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The Ecliptor
Book Four Of The The Black Ring
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ISBN-10: 1-77115-418-7
Genre: Fantasy/SF/Dark Fantasy
eBook Length: 438 Pages
Published: July 2018

From inside the flap

Jeanette has learned how to go from one reality to another, under her own power. She goes, even before a call, to worlds which the Arkenome is attempting to destroy. There is never any explanation for why he does this. Sometimes she prevents the destruction, sometimes she rescues only survivors, and sometimes she fails.

Her companions travel with her, and some die. She has learned super-human skills, which donít always work. She has destroyed a powerful Arkenome, only to see him replaced by another, who is stronger, more dangerous, more powerful, and more ruthless. She has learned that Arkenomes, and those who want to be, are guided by a super-cosmic intelligence, which will always find another agent if one is lost.

This is the Ecliptor, and she decides to go after it directly, to stop the creation of new enemies, and must somehow get the Arkenome to lead her to it. She and her companions do everything they can to drive him to seek his masters help. She taunts him, evades him, disrupts his perverse pleasure places, turns his slave world against him, pursues him to target worlds and interrupts him before he gets started.

And then, at last, when it seems that she has succeeded, she learns that even the Ecliptor has a master of a higher order. Must she dominate the Ecliptor first? Or can she go directly to his master?

The Ecliptor (Excerpt)

Part Nine: The Hunter

Chapter Sixty One: A World in Ruins

She lay beside him in the night, half entwined with him. They had pushed the beds together firmly, so that there was no chance of slipping into the crack between them. She was happier than she could remember ever being, physically relaxed and content, linked so closely to Tondorre that she could almost share his mind. Almost. Close enough.

They were together, committed to each other, and would not have to say goodbye. They would be going together -

But not home. Not his home, or her home, or a new home they would build together, but back to the pursuit of her enemy, of their enemy, back to conflict and danger in some strange place.

She could not give it up. No matter how much she wanted to stay here, or anywhere domestic, there was too much invested in her. Her happiness and content became tinged with regret. She could take him home where he could help her run the bookstore. Or she could go with him off on his minor adventures until they found a place that suited them. Or she could accept her responsibility. There wasn't any question, really.

He pulled back from her a little, just enough so he could see her face. He was as aware of her conflict and uncertainty as she was of his concern for her and the subtle anxiousness that he might somehow be at fault. His eyes searched her face and he said, "Are you all right?"

It took her a few seconds to find her answer. "We have to go on."

He put his hand on her cheek, then brushed her hair off her forehead. "I know."

Her happiness became sorrow. "I don't want to."

He kissed her forehead, the tip of her nose, her lips. "I know."

He pulled back again so they could see each other more easily. He was so beautiful.

"We could die," she said.

"I know. Once I make up my mind I don't think about it. It's part of the deal. But could you go back home now? Knowing that there's another Arkenome out there, doing terrible things to people? It would break you."

She untangled herself from him and rolled onto her back, then onto her other side. He stayed with her as only a lover could. After three heartbeats he put his hand on her waist. She liked that. He touched her self with his self, and she liked that too, so much that it almost hurt. "It would. I have to go."

"And I'm going with you. You don't have to go alone. Whatever happens, I'll be with you."

She sat up on the edge of the bed. There was just enough to light let her see the room. She knew that Tondorre was looking at her back, and liking what he saw. Some of it was erotic. Much of it was aesthetic, a masculine appreciation unfamiliar to her. But most of it was affection. She would do almost anything to save him from fear and strangeness and pain, except abandon her obligation. He knew that, and he was with her on that, and he supported her completely.

Everything would be different now. "Come with me," she said.

She let herself become aware of the greater reality, timeless, dimensionless, a meaningless context for everything that had meaning. She gave him a subjective moment to perceive it as it was. He didn't understand it any more than she did, though he had been into it with her. That was okay. She chose a metaphor, something not completely incomprehensible, something they could talk about and work with together.

It was a weave of all that was, long strands and short, twisted, or knotted, or just crossing, or not touching at all. She chose another metaphor, a vast structure of places and the pathways between them, platforms and walkways, with a center and an outside. Or another, a white space plane, the intersection of what was with what was not. Or a new image, the growing face of a crystal, of a vast but surprisingly not infinite number of crystals, each face the present of a different world. Or it was a sea of possibility, out of which grew the worlds of mundane reality. Looked at this way, she saw that her own world was so close to this one that she could almost reach out and touch it.

It makes me feel so small, was his unspoken thought.

Everything is small compared to this. Even worlds as vast as yours and mine are mere specks of dust in all of this. But we are a part of the pattern, and worlds like ours give it meaning.

Their perception had nothing to do with the senses. It was all an intellectual construct, a product of the imagination that was, nonetheless, absolutely real. They did not hang in a void. She was sitting on a bed, and he was lying beside her. There was no darkness, no light, no direction, only existence. Time did not flow, it grew, and her perception in the mundane world was only of the growing tip.

Everything was different now. Tondorre was so close that they all but overlapped, sharing awareness, almost sharing thought as they could not do in a mundane reality, even as closely linked as they were. He was sorting things out, keeping her metaphors distinct from each other, finding a way to see that they were all true at the same time. And he could do it, even as he clung to her.

He wasn't clinging, he was protecting her. It surprised her, and it pleased her. She was protecting him too, and he knew that. She was the hero, and he was her companion. He was with her, not she with him. In time they would be equally with each other, each with their own strengths, their perceptions, their senses and abilities, protecting each other while she did what she had to do.

Right now what she had to do was find and get to the being called Diapollion, who styled itself the Ecliptor. That was all they knew. They had no hint of what Diapollion was, or where to look for him in the vastness of the greater reality, or which metaphor would serve them best. But they, she, had to start somewhere.

She thought of the evil she had known, the Arkenomes and the would-be Arkenomes, and the evil beings who did not need or use such appellations. Just plain people most of them, perverted by their cravings or their weaknesses, exploited by a greater power which seemed to have no power of its own in the mundane. It had to seduce and pervert a mortal for it to be its hands.

She had believed that there was just one Arkenome at a time, but perhaps she had dealt with only the most dangerous at the moment. The thought of a multitude of incompetent Arkenomes, fumbling their way to an evil they could never achieve, was laughable. Tondorre did laugh at it. It had to be just one at a time. That was a severe limitation. But it was like saying a freight locomotive was limited to having only two hundred cars of iron ore, and having to stay on the tracks. If you were standing in front of it as it bore down on you at ninety miles an hour, its limitations were meaningless.

Her guide had never actually touched the physical world. It had touched her mind, ever so lightly, had showed her how to do whatever needed doing. Or at least it had given her hints. How many other people could have been touched in that same way? How many had the same latent abilities? What made her different from all those other people? Even that first fall through her back yard into the cavern of blue flames must have been something she had done herself. If Diapollion was like her guide, then how would she ever find him, or her, or it, except by working through an Arkenome?

She knew of no higher order beings who could help her. Even Gedeon, a far greater being than those paltry authors of evil, could not do what she could, else there would have been no crisis in the wither. She looked for him and felt him, not in one place but in the whole of reality. He wasn't a creator, he was a guardian, of the principle of life, and of the death which was a part of life. He was helpless against what her enemy was doing.

She pulled back. Gedeon was too vast to be comprehended, and Tondorre had had no experiences to prepare him for such a being. Jeanette showed him where, inside herself, Gedeon had touched her that one time, and how, because of her, Gedeon was aware of him, and offered him, too, what protection he could. It wouldn't be much.

Where was her guide? What was her guide? Nothing like Gedeon. She was connected to her guide through the black ring, a connection of which she was almost never aware. She could follow that connection back - except that she couldn't, not now, she was not ready for that. There were secrets she would uncover eventually, but not now.

She looked for and found her companions, and those who were nearly her companions and, if she really worked at it, other people whom she had known, all out of context, like a dim photograph of scattered people, but with no background. Some of the people were those who were important to Tondorre in that special way, of which he had been aware only emotionally. She felt his yearning to see them again, and his acceptance that he almost certainly never would.

They were so few of those special people, of whatever kind or degree, compared to the vast but not infinite number of those whom they had never known, corporeal or spiritual. The Ecliptor was among them, but which one? That, of course, was the problem to be solved. But not tonight.

She looked down at Tondorre, rather exotic, attractive to her beyond any meaning of that word. He looked back at her with an expression only she could see, that told her far more than words. She leaned down and kissed him, softly affectionate, only hinting at passion, and he kissed her back the same way. Then she lay down beside him so that her head rested on the hollow of his shoulder.

"Can we actually do this?" he asked. Then, "Can I say that? We?"