IceBreaker

From: Andrew Joelson (joelsona@cpdmfg.cig.mot.com)
Date: Tue 22 Apr 1997 - 20:29:13 EEST


        As I understand that part IX was garbled in the last transmission,
I am re-transmitting it. My apologies.

               The Last IceBreaker, Part IX

     Harlios sat on his saddle blanket. He looked disconsolately at his
last worldly possessions. His two-handed sword (straight!), five Yanafal
Tar'nils ritual dueling markers set out in a ring. Inside the ring (so
it would not get lost again) a bag of purified salt for use in the coming
rituals. And a large, squat candle, made of the finest beeswax. It was
red, dyed that way by the Danfive Xaron cult which had supplied it. He
had never asked what sort of dye had been used. His first guess, blood,
was dismissed as too obvious, insufficiently gruesome.....
"Is this all?" he thought. "Here at the end of my life, this is all
that is left to me?" He thought wistfully of his iron scimitar, his
wyvern's claw. How proud he had been of them. But he had barely touched
them, except for practice, for more than two years. Not since he had
acquired Ichor, his putrid blade. And now they had been discarded, like
so much dross.
"Who will mourn for me?" he thought. "Chiak and Rhondar, Hwarin and
Allessa. Maybe. If they even remember me, now that my Callings have been
stolen. They will go on and find a new master, or mistress. Will they
settle down finally, or are they set in the wandering life I have led?
Will they have families? children? I have three children, and have never
seen them."
     He tried to picture the women who had born his seed. He remembered
their names, but their faces were a blur. Willing young initiates, pro-
vided by the Empire. Ample bedmates, enthusiastic even. Honored to bear
a child to a man of proven superiority; let not that worthy bloodline die!
One after becoming a Priest of the Seven Mothers. One after becoming a
Lord of Yanafal Tar'nils. And one during his stay at Glamour, while
training as a Traveller and Journeyer. Two sons and a daughter, he had
heard. But he had never seen.....
"What have I accomplished?" Harlios wondered. "Other than to get
myself Doomed? Five broo here, a vampire there, a #@$ shrine dedicated!
Two hundred years from now, who will know? My name is written down in
records here and there, what of it? The Empire is a great tent, held up
by many poles. And Argrath is slowly walking around the outside, kicking
them down, one by one. There isn't going to _be_ an Empire in two hundred
years! And nobody in the heartlands seems to care!"
"Is this what Illumination does to you? I'm glad I failed! Deeper
mystic insight, PHAUGH! Six times they made me repeat that blasted riddle,
so that they could figure out what was happening. 'Well, it seems to be a
convulsion of the mind and spirit, as well as the body.' 'It draws your
spirit back into your frame, even if projecting outwards in a ritual.' 'It
appears to be something you have done during one of your quests, blocking
you from moving in this direction....' For _that_ I had needed the advice
of seven Illuminated Masters?"
"Oh, what difference does it make? I am about to depart the cycles
of life and death. And no one will ever know that I couldn't even die
properly, with Inandana DaughtersBlood. I am going to vanish on this name-
less, barren plain; never to be seen again. I will be forgotten; how can
it be otherwise when Valind has stolen my Callings. Who will know? Who
_can_ know?"

"Yanafal will know."
"The Seven Mothers will know!"
"VALIND WILL KNOW! He will remember the Last IceBreaker! Let him
waste his breath cursing me forever, uselessly!"
"My life is not wasted! Who cares if no one remembers me in two
hundred years? I never sought glory. I did what was right! Who cares if
I killed five broo near Falling Waters? The people who dwell there care!
Five broo that will not trouble them again, killing the folk, breeding more
broo! I am a Provincial! I understand that the people of the Empire count!
In how many towns, in how many lands, is the world a better place because
I have lived? That is enough! It has always been enough!"

     Harlios sat on the saddle blanket. His jaw was clenched so hard his
teeth hurt. His eyes blazed like fire within his helm. His arm was out-
stretched, his fist closed tight around a faltering spirit. It was like
no spirit he had ever seen before.
     It was not like a Shade, the Color of Fear.
     It was not like a Lune, the Color of Madness.
     It was the Color of Despair.

"How dare you!" he roared. "How come you against me? Did I not make
sacrifice to Rashtingall? Offer up my most beloved possessions? I kept a
respectfull distance! And this is my reward?"
"Distance means nothing, if you will stay for any length of time.
And what of your sacrifices? Did you not call on the Power of Rashtingall?
To give thanks for the strength you have called upon is only proper! This
is the Place of Challenge, did you think to evade it?"
"Did you challenge Inandana?"
"She came forward of her own, late that night. She passed her challenge
easily."
"And the Wolf Brother?"
"He faced his challenge long ago, as part of his training. His old
master brought him here for that express purpose."
"Rrrrrrrr. Drel?"
"I too...have been challenged...but in a more traditional way..."
Drel answered wearily.
"Drel! How badly are you hurt? How long will you be recovering?"
"Half a day...to recover what I can... Some of my hurts are lasting...."
"@#&%*$!!!"
     Harlios mastered his temper, even as he squeezed the writhing spirit
in his fist. Immaterial, it was none the less caught between his fingers,
filled as they were with his own aura, boiling in anger.
"We will fix this, Drel," he thought in an ugly tone. "Come, join
me in a little ceremony, old and familiar."

               Yanafal, the captain wise
               Did gather then his comrades 'round
               The battle fought, and victory won
               To share out the victor's bounty

     His left foot burned, as if he had stepped in acid. Always, it was
the same. Deathday, sunrise to sunset. And whenever he performed a
Yanafali ritual.

               Let each claim his rightfull due
               A fair share of the spoils of war
               Are we all not brothers here?
               Equal members of this band?

     Drel's voice joined him, raggedly at first. But his tone steadied.
Power, raw magic, began to flow up Harlios's arm. From out of the captured,
screaming spirit, up his arm, and into Drel. Restoring Drel's lost strength,
washing away all signs of weariness.
     Drel stopped, and Harlios followed suit. "Is that all?" he asked.
"Yes," said Drel. "I am restored. No more is necessary."
"Drink your fill, as deeply as you desire."
"I have, now you drink."
     They sang the final canticle, but Harlios did nothing, but to open
his fist. He released the pitifull fragment of Despair, which was all that
was left of his challenger. Howling it fled back into the glow of Rash-
tingall. The Black Rock hummed; could it be, that the hum was slightly
stronger now?"

******
Andrew

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