The Visitor (Book Excerpt)
by Sheri S. Tepper
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Page 2 of 2
It was True Mother who had introduced Dismé to the secret pleasure of early
mornings as seen from the ruined tower on the western wall, where a fragment of
floor and a bit of curved wall made an aerie open to the air.
On her way to the wall, Dismé made up an enchantment:
"Old wall, old wall,
defender of the Spared
lift me up into your
and let me see the morning."
In the solitude of the alley no one could hear her, so she sang the words, a
whisper that barely broke the hush. All the schoolchildren in Bastion were
taught the elements of sorcery, and Dismé often imagined what might happen if
she suddenly got The Art and said some marvelous enchantment by accident!
She began to embellish the tune, only to be stopped by a sound like a tough
fingernail flicking against a wineglass. Only a ping, but pings did not stay
only! Dismé turned her face away and hurried, pretending she had not heard it.
No use. Before her eyes, the dark air spun into a steely vortex of whirling
light with a vacancy at the center which was the ping itself. It made her head
hurt to look at it, and she averted her eyes as a voice from nowhere asked,
"What are you thinking?"
If she lied, it would ask again, more loudly, and then more loudly yet until
she answered truthfully or someone came to fetch her. Since being out alone in
the dark was forbidden, being fetched by anyone was a bad idea. She had to tell
the truth. If she could decide what it was!
"I was thinking about my father..." she ventured. She thought she had been
thinking of him, though the ping had driven all thoughts away for the
"What about him?"
"About...about his book." It was true! She had thought of it, not long
"What book is that?" asked the ping.
"One written by his ancestor."
"What does it..."
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Copyright© 2002, HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. This excerpt has been provided by HarperCollins and printed with their permission.