by John Dalmas


by John Dalmas

“You do not answer.”

Again silence greeted the Yngling’s question.

“Each tribe has a law against slander, and the council a law against lies in its meetings. Men are seldom charged under them unless the lie is harmful, and I will not charge you now. But . . .”

The Yngling’s words were cut short by a keening noise from the other’s throat, a keen­ing that quickly grew to a howl of rage. Fum­bling, wrenching, the chief tore off his sleeveless leather shirt, drew his sword, and charged the lagman.

The Yngling’s sword was out too, and blind-eyed he met the man’s berserk assault. The vio­lent energy and quickness of Jäävklo’s attack was shocking to Baver, who’d never before wit­nessed an attack to kill. But the lagman beat off the berserker’s strokes, seemingly without any effort to strike back; either he was too hard pressed or he exercised an unexplainable restraint.

The Jäävklo’s sword broke against the lag-man’s, almost at the hilt. With a howl, he flung the rest of it at his adversary, then turned and threw himself on the council fire.

Baen Books From John Dalmas

The Regiment

The White Regiment

The Kalifs War

The Lizard War


Return to Fanglith

The Reality Matrix

The General’s President



by John Dalmas


The Sanctuary was semi-dark, lit by a single, large oil lamp that set blurred shadows trembling and jumping. Seven men, robed in silk, sat in a circle on straw mats, legs folded beneath them. Another sat in the center. Their shaven heads were upright. Lamplight flickered on calm faces, glinting on eyes otherwise black, giving off an aroma too mild to conceal the fragrance of Korean pine from panels, timbers and floor. As dark as the room, was the sound that came from their throats—a deep and droning “OM,” protracted and near the limit of audibil­ity, like the dying hum of some great bell.

They were questing. Vague images flicked behind un­focused eyes. Now and then something vaguely recogniz­able came to them, to be gone before it stopped shimmering. They didn’t try to hold them. When—if— they found something significant, it would stay to be examined.

After a bit, they got one clearly, of conical tents—a campground—with a village of log huts not far behind it. Behind the image was a sense of context; this was some tribal gathering. The picture, still wavering, shifted,



then focused on a very large, physically powerful man. A man without eyes, they somehow knew, who nonetheless carried a sword. A man without eyes who walked briskly, meaningfully. Suddenly he stopped. And turned as if to look at the men who spied on him from their Circle of Power.

He did have eyes, strange eyes without pupils, that somehow seemed to lock with their collective gaze. Then the vision wavered and was gone, and they knew without discussion that they would not get it back.

The emperor, Songtsan Gampo, sat in his study before open, glass-paned doors. A light cool wind blew from the northwest across the Yan Mountains, played with the sil­ver wind chimes on his balcony, and touched his face. Above his left shoulder an oil lamp, its flame shielded by a glass chimney, cast faintly yellow light on the manu­script he read. Remotely he heard a small gong—heard and registered, and ignored. A minute later there was stirring at his corridor door, and an exchange of muted words. Then his doorguard entered, a giant humanoid with short, rich-brown fur. It cleared its throat softly.

“Your Magnificence,” it murmured.

Songtsan Gampo lowered the manuscript and turned without speaking.

“His Reverence, Tenzin Geshe, wishes to speak with Your Magnificence.”

Dark eyes regarded the doorman. “Send him in.”

The geshe could have communicated with him telepathically; given the Circle of Power, the distance from the gomba, the monastery, was no problem. But the em­peror didn’t allow mental intrusions except when he’d ordered them, or in true emergencies. One sent or car­ried messages, on paper or orally. Tenzin Geshe entered the room and bowed low. He would not speak until in­vited to.

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Categories: Dalmas, John