Varta, the last priestess of Asti, lives alone with Lur, a telepath of the lizardfolk, in Asti's isolated mountain retreat. Decadent Memphir has long since drifted away from the austere paths of Asti, and now the barbarians of Klem are sacking the city, and the smoke of its burning drifts up to the temple. This short story was produced from Fantasy Book Vol. 1, No. 3, published in 1948. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the copyright on this publication was renewed.
uster of the fruit, dead ripe with the sweet pulp stretching its skin. But below the surface of the water--
Varta's breath hissed between her teeth and Lur's head snapped around as he caught her thought.
The branch below the water bore a perfect circle of green flowers close to its tip, the flowers which the turbi had borne naturally seven months before and which should long ago have turned into just such sweetness as hung above.
With Lur at her heels the girl edged around to pull cautiously at the branch. It yielded at once to her touch, swinging its tip out of the lake. She sniffed--there was a languid perfume in the air, the perfume of the blooming turbi. She examined the flowers closely, to all appearances they were perfect and natural.
"It preserves," Lur settled back on his haunches and waved one front paw at the quiet water. "What goes into it remains as it was just at the moment of entrance."
"But if this is seven months old--"
"It may be seven years old," cor
A simple "escape from marauding hordes into danger and wonder" story, but with fully-fleshed characters and great plotting. Good writing shouldn't look so easy.
This short story is an excellent example of Norton's early work. Themes and style that will dominate her later writing are already present. The destruction of the human civilization and its humble resurrection, knowledgeable evil and naive good, the struggle of good people to gain forgotten knowledge: these themes are rich and developed. Her elegant style, abbreviated yet dynamic, moves the story quickly from scene to scene, leaving the reader's imagination to fill in the details.
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