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TitleThe Light-Bearer
File Size744.9 KB
Total Pages259
Document Text Contents
Page 1

Sam Nicholson

. Copyright © 1980 by Sam Nicholson.

ISBN: 0-425-04587-0

e-book ver. 1.0

"Ho, BARGEMASTER! ATTEND YOUR PROW! What barge approaches Mus-al-ram,
great mistress of the Desert Cities?"

The newly betrothed bride hidden within the splendid tent on the barge's
midship platform sat up impatiently on her cushions, reflecting that the
Gatemaster's question was just a stupid ceremony. barge was known on all
the canals from the Desert Cities to the Seacoast.

The ceremonious answer came, "The barge of Bulbul, Chief Eunuch to the
Wizard Amfi, master of the parthogen bottles!"

The girl listened further. The barge was humming at a standstill. There was no
rumble or clank of a bronze watergrid being raised. What were the awkward land
crabs doing now?

Coral Bud, daughter of the sea king Hamar, master pirate of the planet, sprang
to her feet and tossed her soft dark hair back from her shoulders. She put her
hand to the tent fold—and drew back, feeling the immodest discomfort of her
harem attire.

Page 2

On her father's ships Coral Bud had worn the wool and leather of a
seaman, a bright scarf binding up her hair, a sharp dagger sheathed at
her waistband. But since her father had escorted her aboard Bulbul's
barge, she had been shivering in flimsy gauze—ankle-length
pantaloons, short braided jacket, a nose veil that hung crookedly
beneath her flashing dark eyes.

She could not show herself—and yet she was curious. She heard the watergrid
rise in its grooves. The barge hummed into motion. Old fat Bulbul himself must
be at the prow. She could hear his high, giggling "Make way!" as the barge
arrogantly shoved and bumped other canal traffic.

Oof! That a bump. They were at a standstill again. Bulbul suddenly called
out in a mocking tone.

"Light-Bearer! Second seed-son of my gracious master! A word, I pray, young
Lord Zeid!"

"Zeid ben Amfi!" breathed the girl. At last she could catch a glimpse of the
young Lord Zeid—Moonship apprentice—messenger of the Space Givers—her
future husband!

Drawing her flimsy jacket modestly over her high young breasts, Coral Bud
opened the tent curtain a crack and peered out.

The scene was strange to the eyes of the pirate girl. The late-afternoon sun, its
bright beams knifing through the parched air, was slipping toward the horizon of
wind-swirled sand. In the great city of Mus-al-ram, the tightly packed mass of
mud brick dwellings were throwing open their shutters to the oncoming night.
From the surrounding oasis came the rattle of palm fronds against the rising

In the crowded bazaar along the main canal, the outcries of vendors were
reaching a crescendo.

"Ai—ai—come hither, master buyer from the Marble Lands! Touch this carpet,
woven from the silken floss of the Space Givers! ...

Page 258

They sat on cushions in their usual places. Zeid said, "I seek for language to
explain my feelings for you, Rover Bud. I can't live without you."

"Dear prince, are you sure," smiled Coral Bud, "after the merry chase I've led

"It been merry, and your heart is kind and loyal. I overheard you telling
Kalia that you would mate for life like a sea bird. Such is my wish also, and I
saw no reason to wait beyond tonight to begin our travels."

"Very sensible. And no reason to wait to begin our mating either."

Zeid blushed red. "You tease me, little pirate—and I feel shy. The idea is so
new to me—and so exciting—and so solemn—"

"Oh, I daresay you'll get used to it."

"Yes, we have the whole night ahead of us after we clear the city watergrid.
How the slaves dawdle! I'll die of impatience! Tell me a story to make the time
go faster."

"What shall I speak of?"

"The Great Wizard's worlds-without-end. You've spoken of Happiness and
Harmony, Truth and Justice, Mercy and Hope— but where is Love?"

"Why, the Great Wizard is Love, of course—and shows it in so many ways.
Now, because Hope was always hastening after his mother Time to bid her take
new paths, he tended to be always on the horizon and not as much comfort as he
could be if he were inside Discord's cave to protect the poor creatures from
Doubt and Despair.

"So the Great Wizard took his own cloak off his back. It was very warm
because it had two linings. One was called Faith, and the other was called

Zeid settled back into his cushions and smiled. When he watched and listened
to the sea urchin, he was transported out of Discord's cave and the tyranny of

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