Authors: Niel Hancock
Otter. Bear. Dwarf. Three wayfarers on a journey to the fabled World Beyond Time, where glowed the ageless Circle of Light
Little did they dream when they set out of the fair kingdom of Lorini . . . of the chill borders of the Northerland . . . of the perverse Palace of Darkness where green fire grimly glowed ... of the dread town where the mysterious Humans lived . . .
They had yet to meet such gallant friends as Greyfax Grimwald . . . General Greymouse . . . Froghorn Fairingay . . . Cephus Starkeeper . . . and such fearsome foes as Dorini, sovereign of the sinister . . . and Cakgor, son of Suneater and Fireslayer . . .
Their great adventure had only just begun.
THE CIRCLE OF LIGHT SERIES
I Greyfax Grimwald
II Faragon Fairingay
III Calix Stay
IV Squaring The Circle
THE WILDERNESS OF FOUR SERIES
I Across The Far Mountain
II The Plains Of The Sea
III On The Boundaries Of Darkness
IV The Road To The Middle Islands
Published by Warner Books
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© 1977 by Niel Hancock
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ePub by Orannis 2011
To My Grandparents
n the morning of his leaving, he erased all his tracks from that part of heaven, carefully stacked new star branches in a neat pile behind the entrance in the dark mouth of the universe, and sadly began the thousand-year trip down the side of the sky that closely resembled a large mountain. If you looked at it that way. If you didn’t, it might seem very much like walking out your own front door and down the steps.
The Bear was leaving in the last part of September, and the wind was still fresh with the old summer, and only the faintest trace of winter was evident. Of course, it was always that time of year in those parts, and he had not seen a winter in many ages, so he decided to travel down to the World Before Time to find out what it was like there now, and to see again the snow they spoke of sometimes when they traveled through. He had crossed many lifetimes before, and was happy with his home. However, he’d promised himself he would go, and the strange unknown feeling that was in him said he must. So he packed a hat of new strawberries, two handkerchiefs, his ancient book of Beardom, and a map of the World Before Time safely in his pockets, and set out to seek the snow kingdom, so far away he could only see the top of its elephant’s hat nodding above the cloud fields between. On his way, he began whistling a cheery tune about bears, big and brown and only sometimes gruff, chuckling to himself when he came to those parts that all bears know, and frowning at others when the music described what all his kind knew to be serious business. He smiled more often than he frowned, because all bears are very jolly fellows unless disturbed, and he had not been disturbed in quite a few centuries—except lately, when all the travelers began coming through his side of the woods with distressing tales and sad songs he had never heard before and which made him very sad.
Turning for one last look at his old home, he set off in the direction of the Meadows of the Sun, where he hoped he would be able to rest for a while on his long and weary journey, and perhaps find an acquaintance or two to dance with or sing to. The last time he’d been that way he’d met a querulous old goat from down below the Great Water, and they’d spent many nights telling of green-coated hippogrifs and flying tortagans. He wasn’t too sure what the stories would be this time, and an uneasiness stirred briefly, but the day was fine and bright, and he began thinking of other things—cool streams full of salmon, and tingly, frosted bark-brewed .tea, or a good glass of blackberry juice, such as his mother used to give him in the days when he was only a cub. Yes, there were too many fine things on this fine day to listen to that small voice inside that would make him forget what a grand day it was, and how nice to be trotting easily along with the sun’s golden fingers scratching your back in just the right places.