Long ago, the realm of the Witch World was in mortal peril from ruthless, seemingly unstoppable invaders. In a final, desperate bid for salvation, all of the witches of Escarp combined their strength and moved the very mountains to stop the enemy. But in doing so, they forever changed the face of their world, sacrificing themselves and unleashing long-dormant powers upon the lands. Here, in one volume, are two thrilling tales of that chaotic time . . .
Port of Dead Ships by Andre Norton: Destree m’Regnant is an outcast amongst the Sulcars, due to the strange circumstances of her birth and her unsettling ability to see the future. But when she joins an expedition south across the sea, her gifts may be the only thing that can save her and her shipmates when an ancient evil that ensnares souls sets its dark eye upon them.
Sea Keep by P. M. Griffin: The proud, rough-hewn Falconers and the haughty nobles of the Dales have little to do with each other. But when a fleet of marauding pirates begins ravaging the Dales, the two peoples must look beyond their differences to face their common foe.
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Storms of Victory
Witch World: The Turning
By Andre Norton, P.M. Griffin
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1991 Andre Norton, Ltd.
All rights reserved.
Port of Dead Ships
by Andre Norton
* * *
It was in the month of Peryton and there was already the sharp bite of coming winter in the air. We bad finished the last of the harvesting and I could turn once more to what had become my main interest in life, the work on my Chronicles of Lormt, when there came a party to us, even though Lormt lies even more afar from the road east than it did before the Turning.
The leader was Kemoc Tregarth, my former comrade-in-arms among the Borderers. He brought to me a valiant story, of a hunting of the Dark to the far south, Which is as unknown to us as once was Escore of the east. Thus speedily thereafter added this to my ever growing collection of tales concerning the lives of many after the great wars of the Turning. A little more we push back ignorance and bring forth the light of knowledge.
The lead-dark sky was as gloomy as the age-encrusted thickness of walls in the west watchtower. There had been a heavy drizzle of rain all night and dawn had brought very little light. Nor did the two lamps in the room within do muchlo penetrate the general murk. The young man who had been sitting on the wide seat the wall provided under the window did not turn his head when he spoke but continued to stare at the bleak sky.
"Four within the four-month—" He could have, been musing aloud. Then he added a question: "And before, what are your records?"
The tall man seated at the foot of the table shifted in his carven chair. "None such since the Kolder times. Oh, yes, we lost ships but never were, they all in one part of the sea, nor did we have the floating proofs of evil then. There were six so lost arid five of them discovered in the Year of the Winged Bull—my father's time. Osberic was intending to send out a search force—but then the Kolder took Gorm and we had other things to think on. Though I have sent to Lormt—to have the records searched. Your Chronicler, Lord Kemoc, has promised us a hearing and as soon as he can assemble what information is there—"
"Lormt may have little knowledge concerning events of the sea. Though I agree if there is aught to be learned Duratan will dig it out. Do you have other legends of such happenings before the Kolder?"
The tall fair-haired man shrugged, spreading his hands apart in a gesture of not knowing. "Our records were in the Keep. When Osberic destroyed that, and an army of the Kolder slave-dead, what we should know now went also."
"It is always, the same general part of the sea which seems to be thus cursed, your people say?" The woman wearing a long plain robe of a grey-blue leaned a little forward so the lamplight awoke sparks from a brooch at the neck of the robe and the girdle which held it close to her slender waist.
"Always to the south," the fair man assented. "We have established trade with the Vars and it is a good one. Look-at this." He put out a hand to the stemmed goblet before him on the table, turning it a little. As had the gems the woman wore answered the light so did this produce a flicker of rainbow as it moved. The bowl top was a perfect oval but the support was formed of a branch of flowers, frosted stem and petal, touched with a small beading of gold.
"Var work," he continued. "A toll of twelve of these brought back unchipped, sold at auction, and a ship need make but two runs a year. You have seen the fountain in the garden of the Unicorn. Bretwald brought that back—and on his next voyage he was ravaged by a Kolder raider. All his charts and knowledge—" The man shrugged again. "Gone. It was not until after the Kolder nest was broken once and for all that any of us ventured southward again. Varn may not be the only port which it will pay a trader to visit. Now we have this: ships afloat, uninjured in any way we can see, yet deserted and with no sign left of what has happened to the crew. I say, and there are those who agree with me, that this is of Power—and evil Power at that. Or Kolder—"
The group gathered around the table all moved a fraction at that last word. Kemoc had turned his head at last to watch them. He who spoke was Sigmun of the Sulcars, a captain noted among his fellows for "lucky" voyages and who had served valiantly two springs back against the nest of pirates and wreckers who had set up a foul headquarters on islands off the southern border of karsten. The woman at his right hand was the Lady Jaelithe, and that was a name to awaken many memories. A Witch who laid aside her dominion over Power to wed an out-worlder, the same man who now leaned back in his own chair, his half-hooded eyes on Sigmun: Lord Simon Tre- garth. Though he wore no mail this day, yet there-was that about him as always seeming that he might be summoned at trumpet call to reach for arms.
He who sat at the head of the table, had had an extra cushion added to the seat to bring him to a level not too far below his guests. Koris of Gorm was now in all but name ruler of Estcarp. Beside him was the Lady Loyse, who had in her time wrought well in battle also.
The last at that board, beside the empty chair where Kemoc had been seated earlier—He watched her carefully now, perhaps trying to judge whether it Was near the time when she must leave, reach the pool in the center walled garden five stories below and renew herself with the water there as her Krogan blood demanded. She caught her lord's anxious glance and the slightest shadow of a smile reassured him.
"The Council will do nothing." Koris was blunt. "They seek only to regain what they have lost—more of their kind, more of the Power which was torn from them at their turning of the mountains!"
Sigmun laughed harshly. "Oh, aye, I was told that speedily when I asked for audience. But T say to you—there is evil loose to the south. And evil unchecked grows always stronger. If the Kolder—perhaps a pocket of them who were afield when the nest was destroyed—are on the rise again ..." The hand which had touched the goblet so delicately now curled into a fist.
Koris reached forward to smooth out again the thin sheet of parchment which covered a third of the table top. He ran a fingertip along the border of Karsten (an age-old enemy now fallen into chaos) tracing bays and indentations, the mouths of the river which drained, through tributaries, clear back to the base of the eastern mountains.
"So far we know." Sigmun watched that moving finger. "And for a space beyond." He drew his belt knife, and. leaned well forward to push its-point even farther south. "This be wild coast and treacherous—also it seems uninhabited. There are no fishing boats to be seen, nothing shoreward to hint at any holding. Above Varn, here"—he stabbed the line marking the shore where it became a scatter of dots and no firm line—"there are tricky shallows and reefs which might have been set up purposefully to catch the unwary. Reaching there we head out to the open sea. No one has mapped the coast. By all indications, Varn is very old. Its people are not of Karsten, nor of any race we Sulcar have seen elsewhere. They do not like the sea—rather fear it—though why we do not know."
Kemoc stood up. "They fear the sea. And it is on the road to Varn or near there that ships disappear. It would seem they have good reason to fear it. Have they no tales then—the kind which are told in taverns when a drinker forgets caution in speech?"
Sigmun grinned crookedly. "Oh, we thought of that also, Lord Kemoc. We think we Sulcars have hard heads and steady stomachs, but we have yet to see one of Vars blood in the least tipsy. Also they are a clannish people arid they, do not mix much with strangers. They are civil enough in their greetings and their trading, but they do not add aught to the bare words demanded by that."
"Kolder ..." Lord Simon said that word as if it had seeped out of his thoughts. "There were rumors not long since that such as they linger still in Alizon, their old overseas ally. Yet this which you report does not fit their pattern of attack."
Lady Jaelithe shook her head. "Did you not say, Captain Sigmun, that ships were so lost before the Kolders moved upon us? No, I think here indeed lies a different puzzle."
"The question remains." It was Koris who. spoke now. "What aid can we give you, Captain? Our forces are mainly for use ashore. Also, we still needs must watch Alizon with patrols. We have none except the Falconers who are trained to fight on both land and sea. And of them we cannot raise more than a company, for they have their own problems. They wish to establish a new Eyrie—in fact there is talk of one overseas. That is their affair and I do not think that they will be quick to answer any summons to fight an enemy unknown and unseen, save to those who have disappeared. I cannot strip my borders on such a slender evidence. The ships you command are wholly yours Estcarp has but fishing boats and a small merchantman or two. So what do we have to offer?"
"True, all true," the caption answered promptly. "What I seek is knowledge." Now he looked directly at Lady Jaelithe. "I believe, and so do all-those who have discussed this matter in our Sea Council, that some of this, perhaps all, is a matter of Power. If those of Estcarp will not aid us in this, then we must seek elsewhere. I have heard of whit you have battled in Escore—can it not be true that in the far south, where we have not been, that land curls about to face the sea, giving easy coast-room to some of the Dark? What say you, my lady?" He tapped the parchment map again with knife point. The section which lay so there was blank except for a wriggle of line which might be part of an island, and more of the dots signifying the unknown.
She whom he had addressed leaned her head back against the high back of her chair, her eyes closed. All knew that though the Witches would not restore her jewel to her, the Lady Jaelithe had not lost what she could command before her wedding.
When her eyes opened again she looked beyond the table, and they sought the dark corner where I sat on a stool, watching this council as one might watch a harvest playlet. That I had any right there, at all was a question which might well be asked.
"Destree m'Regnant—" She hailed me by a name, and maybe the old story was the truth—that when one's name was used in a matter of Power, one is captive to another's will. For I found myself walking to the table, all eyes upon me.
Sigmun's were hot, his lips tight, as if he kept words locked within him by great effort. In this company he was the one most likely to be my unfriend. The Sulcar have their own ways of Power but those deal only with the sea and perhaps a little with the weather. Also their few wisewomen are very proud of their calling and do not welcome outsiders any more than do the Witches. Of the Others there I had no way of judging. Save I knew that in their own manner each of them had broken some pattern of their people and so were not mind-bound against the strange and new.
"M'lady." I gave her the traditional salute which went with her onetime rank, my head bowed above hands held palm to palm breast high.
To my surprise she returned that salute as if I were her equal. I found that a little daunting for I wanted none ever to believe that I was more than I truthfully claimed to be.
Orsya, of the water-dwelling Krogan, pushed her chair back a little, allowing me to approach the table closer. Once more Koris's hands went out smoothing flat the chart which lay there.
"What do you 'see'?" Lady Jaelithe asked sharply.
My hands were cold as the tremor which ran along my back. What if I failed now? True enough she had tested me alone and then it had been easy, not that I could or would ever claim that I had full command Over this small power of mine. Now I drew a deep breath and leaned forward to place both hands palm down on the unfinished portion of the chart. I strove then, to think of the sea, to paint in my mind the ever tumultuous waters, the birds which dipped and soared above; that other life which came and went below its surface.
Suddenly I could feel the touch of wave spume on my cheek, taste from the air the smart of salt, hear the never ending murmur of the waves. It was as if I trod well above the water, not soaring as a bird but rather as one who could walk some invisible layer of air.
I was searching out what lay to break that surface below. There were islands—as many of them as if some giant had seized up a handful of pebbles of all sizes and flung them out without care as to where they might fall. Some were merely rocks hardly showing above the wash of the water. Others were larger. Yet there was nothing growing on them—nothing but rocks on which lay sea things how dead and stinking, as if these islands had been spewed forth by the sea itself.
Not too far away there was a sullen fire in the sky. I willed myself again and toward that I went. There was molten rock spilling down the sides of a cone, lapping out into the water which boiled with its heat.
Besides all this I "saw" something else—an unnatural threat which was being torn and rent by some process of its own formation. That which I touched ever so slightly was formless but it was apart from what I watched. There was the feeling of birth here, of a purpose. And that purpose held no natural cause in what it wrought. It was something so alien to me that I could not even set name to it. Yet I also knew that it was a threat to all which I looked upon—even the restless and heated sea itself.
I was back again in the tower chamber arid I looked only to Lady Jaelithe.
She inclined her head.
"I felt," she answered.
I lifted my hands from the parchment. Suddenly I was weak, tired, I may have even wavered as I stood, for Orsya's hold tightened on my arm as she guided me into Lord Kemoc's empty chair.
It was the Lady jaelithe who had pulled the Var goblet to her and poured into it a measure of wine from the flagon near to hand. She pushed that towards me. I was fearful of lifting that treasure, it might so easily shatter in my unsteady hands. Then someone else took it up and held it to my lips so that I could drink. The wine allayed my sudden thirst, warmed me, for I was chilled as I always was when I used my gift.
"There are newborn islands." It was Lady Jaelithe Who answered their unvoiced questions. "Also there is a volcano sprung from the sea depths—"
"That we have seen at times," Sigmun put in as she paused.
"Also—there is something else—there is unknown purpose!"
For a moment there was silence and then it was Sigmun who spoke and I was not too exhausted to see that his hot and angry eyes measured me. I had been brought here despite his protests and to him this use of toy talent must cut like the lash of a length of broken rigging.
"Lady, does one trust a faulty star course?"
"Destree"—she stretched her hand across the table and I reached out mine to hers, to have her warm fingers close and hold firmly—"has seen and I followed that seeing. Do you then agree with those late companions of mine that my gift is now worthless?"
He flushed, but I knew there was no softening towards me, nor would there ever be. I was weary of the dread and suspicion which might always follow me.
Sigmun's lips parted as if he would voice further condemnation but it would seem that he thought better of that. It was Lord Simon who brushed this aside as one who would keep directly to the point of the matter.
"What purpose? Who can control enough Power to bring to life a volcano?"
"Who controls enough for the churning of mountains?" Koris asked grimly. "And that we have seen in our own time and place."
"Witches—farther south?" Captain Sigmun seemed to bite upon that as one would bite upon the tartness of an unripe fruit.
Excerpted from Storms of Victory by Andre Norton, P.M. Griffin. Copyright © 1991 Andre Norton, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Really enjoyed both stories. Contains some action, mild violence, and refined love story . Good story lines. No cursing. Only drawback to book is the many typos and punctuation errors .
I have always been a big fan of her books. She created a whole worlds and cultures with their own figures of speech, etc. However, I have been disappointed with her later novels, in particular, the ones with collaborators. I think she made poor choices there. I found this book to be exceedingly cryptic and a very hard read. I was not drawn to the new characters and did not like the ones from prior books that were included. I used to be able to get through her books in a matter of hours. This one took me days. Disappointed.
The problems of the OCR, replacing 'not' by ' hot' and a few others, were very distracting. The content and plotting, even tho' I read this book 40 years ago, did hold my attention.