rosemary edghill: The Cup of Morning Shadows

The Cup of Morning Shadows

[cover]

The Cup of Morning Shadows [?]
by Rosemary Edghill
DAW Books (December 1995)
ISBN: 0-88677-671-6

The way to Elfland was neither easy nor straight, nor yet easy to find, but it was a road he could travel. He had paid the price.

How many miles to Babylon?
Threescore miles and ten.
Can I get there by candlelight?
And never go home again.

He lit the first candle and the world warped; a bright flash like a coin dropped into water. He lit the second, and there was a sizzle like ice and boiling oil.

Perfect. He left them where they were, reflecting light from their pedestals of silver and crystal, and shouldered his pack. Leather, and custom-made, and it and its contents together weighed over eighty pounds.

He was glad he'd done so much weightlifting. He was glad of everything; of all the skills he'd had to master.

And now intended to use.

He ran his hand over the hunting knife strapped at his thigh.

Cold iron breaks all magic.

Then he stooped, carefully, and picked up the first candle.

The vertigo hit like an attacking shark. Cold wind whipped up from nowhere, threatening the flame of the second candle. Quickly he grabbed that one too. It jiggled; hot beeswax spilled out over the back of his hand. It hurt, but not enough to make him drop it.

He'd learned to live with pain.

The pain of stretching his body beyond its limits. The pain of forcing his mind beyond its boundaries. The pain of having no heart -- no, not any more, his heart had been cut out with a magic knife one night and he hadn't even been there.

But he was going to be there now.

And return the favor.

He lifted both the candles; five pounds each, confectionery-grade beeswax with red linen wicks. As they were in the lais, the gestes, the old tales--

The truth.

The wall shimmered liquidly and seemed to tilt drunkenly askew in every dimension at once. And beyond it, he saw the road. The High Road. The Iron Road. The Road to Fair Elphame. He tightened his grip on the candles. He set his foot on the road.

One step, and he was already gone from the World of Iron. Two steps, and the ghost-wind had sharpened to a tidal roaring, insistent as the calling of his blood. Three steps, and the road began to slant upward, toward the Morning and the Lands Beyond The Morning.

Four steps, and the iron in his bones was an aching weight, calling him back to the Last World, the World of Iron.

Five steps, six, and the Road was the only reality; the Road, and the clamoring darkness on either side.

The road, the fire, the pain. And the chill ache where his heart used to be.

But he was used to pain.