so glad I have the next two books at hand.
i loved this Fantasy story. A few quotes, which also work as a summarization, and a reminder to my poor memory.
Ingold said, perfectly calmly, “This is Gil, and this is Rudy. They were kind enough to aid me in the Prince’s rescue. They are strangers from another land and know nothing of the Realm or its customs, but they are both loyal and valiant.” Rudy ducked his head, embarrassed at the description. Gil, for her part, had subconsciously avoided thinking anything positive about herself for the last fifteen years and blushed hotly.
Gil and Rudy were both aware of the depth of the darkness as they had never been, back in the world of Southern California, where there was always a glow in the sky from somewhere, competing with moon and star. Here the stars seemed huge, intent, staring down with great, watchful eyes from the void of night. Darkness covered the land, and their one brief contact with the Dark was all Rudy and Gil had needed to make them conscious of how unprotected they were, how uneasy with the ancient fear of being in open ground at night.
Every farm within ten miles of the city has been abandoned— harvests rotting in the fields while refugees starve on the roads. Karst’s a small town, and they’re fighting over food here already, and over water, and for space in every building. We may be safe here from the Dark, but by tomorrow I’ll wager we’re not safe from one another.”
“There is no Realm anymore, only people in danger. You deceive yourself to think political power will hold together when every man’s thoughts are on refuge alone.”
Walking beside her horse’s head, hanging grimly onto the cheekpiece of the bridle to keep from staggering, she’d half- expected to be cheered into town. But, she thought cynically, people are people nobody cheers the lunchwagon unless he gets first dibs on the food. She looked back along the line of the convoy and saw none of her own feeling reflected in the strained and dusty faces of the other Guards. It’s a hell of a thing, she thought, to risk your life to feed someone and have him pelt you with mud on your way into town.
Mostly Rudy sensed the tension that underlay the town like a drawn wire and had felt, with an uneasy shock, that closeness to that line that divided a land of law from a land without it.
She had made it, somehow, through the bizarre terrors of the night; she had lived to see dawn. She could not remember when she had ever taken such conscious pleasure in simple daylight.
“Well— ” he said, a little embarrassed by that awe and gratitude in her eyes. “I just kind of stumbled into that. I mean, it was either come with him or die, I guess— we didn’t have much choice.” “But still, you had the choice to be with him in the first place, didn’t you?” she reminded him. “Well— yeah,” he agreed. “But believe me, if I’d known what it was all about, I’d still be running.” The girl laughed. “Betrayed into heroism,” she mocked his assertion gently.
In one sense it was easy, for those nebulous bodies offered little resistance to the razor- sharp metal. Precision and speed counted rather than strength; for all their soft bulk, the Dark Ones moved fast. But Seya had not mentioned that the Dark Ones stank of rotting blood, nor had she described the way the cut pieces folded and trailed and spattered everything with human blood and blackish liquid as they disintegrated. This Gil found out in that crimson pandemonium of fire and dark trees, death and flight and war. And she found out, too, that there was less fear in the attack than in the defense and that, no matter how little sleep or food you have had in the last forty- eight hours, you could always fight for your life.
He drifted for a time in memories, chiefly of the warm hills of California, the rippling gold of the sunbaked grass, and the way the sun had felt on his bare arms as he hauled down Highway 15 on his chopper in the late evening, the wind streaming through his hair. He wondered if he’d ever get to do that again. Probably not, he decided. But even that didn’t matter much. Who’d have figured that leaving on a beer run would end up with me freezing to death in a range of mountains that never even existed? Life is weird.
When I get back to California, he vowed tiredly, I am never, ever going to gripe about anything again. I will always know for a sure fact that things could be loads worse. If I get back to California, he amended, and followed Gil out of the cell.
Looking around him at the dark fastnesses of that fortress, he could only wonder at the human powers of recuperation and the human tendency to make oneself at home. Here, in this awesome fortress of stone and steel, after they’d fought their way through peril and death and darkness, people were settling themselves in cozily for the winter.
As soon as the weather permits, I shall be leaving to seek the Hidden City of Quo.” “Do you think, then, that it can be found?” Alwir’s frown was one of troubled concern, but his eyes were calculating. “I can’t know that until I seek it. But the aid of the Council of Wizards is imperative: to your invasion, to the Keep, to all of humankind.
“That’s what’s bothered me all the way along. That maybe there’s no going back.” The question is the answer, Rudy thought. The question is always the answer. “But there’s no going back from anything we do,” he said. “Not from anything we are. It changes us, good and bad. What it is, we become.
and on to Book Two.