"A -- shape-changer?"
"No," Edeyrn said, and the thin body under the robe seemed to shake a little. "No, I cannot change my shape, Lord Ganelon. You do not remember my -- my powers?"
"I do not."
"Yet you may find me useful when the Rebels strike again," she said slowly. "Yes, there are mutations among us, and perhaps that is the chief reason why the probability-rift came ages ago. There are no mutants on Earth -- at least not our type. Matholch is not the only one."
"Am I a mutant?" I asked very softly.
The cowled head shook.
"No. For no mutant may be sealed to Llyr. As you have been sealed. One of the Coven must know the key to Caer Llyr."
The cold breath of fear touched me again. No, not fear. Horror, the deadly, monstrous breathlessness that always took me when the name of Llyr was mentioned.
I forced myself to say, "Who is Llyr?"
There was a long silence.
"Who speaks of Llyr?" a deep voice behind me asked. "Better not to lift that veil, Edeyrn!"
"Yet it may be necessary," Edeyrn said.
I turned, and saw, framed against the dark portiere, the rangy, whipcord figure of a man, clad as I was in tunic and trunks. His red, pointed beard jutted; the half-snarling curve of his full lips reminded me of something. Agile grace was in every line of his wiry body.
Yellow eyes watched me with wry amusement.
"Pray it may not be necessary," the man said. "Well, Lord Ganelon? Have you forgotten me, too?"
"He has forgotten you, Matholch," Edeyrn said, "At least in this form!"
Matholch -- the wolf! The shape-changer!
"It is Sabbat tonight," he said. "The Lord Ganelon must be prepared for it. Also, I think there will be trouble. However, that is Medea's business, and she asks if Ganelon is awake. Since he is, let us see her now."
"Will you go with Matholch?" Edeyrn asked me.
"I suppose so," I said. The red-beard grinned again.
"Ai, you have forgotten, Ganelon! In the old days you'd never have trusted me behind your back with a dagger."
"You always knew better than to strike," Edeyrn said. "If Ganelon ever called on Llyr, it would be unfortunate for you!"
"Well, I joked," Matholch said carelessly. "My enemies must be strong enough to give me a fight so I'll wait till your memory comes back, Lord Ganelon. Meanwhile the Coven has its back to the wall, and I need you as badly as you need me. Will you come?"
"Go with him," Edeyrn said. "You are in no danger -- wolf's bark is worse than wolf's bite -- even though this is not Caer Llyr."
I thought I sensed a hidden threat in her words. Matholch shrugged and held the curtain aside to let me pass.
"Few dare to threaten a shape-changer," he said over his shoulder.
"I dare," Edeyrn said, from the enigmatic shadows of her saffron cowl. And I remembered that she was a mutant too -- though not a lycanthrope, like a red-bearded werewolf striding beside me along the vaulted passage.
What was -- Edeyrn?
IV. Matholch -- and Medea UP TO now the true wonder of the situation had not really touched me yet. The anaesthesia of shock had dulled me. As a soldier -- caught in the white light of a flare dropped from an overhead plane -- freezes into immobility, so my mind still remained passive. Only superficial thoughts were moving there, as though, by concentration on immediate needs, I could eliminate the incredible fact that I was not on the familiar, solid ground of Earth.
But it was more than this. There was a curious, indefinable familiarity about these groined, pale-walled halls through which I strode beside Matholch, as there had been a queer familiarity about the twilit landscape stretching to forested distance beneath the window of my room.
Edeyrn -- Medea -- the Coven.
The names had significance, like words in a language I had once known well, but had forgotten.
The half-loping, swift walk of Matholch, the easy swing of his muscular shoulders, the snarling smile on his red-bearded lips -- these were not new to me.
He watched me furtively out of his yellow eyes. Once we paused before a red-figured drapery, and Matholch, hesitating, thrust the curtain aside and gestured me forward.
I took one step -- and stopped. I looked at him.
He nodded as though satisfied. Yet there was still a question in his face.
"So you remember a little, eh? Enough to know that this isn't the way to Medea. However, come along, for a moment. I want to talk to you."
As I followed him up a winding stair, I suddenly realized that he had not spoken in English. But I had understood him, as I had understood Edeyrn and Medea.
We were in a tower room, walled with transparent panes. There was a smoky, sour odor in the air, and gray tendrils coiled up from a brazier set in a tripod in the middle of the chamber. Matholch gestured me to one of the couches by the windows. He dropped carelessly beside me.
"I wonder how much you remember," he said.
I shook my head.
"Not much. Enough not to be too -- trusting."
"The artificial Earth-memories are still strong, then. Ghast Rhymi said you would remember eventually, but that it would take time. The false writing on the slate of your mind will fade, and the old, true memories will come back. After a while."
Like a palimpsest, I thought -- manuscript with two writings upon its parchment. But Ganelon was still a stranger; I was still Edward Bond.
"I wonder," Matholch said slowly, staring at me. "You spent much time exiled. I wonder if you have changed, basically. Always before -- you hated me, Ganelon. Do you hate me now?"
"No," I said. "At least, I don't know. I think I distrust you."
"You have reason. If you remember at all. We have always been enemies, Ganelon, though bound together by the needs and laws of the Coven. I wonder if we need be enemies any longer?"
"It depends. I'm not anxious to make enemies -- especially here."
Matholch's red brows drew together.
"Aye, that is not Ganelon speaking! In the old days, you cared nothing about how many enemies you made. If you have changed so much, danger to us all may result."
"My memory is gone," I said. "I don't understand much of this. It seems dream-like."
Now he sprang up and restlessly paced the room. "That's well. If you become the old Ganelon again, we'll be enemies again. That I know. But if Earth-exile has changed you -- altered you -- we may be friends. It would be better to be friends. Medea would not like it; I do not think Edeyrn would. As for Ghast Rhymi -- " He shrugged. "Ghast Rhymi is old -- old. In all the Dark World, Ganelon, you have the most power. Or can have. But it would mean going to Caer Llyr."
Matholch stooped to look into my eyes.
"In the old days, you knew what that meant. You were afraid, but you wanted the power. Once you went to Caer Llyr -- to be sealed. So there is a bond between you and Llyr -- not consummated yet. But it can be, if you wish it."
"What is Llyr?" I asked.
"Pray that you will not remember that," Matholch said. "When Medea talks to you -- beware when she speaks of Llyr. I may be friend of yours or enemy, Ganelon, but for my own sake, for the sake of the Dark World -- even for the sake of the rebels -- I warn you: do not go to Caer Llyr. No matter what Medea asks. Or promises. At least be wary till you have your memories back."
"What is Llyr?" I said again.
Matholch swung around, his back to me. "Ghast Rhymi knows, I think. I do not. Nor do I want to. Llyr is -- is evil -- and is hungry, always. But what feeds his appetite is -- is -- " He stopped.
"You have forgotten," he went on after a while. "One thing I wonder. Have you forgotten how to summon Llyr?"
I did not answer. There was a darkness in my mind, an ebon gate against which my questioning thoughts probed vainly. Llyr -- Llyr?
Matholch cast a handful of powdery substance into the glowing brazier.
"Can you summon Llyr?" he asked again his voice soft. "Answer, Ganelon. Can you?"
The sour smoke-stench grew stronger. The darkness in my head sprang apart, riven, as though a gateway had opened in the shadow. I -- recognized that deadly perfume.
I stood up, glaring at Matholch. I took two steps, thrust out my sandaled foot, and overturned the brazier. Embers scattered on the stone floor. The red-beard turned a startled face to me.
I reached out, gripped Matholch's tunic, and shook him till his teeth rattled together. Hot fury filled me -- and something more.
That Matholch should try his tricks on me!
A stranger had my tongue. I heard myself speaking.
"Save your spells for the slaves and helots," I snarled. "I tell you what I wish to tell you -- no more than that! Burn your filthy herbs elsewhere, not in my presence!"
Red-bearded jaw jutted. Yellow eyes flamed. Matholch's face altered, flesh flowing like water, dimly seen in the smoke-clouds that poured up from the scattered embers.
Yellow tusks threatened me through the gray mists.
The shape-changer made a wordless noise in his throat -- the guttural sound a beast might make. Wolf-cry! A wolf mask glared into mine!
The smoke swam away. The illusion -- illusion? -- was gone. Matholch, his face relaxing from its snarling lines, pulled gently free from my grip.
"You -- startled me, Lord Ganelon," he said smoothly. "But I think that I have had a question answered, whether or not these herbs -- " He nodded toward the overturned brazier. " -- had anything to do with it."
I turned toward the doorway.
"Wait," Matholch said. "I took something from you, a while ago."
The red-beard came toward me, holding out a weapon -- a bared sword.
"I took this from you when we passed through the Need-fire," he said. "It is yours."
I accepted the blade.
Again I moved toward the curtained archway.
Behind me Matholch spoke.
"We are not enemies yet, Ganelon," he said gently. "And if you are wise, you will not forget my warning. Do not go to Caer Llyr."
I went out. Holding the sword, I hurried down the winding stairway. My feet found their path without conscious guidance. The -- intruder -- in my brain was still strong. A palimpsest. And the blurred, erased writing was becoming visible, as though treated with some strong chemical.
The writing that was my lost memory.
The castle -- how did I know it was a castle? -- was a labyrinth. Twice I passed silent soldiers standing guard, with a familiar shadow of fear in their eyes -- a shadow that, I thought, deepened as they saw me.
I went on, hurrying along a pale-amber hallway. I brushed aside a golden curtain and stepped into an oval room, dome-ceilinged, walled with pale, silken draperies. A fountain spurted, its spray cool on my cheek. Across the chamber, an archway showed the outlines of leafy branches beyond.
I went on through the arch. I stepped out into a walled garden. A garden of exotic flowers and bizarre trees.
The blooms were a riot of patternless color, like glowing jewels against the dark earth. Ruby and amethyst, crystal-clear and milky white, silver and gold and emerald, the flowers made a motionless carpet. But the trees were not motionless.
Twisted and gnarled as oaks, their black boles and branches were veiled by a luxuriant cloud of leafage, virulent green.
A stir of movement rippled through that green curtain. The trees roused to awareness.
I saw the black branches twist and writhe slowly -- Satisfied, their vigilance relaxed. They were motionless again. They -- knew me.
Beyond that evil orchard the dark sky made the glowing ember of the sun more brilliant by contrast.
The trees stirred again.
Ripples of unrest shook the green. A serpentine limb, training a veil of leaves, lashed out -- struck -- whipped back into place.
Where it had been a darting shape ran forward, ducking and twisting -- as the guardian trees struck savagely at it.
A man, in a tight-fitting suit of earth-brown and forest-green, came running toward me, his feet trampling the jewel-flowers. His hard, reckless face was alight with excitement and a kind of triumph. He was empty-handed, but a pistol-like weapon of some sort swung at his belt.
"Edward!" he said urgently, yet keeping his voice low. "Edward Bond!"