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Authors: Angus Wells

Exile's Children

BOOK: Exile's Children
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E
XILE'S
C
HILDREN
A Bantam Spectra Book/ January 1996

Spectra and the portrayal of a boxed “s” are trademarks of Bantam Books, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc.

All rights reserved.
Copyright © 1995 by Angus Wells

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
For information address: Bantam Books.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Wells, Angus.
         Exile's children / Angus Wells.
             p.   cm.—(The Exiles saga ; bk.  1)
         eISBN: 978-0-307-57464-0
         1. Title.    II. Series: Wells, Angus.   Exiles saga ; bk.1.
     PR6073.E386E95    1995
     823′.914—dc20                                                                          95-17735

Published simultaneously in the United States and Canada

Bantam Books are published by Bantam Books, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. Its trademark, consisting of the words “Bantam Books” and the portrayal of a rooster, is Registered in U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and in other countries. Marca Registrada. Bantam Books, 1540 Broadway, New York, New York 10036.

v3.1

Contents
1
The Meeting Ground

When Morrhyn came out of the Dream Lodge the first thing he saw was a heron chased across the sky by three harrying crows. The ungainly fisherbird swooped and dove, its wide wings beating heavily, but the crows were relentless in their pursuit, and as the heron reached the stand of hemlock flanking the Meeting Ground, it squawked a protest and gave up its catch to the robbers. Morrhyn wondered if this was an omen, and if any of the other wakanishas attending the Matakwa had observed the drama. He would mention it later, he decided, and perhaps they would discuss its meaning; meanwhile, he had much else to occupy his mind.

After the heat of the lodge, the early morning air struck chill on his sweated skin and he shrugged his bearskin closer about his shoulders. The year was young yet, the New Grass Moon barely full, but the sky promised benevolence, and when he turned to make obeisance to the Maker's Mountain, he saw the great peak shining brilliant in the rising sun. Perhaps that, too, was an omen; perhaps the Maker sent a sign to balance the other. Morrhyn was unsure: lately, his dreams had left him turbulent with uncertainty. He felt some dreadful threat approached the People, but what its nature or when it should arrive remained mysterious. This past night, as before, he had dreamed of strange creatures all clad in shining metal, and mounted on such beasts as defied imagining, and knew their purpose was evil. At their head rode a figure whose armor shone sun-bright, and whose mount was huge and black with
wickedly curling horns and eyes that blazed fiery. No such folk, or such weirdling beasts, existed in all Ket-Ta-Witko, and he feared the meaning of the dream, and prayed earnestly that it not be realized. When it came his turn to speak in the Dream Council, he would tell all this to his fellow wakanishas and seek their advice. Perhaps others had shared the dream: he could not decide if he hoped for that confirmation of his oneiric power or dreaded its corroboration.

Sighing, he made his way through the sleeping lodges to the stream that crossed the Meeting Ground and stooped to lave his face and chest. Farther down the brook he saw Rannach watering his prized stallion, laughing with several of the other unmarried warriors. The young man stood bare-chested in the cold, and for a moment Morrhyn envied him his youth and the overweening confidence it brought. He had never enjoyed such confidence, but then, he had come early to his calling, recognized as a Dreamer and claimed by old Gahyth before he had opportunity to ride out after the wild plains horses or go alone against the bear or the lion to earn the right of the warrior's braids. He was wakanisha: his hair hung loose; Rannach's was tied in the braids these seven winters now.

And now the young man prepared to choose a bride. There were maidens enough amongst the lodges of the Commacht who looked favorably on him, and their parents would welcome his bride-visit. Morrhyn wished he would choose one of them; it should be so much simpler. But Rannach had eyes only for Arrhyna, as if his first sight of the Tachyn girl had hooked his heart and bound it firm. Had Morrhyn not known better, he might have wondered if the maiden had entranced Rannach, delivered him some love potion that enslaved him with ropes of blind desire; but from Matakwas past he knew her for a modest girl, seemingly unconscious of her beauty. He did not believe she had worked some magic on Rannach but only been herself, and Rannach fallen honestly—and totally—in love with her. Which, of course, was the strongest magic of all, and in the circumstances perhaps the worst.

Morrhyn grunted as he straightened, absently cursing the years that tolled their count in the stiffening of his limbs, and nodded greeting as Rannach smiled and waved, hoping his silence should indicate to the warrior his aversion to conversation. He had no desire at that moment to speak with the young man: he knew where the conversation must go, what he would say and what Rannach would reply, and that it must leave him further troubled. He needed to think, to ponder his dream and the days to come, to determine what part Rannach and Arrhyna might play in the future of the Commacht; indeed, in the future of all the People.

It would all, he thought as he burrowed deeper into his robe and
turned from the stream, be so much easier if Vachyr did not court the girl: if Vachyr were not Chakthi's son, or Chakthi so intransigent. But these things were immutable as the Maker's Mountain. Intermarriage amongst the clans was not unusual, and if Rannach paid court to any other Tachyn maiden, likely Chakthi could find no cause for objection. The Maker knew the Tachyn akaman held little enough love for the Commacht, but he would likely not argue Rannach's pursuit of some maiden other than Arrhyna, only urge the parents set an exorbitant bride-price. That his only child pursued the same maiden changed everything: Chakthi would bring all his influence as akaman to bear, seeking to deliver Vachyr whatever—or, in this case, whoever—the warrior desired. Chakthi's love of his son was blind and, since his widowing, untempered by feminine influence.

Nor did Morrhyn believe Hadduth likely to do other than second his akaman, even though it was the wakanisha's duty to consider the greater good, the welfare of all the People. Hadduth, he could not help thinking, was a cringing dog to Chakthi's wolf: when Chakthi howled, Hadduth barked his support. It needed no dreaming to prophesy this looming future. Rannach was headstrong in his pride, and should Vachyr contest with him, should it come to a challenge…

That, Morrhyn thought, he had rather not consider. Save he must, for he was wakanisha of the Commacht and his burden was the contemplation of fate's weaving. It was a burden he accepted, delivered when Gahyth saw him for a Dreamer, but it brought him little pleasure. Its weight sat heavy; nor was it shared, for amongst the young men of the Commacht he could discern none with the talent. He was not yet so old he need worry about that absence, but the time must surely come when he need teach another the art. He thought that then he must perhaps turn to another clan, to persuade some likely candidate to take the oaths and vow fealty to the Commacht. And did it come to that, he would not look for his successor amongst the Tachyn.

A voice intruded then on his musings, and he saw that he had come absentminded amongst the lodges. Lhyn called to him from the mouth of Racharran's tent and he smiled at sight of her, old memories, old longings, stirring ruefully. Gray strands wove through her hair now, but they seemed only to make the gold glow brighter, as if silver joined the molten flow; and were there lines upon her face, they served only to emphasize her beauty. Once, perhaps … But Morrhyn shoved the thought away. Lhyn had made her choice and he would not argue it; had not then, when he saw her eyes grow moist as she denied him and told him she went to Racharran, and could not now, when he saw her happy. He raised a hand and went toward her, still not quite able to stem the
swift thudding of his heart. Perhaps, he thought, I am not so old after all.

“I've pan bread readying,” she told him, “and Racharran brought home a deer. Shall you eat with us?” She held the lodge flap open as she spoke, knowing he would not demur.

Morrhyn beamed as the smells wafted tempting to his nose and said as he entered the lodge, “Our akaman is, indeed, a great hunter of deer.”

BOOK: Exile's Children
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