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The Forbidden Tower

Marion Zimmer Bradley

the forbidden circle 02 - a darkover novel

ELF digital back-up edition 1.0
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Epilogue

DAW BOOKS, INC.

DONALD A. WOLLHEIM, PUBLISHER

1301 Avenue of theAmericas

New York, N. Y. 10019

COPYRIGHT © 1977, BY MARION ZIMMER BRADLEY

All Rights Reserved

Cover art by Richard Hescox.

FIRST PRINTING, SEPTEMBER 1977

PRINTED INU.S.A.

Page 1

DEDICATION

For DIANA PAXSON, who asked the question which directly touched off this book;

and

for THEODORE STURGEON, who first explored the questions which, directly or indirectly, underlie

almost everything I have written.

Chapter One


Damon Ridenow rode through a land cleansed.

For most of the year, the great plateau of the Kilghard Hills had lain under the evil influence of thecatmen. Crops withered in the fields, under the unnatural darkness which blotted out the light of the sun;the poor folk of the district huddled in their homes, afraid to venture into the blasted countryside.

But now men worked again in the light of the great red sun of Darkover, garnering their harvests againstthe coming snows. It was early autumn, and the harvests were mostly in.

The Great Cat had been slain in the caves of Corresanti and the giant illegal matrix which he had foundand put to such frightful use had been destroyed with his death. Such catmen as still lived had fled into thefar rain forests beyond the mountains, or fallen to the swords of the Guardsmen that Damon had ledagainst them.

The land was clean again and free of terror, and Damon, most of his army dismissed to their homes,

Page 2

rode homeward. Not to his ancestral estates of Serrais; Damon was an unregarded younger son and had

never felt Serrais his home. He rode now to Armida, to his wedding.

He sat his horse now at the side of the road, watching the last few men separate themselves according totheir way. There were uniformed Guardsmen bound for Thendara, in their green and black uniforms;there were a few men bound northward to the Hellers, from the Domains of Ardais and Hastur; and afew riding south to the plains of Valeron.

“You should speak to the men, Lord Damon,” said a short, gnarled-looking man at Damon’s side.

“I’m not very good at making speeches.” Damon was a slight, slender man with a scholar’s face. Until this campaign he had never thought himself a soldier and was still surprised at himself, that he had led these men successfully against the remnants of the catmen.

“They expect it, lord,” Eduin urged, and Damon sighed, knowing what the other man said was true. Damon was Comyn of the Domains; not Lord of a Domain, or even a Comyn heir, but still Comyn, of the old telepathic, psi-gifted caste which had ruled the Seven Domains from time unknown. The days were gone when Comyn were treated as living gods, but there was still the respect, near to awe. And Damon had been trained to the responsibilities of a Comyn son. Sighing, he urged his horse to a spot where the waiting men could see him.

“Our work is done. Thanks to you men who have answered my call, there is peace in the Kilghard Hills

and in our homes. It only remains for me to give you my thanks and farewell.”

The young officer who had brought the Guardsmen from Thendara rode toward Damon, as the othermen rode away. “Will Lord Alton ride to Thendara with us? Shall we await him?”

“You would have long to wait,” Damon said. “He was wounded in the first battle with the catmen, a small wound, but the spine was injured past healing. He is paralyzed from the waist down. I think he will never ride anywhere again.”

The young officer looked troubled. “Who will now command the Guardsmen, Lord Damon?”

It was a reasonable question. For generations the command of the Guardsmen had lain in the hands ofthe Alton Domain; Esteban Lanart of Armida, Lord Alton, had commanded for many years. But
 
Dom
 
Esteban’s oldest surviving son, Lord Domenic, was a youth of seventeen. Though a man by the laws ofthe Domains, he had neither the age nor the authority for command. The other remainingAlton son, young Valdir, was a boy of eleven, a novice at Nevarsin Monastery, being schooled by the brothers of St.-Valentine-of-the-Snows.

Who would command the Guards, then? It was a very reasonable question, thought Damon, but he didnot know the answer. He said so, adding, “It will be for Comyn Council to decide next summer, when Council meets in Thendara.” There had never been war in winter on Darkover; there never would be. Inwinter there was a fiercer enemy, the cruel cold, the blizzards which swept down across the Domainsfrom the Hellers, No army could move against the Domains in winter. Even bandits were kept close totheir own homes. They could wait for the next Council season to name a new commander. Damonchanged the subject.

“Will you reach Thendara by nightfall?”

“Unless something should delay us by the way.”

Page 3

“Then don’t let me delay you further,” Damon said, and bowed. “The command of these men is yours,

kinsman.”

The young officer could not conceal a smile. He was very young, and this was his first command, briefand temporary as it was. Damon watched with a thoughtful smile as the boy mustered his men and rodeaway. The boy was a born officer, and with
Dom
 
Esteban disabled, competent officers could expectpromotions.

Damon himself, though in command of this mission, had never thought of himself as a soldier. Like all Comyn sons he had served in the cadet corps, and had taken his turn as an officer, but his talents andambitions had been far otherwise. At seventeen he had been admitted to theArilinnTower as a telepath,to be trained in the old matrix sciences of Darkover. For many, many years he had worked there,growing in strength and skill, reaching the rank of psi technician.

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