I had already begun to work as Keeper. It is for her to release me, if she will. What hold did that terrible old woman have over Callista?
Andrew watched Ellemir running toward the gate. How like she was to Callista—the same tall slenderness, the same coppery-golden hair, the same gray eyes, dark-lashed, level-browed—but so different, Ellemir, from her twin! With a sadness so deep he did not know it was envy, Andrew watched Ellemir run to Damon, saw him slide from his saddle and catch her up for a hug and a long kiss.
Would Callista ever be free enough to run to him that way? Callista led him toward Leonie, who had been carefully assisted from her saddle by one of her escorts. He knew she wanted Leonie to see. Damon was presenting Ellemir to the Keeper. Welcome to Armida. Braced for some hideous domineering crone, he was shocked to see that she was only a frail, thin, aging woman, with eyes still dark-lashed and lovely, and the remnants of what must have been remarkable beauty.
She did not look stern or formidable, but smiled at Ellemir kindly. Your sister has taught me to love you; I am glad to know you at last. Then she turned to Callista, holding out her hands in a gesture of greeting. Are you ashamed of me, kinswoman? He felt she did not even know he was there.
The Great Hall of Armida was an enormous stone-floored room, furnished in the old manner, with benches built in along the wall, and ancient banners and weapons hung above the great stone fireplace. At one end of the hall was a fixed table. He was a huge, heavy man, broad-shouldered, with thick, curly red hair liberally salted with gray. He was only a boy, whiplash thin, with curly red hair and eyes more blue than gray, but the features were almost those of Ellemir.
He looks like Coryn, Damon thought. But Coryn had been dead and buried for many years.
And he had not been old enough to leave a son this age—not quite. The boy is an Alton, though, Damon thought. But who is he? Leonie, however, seemed to recognize him at once. You lend me grace, Domna. His name is Desiderio Leynier. We had him tested for laran—he was at Arilinn for a season or two—but when I needed someone around me all the time, Ellemir remembered he was home again, and so I sent for him. So young Dezi also knew what it was to find the warmth and closeness of a Tower circle, and then be shut out from it again!
I had heard you were wounded, but did not know how serious it was. I can sit in a chair, and Damon devised a brace for my back so that I can sit without drooping like a baby too small for his high chair. And Andrew is helping to supervise the estate and the livestock, while Dezi is here to run errands for me. I can still run things from my chair, so I suppose I am fortunate, as you say.
A few made a last stand, but they died. Beyond that, nothing. Even though I have reason to know you can fight when you must! Some day, Leonie, it will be told everywhere, how Damon bore my sword into Corresanti against the catmen, linked in mind through the matrix—but another time for that! For now, I suppose if I want details of the campaign and the battles, I will have to ask Eduin; he knows what I want to hear! As for you, Leonie, have you come to bring my foolish girl back to her senses, and take her back to Arilinn where she belongs?
Leonie smiled faintly. Ellemir will show you to your rooms— damn the girl, where has she gone to now? Forgive me, kinswoman. Ellemir led Leonie and her lady-companion without whom it would have been scandalous for a woman of Comyn blood to travel so far up the stairs and through the wide halls of the ancient house.
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You are too young to bear such a weight alone, Ellemir! I meant only that you must be very lonely. If Callista does not stay with you, I think you must have some kinswoman or friend come and live here for a time. You are overburdened already, now that your father needs so much care, and how would you manage if Damon made you pregnant at once?
I am not used to such luxury! Old Bethiah, who was our nurse when we were little, was killed in the raid when Callista was kidnapped, and we have been too heartsore to put anyone else in her place as yet.
There are only kitchen-women and the like on the estate now. So I will manage very well, child. But many things Leonie had said troubled her. She was beginning to be aware that there were things about Damon she did not know. Could Callista actually be sent back to Arilinn, persuaded against her will that her duty lay there? Or—Ellemir shivered—was it possible that Leonie would refuse to release Callista from the Tower, that Callista would be forced to carry through her threat, desert Armida and even Darkover, and run away with Andrew to the worlds of the Terrans?
Ellemir wished she had even a flash of the occasional precognition which turned up, now and again, in those of Alton blood, but the future was blank and closed to her. Try as she would to throw her mind forward, she could see nothing but a disquieting picture of Andrew, his face covered with his hands, bent, weeping, his whole body shaken with unendurable grief. Slowly, worried now, she turned toward the kitchen, seeing forgetfulness among her neglected pastries.
A few minutes later, the lady-companion—a dim and colorless woman named Lauria—came to say, deferentially, that the Lady of Arilinn wished to speak alone with Domna Callista. Reluctantly Callista rose, stretching her fingertips to Andrew. Shall I come and speak my mind to her? You cannot help me now. She seemed so small, so fragile, so lost and frightened. But Andrew had learned, painfully and with frustration, that Callista was not to be comforted like that, that he could not even touch her without arousing a whole complex of reactions he did not yet understand, but which seemed to terrify Callista.
Publication: Renunciates of Darkover
Remember, I love you. Sometimes she thought that if she had first seen him in the ordinary way, rather than as she had come to know him, through his mind-link with hers in the matrix, he would never have seemed handsome to her. She might even have thought him ill-favored.
He was a big, broad man, fair-haired as a Dry-Towner, tall, untidy, awkward, and yet, beyond this, how dear he had become to her, how safe she felt in his presence. She wished, with a literal ache, that she could throw herself into his arms, hold herself to him as Ellemir did so freely with Damon, but the old fear held her motionless. But she laid her fingertips, a rare gesture, lightly across his lips.
He kissed them and she smiled. Chapter Three The two Keepers of Arilinn, the young and the old, faced one another. Callista felt a faint shiver of horror as she knew that the habit of years, the discipline which had gone bone-deep, was smoothing away her own expression, turning her cold, remote, as withdrawn as Leonie. It seemed that the face of the old Keeper was a mirror of her own across the many dead years which lay ahead. In half a century I will look exactly like her… But no!
I will not, I will not! Like all Keepers, she had learned to barricade her own thoughts.
She knew, with an odd clairvoyance, that Leonie was expecting her to break down and weep, to beg and plead like an hysterical girl, but it was Leonie herself who had armored her, years ago, with this icy calm, this absolute control. She was Keeper, Arilinn-trained; she would not show herself unfit. She laid her hands calmly in her lap and waited, and finally it was Leonie who had to speak first. She was silent for a long time, the silence stretching into minutes, and again Callista felt that Leonie was willing her to lose control, to plead with her.
But Callista waited, motionless, and it was again Leonie who had to break the silence. The title was used only for a Keeper, the title she had won at such terrible cost! And Leonie looked so old, so sad, so weary! Leonie is old, she told herself.