Ice and shadow, p.1

Ice and Shadow, page 1

 

Ice and Shadow



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Ice and Shadow


  ANDRE

  NORTON

  Baen Books by Andre Norton

  Time Traders

  Time Traders II

  Star Soldiers

  Warlock

  Janus

  Darkness & Dawn

  Gods & Androids

  Dark Companion

  Masks of the Outcasts

  Moonsinger

  Crosstime

  From the Sea to the Stars

  Star Flight

  Search for the Star Stones

  The Game of Stars and Comets

  Deadly Dreams

  Moonsinger's Quest

  The Forerunner Factor

  Ice and Shadow

  ICE AND SHADOW

  This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed

  in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents

  is purely coincidental.

  Ice Crown copyright © 1970 and 1993 by Andre Norton.

  Brother to Shadows copyright © 1999 by Andre Norton.

  All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form

  A Baen Books Original

  Baen Publishing Enterprises

  P.O. Box 1403

  Riverdale, NY 10471

  www.baen.com

  ISBN: 978-1-4516-3791-5

  Cover art by Stephen Hickman

  First Baen paperback printing, August 2012

  Distributed by Simon & Schuster

  1230 Avenue of the Americas

  New York, NY 10020

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Norton, Andre.

  Ice and shadow / by Andre Norton.

  p. cm.

  ISBN 978-1-4516-3791-5 (omni trade pb)

  I. Title.

  PS3527.O632I34 2012

  813'.54--dc23

  2012009330

  Printed in the United States of America

  10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

  ICE

  CROWN

  CHAPTER 1

  ROANE FOUGHT against closing her eyes, tensed her slight body until it ached. One could argue intelligently (she could hear Uncle Offlas now with that odious patience which always colored his voice when making any explanation to her) that such discomfort was all mental. If you fastened your mind on something else, the sensation of being entombed alive while in the express bolt would disappear. But she lay now in the padded interior of the speeding bullet and tried to endure.

  Though she did fight her fear—the thought of smothering here—Roane clenched her fists, bit hard on her under lip. The pain of that helped. According to Uncle Offlas you could overcome anything if you willed it. Unfortunately, she fell far below his standards. Now that she had a chance to prove she was worth something to his plans, she must not spoil it.

  Why, even the department head at Cram-brief had envied her this chance. And it was only because she was Offlas Keil’s niece that she had it. The expedition to Clio would be a family affair—Project Director Keil, his son Sandar, and Roane. She tried to breathe evenly and slowly, to keep her eyes shut, forget where she was now, and think only of the goal before her.

  Maybe once in a hundred, no, closer to a thousand times, did something like this happen. And she was so lucky to be a part of it. Only right now, even her brain felt tired. All that cramming! She—Well, it was like being an osbper sponge set in a pool and given the command to absorb. Only she could not swell the way those did; she had to pack it all behind bone and flesh which was not able to expand. By rights her head ought to be so heavy with all that the briefing computers had hammered into it that she could not hold it upright.

  Clio was one of the sealed planets. Yet because of the circumstances Uncle Offlas had definite orders to land there, to stay as long as it would take them to locate the treasure. Treasure! The very word gave one a shiver—though this treasure was nothing that anyone but a member of the Service would want.

  Real treasure—precious, beautiful things—would not interest Offlas Keil at all. He might glance over it to classify it by historical period, but to him such would be toys. However, knowledge of the Forerunners—that was something else. And this treasure had been pinpointed by a hint there, a clue here, stretching over years of sifting, to a single general area on Clio.

  Because Clio was a sealed world, the final stages of their search must be conducted in complete secrecy, as quickly as possible, using Service devices. And the Project demanded as small a task force as was necessary. Which had sent Roane to Cram-brief to learn as much of Clio as she might need to know.

  She wondered what it would be like to live on a closed planet (not for the period of days they would set down there but for a lifetime). Of course, the whole theory which had established the closed planets was wrong; such manipulation of human beings broke the Four Laws. Clio had been settled two, maybe three hundred years ago when the Psychocrats dominated the Confederation, before the Overturn of 1404. It was the third such experimental planet rediscovered, though there were rumors that there had been more, no one knew how many. The blasting of the Forqual Center during the revolt of the Overturn had destroyed most records.

  All those worlds had been chosen as sites for projects which were the particular interest of one of the Hierarchy of the Psychocrats. The original colonists, brain-cleared, given false implanted memories, were settled in communities which to their briefed minds seemed natural to their new worlds. They were then left to work out new types of civilization, or a lack of civilization—to be watched secretly at intervals.

  When such inhabited test planets were now rediscovered, they were declared closed. For none of the authorities could be sure what the impact of the truth might do to their peoples. Less advanced they were, as well as mutated on at least one planet. But on Clio the inhabitants were entirely human, though they were living in an archaic way, much as Roane’s ancestors had lived several hundred years before space flight.

  What the Psychocrat who had established Clio had been aiming for was now not certain. But the Service thought he had set up something akin to the old Europa plan known on Terra. The large eastern continent had been divided into an irregular pattern of small kingdoms. The two western continents had been otherwise “seeded” with “natives” at a far more primitive level of culture—wandering tribes of hunters. And then they had all been left to their own devices.

  On the eastern continent a series of wars for territorial expansion had ended with the establishment of two large nations, fronting each other uneasily across a border of small buffer states which still possessed their freedom, mainly because the two great powers were as yet unready to strike at each other. Intrigues, minor skirmishes, the rise and fall of dynasties were all a part of life on Clio. It was, to an onlooker from the stars, a giant game, though one in which lives were lost by a badly managed stroke of play.

  In the west the tribesmen, too, fought each other; but since they remained on a more primitive level, the cost in blood had not yet been so great. However, Roane need not consider them. It was on the eastern land mass that her party would make their secret landing, in one of those small buffer states between the great powers.

  “Reveny,” she said aloud now, “the Kingdom of Reveny.”

  It was a strange word and she had had difficulty at first in pronouncing it. But no stranger than a lot of other-world names, some of them so utterly alien they could not be shaped or voiced by human vocal cords.

  She had viewed the tri-dees of the site where they would do their prospecting, often enough to make the countryside familiar. But this was an old duty, part of her wandering life. Uncle Offlas had taken her along, sometimes like excess baggage, from world to world during his own wanderings as an expe
rt on Forerunner archaeology.

  Roane liked what she had been shown of Reveny. The district they must comb for their purposes was, luckily, sparsely settled, being mountainous and forested. Part was a hunting preserve for the royal family. The only settlement was one of verderers and keepers. The rest of the inhabitants were shepherds who moved their charges seasonally from range to range. If the off-worlders had luck and were cautious, as they must be, they would have no contact with any of these.

  In the tri-dees it seemed a story tape come to life. There were actual castles with sky-pointing towers, colorful towns with crooked streets (so unlike the ordered dwelling blocks of her own people), and—But she must remember that it was very primitive. Wars were still fought across those fields. Roane shuddered, remembering a couple of tapes which had revolted both her mind and her queasy stomach.

  The people of Reveny were, as far as could be determined, still under some type of conditioning process. Or else the initial training had been so complete as to repersonalize their descendants as well. She would undoubtedly find them as alien emotionally and mentally as they were akin to her bodily. That, if she had any meeting with them at all.

  The sway of the bullet holding her slackened. She opened her eyes as it came to a stop. With a sigh of thanksgiving that that ordeal was behind her, Roane disembarked to look around.

  “You’re late—”

  She turned eagerly, instinctively smoothing down the flare of her overtunic. Not that it would matter to Sandar whether she looked as rumpled as a wart skin, as she well knew. But it would be nice if he saw her, just once, as a girl and not an encumbrance.

  “There was a delay at the Metro thrust,” she said quickly and then felt provoked. Why was she always in the wrong with Sandar and his father? If there was any delay, any difficulty, it always involved her, never them.

  She tried to put aside the need for apology as she looked at her cousin. He had not changed, not fallen from his normal superiority. Though why should he in a matter of only two months? There was no reason why he should have shrunk from the height he carried so well, grown irregular features in place of those almost-too-handsome ones, been denuded of the charm he was willing to exert for everyone but her. Sandar could wear the grimed coverall of a tubeman and still look like a tri-dee hero. In the Service tunic he was still Sandar the Great. She had heard him named that once by a girl she had met back on Varch. The fact that she was his cousin sometimes made her temporarily popular, just long enough for it to take other girls to learn how little influence she had with him.

  “Come on!” He was already walking away and she had to trot to catch up. “We have just half an hour to reach the field before countdown.”

  He kept to that long stride and she had to hop-skip to match it. Resentment began to stir in her. When she was away from Sandar Roane always hoped they could be friends. But when they were face to face again she knew how stupid that hope was.

  “My kit—” she cried.

  “It came through. I stashed it in a holder.”

  “But we have to get it. Which way—” He was heading for the outside door.

  Now he reached out and his fingers closed firmly, and none too gently, about her arm above the elbow.

  “We haven’t time, I told you. If you’re late you’ll have to take the consequences. And you won’t need what’s in it. There are full supplies on board ship.”

  “But—” Roane wanted to dig in her heels, pull back from his highhandedness. Only she knew he was perfectly capable of dragging her along by force. She saw the set of his mouth—Sandar was in a rage about something and he would make her the target of that anger if she gave him a chance.

  Her shoulders sagged. Once more she was caught in the old pattern. Her two months at Cram-brief had given her a false confidence in herself. Just how false she now realized. She would have to leave her kit locked somewhere in this hateful building.

  That she would not be bereft of necessities she knew. Uncle Offlas traveled with the highest degree of comfort any project allowed. But there were personal things—some which had been a part of her for a long time. It was hateful of Sandar, a bad start for the trip.

  She stood quietly, still captive in his hold, as he hailed a transport flitter. Captive, yes; resigned, no. Somehow she was going to get the better of Sandar—somehow, someday. She stared down at her hands as the flitter spiraled up with them. They were small and brown; her skin was several shades darker than Sandar’s. That both he and her uncle resented her mixed blood, she knew. Sometimes Sandar acted as if he did not even want to look at her.

  The port was busy with four ships on the pads—one a stellar liner embarking a number of passengers. They swooped past its tall column to settle by a much smaller ship, which bore the insignia of Survey. Roane managed to avoid Sandar’s hand and made for the ramp, trotting up it as she had so many times before.

  She fed her ident into the port checker, saw the welcome light flash. A crewman stood a little beyond.

  “Gentle Fem Hume.” He consulted a ship map. “Third level, Cabin 6, ten minutes to countdown.”

  She made for the ladder hurriedly, wanting to reach the privacy of her own cabin with no more interference from Sandar. And she did, throwing herself on the bunk, although the warning bell had not yet sounded, snapping the protective take-off webbing into place.

  The cabin was the standard one of a junior officer. There were cupboards in every possible section of wall space, plus a narrow slit of curtained door which must give on a cramped sliver of a stand-fresher. The bunk she lay on was comfortable enough, but the furnishings were all regulation. There was no sign of personal possessions about the dreary cell. If someone had been shifted for her, he had taken all his belongings with him.

  Once more she wondered what it would be like to have a real, set-on-a-planet, immovable home where one dared accumulate things one fancied and enjoyed to look upon just because they were beautiful, or reminded one of some happy time, or were fun to own. If Uncle Offlas had ever had such desires, they were long since lost. And Sandar seemed not to care.

  She hoped what he had said of complete equipment on board was true. Of course, on a dig one wore Service dress—a one-piece coverall of material suited to the climate, fashioned for hard use. And she had long known that any of the luxuries of feminine life, such as scents or the cosmetics that planet-rooted women dared to use, were not for her.

  There was a warning clang overhead, the signal for last countdown. Roane snuggled deeper into the bunk’s protective cocoon. Here they went again, for the—she was not sure she could even reckon now the number of times she had gone through the same procedure. Would there ever be an end to such wayfaring for her?

  It was a voyage like any other. As soon as they were in hyper, Uncle Offlas sent for her to put her through a searching examination of what she had learned. He did not signify at the end any more than that she would do, providing she kept her mind strictly on her work. He then gave her a load of tapes and a reader and ordered her to make the best use of space time she could. She dared not protest, since she knew that sooner or later he would demand an accounting from her.

  The voyage was as dull as most. On a liner, where there were many pastimes to amuse passengers, travel might be fun. But certainly Uncle Offlas thought that such intervals between jobs were for study only.

  They made landfall at last—that is, their ship went into orbit well above Clio, and they packed themselves and their gear into an LB, the standard type of small life-saving craft, which had been specially modified for a directed landing. It was twilight when their meticulously planned descent brought them to the surface of the planet.

  All three of them hurried to unload the supplies and instruments, for the LB had a time setting to return it to the parent ship. And even that would then withdraw into a longer orbit. Though any sky watchers on Clio would not recognize a star ship, yet there might be talk of any strange appearance in their sky.

  The first thing R
oane was aware of as she manhandled out the boxes and containers was the wonderful freshness of the air. After the stale, recirculated atmosphere of the ship this was like breathing a subtle scent. She drew it deeply into her lungs.

  They had no time really to look about until the last of the equipment was out. Uncle Offlas slammed the hatch and jumped back as the LB bounded up. Even during the short time of the unloading, twilight had deepened into night. Roane sat back on a box and brought out from the inner pocket of her coveralls a pair of night lenses. With these on she looked around.

  They were in a glade surrounded by tall trees. Several bushes had been squashed by the LB, splintered and flattened, and the boxes they had tumbled out had torn and gouged up chunks of moss.

  Uncle Offlas had a small map and was glancing from it to the right and left as if he hunted landmarks. Meanwhile Sandar forced open one of the padded containers and brought out a box which he balanced on his knees, bending close to read the dials on its top. He set two of these, then reached for another twin box to do the same.

  “Good enough. Put it about twelve—no, perhaps twenty paces in that direction.” Uncle Offlas pointed left. “I’ll do the same with this.” He picked up the second box.

  Once those distorts were working they could set up camp. The distorts would prevent any unauthorized invasion of either man or beast native to this planet. Each member of their own party wore, clipped to the front of his belt, the broadcast which would nullify the effect for him.

  By midnight they were settled in. Under Uncle Offlas’s expert handling a working laser had cut a pit as deep in the ground as Sandar was tall. Over this arose, for more than an arm’s length, a weather dome, which in turn was concealed by greenery which had been stass-sprayed not to wither for days. Their equipment, moved within, formed narrow partitions for three small cubbies and one larger one. And they dared to turn on a camp-sized beamer there while each prowled in turn around the clearing to inspect for any betraying light.

 
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