4. A Defense of Revelstone
In the corridor outside Covenant’s rooms, Linden found Stave waiting for her.
He stood among the three Humbled as though they were all still Masters together; as though his true purposes were in tune with theirs. But as soon as she emerged from the doorway, he moved toward her like a man who meant to catch her before she collapsed. The tumult of her emotions, the torn gusts of confusion and dismay and sorrow, must have been as plain as wind-whipped banners to his senses. Ignoring Clyme, Galt, and Branl, he gripped her quickly by one arm and guided her along the passage, away from bewilderment and loss.
Without his support, she might have fallen. Tears crowded her heart: she could hardly contain them. Only Stave’s firm hand, and her clenched grasp on the Staff of Law, enabled her to take one step after another, measuring her paltry human sorrows and needs against Revelstone’s bluff granite.
She was not Anele: she had no friend in stone. Lord’s Keep had never offered her anything except distrust, imprisonment, bloodshed, malice. She could only be consoled by grass and trees; by Andelain’s loveliness and Glimmermere’s lacustrine potency; by the unharmed rightness of the Land.
Or by her son, who sided with Covenant.
Nevertheless she allowed Stave to steer her through Revelstone’s convoluted intentions toward the rooms which his kinsmen had set aside for her. Where else could she go? The clouds brewing over the upland held no malevolence; but they would bring darkness with them, concealment and drenching rain. Her own storm was already too much for her.
Be cautious of love. There is a glamour upon it which binds the heart to destruction.
Covenant and Jeremiah were altered almost beyond recognition. They had not simply refused Linden’s touch: they had rebuffed her heart.
Why had Covenant sounded false when he so obviously wished to persuade her, win her confidence? God, she thought, oh, God, he might have been a ventriloquist’s dummy, his every word projected onto him, off-key and stilted, from some external source.
From Jeremiah? From the power, the leakage, that her son had acquired by being in two places at the same time? Or were they both puppets? The playthings of beings and forces which she could not begin to comprehend?
Or were they simply telling her as much of the truth as they could? Did the fault lie in her? In her reluctance to trust anyone who contradicted her? In her unwillingness to surrender Covenant’s ring?
Anele had said that the stone of the Close spoke of Thomas Covenant, whose daughter rent the Law of Death, and whose son is abroad in the Land, seeking such havoc that the bones of the mountains tremble to contemplate it. For the wielder also this stone grieves, knowing him betrayed.
Covenant and Jeremiah were the two people whom she had loved most in all the world. Now she felt that they had broken her.
But she was not broken. She knew that, even though her distress filled her with unuttered wailing. She was only in pain; only baffled and grieved, flagrantly bereft. Such things she understood. She had spent the past ten years studying the implications of what she had learned from Thomas Covenant and the Despiser. Her former lover’s attempts to manipulate her now might hurt like a scourge, but they could not lash her into surrender.
Her desire to weep was merely necessary. It did not mean that she had been undone. When Stave brought her at last to her rooms and opened the door for her, she found the strength to swallow her grief so that she could speak.
“We need to talk,” she said, hoarse with self-restraint. “You and me. Mahrtiir and Liand. All of us. Can you get them for me? If Covenant is right, the Demondim won’t attack before tomorrow. We should have time.”
The Haruchai appeared to hesitate. “Chosen,” he replied after a moment, “I am loath to leave you thus.”
“I understand.” With the sleeve of her shirt, she rubbed some of the tears from her face. “I don’t like sending you away. But I’m in no condition to go with you. And we need to talk. Tomorrow morning, Covenant wants to show me how he plans to solve our problems. But there’s something that I have to do first. I’m going to need all of you,” every one of her friends. “And—” She paused while she struggled to suppress a fresh burst of sorrow. “And you should all hear what Covenant and Jeremiah told me.”
Stave would stand by her to the best of his abilities; but he could not give her solace.
He nodded without expression. “As you wish.” Then he bowed to her and obeyed.
Still stifling sobs, Linden entered her rooms and closed the door.
She felt that she had been absent from her small sanctuary for a long time, and did not know what to expect. Who would provide for her, if the Mahdoubt had left Revelstone? During the day, however, more firewood had been piled beside the hearth, and the lamps had been refilled and lit. In addition, a fresh tray of food awaited her. It was as bountifully laden as Covenant’s had been: like his, it included pitchers of water and springwine.
The Masters may well have elected to side with the Unbeliever, but clearly the servants of Revelstone made no distinction between their guests.
Clinging to the Staff, Linden poured a little springwine into a flagon and drank it. When she could feel that small hint of aliantha extend its delicate nourishment through her, she went into her bedroom and opened the shutters to look out at the weather.
A light drizzle was falling from the darkened sky: the seepage of leaden clouds. It veiled the Westron Mountains, and she was barely able to see the foothills far below her, the faint hue of the White River some distance off to her right. Behind the spring rain, dusk had closed over Revelstone. Full night would cover the plateau and the Keep and the threatening horde of the Demondim before Stave returned with her friends.
The thought of darkness disturbed her. Dangers which she did not know how to confront lurked where there was no light. Abruptly she closed the shutters, then returned to her sitting room, to the kind illumination of the lamps, and knelt to build a fire in the hearth.
The wood took flame quickly, aided by a splash of oil from one of the lamps. Soon a steady blaze began to warm the room.
But light and heat alone could not denature the midnight in her mind. Her head was full of echoes. I deserve better than this. That’s my Mom. They repeated themselves obsessively, feeding her tears. Pain is worse when you have something to compare it to. I need something in return. Their reiteration was as insistent and compulsory as keening. A little bit of trust. Ask that callow puppy who follows you around—
The sound of Covenant’s voice, and of Jeremiah’s, haunted her.
Trying to protect herself, she went back into her bedroom and stretched out fully dressed on her strict bed. Hugging the Staff against her chest, she concentrated as well as she could on the numinous wood’s cleanliness.
She had never seen Berek’s original Staff of Law, but she knew enough to be sure that hers was not identical to his. His had been crafted by lore and earned wisdom from a limb of the One Tree: she had formed hers with urgency and wild magic, melding Findail and Vain. And her own understanding of Law might well differ from Berek’s. For all she knew, the two Staffs had little in common except the iron heels which Berek had forged. The magic which had transformed Vain’s forearm may have arisen from the Worm of the World’s End rather than from the One Tree.
Nonetheless her Staff was a tool of Earthpower, as Berek’s had been, and she had fashioned it in love and yearning to sustain the beauty of the Land. Somehow it would aid her to discover the truth, to rescue her son, and to oppose the Despiser.
With the Staff resting against her exhausted heart, she hardly noticed as she drifted into sleep.