It had been many years since the final victory over the forces of Darkness and the setting of all of Li’is on the Way of Light. They had been happy years in the main, especially for Brann and Tamorine. Their marriage had been good, and though, like all couples, they occasionally argued, loving and harmonious. Their family thrived, three sons and a daughter, and others of their family and friends had made matches. Tarn’s Sword-Brother Kerrin had married Tarn’s cousin Marama, the Healer, and taken her to the Mountain Fortress. Tamorine’s brother Tamran, though married, had no heir, and when he succeeded his grandfather Tamor, had asked that Brann and Tamorine’s youngest son should be his heir, since their oldest would succeed Brann as Lord of the Harbour and City, and their second son had been chosen to be Lord of the newly built Western Fortress, built to protect the rich Western farmlands and their few small towns. Tarn had wed a Mountain maiden, joking to Kerrin that since his cousin had gone to the Mountains, he must replace her with one of Kerrin’s own. The maiden was indeed kin, though distant, to Kerrin, and she and Tarn were much in love.
Most of those who had fought the Dark Lord, including Gamlin, Brann’s cousins Jamin and Javan, and their other cousin Tavan, were happily settled, and some had wed daughters of the Lightfriends, once the Priestly families were established in their new homes, while Brann and Tamorine’s daughter, named Tamella after her mother and grandmother, was recently betrothed to Rafel’s eldest grandson. Lords Tamor and Baran had both touched Light, so Tamran and Brann had succeeded them. Life was peaceful and happy now, though there were sometimes rumours of Children of Night still lingering, and Brann and Tamorine were content. The Ketai, no longer needed to protect the Lightfriends, now known as the Priesthood of Light, though they would always have a special bond, had been granted the Western tablelands by the grateful people of Li’is. There they had resumed their nomadic life and rearing of cattle and horses, while some of the women had begun again their ancient skill of weaving and dying fine fabrics. Those lands were now known as the Plateau of the Ketai, and some of their warriors also served on the guard of the Western Fortress. The old haven of the Lightfriends, at the edge of the Great Moor, had been kept and rebuilt, and now served as a base for those Priests of Light whose soul watch was the small towns and villages around the Moor, and also as a place of rest for travellers. It was now called the Faring House because of this service.
Brann and Tamorine were standing now on the steps of the Temple of the One Light, the first building which had been completed in the new City. It had been an arduous task, but all had worked for the honour of Light. The hilltop had been cleared and levelled, the caves which had once been a place of refuge from the Dark Lord’s mercenaries, and later a temporary place of worship during construction were incorporated into the building. The main cave , which had been used as a Place of Prayer, had been added to and made into a hidden chamber beneath the floor of the Prayer Room used by the Priesthood. It had been agreed that the Lords of Li’is and the High Priest should form a Council-at-Need of Li’is, to be summoned in times of great danger or great rejoicing, and the secret chamber was to be their meeting place. The walls of the stairway leading to the chamber and of the room itself still bore the writings, in the Old Tongue, and designs from its previous use as a Place of Prayer. Other, smaller caverns were incorporated into the grounds of the Temple as places of burial for those Priests who had touched Light, and the High Priest’s successors. The building of the Temple, with its adjacent Student House where the sons of the Priesthood would be taught their duties, the cluster of simple houses in the grounds where the Priests and their families would live, and the public Hall of Records, had been a vast undertaking, but the workers had been willing. Stone had been quarried and carried here, some from the Eastern Continent, and masons had worked skilfully to shape and fit the blocks together. Metalworkers had cast the beautiful Crucible, and the skilful weavers among the Ketai women had woven wall-hangings, all offering the best of their work to Light.
Only when all the work on the Temple had been finished had the final work begun on the streets of the City. Already the layout had been planned, tree fellers had been busy clearing the slopes and preparing the wood for use, other workers had levelled and consolidated the terraces of the hill ready for building, and laid the groundworks of the avenues. The draining of the disease-ridden marsh had been completed, leaving a level plain criss-crossed with drainage ditches. The ditches made it impractical to use the land for farming, so it was left to grow an abundant crop of wild flowers and herbs, making accidental but beautiful surroundings to the City. In the East, too , Lord Kirnan had worked on building an Eastern Temple for those of the Priesthood and their families who had chosen to live in the East, and creating a City at the Eastern Harbour. Trade thrived between the two continents, and the Lord of the East was a member of the Council-at-Need.
Most of the streets and houses of the City had been completed and occupied, but even now, after many years, some building was still going on, though the City was nearing its final completion. It had engulfed the original small town surrounding the Harbour, and the House of the Lord of the Harbour, where Brann and Tamorine lived with their family, by the Harbour Gates, had been enlarged, and had built next to it the garrison for the Harbour Watch.A large paved area had been added, behind the security of the Harbour Gates, where a market was held, restocked when the ships from the East arrived bearing fresh cargo.
Now they were looking down on the City from the Temple steps, here at the Temple not for the usual prayers, but because Rafel, now High Priest of Light, had summoned them, saying he had something to tell them. The Lightstone-Bearer was elderly now, and Brann wondered if he intended to appoint another as Lightstone-Bearer. They turned and went into the great, airy, columned building, and down one of the aisles between the circular rows of benches to join Rafel in front of the Crucible, with its high, steady golden flame. Rafel turned to smile at them and greet them. There were a few worshippers in the Temple, and some of the Priests about their tasks, but it was not full as it would be at the times of the Morning and Evening Prayers. Brann, after returning the Lightstone-Bearer’s greeting, said, “You summoned us, Rafel. Is there a problem?” Rafel did not answer that, but said, “I have received a visitor, Brann. Mihel.” Brann was startled. The Spirit-in-Light had met with them all only once more after Brann and Tamorine had married, to tell them that now that the Darkness was defeated and the Priesthood establishing the Way of Light in Li’is, he was called back to the Courts of Light in the Joyous Place. “Though I will be watching over the Lightstone-Bearer, and the ones to come” he had added. That was the last they had seen of the Shining One, and Brann wondered if his appearing to Rafel now was a cause for concern.
Seeing that he was about to question further, Rafel said, “Wait, Brann. Come with me to the Prayer Room”. Brann and Tamorine followed him to the Prayer Room, and once inside, he shut and locked the door, and turned to operate the secret mechanism, concealed in one of the lampstands, that opened the way to the chamber below. Brann and Tamorine followed him down the stairs, and were surprised to see that the familiar door of the Council-at-Need’s chamber had been replaced by a new one, made of dark wood, with the Symbol of the One Light, which was also the shape of the Lightstone pendant, three intersecting flames forming an oval at their base, set into the door about two-thirds of the way up. Brann realised that the metal forming the outline of the Symbol was the same as that of the Lightstone pendant, metal found only in Ma’al, and was intrigued. He could see no keyhole, and was about to question Rafel about the new door when the Lightstone-Bearer withdrew from his robe a strange rod of some translucent crystalline substance, bound top and bottom with more metal of Ma’al. He inserted this into the oval at the base of the Symbol on the door, and the door opened. Rafel explained, “This door and its key were made in Ma’al, as the Lightfriends there were directed by Mihel, and brought here by the Dancers, along with one other thing which you will see”. They entered the room, and Brann saw that the table and chairs which stood in it for use by the Council when necessary had been moved to one side, and in the centre of the room something else now stood. It was like a much smaller version of the Crucible and its dais in the main Temple, but instead of a Crucible, it was topped by a dome of the same crystalline material as the mysterious key to this room.
Tamorine exclaimed, “Rafel, what is the meaning of all this? Is there danger for Li’is from the Darkness?” Brann, who had been surveying the room, also had a question. “There are six who form the Council-at-Need, the High Priest of Light, the Lords of the Harbour, the Mountains, the Western Fortress and the East, and the Ket, Lord of the Ketai. But now there are seven chairs at the table. Who is the seventh? Is it Mihel?” Rafel said, “There is no danger to Li’is now, but there will be, many years in the future. That is what Mihel has told me, and he has brought me instructions. There is a prophecy, but it concerns only my descendants, and yours. It is to be written down secretly and passed down among us, the Keepers. That is why I called you here, to explain all this, and give you instructions too. As to the seventh chair, there will be a new member of the Council, one designated by the Dancers.” “The Dancers!” Brann exclaimed, “Will a Dancer join the Council?” “No”, Rafel replied. “The Dancers have learned that there may be danger to them too, when this prophecy comes to be fulfilled. They have decreed that a Gatehouse will be built in the North to guard the way to the Meeting Place, so that none can approach them without their approval, and a pass issued by the Priesthood. One of the Priesthood will be appointed Gatekeeper, and the Gatekeeper will be a member of the Council, and bring any contribution the Dancers wish to make to its deliberations.” He paused, and Tamorine asked, “Has Mihel said who will be appointed Lightstone-Bearer after you? Will it be your son?” “No”, Rafel answered, “there will be no Lightstone-Bearer to follow me. The Lightstone will be kept hidden here until this prophecy – the Secret Word – comes to be fulfilled. Only then will there be a new Lightstone-Bearer, and it is he who will take up the fight against the Dark Lords and the Night Lords.”
“This is all most mysterious!”, Tamorine said, “I see how it concerns the Priesthood closely, but how does it concern our descendants, Rafel?” ” To begin with, Tamella is betrothed to my grandson Irinel, and their descendants will be High Priests of Light. It is one of those descendants who will be the Lightstone-Bearer, but only because he has first been deceived by Darkness and must undo what that deceit has caused. It is all written in the Secret Word. And then, that Lightstone-Bearer will need, as I did, a True Sword. He too will come from among your descendants, a Swordsman of the City, or maybe the Mountains or the Western Fortress. That I have not been told.” “Then the True Sword must be hidden away also?” Brann asked. “Yes”, Rafel said. He turned to the strange domed object and inserted the crystal rod somewhere at its base, and it split into four parts and opened like a flower. From inside the mechanism he took a bundle wrapped in vivid crimson cloth and a wooden box, bound in metal and inscribed with metal lettering. “These are the gifts for the next Lightstone-Bearer”, he said. Brann and Tamorine watched as he placed the objects on the Council table. Rafel unwrapped the bundle and they saw a flattish carrying-case. Tamorine said, “That is a harp-case, a minstrel’s instrument. What has that to do with the LIghtstone?” Rafel said, “It is no ordinary instrument, Tamorine. This is the Harp Not Yet Played, made in Ma’al to Mihel’s instructions. It never will be played, until it comes to the new Lightstone-Bearer. He will need it for the Lightstone Way. The Priests of Light have musicians among them, who make music to honour and praise Light, and he will be one such.” “And the box?” Brann asked. “Read the inscription”, Rafel said. Brann lifted the box, and saw that the inscription was in the Old Tongue. He glanced at Rafel, who said, “The Priesthood have learned the Old Tongue now, and it is our task, and that of the Lordly families of Li’is, to keep it alive. It will be needed.” Brann nodded, and read the inscription on the box aloud. “Bear it in Light, and bear it well.” “What does it mean?” Tamorine asked. Rafel said, “When I touch Light, the Lightstone will be placed in this box, and sealed under this dome, with the Harp Not Yet Played. There it will remain until the Doom of Dark’s Passing falls on the next Lightstone-Bearer, as is foretold in the Secret Word.” He took the box from Brann, wrapped up the harp-case again, and placed both objects back under the dome, which he then closed.
Brann asked, “Are we to hear this Secret Word, Rafel?” The Lightstone-Bearer answered, “Yes. But first, do you remember this?” He had turned to the shelving behind him and lifted down a long, narrow box. Brann said, “Yes, I remember. It held the True Sword.” Rafel said, “The True Sword must also be kept apart. You are the True Sword until you touch Light, but then the Sword must be placed in this box, and taken to the Mountain Fortress for safe keeping.” “It will not stay here?” Tamorine asked. “The Temple is no armoury”, Rafel replied. “You know that the Priesthood are forbidden weapons, and weapons cannot be brought into the Temple.” He turned back to the racks of shelves, and said, “I will show you the Secret Word, now. It is not clear, and even I do not understand it all, but then it is not meant for us. Our task is to keep the knowledge of it alive until it is needed. We, and our descendants, are the Keepers, as Mihel said.” When he turned back to them, he had a scroll in his hand, and he said, “Be seated, and I will read you the prophecy.” Brann and Tamorine obeyed, seating themselves at the Council table, and Rafel unrolled the scroll and read aloud, in the Old Tongue: “Darkness shall appear as Light, guilt as innocence. He is not judged guilty who lets it pass, being innocent of Night’s purpose. Yet to him falls this Way, the doom of Dark’s passing.
In hope and in Light let him go and carry Light with him. Light will empower him against the Darkness.
Let him seek a true sword for companion, a lover of Light, also treasures of the Mountains, ebony and red gold, melody and healing.
Let him keep faith with Light that the lesser light may survive.
Let him hold the harmony of Light against Dark melodies.
And from this shall come a strange thing; Dark and Light in one spirit, a soul divided. He shall hear the Child of Night cry mercy of Light, and Dark powers shall be laid at the feet of Light. Hate shall be transformed to love, and pain to joy.
Before his times end, he shall see two and two and times and Time out of their place, but all for good: Light’s judgement on the Dark World, an end, and a beginning.”
When Rafel had finished reading, Brann and Tamorine, who had been listening intently, each took a quick breath. Brann said “That is a strange word indeed, and beyond our understanding, save that it speaks of future peril, for Li’is, and for those who undertake this Way.” Tamorine said, “It will be hard for whoever this Way falls upon. I wish we could speak to them, and tell them how Light has brought us through the battle with the Dark Lord.” “Perhaps we can”, Brann said. “Rafel, would it be permitted for us to write some lines of encouragement, to go with the Secret Word? It may be that if our descendants know of our victory in Light, our words might help them in their struggle.” Rafel smiled. “It is permitted”, he said, “but use the Old Tongue.” He turned once more to the rack of shelves and brought out a blank scroll and writing materials. “Tell me what you wish to say”, he requested. “I will write it in this scroll, and you shall sign it. Then I will put the Temple seal on it later, and keep it with the scroll of the Secret Word.” Brann and Tamorine conferred for a few minutes, then Brann began, “Write this for us, Rafel ; We write this for the future generations of our line, and the Lightfriend Rafel’s..,” he carried on dictating to Rafel, with interventions from Tamorine, telling briefly of their victory and the prophecy, and finishing with words of encouragement and blessing. When their letter was written, they signed it, first Brann, his signature bold and firm, “Brann, Lord of the Forest, and of the Harbour”, then Tamorine, her signature more flowing, “and Tamorine of the Mountains, his Lady”. “There”, Brann said, “I feel easier now we have done what we can to encourage the new Lightstone-Bearer, whoever he may be.”
“You see now why we must keep the Old Tongue alive”, Rafel said. ” As far as all of Li’is is concerned, it will be kept as the language of ceremony, but when the time comes for the new Lightstone-Bearer to arise, he must be able to read the Secret Word. It cannot be written in the common speech, for any to read.” “That is clear”, Brann said. “I know that your family speak the Old Tongue, and they can teach it to their own families in time”, Rafel continued. “We taught them as part of their heritage”, Brann answered, “not knowing this would happen. No doubt Light prompted us, though we did not know it.” “The ways of Light are not always to be known”, Rafel responded, “but I agree, Brann. ” He sighed, and said, “We cannot know how many years, how many generations, will pass before the Secret Word comes to pass. It would take the Dark Lords many centuries to make another way into Li’is by their sorceries, and in that time much may be forgotten, or turn to myth and legend. We must ensure that our families, the Keepers, know the importance of what is passed down through them, that it does not become mere ritual to them. It is vital that when the time comes, they are prepared.” “We will make sure of that”, Brann said, “and the Ket, the Lord of the East, and the Gatekeeper – the other members of the Council – do they know of the Secret Word?” “They know of its existence”, Rafel answered, “though not its content, and they too will pass on that knowledge. We do not know from which of the Council the next Lightstone-Bearer may need help.” He sighed again, and said, “We have done all we can now – save one thing. We will go into the Temple , and pray – and remember to keep in our prayers – that the Lightstone-Bearer to come will be upheld and strengthened by Light in his task.” As they followed Rafel back to the Temple, Tamorine said, “I wonder what they will be like, these descendants of ours and Rafel’s, Lightstone-Bearer and True Sword?” “That we cannot know”, Brann answered his Lady, ” unless Light grants that we meet some far day in the Joyous Place, and hear their story. But till then, as Rafel says, we can only commit them to Light, and pray for their success, for on that depends the future and freedom of Li’is.”