Tanith Lee

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We are the sum of our achievements, nothing more and nothing less. … What we create is the only part of us which can survive, or has the right to.

Tanith Lee (19 September 194724 May 2015) was a British writer of science fiction, horror and fantasy. She also wrote under the pseudonym Esther Garber.



Short fiction


Companions on the Road (1975)

All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Bantam Books, ISBN 0-553-12697-0
  • All in all he had not done badly out of the war, but the smells of it, the sights of it, and the cries of pain that attended it like the vultures, had sickened and soured him. Yes, he could fight well enough. And kill efficiently. He feared death, like other men, but could put that from his mind in battle, and he was no fool with a sword or knife. But several smoking ruins ago there had come a curious shift inside himself. He had lost his sense of purpose in the war; he supposed because it was not truly his own purpose but that of the King.
    • Chapter 1, “Avillis” (p. 4)
  • Odd, how different different men’s fears could be.
    • Chapter 1, “Avillis” (p. 7)
  • He had been too near the hard facts of religions as a child to find it soothing.
    • Chapter 1, “Avillis” (p. 8)
  • Wealth, or large amounts of possessions seemed to him limiting. They brought their own prison with them. He preferred, since he had once known a kind of prison, to travel free.
    • Chapter 2, “The Chalice” (p. 16)
  • For an instant a half-formed prayer struggled into Havor’s mouth. But he could not utter it. Not for himself. For him those words were already drowned by the noise the thong-whip had made, or the sounds of children crying out of hunger or the cold or sheer misery in that grey house of orphans in the far North, eight years ago.
    • Chapter 7, “The Snow-Waste” (p. 69)
  • I know the old ways. There’s nothing evil there, only strange, and not even strange when you know it.
    • Chapter 9, “The Dark” (p. 98)

The Winter Players (1976)

All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Bantam Books, ISBN 0-553-12697-0
  • When you fell in the sea, you should have heard them cheer. I made them rope the yard and fish you up. I said a ducking in water washes the witch-skill out of a woman until next full moon, and it would be bad luck to let you drown. How about that for a clever story? They’d believe anything if you make it sound silly enough.
    • Chapter 3, “Red Ship” (p. 136)
  • Spells are words, and words are merely noises. You are the sorceress, not your instruction. Don’t limit yourself.
    • Chapter 5, “Black Room, Black Road” (p. 157)
  • There were clouds like sharks with open jaws in the sky that morning.
    • Chapter 6, “Blue Cave” (p. 170)

Perfidious Amber (1979)

Originally appeared in Andrew J. Offutt (ed.), Swords Against Darkness V (1979)
  • Let us prove to the world that superstition is idiocy and all the demons are dust.
    • p. 40

Into Gold (1986)

Originally appeared in the March 1986 issue of Asimov's Science Fiction magazine, and often reprinted
  • “Sometimes, Skorous,” Draco said, “you are a fool.”
    “Sometimes I am not alone in that.”
Page number from the Magic Quest edition published by Tempo Books ISBN 0-441-16621-0
  • We should go and ask the princess for help. She seems very nice, and she’s much too beautiful to be unkind.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 110)
All page numbers from the first edition published by Daw Books
Nominated for the 1976 Nebula Award.
  • White was the most fashionable color among the nobility and the rich. Because, of course, white is so easily dirtied, and only the wealthy would do little enough that it could not be spoiled.
    • Book One, Part IV “Ankurum”, Chapter 5 (p. 108)
  • It’s legend now, but legend is the smoke from the fire, and the wood that the fire consumes is the substance.
    • Book Two, Part I “Across the Ring”, Chapter 2 (p. 151)
  • Now there was that look of waiting, and submission—not the frenzy of the stadium, but the quiet sleep-trance of belief. Something stirred in me at it, as I realized I had them in my palm. I stood very still in my white and black, holding the copper things in my hands, and then I began to walk between them toward the god. And I laughed at the god as I went toward him. You—what are you? And he had no answer for me, for here it was the priest who was the power, not the god, poor empty stone.
    • Book Two, Part I “Across the Ring”, Chapter 3 (p. 155)
  • I raised my arms as if in prayer and heard the mutter of response behind me. Then I scattered the dried grains, red and brown and black, and studied the patterns they formed on the stone ledge before Sibbos. This is not such a mystic thing. You see what it is sensible to see, or else you interpret what you see so that the meaning comes out as you want it.
    • Book Two, Part I “Across the Ring”, Chapter 3 (p. 155)
  • Sickness, the serpent, is coming to bite you,
    Death, the old dark man, is coming to carry you off,
    Rest uneasy, you stinking carrion, on your gold beds.
    • Book Two, Part II “The Water”, Chapter 1 (p. 170)
  • “What do I care for the god?” the woman suddenly screamed, catching up her dead child. “What god is he that takes away my son and leaves me nothing?”
    • Book Two, Part II “The Water”, Chapter 1 (p. 173)
  • I should have felt pity, but I felt only contempt. I knew had it been a girl she would have mourned less, and it angered me.
    • Book Two, Part II “The Water”, Chapter 1 (p. 173)
  • And now, Uastis, get up. This room is architecturally designed to please the eye, and your present position mars it for me.
    • Book Two, Part III “The Dark City”, Chapter 2 (p. 191)
  • Strange, that when we feel we understand all things, we understand nothing. Strange, that when we feel we understand nothing, we have begun, at last, to understand.
    • Book Two, Part III “The Dark City”, Chapter 3 (p. 200)
  • I do not know why it distressed me so much to see an animal die when human death did not move me. Perhaps because they were more beautiful, and there is no corruption in them, while in the best of men there can always be found some guilt or wickedness which seems to have earned him death.
    • Book Two, Part IV “War March”, Chapter 3 (p. 246)
  • Anxiety grew, the fear that always comes when an established pattern falters.
    • Book Two, Part IV “War March”, Chapter 7 (p. 268)
  • We are the sum of our achievements, nothing more and nothing less. The mountain road which led us here was built by a dead people none of us would remember otherwise. What we create is the only part of us which can survive, or has the right to. Man is nothing, except to other men.
    • Book Two, Part V “Tower-Eshkorek”, Chapter 3 (p. 303)
  • Vazkor had picked his creatures well—narrow, unintelligent men, good fighters, unafraid because they had no imagination, loyal because they responded to their own sense, and until now, there had always been enough food and wine, women and prestige; trustworthy in this last extremity because the old order had been good to them, and Vazkor seemed able to restore it.
    • Book Two, Part V “Tower-Eshkorek”, Chapter 4 (p. 305)
  • I would be a drudge now, among the tents, and I would kneel before the warriors, and run from them when they shouted at me. I would be a woman, as women were reckoned in this place, a half-souled, witless animal, created to bear and pleasure men: an afterthought of the god.
    • Book Three, Part I “Snake’s Road”, Chapter 2 (p. 323)
  • “When will they fight?” I asked.
    “Tomorrow. Daybreak. It is man’s work.”
    I laughed. “I too have fought and killed, Kotta. It is the work of fools, not men.”
    • Book Three, Part I “Snake’s Road”, Chapter 3 (p. 333)
  • True beauty is always oddly surprising.
    • Book Three, Part II “The Edge of the Sea”, Chapter 2 (p. 353)
  • I cried out. I turned the pages, one after the other, in a frenzy. I could not believe what I saw, would not believe it. For the pages of the book were blank.
    Oh, yes, there had been writing, this much I could see, but the inks had faded. Now there were only faint smudges and marks here and there on the yellowness. And I could tell nothing from them…
    It came to me, as I walked, how bitter the irony of the Book had been which had said: Herein the Truth. For it had a truth of its own in its bleached barrenness. What was truth except something which faded, lost its shape, grew unreadable and indistinguishable, at last a blank page for men to write on what they wished.
    • Book Three, Part II “The Edge of the Sea”, Chapter 2 (p. 357)
  • “All my life,” I said, “knowledge has come to me for which I was not ready.”
    • Book Three, Part III “Inside the Hollow Star”, Chapter 1 (p. 379)
  • “Uasti was a good teacher,” he said. “She made you look a little way into yourself, see what you could become.”
    • Book Three, Part III “Inside the Hollow Star”, Chapter 5 (p. 402)
  • “Don’t judge yourself,” he said. “None of us are ever good at it.”
    • Book Three, Part III “Inside the Hollow Star”, Chapter 5 (p. 402)
  • “Now you understand,” Rarm said to me. “It was the last cut against yourself to become convinced of your own hideousness. You held to it and nurtured it, and even identified with the devil goddess of Orash in your determination to be accursed. And it never occurred to you that perhaps you saw a false image under the mountain.”
    • Book Three, Part III “Inside the Hollow Star”, Chapter 5 (p. 405)
  • I am alone. No one stands beside me. I have no Dark Prince to ride in my chariot, to walk with me, to hold me to him. I have no one. And yet. I myself, at last, I have myself. And to me, at this time, it seems enough. It seems more, much more, than enough.
    • Book Three, Part III “Inside the Hollow Star”, Chapter 6 (p. 408; closing words)
All page numbers from the first edition published by Daw Books
  • “Is it the regency you want, or me?”
    “The regency. You, sweetheart, are the worthless dross that comes with it.”
    • Book 1, “The Amber Witch” Chapter 3 (p. 47)
  • “Anackire asks nothing because she needs nothing, being everything,” Raldnor said tightly, using a quotation of the temple.
    The Ommos laughed gently and shook his head.
    “Such undemanding gods.”
    • Book 2, “Ruins and Bright Towers” Chapter 5 (p. 79)
  • “I think Kathaos fears no divine forces.”
    “Then he’s a brave man.”
    “Oh, men make their own gods,” Yannul remarked. “I have a god with a fat belly, and a house full of expensive women to attend his every need, and I call him Yannul the Lan in Five Years from This.”
    • Book 3, “The Meteoric Hero” Chapter 9 (p. 117)
  • A man hunted only for food or clothing or in self-defense. It was another mark of the effete and the sadistic to take life as a sport.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 155)
  • Such an accusation is as stupid as it is absurd.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 160)
  • A day out from the bay of Saardos, Drokler honored the brass Rorn god in the prow with a pound of incense.
    The blank god mask stared back at them through the pall of sweet blue smoke....It gazed in myopic stillness out over the long shock of the waves, ignoring their words, their presence, their costly offering.
    • Book 4, “Hell’s Blue Burning Seas” Chapter 15 (p. 208)
  • What a son I’ve made. The midwives must have turned me in my labor so that I lay on your brain and crushed it.
    • Book 5, “The Serpent Wakes” Chapter 21 (p. 286)
  • There was no room in him for curiosity; The capacity for observation had long since starved on the aridness of his soul.
    • Chapter 22 (p. 303)
  • “I have a plan,” said Xaros, “improbable only in its genius.”
    • Chapter 22 (p. 310)
  • Men think for themselves when they’re men.
    • Book 6, “Sunrise” Chapter 25 (p. 343)
All page numbers from the first edition published by Daw Books
  • Thinta flew safely, and I realized how much I preferred being with Hergal and feeling the blood drain out of my head with fright. Actually when I’m with Hergal I always realize how much I prefer being with Thinta and not feeling the blood drain out of my head with fright.
    • Part 1, Chapter 3 (p. 22)
  • Anyhow, I arrived, and I did feel pretty weird, actually, as if I’d left something behind. My head or something.
    • Part 1, Chapter 4 (p. 28)
  • “Can I appeal?”
    “Oh yes.”
    “Will it do any good?”
    “None whatsoever.”
    • Part 1, Chapter 4 (p. 28)
  • “Sorry,” I said sweetly, “I’m the new one with the quick temper and the uncontrollable homicidal tendencies.”
    • Part 3, Chapter 8 (p. 96)
  • They were very careful and kind. So careful and kind it was positively tactless and spiteful.
    • Part 4, Chapter 1 (p. 114)
  • I began to feel lighthearted. Don’t ever do that; it tempts some dark and evil force abroad in the universe.
    • Part 4, Chapter 4 (p. 122)
All page numbers from the first edition published by Daw Books
  • Somewhere in me was a rod of steel to which I clung. I’d had a vision, as good as any vision given to any poet, sage, or prophet in the past. I wasn’t elated, I wasn’t confident even, but somehow, I knew, and with the end of doubt had come the death of despair.
    • Part 1, Chapter 10 (p. 57)
  • It was, therefore, the sort of loveliness which is not perfect, but draws its charm from a measure of imbalance, which can accommodate flaws and make little of them, for a while at least.
    • Part 2, Chapter 1 (p. 60)
  • In the desert, initially, everywhere is like everywhere else—sky, sand, mountains. So far, this was the extent of what I’d seen in my involuntary roost. Then the day began to ebb, the world turned to topaz and gold, and the color of the sky seemed to sink away into the disc of the sun. I found I really could touch the beauty of it then, as I had touched its beauty so long ago when I was free to travel where I wished, and the city still owned me. Now, tinged with my sorrow, the loveliness was bittersweet, but strong as wine.
    • Part 2, Chapter 3 (pp. 69-70)
  • I see you laugh, and rightly so. What is this silly old fool rambling on about? Good for you. Never respect years, only deeds.
    • Part 3, Chapter 6 (p. 128)
  • “Like most loners,” said Moddik, “you carry the seeds of violent authority. Loners need to be bossy. They quickly learn it’s the only method they have of shoving people off their backs.”
    • Part 3, Chapter 8 (p. 137)
  • “Well now,” he said, “was I as good as you were when you were me?”
    • Part 3, Chapter 11 (p. 152)
All page numbers from the first edition published by Daw Books ISBN 0-87997-312-9
  • The sun in his golden chariot had driven almost to the last meadow of the sky.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 9; opening line)
  • “‘Not everything that walks is a man,’” said the boulder conversationally, “‘and not everything that lies quiet is a stone,’ as the wolf remarked when the serpent bit him.”
    • Chapter 1 (p. 12)
  • Kernik had stumbled on an immutable truth, a truth older than the world. Priests claimed the gods made men, but this was not so. Men made the gods. Firstly, by forming them in clay, by chipping them from stone. Secondly, and more importantly, by believing in them, believing in them utterly.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 52)
  • Night, the dark widow, came walking on the hills.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 69)
  • It was as easy to be alone with six kin as it is to be alone by yourself, and maybe easier.
    • Chapter 8 (pp. 73-74)
  • Who knew? If the illusion is quite perfect, who is to say it is not real?
    • Chapter 9 (p. 78)
  • When a road is very dark it is hard to see the milestones on it.
    • Chapter 9 (p. 78)
  • Tonight it was to be a play for aristocrats to watch, concerning gods and shepherds; it was the humble villages that clamored for princesses and emperors.
    • Chapter 9 (p. 84)
  • They say the promise of a witch is like a plain woman, seldom remembered.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 100)
  • Having failed, do you accept failure, saying only: Well, it is so. I will turn to other things? When night comes, do you accept the blackness of it, saying only: Well, it is so. I will turn and wait for morning? Or do you go on striving to light a candle against that dark however often the wind blows out the flame, however often the night returns?
    • Chapter 11 (p. 102)
  • This sight was terrible, more terrible than words convey, for words are cowards as men are, and hide things as men do.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 133)
  • Woana was the most talented, amazing and prodigious human in the world, and the most beautiful too. For Woana, if she had summoned them, those bright eyes in the sky would have danced down to earth; but naturally Woana was far too sophisticated to stoop to such a thing. Woana was, in fact, unrivalled, peerless. The reason being that Mitz belonged to her, and Mitz’s feline ego would never consider that anyone, but the most sublime, could have acquired her own exceptional self.
    • Chapter 17 (p. 144)
  • What Is, is, what Was, was, but what is To Be, may be otherwise.
    • Chapter 20 (p. 170)
  • The irony of her story is merely that her love became, in the end, her motive rather than her goal, the doorway rather than the house.
    • Chapter 22 (p. 192)
All page numbers from the mass market edition published by Tempo Books ISBN 0-441-18191-0
  • The moon walks east of midnight,
    The sun walks west of noon.
    And though I love you, sweetheart,
    I will not sing your tune.
    • Chapter 2, “Full Moon” (p. 24; often repeated)
  • Rewa was brave. At least, she was thick-witted enough to be able to ignore personal danger to a great extent.
    • Chapter 12, “Sorcery in the Dark” (p. 129)
  • At some point, Dekteon saw, his own world had come close to such a religion, where women ruled and men died—but the road had taken a different turning. Now the hints of the ancient mystery remained only in songs. It was the men who were the masters. Maybe not for the better, and not for the worse, either. But all this was unimportant.
    • Chapter 15, “Dekteon” (p. 163)
  • The sacrifice lives, but the sun’s still shining.
    • Chapter 16, “Sorcery East of Midnight” (p. 169)
All page numbers from the first edition published by Daw Books ISBN 0-87997-350-1
  • The rites were just the husks left over from deeper things, no pith remaining and no mystery, nothing to lift up the soul or go to the brain like wine. And, as generally happens, the more truth the ritual lost the more they bolstered it with significance. There is a saying among the Moi: The chief is clad in gold and purple, only the god dares to go naked.
    • Book One, Part I “The Krarl”, Chapter 3 (p. 20)
  • This was the custom of the tribes, and perhaps, in the fogs of their pasts, the scheme had had its reasons. Yet like many of their ways, only the peel remained, the fruit was long gone.
    • Book One, Part I “The Krarl”, Chapter 4 (p. 31)
  • Naturally, the little wars were dressed up in ritual and significance. War spear challenge was followed by war dance, and invocation of demons, the one-eyed snake and diverse totems. I bowed to none of these, having seen early the vulgarity and impotence of the tribal pantheon. Generally men create gods in their own image.
    • Book One, Part I “The Krarl”, Chapter 4 (p. 31)
  • Now I saw braves hang themselves with amulets, leave tidbits for spirits, and still take an arrow in the neck. I, worshiping nothing and bribing nothing with prayers, rode among an enemy unscathed, scything them like summer wheat.
    • Book One, Part I “The Krarl”, Chapter 4 (p. 31)
  • A few old men began to say there had been a winter like this when they were warriors, and that it was a year of catastrophe and disappointment. But old men will ever spin this wheel. The summers were always hotter and the winters colder in the days of their strength, and the air thick with epic drama and portent.
    • Book One, Part II “The Warrior”, Chapter 1 (p. 41)
  • The bird stabs the worm, the big cat breaks the bird’s neck, the man casts his spear into the heart of the cat. That is how the world is. Even the man had better look behind him; the wolf may be near, or another man, or fate, the hungriest hunter of them all.
    • Book One, Part II “The Warrior”, Chapter 2 (p. 44)
  • There are two clever tricks men know. One is to make much of nothing. The second is to make nothing of much.
    • Book One, Part II “The Warrior”, Chapter 2 (p. 49)
  • To fall suddenly sick when you have never been ill is a hard lesson. If it teaches anything, it teaches you that you must not trust to the thing you know, that it is better to build on shifting sand than the rock which may confound you on the day it shatters.
    • Book One, Part III “White Lynx”, Chapter 1 (p. 78)
  • There is one sound way a man can bind a woman to him, the same way she will bind him, and with the same rope.
    • Book One, Part III “White Lynx”, Chapter 2 (pp. 93-94)
  • I had not yet learned the lesson that when you are forever telling yourself that such and such is worth the price, then the price is too high and has been paid too often.
    • Book Two, Part I “Yellow City”, Chapter 5 (p. 152)
  • I said, “When you are on your deathbed, Erran, pray that you never meet me in the place you are going to.”
    • Book Two, Part I “Yellow City”, Chapter 5 (p. 156)
  • Dust had dimmed only a fraction, not enough. Decay had brushed with its rotten fingers not nearly all it should. It was an enchanted sweet, stuck in the throat of time.
    • Book Two, Part II “The Wolf Hunt”, Chapter 1 (p. 166)
  • The sea was a phenomenon I had never clapped eyes on for myself, yet it seemed, from the tales, a destination ultimate and uncompromising. The ocean’s edge, the brink of the land; the lip of Chaos.
    • Book Two, Part II “The Wolf Hunt”, Chapter 2 (p. 173)
  • We see what we have always seen. If it seems, it is.
    • Book Two, Part II “The Wolf Hunt”, Chapter 2 (p. 178)
  • That evening I met a black witch with a red cat, walking on a headland above the sea.
    I had reached the sea unexpectedly, but the sea is unexpected in any event to one who has never known it. You think it land at first, or sky, and penultimately mist. Then you realize a vast azure mass of water lies like a dragon in the sun’s last rays, breathing and shifting on the beaches.
    • Book Two, Part II “The Wolf Hunt”, Chapter 3 (p. 182)
  • As for their healers and their worship of gold books of old lore, there had been tribal stories of this, too, all nonsense, as anything chattered by the ill-informed must be.
    • Book Two, Part II “The Wolf Hunt”, Chapter 3 (p. 185)
  • Brother, sister, only words; but this, a reality, a destroyer at the gate. What could it have mattered, after all, to celebrate her hungry youth, and his, before the sword fell on her? All the plots and schemes, the moralities and codes of men, seemed dust in the face of death.
    • Book Two, Part III “The Island”, Chapter 2 (p. 215)
  • He showed no fear. It seemed that, at the commencement, his race had known gods and no other. Gods had bound and ill treated and slaughtered and played with them. Gods were a fact, as were the sun and the shaking of the earth. Just another terrible reality.
    • Book Two, Part III “The Island”, Chapter 3 (p. 219)
  • Precognition or self-deception?
    • Book Two, Part III “The Island”, Chapter 3 (p. 219)
All page numbers from the first edition published by Daw Books ISBN 0-87997-826-0
  • Power is the wine after which all other wine is mud.
    • Book One, Part I “Great Ocean”, Chapter 1 (p. 19)
  • Such is the civilizing effect of city life upon men. It kills the instincts and replaces them with extended noses.
    • Book One, Part II “The Sorcerer”, Chapter 1 (p. 40)
  • “Some god must be laughing somewhere.”
    “Some god is always laughing. That is, if you believe in them, which is surely enough to make them laugh.”
    • Book One, Part II “The Sorcerer”, Chapter 6 (p. 80)
  • There is no swifter way to make an enemy of a woman. You may tell her she is a clod or a bitch; as long as you lust for her, it will be forgiven. But say she is the wonder of the world and show her cold loins, and she will hate you till the sun goes out.
    • Book One, Part II “The Sorcerer”, Chapter 8 (p. 92)
  • I have seen women who thought they loved me look at me that way, and wolves which were hungry.
    • Book One, Part III “The Crimson Palace”, Chapter 4 (p. 144)
  • Nothing breaks more quickly than corroded steel.
    • Book One, Part III “The Crimson Palace”, Chapter 6 (p. 155)
  • Far too soon a man is in his grave, and how small are the hurricanes and mountains of his life—vengeance, love, might, and conquest—compared to that tiny heap of bone dust at its end.
    • Book One, Part III “The Crimson Palace”, Chapter 6 (p. 160)
  • The plague came to be called Yellow Mantle. Men must name everything, as if, by giving it a name, they will decrease the nameless horror they experience.
    • Book One, Part IV “The Cloud”, Chapter 3 (p. 183)
  • I had a rare wine in my blood. Expiation was over, guilt washed out, terror canceled.
    • Book One, Part IV “The Cloud”, Chapter 3 (p. 193)
  • The grape of truth is often bitter, but not to taste it in its season would be to waste the vine.
    • Book One, Part IV “The Cloud”, Chapter 5 (p. 208)
  • A tomb contains the dead, who are properly immobile and unspeaking. Though Masrians leave lamps for the ghosts, nobody expects they will be lighted.
    • Book One, Part IV “The Cloud”, Chapter 6 (p. 210)
  • The absolute, as I had finally been shown, does not need the accompaniment of pipes and drums.
    • Book Two, Part I “In the Wilderness”, Chapter 2 (p. 234)
  • It is a phenomenon of such spots that any noise is encapsulated in this ringing stillness, and made strangely tiny, however loud. The shouts of bandits and the squeaks of fauna sound as if confined in bubbles, a symbol of their impermanence. Only the desert endures.
    • Book Two, Part I “In the Wilderness”, Chapter 2 (p. 234)
  • There is, too, a sort of relief in admitting defeat. Struggling to drag a mountain from my path, acknowledging at last the mountain would remain, lying down beneath the mountain, thankful for the shade of it.
    • Book Two, Part I “In the Wilderness”, Chapter 2 (p. 234)
  • “Why aid me?”
    “God has moved me to help you. Or, if you prefer, it was my reasonless inclination to do so.”
    • Book Two, Part I “In the Wilderness”, Chapter 2 (p. 236)
  • I woke in the dawn. The plains of the Wilderness were exploding into light. It was the first hour of day, one of the two most beautiful hours of the desert, where sunrise and sunset are the queen and king.
    • Book Two, Part I “In the Wilderness”, Chapter 2 (p. 237)
  • Destiny or gods or fortune—whatever one is pleased or innocent enough to call them—they seal men to their decree.
    • Book Two, Part I “In the Wilderness”, Chapter 2 (p. 240)
  • He said quietly, “I see a jackal running. His name is I remember.”
    • Book Two, Part I “In the Wilderness”, Chapter 2 (p. 240)
  • In the tales of many lands, the prophet goes forth into the wilderness, the waste of sand or snow, or aloft on the barren black mountain, and when he returns to the people his eyes are great and luminous, his face is altered; he tells them he has seen God. I will suppose that God, if He is anywhere, is to be found in men, the nugget of gold buried inside the mud. I will suppose, too, that the wilderness washes off for a moment, or forever, the mud and the clay. Perhaps, then, the returning prophet should not say, “I have seen God”; but rather, “I have seen myself.”
    • Book Two, Part I “In the Wilderness”, Chapter 5 (p. 260)
  • Westward and inland there was a form of government, some prince or other sitting on his backside ordering this or that.
    • Book Two, Part II “White Mountain”, Chapter 1 (p. 266)
  • I found a glimmering brown skull in the snow. I could not tell if it was mortal or god, and there seemed a sobering moral in that.
    • Book Two, Part II “White Mountain”, Chapter 3 (p. 279)
  • I had made vows and to spare, but the present cannot be ruled forever by the past.
    • Book Two, Part II “White Mountain”, Chapter 3 (p. 283)
  • This much poison cannot pour in one’s ears without it will leave some trace.
    • Book Two, Part III “The Sorceress”, Chapter 1 (p. 302)
  • The antithesis of myself. No fervor in him, no greed for life, only his ruthless craving to possess, which took no pleasure in possession.
    • Book Two, Part III “The Sorceress”, Chapter 2 (p. 310)
  • At that, I understood for sure I must not lose her, for the earth is not the earth without some light to see it by, and she was mine.
    • Book Two, Part III “The Sorceress”, Chapter 3 (p. 316)
All page numbers from the mass market omnibus edition Dark Castle, White Horse published by Daw Books ISBN 0-88677-113-7
  • The countryside meant grain and herds, and a river meant fish. And if the sky meant anything, it meant a cruel God who took no notice of their pains and chastised them if they sinned.
    • Chapter 12 “Lir: The Walled Town” (p. 102)
  • Lir chiseled at the stone. It would take a month to make a perceptible impression on it. He had a few hours. Work harder, then.
    • Chapter 14 “Lir: The Night-Beast” (p. 119)
  • Resist. Come, you’re tough enough, my lady, aren’t you, if you beg for death rather than inflict evil?
    • Part 4 “The Witch Hunt” (p. 133)
  • “What’s Hell?” inquired Wild-Eye. “You should visit before you pass judgement on a place. And have you never heard it said, the Dark One is a gentleman?”
    • Part 4 “The Witch Hunt” (p. 139)
  • She had never acquired in-between shades of character, had not had the opportunity. She had been utterly selfish, and was now selfless, because she had never become a whole person, did not like herself, or know herself. Nor had she ever gained sufficient wisdom to be properly horrified at what she meant to do. She couldn’t think that intensely.
    • Chapter 17 “Lilune: The Lion” (p. 161)
All page numbers from the first edition published by Daw Books ISBN 0-87997-414-1
Nominated for the 1979 World Fantasy Award.
  • The year was woven on the loom, finished and folded away upon the pile of other years in the tall chests of Time.
    • Book 1 “Light Underground”, Chapter 6 “Kazir and Ferazhin” (p. 64)
  • Within, in the lowest region of her soul and mind, unknown to herself, she was still a small voice crying for another glory to salve her hurts. She must better the best, none must withstand her, she must conquer what others dare not face, drink seas and trample mountains. She would never rest till death, the last battle, made mockery of all her victories.
    • Book 2 “Tricksters”, Chapter 6 “Love in a Glass” (p. 115)
  • “What else is she like?”
    The Eshva sighed at the touch of Azhrarn’s fingers. The sigh said this: Like a white moth at dusk, a night-blooming lily. Like music played by the reflection of a swan as it passes over the strings of a moonlit lake.
    • Book 3 “The World’s Lure”, Chapter 1 “Honey-Sweet” (p. 127)
  • Superstitious, they did not go after her. They had a robber-god which they worshipped in a cave. His creed declared: ‘For every fifty travelers robbed and slain, let one go free. The gods care for excess in nothing.’
    • Book 3 “The World’s Lure”, Chapter 2 “Shezael and Drezaem” (p. 149)
  • Who would dare invite such a smoke? To some it might be healing, but to others, bane. Breathed in at the nostrils, it seemed to fill the eyes and ears and brain. To a man who knew many things, it would reveal many more, to a man who knew little it would reveal too much. Its name was self-knowledge.
    • Book 3 “The World’s Lure”, Chapter 4 “The Anger of the Magicians” (p. 163)
  • Flat or round, there has always been hate in the world.
    • Book 3 “The World’s Lure”, Chapter 5 “A Ship with Wings” (p. 167)
  • Men cried to their gods. In the morning they would slay each other; by night, fresh from the battlefield, they raved before unreplying altars. So they came to hate even the gods, and smashed their images and defiled their sanctums. “There are no gods!” they cried. “Then who has done this thing to us?”
    • Book 3 “The World’s Lure”, Chapter 5 “A Ship with Wings” (p. 169)
  • Azhrarn said: “The earth is dying. Man, your creation, is dying. Did you not hear of this?”
    But the gods did not answer, or look at him, or seem to see him.
    Then Azhrarn told them how the earth split and burned, and men slew each other under the goad of a sorcerous enduring hatred that fed and grew more vital on destruction. He told them everything and spared no word.
    But the gods did not answer, or look at him, or seem to see him.
    Then Azhrarn went to a single god...
    “Men you made,” Azhrarn said, “but me you did not make, and I will have an answer.”
    So the god spoke to Azhrarn at last... “Mankind is nothing to us, and the earth is nothing to us. Man is a mistake we made. Even gods are entitled to one mistake. But we will not perpetrate another by saving him. Let him vanish from the earth, and the earth vanish from the state of Being. You are the Demon, and humanity is your beloved toy, but we have graduated from such trivia. If you wish man to be saved, then you must save him, for we shall not.”
    • Book 3 “The World’s Lure”, Chapter 5 “A Ship with Wings” (p. 174; ellipses represent short elisions of description)
All page numbers from the first edition published by Daw Books ISBN 0-87997-441-9
Won the 1980 British Fantasy Award.
  • Into her shrewd and youthful brain there came an inspiration. It was an inspiration of the sort to set heart banging, teeth jittering, hands cold and mouth dry. It was of the sort which comes only once, and must be hearkened to and acted on—or let go and ever regretted. Lylas chose not to regret.
    • Book One, Part 1 “Narasen and Death”, Chapter 4 (p. 32)
  • The desert, like every landscape, had its own persona. It was a situation of white glare by day, white glare glimmering from the sands up into the atmosphere. Beneath, faintly showed the contours of the dunes as if through mist or water. Above, a flat coppery sky rested on the framework of the glare. Sometimes a formation of rock came swimming out of the glare like a great thorn-backed fish; items at a distance were of a tindery brittle blueness unlike the fluid blueness of a watered country.
    The heat of the desert was not like a heat, but like a whittling away. There seem to sound in the desert, a high-pitched whistling, but there was no sound save the furnace wind raising the sand like smoke from the ridges, as if the dunes actually burned.
    The word of the desert was this: I am made from all the dusts of the bones of men who have perished here, and my rocks are monuments to mountains I have ground away.
    There were no green places, no springs. To this desert, such as these were wounds which it had healed with aridity. What it could not eradicate, it buried.
    By night the sand chilled. Frost scaled its surfaces so it shone with a pure black shining. It was beautiful as only such a spot could be beautiful—because it had warped the natural laws, and here it told you the hideous was fair. And was believed.
    • Book Two, Part 1 “The Garden of the Golden Daughters”, Chapter 10 (p. 211)
  • The thought had taken hold: Only the best must survive, not a hierarchy of riff-raff. Gods, who had such power of life or death as he, must choose carefully. And one day he would have to choose: Shall I immortalize this one, or this? But not yet.
    • Book Two, Part 2 “Death’s Enemies”, Chapter 4 (p. 233)
  • To be dead was a state which played odd tricks on dreams of vengeance.
    • Book Two, Part 2 “Death’s Enemies”, Chapter 5 (p. 239)
  • Sorcery is a strong wine, and you are drunk on it.”
    “Do not anticipate I shall sober.”
    • Book Two, Part 3 “Zhirek, the Dark Magician”, Chapter 5 (p. 283)
  • Apostasy fired her blood as love had done.
    • Book Two, Part 4 “In Simmurad”, Chapter 3 (p. 312)
All page numbers from the first edition published by Daw Books ISBN 0-87997-652-7
  • There was strong music in the sky: the music of sunset. In the west, a wall of clear red amber through which the sun went blazing down. The remainder of the sky was smoky rose, a color like a perfume—musk. The earth had given up its tinctures. Heights and depths and long dunes were melting into the air.
    • Part 1 “The Souring of the Fruit”, Chapter 1 “Storytellers” (p. 39)
  • And some who were not elegant said: “He is too elegant to be honest.” And some who were not tall said: “He is too tall to be trusted,” and some who were intuitive shuddered, though they were not sure why.
    • Part 1, Chapter 1 “Storytellers” (p. 41)
  • The dark storyteller did not look about. He said: “You have presumed the gods value man so much that they will hurry to his rescue. I think you misjudge the gods.”
    “And you,” declared the philosopher sternly, “suggest that they are merely as stones.”
    “There, I admit, I have maligned them. For if you strike a stone, it may disgorge a stream of water, or a precious jewel. Or you may build a house from it, or scratch words on its surface with a knife. Stones can be serviceable to men.”
    • Part 1, Chapter 1 “Storytellers” (pp. 47-48)
  • Human aspiration is often blind, its motto: I want, therefore I will have.
    • Part 2 “Soul-of-the-Moon”, Chapter 4 “Moonflame” (p. 115)
  • It is perhaps a fact, that to the truly good, life, and the ways of men, and goodness itself, are very simple things. What to others appeared as her virtuousness, was to her merely her state of being. She did not set out to be good. She was good naturally, as another breathed. Hate and bitterness and envy and despair, those four envenomed serpents gnawing the livers of mankind, could not get in at her. But to herself she was nothing special; only herself to herself.
    • Part 2, Chapter 4 “Moonflame” (pp. 117-118)
  • For you are mad, my dear, in following this vocation. Even your goodness is a craziness. But then, all the very good are mad, just as the very wicked are mad. In fact, there is hardly any difference between the holy and the profane, save in their ideals and their deeds. Both are fanatics. Both are ruthless.
    • Part 2, Chapter 4 “Moonflame” (pp. 124-125)
  • The bitterness of joy lies in the knowledge that it cannot last. Nor should joy last beyond a certain season, for, after that season, even joy would become merely habit.
    • Part 3 “The Bitterness of Joy”, Chapter 2 “Mother and Daughter” (p. 159)
All page numbers from the first edition published by Daw Books ISBN 0-88677-135-8
  • “The gods will take notice, Mother, of our righteous distress, and come to my assistance.” In this pious belief she was, of course, quite mistaken (since in those days the gods cared nothing for mankind).
    • Book 1 “Sovaz, Mistress of Madness”, Part 1 “Night Hunting”, Chapter 3 (p. 40)
  • “What can we do?” said they, limping home. “We are only ordinary men.”
    By which they meant they thought themselves extraordinary enough that their skins must be saved at all costs.
    • Book 1, Part 1 “Night Hunting”, Chapter 5 (p. 56)
  • Oloru slumped against the tree, shivering and shedding tears, white as death, calling to the gods piteously.
    “The gods?” inquired Sovaz. “You know they have no care for men. For yourself, what do you need with gods?”
    • Book 1, Part 1 “Night Hunting”, Chapter 6 (p. 61)
  • Is the only challenge in the world to be greed and viciousness? Is the only satisfying power the power of the ascent over men, the only dream, ambition? And must the alternative to greed, evil, ambition—be only sluggishness?
    • Book 1, Part 2 “Lovers”, Chapter 2 (p. 81)
  • You will go to any length, however sumptuous or cataclysmic, in order solely to avoid the words: it appears I am at fault.
    • Book 1, Part 3 “Fair is Not Fair”, Chapter 6 (p. 144)
  • “Oh, dutiful daughter,” said Azhrarn. “You are to be a goddess somewhere, for I would teach this world the nature of gods.”
    “And what is their nature?” she said.
    “Indifferent and cruel. And loving not mankind.”
    • Book 1, Part 3 “Fair is Not Fair”, Chapter 6 (pp. 147-148)
  • The deeds of conquest and omnipotence have a sameness, as does the exposition of most evil.
    • Book 2 “Azhriaz: The Goddess”, Part 1 “Matters of Stone”, Chapter 1 (p. 165)
  • No, she is cruel and pitiless and indifferent (which we have learned, through her teaching, the gods are to mankind—and indeed, have not the lessons of our lives ceaselessly informed us this was so?).
    • Book 2, Part 1 “Matters of Stone”, Chapter 1 (p. 170)
  • Various had been the cruelties of the goddess in the early years of her reign. At Azhrarn’s instruction she performed many deeds in order to educate the earth and the viciousness of the gods, and, more important, their indifference to all human suffering.
    • Book 2, Part 1 “Matters of Stone”, Chapter 5 (p. 202)
  • So in the end she dwelled alone, surrounded by everything a third of the world could bring her, and played at appalling sorceries, while, in her sprawling Goddessdom, men did incredible mindless evils, each in her name.
    For herself, she had done directly very little evil. And what she had done, mostly, at Azhrarn’s incentive, was her duty. For the rest, accepting her as a goddess of wickedness and carelessness, men let loose all the rubbish in themselves for her sake.
    • Book 2, Part 1 “Matters of Stone”, Chapter 5 (p. 203)
  • “What have you seen since last you looked on me?”
    He said, “Misery and want, and fear, and death. I saw a beggar begging for help from a muddy stream. He told me it was as much use to do that as to beg help of heaven.”
    • Book 2, Part 1 “Matters of Stone”, Chapter 5 (p. 204)
  • Though they were beautiful, so are fires and leopards.
    • Book 2, Part 2 “The War with Sea and Sky”, Chapter 2 (p. 213)
  • Truth is at the door, howling and stamping her foot. Truth is not always decorous.
    • Book 2, Part 2 “The War with Sea and Sky”, Chapter 3 (p. 230)
  • The groaning and the screaming, the prayers—useless and known to be useless—the exhortations, scrabbling attempts at exodus, the burrowings that would yield no safety, the ecstasies of madness and immolation—each and all occurred: the correct paraphernalia of catastrophe. But, seen from the heavens, what was it but a fomentation in a hill of termites? That which is so small cannot be important.
    • Book 2, Part 2 “The War with Sea and Sky”, Chapter 4 (p. 231)
  • As for kisses, he kissed you well. I have his new memories to add to the old. But that life is only a mirage. It has been joyful enough to be a youth, and spry and agile in the horizontal art, but age and immobility have their compensations. The adventurous existence will inevitably pall, for the man who thinks.
    • Book 2, Part 2 “The War with Sea and Sky”, Chapter 11 (p. 291)
  • “Now, when the man struck you, if you had only said to him, ‘strike me again for good measure, I have no quarrel with you,’ perhaps he would have struck you, or perhaps not, but the affair would have been finished with, and you at liberty to go on as you wished.”
    “Master, I see it is a parable, but nevertheless, some men, being allowed to strike another unchecked, will make a habit of striking there. Is that not also an interruption?”
    “Life is a series of blows,” said the priest, “birth and death being the greatest of these, but between them, many of lesser sort. And is it possible to return or mend every smack of fate and life? Sit down beneath a storm, for if you shout at it, it will not hear you.”
    • Book 3 “Atmeh: The Search for Life”, Part 1 “Lessons”, Chapter 3 (p. 340)
  • Ebriel regarded his adversary. His eyes grew peculiarly lambent, as though he had come to love her. Of course, they were sworn foes; perhaps he had.
    • Book 3, Part 1 “Lessons”, Chapter 7 (p. 364)
  • Fashions change. Even in mythology.
    • Book 3, Part 2 “Uncle Death”, Chapter 1 (p. 375)
  • “I rule none of it,” called Atmeh to heaven. “Listen to me, you peerless soulless gods, I rule nothing and no one, and soon, soon I will outshine you, for I will be a mortal. And one day, as you never can, I and mine shall inherit the earth.”
    • Book 3, Part 2 “Uncle Death”, Chapter 3 (p. 392)
  • And Chuz lowered his eyes, his matchless eyes. He, magnificent, a Lord of Darkness, held in his arms now a mortal woman. As Azhrarn had discovered, that was like clasping the tides of the sea, the winds of heaven. How massively the mountains stand, while low to the ground the sand blows. The sand blows on and on. And then there are no mountains, none at all, the sand has kissed and whispered them away. And still, the sand blows on.
    • Book 3, Part 3 “The Lotus”, Chapter 2 (p. 406)
All page numbers from the first edition published by Daw Books ISBN 0-88677-194-3
Nominated for World Fantasy Award's Best Anthology/Collection in 1988
  • He walked up to the high roof where the beacon was lit at night to jog the gods’ amnesia.
    • Night’s Daughter, Day’s Desire (p. 30)
  • On the threshold of the inner court, where the marriage was to be, priests made offerings at the household altars, to the gods, who, as always, paid no attention.
    • Children of the Night (p. 43)
  • “May the gods take note,” said he, “that it is my kind heart brought me to this predicament.” The gods, of course, did no such thing.
    • Children of the Night (p. 62)
  • The sky powdered her cheeks with rouge, and the forest was mantled in crimson. Then the face of the sky altered, became that of a beautiful black damsel having no wish for rouge, but only for a net of stars and a piece of silver moon to hang on her forehead. And the forest mantled in sable, whispered with waters and the lyres of the grasshopper, and with the turning pages of leaves, and the unheard footsteps of unseen things.
    • Children of the Night (p. 74)
  • The demons had invented love. There needs to be said no more.
    • Children of the Night (p. 76)
  • But in the mental overcast of that town, such things went rigidly unremarked, save through their irrelevance. For life was only a series of pitfalls, not to be enjoyed or celebrated. The gods chastised pleasure just as they ignored suffering.
    • Dooniveh, The Moon (p. 139)
  • Finding in himself a profound strain of yearning, Pereban had mistaken it for religion. He entered the temple and dedicated himself to the worship of the goddess. Thereafter her statue—a roughhewn lump of rock with painted blobs for eyes and black wool for hair—so disappointed him that he kneeled to it, and beat himself regularly, every morning.
    • Dooniveh, The Moon (p. 139)
  • “Your beauty leaves me breathless,” said Pereban.
    “Yet you find the breath to say so.”
    • Dooniveh, The Moon (p. 161)
  • “We are taught that the gods do not care for us,” said Pereban the priest. “Therefore we must seek for guidance in our own selves.”
    • Dooniveh, The Moon (p. 161)
  • His creed, both cosmic and precise, had a flexible simplicity which, usually, was soon harnessed and complicated by his devotees, or those who had picked up some smattering.
    • Black as a Rose (p. 182)
  • “In the land of my childhood there was a saying, as follows: ‘The black rose does not anywhere grow. Therefore let us fondly believe in the blooming of the black rose.’”…
    “Where I shall feast presently,”said Azhrarn, “black roses are woven in the garlands. Enlighten them therefore in your childhood’s land: The black rose blooms. No longer believe in the black rose.”…
    “Zhoreb—what shall we do?”
    “There is nothing to be done. Demons exist.” And then Zhoreb smiled and added under his breath, “Therefore we need not believe in them.”
    • Black as a Rose (p. 186; ellipses represent brief elisions for continuity)
  • And in the manner of this ideal we strive, though even that not too onerously. For piety itself may be used to make a chain about the soul.
    • Black as a Rose (p. 189)
  • To be static was never wise. Cobwebs clung to walls which stood. Men must journey, for in motion lay the seed, or at least the symbol of progress.
    • Black as a Rose (p. 202)
  • He took her virginity with the gentle care of love, and with love’s glorious violence.
    • Black as a Rose (p. 204)
  • The gods’ inventions are notorious by their errors.
    • Game Players (p. 212)
  • If she had supposed the gods ever listened, she would have prayed.
    • Game Players (p. 214)
  • I will suppose that all humankind have souls, a condition which, when sober, I do not hold.
    • The Daughter of the Magician (p. 254)
  • Of the rest, nothing further is said, save that lovers love and live and, in due season, as all men must, they also die. And so with Ezail and Chavir who had been Sovaz and Oloru, Azhriaz and Chuz. For such was and is mortal life, mortal death. But for love, who can predict or measure, plot, ascribe, or declare an end. Love is one of the immortals.
    • The Daughter of the Magician (pp. 286-287)
All page numbers from the mass market first edition, published by Daw Books ISBN 0-87997-482-6, first printing
  • Nothing can be learned without some measure of risk, and, more vital still, of patience.
    • Pre-Screening: Christophine del Jan (p. 7)
  • She had no reason not to believe in the impossible. Desperation was always ready to pray for miracles.
    • Chapter 2, “Venus Rising” (p. 32)
  • In the partial silence, the ocean asserted itself, waves hurled loudly against rock, slithering back with smashed spines, then, healed by immersion, hurled forward again.
    • Chapter 4, “Crossing the Line” (p. 88)
  • Self-love is neither fantasy nor vulgar joke. The totality of the “I,” the inbuilt survival and self-protective trait, is one of the most unshakable syndromes known to psycho-science.
    • Post-Screening Sonogram (p. 155)
  • In our place, we can hardly go backward, but neither should we ignore the nakedness of humanity before the huge-wheeled vehicle of progress. We have too much to give, and far too much to learn, to throw ourselves away.
    • Post-Screening Sonogram (p. 158)
All page numbers from the mass market omnibus edition Dark Castle, White Horse published by Daw Books ISBN 0-88677-113-7
  • “But what am I to do?” cried the Prince.
    “What you feel you must,” said the Theel. “That’s the only thing to do at any time.”
    • Chapter 4 “The Dragon of Brass” (p. 207)
  • The Prince then remembered the white-haired Theel in the Castle of Bone, who had also been kind, if a little odd, and he wondered why such nice creatures always seemed to live in bad places with wicked things going on all around them.
    “That’s easy,” said the girl, seeming to read his thoughts as the other Theel had done. “The bad places are where we can do the most good.”
    • Chapter 8 “The Tower of the Purple Knight” (pp. 231-232)
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