FROM THE JOURNALS OF THE TERRAN
I had stared thoughtfully at the Admiral as he concluded his stirring tale of how Jer’ok and Amber finally came to be united in a love that transcended the call of three different planets.
The Diyalan has not changed much since the long days we passed together on that dreary planetoid. In the haze of the crowded Ashtarian cantina, he sat back, smoking that inevitable pipe. His hair, like mine, is only slightly graying.
It makes him look quite distinguished!
He now sports a neatly trimmed beard that only adds to the effect. The eyes of all who entered were drawn to him but swiftly turned away, especially if his own hard gaze met theirs.
The legend of Jer’ok seems to move the Admiral deeply. And it is strangely contagious. Tonight, I toyed with the condensation at the base of my beaker, wondering which question I might ask first. Past experience has warned me that the wrong question will bring down a moody silence wholly impenetrable. This time, however, I was spared chancing the silent treatment.
“Leede and Amber enjoyed a long and very special marriage,” the Admiral mused, “but Jer’ok was never truly content on Chimur. He preferred Ashtar, even at her worst.”
I have tried to picture what the Primeval Planet of Jer’ok’s time must have been like – before it was opened to normal trade and colonization and to the inevitable exploitation, though that all-too-human propensity was fortunately tempered before our time. But my interest is exclusively in the unique couple who had somehow managed to survive and prosper on both Ashtar and Chimur.
Tonight the Admiral provided the opening I wanted. I asked what became of their son and whether there were other children. To my surprise, the Admiral’s brow creased, either in thought or from some painful recollection. He did not answer at first. It turned out there is reason. He finally talked at length, but more to himself than to me.
I will long remember the major points, if not the detail.
While Jer’ok and Amber had been destined for each other – truly soulmates from before the time either was born – happiness was elusive and to be found almost exclusively in each other. Blane was the one child who survived.
And it seems Blane was kidnaped or otherwise lost – the Admiral was not clear and was not receptive to my pursuing detail – while in his youth. Both Lord and Lady Charwick themselves disappeared, apparently to Ashtar, for months and were counted as dead, only to return to Meridum much later without their son and with eyes that had become haunted. No explanation of the events proceeding from Blane’s loss to his parents’ return to Chimur was forthcoming tonight, but one thing had been clear to their friends: the bond of love between Leede and Amber was even stronger when they returned to Meridum and Battersea.
A second son was born at some point, only to die under mysterious circumstances, probably on Ashtar. I suspect there were other losses, as well.
Blane was eventually restored to his family and grew to be a fine heir to Charwick, often acting on his father’s behalf among the Council of Lords during Leede Southerly’s frequent and lengthy absences from Chimur. But Blane’s life, like that of his father, was marked by a variety of hardships. But hardship was for the younger man the fire by which he was forged into the true son of his strong-willed, extraordinary father.
It appears Blane actually relived much of Jer’ok’s life on Ashtar, deepening the understanding between father and son as nothing else could have done. Somehow it also helped Amber to accept the father’s long absences.
Blane married into Guy Locke’s family – Ashanti, a girl he had met in Camassia.
Noticing my raised eyebrow at his phrase, “the father’s long absences,” the Admiral admitted that Jer’ok, while entirely capable of assuming the persona of Leede Southerly of Tuatha, continued to be utterly miserable whenever long-confined to Chimur’s civilization. He returned to Ashtar whenever he could. Though Amber increasingly joined him there, Jer’ok often disappeared alone into the jungles of Ashtar for protracted periods.
The Admiral has taken a surprising new tack. To him it is Amber who is the heroine of the legend of Jer’ok-ta – in more than the traditional sense of the swooning maiden faced with the inevitable fate worse than death and fluttering innocent lashes of prodigious length at the poor, besotted hero.
Amber learned to overcome her terror of Ashtar and became a fit mate for the jungle creature she had accepted as husband. She was always there whenever Jer’ok most needed her love and courage. Just how difficult it was actually to live the legend of Jer’ok-ta she revealed only to her close friend, Guy Locke, whose friendship with Jer’ok continued to thrive. It was often Locke who supported Amber when Jer’ok was not at her side. Such is the reality behind the legend: Reality, unfortunately, is never quite so appealing as myth or legend.
At the Admiral’s revelation, many interesting new questions come unbidden but promptly to mind. I wonder just how close Guy Locke became. My own interpretation of what I am being told, for whatever it may be worth, is that the Diyalan secretly loved Amber but never presumed to reveal his true feelings to her.
It no doubt would have been an unselfish love. I wonder if it could have been long hidden from Jer’ok.
But I recall that concealment would have been impossible, given the beast-man’s powers of perception.
It all adds a certain poignancy that no self-respecting legend has been without since those ancient days of King Artur. A single glance toward the Admiral, however, told me that this is a sensitive area, closed to discussion no sooner than it was opened. I still think I detected the slightest hint of discomfort in the Admiral’s schooled face, as though the man has revealed more than he intended. Interesting!
Going along with the Admiral’s consistent implications that Jer’ok is not entirely legend, I ingenuously inquired where he might be found today. The Admiral smiled in appreciation of my inference, but he shook his head.
“No one, not even Guy Locke, knows. Like all good legendary figures, Jer’ok is now inseparable from Ashtar herself, among those who are of the Gemini system.”
There followed a long, thoughtful silence between us, not at all awkward. The Admiral puffed at that pipe, and I sipped without much interest at my drink. We both observed the comings and goings of humankind from throughout the galaxy. It was a comfortable passage of time that neither of us cared to measure.
The cantina began to clear. The music of the exotic combo dwindled and then quit altogether. It was time for the Admiral and me to go our separate ways. We were both reluctant to bring this companionable encounter to an end, but this time at least we have already arranged for our next session – barring unforeseen circumstances in our uncertain careers. As the Admiral tapped the tobacco from his pipe, I eyed him suspiciously – not for the first time.
“Interesting coincidence that your name should be Locke. Any relation?”
There, I asked it!
His smile was as enigmatic as any of which his Jer’ok of the Hunterfolk might be accused. The smile is the only answer I got from him.
“We of Gemini are all related,” he commented unhelpfully.
I grinned in response. I, at least, was certain, but for a second time this evening I had no intention of pursuing a matter. The admiral is as a private a man as the – legendary – Jer’ok-ta.
I. Dreamings 1
II. Meridum 9
III. Battersea 18
IV. Ashtar 26
V. Rescue 35
VI. Companions 44
VII. Aranda 51
VIII. Sanaca 59
IX. Strategy 64
X. Disaster 70
XI. Captured 78
XII. Honour 87
XIII. Reinforcements 98
XIV. Solitude 106
XV. Choices 114
XVI. Homecoming 121
Epilogue: From the Journals of the Terran 128
DJ Howell: Intro/Contents
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