In celebration of the release of Jane Yolen’s THE EMERALD CIRCUS, Tachyon presents glimpses from some of the volume’s magnificent tales.
by Jane Yolen
room in the smithy was lit only by the flickering of the fire as
Mother Hesta pumped the bellows with her foot. A big woman, whose
right arm was more muscular than her left, Hesta seemed comfortable
with tools rather than with words. The air from the bellows blew up a
sudden large flame that had a bright blue heart.
When the flames be as long as an arrow and the
heart of the arrowhead be blue, thrust the blade in,” she said,
speaking to the new apprentice.
shifted from one foot to another, rubbing the upper part of her right
arm where the brand of Eve still itched. Then she twisted one of her
braids up and into her mouth, sucking on the end while she watched,
but saying nothing.
see me do this again and again, girl,” the forge mistress said.
“But it be a year afore I let you try it on your own. For now, you
must watch and listen and learn. Fire and water and air make Evian
steel, fire and water and air. They be three of the four majorities.
And one last thing—though I’ll not tell you that yet, for that be
our dearest secret. But harken: what be made by the Daughters of Eve
strikes true. All men know this and that be why they come here, crost
the waters, for our blades. They come, hating it that they must, but
knowing only at our forge on this holy isle can they buy this steel.
It be the steel that cuts through evil, that strikes the heart of
what it seeks.”
girl nodded and her attention blew upon the small fire of words.
matters not, child, that we make a short single edge, or what the old
Romies called a glagy-us.
It matters not we make a long blade or a double
edge. If it be Evian steel, it strikes true.” She brought the side
of her hand down in a swift movement which made the girl blink twice,
but otherwise she did not move, the braid still in her mouth.
Hesta turned her back on the child and returned to work, the longest
lecture done. Her muscles under the short-sleeved tunic bunched and
flattened. Sweat ran over her arms like an exotic chain of water
beads as she hammered steadily on the sword, flattening, shaping,
beating out the swellings and bulges that only her
eye could see, only her fingers could find. The
right arm beat, the left arm, with its fine traceries of scars, held.
a while, the girl’s eyes began to blink with weariness and with the
constant probings of the irritating smoke. She dropped the braid and
it lay against her linen shirt limply, leaving a slight wet stain.
She rubbed both eyes with her hands but she was careful not to
Hesta did not seem to notice, but she let the fire die down a bit and
laid the partially finished sword on the stone firewall. Wiping her
grimed hands on her leather apron, she turned to the girl.
fair famished, I am. Let’s go out to garden where Mother Sonda’s
set us a meal.”
For more info on THE EMERALD CIRCUS, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover design by Elizabeth Story