In the third and final volume of High Hallack, tales of high fantasy, science fiction, and coming of age reach back as far as 1943, yet are still as fresh and relevant today as when they were written. High Hallack was a place in Andre Norton’s fiction and was also the name of the genre writer’s library she opened in Tennessee. It is a wondrous keep that she called home, and now High Hallack opens its gates and allows these amazing stories to unfold.
About the Author
For well over a half century, Andre Norton was one of the most popular science fiction and fantasy authors in the world. With series such as Time Traders, Solar Queen, Forerunner, Beast Master, Crosstime, and Janus, as well as many standalone novels, her tales of adventure have drawn countless readers to science fiction. Her fantasy novels, including the bestselling Witch World series, her Magic series, and many other unrelated novels, have been popular with readers for decades. Lauded as a Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America, she is the recipient of a Life Achievement Award from the World Fantasy Convention. An Ohio native, Norton lived for many years in Winter Park, Florida, and died in March 2005 at her home in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
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Tales from High Hallack
The Collected Short Stories of Andre Norton Volume Three
By Andre Norton
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2014 Andre Norton Estate
All rights reserved.
AUÔUR THE DEEPMINDED
Warrior Enchantresses (1996) DAW
Here follows the true adventures of an Icelandic sorceress' search. This courageous woman appears in many sagas, but was never given her own story until now. Many places in Iceland are named for her and her search, though little is known about her outside her chosen homeland. There are many quiet heroines like Auôur in history. They do what needs to be done. Often historic accounts focus on the glitz. Remember that the less flashy people bring us closer to reality and our past.
Outside the wind was dank with what seemed an ever-present rain. Auôur did not try to pull the folds of her heavy cloak any tighter about her—the thick wool seemed to seep up the damp even though she had not been any closer to the day without than this narrow window. There was a hoarse call from behind her; it sounded twice more before it drew her attention.
Three ravens bobbed and sidled along their home perch, and seeing that they now had her attention, their harsh voices rose to a scream. She turned to face them squarely, holding out the scarred wooden bowl into which they dipped bills in turn, small drops of blood flung aside by the jerking of the strips of raw mutton she provided. Odin's birds—and these were hatchlings of hatchlings of hatchlings—going far back in the past to when her father, Ketill Flatnose, had beached his longboat on the shore of the Irish and set out to reap the harvests and riches of those unfortunate enough to lie in the pathway of his force.
But he had been a prudent man, as well as a fine wielder of a battle ax, and in the end he had made a truce with one of his own countrymen who had done very well for himself—Olafur—so mighty a warlord that he had named himself king.
She had been twelve years old that summer, though sturdy enough that she had taken to far faring as well as any lad eager to win his war name. So she had made no complaint when her father sealed his bargain by giving her as wife to Olafur. She had a man to whom people pointed in pride, and he was lucky in his riving until at last his enemies (and those were of his own kind) cut him down. She had been in the great hall with her lusty babe of a son, Thorstein, on her knee when they brought her the news.
Only she had already known that ill hung over them, for it was born in her mother's clan to foreknow and sometimes even farknow.
Thorstein. Now she twirled the bowl so that the last greedy raven could strip it bare. Thorstein. Though she was his mother, she had always known there was a lack in him. He was not quite the bearsacker he wished—to rush into battle uncaring for anything but bringing death to the enemy. Though he had sworn blood oaths against those he held as his father's death givers and made them good. She had warnings that he could not hold the land his father had taken, nor survive the bloody path he followed.
But she had done her duty. He had been handfasted at fourteen to Heild, who came from proper stock and at least he had not been backward in bed. Five daughters he had sired between raidings, and at last a son. Then his last Viking raid had taken him to the land of the Scots and he had returned full of tales of rich land to bundle them all off across the sea, only to himself die before the second snow encased the wild land.
Now—Auôur turned once more to the window slit. Now it was she who must uphold the honor of the house, but she was sick of constant fighting, and only four months ago she had learned that MacMann planned to wipe them out.
How many fighting men would answer her war horn? She smiled grimly. More thralls (who must not be allowed weapons) than men who could swing them to a good purpose. Still there was a sureness in her that their line would not end here. Ah, no! Had she not sacrificed the fine horse which was part of Thorstein's last looting? Its smoking blood surely had drawn Odin's one all-knowing eye.
And to Freya she had also given her finest treasures, those broad gold bands of bracelets which Olafur had made her as first morning gifts. No, she was as certain that the gods would favor her plan as she was that she lived, breathed, and stood where she did at that moment.
The messages from overseas—the new lands waiting for any bold enough to claim them. With no ancient blood feuds to cut down family lines. Two of her brothers had ventured there and prospered—could she do less?
Yet the going, as she well knew, would not be easy. It must be done with secrecy since MacMann would be watching. From this vantage point she could see the screen of forest within which her thralls labored under the watchful and knowledgeable eye of Thorfin Shipmaker. A ship grew into shape there among the very trees from which it was being wrought.
There was a stir behind her and one of the ravens screeched.
"Maudlen? What is it?" She was always able to recognize the step of any of the household.
"Janor sends a message—MacMann rides!"
Almost Auôur held her breath. "How does he ride?" She schooled her voice to be even.
"Toward the Demon's Hill." There was breathless fear in her eldest granddaughter's voice.
Auôur swung around. "So. Send me the Saxon wench!"
"You would—" The fear in Maudlen's voice was ever stronger.
"What matters with you, girl? This is none of your concern. Get me Wulfra."
When the old thrall sidled around the edge of the doorway, her eyes were downcast, but Auôur knew well what red lights held in their depths.
"MacMann goes to the demons."
"So, mistress?" There was a shadow of insolence in the other's answer.
"So, MacMann is of the new faith and yet he seeks the demons. Think you what would he do with your old bones if he took us. Have you such a liking for fire to curl in you?"
"You have powers, mistress."
"I have powers, yes—it is in the blood of my mother's line. But power joined to power is even greater. Serve me well, Wulfra. You will no longer be a thrall, but have a snug seat by the fire and a girl to wait on you."
Now those eyes with their red sparks caught hers. And suddenly the thrall nodded.
"Truth you speak. What is in your mind, mistress?"
Auôur drew a deep breath. "Three days we need and then, even though it be a time of storms, we shall take to the sea. Already they load the carts to go by night and provision the ship."
Wulfra had gone to stand before the ravens, her gray head on one side. Her lips moved and uttered a cry so like those of an angry bird that Auôur could tell no difference.
The largest of the ravens bent forward on his perch so that his sharp bill struck at the old woman. Then he took wing, went out of the window, and was gone.
Wulfra now made a sound like a snicker. "A hard ride for MacMann, mistress. He'll not forget it for a time."
From the watchers who had ringed the holding came the news. A bird out of nowhere—one of Odin's own sacred flock—had flung him to the ground and those who followed him had borne him, cursing loudly, away.
Two mornings later Auôur went through the deserted great hall. Yes, they had carefully followed instructions and taken the carved pillars of the high seat. If all went as she hoped, those would be her guide to a new life. She was tired of living always with death near beside her—a new land where there was freedom for the just—
The ship was crowded. They had had to leave behind the sadly needed sheep and cattle. But they were free and driving down the bay when the steerman, Halgar Cunnersson, pointed out moving dots on the shore. MacMann had no ship in these waters, he had not thought of their escaping so.
Within two days they had near doubled their company—taking over a well-set fishing boat. The men manning her let fall their few weapons when they saw the determination of the Northmen and one of the ravens flew down to their mast to sign it so as Odin's gift. They were returned to their duties under guard, and Auôur was pleased that herStorm Beaker was the less crowded.
It was long, that voyage, and they weathered seas which would have turned their ships end for end had not Freya, the ever merciful, answered to the pleas of those two aboard who were of the power. Auôur the Deepminded they had called her from childhood, and now she was to prove that as she never had been before.
First they raised the Orkneys and were guested by a lord of kin to Olafur. However, still in Auôur was the need to go on. But she made a good marriage for Maudlen, who was ever sick on the sea, and took on supplies.
Beyond were seas even less known, yet there were isles to be found—the Faroes—and once again they sheltered for some months, working on their ships. Here the second of her granddaughters was hand-fasted to a man of good name and well-worked land. But Auôur and Wulfra went to the highest point of the land, circled about by the ravens. And those flew seaward for a space, so she knew her farseeing was right—she had not yet discovered what she would have.
Only, once more asea, they found bitter going. Twice at a distance they saw mountains of ice move on the waters as if those were also ships. And each third day Auôur sent forth the ravens, but always they returned. Sometimes she moved along the crowded ship to lay hand on the carven supports of the high seat and wondered if they would ever be loosed into the sea to guide them to land. She called her grandson to her—he was still only a lad with not even full strength in his sword arm—but he listened as she spoke and nodded, understanding well that full duty must be paid to the gods.
Then at last there came a morning when the rime of frost lay like a blanket over the ships. And the ravens went forth—not together but singly in slightly different directions. That one who had been the centermost of the three did not return. There were cries of excitement then and two of the younger and more agile men made their way to the bow of theStorm Beaker and there detached the carefully wrought serpent head, for all knew that if a ship approached land in peace, not for raiding, such a menacing promise must not arouse the demons of the country ahead who should be offered due rights.
On the ship went with the oarsmen at labor now, and then out of the sea arose a dark hump of shadow, while out of the sky dropped Odin's bird to perch with his mates.
Once more Auôur pushed to the side of the high chair posts, and with her she brought Thorgimmur, her grandson, her hand upon his shoulder. She gave him a nudge forward so that he could reach the salt encrusted ropes which held them safe. He struggled with the knots until, though his fingers were bleeding, he had accomplished the task. But he had not the strength to hurl them overboard as the ritual demanded, and two of the oarsmen sent them into the sea, but not before the boy had laid the hand of possession upon them.
So did they come at last into the harbor of this strange land which had pulled Auôur's farsight for so long. Here they would set up their hall and prosper, that the blood of two strong lines would know many years.
Though her brethren sent for her and offered land and shelter, she took only the latter until she could set out once more, with some of her household. Inward they roved, ever marveling at a land walled with ice and yet offering springs of hot water, sea worn heights, and cliffs above fields of black lava.
In the end Auôur found her homestead, striking the end of her staff into a patch of soil. Within a year there came from her younger brother a party of thralls carrying with them the wave-beaten pillars of the high seat, and she knew then that the gods had served her well.CHAPTER 2
NO FOLDED HANDS
The Williamson Effect (1996) TOR
Jules Bearclaw watched the ant caravan move into sight down the highway. He swung his field glasses carefully about—not that he expected any of the ants to catch sight of a sun glint on a bit of glass so far above their heads that it might have been borne along by an eagle. It was just as it had been for a week now—a trail of trucks swinging along, each with its ant in charge, heading in toward the white man's country. They were always precisely in line, the same distance from each other, and they never stopped.
Now he did slide around on his vantage point and put to his lips an age-smoothed horn pipe. He blew three warn notes. And caught the very faint answer to his action.
There was a powwow to outrank all powwows back in the desolate desert lands into which the ants had not yet come. For the first time in the history of the oldest tribe, one-time enemies consorted with their most bitter foes, hands sped in hand talk between peoples of the north, the far south, the west and the midcountry—or else they used the English they had learned in school or the army to warily examine the problem of the universal enemy.
Of course some of the People argued that it was best to simply let the white man suffer from his own greed. That was before the ants moved in on Ledbetter's trading post. But it was the stories that such as Bearclaw himself told of the coast cities through which discharged veterans from the late overseas war had comem which alarmed enough of the influential shamans to consider factors, then tentatively approach their peers in other tribes until there was an interlocking system of communication from north to south.
The ants were not of this world, that had seemed a smoke tale at first, but there were enough telling it to give it truth. They had landed in great sky ships—claiming to be from the stars. Then—they had taken over the world—or were fast occupying the civilized parts of it as quickly as possible.
Not that they destroyed life. On the contrary, they encouraged it in their own smothering fashion. They built new homes for the creatures native to this planet, they produced every luxury for the asking—their one rule stated over and over was that mankind must be protected, not allowed any chance to injure itself or others. Thus they simply bound men into cocoons where they became larvae that would never come to life again.
So far they had not moved in upon the People. He wondered now briefly what might be happening in other places—Africa, or the eastern jungle lands. There was greed enough for the white man's wealth, and sloth enough for it to be enjoyed. Or were the natives there already seeing what had become of those who accepted the ants, and so were looking about for their own weapons?
The caravan of trucks came at a steady speed and was fast approaching the cliff where he lay as still now as a hump of the native rock. One—two—four—five—the sixth one seemed to have lost speed. Through the air the purr of engines developed a discordant note. So—Jim Twoknives had managed it! Bearclaw grinned, but kept an eye on the trucks that were now pulling away from the clanking one. Would they all stop? There did not appear to be any lag, and they were now a respectable distance away from that last one.
Perhaps the ants depended on each to settle his own difficulties. This was like the report delivered three days ago from a Ute scouting party. They had seen a truck fall behind, the ant disembark from its interior and set to swift work on the engine.
Yes, the Old Ones were with them this day also! The ailing truck drew to the side of the road and the ant, all in his shining armor, climbed out.
Once more Bearclaw sounded the signal, and this time he was answered from nearby. There began a steady thumping, following an erratic pattern. He poked the feather balls deep in his ears for his own defense, and his hands were shaking.
For a space the ant did not seem to notice. Then it dropped a tool, swayed nearly off its feet when it
stopped to pick that up. A moment later it fell back with a clang against the side of the truck and slid down. Both of its metal hands wavered toward its round bowl of a head, and that was shaking back and forth now wildly, in broken rhythm with the hidden drums.
Bearclaw went into full action. He slipped down the slope that had brought him to his hiding place, the cliff now between him and the road. Tearing off his hat, he waved it vigorously and saw the dust of the approaching horses as the scouting party came up.
The horses were spooked by the drums, though not as badly affected as human ears. They were left in charge of one of the party while Bearclaw and Jim Whiterock unlashed the burden the one pony had carried.
Excerpted from Tales from High Hallack by Andre Norton. Copyright © 2014 Andre Norton Estate. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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Table of Contents
ContentsIntroduction by Tom Doherty,
Auôur the Deepminded,
No Folded Hands,
Root and Branch Shall Change,
Needle and Dream,
Procession to Var,
Set in Stone,
The End Is the Beginning,
Red Cross, White Cross,
Sow's Ear–Silk Purse,
The Cobwebbed Princess,
About the Author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This collection of fantasy short stories cover ancient Britain, science fiction, dystopian futures and horror situations and are mostly enjoyable. Of course tastes vary but there should be something for everyone’s taste. Unfortunately the digital edition that I read was not particularly well transposed and there were printing errors but that did not detract from the enjoyment. Occasionally the style jars but most of the time the stories are well-written and engaging. This is fantasy pulp fiction in the style of Edgar Rice Burroughs, HP Lovecraft and all the greats. Highly recommended to lovers of fantasy stories, sometimes with a twist.