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Crystal Line

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Crystal Line

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Author: Anne McCaffrey
Publisher: Del Rey / Ballantine, 1992
Series: Crystal Singer: Book 3

1. Crystal Singer
2. Killashandra
3. Crystal Line

Book Type: Novel
Genre: Science-Fiction
Sub-Genre Tags: Science-Fantasy
Soft SF
Avg Member Rating:
(58 reads / 17 ratings)


When Killashandra Ree joined the mysterious Heptite Guild, she knew that she would be forever changed. Crystal singing brought ecstasy and pain, near-eternal life... and gradual loss of memory. What she hadn't counted on was the loneliness she felt when her heart still remembered what her mind had forgotten. Fortunately, someone still cared enough to try to salvage what was left of Killashandra's mind. But she would have to learn to open herself--to another person, and to all her unpleasant memories.


" 'And a star to steer her by,' " Killashandra Ree shouted to herself. Not that Lars Dahl could have heard her over the roar of the sea crashing against the bow of the Angel and the humming tension of the wind through the sail stays and across the sloop's mainsail.

She pointed to the first star of the evening in the darkening eastern sky and looked back at him to see if he was watching her. He was and nodded, his grin showing his very white teeth against his very tan skin. She was nearly as dark as he was after their circumnavigation of the main continent of Ballybran. But Lars always looked the complete captain, especially as he was standing now--his straddled legs bracing his long lean body on bare feet against the slant of the deck, strong hands firmly on the spokes of the wheel as he kept the Angel on the starboard tack under tight sail. The stiff breeze had ruffled his sun-bleached and salt-encrusted hair into a crest, much like the ritual headdress of a primitive religion.

They had plenty of sea room between the Angel and the jagged stones of the shore, but soon--all too quickly--they would reach the headland and the harbor that served the Heptite Guild headquarters.

Killashandra sighed. She almost didn't want this voyage to end--and yet this kind of voyage, therapeutic though it was, was not quite enough to ease the surge of crystal in her blood. Lars, not having sung as long as she, was in better shape; but they had to strike a good lode of crystal on this next trip into the Ranges and make enough to get off-world for Passover, which was, once again, nearly upon them. She devoutly hoped that their sled was repaired and ready for the Ranges.

Killashandra gritted her teeth, remembering the ignominy of having to be rescued when their sled had been buried by a rockslide! Hauling the crushed sled out of the Ranges had sliced a hefty hunk out of their credit balance. The crystal they had cut before the rockslide--which had been preserved in containers sturdy enough to resist collapse--had been sufficient to pay the huge repair bill, but there hadn't been enough credit left for them to take an off-world jaunt while the refit was being done. Once again the Angel, and the ever-challenging seas of Ballybran, had rescued them from the ping of crystal in their blood and the boredom of the Heptite Guild quarters.

But, by all the holies, Killashandra swore, this time they would sing good crystals--if they could possibly find that wretched lode again. Communication crystal was always valuable. If they could just cut one set quickly and without foul-ups! She wanted to get off-planet, and this time Lars was not going to talk her into going to yet another water world. There were other planets that could prove just as interesting. If she didn't get to choose once in a while, she might just seriously consider finding another partner. There was that stocky young redhead with weird eyes and a roguish grin--he reminded her of someone. She grimaced into the wind. The need for "reminders" was becoming more frequent for her. She had been singing crystal a long time now, and she knew very well indeed that her memory was eroding; what or how much she was losing she didn't know. She shrugged. As long as she didn't forget Lars Dahl, nor he her ...

The Angel was nearly round the massive headland, and Killashandra could just see a slice of the eastern face of the great Heptite Guild cube that loomed large from all directions even though it was kilometers inland. The good mood that had sustained her abruptly altered.

"Back to the old grind," she muttered, anticipating Lars's next words.

"Back to the old grind, huh?" Lars bellowed, and she rolled her eyes and gave herself a shake.

Damn! Knowing what would come out of his mouth because they had shared so much, so intensely, was also beginning to irritate her. Or maybe all she and Lars needed was new stimulation. He found enough in their sea trips, but suddenly she realized that these were no longer enough for her. She grimaced again. How long was too long?

Lars bellowed for her attention, motioning for her to join him in the cockpit. With cautious but practiced steps she made her way astern, balancing against both wind and the slant of the Angel, turning her head against spray and the occasional high wave that broke across the deck.

As she came even with him, Lars reached out an arm and hooked her to his side, smiling down at her, contented in the elements of the sea/wind/ship, even if the end of their voyage was now in sight. She let herself be held against his long, strong body. She knew him so well! Was that such a bad thing for a crystal singer? Especially when memory began to erode? She glanced up at Lars's profile, elegant despite his peeling nose: Lars Dahl, the constant factor in her life!

"Hey, Killa, Lars! Lanzecki wants to see you soon as you dock," the harbor master yelled as he caught the line Killa deftly threw at him. He bent it neatly about the bollard as she ran aft, leaping lightly onto the marina slip, stern line in hand.

"Ya heard me?" he roared.

"Sure, I heard."

"We both heard," Lars added, grimacing at Killa.

Then, from long-established habit, Killashandra ducked down the companionway to check that everything in the cabin had been stowed properly, her chore as Lars had motored into the harbor. Satisfied, she threw their duffels topside, following more circumspectly with the bag of nondegradable trash.

Lars had shut down the engines and was checking the boom crutch to be sure it was properly secured.

"I'll keep an eye on the boat for ya," the harbor master said anxiously. Singers were not expected to dally when the Guild Master sent for them. This pair made their own rules, but he wasn't about to receive debits for their impudence.

"Sure you will, Pat," Lars said reassuringly as he checked the mast stays, "but old habits die hard. You'll run her in"--he jerked his head toward the spacious boathouse--"if there's a bad blow?"

Pat snorted, jamming his hands indignantly into his jacket pockets. "And when haven't I?"

Lars scooped his duffel bag off the deck and, leaping neatly from the Angel to the pier, gave Pat a grateful grin and a clout for the reassurance. Killashandra was a step behind him, adding her nod of appreciation before she matched Lars's stride for stride up the ramp to the wharf. They took the nearest scooter and turned its nose inland, to the Guild Complex.

By the time they had parked the scooter, entered the residential section of the Complex, and taken a lift to the executive floor, nineteen other people had informed them, in tones varying from irritated malice to sheer envy, that Lanzecki wanted to see them.

"Fardles!" Killashandra said, stressing the f sound against her teeth and lips. "What's up?"

"Hmmm, we are not in favor with our peer group," Lars said, his expression care fully bland.

"I've got a bad feeling," Killashandra muttered for his ears only.

Lars gave her a long searching look, just as the lift halted at the executive floor. "You think Lanzecki might have one of those choice little extra jobs for us?"


Then, in step, they swung left to Lanzecki's office. The first thing Killashandra noticed was that Trag was not in sight. A slender man rose from Trag's accustomed place: he bore the fine scars of healing crystal scores on face, neck, and hands, but Killashandra couldn't remember ever seeing him before.

"Killashandra Ree?" the man asked. He looked from her to her companion. "Lars Dahl? Don't you ever turn on your ship comunit?"

"When we're in the cabin," Lars answered pleasantly enough.

"Weren't in it much, not with only two to crew her through some nasty storms," Killa added with mock contrition. "Where's Trag?"

"I'm Bollam." He gave the odd shrug of one shoulder and tilt of his head that told them that Trag was no longer alive. "You know your way?"

"Intimately," Killashandra snapped over her shoulder as she strode angrily around him and toward the door to Lanzecki's sanctum. She didn't like Trag being dead. He had taught her to retune crystal during her apprenticeship, and she vaguely remembered other remote things about him, mainly good. Bollam didn't look like the sort of personality who could manage the duties that Trag had so effortlessly--and unemotionally--executed. If she were Lanzecki, she wouldn't trust that dork-looking weed as a partner in the Ranges. Fardles, she didn't have half that many scars on her arms, and she'd been singing crystal for ... for a long time!

Copyright © 1992 by Anne McCaffrey


Crystal Line

- Thomcat


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