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Authors: Jane Yolen

Hobby

BOOK: Hobby
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Table of Contents

Title Page

Table of Contents

Copyright

Dedication

Epigraph

Introduction

1. LIES

2. WALLS

3. SMOKE

4. FOR SALE

5. THE TOWN

6. THE CASTLE ON WHEELS

7. THE MAGE

8. THE CITY

9. SECRETS

10. THE PLAYERS

11. DREAM-READER

12. A DIFFERENT READING

13. RESURRECTION

14. TRUE MAGIC

Epilogue

Author's Note

Copyright © 1996, 1986 by Jane Yolen

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced
or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical,
including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval
system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be
mailed to: Permissions Department, Harcourt Brace & Company,
6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

Acknowledgement

This book is loosely based on the short story "Dream Rider"
from the collection
Merlin's Booke,
but has been
significantly expanded, refocused, and changed.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Yolen, Jane.
Hobby: the young Merlin trilogy/Jane Yolen.—1st ed.
p. cm.

Sequel to: Passager.

Summary: Young Merlin is orphaned by a fire and joins a traveling
pair of magicians who help him begin to discover his true powers.
ISBN 0-15-200815-2
1. Merlin (Legendary character)—Juvenile fiction.
[1. Merlin (Legendary character)—Fiction. 2. Magicians—Fiction.
3. Dreams—Fiction.] I. Title
PZ7.Y78Hn 1996
[Fic]—dc20 95-36735

Text set in Fairfield Medium
Designed by Kaelin Chappell

Printed in the United States of America

G I K M O N L J H

For Deborah and Robert Harris
and their boys

Hobby:

A small Old World falcon or hawk that has been trained and flown at small birds.

Dark.

Night.

The hoy dreams of a bird, its breast as red as flames, rising to heaven singing, and wakes to smoke.

Fire licks the edges of the thatched rooftop, bright shooting stars let loose from a chink in the chimney. The house is suddenly aglow.

A dog howls.

Then a second.

Bells from the mews jangle frantically.

The scream of a woman tears the air. "Master Robin. Master
—"
Her voice is cut off.

A door bursts open and a figure appears. It is a boy carrying the body of a dog. They are haloed by fire. Gently, he places the dog on the ground, well away from the flames, then turns to go back in.

Someone else stumbles through the door. A woman, by the clothes. But she has no hair, it having been consumed by the fire. The boy catches her before she falls. He lays her down by the dog's side, turns.

The roof falls in with a great
whooosh
of sound. No one else alive can come out of that house. No one alive can go in.

Sparks fly to the mews, to the barn and, like the house, they are devoured whole.

After a long while—a day, a lifetime—the flames are silent.

Birds sing from the nearby woods.

Light.

Day.

1. LIES

THE BOY BURIED THEM ALL IN A SINGLE GRAVE
: dog, woman, and the charred remains of the others. Of the birds in the mews there was nothing left to bury. Nothing except one tiny brass bell from the littlest hawk's jesses. He pocketed this treasure without thinking.

A single grave. Digging five separate ones would have been too hard for him. At twelve he did not yet have his full strength. But he did it also because he could not bear that they should be apart: Master Robin, Mag, Nell, the two dogs. They were his family, all that he had had for the past four years. A family, he knew, must stay as one. He did not know how he knew it, but he did.

He would have thrown himself into the pit as well, as penance for not understanding his dream of the bird in flames and rising sooner. The guilt of all their deaths, of the fact that he was still alive, was almost too great to bear. But there was something in him, a kind of sense as strong as that of sight and hearing and smell, that told him to stay alive.

"And remember," he whispered to himself. By that he meant
remember
Master Robin, who had rescued him from the woods and taught him to read, both the words on a slate and the passage of a hawk across the sky. And remember Mag, who had kept him cosseted and fed. And Nell, who had taught him all the games he had missed as a child. And the dogs who guarded him at night and brought back thrown sticks and licked his face. And the falcons who came to his hand. If he remembered them, they would still be alive, in some odd way. Not alive
beside
him, but
inside
him.

He said a prayer over the grave, a prayer that took in the fact that though his own world seemed to have ended, the world seemed still to go on. And he spoke words he vaguely recalled in Latin, though he didn't know it was Latin he was recalling. "
In nomine Patris,
" he said.

And he told himself the first of many lies he would tell that fall. "I will not cry."

It was a lie before he left the farmsteadings.

He drove the old dry cow before him, led the great-footed mare. They had been out in the pasture and thus been spared of the fire. He wore his nightshirt tucked into a pair of singed trousers and carried the one pair of boots the fire had not taken, their lacings tied together and slung across his back. They were not his boots; his boots were ash. These were an old pair of Master Robin's boots that had been set out by the door, too dirty for Mag's fresh flooring. He would grow into them in time.

He had slaughtered the two hens, after gathering their last two eggs, because he couldn't herd them properly and didn't want to leave them for the foxes. And he cooked them on the embers of the house and mews to have food for the long walk ahead. One chicken and the eggs he finished before leaving, for grave digging was hard work and he was famished. The other chicken he put in the leather pouch, along with the little bell.

He did not know where he was going, exactly, but he could not bear to stay at the ruin of the farm. Once he had gone to a great fair with Master Robin and it had been several days' walk west. If he could find it again, he thought he might sell both cow and horse there and make a new life on his own.

Chewing thoughtfully on a drumstick, the boy turned to look one last time at the burned-out hulk that had been his home for four years.
That
was when he began to cry, the tears falling quickly.

But he did not make a sound as he cried. He was afraid if he started, his howling would never stop.

 

The woods were cold and spattered with sunlight wherever the interfacings of yellowing leaves thinned out. For a while he rode the horse, a big-hearted Dales mare named Goodie. She had a walk better suited to the plow and he had to ride her bareback. Still, he was such a light weight, she hardly noticed him.

The cow plodded placidly behind the horse. They made an uncommon pair, but so long together in the same barn and pasture, they were as easy with one another as old gossips. The boy napped twice on the horse's back. Each small sleep brought him the same snippet of dream: the flame-breasted bird singing of danger. He forced himself to wake and mourned his lost family at each waking.

By nightfall, not only the leaves had thinned out, but the trees as well. The boy got off the horse, leading both horse and cow behind by their halter ropes. He did not want to chance that either might run off, startled by some new sight or sound.

The broad and knotted holm oaks gave way to a large meadow. Still in the oak shadow, the boy listened intently to a stirring of nearby grasses.

Suddenly a herd of deer, small and brown and dappled with moonlight, passed by so close to him, he could see their liquid eyes. Goodie whinnied and, at that, the deer were gone, as if by magic.

Magic!
For a moment the boy wondered if the deer were a sign. But though he was used to dreams, both waking and sleeping, he had never dreamed of deer. He let out a deep breath, which surprised him, for he had not known he was holding it.

"Now, Goodie," he said to the horse. "Now, Churn," to the cow. "We must rest the night. I promise you will be safe."

He tied them loosely to a low tree branch, then settled himself up in the crotch of one of the oaks.

"I am too tired to dream," he called down to them, hoping that by saying the words aloud they would become true. He was afraid to dream again of the fire bird, afraid to be reminded once more how his refusal to wake in time, his inability to understand the dream in time, had robbed him of his family. "I will not let myself dream," he called to the horse and cow.

Another lie.

2. WALLS

DREAMED OF HOME. NOT THE HOME HE HAD
last seen, burned and blackened, but a different home. This one was stone upon stone, several towers high, with tile roofs and stone walkways. Only women lived there, dressed like crows. They pecked at him with tiny, quick beaks. They beat at him with black wings. Then, at a high-pitched whistle, they left off abusing him and rose into the air, circling the towers and then down to a courtyard where a priest dressed in black called them down like a falconer.

The boy woke, shivering, and for a moment was eight years old again, alone and in the forest. "Horse," he reminded himself, staring down into the darkness. "Cow." They had been among his first words when Master Robin rescued him. Then he mumbled his own name and, with that, fell asleep once again to dream—as boys often do—of dragons.

When he woke for good, it was dawn. Birdsong assaulted him. From the tree he could look far across the meadow to a sudden blue lake, winking in the light, like a signal lantern. To the right of the lake was a swath of sandy shingle. To the left was something very like a high wall.

"A wall," he said aloud. "A wall means people." It had to be a town's gate. The town he and Master Robin had visited. He smiled and, still sitting in the tree, fetched out the last pieces of chicken from his leather pouch. There was no need to keep them any longer, for there would be food aplenty in the town. He ate contentedly.

When he was done, he rubbed his sleeve across his greasy mouth. He thought that Mag would have clapped him hard on the ear for so doing. She had cloths at the table for such. How often had she told him: "Easier to wash them, than to wash thy shirt, boy."

But he had no table cloths. And no wash water. And no Mag either. The thought threatened to unman him once again and, in order not to cry, he leaped down from the tree. He hit the ground solidly, frightening the cow but not the stolid Goodie, who only shook her head in annoyance.

If he wished for a cloth, he wished even more for some drinking water, for the chicken had awakened a sudden thirst in him. But his skin bag was empty. Still, ahead lay the lake and the wall, the one meaning water and the other company. He got up on Goodie's back and, holding Churn's long halter rope, pulled her after them, though she clearly wanted to browse the meadow.

No amount of kicking with his bare heels moved Goodie out of her walk, and so the boy relaxed and watched as swallows crisscrossed before them, chasing after insects the horse and cow kicked up.

It took them the greater part of an hour to get close enough to see that the wall was not part of a town but marked the site of a large ruin. They picked their way carefully through the debris of some old outworks, the broken weedy remains of a road. Goodie stepped high over the crumbled stones. The boy had to yank several times hard on the cow's rope to encourage her to follow. But when at last there was a wind off the lake and she smelled the water, Chum picked up her legs in a fast trot, suddenly almost young again.

At the lake's edge, the two animals drank eagerly. But after a handful of water, the boy went over to the ruins, curiosity getting the better of thirst.

There was a series of high walls, all broken at the top, though several half-roofs of dark tile still guarded the upper rooms from weather. At his approach, a dozen doves clattered up into the light, proving that the place was long deserted.

The ruins reminded him, oddly enough, of his dream: the same high walls, the half-gabled roofs. They lacked only the crow women in their black robes, and the priest. He wondered what people had lived in this place and for a moment closed his eyes, as if that could help him envision them. But he could not imagine anyone here. It was too long empty. Too musty. Too cold.

He stepped over some broken stones and found himself in a kind of courtyard, clearly once a garden, for there were several ancient fruit trees bent like old men, the browned remains of unharvested fruit by the twisted roots. Stones lined out a series of still-neat borders but nettles had taken over the plots of earth. In the very center of the garden was a mosaic, partially covered with dirt and uneven where the ground had shifted beneath it. The boy could make out some sort of spade-bearded, fish-tailed god; it looked a lot like Master Robin, broad shouldered and with red-brown hair. The boy turned away quickly before he had time to weep, his hand going to the leather pocket where the hawk's bell rested.

BOOK: Hobby
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