C J Cherryh – Morgaine 02 – Well Of Shiuan
C J Cherryh – Morgaine 02 – Well Of Shiuan
Whoever first built the Gates that led from time to time and space to space surely gained from them no good thing.
The qhal found the first Gate in the strange ruins of Silen on a dead world of their own sun. They used the pattern, built other Gates, spanned worlds, spanned stars, spanned time itself.
Therein they fell into the trap, and ensnared others—for qhal experimented in time, experimented in worlds, gathered beings and beasts from the whole of Gate-spanned space. They built civilizations, leaped ahead to see their progress, while their subjects, denied access to the Gates, inched through the centuries at real-time.
At the end of time gathered those who had been through all ages, experienced all things, lived most desperately. There were ominous ripplings in reality itself, backtime violated, accelerating disturbance. Some qhal felt it coming; some went mad, recalling truths that were no longer true, or might have been and would not, and were again—matter and time and space undone, ripped loose, finally imploded.
Worlds lay devastated. There were only the remnants of qhalur works and the worlds qhal-tampered; and there were the Gates, flotsam up out of time, untouched by the catastrophe.
And humans arrived on the ruined worlds, in that patch of space that still bore the scars.
Humans were among the victims of the qhal, scattered on the ruined worlds, with other species also qhal-like. For this reason alone humans distrusted the Gates, and feared them.
A hundred men and women passed the qhalur Gates, bound they knew not where, armed to seal the dangerous portals from the far side of space and time, to the very ultimate Gate. There was a weapon devised for that ultimate passage, an end-all force of Gate-drawn power; and until that Gate, it was necessary to seal world after world, age after age—a battle perhaps endless or fatally circular, perhaps limited to qhalur space or cast to Gates the qhal themselves never made.
There were a hundred at the beginning.
The Gates exacted their toll.
“… Last of all only the woman Morgaine survived, skilled in qujalin witchcrafts and bearing still that Sword that casts to death. Much of evil she did in Morija and Baien, rivaling all other evils she had committed… but she fled thereafter, taking with her Nhi Vanye i Chya, once of this house, who was ilin to her and therefore bound by his oath.”
—Nhi Erij i Myya, in the Book of Ra-morii
“Chya Roh i Chya, lord of Ra-koris… followed the witch Morgaine, for his cousin’s sake… but Nhi Erij in his writing avows that Chya Roh perished on that journey, and that the Soul that possessed the likeness of Roh thereafter was qujal, and hostile to every Godly man….”
—the Book of Baien-an
Seven moons danced across the skies of the world, where there had been one in the days of the ancients. In those days the Wells of the Gods had been open, providing power and abundance to the khal who had governed before the time of the Kings. Now the Wells were sealed, beyond the power of men or khal to alter. Long ago there had been vast lands on all sides of Shiuan and Hiuaj; but the world now was slowly drowning.
These were the things that Mija Jhirun Ela’s-daughter believed for truth.
For all of Jhirun’s young life, she had known the waters encroaching relentlessly on the margin of the world, and she had watched Hiuaj diminish by half and the gray sea grow wider. She was seventeen, and looked to see Hiuaj vanish entirely in her lifetime.
When she had been a child, the village of Chadrih had stood near the Barrow-hills of Hiuaj; and beyond that had stood a great levee and a sea wall, securing fields that gave good crops and pasturage for sheep and goats and cattle. Now there was reed-grown waste. The three parcels of land that had supported Chadrih were gone, entirely underwater save for the boundary posts of stacked stone and the useless remnant of the ancient sea wall. The gray stone buildings of the village had become a ruin, with water trickling even at low tide through what had been its streets, and standing window-high at Hnoth, when the moons combined. The roofless houses had become the nesting places of the white birds that wheeled and cried their lonely pipings over the featureless sea.
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