2. Received the copy-edited manuscript for On the Razor's Edge, and in going through it have plucked a couple of lines here and there that caught my eye for one reason or another. In no particular order, a miscellany of lines:
Thus the peoples of the world foresee a time when their land with its rivers and mountains still lies under heaven as it does today, but other people dwell there; when their language is entombed in books, and their laws and customs have lost their living power.
– Franz Rosenzweig
In the beginning, there were three, because in these matters there are always three. One was a harper and one was a Hound and one was nine.
There was a treasure, because in these matters there is always a treasure. And there was a far quest, and an ancient tyranny; and longing and greed and ambition and treachery. There was courage and cowardice, as one often finds when something very small stands against something very large. One man had let his fears become the master of his acts, and so men died and cities burned.
It was then that he had learned the art of concealment. If there was a cover, he was beneath it. If there was a hole, he was in it. If there was a corner, he was around it.
One may find the arrow by watching the bull’s-eye.
+ + +
An ancient sage once wrote that all things happen by chance or by design, but that chance was only the intersection of two designs. Consider the man who is struck on the head by a hammer while walking to his lunch.
Everything about his perambulation is designed, which is to say intended. He is hungry – it is that time of day for it – and he habitually takes his lunch at a café two blocks distant from his workplace. It is a sunny day, so he wears no cap. None of this is by chance.
Likewise, the workman atop the roof of the building half a block along. He too ceases work for lunch and, habitually, leaves his tools unattended. Because of the geometric arrangement of his tools, his foot nudges the hammer as he arises, the which, in obedience to the inexorable laws of action and reaction, nudges back and so begins to slide. The god Newton teases it down the slanted roof tiles until it tips into his clutches and is pulled to the street below, even as the unfortunate lunch-bound is passing beneath.
“Ah, what ill luck,” say the street sweepers as they cleanse the blood and brains from the duroplast walkway. Yet everything that has happened is the consequence of the actors’ intentions or of nature’s laws – and some say those laws are but the intentions of a greater Actor.
We call it “chance” and we marvel because our superstitions desire that concatenation be as meaningful as causality. The man was brained by a hammer! It must mean something. There must be a connection! And so poor Fate is made the scapegoat of intersecting world-lines. Having become all tangled up in the threads, we incline to blame the weaver.
+ + +
The greatest risk in searching for Shadows lay in finding one.
“Be not deceived, sweet harper,” Ravn answered. “All this miigimoos stop when enemy appear. Well, perhaps not all miigimoos.”
Mashdasan ran a hand across his cheek and chin. “Don’t be too certain, Deadly One. My loyalty is to the Confederation and to the Names.”
“Good. So be mine. Hooray for Confederation! Huzzah for Names! We do secret handshake later.”
She was a master harper – an ollamh of the clairseach: a lap harp of the old style, strung with metal cords. Sometimes when she played, they drew blood.
When resolution follows shortly on resolve, doubt has little time to gnaw at purpose and success is either gratified – or moot. But when the clock drags on, imagination conjures possibilities from the vasty deep, not all of them cheerful. And so a warrior leaping upon a chance-met foe does not pause to consider the possibility of failure, while one advancing at the double quick across an open field might halfway there long for the cozy comforts of his trench.
What seemed a good idea on the spur of the moment appeared less grand during the canter the spur induced.
(Donovan) “The worst sort of slavery is when the slave does not feel the collar.”
(Gidula) “Is it? I would have thought that the best sort.”
Mockery has always rung false and uncertain from the lips of those to whom no statues would ever rise.
Elsetime did people search out nooks where they would be free to live as they wished. That did not work, either, for men bring oppression with them wherever they go, and those who find their dreams will press them upon their children.
“Can there be liberties under authoritarianism,” said Donovan, “however undecadent they might be?”
Pyati paused while soaping up. “Of course. When the leash is slackly held, and tugged only now and then and for good cause.”
“I’m inclined,” the Fudir replied, “to regard the existence of the leash as sufficient irritant.”
(Pyati:) When no man holds the leash, all men hold leashes, and tyranny is petty and irksome and everywhere.
The three of them departed by aircar the next day, ostensibly to show Donovan the wonders of Ketchell. Pyati assured him that these wonders were not so numerous as to require the entire day, and the fact proved as true as the word.
The bartender laid a thick forearm on the table and leaned upon it. “And if he does do it?”
“Then those whom they will seek will be gone from this place, never to brighten its precincts again, never to trouble you the more.”
“That end may be reached,” the bartender suggested, “with less effort and greater profit.” He smiled, but his teeth were like the line of northern ice astride the far horizon.
“No,” said the Brute, “it could not.”
The bartender looked into his eyes for a moment, then shrugged. “Ah. The Terran Foo-lin! Him, I may know.”
“There are many Foo-lins,” the Fudir allowed. “A man might not know them all.”
The foo-doctor paused and looked at the scarred man, as if for the first time. “Where are these coins of which thou braggest?”
He handed Foo-lin a leather bag the size of his palm. The other glanced within and hefted its weight. “And the brothers of these few lonely orphans?”
Méarana regarded Terra’s sun with the same affection and longing that the ancients had felt on contemplating Ur of the Chaldees, which is to say none at all. Her father, she knew, felt differently. Once upon a time, everyone had lived there. But that was a fact, not a feeling, and she knew it only as a place from which she must rescue him. Once upon a time, everyone swung in trees in some African valley. No point getting all choked up over it.
The Hound gave the impression of a great deal of energy packed into a small space, like a spring compressed. He was short, dark visaged, and bore a pencil-thin mustache on his lip. His cheeks and chin were a bed of short, sharp bristles. When he smiled, his teeth showed, but not to any comforting effect.
Gwillgi cocked his head, and the cocking of Gwillgi’s head was enough to elicit words from any man.
“It’s gotten complicated.”
“Oh, good.” Gwillgi swung a leg over his knee and clasped his hands over it. “I was afraid it was all too simple."
Your thoughts too often tumble from your brainpan directly onto your lips.
When he turned the corner and passed through a wooded section he was brought up short by a sharp knife. In this he took a keen interest.
Any fool can hope, her mother had told Méarana once, when success lies in view. It takes genuine courage to hope when matters seem most hopeless.
Méarana’s mother had taught her a proverb once: She who would lose her life, the same shall save it. And it meant that when all was at hazard, the timid would die. Only by risking everything with a wild disregard can one save anything.
A man deprived of breath thinks of little else but drawing one
A dazer could fire twelve pulses between rechargings. Those were votes enough.
The long night creeps now toward the dawn
Midst riot, betrayal, and siege.
While death that now her leash lies loose
Runs wild and knows no liege.
You are da innocent caught up in madders beyond your ken. For people like you, we have da folk saying: ‘Too stupid to live,’ and normally we would accommodate dat, too.