Authors: Stephen R. Donaldson
The Power That Preserves (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Book 3)
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
A Del Rey eBook Edition
Copyright © 1977 by Stephen R. Donaldson
All Rights Reserved.
Published in the United States by Del Rey, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
Originally published in Mass Market in 1977 by Del Rey, an imprint of the Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
Del Rey and the Del Rey colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.
Del Rey eBook edition: [DATE TK.]
What Has Gone Before
Thomas Covenant is a happy and successful author until an unfelt infection leads to the amputation of two fingers. Then he learns he has leprosy. The disease is arrested at a leprosarium, but he returns home to find himself an outcast. His wife has divorced him, and his neighbors shun him in ignorant fear.
Lonely and bitter, he goes to town. There, just after meeting a strange beggar, he stumbles in front of a police car. He revives in a strange world where the evil voice of Lord Foul orders that he take a message of doom to the Lords of the Land. High on a mountain, at Kevin’s Watch, a young girl named Lena finds him and takes him to her home. There he is considered a reincarnation of a legendary hero, Berek Halfhand, and his white gold wedding ring is considered a talisman of great power.
Lena treats him with a mud called hurtloam, which seems to arrest his leprosy. This sudden healing is more than he can handle, and, losing control of himself, he rapes Lena. Despite this, her mother Atiaran saves him from Lena’s lover, Triock, and agrees to guide him to Revelstone, home of the Lords. She tells him of the ancient war between the Old Lords and Foul, which ended in millennia of desecration for the Land.
Covenant cannot believe in the Land, where stone and wood are made to give heat and light by magic. He becomes the Unbeliever because he dares not relax the discipline that a leper needs in order to survive. The land seems a delirious escape from reality.
Through the help of Saltheart Foamfollower, a friendly Giant, Covenant reaches Revelstone. There the Lords accept him and name him ur-Lord. They are dismayed when he gives them Foul’s message that an evil Cavewight holds the powerful Staff of Law. They no longer have even the powers of the Old Lords whom Foul overcame; of the Seven Wards of lore, they have only the first.
They must seek the Staff, held in the caverns under Mount Thunder. Covenant goes with them, guarded by Bannor, one of the Bloodguard who have kept a Vow for long ages to guard the Lords. They go south, attacked by Foul’s minions, to the Plains of Ra. There the Ramen serve the Ranyhyn, the great free horses. The Ranyhyn bow to the power of Covenant’s ring, and he orders that one horse shall go to Lena to do her will once a year.
The Lords ride to Mount Thunder. After many encounters with evil creatures and dark magic, High Lord Prothall wrests the Staff from Drool, the Cavewight. They escape when Covenant manages to use the power of his ring—without understanding how.
As the Lords flee, Covenant begins to fade. He wakes in a hospital bed; only a few hours have elapsed since his accident. His leprosy has come back, supporting his belief that the Land is a delusion. He is discharged from the hospital and returns home.
But after a month, his loneliness drives him to a nightclub, where a singer calls him Berek. Before he can confront her, the overzealous sheriff forces him to return home. Later his wife calls him, but before he can reply, he stumbles and knocks himself out.
Again he is in the Land—but there forty years have passed. The High Lord is now Elena, Covenant’s daughter by Lena. She harbors no ill will, however, and a warm relationship grows between them. But the Lords are desperate. Foul has found the Illearth Stone, source of great evil power; now he is preparing to attack. The army of the Lords—commanded by Hile Troy, who seems to be from Covenant’s “real” Earth—appears too small to meet the challenge.
A force of Bloodguard and Lords are sent to
, city of the Giants, to gain allies for the war. But there they find that Foul has killed the Giants—all but three whose bodies have been taken over by Ravers, the evil spirits of Foul’s ancient lieutenants. The Bloodguard and Lords are attacked by one Giant-Raver but manage to kill him, at least in bodily form. The Bloodguard unfortunately take the piece of the Illearth Stone the Raver carried, intending to return it to the Lords.
Some of the other Lords travel to Revelwood, a city in a vast tree where the Lore is taught. From there, Hile Troy takes his army south, accompanied by Lord Mhoram. In a desperate attempt, he meets the army of Lord Foul, commanded by another Giant-Raver. Troy is forced to flee. Finally he retreats to Garroting Deep, where the last of the ancient, sentient trees are guarded by Caerroil Wildwood, a powerful Forestal. Wildwood saves the last of Troy’s army and destroys the enemy. He hangs the Raver, forcing the evil spirit to suffer and leave the Giant body.
Meanwhile Elena has taken Covenant and their Bloodguard toward the mysterious
Skyweir, a great mountain near Garroting Deep. They are led by Amok, a strange servant of Kevin’s Lore, who can guide them to the ancient mysteries. They find a way into the heart of the mountain, where Amok ages and vanishes. Elena, against the pleas of Covenant, drinks from the water Amok has shown her. In doing so, she gains the Power of Command. Arrogantly she summons the spirit of Lord Kevin and commands that he destroy Foul. But Foul overcomes Kevin’s shade easily, and Kevin then turns against Elena and the Staff of Law, eventually killing her.
Covenant and Bannor escape down a river that flows out of the mountain. Covenant is sick with self-loathing and grief, blaming himself for Elena’s death. They meet Troy and Lord Mhoram near Garroting Deep.
Caerroil Wildwood sends Mhoram home, but he turns Hile Troy into a tree, to become an apprentice Forestal. And Covenant again fades from the Land.
He recovers consciousness in his home. His leprosy is again in his body, his forehead is wounded from his fall and his wife has long since hung up. And now he must face the knowledge that his impotence has left the Land open to destruction, without most of the army and without the power of the Staff of Law.
This is a brief summary of
Lord Foul’s Bane
The Illearth War
, the first two Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever.
Be true, Unbeliever
ONE: The Danger in Dreams
Thomas Covenant was talking in his sleep. At times he knew what he was doing; the broken pieces of his voice penetrated his stupor dimly, like flickers of innocence. But he could not rouse himself—the weight of his exhaustion was too great. He babbled like millions of people before him, whole or ill, true or false. But in his case there was no one to hear. He would not have been more alone if he had been the last dreamer left alive.
When the shrill demand of the phone cut through him, he woke up wailing.
For a moment after he threw himself upright in bed, he could not distinguish between the phone and his own flat terror; both echoed like torment through the fog in his head. Then the phone rang again. It pulled him sweating out of bed, compelled him to shamble like a derelict into the living room, forced him to pick up the receiver. His numb, disease-cold fingers fumbled over the black plastic, and when he finally gained a grip on it, he held it to the side of his head like a pistol.
He had nothing to say to it, so he waited in blankness for the person at the other end of the line to speak.
A woman’s voice asked uncertainly, “Mr. Covenant? Thomas Covenant?”
“Yes,” he murmured, then stopped, vaguely surprised by all the things he had with that one word admitted to be true.
“Ah, Mr. Covenant,” the voice said. “Megan Roman calling.” When he said nothing, she added with a touch of acerbity, “Your lawyer. Remember?”
But he did not remember; he knew nothing about lawyers. Numb mist confused all the links of his memory. Despite the metallic distortion of the connection, her voice sounded distantly familiar; but he could not identify it.
She went on, “Mr. Covenant, I’ve been your lawyer for two years now. What’s the matter with you? Are you all right?”
The familiarity of her voice disturbed him. He did not want to remember who she was. Dully he murmured, “It doesn’t have anything to do with me.”
“Are you kidding? I wouldn’t have called if it didn’t have to do with you. I wouldn’t have anything to do with it if it weren’t your business.” Irritation and discomfort scraped together in her tone.