book.
Dreams of the Compass Rose
is a story-cycle in which we keep coming back to the same characters, except from different viewpoints and different times in their lives. It’s set in a land of desert empires that never was, though it could easily be our world—far in the future, or deep in the past. Some of the stories are brutal, some are like dreams. All of them are engaging and resonant, creating a new mythology that feels so right one might be forgiven for thinking that it’s the cultural heritage of some forgotten country or people that have been lost to history. It reminded me of those wonderful, dream-laden story-cycles that Clark Ashton Smith and Lord Dunsany were writing around the turn of the last century.
Dreams of the Compass Rose
has a similar stately lyricism, a compelling and visionary voice that speaks to the heart of the reader.”


Charles de Lint

 


Nazarian’s story cycle treads the borderline between the episodic novel and the short-story collection… her imagery is rich, vivid, and memorable, not to mention being remarkable because she realizes it not in her native language, Russian, but in English…. this is a singularly appealing book by a new voice in fantasy.”


ALA Booklist

 


An intricate multi-level story... a kind of Aesop’s Fables... spoken with a voice from the Far East, hypnotic as the desert sands.”


Locus

Copyright Page

 

This book is a work of fiction. All characters, names, locations, and events portrayed in this book are fictional or used in an imaginary manner to entertain, and any resemblance to any real people, situations, or incidents is purely coincidental.

 

DREAMS OF THE COMPASS ROSE

 

Vera Nazarian

 

Copyright © 2002 by Vera Nazarian

 

All Rights Reserved.

 

Cover Design Copyright © 2010 by Lisa Silverthorne

 

Cover Art: “The Night” by Vera Nazarian

 

Electronic Edition

 

September 16, 2010

 

A Publication of

Norilana Books

P. O. Box 2188

Winnetka, CA 91396

www.norilana.com

 

Printed in the United States of America

 

Dreams of the Compass Rose

 

 

Norilana Books

Fantasy

 

www.norilana.com

 

Other Books by Vera Nazarian

 

Lords of Rainbow

The Clock King and the Queen of the Hourglass

Mayhem at Grant-Williams High (YA)

The Duke in His Castle

Salt of the Air

Mansfield Park and Mummies

 

(Forthcoming in 2010)

 

The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration

Northanger Abbey and Angels and Dragons

Pride and Platypus: Mr. Darcy’s Dreadful Secret

 

Dedication

 

For many friends, and for many reasons:

 

Steve Algieri, Lisa Silverthorne, Wendi Gansen, Paul Melko, Jane S. Fancher, Kurt Roth, Lauren Oliver, Sherwood Smith, William Sanders, Marion Zimmer Bradley, John Sullivan, Patricia Duffy Novak, James D. Macdonald, and Paul Barnett

Dreams of the Compass Rose

 

Vera Nazarian

DREAM ONE

 

AMARANTEA

 

I
n the metallic blur of the horizon, below the cumulus cloud skies, lies Amarantea. . . .

It is violet, lavender, or indigo, at dawn, noon, and dusk. It is where the soul flies in search of wonder, when sleep takes you by the eyelashes. . . .

So it was told, in all the lands of the Compass Rose. It was also related, in the late cozy evenings by the marigold hearth, when children settled to absorb the ancestral wisdom of their elders, that Amarantea was a place between worlds, inaccessible.

One such child, sitting at her Grandmother’s knee, asked insistently every night to hear the story, until Grandmother nearly went daft with repetition.


Tell me of the beast that inhabits the island kingdom!” little Learra cried. “The one that has no name, and that can only be seen when it sleeps! Tell me of the king of Amarantea, who has wed a woman with no eyes! I want to hear the words of the greatest Truth that are inscribed upon the coffin of brass—the one that is within the anonymous sepulcher of the unknown one!”


The beast that has no name does not want nosy little girls to know anything more about it,” Grandmother said. “And neither does the king and his poor wife. As to the words of Truth on the brass coffin—why, I’ve recited them to you over a dozen times.”


One more time, please!”


It says,” Grandmother began to speak with the patience of an antique maple, “that whatever lies within this grave is the only source of evil. And it should not be disturbed by you or me, or anyone with the least bit of brains, for that matter. Nor should silly questions be pursued beyond a certain point.”


No, no!” insisted Learra. “I want to hear the
real
words, please, not your own, Grandmother!”


Ah . . . What’s an old woman to do, when her words are no longer considered real? Very well. It says: ‘The soul is a flower, severed from its stem, bearing seed, planted at birth, reaped in death, but never discarded in the bottomless well.’”


But that says nothing about evil. And what strange words! What does it all mean?”


How should I know?” said the Grandmother, moving her embroidery needle through cotton fabric.


Then how do you know the words at all?”


Why—I was told them when I was your size, little one.”

Learra touched a small hand to her Grandmother’s sunken cheek, saying, “Then I must find out, before I am your size.”

 

I
n the mists that form the edge of the world, sleeps Amarantea. . . .

And, all around, an ocean of steel and mauve sun-glitter upon cool waters—for it is an island.

A young woman with a sharp seeking gaze stood on the starboard side of a galley, the only ship that could bring her here, to the end of the world.

After serving twelve years in the cities directly South of the Compass Rose, having drudged away her gleam of youth, her freshest bloom, the softness of her fingertips, Learra had earned enough to purchase one rare pearl of indigo-ebony. And cupping that pearl like her own heart in her thoroughly coarse palms, she had taken it to the one temple in the Southern city that served a true god.

In exchange for the pearl, the god answered her inquiry. Directions were given to her as to the precise location of the mysterious place out of legend that she sought. And a ship was hired, the only ship that would sail there, commanded by an insane captain.

As they sailed through the seas of metallic twilight, through sun-drenched expanses of aquamarine, through haze and mist and downpour, and thunderstorm skies shattered by gods’ lightning, Learra sensed her heart take on a certain new rhythm. The rhythm built, so that she could hear her temples almost every waking moment as they drew nearer to their destination.

At sundown on the hundred and seventh day, the needle of the ship’s compass lost its magnetism and lost its mind, beginning to float aimlessly in its cradle with every jolt of the ocean waves. Very soon after, they saw the horizon, and with it an indigo shadow on the rim.

Wonder. . . .

When night came, the ship continued, piercing the black satin of the waters and leaving a ribbon of ghost-white lace in its wake, while the moon shone down upon the world from a violet sky.

In the darkness, the land formed around them, volcanic, out of the waters. The ship dropped anchor before a soft ebony shore that arose gradually out of some formless void that was the night.

Learra stood watching the line of surf sweep the black sand like a silver comb. And then she was on a small boat, was being rowed to shore, was stepping upon the soft resilient sand.

The androgynous captain with the fearless eyes would wait for her, three days if necessary, and then, as agreed, would be free to turn around and return home, without any more concern for her fate.

She stood, while the boat returned to the ship, and watched the spray fill her footprints upon the sand with liquid night-silver. She stood, breathing the intense cool wind that carried in it scents of both land and sea, and some unknown soft perfume.

The night wind touched her cheek, and she thought she heard her name whispered, as she started to walk along the rising shore into the unknown. Her way was lit with liquid moonlight.

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