Read StarMan Online

Authors: Sara Douglass

StarMan

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---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Book Information:

Genre: High/Epic Fantasy

Author: Sara Douglass

Name: StarMan

Series: Book Three of
The Axis Trilogy

Extra Scan Info: The Sequel Trilogy to
The Axis Trilogy
is called
The Wayfarer Redemption
Trilogy

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StarMan

Book Three of The Axis Trilogy

By Sara Douglass

Nothing but idiot gabble!

For the prophecy given of old And then not understood,

Has come to pass as foretold;

Not let any man think for the public good,

But babble, merely for babble.

For I never whisper'd a private affair Within the hearing of cat or mouse, No, not to myself in the closet alone,

But I heard it shouted at once from the top of the house;

Everything came to be known.

Who told him we were there?

Not that gray old wolf, for he came not back

From the wilderness, full of wolves, where he used to lie;

He has gather'd the bones for his o'ergrown whelp to crack;

Crack them now for yourself, and howl, and die.

---Alfred, Lord Tennyson, from Part II.v of
Maud

The Prophecy of the Destroyer

A day will come when born will be Two babes whose blood will tie them.

That born to Wing and Horn will hate

The one they call the StarMan.

Destroyer! rises in the north

And drives his Ghostmen south;

Defenceless lie both flesh and field Before GorgraePs ice.

To meet this threat you must release

The StarMan from his lies,

Revive Tencendor, fast and sure

Forget the ancient war,

For if Plough, Wing and Horn can't find

The bridge to understanding,

Then will Gorgrael earn his name

And bring Destruction hither.

StarMan, listen, heed me well,

Your power will destroy you

If you should wield it in the fray 'Ere these prophecies are met:

The Sentinels will walk abroad

'Til power corrupt their hearts;

A child will turn her head and cry

Revealing ancient arts;

A wife will hold in joy at night

The slayer of her husband;

Age-old souls, long in cribs,

Will sing o'er mortal land;

The remade dead, fat with child

Will birth abomination;

A darker power will prove to be

The father of salvation.

Then waters will release bright eyes To form the Rainbow Scepter.

StarMan, listen, for I know

That you can wield the scepter To bring Gorgrael to his knees And break the ice asunder.

But even with the power in hand Your pathway is not sure: A Traitor from within your camp Will seek and plot to harm you;

Let not your Lover's pain distract For this will mean your death;

Destroyer's might lies in his hate Yet you must never follow;

Forgiveness is the thing assured

To save Tencendor's soul.

The Day of Power

It was a long day, the day Axis tried to kill Azhure, then married her. It was a day filled with power, and thus power found it easy to wrap and manipulate lives. The power of the Enchantress - untested and, for the moment, uncontrolled -had dominated the morning. Now, as the Enchantress smiled and kissed her new husband, it lay quiescent, waiting.

But as the gate that had imprisoned Azhure's power and identity had shattered that day, so had other gates shattered, and so other powers had moved - and not all of them welcomed by the Prophecy.

As the Enchantress leaned back from her husband, accepting the warmth and love of her friends and family about her, so power walked the land of Tencendor. It would be a long day.

Axis pulled the Enchantress' ring from a small secret pocket in his breeches. He held it up so that all in the room could see it, then he slid the ring onto the heart finger of Azhure's left hand. It fit perfectly, made only for this woman, and for this finger.

"Welcome into the House of the Stars to stand by my side, Enchantress. May we walk together forever."

"Forever?" the GateKeeper said. "You and the Enchantress? For
ever?
As you wish, StarMan, as you wish."

She laughed, then, from one of the bowls on the table before her she lifted out two balls and studied them.

"Foreve^" she muttered, and placed them with the group of seven sparkling balls at the front of her table. The Greater. "Nine. Complete. The Circle is
complete*.
At last... at last!"

She fell silent, deep in thought. Her fingers trembled. Already he had one child, and more to follow.

And then...the other.

She held a hand over one of the bowls again, dipped it in sharply, and brought out four more balls.

She dropped them into the pile of softly glowing golden balls which represented those who did not have to go through her Gate. The Lesser.

"Yet one
morel"
A spasm of pain crossed her face. Her hand lifted slowly, shaking, then she snarled and snatched a dull black ball from the pile of those who refused to go through her Gate.

She hissed, for the GateKeeper loathed releasing a soul without exacting fair price. "Does that satisfy your promise, WolfStar?
Does
it?"

She dropped it with the other four on the pile of the Lesser.

"Enough," she said in relief. "It is done. Enough."

Faraday tightened the girth on the donkey and checked the saddlebags and panniers. She did not carry much with her: the bowl of enchanted wood that the silver pelt had given her so long ago; the green gown that the Mother had presented to her; some extra blankets; a pair of sturdy boots should the weather break; and a few spare clothes.

It was not -much for a widowed Queen, thought Faraday, fighting to keep her emotions under control. Where the retainers? The gilded carriage and the caparisoned horses? The company of two white donkeys was paltry considering what she had done for Axis and for Tencendor - and what she would yet do.

Carriages and horses? What did she need with those? All she needed, all she wanted, was the love of a man who did not love her.

She thought about Azhure and Caelum, envying the woman yet sharing her joy in her son. Well, she thought, no matter. I am mother to forty-two thousand souls. Surely their birthing will give me pain and joy enough.

The stables, as the rest of the palace of Carlon, were still and quiet. When she had left the Sentinels earlier Faraday had heard that the princes and commanders closest to Axis and Azhure had been called to the apartment where Faraday had left them.

"A wedding, I hope," Faraday murmured, and did not know whether to smile for Azhure's sake, or cry for her own.

She took a deep breath and steeled herself. She had her own role to play in the Prophecy and it would take her far from Carlon. Faraday could not wait to leave the palace and the city. There were no happy memories here. Even the recent eight days and nights she had spent at Axis' side had turned out to be nothing but a lie and a betrayal. It was their memory Faraday wanted to escape most of all.

Why had no-one told her about Azhure? Everyone close to Axis - indeed, many distant from him -

had known of his love for Azhure, yet none had thought to tell Faraday. Not even the Sentinels.

"You let me think that once Borneheld was dead Axis would be mine," she had cried to the Sentinels.

"All I had to comfort me during that frightful marriage was the thought that one day my efforts for the Prophecy would be rewarded with Axis' love, and yet that comfort was a lie."

Ogden and Veremund hung their heads in shame, and when Yr stepped forward to comfort Faraday, she jerked away.

"Did
you
know?" Faraday shouted at Jack. "Did
you
know from the very beginning that I would lose Axis?"

"None of us know all of the twists and turns of the Prophecy, sweet girl," Jack replied, his face unreadable.

Faraday had stared flatly at him, almost tasting the lie he'd mouthed.

She sighed. Her meeting with the Sentinels had not gone well. She now regretted the harsh words she'd lashed at them before she'd stalked out the door. Ogden and Veremund had scurried after her, their cheeks streaked with tears, asking her where she was going. "Into Prophecy - where you have thrust me," Faraday had snapped.

"Then take our donkeys and their bags and panniers," they'd begged.

Faraday nodded curtly. "If you wish."

Then she had left them standing in the corridor, as much victims of the Prophecy as she was.

Now all she knew was that she had to go east and that, sooner or later, she would have to begin the transfer of the seedlings from Ur's nursery in the Enchanted Woods beyond the Sacred Grove to this world.

Faraday gathered the leads of the placid donkeys and turned to the stable entrance. A heavily cloaked figure stood there, shrouded in shadows. Faraday jumped, her heart pounding.

"Faraday?" a soft voice asked, and she let out a breath in sheer relief. She'd thought that this dark figure might be the mysterious and dangerous WolfStar.

"Embeth! What are you doing down here? Why are you cloaked so heavily?"

Embeth tugged back the hood. Her face was pale and drawn, her eyes showing the strain of sleepless nights.

"You're leaving, Faraday?"

Faraday stared at the woman, remembering how Embeth, like the Sentinels, had urged her into the marriage with Borneheld. She also remembered that Embeth and Axis had been lovers for many years.

Well could you dissuade me from Axis and urge me to Borneheld's bed, she thought sourly, when you had enjoyed Axis for so long.

But Faraday forced herself to remember that Embeth had been doing only what she thought best for a young girl untutored in the complexities of court intrigue. Embeth had known nothing of prophecies or of the maelstrom that had, even then, caught so many of its victims into its swirling dark outer edges.

"Yes. There is no place for me here, Embeth. I travel east," she replied, deliberately vague, letting Embeth think she was travelling back to her family home in Skarabost.

Embeth's hands twisted in front of her. "What of you and Axis?"

Faraday stared unbelievingly at her before she realised that Embeth probably had no knowledge of the day's events.

"I leave Axis to his lover, Embeth. I leave him to Azhure." Her voice was so soft that Embeth had to strain to hear it.

"Oh, Faraday," she said, hesitating only an instant before she stepped forward and hugged the woman tightly. "Faraday, I am sorry I did not tell you...about...well, about Azhure and her son. But I could not find the words, and after a few days I had convinced myself that you must have known. That Axis must have told you. But I saw your face yesterday when Axis acknowledged Azhure and named her son as his heir and I realised then that Axis had kept his silence. That everyone had. Faraday, please forgive me."

Faraday finally broke down into the tears she had not allowed herself since that appalling moment at the ceremony when she had realised the depth of Axis' betrayal. She sobbed, and Embeth hugged her fiercely. For a few minutes the two women stood in the dim stable, then Faraday pulled back and wiped her eyes, an unforced smile on her face.

"Thank you, Embeth. I needed that."

"If you are going east then you must be going past Tare," Embeth said. "Please, Faraday, let me come with you as far as Tare. There is no place here in Carlon for me any more. Timozel has gone, only the gods know where, my other two children are far distant - both married now - and I do not think either Axis or Azhure would feel comfortable with my continuing presence."

As mine, Faraday thought. Discarded lovers are a source of some embarrassment.

"Judith still waits in Tare, and needs my company. And there are...other . . . reasons I should return home."

Faraday noted the older woman's hesitancy. "StarDrifter?" she asked.

"Yes," Embeth said after a moment's hesitation. "I was a fool to succumb to his well-practised enticements, but the old comfortable world I knew had broken apart into so many pieces that I felt lost, lonely, unsure. He was an escape and I...I, as his son's former lover, was an irresistible challenge."

A wry grin crossed her face. "I fear I may have made a fool of myself, Faraday, and that thought hurts more than any other pain I have endured over the past months. StarDrifter only used me to sate his curiosity, he did not care for me. We did not even share the friendship that Axis and I did."

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