Read The Warlock Rock Online

Authors: Christopher Stasheff

Tags: #Fiction - Science Fiction, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantastic fiction, #General, #Fantasy, #Science Fiction - General, #Science fiction, #Rock music, #Fiction, #Gallowglass; Rod (Fictitious character)

The Warlock Rock

BOOK: The Warlock Rock
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The Warlock Rock

by Christopher Stasheff

Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

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Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter One

"Praise Heaven!" Cordelia sighed. She may have been overdoing the sigh a little, but Alain had managed to sneak back to their table to join them, and he was very handsome, in addition to being a crown prince. Cordelia was fourteen, and noticing such things with great interest these days. "Praise Heaven that Mama hath given it to the Lord Abbot!"

"Given what?" Prince Alain watched the High Table, where the Gallowglass children's mother was slipping off a thick chain that held a massive pendant.

She was thirty feet away, for the children sat at a side table, and the Great Hall was seventy-five feet long by fifty wide, which may not be gigantic, but was big enough for the ceiling and the corners to be lost in shadow when the Hall was lit only by torches along the walls, and candles on the tables—and, of course, the great fireplace in the north wall. In the centers of the walls, though, there was enough light to make the lions and dragons on the tapestries seem to jump out at you, and the knights in their shining armor seemed much brighter, and the damsels much fairer, than they ever could by daylight. But Lady Gwendolyn Gallowglass seemed the fairest of all—at least, to her children's eyes—as she held out the pendant to the Lord Abbot. As he took it, Lady Gallowglass flipped the cover open, and the grown-ups all gasped. Small wonder; even from ten yards' distance, Alain could see the glow of the stone. "What is it?"

"Tis a circuit… ouch!" Geoffrey Gallowglass swore, grasping at his shin.

" Tis a rock that Father hath made," his sister Cordelia explained to Alain.

"Say rather, 'found' or 'cut'," said Diarmid, Alain's little brother. "A man doth not 'make' a rock."

"Speak of what thou knowest, sprat!" Alain scolded, and Gregory, the littlest Gallowglass, said helpfully,

"Papa doth. Thou canst, too, if thou dost mix the right potion. Make a brine so salty it doth become thick, then hang a twine in it—and in some days, thou wilt see rocks of salt growing on it."
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Diarmid stared; if Gregory said it, it had to be true.

Geoffrey managed to get his mind off his shin long enough to think of revenge. He glared at Cordelia, and was just starting to speak when something jolted him back. It was his older brother Magnus, hauling him aside to whisper frantically in his ear.

"Salt rocks, but not rough," Cordelia agreed. "They are faceted as sweetly as the finest jewel." Alain frowned. "And thy father thus made that blue stone?"

"Aye," said little Gregory, "though 'twas a good deal more of a coil in the brewing."

"Certes," said Alain. " 'Tis a jewel, after all, not a lump of salt."

"Yet it seems," said Cordelia, "that it was not what he meant it to be." Geoffrey returned to the table, sulky but silent. Magnus sat down beside him.

"What did he mean to make?" Diarmid asked.

"An amulet," said Cordelia, "that would give any who wore it magical powers." Alain could only stare.

"Havoc!" Diarmid said instantly. "There would be no law, no order! Every man's hand would be turned against his neighbor!"

"Thou dost see to the heart of it," Gregory said, impressed. "Still, friend, if all were witches, would not the world remain as it is? The strong would rule, the good folk would obey." Diarmid furrowed his brow, trying to find the flaw.

" 'Tis of no matter." Magnus waved the point away. "Papa's rock did not what he wished; when he bade a plowman wear it and seek to work magic, naught did hap. 'Tis what it did when Papa wore it himself, that was the trouble."

"What trouble?" Diarmid asked; and,

"What did it do?" Alain demanded.

"He set it in a circlet," said Cordelia, "and wore it on his forehead whiles he tried to uproot a sapling that was growing too near the house."

"Could not thy father do that without the jewel?" Diarmid asked.

"Aye, so he gave it only the merest thought—but naught did hap. So he thought harder, then as hard as he could— and still the tree stood."

Alain stared. "The stone locked up his magic?"

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"Nay," said Geoffrey, coming alive at last, "for when he thought his hardest, the sky grew dark."

"Dost thou remember that sudden rain that did drench us a fortnight agone?" Gregory asked.

"It was a totally new psi power," Rod Gallowglass explained, "new to me, anyway. I mean, I'd heard of rainmakers before, and I still think it's just another form of telekinesis…"

"But it was not the form thou didst wish at the moment." The Abbot set the stone down on the table and took his hands from it.

"That is the point," Rod agreed. "Of course, I took it off right away and came inside—and I made sure I put it in the safest place I could think of, before I went to dry off." Father Boquilva glanced at Gwen, but forbore to ask what that "safest place" had been. "Then other than making the locket to hold it, thou hast done naught with it since?"

"Nothing," Rod said firmly, "and Gwen was very careful with her magic while we considered what to do."

"And what hast thou decided?" Queen Catharine asked.

"That I won't try any more experiments," Rod answered.

"Wise, until we are sure what thou hast wrought." The Abbot closed the locket's cover gingerly. Father Boquilva watched him, looking rather pale and a little green around the gills.

"Then," Gwen said, "we did concur that we should ask thee to take it to thy monks at the monastery, who make a practice of investigating such things, that they may decide if it is a thing of no use—or ill use alone."

Rod nodded. "If it's more trouble than benefit, please destroy it. Only don't tell me you did," he said as an afterthought. "I was rather proud of it…"

"It is indeed an immense accomplishment." The Abbot picked up the amulet—warily, by the chain—and slipped it into a pocket hidden inside his robe. "We shall do as thou dost ask—and my monks will use all possible care, I assure thee. By good fortune, I've little enough of the Power myself, so it should be safe with me as I take it back to the monastery. Which I will do straightaway"—he turned to the King—"if thou wilt lend me some few knights and men-at-arms to ward me as I ride."

"That will I, and right gladly," Tuan returned.

That was when the zombies walked in.

Well, they didn't walk, actually—they danced. And a queer, stilted, stiff-legged sort of shuffle it was—but when the dead dance, you don't ask them to be graceful. In fact, you don't ask them anything. You run.

Which most of the courtiers and ladies did, with a single unified scream. They pushed away from the tables and backed up, hands out to ward off the macabre things. Tables crashed over, platters and ewers fell bouncing, and men shoved their wives and sweethearts behind them, pulling out their swords and daggers with that sick sort of look that said they knew it wouldn't do any good. Magnus pushed his two
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little brothers and his sister behind him, of course, but Geoffrey ducked back out in an instant, his sword drawn also, and Cordelia dodged around to his left—only to jar into the back of Alain, who was insisting on being protective, too. By way of saving face, she caught Diarmid and Gregory to her and spat, "Lean aside! I must see!"

"Look, but meddle not." Somehow, her mother was there, right behind her. Cordelia noticed that Gwen didn't try to get out in front of her sons—after all, Magnus was seventeen now, and a young man—but she knew that they were as well protected as though Gwen had.

Then the music caught her attention.

It was a jangly sort of sound that had a beat that kept thumping where you didn't expect it to, a Jighthearted, carefree sort of melody that made her want to dance, in spite of the gruesome pavane before her.

Magnus too was deciding that it really wasn't all that bad, once you got used to it. In fact, if they weren't so stiff-jointed and dry-looking, he might not have been able to tell the zombies from living people at first. They wore winding-sheets draped for modesty, and their skin had darkened—but their empty eye sockets were alive with sparks of light, and they grinned with delight, not rigor mortis. They clapped and sang, occasionally yelling something all together, though he couldn't make out the words, and some of them held rocks which they clicked in unison with that odd, off-beat rhythm.

"Calypso," Rod was telling Tuan. "It's definitely calypso."

"What?" said Father Boquilva. "The nymph who entranced Ulysses and his crew?"

"No, the form of music. It's from ancient Terra."

"Yet how came it here?" Tuan demanded.

Rod shrugged. "How are they making the music at all? I don't see any instruments." The zombies all yelled a word in unison again.

The Abbot frowned. "Now I comprehend what they have said—but it means naught."

"Jamboree!" the zombies cried again.

"It's a sort of a party," Rod explained. "A very big party." Tuan stepped forward, holding his sword out. "Mayhap Cold Iron…"

"No." Rod stayed the king with a hand on his forearm. "Only salt will waken zombies—but you have to put it in their mouths, and make it stay there. Then they'll run back to their graves—but it's very dangerous for anybody who happens to be in the way."

"It matters not," Catharine said, tight-lipped. "They leave." Leaving they were, in a shuffling procession, clacking their rocks together, snapping their fingers, clapping their hands, chanting the words that the courtiers couldn't understand, punctuated now and again with that shouted word, "Jamboree!"

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Their singing faded; finally, they were gone. The whole of the Great Hall stood in silence for a few minutes.

Then ladies collapsed onto benches, sobbing, and their gentlemen turned to comfort them. Cordelia stood rigid, determined not to cry, and Gwen was watching Diarmid and Gregory with concern—but Diarmid was only grave, as he always was, and Gregory was fascinated.

"Come!" Alain cried. "Papa will say what to do!" But as they approached the High Table, Tuan was saying to the priests, "What was it we spoke of all day? A hodgepodge of hedge-priests, who we thought might become a danger because they praised the life of poverty and chastity?"

Rod nodded. "Somehow they don't seem all that pressing all of a sudden."

"Indeed not." Catharine saw Gwen, and heaved out a sigh that seemed to loosen every joint. "What can it mean, Lady Gallowglass? Whence came they?"

But Gwen could only spread her hands and shake her head. "From their graves, Majesty. Yet who hath raised them, I cannot say."

"Nor why they sent them here." Tuan began to frown.

"Oh, that is easily said!" Catharine snapped. "They have sent them to afright the Crown and the Court, look you, and even now they dance out through the town, like as not to send the citizens of our capitol screaming in terror."

Tuan turned, snapping his fingers, and a guardsman appeared by his side. "Tell Sir Maris I would have a troop of guards follow those spectres—but stay at a distance, and do naught but watch till they have fled the town."

"Yet if any are hurted in their fright," Catharine said quickly, "aid them." The guardsman bowed and turned away, but the look on his face said that he was considering a career change.

"Fright is all that would hurt them," Tuan agreed. "Yet a fright of this sort will have the whole land clamoring to the Crown, to banish these fell revenants." He looked up at the Abbot. "And what can the Crown do?"

The Abbot was silent a moment, then said, "I shall consult with my monks."

"Naught, then." Tuan turned back to Catharine. "And the people shall see their monarchs powerless. This is the purpose."

"To hale us down," Catharine said, white-lipped. "Will they never be done? Will they never leave us in peace?"

"Never," Rod said, "for your land and your people are far too important, Your Majesties."
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BOOK: The Warlock Rock
2.22Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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