Mindstealers—that is what the Gleaners—a mutant strain of humans able to destroy the minds and souls of their fellows—are known throughout Canderis. it is a reputation that has been only too well-earned by such Gleaners as Seeker Doyce Marbon's stepson Vesey, who nearly succeeded in bringing down both the Seekers Veritas and the eumedicos, the two organizations primarily responsible for the well-being of the people of Canderis.
Having thus been made aware taht the Gleaners are secretly building their power, the Seekers are sworn to find and put an end to this threat. But Doyce's Bondmate, the catlike ghatta called Khar, has a much more personal mission to fulfill, to break through the mind barriers which Doyce created as protection against a terrifying attack by Vesey. For although Vesey was defeated by Doyce and the united minds of eight ghatti, Doyce has remained in shock for months, trapped within her own mind's protective barriers.
But now the Seekers Veritas have need of her services once again, and, recovered or not, she and Khar must join a mission to the neighboring realm of Marchmont. For someone seems bent on creating dissension between Canderis and Marchmont. And even the truth-reading skills of the Seekers may not be enough to unravel the twisted threads of a conspiracy that could see Canderis and its neighbor hopelessly caught in a devastating war...
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
SAAM AND NAKUM ARE
TRYING TO FIGHT FREE!”
Nakum? Ambushed? Impossible for him and Saam to fall into a trap! But there was no time to think it through. Doyce pushed Khar flat against the platform and kicked Lokka into a gallop, swinging her sword clear of her saddle scabbard.
It seemed like only a moment passed before she spied the clash ahead, the welter of bodies dim in the falling twilight, some mounted, some afoot. An enraged ghatt’s scream punctured the air. N’oor, she thought.
Straining to pick out friends, she glimpsed a raised arm, and saw Khar slash and connect. A shadowy figure grabbed for Lokka’s bridle, and the mare screamed and reared, pawing through a press of bodies gathered by a broad tree overhanging the road.
Khar rasped and growled. “Above!” The weight crushed, a knee slamming between Doyce’s shoulder blades, and Khar eeled free as Doyce crumpled against the pommel platform and was dragged from the saddle by grasping hands….
THE GHATTI’S TALE
FINDERS-SEEKERS (Book One)
MINDSPEAKERS’ CALL (Book Two)
EXILES’ RETURN (Book Three)
SUNDERLIES SEEKING (Book One)
THE FARTHEST SEEKING (Book Two)
Copyright © 1994 by Gayle Greeno.
All Rights Reserved.
Cover art by Mark Hess.
DAW Book Collectors No. 952.
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First Printing, May 1994
Book Two of The Ghatti’s Tale
Writing a trilogy is a daunting—and long term—task. I would never have progressed as far as I have (midway) without the caring support of the following people: Betty Anne Crawford, who said “Of course you can!” and generously read an embryonic Book One; Sherri Zolt and Marilyn Abel, who kept the faith for over seven years; the “geographic” cheerleaders: Linda Pettit (Maine), Susan C. Wofford and Betty Devereux (Colorado), Ben and Marge Bronstein (Texas), and Mary Jane Hahn (upstate New York); the “home team”: Beth Eller, Laura Shatzkin, and Stala Georgiades; the “last” NAL Education Department: Victoria Friedman, Tom Flynn, Joe Tura, Maria Barbieri, and Elizabeth Halpern; my agents Sue Herner and Sue Yuen (moral support par excellence); and of course, Sheila Gilbert, a superlatively sensitive editor who reads rather slowly but always thoroughly.
My thanks and my love to all of you.
“He telleth the number of the stars:
and calleth them all by their names.”
—1662 Prayer Book, 147:1
Table of Contents
The door slammed hard, heavy oak planking shuddering against the frame, lead edging of the stained-glass diamond panels buzzing as the glass vibrated under the impact. Even the latch protested, metal rattling against metal in the lock plate.
A large cat, tiger-striped in black and gray-brown with white chest and feet, rushed down the stairs, all dignity abandoned as she launched herself toward the landing, flinging herself over the last three stairs, twisting in midair to angle toward the door. A powerful thrust of hind leg muscles catapulted her into the center of the room and she alighted on a throw rug, gaily patterned with deep burgundy and royal blue swirls. The rug took off across the highly polished floor and the cat’s ears tilted back, a look of disgust on her face as she and the carpet skidded like a sledding child on a snowy slope. She flexed her claws, sank them deep into the pile to hold her place, refusing to be spun off. Besides, the rug was gliding in the direction she wished to go—the door.
As the rug lost momentum, she gathered herself to resume her flight, a disdainful kick tossing the carpet behind her. She raced toward the door, stretched on hind legs and desperately began to work the knob. She was a large cat, far larger than average, and the knob was within easy reach, still vibrating faintly from the recent abusive slamming. She could feel the vibrations, hear the now nearly-silent chime of metal. Working at the knob, trying to grasp it with her paws, claws extended, she coaxed and cajoled the heavy cast-iron knob, embossed with a floral-wreath pattern worn and blurred from hard use. The knob refused to budge, so she turned her attention to the latch mechanism itself, pressing against the plate, letting it spring back, head cocked for the telltale click, waiting to see if it would spring free. But it was no use, and the giant cat suddenly sat, dismay clear in her amber eyes. She sat and stared as if sheer willpower alone could open the door, then sprang toward a bow window indented in the wall and surrounded on three sides by leaded lozenges of glass, some clear, some of a thicker distorted glass, still lovely in its imperfections, and a few, scattered panels tinted pale amethyst or aquamarine. She leaped up and began to bat at the window, balancing on the window seat’s cushioned backrest to reach the latching handle.
As she did so, she caught a glimpse of movement outside, the swirl of a short purple cloak, the flash of its red lining disappearing around the corner of the stable. She stared hard at the wall and its skirting of melting, dirty snow, a fresh line of earth edging between building and snow, warming in the reflected heat from the whitewashed walls, tiny shards of new green blind-fingering through the soil. Nothing else moved.
“Gone, gone,” the cat moaned in dismay and gave the latch a final, vicious slap, claws screeching across the glass. It held firm. Now what could she do? Doyce was gone, out of her reach, who knew where? The thought galled, left her treading down the cushions, striving for yet another glimpse of the woman who meant everything to her, everything and nothing for now since the woman refused to let her enter her thoughts, refused the mindlink that let them share their innermost feelings, the intimacy that Khar so desperately, desolately missed. How much longer could she stand being so near, yet so far from the mindsharing?
With a distracted lick at her paw, Khar rubbed her ear and tried to marshal her thoughts. The stables—Lokka? If Doyce planned on riding the little sorrel mare, Khar could at least keep track of her movements through Lokka. She concentrated hard and touched the mare’s mind as she dozed in her stall, startled her awake with a clatter of hooves as Khar’s mindvoice tickled her. But Lokka’s worried response offered no reassurance. Doyce had not entered the stables; Lokka hadn’t even realized she was nearby. Her frustrated stamping echoed through the mindlink. Lokka felt as anxious and as alone as Khar, equally bereft for all that she was a mere horse and not one of the ghatti, giant cats gifted with the power of mindspeech.
With a sigh and a flicker of whiskers, the ghatta set herself to think, to be calm. How to get out? The obvious way to attract attention to herself and her plight was to mind-speak Damaris, but the thought drew her up short in dismay at how far she’d nearly fallen, how desperate she’d become. A ghatt or ghatta did not use mindspeech except with his or her Bondmate or other Seeker Veritas members; it was impolite, rude, a violation of the mind of an “other” to hold converse with an outsider. A violation of the code she held sacred. Not that Damaris wouldn’t understand, being the mother of a Seeker, Jenret Wycherley. And then the most fleeting of ghatti smiles crossed her face as she let out a yowl, beginning a complaint that ranged up and down the scale and back again, a plaint that said everything to anyone who knew those pleasant but lesser beings called cats. A plaint that announced, “Hello, hello, I am on the wrong side of the door and I desperately wish to be on the other side. If I am not released soon, I shall expire from misery.” She sprang into the middle of the floor and paraded in a circle, tail lashing as she sang her song of woe.
A large-boned man clad in a flowing topaz velour overrobe hurried into the room, uncertainty and confusion plain on his bland face. Though perhaps sixty, his face was as unlined and open as a child’s, the faded blue eyes otherworldly and innocent, empty of coherent thought. With the cautious, stiff gait of an infant just learning to walk, he tottered forward and ran a few steps to regain his balance, only to hit the same throw rug that Khar had coasted across the room. His arms spun in circles as he sought his balance, but a smile of wonder crossed his face, brightening his eyes. Somehow he managed to retain his footing and stepped carefully off the rug toward the ghatta.
Mortified, Khar paced forward to greet him, giving him his due as master of the house, Damaris’s husband and Jenret’s father. She craned her head to meet the uncertain, seeking hand, palm down, fingers splayed. If she had known, had had any idea, she chided herself, that Jadrian Wycherley wandered free and unattended downstairs, she would never, never have yowled like that. She raised her head higher, meeting the seeking hand and the tentative palm stroke, curious at the warmth and sleek softness of the furred head.
Jadrian Wycherley reigned as titular master of the house, but he had no mind, had lacked a cognizant brain for years, ever since he tried to do what he believed was right, to rid his house of the taint of a Gleaner, a mindstealer. And the Gleaner had been his elder son, Jared. He had succeeded in killing the boy, but not before his mind had been swept clean and empty, blank as a slate on which no chalk would ever scrawl another thought.
“Mmwer?” he queried, fingers rough about the ghatta ear that wore the garnet rose earring at its tip. “Mmwa, mmwa, wha?” he asked. “Puur Khar?”
She sprang on the window seat and swatted at the panes, then dashed back to twine around his ankles, careful not to set him off balance. She hated herself for doing this to him, to Damaris, but she would follow Doyce no matter what. He reached again, awkward fingers tweaking the gold hoop in her left ear, and she held back a hiss of annoyance, struck at his hand with sharp impatience but not a claw unsheathed, and dashed toward the door. She gazed back, trying to judge his reaction, his comprehension of her command. “Out, out!” she mindspoke, almost screaming her thoughts, though she knew he wouldn’t understand. “Jadrian, you lackwit, let me out! Doyce is out there! My Doyce!” If she did not cry, it was only because the ghatti lacked the capacity.
Damaris Wycherley swept into the room, keys jangling at her waist, apron flecked with flour. Supervising always seemed to lure her into helping, but the fresh dough had been irresistible, especially compared to the other duties awaiting her. And now this ruckus. She shook her head and pressed both hands to weary temples, pushed wisps of dark hair spun with silver away from her face and assessed the situation at a glance. She stopped long enough to give her husband a consoling pat as he held his hand to his lips, whimpering, and Khar shuddered with guilt; apparently at least one claw hadn’t been sheathed.
“Hush, Jadrian, hush, love, we’ll fix it, won’t we?” she soothed as she advanced toward the ghatta and stooped to look her in the eyes. “Khar, whatever possessed you?” And stopped short. “Khar, did Doyce go out?”
The ghatta bowed to hide her shame and threw herself at the door, stretched up against its smooth oak planking, staring yearningly over her shoulder.
“Oh, Lady save us, and today of all days! Khar, go find her, bring her back if you can. You know Jenret and the others are due today. She’s not supposed to be out alone!”
The ghatta made a moue of embarrassment and acknowledgment.
“I know, I know. She can still outwit us if she puts her mind to it. I suppose it should be a good sign, but I don’t like it, no more than you do.” She reached for the doorknob, tried it once, then wiped floury palms on her apron and turned it with both hands. “Quick, out you go. Find her and bring her back. Or if you can’t, don’t fret, just stay with her. Rawn will be here soon with Jenret. Still, it would be nice to have her back of her own volition.”
Khar paused long enough to brush against Damaris’s skirts in silent thanks.
The carriage rested on the eastern branch of the crossroads, outer wheels scraping against the receding snowbank; mud spattered the coach sides, partially obscuring the emblem on the door—a dark frame outlining a lighter gray rectangle with a jagged, green lightning bolt of a line running through it. Thick mud, the beginnings of the spring thaw, plopped from the wheel spokes, landing with a sharp protest as if angry at its reunion with the sea of mud spanning the road. The coachman leaned over, spoke into the window. “Best I should cover the horses if we’re to wait much longer. We set a brisk pace out of the capital as ye asked, and they’re all steamed up. Going on won’t hurt them, but the waiting will—just seems like spring on account a what we had before.”
At a muffled affirmative from inside he looped the reins around the brake handle and began to clamber down, hindered by the bundle of blankets under his arm. A stoutish woman heaved herself half out the window, craning to see down the northern crossroad. She gave a whoop of relief, shouted a “hello” that she knew couldn’t be heard, and tried to extract herself from the window, her tabard snagging on the rolled leather window shade. “I told you she’d join us. If she said ‘wait,’ we wait, because Mahafny keeps her word.” Hands struggled to untangle her, pull her back inside the carriage. She couldn’t help grinning in relief at what she’d seen, her eyes suspiciously watery.
The brick red ghatt curled beside her on the seat yawned in mock reproach. “Told you she’d make it. I’d think you didn’t believe me if I didn’t know that you just don’t listen sometimes.”
She straightened her grin into an expression of calm forbearance as she tugged her tabard into place, straightened the twisted sash. “I know,” she mindspoke. “You’re right, as usual. But I have had a few things on my mind lately, not to mention being worried about Mahafny and what she knows.”
“But you’d rather know the truth, wouldn’t you?”
Merry blue eyes turned serious and somber. “That I would, but I wish Mahafny didn’t have to be the one to find the answers. You know people don’t always distinguish between the message and the messenger. She has to find the answers, and if I have to answer alone, I don’t think I can handle it. I wasn’t exactly forthcoming with the High Conciliators because I hoped Mahafny would be there in time. Oh, I know enough—too much—but not everything Mahafny knows, that she’s found out since I last saw her.”
But her inner fears did nothing to detract from her capable, confident exterior, the veneer developed from years holding the highest rank of Seeker General of the Seekers Veritas. Swan gave a nod to the middle-aged man sitting across from her, assessing him as she would a stranger, because, despite their close contact over the last few octants, in many ways he still felt a stranger to her. But then power—his, not hers—isolated the holder. At first glance he appeared nondescript in a country-cut suit of moderate quality, unofficial-looking compared to the silent young man sitting beside him and wearing a governmental uniform topped by the Seeker Veritas dress tabard. Yet despite his punctilious turnout, the younger man almost blended into the upholstery, as if his own thoughts and concerns were meaningless when weighed against the concerns of the person he served. The striped ghatta tucked behind his legs seemed self-effacing as well, ready to meld into the woodwork if necessary.
The sounds of two horses picking their way through the mud came closer, followed by the coachman’s soothing sounds as he took their reins, allowing a rider to dismount. The carriage door swung open, and a mud-spattered, angular yet elegant woman grasped the door frame’s leather grip straps and heaved herself inward. Still half-crouched, she tried to turn and scrape the mud from her boots, muttering as she concentrated on the task.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The peace between Canderis and Marchmont is breaking down, so Doyce and Khar'pern are sent with a group of other Seekers to try and repair the damage, and figure out why things went wrong.
It was fun and amusing. A fairly fast-paced read.Saw one of the reviewers complaining about too much self-centered whining - well, most all books are self-centered and can be interpreted as whining so I ignore it for WHY they are whining and what they are doing about it (or what the people around them are doing about it)
This book was Ok. Even though I've read both of these novels and will more than likely read the 3rd I do not find them 'great'. The main charactor in this book I find to be self-centered to a fault and drowning in selfpity. She usually has all the answers available to her if she would just stop and think about it but she seems to always wait until its blindingly obvious.I'm interested in the story line. Space explorers/settlers come to colonize a planet a bunch of stuff happens and a small party leaves to find help. The rest learn to deal with things. Later on they find that there are 2 sentient races already on the planet. These books are mostly about the politics between a couple bands/nations of humans and the other 2 races. One a large breed of 'cat' seems to have created a symbiotic relationship with special humans. The other race has a tribe structure and are humanoid in apperance and generally avoid contact with others.
Gayle Greeno is in perfect form with this book. Readers who know the story plot from Mindspeakers Call (the first in this series) know the basic story line. If not, and you're starting off on this book, it can get a little confusing, however, it all clears up in the end. Greeno has a wonderful talent of making the characters in her novels so wonderfully realistic that you feel emotional attachment too them. If i remember this book correctly, i laughed, i cried (ALOT) i gaped, and i read pieces to my friends. A good character to follow (besides Doyce) is Khar'pern. The Ghatti are extremely intelligent beings, however, Khar is a spectacular, she's sassy.