Grymlis mumbled something, his voice thick. He'd lost a lot of blood. Petronus felt it warm on his own hands, seeping through his own clothes. He leaned his ear in close to the working mouth but could not distinguish the words.
"Rest easy," he said, then looked across the room. "I need a medico over here."
Grymlis muttered again, and this time he heard names in the muttering. Lysias. Resolute. "I can't understand you," he said.
He felt the hand, weak, upon his leg. At first, he thought the old man simply squeezed it, but his mind put together the words he was pressing into his thigh.
I helped Lysias kill Resolute. Tam forged a note for us.
It was a confession, he realized, and he knew why now. "We do what we must to serve the light," he said. "I killed Sethbert and ended the Order." He thought for a moment. "What was it you used to say to the orphans you recruited? That it is easier to die for the light than it is to kill for it?"
And now, he held his dying friend in the belly of a ship that bore them slowly upward. Voices that called him out to serve. Dreams that pointed the way in whispers he could not comprehend. Promises of home and promises of violence. These all moved across his inner eye, going back two years to the pillar of smoke that marked Windwir's grave.
Petronus looked up and saw the bloody sky of another sunrise over the Churning Wastes.
"Look Grymlis," he said. "We're flying."
But Grymlis had already flown, and Petronus hoped his friend would find home and light awaiting him in whatever place he landed.
Weeping, he lay still and watched the porthole as the sky shifted from red to black. When they came to take Grymlis away, he let them, his eyes never leaving the expanse of night they now flew.
Rudolfo A cold wind whistled outside as Rudolfo sipped chai made over an Androfrancine camp furnace. Sleep had eluded him, and he'd eventually given up his cot to spend the night going over reports that he'd been too drunk to read the first time they'd crossed his worktable. As he read, he'd packed those that needed to be packed into his administrative chest and fed the rest into the furnace, watching the fire gobble down the words. Once he'd finished that, he'd laid out traveling attire-doeskin pants, a heavy wool shirt, a coat made from beaver pelts that had been a gift from one of his house stewards, and his green turban of office. He laid his father's knives and knife belt next to the clothing.
Then he'd packed the rest of his things. After, he put on the chai and settled into his chair with a copy of the Y'Zirite gospel.
Two years. Where had he been riding when his life had changed so irrevocably? He frowned and stared at the lantern. Paramo. They were turning toward Paramo, where he'd hoped to bed down with a log camp dancer or two and enjoy a Second Summer night of drinking wine from freely offered navels. That was when he looked up and saw the pillar of smoke upon the sky. He remembered that Gregoric, who never flinched at anything, went pale at the sight of it. Where had he been riding when his life had changed so irrevocably? He frowned and stared at the lantern. Paramo. They were turning toward Paramo, where he'd hoped to bed down with a log camp dancer or two and enjoy a Second Summer night of drinking wine from freely offered navels. That was when he looked up and saw the pillar of smoke upon the sky. He remembered that Gregoric, who never flinched at anything, went pale at the sight of it.
"I miss you, my friend," he said as he lifted the chai mug to his lips. "I wish you were here now." Still, he wondered now if even Gregoric would be daunted by all that had transpired.
He'd given the orders yesterday. Philemus already sped south for the Seventh Forest Manor. The second captain would follow those orders, though Rudolfo knew that trust was strained. He'd written the edict himself, carefully and in four drafts, having Lysias read each. It grieved him to write it, and a part of him knew that it was not the right path; but another part recognized that sometimes, when only wrong paths were left, one chose the best wrong path available and hoped a right one would emerge eventually.
Before, he would have felt he shamed the memory of his father. But now, he questioned that man he'd revered for so very long, and feared that if he were brave enough to exhume the corpse and if time were kind enough to have left his body intact, he would find a mark over the man's heart that would break his own.
He thumbed through the pages of the book, his eyes settling on a passage about the Child of Great Promise and the healing of the world. He'd read the gospel through several times, each time gleaning more from the patchwork words of Xhum Y'Zir's seventh son, the one-eyed Wizard King, Ahm. What he took most from it was how carefully it was woven with just enough truth to foster a sense of trust, enough fancy to stimulate imagination and enough personal application to engender a sense of belonging and commitment. It delivered purpose. He could see why the Androfrancines, focused upon the light of human achievement and knowledge, would resist and suppress this. Making each and every individual potentially an important contributor in a faith that promised healing to the world-particularly in the midst of cataclysm and upheaval-was a potent elixir for the disempowered, disenfranchised and disillusioned.
But how different is it from Winters and the Homeward Dream of her people? He wasn't certain, at the root of it, that they differed much, though her people's faith had no gods to speak of. Their Homeseeker, if he understood it correctly, was more a servant than an object of worship. Still, it was no coincidence that the one people who had room in their hearts for a faith were the first to openly declare their commitment to Y'Zir. He wasn't certain, at the root of it, that they differed much, though her people's faith had no gods to speak of. Their Homeseeker, if he understood it correctly, was more a servant than an object of worship. Still, it was no coincidence that the one people who had room in their hearts for a faith were the first to openly declare their commitment to Y'Zir.
If it had been left at that, this would all be simpler. But it hadn't. There were secret shrines, even in the Ninefold Forest, and even his own father had been a practitioner, it seemed. But it hadn't. There were secret shrines, even in the Ninefold Forest, and even his own father had been a practitioner, it seemed.
Rudolfo sighed and sipped his chai. He tried to conjure the smell and smile of his infant son to comfort him, the softness of his bride's cheek and the fierceness in her eyes. He'd sent the bird yesterday, calling them home. Something dark crept toward them-he heard its footfalls in the changing times-and he knew now that he could not truly protect anyone whom those forces wished to harm. And he also knew now of a certainty that those dark footfalls intended grace for his family, not harm. While others fell, the Ninefold Forest thrived. What the Androfrancines once hoarded and kept hidden, the Forest Gypsies now rebuilt and made open.
The words had ridden him hard of late. We cannot win here. We cannot win here.
Still, he would try. He would resist. But he would not bend his knee; he would not bare his heart.
Hefting the gospel in his hand, he weighed it carefully and wondered how many other gospels there were, how many prophecies and psalms, and how many more were coming.
Rudolfo took a deep breath, held it, and gently placed the book into the furnace. He watched long enough to see it catch fire. Then, he stood and dressed carefully, quickly, and slipped outside into the gray light of morning.
The stars were guttering and the moon was down. To the east, pink tinged the peaks of the Keeper's Wall. He walked alone at a brisk pace, climbing the ridge until he found a place where he could watch the sunrise.
He could not watch it without thinking about her and the first time they'd met. In those days, he'd been more interested in pleasure than love, but something in her had struck him and struck him hard.
A sunrise such as you belongs in the east with me.
It had been a blow to him and to that fledgling love when he learned it had been engineered by her father, followed soon after by the announcement that she carried his heir. And the day that he'd watched his son, Jakob, emerge from her was a day he could never forget. Those first weak cries changed his life, and he'd wept and laughed at the wonder of it all.
Learning yet later that the betrothal and heir were part of a larger scheme had not shaken him as much, though now it did. Still, the why of it was not nearly as important, regardless of the knives and blood of the Y'Zirite faith that overshadowed his son.
Because, Rudolfo realized, he is my my child of promise first and foremost. A promise that his line would continue even in a world vastly changed from the time he first saw the pillar of smoke against the sky. A promise that life and light could emerge from death and darkness. child of promise first and foremost. A promise that his line would continue even in a world vastly changed from the time he first saw the pillar of smoke against the sky. A promise that life and light could emerge from death and darkness.
Yes, he thought. It would be good to have them home. he thought. It would be good to have them home.
The sun rose now and smeared the sky red.
Rudolfo watched it and squinted at a star where no star should be.
No, not a star. It was light reflected upon something golden and distant, rising above the Keeper's Wall and moving slowly up and away. It was light reflected upon something golden and distant, rising above the Keeper's Wall and moving slowly up and away.
What strange bird is this? Rudolfo wondered. Rudolfo wondered.
He watched it until it vanished from his view, and then he climbed slowly down the ridge beneath a sky that promised no snow at least for this day but offered no promises at all for the morrow.
My most heartfelt thanks to my extremely patient husband, Steven, for providing basic life necessities and keeping us all sustained during my obsession with my imaginary friends. To my girls, Michelle and Nicole, for being a source of inspiration for everything that I do. To my parents, who, from the beginning, taught me to believe in myself. To my omnipotent uberagent, Suzie Townsend, for taking that initial leap of faith, which, at the time, must have felt more like cliff diving. To my seriously cool editor, Melissa Frain, for taking something I loved and helping me make it into something other people might love too. To Eric Elfman and my Big Sur group for making me believe I don't suck at this and giving me the confidence to put what was in my head on paper. To my fellow ladies of lit, Andrea Cremer and Stephanie Howard, for keeping me on track.
And, because my Muse is a wannabe rock star, a special thanks to Chad Kroeger and Nickelback for "Savin' Me," the incredible song that inspired the character Luc, and to Isaac Slade and The Fray for writing the intense and deeply thought-provoking "You Found Me," the inspiration for Frannie.
This is my third time out and I'm even more mindful that it does, indeed, take a village to produce a novel. There is a long list of folks I'd like to thank for helping put Antiphon Antiphon together and into the world. together and into the world.
Like Canticle Canticle before it, this one was marked by loss with the passing of my father (just thirteen months after Mom) when I was roughly halfway through the drafting of the book. But this particular book was also marked by gain in that my daughters, Elizabeth and Rachel, were born just as I reached the finish line. before it, this one was marked by loss with the passing of my father (just thirteen months after Mom) when I was roughly halfway through the drafting of the book. But this particular book was also marked by gain in that my daughters, Elizabeth and Rachel, were born just as I reached the finish line.
First and foremost, I'm grateful to Jen for the partnership and encouragement-and for the gift of two little Incentive Factories to keep me grinding out the words. Thank you, darling. And thank you, Lizzy and Rachel, for giving me added drive. It was fun editing this book while holding you in my other arm.
Also big thanks to the rest of the J-Team: John, Jay, Jerry, Jean Ann-you are great friends who keep me honest and hard at work.
I'd be remiss if I didn't thank the West Clan for all their support both in general, and also specifically when the girls were born. Those two weeks of help got the last of this book written.
There is an even longer list of other friends who've come alongside and helped me push these last several months. Just to name some: Aimee, Amy, Aliette, Alessa, Rodger, Mary, Lee, Other Lee, Robert, Scott, and Pierce. There's a much longer list that I could recite; apologies if I've left anyone out.
I'm also grateful for my agent, the thirty-second daughter of Vlad Li Tam finally debuting here on these pages. Like the Other Jen, I made you taller, Jenn, and made you bad-ass with a knife. It's a small token of my gratitude for all you've done.
This truly couldn't happen without the fine folks at Tor. Their faith in these books is a great encouragement to me. Big thanks to Irene, Melissa, Patty, Alexa, Kyle, and all the other hands who've helped along the way.
I especially want to thank Beth Meacham. Beth, you are a wonderful editor and a lovely human. We work well together. Your support most recently through the death of my father and the birth of my daughters is a great gift in my life, and this book would not be here if it weren't for your constant, caring approach to your writers.
And last but not least, thank you you, Dear Reader. For those of you who've written via email or looked me up on Facebook, thank you. Your kind words about the series so far really do help me stay at the keyboard to lay down the next bits. I'm pleased that you've joined me here in Antiphon Antiphon and I look forward to seeing you in and I look forward to seeing you in Requiem Requiem really soon. really soon.
Until then, magick the scouts.
War is coming.
Ken Scholes Saint Helens, Oregon January 3, 2010
About the Author.
Ken Scholes is a winner of the Writers of the Future contest with short stories appearing in various magazines and anthologies since 2000. Antiphon Antiphon is the third volume in his Psalms of Isaak series. is the third volume in his Psalms of Isaak series.
Ken grew up in a small logging town in the Pacific Northwest. He has honorable discharges from two branches of the military, a degree in history from Western Washington University, and is a former clergyman and label gun repairman. Ken lives near Portland, Oregon, with his wife, Jen West Scholes, and their twin daughters, Rachel and Elizabeth.
Ken invites readers to visit his website, www.kenscholes.com.