Louarn and Liath

A Triad Expanded Scene

This is a longer version of Louarn’s roaming through the Strong Leg holding as the stain threatens to engulf Eiden Myr, and the conversation with Liath that follows, in which she requests his aid in her planned journey to the realm of magelights. It includes a flashback to an exchange in Illumination between Liath and Mellas that was presented, in that book, from Liath’s point of view. A draft previous to this one had more of those flashbacks, more clearly echoing the Mellas flashbacks in the first third of The Binder’s Road. More was too many, but the one is, I think, a nice callback to the memory-echoey Louarn of TBR.

The following starts right after the section break on page 321 of the Triad hardcover and at the top of page 419 in the paperback. Searching on “Louarn roamed” should bring you to the right place in the ebook. The last six words here are where the versions rejoin.


Safety had poured like grain from a punctured sack from the moment Eilryn n’Torrin cast his mother home. But as they waited for the last shreds of protection to whisk away like tendrils of fog on a morning breeze, Louarn, as helpless and stymied as the rest, roamed halls filled with futility.

“We had no way to warn them,” one mender in was saying to another, of the Khinish, in a reading room of the Woodhill Repository, surrounded by rare codices that never left the premises. The Khinish had been at sea for nine days and four, with no news since the ninth day, when the Dreaming Sea burnhole was cast. The two new holes were still small—no maurside or High Arm shieldposts had reported invasion—but there was no telling how they might further destabilize the intorsion. There was no telling anything, nor had been for days. “They knew the risks when they sailed out. They could still make it to the Fist in time. . . .”

Among the nonagonal storage cubbies in the Highhill Comb, Adaon was talking to two resident seekers about the bonefolk. Nerenyi had not returned, and the bonefolk had severed all contact with the living; there was no way to know whether she lived, no way to know whether her interference had caused the bonefolk’s silence.

Adaon said, “But if they’re projections of spirit, as the illuminator was . . . spirit divided into three, across the three elements of matter, as Nerenyi said . . . spirit making flesh out of light and will to clothe itself . . . then . . .”

“. . . Then what divided them that way? What casting, what cataclysm?” one seeker said.

“. . . Then what knocked them unconscious to begin with?” the other said.

“No,” Adaon said, staring past them, at the walls. “The question is this: Where is the unconscious body that projects them?

Within the touchcrafted glass walls of the Pointhill Torus, one long circular hall around an open-air garden, Dabrena and Karanthe pored over reports and messages repeating, essentially, nothing. Karanthe had come nominally as liaison to Herne Runner, but in truth to see Liath; Keiler had not. Louarn’s longing for the man was so deep it was painful. He’d expected Keiler to join him here, if not for him then for Liath, but Keiler had his own obligations and concerns. Folk did not always choose the same ways.

Down the hall a quarter-turn, Ioli sat with Kara by their completed map. The only emendations they made now were to the burnholes, long ugly tearing twisted black scars on the sedgeweave, and that only from habit. Rekke lay supine on the next table, heels hanging off the end, arms dangling over the sides, as though he’d gleaned Eiden’s body for so long that he felt he’d become it.

At the table farther on, Eilryn and Caille sat across from each other, Mauzl at the end, eating a modest breakfast. Their three lights formed a perfect triangle in Louarn’s sight.

When he saw Caille, his eye sought by habit for her sisters, but Pelufer was long gone to the bladesmith in the Knee, and Elora was still home with her pledge, and would not find her way here until after she’d broken her fast with the town alderfolk and seen to her touches in the Greenhill Cloisters.

It was only just gone dawn, a cold small sun rising in the frozen sky. He did not know whether all these folk had sat up the night in all these halls—the last night of the old moon—or found their way here at first light. He had not slept sound since he left Keiler’s side, but he had roamed the longstreets during the dark hours, filled with foreboding he did not want to inflict on the holding’s sleepless.

Liath sat in the center of the hall’s rotunda, no coat on her in the frigid air. The garden was planted in a pattern of three arms radiating outward from a shared center—a circular stone bench in a depth of ivy. Pointhill formed the shape of a triskele.

She still wore her triskele, and made no effort to hide it, with her penchant for billowy shirts loose-laced at the top. Perhaps as telling, she still wore her scars. To Caille’s dismay, three of them had reappeared over the days following her healing: one of the Ennead’s triangular scars, on the back of her right hand; the scar over her kidney where Kazhe’s blade had repaid her betrayal of Torrin; and the long scar from temple to lip, which Liath would not explain and Eilryn said she’d had as long as he could remember. Perhaps the triskele, to her, was another scar: visible evidence of a loss that made her who she was.

Dabrena still wears warder’s white, Louarn thought, and Karanthe still wears reckoner’s black. We incorporate our wounds into our strengths as we can.

He had come to the hall’s second set of doors, opposite the first. One led outward, in the direction of the Blooded Mountains. One led inward, to the garden. He took the second.

“Tell me what you saw in Ioli’s gleaning,” he said. “Tell me, or I won’t help you. You can’t do it alone.”

“Do what?” Liath said, intent on something she was twisting in her hands.
Louarn waited. He had been waiting for more than three ninedays, and she had not come to him. He would not let her surprise him.

She made a face at the hemp in her hands. Nine strands twisted into a braid so deft and complex that his puzzler’s eye could barely follow it. “And you have that bloody blue glow, don’t you.”

Louarn shook his head. “I’m not Ioli. Would that I were. But I’ve known you a long time, Illuminator.”

Liath was silent, working her braid. At last she said, casually, as though they sat by a warm fire at leisure to ask idle questions, “Did you see a light in your father, Louarn?”

“In the hauntrealm? No. Nor in Pelkin.” He squinted, but couldn’t see her point. “They were dead.”

“And your kenai-to-be? The middle girl, the one you won’t let yourself—”

“Don’t,” he said, quickly.

She grinned. “I’ve known you a long time, runner boy.” The strands of twine went under, over, across, under, over, across. “Did she ever see a shine on any of her haunts? Did her Triennead haunts ever intimate they had a light?”

“Not to my knowledge.” He had withdrawn, insulted. He didn’t like being seen that way. He made himself relax, let go of irritation. The price of old friendships would always be thoughtless gestures that sliced too close to the bone.

She finished the length of braid and looped it to splice, producing a penknife with which to shave the ends increasingly fine as she tucked them in. In moments, there was an intricate circle with no visible beginning or end. “I don’t remember any of what Ioli described in Galandra’s passage. It wasn’t for me to hold. That’s as it should be. But I remembered what I saw when I was there. I always remembered it, but it was mixed up with everything else that was happening—the Ennead launching through the warding, Portriel in the middle of them, the world . . . unfolding itself. Afterward, I went over it and over it, trying to think what I could have done differently, how I could have saved them. But it wasn’t until Ioli opened up that memory again, let me be there, in it, that I saw. I saw the faces of Galandra’s triad splitting off from hers—the hein-na-fhin undone, their joined selves parted. I saw them fade as the casting leaf dissipated. It went into the earth, and they went on.” She gestured him to join her on the ice-cold bench. He had to climb over the back; it was a joined circle, too. She slipped the wristlet over his hand and snugged it on his forearm, then looked into his face. “They went on, Louarn. Their light followed after.

“It only seemed that way—”

“No. There was a delay. They were passaged. We nearly went with them. I had time to look out at the Storm, time to think about all the beautiful things that would be lost if the world ended. I had time to see Portriel’s will and spirit drive the Ennead from their target. I had time to know that we were being passaged too. And then we were seared. The searing was their light following them into pethyar. Following them. Separately. After.”

“That doesn’t mean . . . You don’t know for certain . . .” He swore.

“I know, Louarn. I remember.”

Louarn remembered, too. He remembered the young mage girl with a blocked light—the girl he was supposed to call to the Ennead. She failed in a casting; he did not call her. But she came anyway. Attached herself to him and came along, and after everything that befell them on that journey, injury and shadows and Southers with cruel hooked blades, she still would not turn for home.

“Look, Mellas,” Liath said. “I can’t go back. I have to see the Ennead.” She swayed, and clutched her walking stick. “If I wait too long, they might not be able to restore my light.”

He thought about that for a long time. He thought about how much safer she was without that terrible, bright light. He thought about how, if the Ennead restored it to her, they’d only use it, and her, till there was nothing left. He wondered if there was anything he would fight that hard to have, or get back if he lost. Something he’d be willing to go through anything to retrieve. He thought there might be. He didn’t know what it was, except his horse Purslane, whom he’d grown up with and loved more than his life, but he thought there was something, somewhere, just past the limits of sight, just off in the shadows at the edge of vision. “Do you really want it back that much?” he asked her.

She didn’t give a glib answer. She thought hard about his question. Her gray eyes hid nothing. That was something he loved about her, right away, without knowing her at all—that her heart was in her big gray eyes, and she looked at the world through it. She knew she could survive without her light. But that wasn’t enough. She would do anything, endure anything, go anywhere, to get that bright light back.

“Yes,” she said softly.

And so he took her to that place, even though right then he would have given anything to keep her from it.

“You don’t know where,” he said.

“I’ll find out where.”

“What about your son?”

“My son is fine. Look at him. He’s home. He’s happy, though at the moment more than peeved at me. He’s the brightest bloody light who ever lived and ever will. He’s found the love of his life. I fought to protect that life for twice nine years. He’s safe now. He’s where he belongs. I don’t have to worry about him anymore.”

But she did. If a new warding was cast, whether a deciphering of Graefel’s or an invention of Sauglin’s or an improvisation of the menders’, Eilryn’s light would be required—and like as not so would his life. Louarn took Liath’s chin in his hand, holding firm against the reflexive jerk of her head. Forcing her gaze on him, he said, “You are not the second coming of Galandra.”

“Not like this I’m not.”

Her gray eyes burned with a harsh and angry light. This was not about sacrificing herself for her son. She’d already done that. Now she was free. She didn’t have to dedicate her life to his protection anymore. She could go on to do what she felt she had to.

“All right,” he said, rising. “I’ll take you to a place where you can start.” Though right now I think I’d give almost anything to keep you from it. He looked through the glass into the hall. “We have the materials. Caille is here. I’m afraid you’ll have a job talking them all into it, but I can help with that. We’ll have to send for an illuminator.” Something caught at the edge of his eye. He started to turn. “When do you . . .”

“Now,” she said, and flipped the dagger she’d drawn from a sheath in her boot.