The Death of Ranat's Pass

Katherine Blake

(Dorothy J. Heydt)

A moon in its last quarter had risen behind her, and for the first quarter mile it lit her way down the gorge. A mountain river had run here once, in days of wetter weather, and the sand still tended to be damp. You could scratch a hole in the sand and find water, bad-tasting but drinkable, and the tales told of caverns full of water underground, but she had never seen any caves that might lead to them. The rocky walls had risen high overhead, and the waning moon behind her threw a long filmy shadow ahead of her on the path.

The tales told ... She sifted through her memories. She had studied minstrelsy when she was young, might even have gone to the Hall of Bards if she hadn't met Corus. Of the hundreds of songs and tales she knew, perhaps five mentioned Ranat's Pass. In four of these, the protagonist had simply gone down the Pass---in the dark, or on a cloudy day---and never been seen again. The fifth, in a catalogue of monsters, listed "The Death of Ranat's Pass, / As dark as dreadful night."

Here the path turned, as the Pass angled toward the south, and a few steps would take her out of the pale moonlight into complete darkness.

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