- CHANCE TO DIE Original (PDF)
- Anthology Contents
- The Hawkmaster's Son (Darkover)
- Chronological Order of Darkover Books
You may shelter beneath this roof while the storm lasts, and have all that belongs to a guest in honor; but keep your prying hands from the minds of my children! Lost one son to the accursed Towers, Romilly thought, remembering her brother Ruyven who had fled to Neskaya Tower, across the Kadarin, four years ago.
And like to lose another, for even I can see that Darren is more fit for the Tower or the monastery of Nevarsin, than for the Heirship to Falconsward. How could Ruyven desert his brother that way? Darren cannot be Heir to Falconsward without his brother at his side. There was less than a year between the brothers, and they had always clung together as if they were twin-born; but they had gone together to Nevarsin, and only Darren had returned; Ruyven, he told their father, had gone to the Tower. And I can help you but little in what time I have; and I am sure that if he knew I had spoken to you like this, he would not shelter me this night.
But I dare not leave you without some protection when your laran wakens. You are alone with it, and it will not be easy to master it alone, but it is not impossible, for I know of a few who have done it, your brother among them. But a cagebird cannot be a falcon, and a falcon cannot be a kyorebni. To return hither, to live his life without full use of his laran-that would be death for him, Romilly; can you understand? It would be like being made deaf and blind, without the company of his own kind.
And I hate the Towers! They stole Ruyven from us! That had been two years ago, and Romilly had tried to put it from her mind; but in this last year she had begun to realize that she had the Gift of the MacArans in fullest measure-that strangeness in her mind which could enter into the mind of hawk, or hound, or horse, or any animal, and had begun to wish that she could have spoken with the leronis about it…. But that was not even to be thought about. I may have laran, she told herself again and again, but never would I abandon home and family for something of that sort!
So she had struggled to master it alone; and now she forced herself to be calm, to breathe quietly, and felt the calming effect of the breathing composing her mind as well and even soothing, a little, the raging fury of the hawk; the chained bird was motionless, and the waiting girl knew that she was Romilly again, not a chained thing struggling in a frenzy to be free of the biting jesses….
CHANCE TO DIE Original (PDF)
Slowly she picked that one bit of information out of the madness, of fear and frenzy. The jesses are too tight. They hurt her. She bent, trying to send out soothing waves of calm all around her, into the mind of the hawk-but she is too mad with hunger and terror to understand, or she would be quiet and know I mean her no harm. And so, hour after hour, she had tightened and loosened, tied and untied these same knots on twig after twig before ever she was let near the thin legs of any bird. The leather was damp with the sweat of her fingers, but she managed to loosen it slightly-not too much or the bird would be out of the jesses and would fly free, perhaps breaking her wings inside the walls of the mews, but loose enough so that it was no longer cutting into the leathery skin of the upper leg.
Then she bent again and fumbled in the straw for the strip of meat, brushing the dirt from it. She knew it did not matter too much-birds, she knew, had to swallow dirt and stones to grind up their food inside their crops-but the dirty bits of straw clinging to the meat revolted her and she picked them fastidiously free and, once again, held out her gloved hand to the hawk on the block. Would the bird ever feed from her hand? Well, she must simply stay here until hunger overcame fear and the bird took the meat, or they would lose this hawk, too.
And Romilly had resolved this would not happen. She was glad, now, that she had let the other bird go. At first she had it in her mind, when she had found old Davin tossing and moaning with the summer fever, that she could save both of the hawks he had taken three days before.
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He had told her to let them both go, or they would starve, for they would not yet take food from any human hand. When he had captured them, he had promised Romilly that she should have the training of one of them while he was busied with the other. But then the fever had come to Falconsward, and when he had taken the sickness, he had told her to release them both-there would be other seasons, other hawks. But they were valuable birds, the finest verrin hawks he had taken for many seasons. Loosing the larger of the two, Romilly had known Davin was right.
Verrin hawks, taken full-grown in the wild, were more stubborn than hatchlings reared to handling; a bird caught wild might let itself starve before it would take food from the hand, and better it should fly free to hatch others of the same fine breed, than die of fear and hunger in the mews, untamed. So Romilly, with regret, had taken the larger of the birds from the mews, and slipped the jesses from the leathery skin of the leg; and, behind the stables, had climbed to a high rock and let her fly free.
Her eyes had blurred with tears as she watched the falcon climb out of sight, and deep within her, something had flown with the hawk, in the wild ecstasy of rising, spiraling, free, free … for an instant Romilly had seen the dizzying panorama of Castle Falconsward lying below, deep ravines filled to the brim with forest, and far away a white shape, glimmering, that she knew to be Hali Tower on the shores of the Lake.
The fever which had come to the castle and struck down Davin was almost her friend. And the Lady Luciella, their stepmother, would not stir from the side of nine-year-old Rael, for he had the fever in its most dangerous form, the debilitating sweats and inability to swallow. So Romilly had promised herself a delicious day of freedom in stables and hawk-house-was Domna Calinda really enough of a fool to think she would spend a day free of lessons over her stupid lesson-book or needlework?
But she had found Davin, too, sick of the fever, and he had welcomed her coming-his apprentice was not yet skilled enough to go near the untrained birds, though he was good enough to feed the others and clean the mews-and so he had ordered Romilly to release them both. And she had started to obey.
But this hawk was hers! Never mind that it sat on its block, angry and sullen, red eyes veiled with rage and terror, bating wildly at the slightest movement near her, the wings exploding in the wild frenzy of flapping and thrashing; it was hers, and soon or late, it would know of the bond between them.
But she had known it would be neither quick nor easy. She had reared eyasses-young birds hatched in the mews or captured still helpless, accustomed before they were feathered to feed from a hand or glove. But this hawk had learned to fly, to hunt and feed itself in the wild; they were better hunters than hawks reared in captivity, but harder to tame; two out of five such birds, more or less, would let themselves die of hunger before they would feed. The thought that this could happen to her hawk was a dread Romilly refused to face.
Somehow, she would, she must bridge the gulf between them. The falcon bated again, thrashing furious wings, and Romilly struggled to maintain the sense of herself, not merging into the terror and fury of the angry bird, at the same time trying to send out waves of calm. I will not hurt you, lovely one. See, here is food. But it ignored the signal, flapping angrily, and Romilly struggled hard not to shrink back in terror, not to be overcome with the flooding, surging waves of rage and terror she could feel radiating from the chained bird.
Surely, this time, the beating wings had flapped into quiet sooner than before? The falcon was tiring. Was it growing weaker, would it fight its way down into death and exhaustion before it was ready to surrender and feed from the gauntlet? Romilly had lost track of time, but as the hawk quieted and her brain cleared, so that she knew again that she was Romilly and not the frenzied bird, her breathing quieted again and she let the gauntlet slip for a moment from her hand.
No, she must remember which was herself, which the hawk. She leaned back against the rough wall behind her, half-closing her eyes. She was almost asleep on her feet. But she must not sleep, nor move. Not for a moment. She remembered asking, when she was small, not even to eat? But he had been speaking of himself.
The Hawkmaster's Son (Darkover)
It had not occurred to him, then, that a girl could tame a hawk or wish to. He had indulged her wish to learn all the arts of the falconer- after all, the birds might one day be hers, even though she had two older brothers; it would not be the first time Falconsward had passed down through the female line, from a strong husband to the woman heir. Although Luciella would never have touched one of the verrin hawks, and the thought that her stepdaughter would wish to do so had never entered her mind.
But why not? Romilly asked herself in a rage. I was born with the MacAran Gift; the laran which would give me mastery over hawk or horse or hound. Not laran, I will never admit that I have that evil curse of the Hastur-kinfolk; but the ancient Gift of the MacArans. I have a right to that, it is not laran, not really.
I may be a woman, but I am as much a MacAran as my brothers! Again she stepped toward the hawk, the meat extended on the gauntlet, but the hawk thrust up its head and the beady eyes stared coldly at Romilly; it moved away, with a little hop, as far away as the dimensions of the block allowed. She could sense that the jesses were no longer giving it pain. She murmured small sounds of reassurance, and her own hunger came surging up inside her. She should have brought some food in her pocket for herself, she had seen Davin, often enough, thrust cold meats and bread into his pouch so that he could munch on something while he waited out the long stay with a hawk.
If only she could sneak away for a moment to the kitchen or pantry-and to the privy, too; her bladder ached with tension. But she sighed, staying where she was. That was the only real disadvantage she could think of for a girl, around the stables, and this was the first time it had been any real disadvantage for her.
Chronological Order of Darkover Books
But the hawk made no move to touch the food. It moved a little, and for a moment Romilly feared it would explode into another of those wild bursts of bating. But it stayed still, and after a moment she relaxed into the motionless quiet of her vigil. When my brothers were my age, it was taken for granted-a MacAran son should train his own hound, his own horse, his own hawk.
Even Rael, he is only nine, but already Father insists he shall teach his dogs manners. When she had been younger-before Ruyven had left them, before Darren was sent to Nevarsin-her father had been proud to let Romilly work with horses and hounds. He was proud of me. He used to tell Ruyven and Darren that I would be a better MacAran than either of them, tell them to watch my way with a horse.
Mallina had grown into a fool, and the dreadful thing was that their father preferred her as a fool and wished audibly that Romilly would emulate her. There was a little stir at the far end of the hawk-house, and one of the eyasses there screamed, the wild screaming sound of an untrained fledgling that scents food. He went from one to another, slowly, muttering to them, and Romilly knew it was near sunset; she had been there since mid-morning. He finished his work and raised his head to see her. At his voice the hawk bated again, and Romilly felt again the dreadful ache, as if her hands and arms would drop off into the straw.
She struggled to keep herself free of frenzy, fear, anger, blood-lust-blood bursting forth, exploding into her mouth under tearing beak and talons … and forced herself to the low tone that would not further terrify the frenzied bird.