The Lords of Hate
Chapter 1 The Frozen
Alorn of Lavandrel, Prince of Born, slept by his
wife Annalor in the Castle of Onuma, but his sleep was disturbed.
Waking, he rose and crossed to the window of the chamber to stare out
at the scarlet stars burning in the deep red sky. The moons had long
since set and it would not be long before the blue orb of Talas rose
above the horizon, turning the sky to pink. Alorn's mind was filled
with unease, but as he brooded he heard Annalor murmuring in her sleep.
He turned towards her and as he did so he realised that his own
restlessness was but a reflection of hers. She was possessed by some
powerful dream which caused her to toss and turn and even to speak
wildly. He watched her with concern but as the dream passed his look
was replaced by one of tenderness. His own feeling of distress had
passed and he was able to sleep peacefully until dawn. They lay close
together, his dark blue countenance framed by red curly hair, her skin
much paler, hair long and straight and of deep midnight red.
Next day as they strolled along the high rampart of
the castle beneath the orange vault of midday, they looked out over the
City of Onuma towards the distant hills of Moren and Alorn asked
Annalor about her dream. She stopped still and stared out far into the
distance for a long time before she spoke.
"It is just a dream," she said finally but her voice
"Tell me about it," persuaded Alorn gently. "Do not
forget that I too have suffered dreams and that I know they cannot be
Again Annalor was silent for a while and then began
to speak slowly, reluctant to put into words the images that had
assailed her sleeping brain.
"This dream I have had many times. I dream that I am
cold, colder than I have ever been, a dark, icy cold that chills my
bones and freezes my heart. At first I cannot see; my eyes are filled
with a pale yellow light which has no warmth. My ears are filled with
grinding crashes. The light fades and dimly I perceive huge blocks of
ice, blue and unfathomable in the cold yellow dimness. The ice moves,
it shudders and cracks. Snow falls, at first gently and then, hard
driven by the wind, it hurtles against me, stinging my eyes and choking
my breath. The wind rises from a gentle moan to a hideous howl and then
above the wind I hear the voice."
Annalor paused. Her sky-red eyes were closed; her
voice had risen almost to a shriek, like winter wind chasing through
the castle turrets. Alorn grasped her hand. It was cold as death. She
resumed speaking, her voice low again.
"The voice is calling. Always it calls 'Feethra,
Feethra'. It is a woman's voice, both imperious and beseeching, full of
anguish and uncertainty. 'Feethra,' calls the voice, 'Feethra come back
to us. Where is the help for which we sent you? Why are you so long
away? Feethra, return, I command you.' The wind rises again and the
voice is lost. Snow hurtles against me and the dim light fades. I am
lost in the cold and the darkness, and the never-ending ululation of
After a while, Alorn spoke.
"How long have you been having this dream?"
"For many nights now, perhaps ever since my father
left for the Great Continent."
"Does it never vary?"
Alorn brooded a space.
"Has the dream no meaning for you?" he asked at last.
"I cannot discern any meaning and yet I cannot
dismiss it as meaningless. It troubles me greatly," she whispered and
she laid her head on Alorn's breast while he encircled her with his
arms and gently stroked her hair.
"We shall go and consult Merian. He is learned in
oneirology", he said decisively. "At the same time we shall see your
father. Perhaps he can set your mind at rest."
Annalor raised her head.
"Thank you," she answered simply. For the rest of
the day she was more lively and playful than she had been for many
days, yet so subtly had the melancholy crept upon her, that Alorn had
scarcely noticed it and now he marvelled that it should have been so.
In the evening as they sat at dinner, Alorn related
his plans to his father the king. Gault listened gravely.
"I agree it is unwise to ignore such persistent
visions and if anyone can unravel them, it will be Merian. Since
Annalor's father is visiting him, it would seem even more desirable
that you should go. Will you travel by ship across the Ocean of Storms?"
Alorn shook his head.
"I had thought to take one of the great bats. It
will be quicker and it is time I put the loss of Jeth behind me and
began to cultivate a new mount."
King Gault nodded.
"Very well," he agreed. He smiled a little grimly.
"I hope this time you will not bring upon us such troubles as resulted
from your last flight to the Great Continent."
Alorn smiled in turn.
"You know as well as I Father, that those troubles
would have come even had I remained here, and perhaps then they would
have overwhelmed us."
"Doubtless that is true," replied Gault.
"Nevertheless my hope for your safety and my peace remains. Take good
care of yourself and of Annalor."
That night Alorn was again disturbed by Annalor's
dream. She tossed and turned on their couch. It was early in the night
and the grey moon Umandrel shone into their chamber. By its light Alorn
saw that Annalor's face bore a look of horror and fear that pierced his
heart. He knelt beside her and spoke gently, soothingly. Gradually her
countenance became more composed and the nightmare receding, she began
to breath more evenly. Carefully he woke her and asked about the dream.
As the memory of it flooded back she clung to him, shivering.
"It began as on all the other nights," she said. "I
was alone and cold in a frozen world. Snow slanted past me at the
behest of the wind and above the wind came the voice, but this time the
words were different, and the voice was full of anger. 'Come Feethra',
it demanded, 'come and see how we suffer while you tarry. See how we
are afflicted while you bring no help.' The world dissolved and then
reformed, and I was standing on the coast. The snow had stopped. Above
me the vault of the sky was black and strewn with stars, but overhead
shone a small intense yellow disc which shed little warmth and though
it lit the ground, gave neither light nor colour to the sky. All about
me was strange. Even the pale stars were not in their usual patterns
and their light had a sinister yellowish tinge. An oily sea heaved
before me and washed thickly against the frozen shore. In the distance
I saw some mounds of snow which looked artificial and before long a
figure emerged from one, but it was too far off and too swathed in
clothing for me to be able to see whether or not it was human."
Annalor halted and buried her face in her hands.
Alorn comforted her and presently she resumed.
"It was what happened next that was so terrifying.
As I watched something broke through the surface of the sea - it was a
head, a head of monstrous aspect with two multi-faceted eyes, one on
each side. Its skin was scaled and from its forehead rose two stalks
which ended in long waving antennae. The front of its face was blank
from its bald scaly cranium until it reached a large muzzle which
opened to show rows of pointed teeth. Below the jaws on each side were
long slits which moved regularly open and closed."
"It was hideous. It moved shorewards and as the
waves fell away I saw more of the scaled body. It had two pairs of long
powerful arms, each of which ended in a claw and in each claw it
clutched a stone club. As I watched, more of those brutal heads broke
through the surface. The first one climbed onto the ice, walking on a
pair of long spindly legs. A short rigid tail jutted out behind it. The
creature waited until a number of its fellows had assembled and then
they all made off across the snow-covered ice at a fast jerky run. More
and more of them waded ashore and set off after the first. I saw that
they were making for the snow houses. Before they reached them they
were seen. At this the sea creatures began to utter piercing shrieks
and to brandish their clubs. The snow dwellers came hurrying out of
their mounds, but there were not many of them. They did not attempt to
fight but fled across the snows. Their flight was to no avail. The sea
creatures caught them and... and they clubbed them to death."
Annalor's voice had dropped to a whisper. Alorn gave
her a small beaker of water from which she sipped.
"It was then that I heard the voice again. It was
full of bitterness and anguish. 'See Feethra, see how we suffer. Return
to Ua. Bring allies. Summon our ancient kin'. This was repeated over
and over again until I thought it would have driven me mad had I not
heard another voice, a voice full of gentle strength and love which
said 'Let her alone. Leave her be. She has naught to do with this. She
cannot help you'."
Annalor raised her face to look at Alorn and she
"It was your voice. I recognised it and became calm."
Alorn was now thoroughly alarmed.
"Tomorrow we must prepare for our journey," he said,
"and at dusk we shall leave."
As twilight stole through the city of Onuma the
following evening, Alorn and Annalor gathered their cloaks about them
and crossed the courtyard of the citadel to the central tower.
Carefully they climbed the narrow stair which clung to the inside wall
of the hexagonal shaft, Alorn in front, a lighted torch glowing feebly
in his hand. All was silent yet they felt a vibration in the air as the
bats hanging aloft stirred and probed their surroundings with their
At last they reached the first of the beams from
which the bats hung, but Alorn ascended higher yet. For some time he
had been observing the bats and he knew which one he wanted. He found
it close to the top of the tower. Grasping Annalor's hand he walked out
onto the beam from which the bat hung. Rope ladders were suspended from
the ocken. Alorn and Annalor sat down on the wooden beam and each in
turn swung their legs over the side and descended. Close to the body of
the bat, Alorn climbed down until he could reach out and grasp the
harness attached to the creature's back. Carefully he transferred his
grip from ladder to harness and waited for Annalor to do the same.
When the two of them were securely strapped in
place, Alorn raised to his lips a tiny whistle, and blew into it, his
lips and tongue moving to create a remembered pattern. No sound came to
human ears, but the bat heard and slowly stretched its wings. Alorn
blew again, and this time the bat dropped from its perch, spread its
wings, and flew silently up the dark tower and into the darkening sky.
Alorn blew directions into his whistle. In his ear
Alorn wore a tiny crystal which caught the sounds made by the bat and
reduced their frequency to one Alorn could hear. At Alorn's behest, the
great bat flew purposefully eastward towards the coastal town of Dinnal.
By the time their mount reached the sea, the
twilight had deepened into night. The sky was overcast. No star
glimmered and even the light of the moons did not penetrate. Blue-lit
windows glowed far below in Dinnal, and the harbour light cast a
powerful azure beam out over the black sea. The air was warm. Far to
the south could be heard the drum roll of thunder, while the sea heaved
lugubriously. The bat flew on and soon the coast-line dropped behind,
the last friendly twinkle from Dinnal faded, and even the harbour light
was lost to view. Annalor reached out and grasped Alorn's hand. He
returned her squeeze, and they felt a companionable sense of security,
nestling in the warm fur of the great animal whilst the world stretched
emptily away into the night.
Interval after interval they sped eastward beneath
the rain black clouds. Once they caught sight of the lanterns of a
fleet. As they passed over they could dimly perceive the pennants of a
squadron of frigates from Born heaving and dipping on the deep. About
them flapwings circled lazily. The threatened storm did not come and as
dawn approached the skies cleared so that Talas rose blue and
magnificent into a translucent pink sky. Their mount had begun to emit
nervous squeaks as daylight stole across the heavens but Alorn urged it
on and eventually a smudge of land appeared on the horizon.
Soon the bat was swooping down towards woodland
where it found a convenient perch. Before leaving it, Alorn gave the
bat instructions to return to Onuma the following night and then he and
Annalor unstrapped themselves and clambered down through the trees to
the ground. Finding a clearing they made a fire and cooked a meal. It
was almost noon and the sun shone down into the glade. Tired, they
stretched out in its warmth and slept.
Alorn was awakened by the chill of afternoon as the
trees cast their shadows. Annalor too stirred and woke. She sat up and
swept her long hair over her head. Then she smiled.
"I had no dream," she remarked.
"I am glad to hear it," replied Alorn, "but night
will come soon and I think we should make a start on our trek."
The trees grew thickly, the steely ocken mingled
with the herbalist's aldaran and the strange laman tree. Alorn threaded
his way through them, crushing underfoot the thick undergrowth of
enchanter's beard with its fluffy seed cases. Annalor followed closely
until the wood thinned and the plain lay ahead of them. Now they could
walk side by side through the waving herbage of the Red Grass Plain.
Here in the open they felt the warmth of the sun again. The sky had
reddened and a few brown clouds had appeared on the horizon.
They struck out north-eastward in the direction
Alorn reckoned Merian's cottage lay. They felt refreshed by their
slumber and Annalor was not anxious to sleep again too soon for fear of
the dream returning, so they resolved to walk through the night. They
easily found their way by the light of the moons and stars. The
constellations of the Wheel, the Rider and the Ship kept them company.
Woods they avoided, walking round them being quicker, they were sure,
than trying to find a way through in the dark. All about them were the
sounds of the night, the call of the click-click and the nighthoot
The next morning they found some shade at the edge
of a copse, ate and then slept. Once again Annalor's sleep was free of
dreams. Whether it was because they were now far from Born, or because
she slept by day and not by night she did not know but was reluctant to
do anything that might bring back the nightmare.
So they journeyed many nights, sheltering from rain
in the thickets and spinnies which dotted the Red Grass Plain. They
felt gay and carefree, alone in each other's company. Sometimes they
ran for sheer joy through the waving grass beneath the stars until they
collapsed exhausted but laughing. It was the season of Pollination and
the nights were balmy. From time to time Alorn's keen eyes scanned the
horizons on the chance of seeing a herd of centaurs, and perhaps even
his old friend Kapallitas but they saw no one. All the time, Alorn kept
them moving steadily inland and northward towards the Hills of the Wind.
It was a bright star-lit night when they first spied
the hills, rising up black against the deep red sky of midnight.
Umandrel and Hirandrel had already sped across the heavens casting
their grey and red light. By dawn the walkers were close to the
foothills. In the fresh clear light of morning, the Hills of the Wind
rose steeply into the pink sky.
"We need to be further to the north," said Alorn.
"It will be easier to continue walking over the plain as long as we
keep the hills always in sight."
A day or so later, as they slept in the morning sun,
Annalor began to moan in her sleep. Alorn woke instantly and watched
her with concern sure that her dream had returned. He took her gently
in his arms and spoke to her soothingly. When she had become calmer he
"Your dream came back," he said.
"It was as before," she told him. "When I heard the
voice, it said, 'Why do you hide from me Feethra; why do you seek to
escape my pleas? There is nowhere you can hide. I shall always find
you. Yet it is hard for me to believe that you have abandoned us; that
you flee from us. That is not what we expect from such as you. So much
depends on you - yea everything depends on you; you must not fail us.'
Then your voice began to drown that other and I returned to our beloved
"We must find Merian quickly. I cannot bear many
more of these dreams."
Alorn reassured her.
"It cannot be far now. Since the dreams have found
you again, and daylight seems no barrier to them, let's hasten. We need
to travel by day so that I can keep a look out for the track we must
So Alorn and Annalor bent their steps northward and
strode rapidly across the deep red sward. Their idyll was over and they
were oppressed by urgency. As though in tune with their mood the sky
grew overcast, brown clouds looming up over the hills to hide the sun
and inject a chill into the air.
In the early afternoon they descried the outlines of
a wood on the horizon and directly in their path. As they drew nearer
they realised it was more of a forest. A close-set wall of trees
marched away westward as far as they could see, and to the east managed
even to storm the lower slopes of the high hills. Alorn frowned.
"We must have come to the hills further south than I
had intended," he said. "I had not expected to come across so extensive
"How wide might this wood be?" asked Annalor.
"I don't know," confessed Alorn. "I fear it may
extend some considerable distance northward as it obviously does to the
"To go round it to the west would seem a long
journey," said Annalor, "but the trees do not appear to extend so far
"That is true," agreed Alorn, "and although the way
may be steep on those slopes, it should at any rate be direct."
By common consent, they turned aside to pick their
way up the incline. The ground became rougher. Bare boulders protruded
and the easy turf struggled against rough bracken and stunted aldaran
which had escaped the confines of the wood. The warmth generated by
their exertions contrasted with the cool air and made them feel clammy
and uncomfortable. Although they were soon able to veer northward, they
found that as they did, so the wood thrust further up the hillside
forcing them to yet higher ground. It was awkward walking across the
steeply sloping ground and Alorn feared a ricked ankle would be a
likely accident. The pair eventually found themselves so far up the
hill that Alorn called a halt.
"It might be easier," he said, panting and wiping
the sweat from his brow, "if we made straight for the ridge and walked
the rest of the way along the crest. We can easily drop down to the
plain again once we are past the woods."
Annalor nodded, breathless.
They set off, zig-zagging upward towards the skyline
above which the stormriders circled. The folds in the hills were
deceptive and as they seemed to approach the summit, so further slopes
appeared beyond, but finally, late in the afternoon they found
themselves on the ridge looking out over a shallow valley to another
line of hills further east. They turned to look the way they had come
and only then did they appreciate how high they had climbed. The ground
dropped away from where they stood to the dark red trees of what now
appeared a sizable forest stretching away north and west, its
boundaries lost in a pink haze. Above them arched the infinite sky. A
feeling of intense loneliness assailed them.
"Come on," urged Alorn, "we have further to go than
It was not too difficult walking along the ridge but
it seemed endless. At times Alorn thought he detected traces of a path
although the stony ground was so lacking in vegetation that it was
difficult to be sure. Their way led them up and down the undulating
backbone of the hills. Twilight came slowly on the heights. The plain
was lost in rapidly deepening gloom but the upper air retained a
luminous quality so that they seemed to be walking on the coast of a
At length fatigue compelled them to halt. They
descended a short distance into the dark where they could take shelter
from the night winds and were close enough to the trees to be able to
collect twigs and branches for a fire. Alorn struck a spark to the
tinder from his flint. Blue flames leaped up and the warmth and light
of the blaze transformed their mood as they sat close together eating
some of their dwindling supply of food and drinking water from Alorn's
flask. The stars appeared and sparks flew up to meet them. The melody
of the nightsinger floated to them on a breeze.
Taking a flaming brand for illumination, Alorn
collected together a large heap of firewood. He and Annalor spent the
night talking of times past, when they had been part of their world's
struggle against the Grey Maker. Then they had faced danger and fear
separated. Now at least they were together and the courage they drew
from each other and from the memory of former trials overcome, helped
to hold at bay the forebodings which Annalor's nightmares had brought.
She dozed fitfully, waking with a start as she felt the cold of that
place of her dreams seeping into her bones. Alorn heaped more wood on
the fire, and shadows danced in the blue firelight while Annalor
shivered and leaned closer to the blaze.
So the night passed in dozing and talking and
staring into the fire, and at last morning came, a pink glow in the
east beyond the ridge. The stars faded and the empty sky was pure and
clear like fresh water. Alorn and Annalor stretched their aching limbs,
tidied up their camp site and stamped out the glowing embers of their
fire. Then they retraced their steps to the ridge.
For several days they walked due north along the
spine of the hills. Even when the forest receded from the slopes and
finally ceased altogether, they decided to remain on the heights.
After one particularly restless night, they moved
off very early. At first it was cool in the early morning and they were
glad of the exercise to keep them warm but as the sun rose higher it
grew hot and the colour of the sky deepened to a brilliant orange. To
the east the valleys were filled with mist above which the hilltops
stood out like islands in a ghostly sea. As they toiled on they glanced
down from time to time at the mist, which seemed to boil and foam as
the sun reached it. Soon clouds of vapour became detached from the
seething mass and came rushing up the steep hillside towards them. The
mist was thin but cold as it poured over them and down towards the
coastal plain. The river of mist thickened and blanketed the sun,
leaving them in a cold and impenetrable fog. Annalor shivered. Alorn
paused and turned to her.
"We should be all right if we keep always on the
highest ground, but we'd better go slowly."
It was as well that Alorn heeded his own warning,
for abruptly he found himself at the brink of a precipice which dropped
away into unseen depths. He and Annalor withdrew from the edge. They
looked to right and left but could see nothing in the enshrouding mist.
"Let's go down towards the left," suggested Annalor.
"At the worst we shall end up on the plain. If we go eastward we might
wander forever among hills and valleys."
Alorn nodded and they carefully picked their way
down the slope keeping a safe distance between themselves and the cliff
edge. The ground was rocky and broken. The chasm seemed to bend away
northward and they followed it, the slope growing more shallow until at
last they were on almost level ground and the cliff had vanished.
Without it they felt bereft of direction. The ground was so jumbled
that in clambering over blocks of stone and deviating round rocks and
boulders, Alorn found it impossible to be sure in which direction they
were going and whether they were going straight at all. He stopped
bewildered, and it was then that they heard the tapping - quiet and
intermittent, formless and ghostly, it seemed to be moving inexorably