A/N: First chapter. I can't promise that all of them will be up this quickly, since I don't know if all of them will be this short, but I wanted to post this now. I'm really, really pleased with how the story's going.
The Difficulty of a Summons
"These three you cannot summon,
You can but hope or cry:
Who walks at an army's head,
Who wishes himself amongst the dead,
And he of glory high."
-Lines attributed to Oriel Goatleap.
Yubro turned around. He had been leaning against the fence that surrounded his estates, watching the horses kick at the ground and munch the soft grass. They were still eating as if he had starved them for years, though in fact he had let them eat near the pool of godsblood before he and Elperi had herded them into Rowan. The sorrel mare was the greatest eater, filling her belly apparently several times over, and still coming up to him and nudging for treats.
Behind him stood someone much less interesting to look at, at least for him and right now: a man clad in the colors of a courier of the Council, his head bowed and his fingers twirling the scroll that he had held instead of just handing it over.
"The Councilmaster sent me a scroll?" Yubro asked, smiling at the sight of it. Scrolls were for exclusively formal communications, or even excessively formal ones, and he thought it endearing that Jesartlu, out of lack of other ways to approach him, was trying this one.
"Yes, my lord." The man edged nearer, holding the scroll out. "Did you want me to wait for your answer?"
"No," said Yubro absently, taking up the scroll. The scrollcase was of dark wood, and it bore both the symbol of the Council- the dragon and rowan tree- and the leaping dolphin that was the Durillo symbol. "I assume that the Councilmaster has included instructions on what he wants me to do."
"Probably, my lord."
Yubro grinned at the man, and waved him away, then uncapped the scrollcase and slid the parchment out into his hand.
It addressed him, unusually for Jesartlu, by name and without title, but after scanning the contents of the letter, Yubro thought he understood why.
There is nothing that I might say to you to make up for the past, or to step into the future with ease. What you have done has no name, and as Sisonata wrote to me, there is no law against it. And yet it will change Rowan, and I do not think that you even realize how much.
No, it is more than that. This will change the world. The existence of new creatures in the world must, I think. You have done it before, but more subtly; the plague might have gone beyond Rowan, but it did not, and I think that some of us forget what a profound change that was. It was a negative change, though, and when we look on living trees and gardens, we are all too apt to forget that they might easily have died.
This time, it is a positive change, and a visible one, and you will unleash a storm upon yourself. There may be some who hate you. Surely Tirosina will now hate you more fiercely than ever. And there will be some who want the secret, and others who want to gaze on your creations with passion, and others who will simply want them. The world has shifted, though it does not know it yet.
It is my purpose to warn you before anyone else knows. You, at least, should have the knowledge necessary to combat what will happen, or to be ready for the coming storm and ride it out.
You have done this, my young friend, and it no longer matters if you think you were born to do the kinds of grandly heroic things that Deerfriends usually do. You have done one that breaks all the boundaries, and I must apologize to you for doubting that, and wave farewell if you will never come back inside the barriers, which there is no reason to suspect you ever will.
Jesartlu Durillo, Councilmaster of Rowan.
Yubro closed his eyes, feeling the unexpected prick of tears. He hadn't known that Jesartlu could write like that, or, really, with even a modicum of grace and truth. This was a man who knew that he would have to deal with what had happened, because Rowan was his city and his responsibility, and yet he didn't yell. He didn't scream. He just pointed that out, and tried to brace Yubro for the future.
Perhaps Jesartlu was not just a screaming bully after all. Of course, Yubro had always known that Jesartlu was a hero of the War, but sometimes it seemed as if most of Jesartlu's desire to make changes had burned out in him after Maruss Freewind had died, and since then he followed tamely what his people wanted.
At least he has the courage to face what is coming, and the foresight to see it, even if he doesn't have the sense to see that I will forgive him.
Yubro knew only one response would be appropriate. He put the scroll back into the scrollcase, capped it, and slid it into his belt. Then he called to Elperi, "I'm going to see Jesartlu. Stay here with the horses."
"I should come with you," said Elperi.
"No, you shouldn't," said Yubro, remembering what Zenion had told him about the Councilmaster seeing Elperi in every shadow. "I think that His Painfulness is giving Jesartlu a reason to fear your vow of vengeance at the moment. You should stay here and guard the horses."
Elperi pouted. Yubro could almost see him getting ready to argue, and so tender-hearted was Yubro feeling at the moment that he might actually carry the point.
Yubro said hastily. "And suck the life from anyone who tries to touch the horses, and whom the wards don't get. I don't think that I would mind your drinking blood to protect my creations." The sorrel mare nudged him again, trying to find a treat in his pockets, and Yubro laughed and patted her neck. "Particularly this one."
"That's better," said Elperi, who did indeed look happier. Yubro smiled at him, walked out the gate, shut it, and was hit by someone coming from the other side.
Elperi started to dive, but Yubro shouted a warning, and he leveled off. The Elwen stared at Yubro for a moment, and then over the fence, at the horses capering and gamboling on the grass.
"They're lovely, aren't they, Irina?" Yubro asked.
Irina stared at him for a moment again, and then her eyes returned to the horses as if they could not move away. "You have done something to the very fabric of the world," she whispered. "You must have. Why do they exist?"
Yubro laughed. "They exist because I went to the pool of godsblood and contested with Mirsun himself to bring them into existence."
Irina stared at him yet again. This time, she seemed more inclined to keep her eyes there. "And you like having divine enemies? I knew that my goddess was angry a short time ago, very angry, but I could not figure out why."
"I didn't set out to make a divine enemy," said Yubro patiently. At least Elperi had been with him and could help set this nasty rumor straight if it ever got started, he thought. "I just set out to create horses."
"Why?" Irina asked.
"Why do you love your goddess?" Yubro spread his hands and shrugged. "This is just a natural impulse of my soul, to want to create life. And in such fair forms!" He beamed at his horses for a moment, then smiled at her. "Besides, they make me happy with life. Isn't that enough of a purpose?"
Irina actually stepped back from him. "Are you implying you need them to prevent you from going mad and killing someone?"
Yubro blinked, wondering where she'd gotten that. Then he remembered that she had last seen him almost murderously angry, and decided that he might as well have a little fun with her. She was already scared, and they were no longer lovers. He didn't have to worry about whether or not she shared his sense of humor anymore.
He frowned. "How did you know?" he asked, attempting to set up a shield of false anger over his real humor by remembering what she had said.
Irina's terror hit him like a punch. Yubro couldn't keep a straight face, and doubled over, laughing.
Irina stared at him for a moment, and then figured out what had happened. She promptly tried to hit him, shouting insults to his parentage which Yubro didn't have the attention to listen to at the moment, and then Elperi swooped down and grabbed her, hauling her into the air. Yubro did manage to straighten and repeat his warning about not tearing her throat open.
"But she's not your friend anymore," Elperi whined.
"It doesn't matter," said Yubro, not having to pretend the sternness he felt now. "I still don't want her dead."
Elperi sighed, then said, "What about a broken leg?" and proceeded to dangle Irina upside down.
"Could you guarantee it would only be a broken leg, from that height?"
"I could if I broke it with my hands," Elperi offered, sounding eager now, and started to turn Irina around. She screamed helplessly, and again Yubro smelled the stink of her terror.
He sighed. She is not my lover, and she is not my friend, and I think that I should go to the Councilmaster. But I must handle this first. "Please, Elperi, put her down."
"On her head?"
"On her feet, and gently."
Elperi seemed to know that he had pushed too far. He gently landed, set Irina on her feet, and then, after a guilty glance at Yubro, flew over and once more began hovering above the horses. They snorted and backed off a little. Yubro frowned. They were terrified by the presence of the viaquia, and he didn't know why. Elperi hadn't made any threatening moves towards them, except to herd them towards Rowan, and Yubro had duplicated those moves himself. It was a mystery, and Yubro wanted to know everything about horses.
"You have gone mad," said Irina, drawing his attention back to her. "I am glad I abandoned you when I did."
Yubro sighed. "That parting will always be a source of grief to me, Irina. But right now I must see the Councilmaster, and I do hope that you will excuse me from the rehashing I am certain you want to do."
But while she was spluttering, Yubro had started to walk, and he was certain that she wouldn't stay near his fields and the suspicious eye of Elperi for long. He felt a small, guilty gladness in Elperi's protectiveness for that. As frightening as Irina found him, she probably found Elperi even more so.
I only threatened to kill her. I did not actually try to do it.
Yubro jogged easily through the streets, since not many people were up yet, and the ones who did usually felt more urgently about moving along than he did and didn't crowd the turns. But he could feel eyes on him, and sometimes a buzz of speculation. The Guards would have changed posts, and at least some of them must have gone out into the city and talked. Almost everyone seemed to know that something had happened, even though no one really knew what it was.
Yubro winced a little, then smiled. That was Linlare, a bracelet-maker who had tried to get him to buy a bracelet every day without success. She always seemed to think that today would be the day she finally achieved it, and she was beaming at him now as she always did, happily and slightly madly.
She had something else to say, though, and the tray she held out to him was not the usual one she offered.
"I hear that you'll be wanting to look at a bracelet fit for a lady's arm!" she called. "Since you're getting married."
Yubro narrowed his eyes. Suspicion hopped, leaped, and skipped merrily through his mind, missing Irina, who wanted nothing more to do with him and would not spread that kind of rumor, to land on Alusta.
She could lie in a song without seeming to lie, and she knows how to imply more with words than most people know how to directly state.
"Where did you hear that?" he asked, with his best charming smile.
"Oh, around." Linlare waggled the tray at him. "Will you not take one, my lord? They are very handsome, and if the one you take does not fit your lady's arm, then you could return it and choose another. I am always happy to serve any customers among the Deerfriend line."
Yubro narrowed his eyes further. Of course she was. It would increase her prestige, and make some Elwens want to buy from her just because she'd sold to someone with Deerfriend blood-
He restrained his cynicism with a sharp shake of his head. I don't know what is wrong with me. Alusta might have a reason to do this that I didn't think about. Perhaps she was just angry. Perhaps someone misinterpreted her song, and then told it to Linlare thinking it was the truth.
"I'm not getting married, Linlare, and I'm sorry to disappoint you," he said, trying his best to smile charmingly when he saw her expression. "I'm sure that someday you'll convince me to buy a bracelet from you, but it's not going to be today."
"Sure." Yubro bowed quickly to her and then turned and made for the Council building once more, this time with a new distraction for himself.
If she did lie in her songs about it, why? She has to know it would only cause trouble.
But then, since when has Alusta been immune to the idea of trouble?
"Yubro. Come in."
Yubro blinked in surprise as Jesartlu called him by his first name and ushered him into the room, shaking his head at the guards who would have kept Yubro standing if the Councilmaster had wanted. Jesartlu turned in a circle around the desk in the center of the office, then sat down on it and bowed his head.
Yubro waited. Then he waited again. He had the feeling that he was supposed to say something, do something, but with the ringing silence of Jesartlu's presence as his only guide, whatever he did was bound to be wrong.
He waited, and waited, and waited, and at last said, "My lord, you sent a message, and I assumed that you wanted to speak to me."
Jesartlu stared at him. Yubro grew more irritated. He could feel the expanding rings of surprise from the Councilmaster, brushing against his skin like gentle thorns, but he couldn't figure out why Jesartlu was feeling that way. The man had welcomed him promptly enough. Was he really so shocked that Yubro had come?
"I thought-" Jesartlu shook his head, then said, "There is no way to make this sound graceful, so I will simply say it. I thought you had come to scold me for actions that were certainly ill-timed if not ill-advised, and tell me that you wished never to resume our friendship."
Yubro stared at him in perplexity. "I would have come in shouting," he said. "You have been too long around Elwens who hide their emotions, if you fear it from me. Be assured that when I am angry, you will know about it."
Jesartlu's lips twitched once. Then he said, "And will you take my advice in the message? That you have changed the world and need to know how to ride out the consequences of that change?"
Yubro nodded. "Although I think you are worrying overmuch about how people will react," he added.
"And I think you do not worry enough," said Jesartlu, with a hint of his old fire, at last sitting down behind the desk. Yubro was relieved. Having Jesartlu sit too close to him, as if they were equals or friends, had been odd. "You must know that no Elwen has done anything like this before. They will not know how to accept it. There are no laws making it illegal to create horses."
"Much what Mirsun said," Yubro couldn't help murmuring.
Jesartlu stared at him for a moment, then said, "Ah, yes, another divine enemy. How exciting this must make your life."
"I thought they were petty, his objections," Yubro protested, seeing that he couldn't jolly Jesartlu out of his mood. "Surely other Elwens will murmur the same way, and then be quiet and accept the benefits that my horses can bring, if you really think they will bring any."
Jesartlu stared at him again. "Yes. Of course they will. We can ride them as we do unicorns, I assume, but I think they are no more intelligent than bears and not as rare as quicksilvers."
"Well, at the moment, they are," said Yubro. "There are only ten of them."
"But you have created riding beasts, and beasts who can pull carts, without being too slow or too rare to be worth the bother, or having intelligence that means we would be enslaving them," said Jesartlu passionately. "Can you not see what a boon they are? They could easily enough change life as we know it."
Yubro thought about that for a moment. Yes, looked at it that way, he could see how it might work. And he had tried to ride a horse already, only sliding off through his own clumsiness. Perhaps it could work.
But he was more concerned about something else right now. "What do you think will happen?"
"Elwens will try to steal your horses, of course," said Jesartlu. "That is a given."
"I have Elperi guarding them-"
Yubro broke off. He didn't think it was his imagination that Jesartlu had flinched at the sound of Elperi's name, and actually spent a moment staring into the shadows as if the viaquia would emerge from them at any moment and flash his fangs. Yubro shook his head. Apparently Zenion's attempt to make him afraid of Elperi has gone even further than I thought.
Jesartlu recovered himself and went on, with only a few more nervous glances at the shadows. "And of course there will be some crying blasphemy down on your head- the worshippers of Tirosina and Mirsun."
"I am not afraid of them."
Jesartlu shrugged. "That does not change the fact that they will be there. And so will the ones who want you to teach them the secret of how to create life, so they can use it for their own purposes."
"Do none of you listen?" Yubro asked in mild exasperation. "That was the same thing Mirsun was afraid of. I could only tell anyone who asks what I told you. There is no secret. Anyone could do it with the godsblood and enough will. But I don't think that someone could muster the will to both create life and cling to the purpose of making that life do evil. Someone who really wants to make something real can do it. But they cannot control what that life will do."
"Did you give horses magic?" Jesartlu asked.
Jesartlu tilted his head. "Then I don't understand. How would they do things without your knowledge and approval?"
"They can breed without me, for instance," said Yubro. "They don't need me or the godsblood to make more of them. And they are not slaves, no more than any other beast is. I don't think that someone could create intelligent, evil life that was also under his control. It clashes with the whole desire to make and see living creatures in the first place. The desire has to be focused on creation, not anything else."
"So you believe that no one could make living weapons?" Jesartlu challenged.
"Perhaps that," said Yubro. "But then they would only obey his will and stop moving when he turned his attention elsewhere- like the slaves of the silver unicorns, I imagine. If what the creator really wants is domination over living things and not just life, then that is what will come." He shivered. "You cannot imagine how hard it was to create creatures that lived and breathed and moved of their own will, Jesartlu, and will breed of their own will too. I can't imagine someone holding onto that and holding onto the desire to make these things only living weapons as well."
"Unless he had a more powerful will than yours?"
"That might work. But, as I said, there is no secret, no more than to any other will magic. I couldn't prevent someone from doing evil of that kind by refusing to tell them what I did."
Jesartlu shook his head, seemingly consumed by his own thoughts for a moment, and then said, "And what if someone wants you to create something for them? Some other kind of animal, or intelligent life? Would you do it?" He lifted his head, eyes piercing Yubro. "You might not create them as weapons, but someone might find a way to turn them into weapons."
Yubro was by now wishing that Jesartlu had come along with him and Elperi to the pool of godsblood. At least that would mean that he wouldn't have to have the same argument he'd had with Mirsun all over again. "And of course Elwens can make weapons out of stone and metal, too. Are you therefore going to forbid our people to quarry stones or mine ever again?"
Jesartlu blinked, and then a faint smile appeared on his lips. "You are clever, and you always knew how to turn my words back on me." Then he shook his head, the familiar stubborn cast appearing to his jaw. "But I must have your word now. Will you create anything for anyone who asks you?"
"No," said Yubro firmly. "I could not summon the will for someone else's idea. It was hard enough to summon the will for my own. Now that I know it is possible, I may be able to do it again, but not until a vision possesses me as strongly as the vision of the horses did."
Jesartlu nodded. Then he stood and walked to the window, standing so that he could look out over the Council gardens.
"You know that I hoped you would become Councilmaster," he said, without looking at Yubro.
Jesartlu turned and gazed at him. "You don't need to sigh over that. You know it's true, and you know the exact reason I wanted you as Councilmaster, too. Your passion and vision could have done a great deal of good if only they were committed to Rowan's future good."
"But that wasn't the path I chose," said Yubro. "Or the vision, for that matter."
Jesartlu shook his head. "I have come to accept what you are, but part of me will always regret the chance we lost." He looked into Yubro's eyes. "Knowing that, can we yet remain friends?"
Yubro sighed once more. "Of course. What could I say that would dismiss your friendship for me, or your greatness in battle?"
Jesartlu considered him. "You do not speak of my greatness as a Councilmaster, as do most of those who wish to flatter me."
Yubro hesitated, then shrugged. "I do not consider you a great Councilmaster. Forgive me, but you bow to others' wills too much, and you seem to cling to duties the way that Elperi does." He watched as Jesartlu flinched again, and nodded sadly. Even Zenion can control him with no more than a whispered name.
"Blindly? Foolishly?" Jesartlu asked, when he had his eyes and his twitching back under control.
Jesartlu sighed, but he was actually smiling, as if Yubro's words had cured something in him. "Well. At least I know what you truly think of me, and perhaps now that we have a better measure of each other, we can continue our friendship without these boundaries in the way." He held out a hand, and Yubro clasped it. "Farewell, Yubro. Come see me again if you have need, or if you find yourself in the center of the storm and are not sure what to do."
"I will. Thank you."
Yubro turned and walked back out the door, going towards the Council gardens, pondering where he should go next. He was tempted to return to Elperi and the horses immediately, so that he would be able to watch them running and make sure that no one had stolen one. But-
I will only go on putting it off if I don't go soon.
Yubro changed his direction, and strode towards the inns where Alusta would be playing this time of day, places he usually never frequented. He had never had a desire to hear the songs she sang concerning him.
But now, he had a sudden craving for music.