Companions On The Road – Wondrous Tales of Adventure and Quest –by Tanith Lee
Suitable for eReaders: Yes
The first of two novellas, Companions On The Road, is the story of Havor, a mercenary and officer, who befriends a lowly soldier who is sure he will die in the upcoming battle and leaves his small savings and asks Havor to deliver it to his family. Havor agrees. The boy dies, Havor resigns his commission, robs the now-dead Mage of the fallen city of his magic chalice, and sets out to deliver the money of Lukon, the boy.
Of course, in a fantasy that includes a Mage, dead or otherwise, nothing can ever be simple or straightforward, and Havor must pay for his thievery. And the evil Mage must pay for his evilness. And Havor has companions upon his road he'd really rather not have, until he reaches the house of Lukon, where he finds only Lukon's sister, Silsi. Lukon's mother and younger sister having died.
Not wanting to bring misery to Silsi, Havor leaves, and goes to bury the chalice far away, and to await his fate, his death. Unbeknownst to him, Silsi is also a witch and the final battle between good and evil comes to a satisfying conclusion, thanks to Silsi and her family.
The shorter novella, The Winter Players, is also about magery and shape shifting and the stealing of holy relics so old, and so powerful, none alive including the Priestess in charge of them, know what they mean or from whence they came.
Three relics – the ring, the jewel, and the bone – are kept in the shrine that Oaive cares for and guards. She speaks the ritual at dawn and sundown to keep the village and fisher folk safe, she makes the medicines they need, and is happy and content. And then Grey comes, a young man with and old man's grey hair, a shape shifter who knows about the bone, who finds it in its secret place, and who steals it.
Oaive must retrieve the bone, and leaves her village to follow Grey across the unknown, and learns of her magic powers. She, too, must face great evil, for Grey is merely the slave of the evil Mage Niwus. When she retrieves the Sacred Relic, she travels back through time to her village before the relics existed. Grey and Niwus follow, the battle is fought, of course Good triumphs over Evil, and balance is restored. And history changed.
If you enjoy fantasy, you will like these stories. Tanith Lee spins marvelous tales, of which these are only two. She has over 70 novels and 250 short stories to her much deserved credit.