Morning. Sunrise. Sunup!
The sun had risen up fifteen times since the battle for The Dweller's garden; risen up over the southwestern horizon, travelled a predestined path according to its cycle, sunk down again into the south-east. Fifteen times that low, warm, oh so lazy golden arc across the sky, making for a like number of sundowns.
Sundown: night, darkness, peril!
Sundown. A time of terror since time immemorial: when the last yellow glints would slip silently from the high crags of the great barrier range, until its topmost peaks turned a pale ochre, then ashen, finally wolf-grey and silver under the stars of Starside. A time of terror, yes ....ut no longer. For the battle in The Dweller's garden had been fought and won, and the near-immortal masters of Starside's aeries, the Wamphyri, were immortal no longer. Indeed, they were either dead or flown into the Icelands. Of the latter, only a few had survived to flee.
Sundown, and nothing to fear from it. Not any more. It was strange ...
On the one side of the mountains, that closest to the sun (Sunside, with its forests and rivers, and, to the south, its pitiless furnace lands), daylight would persist for a further twenty-five hours; but on Starside the barrier mountains shut out the sun's life-giving warmth, leaving only the stars and the aurora over the Icelands to light the rugged land. So it had always been, so it would always be.
Except upon a time there had also been the Wamphyri!... But now there was none. Not in Starside, anyway. No vampires here but one, and he was different. He was The Dweller.
And at the beginning of that new night, that fifteenth sundown in the New Age of Starside, The Dweller had called for Lardis Lidesci to attend him at his house in the garden high over Starside's boulder plains.
Lardis was a Traveller king, leader of one of Sunside's Szgany tribes. He was short, barrel-bodied, apelike in the length of his arms; his lank black hair framed a wrinkled, weather-beaten face, with a flattened nose and a wide mouth full of strong, uneven teeth. Under wild eyebrows, Lardis's brown eyes glittered his mind's agility, even as he himself was agile despite his stumpy shape. Yes, he was Szgany, and it showed.
'Szgany': in fact the word had two meanings. Star-side's trogs, cavern-dwelling neanderthals, likewise called themselves Szgany. To them it meant 'The Obedient Ones' - obedient to the Wamphyri! As for the genesis of Traveller usage, that was lost in time. Now when the Gypsies used the word to define other than a trog, it best described themselves, their way of life: tinkers, music-makers, seekers after refuge (often in deep caverns, like the dwelling places of the trogs), wandering metalworkers, fey people: Szgany.
Travellers. Ah, but upon a time - an oh so recent time - there had been reasons aplenty for the nomadic existence of the Gypsies! And each and every one of those reasons monstrous, and all of them inhabiting the stone- and bone-built aeries of the Wamphyri! But the Wamphyri were no more.
It was strange; Lardis was not yet accustomed to it; the sun was setting for the fifteenth time since the great battle and still he shivered, longing for the misted valleys, wooded slopes and forests of Sunside. Across the mountains it was still twilight and true dark many hours away. Plenty of time to find sanctuary in one or another of the many labyrinthine systems of caverns, there to wait out the night until ... But no, all of that was yesterday. Yet again Lardis must remind himself: Fool! The yoke is lifted. The Szgany are free!
Pausing where he made his way through the garden, Lardis looked back and up at the topmost crags. They were ashen now: charcoal dusted a pale blue-grey from the brightening stars, the colour of a wolf at twilight. Soon the hurtling moon would be up, half golden in the sun's reflected light, half blue as Icelands sheen. Then the wolves of Sunside would sing up from the dark forests and down from the pine-clad mountains, and those of Starside would hear them, yawn and stretch, emerge from their treeline dens and answer with songs of their own. For the moon was mistress to all the grey brothers.
Shivering (from the chill of twilight?), Lardis glanced all about in the dusk. At trog workers, leathery, shuffling, nocturnal, already up and about and seeing to their various duties; at the dim but reassuring yellow lights of Traveller dwellings huddled to the gently sloping walls of the saddle; at the misty silhouettes of greenhouses, the glitter of starlight in a shimmering geothermal pool, a creaking wind-vane atop its skeletal tower, turning in the breeze off Starside. And then he shivered again, and started out more urgently for The Dweller's house -
- Only to slow his pace in the very next moment. No need for haste. It was sundown, yes, but there was nothing hurtful here. Not any more. So ... why should he feel that something was wrong?
"Vampire World 1 - Blood Brothers"
Lardis trusted his instincts. His mother had used to read palms, and his father had seen far things; all of the Lidescis had been fey. And tonight Lardis was jumpy without knowing the reason. Could this be why The Dweller had called him, because something was wrong? Well, he would know soon enough. But one thing Lardis already knew: that he had heard the call of Sunside, its rivers, forests and open spaces, and come what may his stay in The Dweller's garden would not be long.
Three acres in a row front to rear, the garden was - it had been - a marvellous place. It was a small valley in a gently hollowed mountain saddle. In this region Nature had flattened the barrier range somewhat; thus when the sun stood at its low southerly apex, it somehow managed to shine between even the highest peaks and down the long slopes, glancing off the crags to light here. From twilight to twilight, the aching light of Sunside struck through the pass in a great warm misty wedge.
A long, curved dry-stone wall defined the garden's forward boundary, beyond which the ground dipped sharply towards frowning cliffs, weathered shelves, more declivities, gentling foothills, and finally Starside's barren plains. Encompassed by the wall, the slopes of the saddle, and a narrow pass at the rear, were small fields or allotments, greenhouses, wind-vanes, sheds and storehouses, and clearwater ponds. A number of pools were astir with trout; others bubbled with thermal activity. Lush with vegetation, much of it crushed and ravaged in the battle but already sprung up and growing again, a surprising number of the garden's vegetable species would have been at home in The Dweller's own world. Hardy, improved or developed by The Dweller himself, they had grown accustomed to Starside's long nights and longer, occasionally dreary days.
Repairs to the garden were nearing completion. Even stones slimed by exploding gas-beasts or evaporating Lords and their lieutenants had been cleaned, or removed to the rim and avalanched down onto Starside. Vampire debris had gone into a crevasse, been drenched with The Dweller's fuels, burned up with hideous stenches. Eventually the last taint had been expunged. Broken dwellings had been mended, flattened greenhouses re-erected, The Dweller's generators repaired. Many of the garden's systems were fragile, requiring frequent attention; tending them was how The Dweller's people earned their keep, and the work served to instruct them in his ways.