The White Road

A short story by Charles de Lint.

Publishing History

Plot Summary

It is winter and Saren (age 16 in autumn) watches as the few men remaining return to Nordendale after the end of the War in the Dales (end of the Year of the Hornet). The lord of he Dale is dead. Her own betrothed, Erard is not among them and she feels both relief and guilt at her relief. She works at the Herdsman's Halt Inn (finest and only inn in the Dale). She meets a stranger (Carnen) there who is travelling on orders of a Wise Woman after receiving a leg wound three years before.

The next morning the stranger heads off towards the mountains and she wonders if he'll turn off towards Grimmerdale. Saren herself leaves the inn that night. She around midmorning the next day she reaches the road leading to Grimmerdale but chooses to continue north. (p.99) Near night she meets herdsman Forwood and his son Aaber (as well as Forwood's wife Signe and his toddler daugher Torrie) and finds that Carnen is travelling before her and is looking for a white road. (p.99) She is told of Bindon's holding three days away.

She travels the next day and sleeps in the open at night and has a dream of the white road and a circle of stone at its end holding both promise and a threat. At dawn she journeys again and comes to another croft later that morning. She's told Bindon's holding is a day and a half away but that between there is a road.

She comes across the road before midnight and there is a storm brewing. After walking down the road a while the mountains vanish and she finds herself looking at a seemingly endless plain with strange-looking constellations. She reaches the henge and steps through to find herself in a hall of the dead facing her father and dead betrothed among others.1 After trying to explain that life is a gift not a coin to be spent she is swept out of the hall to the henge (or a henge) where a healed Carnen is. The henge they are on is in the mountains and the constellations are familiar again.

At the end of the story we get to see Gunnora and the Horned Lord discuss the two and Gunnora hoping the gifts they can give will be enough.

Timeline Notes

  1. p93. War came to a head with Were-Riders (assume it is the Year of the Hornet). Final battle at Ruther's Pass. Saren 16 - war dragged on for a score of years.

Discussion

A 'score' is 20 years. The War started in the Year of the Fire Troll and into the Year of the Leopard. The Year of the Gryphon, Year of the Fire Drake, and Year of the Hornet are mentioned in that order in Year of the Unicorn. If Kerovan is 23 in the Year of the Gryphon there cannot be more than three intervening years between the Year of the Leopard and Year of the Gryphon. Therefore the war either lasted eight years or there are twelve years missing.

At longest the War in the Dales lasted seven years, but in Year of the Unicorn it is mentioned early on that there was war, peace, and then war again, so it's possible the original idea for the War was closer to World War I and World War II. The odd weapons of Alizon do not appear in Unicorn either, though they are mentioned in Dragon Scale Silver, which was written seven years after Unicorn was published. In any case, some of the anthology stories are better researched than others. Other than the time being off, there's nothing about the story too unusual for Witch World.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License