The eastern fringe
of the Gaean Reach is bounded by a remarkable pocket of emptiness: the Great
The region is
virtually untraveled: spacemen find no inducement to enter, while beyond
hangs Zangwill Reef, a flowing band of stars with a baleful reputation. The
Great Hole, therefore, is a lonely place.
At the very center of the Great Hole hangs the star Mora. Two of its
attendant worlds, Maske and Skay, constitute that celestial oddity, a double
planet; in tandem Maske and Skay orbit Mora, swinging around each other in
Both Skay and Maske are inhabited. No one knows how many waves of human
migration have crossed the Great Hole to Mora; perhaps no more than two. The
most recent arrivals, a fourteen-ship contingent of Credential Renunciators
from the world Diosophede, discovered upon Maske and Skay a population of
great antiquity, human but considerably diverged from homo gaea: the
Saidanese, of a species which
became known as
With Zangwill Reef barring the way beyond, the fourteen ships landed
upon Maske. They expelled the Saidanese from a region to which they gave the
name Thaery, after Eus Thario, Explicator of the True Credence. The company
of the thirteenth ship would not concede the ‘Triple Divinity’ of Eus Thario
and was banished to Glentlin, a spare and stony peninsula west of Thaery.
The ‘Irredemptibles’ of the fourteenth ship refused to acknowledge either
the Credence or the sublimity of Eus Thario; they were driven away from
Thaery. The ship crashed into the mountains of Dohobay, apparently after
attack by a pair of Credential pinnaces, and so disappeared from history.
The Twelve Companies parceled Thaery into twelve districts and
organized a state in strict conformity to the Credential Precepts.
Diosophede, their world of origin, became an exemplar of everything to be
avoided. Diosophede was urbanized; Thaery would be bucolic. The Diosofids
controlled natural forces and preferred artificial environments; the
Thariots dedicated themselves to natural landscapes and natural substances.
The Diosofids were frivolous, cynical, disrespectful of authority, addicted
to novelty, artificial sensation and vicarious emotion. The Thariots pledged
themselves to duty, simplicity, respect for status.
In Glentlin the company of the thirteenth ship, adapting to their harsh
environment, isolated themselves from the Thariots, and became the Glints.
Each saw the other in terms of caricature. In Thaery, ‘Glint’ became
synonymous with ‘boorish’, ‘crude’, ‘boisterous’, while for a Glint
‘Thariot’ meant ‘devious’, ‘secretive’, ‘oversubtle’.
Many Glints took to sailing the Long Ocean; gradually these mariners
evolved the concept of ‘Sea Nationalism’. Other Glints, notably those ilks
resident in the High Marcatives, became bandits, raiding the depots of
Isedel, and even Swange and Glistelamet, for tools, fabric and wealth. The
Thariots retaliated, using draughts of Saidanese warriors, the so-called
‘perrupters’, but only after three centuries were the Glints subdued,
whereupon Glentlin in effect became the thirteenth district of Thaery.
Conditions elsewhere upon Maske took on new forms. Those Irredemptibles
who had survived the wreck of the Fourteenth eventually reappeared as the
Waels of Wellas and the various tribes of Dohobay. The Saidanese, confined
to Upper and Lower Djanad, became known as the ‘Djan’ and persisted in their
incomprehensible old customs. They evinced neither curiosity nor rancor
toward those who had conquered them; the same was true with the Saidanese of
Centuries passed: eras of glassy somnolence. Credential stringencies
relaxed; Thaery became a land of many textures and cultivated contrasts.
Despite the ancient interdicts, certain of the towns became cities, of which
the first was Wysrod by Duskerl Bay. During the same period the population
of the countryside expanded, until presently the overflow was forced to seek
employment elsewhere, sometimes in vain, and young folk coming into their
maturity, in either town or country, found little scope for their energies.
Imaginations turned outward, and the Mandate of Isolation began to seem a
nuisance. A bitter-sweet malaise hung over the land like an autumn haze, and
the folk were affected by contradictory emotions; love of the countryside,
nostalgia, and the still-vital Credential doctrines disaccorded with a
pervasive staleness and spiritual claustrophobia. A certain number of folk
considered emigration; a small fraction of these put the tragic and
irreversible process into effect; they were heard from no more.
Another influence troubled the public awareness: rumors of a secret
organization known as the Pan-Djan Binadary, apparently dedicated to the
expulsion of the Thariots from Maske. The Binadary mystified responsible
officials, since neither Djan nor Saidanese were notably apt at intrigue.
Who then had instigated the Binadary? Who formulated its programs and
supplied the militancy? Such questions perturbed the Thariot intelligence
agencies, since no meaningful information could be discovered.
Mountains between Thaery and Djanad, extending to the west, became Glentlin:
a barren unproductive land of small population, but in proportion to its
resources no less crowded than Thaery proper.
The northwest tip of Glentlin, extending from Cape Junchion to the
Hacksnaw Hills, was Droad land, owned by Benruth, the Droad of Droad House
and first of the ilk. His oldest son Trewe would eventually come into total
possession, by the rigid entailment laws of Thaery. For Jubal, the second
son, the future offered no such optimistic prospects.
Nevertheless, blessed with a strong body and a confident disposition,
Jubal passed a pleasant childhood, enlivened by the weekly banquets at which
Benruth entertained the Droad kindred and celebrated the sweet fugacity of
existence. The banquets often became boisterous. On one occasion, what might
have been a practical joke was carried too far. Benruth drank a flask of
wine and fell to the floor in cramps. His brother Vaidro instantly forced
sugar and oil down Benruth’s throat, then pounded Benruth’s belly until he
vomited, unluckily upon a priceless Djan rug, which ever after showed a
Vaidro tested a drop
of Benruth’s wine upon his tongue and spat it out. He made no comment; none
Benruth suffered pain for several weeks, and for a year his pallor
persisted. All agreed that the event had transcended any reasonable
definition of humor. Who had perpetrated the irresponsible deed?
The persons on hand included Benruth’s immediate family: his wife
Voira; Trewe, along with Trewe’s young wife Zonne and daughters Merliew and
Theodel; and Jubal. Also present were Vaidro; Cadmus off-Droad, Benruth’s
illegitimate son by a Thariot girl of the Cargus ilk who had spent her
(see glossary 1)
at Cape Junchion; and four others of the Droad kindred, including a
certain Rax, notorious for blunders and immoderate conduct. Rax denied
perpetration of a joke so outrageous, but his protestations were heard
silently. Rax would return to Droad House on a single other occasion, to
participate in events even more fateful.
Benruth’s banquets were thereafter both less
frequent and more subdued. He began to wither and lose his hair, and three
years after the poisoning he died. Cadmus off-Droad appeared at the funeral
in company with one Zochrey Cargus, a sharpfaced Thariot from the city
Wysrod, who declared himself a genealogist and arbiter of disputed
inheritances. Even before Benruth’s corpse had been set upon the pyre,
Cadmus came forward to proclaim himself Droad of Droad House by right of
primogeniture. Zochrey Cargus, stepping up on the funeral platform to
achieve a more advantageous projection, endorsed the claim, and cited
several precedents. Trewe and Jubal stood shocked and numb, but Vaidro,
without excitement, signaled several of the kindred; Cadmus and Zochrey
Cargus were seized and hustled away, Cadmus cursing and calling over his
shoulder. Like Rax Droad he would return to Droad House on a single other
Trewe became the Droad of Droad House, and Jubal was forced seriously
to ponder his future. The choices were not inspiring. Toil in the Thariot
factories he rejected out of hand, though a diligent and punctual man might
eventually do well for himself. As a Glint he would find no advancement in
either the Air Patrol or the Militia. The Space Navy and the
were reserved to scions of the high Thariot ilks and so completely
closed to him. The skilled professions not only demanded years of
preparatory discipline, but worked psychological distortions upon their
practitioners. He could remain at Droad House in the capacity of bailiff or
fisherman or handyman, a not-unpleasant life but quite at odds with his
self-esteem. He might sail the Long Ocean on a
National felucca, or he might
undertake the final and irrevocable step of emigration.
Each possibility led
to equally barren destinations. Impatient and depressed, Jubal went forth
From Droad House he
took the road which wound up Coldwater Glen, through the Hacksnaw Hills,
across the Five Falls, and into County Isedel, then down the Gryph River
Valley to Tissano on the coast. Here he helped repair the trestle which
carried a plank walkway on spraddling fifty-foot piles across the
tide-flats to Black Rock Island.
He continued east
along Broad Beach, sifting sand, burning driftwood and dry sea-wrack; then,
turning inland, he wandered County Kroy, trimming hedges and cleaning
meadows of hariah weed. At Zaim he veered south to avoid the city Wysrod,
then worked his way across Drune Tree and Famet. At Chilian he cut up fallen
spice-wood trees and sold the logs to a timber merchant. Proceeding into
Athander he worked a month in the forests, clearing the trees of saprophytes
and pest-bug. For another month he mended roads in Purple Dale; then moving
south into the Silviolo uplands, he came to the High Trail. Here he paused,
to look long in both directions. To the east spread the vineyards of Dorvolo
and further months of wandering. To the west the trail climbed into the High
Marcatives and, paralleling the Djanad frontier, led back to Glentlin.
Somberly, as if he were already entering the autumn of life, Jubal turned
The trail took him
into a land of white dolomite crags, flat lakes reflecting the violet sky,
forests of thyrse, kil and diakapre. Jubal traveled slowly, mending the
trail, cutting back stands of thistle, burning tangles of dead brush. At
night, for fear of slanes and poisonous imps, he slept in mountain
where often he was the single guest.
Across the southern edge of counties Kerkaddo and Lucan he worked his
way, and into county Swaye. Only Isedel now separated him from Glentlin and
he tramped ever more thoughtfully. Arriving at the village Ivo he went to
the Wildberry Inn. The landlord worked in the common-room: a man elongated
as if he had stepped from a comic mirror: an impression enhanced by his
top-knot, which he wore contained in a cutwork cylinder.
Jubal stated his
needs; the landlord indicated a corridor: “Bird-song Chamber is ready for
occupation. We dine at the second gong; the tavern is at your convenience
until middle evening.” He appraised Jubal’s dust-colored hair, cropped short
for coolness. “You would seem to be a Glint, which is all very well, if only
you will contain your contentiousness, and defy no one to trials of daring
“You have an odd opinion of Glints,” said Jubal.
“To the contrary!” declared the innkeeper. “Already you are mettlesome;
is it not as I predicted?”
“I plan to issue no challenges,” said Jubal. “I take no interest in
politics. I drink moderately. I am tired and plan to retire immediately
after I take my supper.”
The innkeeper gave an approving nod. “Many would consider you a dull
fellow; not I! The inspector has only just departed. He found a roach in the
kitchen and I am bored with tirades.” He drew a mug of ale which he set
before Jubal, then drew another for himself. “To ease our nerves.” Tilting
his head, he turned the ale into his mouth. Jubal watched in fascination.
The hollow cheeks remained hollow; the gaunt throat neither shuddered nor
pulsed. The ale disappeared as if poured down a sump. The innkeeper put down
the mug and gave Jubal a melancholy inspection. “You travel on Yallow,
“I’m close to the end of it.”
“I’d go out again tomorrow, if my legs would stand the tramping.
Alas, we can’t be young forever. What’s the news from along the way?”
“Nothing of consequence. At Lurlock they complain of slow summer
“There’s the perversity of nature for you! Last week we took a
cloudburst that broke all our drains! What else?”
“At Faneel a slane killed two women with an axe. He escaped into
Djanad, not half an hour before I came along the trail.”
“Djanad is too near
for comfort.” He raised his arm and pointed a long finger. “Only seven miles
to the border! Every day I hear a new rumor. Djanad is not the placid land
we like to believe! Do you realize that they are twenty to our one? If they
all went ‘solitary’ together, we’d be dog’s-meat in hours. It’s not lack of
emotion which deters them; don’t be deceived by their courtesy.”
“They follow,” said Jubal. “They never lead.”
“Look up yonder!” The innkeeper pointed up through the casement to the
monstrous bulk of Skay. “There are the leaders! They come down in
space-ships; they land practically on our borders. I consider this arrant
“Space-ships?” asked Jubal. “Have you seen them?”
“My Djan bring me reports.”
“The Djan will tell you anything.”
“In certain respects. They are vague, agreed, and also frivolous, but
not given to inventive fantasies.”
“We can’t control the Saidanese. If they choose to visit Djanad, how
can we prevent them?”
“The Servants must make such decisions,” said the innkeeper, “and they
have not come to me for advice. Will you take more ale? Or are you ready for
Jubal took his supper, then, for lack of better entertainment, went to
The morning was clear and bright. Departing the inn, Jubal walked out
into a land of gleaming white crags and air fresh with the scent of damp
thyrse and ground-mint. Two miles west of Ivo, on the south slope of Mount
Cardoon the trail came to an end, swept away by a rock-slide.
Jubal surveyed the damage, then turned back to Ivo. At the location he
recruited three Djan, borrowed tools from the factor and, returning to Mount
Cardoon, set to work.
He had undertaken no trivial task. A retaining wall of roughlaid stone,
seventy feet long, from five to ten feet high, had been carried three
hundred feet down-hill and lay in a tumble of rough stone.
Jubal put the Djan to work preparing a new footing, then cut four
straight thyrse, from which he constructed a rude derrick overhanging the
gully. When the footing was dug, the four men hauled stones up the slope and
started a new wall.
passed. Two thousand stones had been slung, lifted, fitted, and the soil
tamped behind them. The eighteenth day dawned cool. A bank of heavy clouds
lay in the east, where Skay floated: a great black ball on a scurf of foam.
Djan cosmology was both supple and subtle; their portents derived as much
from caprice as coherent systemology. On this morning Jubal’s three Djan, by
mysterious common consent, kept to their huts. After waiting ten minutes
beside the inn Jubal walked down the hill to the location. He had hired Djan
from three huts to minimize malingering and slowdowns
(see glossary 2), and now walked from
hut to hut beating on the roofs with a pole and calling out the names of his
employees. Presently they crawled forth and followed him along the trail,
grumbling that the day was unlucky and at the very least threatened rain and
During the morning the clouds edged closer, striking at the mountains
with claws of purple lightning; wind groaned through the high crevasses of
Mount Cardoon. The three Djan worked nervously, accomplishing little and
pausing every few seconds to appraise the sky. Jubal himself became ill at
ease: it was never wise to ignore the intuitions of the Djan.
An hour before noon the wind stopped short; the mountains became
unnaturally quiet. Again the Djan halted in their work to listen. Jubal
heard nothing. He asked the nearest Djan: “What do you hear?”
Jubal climbed down the slope to the rock-slide. He rolled a stone into
the sling. The line remained slack. Jubal looked up the slope. The Djan were
listening, graceful heads raised. Jubal also listened. From far away sounded
a curious pulsing whine. Jubal looked around the sky but mist obscured the
view. The sound dwindled to nothing.
The rope tightened; the Djan worked the winch with a sudden access of
Midday arrived. Safalael, the youngest Djan, brewed tea and the four
took lunch in the shelter of a great boulder. Mist blew up the moor,
condensing to a fine drizzle. The Djan made finger-signals among themselves.
When Jubal returned to work, they hesitated, but, being three, could form no
common purpose, and followed without zest.
Jubal returned down to the rock-slide. He threw the sling around a
stone and gave the signal to lift. The line remained loose. Jubal looked up
the slope to find the Djan once again poised in the act of listening. Jubal
opened his mouth to bellow orders, but checked himself and also listened.
From the west came a jingle and a grunting chant: the marchmeasure by
which a Djan troop coordinated its step when on the move.
Along the trail appeared a Thariot riding a single-wheeled ercycle;
then a column of thirty-two perrupters—warriors recruited from Djan
‘solitaries’—trotting four abreast. The Thariot rode sternly erect: a man of
striking appearance, with large prominent eyes, a proud mouth, a black
ram’s-horn mustache. He wore a black tunic over gray velvet trousers, a
black hat with a wide slanting brim. He displayed no culbrass; his
appearance and posture nevertheless suggested high caste. He rode in evident
haste, with no thought for his panting escort.
In puzzlement Jubal
watched the approaching column: where had they come from? The trail led to
Glentlin, making no connection with the Isedel lowlands.
Arriving at the break in the trail the ercycle-rider stopped short and
made a gesture of petulant impatience. Then, suddenly becoming aware first
of the three Djan workers, then Jubal, he drew back and tugged down the brim
of his hat. Odd indeed! thought Jubal; the man seemed furtive. Clearly he
was in a hurry, and in a mood to attempt the precarious way across Jubal’s
Jubal called out a warning: “The trail can’t be used! It will collapse
under you! Go around the hill!”
The rider, from perversity, or arrogance, paid no heed. He rolled
forward, down to the makeshift path. The perrupters plunged forward, four
abreast. Jubal cried out in consternation: “Stop! You’ll destroy the wall!”
The rider, with a
sidelong glance down at Jubal, rolled on, wobbling and sliding. The front
ranks of the troop, stubbornly four abreast, dislodged stones, which bounded
down-slope. Jubal scrambled and dodged. “You cursed fool!” he screamed. “Go
back! Or I’ll have a warrant on you!”
The perrupters marched on, compressing their ranks where the path
pinched them between mountainside and loosely stacked stones. The rider
spoke something over his shoulder and accelerated his pace. The perrupters
jogged forward, and the entire half-finished wall, collapsing, bursting
apart, tumbled down the slope. Stones struck Jubal, knocking him down.
Hugging his head with hands and arms he curled into a ball, and rolled
down-slope with the rocks. He fell over a ledge and frantically sought
At the far side of the gap the rider halted his ercycle. Serenely he
gazed down at the new rock-slide; then, giving his hat a twitch, he turned,
and proceeded eastward. The perrupters followed at a trot. The entire column
disappeared around a bend in the trail.
The three Djan, convinced that work was finished for the day, returned
to their location. An hour later Jubal, bruised and bleeding, with a broken
arm, broken ribs, and cracked collarbone, crawled up to the trail. He rested
several minutes, then heaving himself erect he staggered away toward Ivo.
chapter from Maske:Theary was formatted from the VIE pdf to text for
Foreverness, by Greg Hansen.