Richard McNeff
Cyberite
Sybarite
Crowley and Neuburg
Disorders
Dolphin Rider

 DOLPHIN RIDER

A boy and a dolphin travel to the North Pole to rescue a book of making stolen by an alien queen.

The Source is a language that creates what is named. The book containing it is stolen by the alien queen who lives in the North Pole. Phosphor, a dolphin, and Palu, a boy from a tropical island, set off to retrieve it. After escaping from ship cats and a king who believes he is a god, they find a submarine tunnel guarded by a jackal. Carried by the tunnel's fast waters, they reach the North Pole but are attacked by sharks and separated. The boy is saved from freezing by a polar bear , in fact the shaman of his people. But Palu is captured and imprisoned in the fortress of the queen. When she finds he cannot read the Book, she has him thrown into the sea where he is reunited with Phosphor. Meanwhile a host of dolphins and whales are attacking the queen's fortress. The boy finds he can read the book and say the words that destroy the queen. However, this causes a supernova that unleashes vast waves that flood the earth. The boy and dolphin survive but Palu finds he can no longer read the book and must relinquish it.

For children of all ages: prologue and first  two chapters

PROLOGUE

THE SOURCE

In the very earliest time, there was a language called the Source, which had the power to make what it named. In it, Fruit was new fruit ripening on a vine, and Bread, a warm crusty loaf formed as the word was said. The Source was kept in a Book, whose letters were silver and pages gold, and every language that came after was an echo of an echo.

           The Source gave Man mastery of his world. He called for Rivers to bring water to the desert, and there were rivers; Wind to carry Seed, and there was wind and seed. He admitted his ignorance of light and metal, and the Source showed him Fire and gave him Bronze. However, there was one word the Book did not possess and that was time. Because he could not unlock this mystery when the opening of all other doors had made him proud, Man spoke of War, and war came.

            Seeking refuge, the Keepers of the Source put to sea, but the great wave that followed the ruin of the cities overcame their ship and it sank to the depths. Many years later, Terenor, King of Dolphins, came upon the wreck and his Delphguard

            In the time of Luminor, twentieth in a line of which Terenor had been third, a worm burrowed deep at the heart of his court. This worm was greed and treachery and was sown in Egalor, the king’s eldest son, by the spells of the Witch Queen of Nembis. In the dead of a moonless night, Egalor surprised the Delphguard and stole the Book. He bore it north to the glacial kingdom of the enemy, and it seemed the doom of Nembis had come to pass.

Great was Luminor’s grief when he heard of the theft – greater still because the traitor was of his house and line. At the council, which he hurriedly called above the City under Waves, he offered to give up his throne and set out alone to reclaim the Book. With one voice, the Delphlords refused this. The sea was shaken by the anger of the dolphins and the schools marshalled in the ranks of war. In the midst of this, Pavare, the Whale king, raised his great voice and demanded if they had forgotten the might of Nembis. A hush fell on the assembly, for who there did not know of the sky-ships, whose fire turned the sea into a cauldron, and the countless shark packs that ringed the north. By stealth, Pavare advised, the Book was stolen, and by stealth must be regained.

            Then Phosphor, Luminor’s second son, spoke up and offered to avenge the stain upon his house. At this, there was uproar. The younger dolphins begged to go with him. The bards pleaded for time to consult the Star voice, for in that age there was music in the heavens by which much could reveal many things. But Pavare declared the quest Phosphor’s by right, and none disagreed save Luminor saddened that he now might lose his other son – but the words stayed in his heart and he did not speak.

            Phosphor swam from the council to prepare for his task alone. Darkness fell and the bards were glad for each star took up the name of Phosphor until it filled the sky. Then they sang another name, which joined with Phosphor’s and became one harmony. The schools demanded to know what this meant, but the bards could only answer that the stars foretold great trials for Phosphor, which he would share with another – but who that other was they did not know.

 

CHAPTER ONE

THE STAR CHOSEN

A gang of boys is dragging a small child along a shell-strewn beach. They are older and stronger than he is. Though frightened, he lets only the tension in his lean brown arms signal his resistance.

            ‘Push him in here,’ orders the trader’s squint-eyed son when they reach a point where the beach grows steeper and the sea suddenly deep. His cronies pull their captive down the slope until the waves break over their chests and his shoulders, and then duck him under.

            ‘One, two, three...’ the boy begins as though counting lamps on his father’s shelves. When he reaches sixty, one of his gang nervously asks if the captive has not had enough.

            ‘Far from it!’ The boy mimics the tone his father turns on hungry fishermen when refusing credit. ‘Now you’ve made me lose count. Where was I? Ah, forty, forty-one...’

            ‘He’s gone limp,’ a voice says from the water ten numbers later.

            This lack of trust in his authority annoys the squint-eyed boy; besides, the counting has put him into a trance. ‘He’s a fish, isn’t be? Let the sea god save him. Thirty-one, thirty-two...’ he stops hastily. ‘What’s that thing in the sea over there? Why it’s a sh-sh-shark!’

            The others look wildly around until their eyes fix on a dark fin streaking in their direction. Shrieking, they scramble to the shore and dash after their leader who has disappeared into the jungle.

            The captive’s forgotten body floats to the surface. He knows nothing of the sleek form that nuzzles him into the shallows, rolls him onto sand and butts his stomach until saltwater spills from his mouth.

* * *

When the boy came to, he saw a dolphin lying near him on the sand. The foam of spent waves welled round its light grey underside, but did not reach the top of its body where the skin was beginning to crack like clay. The dolphin was stuck, but seemed strangely indifferent to its plight. Only its eyes moved, observing the boy keenly.

            ~ This creature must have saved me, the boy thought, and stranded itself in the process.     

            He climbed unsteadily to his feet and began to push against the dark blue cape beneath the fin. The skin was smooth and yielding, but the dolphin was more than three times his size and did not budge.

            ‘Wait!’ he said and cupped water over its back until the skin was shiny and the cracks had gone. Then he sat and wedged his feet under its flipper. He strained until his calves ached, but at last, with his fourth effort, the slope took it. The dolphin rolled into the sea and swam from him.

            ~ Small thanks, thought the boy, but then it occurred to him that the slope was steep enough for the dolphin to have rolled down it unaided, freeing itself from the air that would have mummified it in a few more minutes. ‘Why did you wait for me to save you?’ he shouted. The dolphin turned and watched him with the same intensity it had displayed on the sand. ‘Anyway, though you can’t understand a word I say, I thank you for saving me.’

            To his surprise the dolphin gave a shrill whistle and began to glide towards him.

            ‘It’s no good,’ the boy muttered, ‘if that was something you said, I didn’t understand it.’

            The dolphin responded with a series of clicks that sounded like a key turning in a rusty lock.

            ‘Nor that either,’ the boy laughed.

            The dolphin’s tail rose and slammed down on an incoming wave. The boy stopped laughing. He felt he had offended it. Yet that meant the dolphin could understand him, which was impossible.

            ~ Not as impossible as you suppose! I cannot use your sounds, just as you cannot use mine, but I understand the thoughts behind them.

            What a strange idea considered the boy. Stranger still had, been the way it had sprung unbidden to his mind - for the voice was not from that part of him that filled the empty sea with make-believe ships and fought battles from their prows. He was certain the ducking had injured his brain.

             ~ Answer now!

             ‘Who?’ he asked aloud then checked himself.

           ~ Who? He wondered, returning the dolphin’s steady gaze.

           ~ Me.

           ~ I am frightened. It is as though a stranger is intruding in my mind.

            ~ I am no stranger. I saved you just as you saved me. There is nothing closer.

            ~ You let me save you. You could have freed yourself.

            ~ Then you would have been bound by your debt to me. We would not be free.

            ~ You tested me. Why?

            ~ You passed. Is that not enough?

            ‘Dolphin,’ the boy cried. The creature raised its flippers and brought them down upon the sea.

            ‘Palu!’

            Astonished, the boy thought the dolphin had replied to him in his own tongue. Then he realised the word had come from behind him. He turned and found the trader’s son squinting out at him from behind a palm frond.

            ‘Keep the beast occupied,’ the boy hissed. ‘We’ll get it in a minute.’

Behind him, many men were creeping through the jungle, their spears rustling the undergrowth. Palu looked back at the dolphin.

            ~ They are coming for you!

The dolphin ignored this and asked why the gang had picked on him in the first place.

            ~ It was just a game that got out of hand.

            ~ We have games, too, but none are killed in them.

            ~ They hate me because I prefer to be by the sea than gamble for betel or the salve that makes beards grow. Even when the monsoon rages and they hide in their huts, I cling to a palm; close enough to be drenched by the spray of waves that rise thirty feet before they thunder down.

            ~ Then come with me. The sea is my home.

            Palu wondered how he was to do this.

            ~ Did you leave your senses in the sand? I have a broad back and flippers, and a tail truer than any rudder.

            ~ Where will we go?

            ~ Wherever you want, but hurry they are coming from the jungle!

            Palu turned and saw the fishermen were creeping down the beach in a wide stealthy arc. He hesitated a moment, but the offer was too enticing. He pulled up and knotted his sarong. Then he waded into the sea, grasped the dolphin’s fin and pulled himself onto its back. The skin was slippery and he almost slid off.

            ~ Push your legs up and grip firmly behind my flippers. Always keep one hand on my fin.

            Angry shouts rose from the shore as they surged away. It was too late. They were out of spear range.

            Palu was amazed by the power that coursed through the dolphin’s body and thrust them onward. He had to adjust his weight, balance on the sloping curve of its back and take care not to slide on the oily skin. When the island had receded to a distant speck, the dolphin told him to lean forward and clench its sides tighter. Then it jumped. The sky rushed at them then reeled away; but Palu held, even when the long leap was completed and they landed with a splash.

            ~ That was good, the dolphin told him. Now try this!

            Without warning, it rose vertically out of the water until only its tail was still submerged. Powering itself by strong tail strokes, it skimmed along the surface. Flung back, Palu found himself facing the blue sky. He gripped the fin with all his strength, but his legs began to slide down the smooth flanks. He was just about to lose his hold when the dolphin straightened.

            ~ Not bad. Now take a deep breath!

            Palu did so then the dolphin dived. Between them and the pink surface of the great reef that stretched beneath, shoals of silver fish glittered in the sunlight that filtered down. The dolphin sped on until a wide rocky cleft split the bottom.

            ~ Can you hear me? The dolphin asked.

            ~ I can.

            ~ Good. I was not sure if our thoughts could penetrate water.

            They surfaced, and the boy sucked in air in greedy gasps. Then he asked his bearer how long it could stay underwater.

            ~ The time it takes for fifty waves to crash upon a beach. And you?

            ~ A minute, at the very most two. That must be about eight waves. The pearl divers of my island can stay down for longer but they are specially trained.

~ Our lungs can hold more air than yours and our bloodstreams, too.

            ~ And dolphin, is this the fastest you can swim?

            The boy felt something like laughter ripple through his bearer’s mind. With a great shake of its tail, the dolphin surged forward, so Palu realised it had used but a very small part of its power up to then. The waves rushed by, and a distant speck in the sky ahead grew closer till Palu saw it was an albatross. The bird gravely returned his gaze as they sped beneath.

            ~ Enough? The dolphin asked and slowed to a more leisurely pace. Though they did not speak Palu understood the language between them was an open door, which no silence could close – through thought alone he knew the dolphin’s mood.

            ~ Stop prying, it told him good-humouredly.

            Palu was startled. He had not realised theirs was a two-way traffic.

            ~ I am sorry. I could not help sensing something troubles you.

            ~ Indeed it does. What bothers me is you keep thinking of me as “it”. I am not a thing. I am a “he” like you.

            Palu promised not to make the same mistake again. Yet he still felt there was a problem.

            ~ You are right. I was a fool to think I could hide it from you, for the link between us permits no secrets. Yet I cannot speak of it now. What is your name?

            The boy told him.

            ~ Well, Palu, when it is all over, I shall return to your shore and call for you. Then I shall tell you everything.

            ~ When will that be?

            ~ Does nothing satisfy your curiosity? You are like a whale calf playing with a crab. Some things have claws and are better not to know.

            Ahead of them, the fast setting sun was unfurling banners of red and gold upon the skyline.

            ~ It is time I took you home, the dolphin said.

            Palu tried to hide his disappointment.

            ~ At least tell me your name, so I may know it if you come again.

            ~ I am Phosphor, his bearer said, and again the boy sensed darkness in the dolphin’s thoughts.

            The dolphin turned and swam back towards the island. Dusk had fallen by the time they reached it and music was beginning in the sky, for in that time the stars were closer and each night they sang. Their brightness and their song are gone. We hear faint whispers only - an echo of that call of light to light.

            They skirted the dark shoreline until Phosphor located the spot where he had been stranded. However, just as he was about to approach it, he heard the slow muffled beat of a drum, which was joined by others along the shore. He tensed and listened.

            ~ What is it? asked Palu.

            ~ Some kind of signal, but...?

            Something had passed by overhead, so close they could feel the beat of its wings. They looked up and saw a large shape that blotted out the stars. It flew into the jungle, and angry shouts and the clash of metal broke the stillness.

            ~ The fishermen are still waiting for us, Phosphor declared. With a sharp flick of his tail he wheeled away.

            ~ We were lucky that albatross alerted us. Perhaps the same one that flew over us today. Was it merely chance that drove it there, I wonder?

            ~ Can you see in the dark then?

            ~ If not with my eyes then with my ears, but do not concern yourself with that. The question is what am I to do with you.

            ~ Can’t I stay with you?

            ~ No, Palu. Tomorrow I set out on a long journey that cannot be delayed. But wait! What is that in the sea ahead?

            In the distance, the waves sparkled in the rays of a bobbing amber lamp tied to the mast of a tiny boat.

            ~ Another trap? Wondered Phosphor; then he started for a low whistle came to them across the water.

            ~ Whoever is aboard that boat has bid us welcome. Are there some amongst your people who know the Dolphin tongue?

             ~ It must be Teriam. He is the wise man of my people. It is said he can speak the language of every bird, fish and beast - besides, that is his boat.

Phosphor pushed on until they could see a wiry old man seated in the stern whose wrinkled face was set with a pair of remarkable eyes that mirrored the light around them so in the pupils it curled like flame. Gazing into them, the dolphin saw they were the blue of the sea so dark it verged on black. The man was fishing and had a good catch piled on the deck.

‘Ah, Palu,’ he chuckled in a gruff voice,’ you are the talk of Trambular. I see you’ve brought your kidnapper along.’

            The boy felt Phosphor stiffen.

            ~ Tell this insolent man I am no thief.

            Teriam put his rod down and rose to his feet. All humour had left his face. He pursed his lips and produced a series of long solemn whistles. Then he bowed.

            ~ I accept your apology, the dolphin said, and can see you are a great sage amongst your race. That you can speak our tongue will amaze the bards when they hear of it. But time is pressing and I must know what to do with this boy. It is obvious I cannot return him myself.

            Teriam smiled.

            ~ Take him to Nethness, he suggested. It is a mighty volcano that lies in the sea not all that distant from Palu’s home.

            ~ How far?

            ~ Barring squalls, about one day north in a fast catamaran. It should take you slightly less. Of course, I do not know how the boy will get home from there.

~ Is there nowhere closer?

            ~ Nowhere, Teriam replied smugly. He sat down and took up his rod.

            ~ Can’t you take the boy for the night? After all, you are from the same island and could return with him tomorrow.

            ~ Out of the question, I am afraid. I shall probably be here at least another day. It is a marvellous spot for fishing. This boat is too small for two, and the boy would frighten the shoals away.

            Palu felt his bearer’s tail rise.

            ~ Has it ever struck you, Teriam, that there might be more important things in the world than catching fish? I must return this boy home by morning.

            ~ Why not take him with you?

            ~ If you had any inkling where my journey led, you would not dare suggest as much even in jest. Come Palu! I will trifle with this fool no longer.

            ~ Wait!

            Phosphor paused, arrested by the sharp note of command in Teriam’s thought.

            ~ In the entire breathing world none can match the dolphin kind. How they command their element, leap and dive through waves, while we are chained to earth. They are the wave kings, the tide friends, the acrobats of surf. Yet it is not I, Phosphor, but you who are a fool. You are a great prince trained to understand the singing of the stars; but since the sun went down, you have not listened once to what they have to tell you. Hear them now!

            Phosphor did so and what he caught filled him with astonishment. However, Palu’s untrained ear heard only the peerless beauty of the stars as they called each to each across the cloudless sky.

            ~ They call my name! The dolphin exclaimed.

            ~ Not yours alone but also that of the boy you wish to dump on me.

            Phosphor listened again.

            ~ You are right, but why?

            ~ Palu must go with you.

            ~ How can that be? He is only a child. I go to Nembis, the White Shaft.

            ~ Dare you question the choice of the stars? What you seek is Man’s. His hand alone can lift it and take it from the chamber where it lies.

            ~ The schools will not permit this.

            ~ They have no choice. The bards will have heard his name just as you have.

            ~ We are to stay together then, Palu said with delight.

            ~ So it seems, though I wish for your sake it were not so.

            ~ Do not wish that, Phosphor, for the stars speak of great adventures the boy will share with you. Be certain I shall watch for you as well. Now go!

            So Phosphor swam away into the night. As it passed he revealed to the excited boy what he had hidden from him earlier. He spoke in pictures so Palu did not only listen, but saw images as well: the battles of an ancient war, the golden Book taken from the shipwrecked boat, the face of Egalor twisted by treachery as he stole it from the Guard. When it came to Ashmotana, however, the images grew few. Of her form and purpose, Phosphor described little and his thoughts were grim.

            ~ Only, he said, that she and her people came long ago from another world. They live at the centre of the North Pole in the fortress of Nembis. Each winter the glaciers spread further south and each spring they take longer to thaw.

 

 CHAPTER TWO 

THE CITY UNDER WAVES

It is no accident that the common dolphin, Phosphor’s kind, is called the saddleback. Steadied by his hands’ firm grasp of the fin, the boy found he straddled a seat that seemed designed for a presence such as his. The upper part of his bearer’s body was blue, while at the side the yellow and grey markings formed the shape of an hourglass. Where the curves met, he learnt to grip his knees, for more than a few times, he slipped from the dolphin’s back, as Phosphor crested a wave or arched under one. Soon he grew accustomed to the pace of their path, and becoming familiar with the wind and currents that dictated it, he was able to survey the scene around.

They were travelling through an archipelago composed of many small islands, atolls and lagoons. In the moonlight, the hives of coral on their banks danced with silver as the sea washed over them. They passed each so quickly that the only memory the boy retained of their journey was that of an ocean filled with jewels. A little before midnight they came to an atoll, silvered like a bracelet by the moonlight.

            ~ Now, Phosphor said, you must take a deep, deep breath. We are going underwater.

            With foam swirling around them, they plunged beneath the waves. As light penetrated no further than the immediate surface the boy could see nothing, but the clicks Phosphor made reassured him that their course was being well charted. Down they went and at the bottom entered a cave. The boy’s lungs were now at bursting point. He was just beginning to wonder if his bearer understood how desperate was his need to breathe, when a glow as of many lamps suddenly danced above them, and they broke surface. They had entered a vast cavern that the sea had made and the atoll above them roofed. The ceiling was a web of linked rock through whose countless gaps beams of lunar light flooded. As they swam on Palu had his first sight of Phosphor’s school.

            The first pod was grouped together in the shape of a wheel, the outer part composed of about eight dolphins, revolving like spokes around the one in the middle. Though the outer eye of those circling the rim gazed at them, the other being closed, the dolphins seemed completely unaffected by their entrance. There were many more such pods all equally indifferent to their arrival. This was also true of those who clustered in the next type of grouping, in which gatherings of ten or more dolphins wove a slow orbit, so still in movement that they appeared to be carried by an underwater current. Though this pattern was by now the main one, here and there the boy saw a solitary, vertical dolphin bobbing close to the surface. It came to him that the pool of that grotto was a vast dolphin museum, where a thousand blue statues were frozen in the move­ments that were not the leap and dive. What was most striking was that not one dolphin had noticed their arrival.  He mentioned this after Phosphor had deposited him on a ledge, covered with lichen, which jutted out above the surface of the pool.

            ~ That is because they’re sleeping, the dolphin replied. The first group we saw was the Watch who keep the eye on the outside open and vigilant, and the one on the inside closed, so that it cannot disturb the group dream. Had we been intruders they would have become instantly alert. Then we passed the families arranged within their orders.

            ~ What about those that belong to no group? Who rest with their heads near the surface?

            ~ They are the bards who dream alone.

            The dolphin left him, and soon lulled by the wash of water against the ledge the boy fell asleep. When he awoke, he felt sun­light pouring down on him. The clicks and whistles that filled the air reminded him where he was. A great change had taken place in the grotto. The night’s sleeping order now counted for nothing, as everywhere the leaps and dives of dolphins broke the pool. Palu had never seen so many gathered together in one place, while they on their part had never been so close to a human, let alone seen one in the Hall of the Moon in the fabled City under Waves. Although he did not know it, many of the whistles Palu heard that morning discussed the mystery of his arrival and many of the clicks that rebounded off him, through echo gave a picture of the boy we could never know. For this powerful sense reached deep beneath his skin, examining even his mood and health. Dolphins are able to perceive much more than we, infinitely more. They have nothing to hide, nor can anything be hidden from them.

            Soon it appeared the whole gathering had but one thought in mind - the entertainment of the boy. As the captivated judge of innumerable competitions, he witnessed the most agile vaults and spectacular dives the dolphins were capable of making. Whole families swam up to him and he heard the bubbling curiosity of the cubs answered by the comforting tone of their mothers. Eventually, it was not enough for the dolphins that the boy should be a mere spectator of their play, and they nuzzled against him and nosed him into the water. On all sides, smiling dolphins swam beneath him and brushed their skins against his. Determined to prove he was not such a stranger to their ways as they supposed, he firmly grasped the fin nearest him, and pulling himself into the convenient saddle, gripped his legs against the dolphin’s sides. What followed was the most thrilling thing that had yet happened. With a mighty surge the dolphin skimmed along then leapt high above the surface of the pool. Everything was the upflung foam, the glimpsed ceiling and the great splash as they re-entered the water. However, Palu kept his hold and was still borne by the dolphin as it broke then zoomed along the surface, surrounded by an accolade of whistles as the others cheered him. At last, the delighted boy thought, I am a dolphin rider. Such confidence was hasty. For the next time, at the peak of the jump, the dolphin suddenly fell sideways, and Palu found himself struggling in the water with the heavy weight of his carrier bearing down on him. There was an explosion of spray, reeling lights, a lungful of salt water, then, thankfully, air. The dolphins, noting his setback, nosed him on his way, and though he could not have known it, and at the time probably would not have cared, their whistles made up an entire textbook of dolphmanship. Feeling like a defeated soldier, Palu pulled himself back onto the ledge.

            Phosphor came for him a little later, and they swam from the Hall of the Moon down long, granite passages carved by the patient tides. Eventually, they came to a marble cavern. It was much lighter here, for a shaft ran from the dome-like ceiling to the surface above, through which strong sunlight spilled, revealing the starfish and sea urchins that clung to the base of the pool. Those were the living jewels of a throne room, for this was the Hall of the Sun - the heart of Luminor’s domain.

            Three dolphins waited for them in the chamber. The nearest was a slim female whose grey eyes radiated tenderness. This was Tamar, Phosphor’s mother. The dolphin alongside her was the largest Palu had ever seen. From beak to tail, his body was ten feet long and rippled with such power and agility that he was accounted the greatest warrior of his age. However, dolphins judge their rulers not by war but peace, and so matchless was he in the laying down of the law that all that saw this beheld a monarch. This was the first meeting of Palu and Luminor, Delphlord of the Southern Seas. From the third dolphin came a quality that suggested his own first flights had long since passed. So strong was the impression he gave of a lifetime spent sowing then harvesting the grains of wisdom that the boy fancied he was again with Teriam. The thought saddened him, for it carried with it the memory of all he had left behind - perhaps forever.

          ~ Welcome! This last dolphin said, his voice as ageless as the marble around them. I am Moonar, Chief Guardian of the Source. I speak for Luminor, who begs to know why his son has brought this boy with him.

            ~ He is to be my companion, Phosphor replied..

            ‘How so?’ whistled Luminor. ‘Is a mere child to be pitted against the fangs of sharks and bolts of fire? Have you lost all reason, my son?’

            ‘Ask the Guardian if the name Palu is known to him.’

A whistle rose from Moonar’s blowhole. ‘This is strange indeed. That is the name the stars sang of.’

            ‘Then it must be so,’ Luminor agreed. ‘But this troubles me. I wish Pavare were here to counsel us.’

            ‘Father, even the Whale king could not counter the command of the stars.’

            ‘And the boy agrees?’

            ‘He does, but knows nothing of the dangers ahead.’

            ‘Then I also must assent, reckless though this all seems.’

            ~ First, began Moonar addressing Palu, you must ask us anything you do not properly understand about this undertaking.

            Palu thought deeply for a moment.

            ~ Well, he finally said, who exactly is Ashmotana?

            ~ It is unwise to speak of her, but for your sake, I shall do so. The Witch Queen lives far to the north on the frozen roof of the world. She appears always in white, and mirrors the windswept blankness of the Arctic wastes. Her hair is as snow falling beside the pale slopes of her face. She is as cruel as a blizzard and several times as perilous.

            ~ What race does she rule that can live in such a hostile place?

             ~ She is of the Angardin, Moonar answered. The Pole is as suited to them as the warm sea to us. They come from Angard, a world that lay between the planets you call Mars and Jupiter, and now is lost. They are a proud, learned people who once tilled the soi1 and gave thanks to the sun. However, the sun shrank, the feuds of rival dynasties burnt their towns and cities to the ground, the squabbles of their kings turned the oceans into steam - only the shrinking Poles still permitted life. There the remnants of the Angardin lived and grew to love the cold. The sorrow they first felt over the ruin of their world turned to bitterness, and they came to see in the sting of frost and the fall of avalanche, a mirror of their state. Thus, they supposed that all worlds should be as frozen and desolate as the ice plains that surrounded them. Hiding their despair, they called to the darkness. He heard them, and craving to enlarge his realms, directed their sky-ships to this younger world; the same ships that shepherds and wayfarers eye with alarm on the night sky. These lurk in the White Shaft of Nembis at the centre of the Pole.

Invisible fingers of frost seemed to brush against their faces and numb their thoughts. Palu was the first to speak.

            ~ What do they want of the Book?

            ~ If they master the complex grammar and strange tense of the Source, which contains a past and future but is always the present, the seasons will perish - only winter shall remain. Pitiless cold descending from the north shall blast bird and beast. The triumph of the Angardin will be complete. We speak of the Book, and I think it fitting that you should see an example of its power. we have long used it to increase the sea’s wealth and lessen her cruelty, and none has proved faithless to the words of power save he who stole it.

            Not just from his beak but from his whole being, a sound rang out; a dark, throbbing sound which if sounds had colour would be like that of clay. Unlike the speech of dolphin or of man, it grew in volume, until every seam of marble in that bright chamber vibrated at its pitch. The boy noticed that one of the particles of dust floating in the filtered sunlight above was growing bigger. In a few moments, it had become a spinning ball of clay and rock, whose surface was crossed by tiny forks of lightning. Then a second note rang out; which was like a breeze in summer fields and the song of birds. This joined with the first, softening the tone of the sound that echoed through that chamber. It weaved around the creation that floated above and made great changes. Puffy feathers moved on the surface, clouds that suddenly opened to pour vast torrents of rain onto the budding seas. The oceans spilled over their basins. Where they halted, a continent was born, and where they paused, an island. Then mercifully the rain ceased and a rainbow stretched over the peninsulas of that virgin globe. In that state it span above their awestruck faces, then began to fade until it had vanished completely, leaving a speck of dust that once had been a world.

             ~ It is called the Source, said Moonar, because it comes from a place where sound does not exist though it is the vibration in everything.  Since the time of Terenor, each dolphin king has sworn never to use it against an enemy - the destruction would be too great. You have seen what it can do. Now you shall see what it is.

            Another sound rose from Moonar’s upturned beak that was like nothing Palu had ever heard before. If it resembled anything, it was like the music that filled the sky each night, but of a lower pitch that went beyond the scales of sound in its demand for form. As before, the note did not fade but grew in depth and quality like a gong. Something flashed as the sunlight caught it - a golden book that hovered above them in time to the note that had made it.

            ~ That is the image of the Book you must find, continued Moonar; mark it well…

            He broke off as a single astonished whistle rose from four blowholes. A shriveled hand had appeared which reached out and opened the Book. The hand grew to a bony elbow and hunched shoulder. Then the face formed of a woman who had cheated time, so deep were the wrinkles that pitted the cheeks and trenched the brow. Her cruel eyes looked down at the page and gloated over what they saw. Then a frown stole over her features and she moved slightly away. Another form came into view, and a sharp hiss of surprise greeted his arrival, for it was Palu and his keen eyes looked down on the Book. However, when he raised his head, his features were no longer those of a boy but of a bearded man, whose expression was bleak and careworn. The note began to fade, and as it did so, the image of the Book grew misty at the edges. The old woman and the man receded slowly until the vision had dissolved.

            ‘Who can read this?’ grunted Luminor in bewilderment.

            ‘At least it seems Palu will reach the Book,’ Phosphor said.

            ‘But at what cost? That woman was Ashmotana I am sure, though in look she is reported young not old. Is it her wiles are to trap Palu just as they did your brother Egalor? Oh my son, go soon, for my heart is so heavy and filled with doubt that if you do not, I will forbid it.’

 

 

 

 

 

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Lynne Munn
Richard Snr- Actor
Barry Flanagan