John Brunner – The Traveler in Black

Bardolus’s mother, chortling over the fate of her son, was not.

Knotting a noose from every rope in a cord-seller’s shop, the first of the line of the Hautnoix was not.

Brandishing his bloody trophies, the adulterous d’Icque was not.

Three who had come forth from a vault were not.

Stripped of its food, its draperies, its gold and silver and precious artworks, the house of Meleagra was silent.

And those who had come to regulate accounts with the decadent lordling Vengis took their leave.

Also many who had come forth from graves and sepulchres, from hollow walls and wayside ditches, from dungeons and the beds of rivers and the bottoms of wells… were not.

“So!” said the traveler in black, when he had restored Laprivan to his captivity. “You have a reprieve, Jacques-are you glad of that?”

The tawny-bearded man mouthed an affirmative.

“And will you learn a lesson from it?”

“I’ll try-as heaven is my witness, I will try!”

“Fairly said,” the traveler declared. “Go then to join those hiding in the valley. Approach them as a friend, not showing that you’re aware why they set forth bearing bludgeons. Say to them that the rule of chaos in Ys is ended, and so is Ys; they must return home for the last time and gather their belongings before they and all the people scatter to the corners of the world.”

“But-but is this our world?” Jacques whimpered. “On the way to Barbizond I saw-and now here…”

“Ah, you’ll have no more of that kind of thing. It belongs to yesterday, and with other traces of yesterday Laprivan has wiped it out.” The traveler allowed himself a smile. “And do not lament excessively for Ys. For cities, as for men, there comes a Time… Besides, there is a prophecy: a prince shall seek a name for his new capital, and he’ll be told of Ys, and out of envy for its greatness he will say, ‘I name my city Parys, equal to Ys.'”

“I have little faith in prophecies as a rule,” said Jacques, staring. “But in this extraordinary place… Well, no matter. Sir, I take my leave, and-and I thank you. You have held up an honest mirror to me, and I cannot resent it.”

“Go now,” the traveler adjured. “And be quick.”

He waited long on the brow of the hill while the last daylight dwindled away and the stars wheeled gradually to the conformation marking midnight. It became more and more difficult to see Ys; the towers melted into mist, the walls and gates were shadow-dark among shadows. For a while torches glimmered; then even they failed to be discerned, and when dawn broke there was neither the city, nor the traveler in black, for anybody to behold.



What Stake will you adventure on this Game? (quoth Arundel).

Why, Sir, though I be naked and penniless, yet stand I in possession of my Head (saith Amalthea). That prize I in no wise, quoth Arundel. I had liefer win a Cooking Pot than such a Numskull. Wager me in place of it that Treasure, which though you lose it to me shall be yours again when I have done.

-Fortunes and Misfortunes of Amalthea


Down the slope of a pleasant vale an army marched in good order: colors at the head fluttering in the warm summer breeze, drummers beating a lively stroke for the men behind perspiring in their brass-plated cuirasses and high-thonged boots. Each of the footmen wore a baldric with an axe and a short-sword in leather frogs, and carried a spear and a wide square shield. Each of the officers rode a horse draped in fine light mail, wore a shirt and breeches of velvet sewn with little steel plates, and carried a long-sword in a decorated sheath. Sunlight glinted on pommels bright with enamel and gilt.

Leaning on his staff, the traveler in black stood in the shade of a chestnut-tree and contemplated them as they filed by. Directly he clapped eyes on them, the banners had told him whence they hailed; no city but Teq employed those three special hues in its flag- gold, and silver, and the red of new-spilled blood. They symbolized the moral of a proverb which the traveler knew well, and held barbarous, to the effect that all treasure must be bought by expending life.

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