Authors: Marion Zimmer Bradley
At this time, late in the day, the younger girls in the Tower were allowed to gather in the gardens, weather permitting, to play games and amuse themselves as they wished.
Leonie considered herself much too old for such nonsense as games, but it was a chance to escape the walls of the Tower, at least for a little while.
“I’ll push you in the swing, Rohana,” said Melora, who was delicately made and
the smallest of the three. “It’s not raining yet. I want to stay out as long as we can.”
“Give it time,” Rohana replied, with a sigh. “It always seems to rain at night here in this season. The best we can hope for is that it doesn’t start until after we go in.”
“It won’t rain tonight,” said Leonie very positively, and with a sly smile. “I want to see the moons, even if they are separating from conjunction; it is very important to me.”
She did not say why it was important to her, nor did the other two girls bother to ask. After even so short an acquaintance, they knew that Leonie would never tell.
“And I suppose,” responded Rohana Aillard, almost mockingly, “the weather will
cooperate and stay clear just because you want it to. I should have known, of course.
Even the weather must listen when a Hastur speaks.”
“It usually does,” Leonie remarked, as if Rohana’s veiled mockery meant nothing
to her. “If you don’t want the swing, Rohana, I do.”
“No, it’s my turn first,” Rohana said, climbing into the swing and setting it in motion, and giving up on her attempt to ruffle Leonie’s temper. “They should have two swings—”
“Or three, but how often do they have more than one person here young enough
to be interested?” sighed Melora. She turned to Leonie, with innocent cheer. “I am glad to have you here with us, Leonie; everyone else here is so old and staid.”
“Fiora’s not old,” Rohana protested, out of a vague feeling of loyalty to the
“She might as well be,” Leonie said dismissively. “She acts as if she were a
hundred years old, and stuffier than any old grandfather. When she welcomed me here, she gave me a dreadful long speech, and reminded me that I was now a
and must always represent the best of what the Comyn stand for.” Leonie sniffed
disdainfully. “As if I would not! I am, after all, a Hastur. I have been taught my duty since I first left the cradle!”
“And you are already more of a
and a better telepath than most of us will be even after training, I suspect,” said Rohana, with a hint of resignation. Her eyes sharpened with curiosity, and she forgot her earlier attempts to prick Leonie’s temper.
“Tell me, Leonie, do you have the Hastur Gift?”
Leonie did not—quite—preen. “Yes, I think so.”
“Which means you can do,
a matrix, more than the rest of us can
one,” said Rohana, awed. “Tell us, if that is true, why do they send you to a Tower at all?”
Leonie’s lovely, arrogant face became very serious.
powers—her own in particular—were something she never took lightly or frivolously. “Ever since I was a child,” she said, “people have told me that an untrained telepath is a danger to herself and to everyone around her. And it is true—truer for me, perhaps, than for anyone else in the Domains. When I was tested, the
found that I have some of the older
Gifts, which have been known to become—” she hesitated, choosing the proper word,
—at least, without proper training.”
Rohana shuddered, and so did Melora. Every child knew what could happen when
a Gift ran out of control. Along with tales of ghosts, tales of
run wild enlivened many a winter hearth—and caused many a child’s nightmares.
Leonie waited a moment, to gain the full impact of her words. Power, however it
came, immediately brought respect. Already she had gained that respect—or at least, caution— she saw it in their faces. Good. Now there would be no more unsubtle verbal jabs.
She shrugged, descending a little from the pinnacle of mystery she had placed
herself upon. “Also, I am a woman,” she continued, “and for women, to become a
is the only way to escape being married off at the earliest possible moment to some half-witted young fellow and having six or seven of his half-witted children.”
“Surely they’re not all half-witted,” protested Rohana, who cherished ambitions
of her own in the bridal market.
“No, only nine-tenths of them,” Leonie countered, “and what, do you think, are
your chances of getting someone from the other tenth?”
Melora said peaceably, “Well, you have certainly chosen the best way to put it off for a year or two.”
“For more than that,” said Leonie, in a tone that brooked no argument. “I know
what I want; I have known it for as long as I can remember. I shall not marry
man, and I fully intend to have a Council seat.”
“For that, you would have to be Keeper at Arilinn,” laughed Rohana, as if she
found the idea preposterous, despite Leonie’s self-assurance.
“Precisely,” Leonie replied, lifting her head and looking a little down her nose at the younger girl, and smiling the smile that hid secrets.
Rohana sighed with exasperation. “And are you so sure you can do that? Have
you foreknowledge as well? Does everything always go as you expect it to go?”
“Almost everything,” said Leonie, with an ineffable air of arrogance, “I have
found that I am very seldom wrong. And Fiora has told me I have the talent to be trained as a Keeper, so I think that the outcome is likely enough that even my brother could bet upon it and take home his winnings.”
Her assurance finally annoyed the usually sweet-spirited Melora. “Oh, you’ll
probably end by marrying, just like the rest of us,” she said crossly.
“No, I won’t marry,
” Leonie looked at Melora strangely, in a way that made her feel very uneasy. As if Leonie were looking through her, rather than at her. “And neither will you,” Leonie said, in an oddly flat voice.
“And I?” asked Rohana, flippantly.
“Yes, you’ll marry,” remarked Leonie, still in that strange, flat, thin voice. “But you’ll have a Council seat as well.” She frowned, not at Rohana, but at something only she could see. “I don’t understand how, but I know it will happen…”
Her voice trailed off, and she continued to stare, frowning.
Rohana tried to shrug off the chill which suddenly seemed to descend on the girls.
She turned on Leonie in anger, “Are you now a fortune-teller in the marketplace, then?
Or perhaps you’d care to take on the gray robe of a priestess of Avarra, and go about proclaiming doom! Old Martina, who was my mother’s maid, was given to prophesying now and again, and she could prophesy snow at midwinter as well as anyone else.”
She might have said more, but the faint sound of a footfall interrupted her. The girls broke off, letting the swing, forgotten, return to its resting state. Someone else had entered the garden.
More than just “someone.” The figure approaching them was striking enough to
have warranted anyone’s attention even if they did not know her or the significance of her crimson draperies; Fiora, the Keeper of Dalereuth, was an albino, tall and strange-looking, with white hair, and pale, all but sightless, eyes. She came unerringly down the path nevertheless. In her crimson draperies she looked insubstantial, but still had a curious air of presence and a dignity that owed nothing to the haughtiness of high birth.
She did not ask who was there, but simply said, “Leonie.”
“I am here, Lady Mistress,” Leonie said, raising her head though the other two
girls kept theirs slightly bowed. She looked directly into Fiora’s pale pink eyes, even though it made her feel—odd. To drop her eyes would have been a confession that she was cowed by the Keeper, and she would never admit to that.
Fiora knew what lay behind that faintly insolent gaze, and wished that the girl had sense to match her pride. “I must speak with you; shall I send the others away?”
“I cannot imagine what you could have to say to me that they could not hear,”
Leonie said. The faint emphasis on “you” made Fiora bristle, knowing that the girl had intended a slight.
But if she responded she would be playing Leonie’s game, and that she would not
“If you wish, then,” Fiora said evenly, “although I would not have spoken to
reprove you in front of the others without your consent. I understand you think yourself responsible for the unusual weather we have been having for the last few days.” She put a faint emphasis of her own on the word “think,” as if to imply that the girl was either lying or fantasizing.
“Why, so I am,” Leonie said blithely. “What of it? I wished to see the moons;
something is about to come to us, and I feel it is from the moons.”
“That is interesting, child,” Fiora replied, with a hint of condescension, “and
especially interesting that of all of the trained
and all of the matrix workers, with all of their Gifts and powers, you alone, untrained, unpracticed, have been given such foreknowledge.”
Leonie’s chin shot out, and her mouth tightened, but Fiora did not give her a
chance to retort. “Whether it be so or not,” said the albino, “and whether or not the weather is truly answering to you, because there is a possibility that the latter, at least, is true, I am here to tell you that you may not do so. Are you aware what may befall us all if you meddle with the weather as if it were a plaything, child?” This time the emphasis was on “child,” implying that Leonie had given no more thought to her actions than a little one reaching for a pretty-colored ball or feather.
“If you mean a Ghost Wind,” snapped Leonie, “I assure you that I am not as
careless as that!”
Then, as Fiora continued to gaze at her reprovingly, she realized what was
probably bothering the Keeper. “Oh, the farmers,” she said dismissively. “I am not given to worrying about them.”
“A pity you have not taken all those lessons in the duty of a Hastur and a Comyn as seriously as you have the lessons in your own
The farmers need the rain,” Fiora pointed out, “and we rely on the farmers for our food. When the crops are wilted and dead in the fields for lack of water, it will be too late for anything, even the most powerful Gift in the Domains, to put the situation right.”
Leonie stared at the Keeper as if she could not quite believe her own ears, but
Fiora was not finished.
“And quite aside from that,” she continued, “one of the first things which you, or anyone else, must learn here, is that is that no
may ever do anything to disturb the balance of nature for her own convenience. Sometimes, after consulting with others, when we decide that the good outweighs the possible harm, we do indeed change a
dangerous pattern, such as when we give rain for forest fire.”
“I have done that,” Leonie interrupted. “I have a gift for it. I was brought up on tales of Dorilys of Rockraven, and I think I have a little of her Gift, the Gift of weather control, and I assure you that I am not given to
with it.” She smiled again, that superior smile that made Fiora want to shake some humility into her. Had the Keeper been anything other than what she was, Fiora might well have done so. “You need not worry,” Leonie continued airily, as if it were no great matter. “I shall restore the rain, if you wish it.”
“It is not simply a matter of what I wish,” Fiora said, rather sharply. “You must learn to follow what is ordained and what must be in the way of nature. Did your stories tell you what finally befell Dorilys of Rockraven?”
“She lost control of her Gift and killed with it, and, since she could not be killed, her kinsmen sent her to sleep behind shields at Hali,” Leonie said, with a dismissive shrug, as if she were certain, with the foolish arrogance of the young, that such a thing could never happen to
“For all I know, she’s still there. That is why my family wants me properly trained.”
“Precisely.” Fiora replied. “Remember this, Leonie. Such a fate could easily be
yours, if you continue to abuse your powers as if they were superior sorts of toys. And a far sadder fate could be yours if you boast of powers you do not have, and are found wanting. No one looks more a fool than the
who calls upon a demon to be answered by a mouse.”
So saying, she turned and walked away through the gardens, the brush of her
trailing draperies making a whispery sound against the grass. The two younger girls looked at one another with shock. A reproof from Fiora was rare, and never had she spoken to either of them with such harshness.
Leonie, however, was simply angry. True, she had said herself that she did not
want the other girls to be sent away, but never in her life had anyone dared to speak to her like this. It infuriated her.
But worse, far worse, were the unspoken insults; the things that Fiora had not
said, but had thought, all too clearly.
“So,” Leonie said, simmering with barely-suppressed anger, “she does not believe in my Gifts; she thinks that I am boasting of what I cannot do.”
“Leonie, she did not say that,” Rohana protested, frightened.
“She did not have to say it aloud,” Leonie replied. “Do you think I hear only what is
to me? Do you? If so, what are we doing in the Tower, any of us?” She stared angrily at the door where Fiora had reentered the Tower itself. “Well, she will see.”
“What are you going to do, Leonie?” whispered Melora, her eyes wide, and her
voice unsteady. Leonie took some comfort in that; if the Keeper did not believe, she had at least convinced her fellow students that she had powers to be reckoned with.
“Oh, she shall have a storm, if she wants one, and when it is over—” Leonie was
too much aware of her own dignity to snarl, but she clenched her hands into fists, and made her mouth into a thin, tight line. “Oh, I can hear it already;
Oh, Leonie, you must
were one to tell me what I must do or not do!”