For the first half hour after leaving the Rocking B, Roland and Jake rode east toward the smallholds in silence, their horses ambling side by side in perfect good fellowship. Roland knew Jake had something serious on his mind; that was clear from his troubled face. Yet the gunslinger was still astounded when Jake curled his fist, placed it against the left side of his chest, and said: “Roland, before Eddie and Susannah join up with us, may I speak to you dan-dinh?”
Meanwhile Jake was looking at him with a wide-eyed, pale-cheeked solemnity that Roland didn’t much like.
“Dan-dinh-where did you hear that, Jake?”
“Never did. Picked it up from your mind, I think.” Jake added hastily: “I don’t go snooping in there, or anything like that, but sometimes stuff just comes. Most of it isn’t very important, I don’t think, but sometimes there are phrases.”
“You pick them up like a crow or a rustie picks up the bright things that catch its eye from the wing.”
“I guess so, yeah.”
“What others? Tell me a few.”
Jake looked embarrassed. “I can’t remember many. Dan-dinh, that means I open my heart to you and agree to do what you say.”
It was more complicated than that, but the boy had caught the essence. Roland nodded. The sun felt good on his face as they clopped along. Margaret Eisenhart’s exhibition with the plate had soothed him, he’d had a good meeting with the lady-sai’s father later on, and he had slept quite well for the first time in many nights. “Yes.”
“Let’s see. There’s tell-a-me, which means-I think-to gossip about someone you shouldn’t gossip about. It stuck in my head, because that’s what gossip sounds like: tell-a-me.” Jake cupped a hand to his ear.
Roland smiled. It was actually
“There’s dash-dinh, which means some sort of religious leader. You’re thinking about that this morning, I think, because of… is it because of the old Manni guy? Is he a dash-dinh?”
Roland nodded. “Very much so. And his name, Jake?” The gunslinger concentrated on it. “Can you see his name in my mind?”
“Sure, Henchick,” Jake said at once, and almost offhandedly. “You talked to him… when? Late last night?”
“Yes.” That he
“Mrs. Eisenhart thinks she hates him, but you think she’s only afraid of him.”
“Yes,” Roland said. “You’re strong in the touch. Much more so than Alain ever was, and much more than you were. It’s because of the rose, isn’t it?”
Jake nodded. The rose, yes. They rode in silence a little longer, their horses’ hooves raising a thin dust. In spite of the sun the day was chilly, promising real fall.
“All right, Jake. Speak to me dan-dinh if you would, and I say thanks for your trust in such wisdom as I have.”
But for the space of almost two minutes Jake said nothing. Roland pried at him, trying to get inside the boy’s head as the boy had gotten inside his (and with such ease), but there was nothing. Nothing at a-
But there was. There was a rat… squirming, impaled on something…
“Where is the castle she goes to?” Jake asked. “Do you know?”
Roland was unable to conceal his surprise. His astonishment, really. And he supposed there was an element of guilt there, as well. Suddenly he understood… well, not everything, but much.
“There is no castle and never was,” he told Jake. “It’s a place she goes to in her mind, probably made up of the stories she’s read and the ones I’ve told by the campfire, as well. She goes there so she won’t have to see what she’s really eating. What her baby needs.”
“I saw her eating a roasted pig,” Jake said. “Only before she came, a rat was eating it. She stabbed it with a meat-fork.”
“Where did you see this?”
“In the castle.” He paused. “In her dream. I was in her dream.”
“Did she see you there?” The gunslinger’s blue eyes were sharp, almost blazing. His horse clearly felt some change, for it stopped. So did Jake’s. Here they were on East Road, less than a mile from where Red Molly Doolin had once killed a Wolf out of Thunderclap. Here they were, facing each other.
“No,” Jake said. “She didn’t see me.”
Roland was thinking of the night he had followed her into the swamp. He had known she was someplace else in her mind, had sensed that much, but not quite where. Whatever visions he’d taken from her mind had been murky. Now he knew. He knew something else as well: Jake was troubled by his dinh’s decision to let Susannah go on this way. And perhaps he was right to be troubled. But-
“It’s not Susannah you saw, Jake.”
“I know. It’s the one who still has her legs. She calls herself Mia. She’s pregnant and she’s scared to death.”
Roland said, “If you would speak to me dan-dinh, tell me everything you saw in your dream and everything that troubled you about it upon waking. Then I’ll give you the wisdom of my heart, such wisdom as I have.”
“You won’t… Roland, you won’t scold me?”
This time Roland was unable to conceal his astonishment. “No, Jake. Far from it. Perhaps I should ask you not to scold
The boy smiled wanly. The horses began to amble again, this time a little faster, as if they knew there had almost been trouble and wanted to leave the place of it behind.
Jake wasn’t entirely sure how much of what was on his mind was going to come out until he actually began to talk. He had awakened undecided all over again concerning what to tell Roland about Andy and Slightman the Elder. In the end he took his cue from what Roland had just said-
He told Roland about the way Mia had run down the stairs, and about her fear when she’d seen there was no food left in the dining room or banqueting hall or whatever it was. Then the kitchen. Finding the roast with the rat battened on it. Killing the competition. Gorging on the prize. Then him, waking with the shivers and trying not to scream.
He hesitated and glanced at Roland. Roland made his impatient twirling gesture-go on, hurry up, finish.
That was true, but Jake was still unable to tell Roland he’d actually considered spilling the beans to Susannah himself.
He did articulate his principal fear, however: that with three of them knowing and one of them not, their ka-tet was broken just when it needed to be the most solid. He even told Roland the old joke, guy with a blowout saying
“And until last night it was even worse than three in and one out,” Jake said. “Because you were trying to keep
“No,” Roland said.
“I simply let things be as they were. I told Eddie because I was afraid that, once they were sharing a room together, he’d discover her wanderings and try to wake her up. I was afraid of what might happen to both of them if he did.”
“Why not just tell her?”
Roland sighed. “Listen to me, Jake. Cort saw to our physical training when we were boys. Vannay saw to our mental training. Both of them tried to teach us what they knew of ethics. But in Gilead, our fathers were responsible for teaching us about ka. And because each child’s father was different, each of us emerged from our childhood with a slightly different idea of what ka is and what it does. Do you understand?”
“My father told me a good deal on the subject, and most of it has left my mind, but one thing remains very clear. He said that when you are unsure, you must let ka alone to work itself out.”
“So it’s ka.” Jake sounded disappointed. “Roland, that isn’t very helpful.”
Roland heard worry in the boy’s voice, but it was the disappointment that stung him. He turned in the saddle, opened his mouth, realized that some hollow justification was about to come spilling out, and closed it again. Instead of justifying, he told the truth.
“I don’t know what to do. Would you like to tell me?”
The boy’s face flushed an alarming shade of red, and Roland realized Jake thought he was being sarcastic, for the gods’ sake. That he was angry. Such lack of understanding was frightening.
“Be not so,” Roland said. “Hear me, I beg-listen well. In Calla Bryn Sturgis, the Wolves are coming. In New York, Balazar and his ‘gentlemen’ are coming. Both are bound to arrive soon. Will Susannah’s baby wait until these matters have been resolved, one way or the other? I don’t know.”
“She doesn’t even look pregnant,” Jake said faintly. Some of the red had gone out of his cheeks, but he still kept his head down.
“No,” Roland said, “she doesn’t. Her breasts are a trifle fuller-perhaps her hips, as well-but those are the only signs. And so I have some reason to hope. I must hope, and so must you. For, on top of the Wolves and the business of the rose in your world, there’s the question of Black Thirteen and how to deal with it. I think I know-I hope I know-but I must speak to Henchick again. And we must hear the rest of Pere Callahan’s story. Have you thought of saying something to Susannah on your own?”
“I…”Jake bit his lip and fell silent.
“I see you have. Put the thought out of your mind. If anything other than death could break our fellowship for good, to tell without my sanction would do it, Jake. I am your dinh.”
“I know it!” Jake nearly shouted. “Don’t you think I know it?”
“And do you think I like it?” Roland asked, almost as heatedly. “Do you not see how much easier all this was before…” He trailed off, appalled by what he had nearly said.
“Before we came,” Jake said. His voice was flat. “Well guess what? We didn’t
“Jake…” The gunslinger sighed, raised his hands, dropped them back to his thighs. Up ahead was the turning which would take them to the Jaffords smallhold, where Eddie and Susannah would be waiting for them. “All I can do is say again what I’ve said already: when one isn’t sure about ka, it’s best to let ka work itself out. If one meddles, one almost always does the wrong thing.”
“That sounds like what folks in the Kingdom of New York call a copout, Roland. An answer that isn’t an answer, just a way to get people to go along with what you want.”
Roland considered. His lips firmed. “You asked me to command your heart.”
Jake nodded warily.
“Then here are the two things I say to you dan-dinh. First, I say that the three of us-you, me, Eddie-will speak an-tet to Susannah before the Wolves come, and tell her everything we know. That she’s pregnant, that her baby is almost surely a demon’s child, and that she’s created a woman named Mia to mother that child. Second, I say that we discuss this no more until the time to tell her has come.”
Jake considered these things. As he did, his face gradually brightened with relief. “Do you mean it?”
“Yes.” Roland tried not to show how much this question hurt and angered him. He understood, after all, why the boy would ask. “I promise and swear to my promise. Does it do ya?”
“Yes! It does me fine!”
Roland nodded. “I’m not doing this because I’m convinced it’s the right thing but because
“Wait a second, whoa, wait,” Jake said. His smile was fading. “Don’t try to put all this on me. I never-“
“Spare me such nonsense.” Roland used a dry and distant tone Jake had seldom heard. “You ask part of a man’s decision. I allow it-
Jake had gone from pale to flushed to pale once more. He looked badly frightened, and shook his head without speaking a single word.
In a quieter tone he said, “No, you didn’t ask to be brought here. Nor did I wish to rob you of your childhood. Yet here we are, and ka stands to one side and laughs. We must do as it wills or pay the price.”
Jake lowered his head and spoke two words in a trembling whisper: “I know.”
“You believe Susannah should be told. I, on the other hand, don’t know
“Yes,” Jake whispered, and touched his curled hand to his brow.
“Good. We’ll leave that part and say thankya. You’re strong in the touch.”
“I wish I wasn’t!” Jake burst out.
“Nevertheless. Can you touch her?”
“Yes. I don’t pry-not into her or any of you-but sometimes I do touch her. I get little snatches of songs she’s thinking of, or thoughts of her apartment in New York. She misses it. Once she thought, ‘I wish I’d gotten a chance to read that new Allen Drury novel that came from the book club.’ I think Allen Drury must be a famous writer from her when.”
“Surface things, in other words.”
“But you could go deeper.”
“I could probably watch her undress, too,” Jake said glumly, “but it wouldn’t be right.”
“Under these circumstances, it
Jake looked at him, round-eyed. “To run away? Run away where?”
Roland shook his head. “I don’t know. Where does a cat go to drop her litter? In a closet? Under the barn?”
“What if we tell her and the other one gets the upper hand?
Roland didn’t reply. This, of course, was exactly what he was afraid of, and Jake was smart enough to know it.
Jake was looking at him with a certain understandable resentment… but also with acceptance. “Once a day. No more than that.”
“More if you sense a change.”
“All right,” Jake said. “I hate it, but I asked you dan-dinh. Guess you got me.”
“It’s not an arm-wrestle, Jake. Nor a game.”
“I know.” Jake shook his head. “It feels like you turned it around on me somehow, but okay.”
“We keep quiet now, but we tell her before the Wolves come,” Jake said. “Before we have to fight. That’s the deal?”
“If we have to fight Balazar first-in the other world-we still have to tell her before we do. Okay?”
“Yes,” Roland said. “All right.”
“I hate this,” Jake said morosely.
Roland said, “So do I.”
Eddie was sittin and whittlin on the Jaffordses’ porch, listening to some confused story of Gran-pere’s and nodding in what he hoped were the right places, when Roland and Jake rode up. Eddie put away his knife and sauntered down the steps to meet them, calling back over his shoulder for Suze.
He felt extraordinarily good this morning. His fears of the night before had blown away, as our most extravagant night-fears often do; like the Pere’s Type One and Type Two vampires, those fears seemed especially allergic to daylight. For one thing, all the Jaffords children had been present and accounted for at breakfast. For another, there was indeed a shoat missing from the barn. Tian had asked Eddie and Susannah if they’d heard anything in the night, and nodded with gloomy satisfaction when both of them shook their heads.
“Aye. The mutie strains’ve mostly run out in our part of the world, but not in the north. There are packs of wild dogs that come down every fall. Two weeks ago they was likely in Calla Amity; next week we’ll be shed of em and they’ll be Calla Lockwood’s problem. Silent, they are. It’s not quiet I mean, but mute. Nothin in here.” Tian patted a hand against his throat. “Sides, it ain’t like they didn’t do me at least
“Nasty,” Hedda had said, pushing her bowl away with a theatrical grimace.
“You eat that porridge, miss,” Zalia said. “It’ll warm’ee while you’re hanging out the clothes.”
Eddie had caught Susannah’s eye and tipped her a wink. She winked back, and everything was all right. Okay, so she’d done a little wandering in the night. Had a little midnight snack. Buried the leavings. And yes, this business of her being pregnant had to be addressed. Of course it did. But it would come out all right, Eddie felt sure of it. And by daylight, the idea that Susannah could ever hurt a child seemed flat-out ridiculous.
“Hile, Roland. Jake.” Eddie turned to where Zalia had come out onto the porch. She dropped a curtsy. Roland took off his hat, held it out to her, and then put it back on.
“Sai,” he asked her, “you stand with your husband in the matter of fighting the Wolves, aye?”
She sighed, but her gaze was steady enough. “I do, gunslinger.”
“Do you ask aid and succor?”
The question was spoken without ostentation-almost conversationally, in fact-but Eddie felt his heart gave a lurch, and when Susannah’s hand crept into his, he squeezed it. Here was the third question, the key question, and it hadn’t been asked of the Calla’s big farmer, big rancher, or big businessman. It had been asked of a sodbuster’s wife with her mousy brown hair pulled back in a bun, a smallhold farmer’s wife whose skin, although naturally dark, had even so cracked and coarsened from too much sun, whose housedress had been faded by many washings. And it was right that it should be so, perfectly right. Because the soul of Calla Bryn Sturgis was in four dozen smallhold farms just like this, Eddie reckoned. Let Zalia Jaffords speak for all of them. Why the hell not?
“I seek it and say thankya,” she told him simply. “Lord God and Man Jesus bless you and yours.”
Roland nodded as if he’d been doing no more than passing the time of day. “Margaret Eisenhart showed me something.”
“Did she?” Zalia asked, and smiled slightly. Tian came plodding around the corner, looking tired and sweaty, although it was only nine in the morning. Over one shoulder was a busted piece of harness. He wished Roland and Jake a good day, then stood by his wife, a hand around her waist and resting on her hip.
“Aye, and told us the tale of Lady Oriza and Gray Dick.”
” Tis a fine tale,” she said.
“It is,” Roland said. “I’ll not fence, lady-sai. Will’ee come out on the line with your dish when the time comes?”
Tian’s eyes widened. He opened his mouth, then shut it again. He looked at his wife like a man who has suddenly been visited by a great revelation.
“Aye,” Zalia said.
Tian dropped the harness and hugged her. She hugged him back, briefly and hard, then turned to Roland and his friends once more.
Roland was smiling. Eddie was visited by a faint sense of unreality, as he always was when he observed this phenomenon. “Good. And will you show Susannah how to throw it?”
Zalia looked thoughtfully at Susannah. “Would she learn?”
“I don’t know,” Susannah said. “Is it something I’m supposed to learn, Roland?”
“When, gunslinger?” Zalia asked.
Roland calculated. “Three or four days from now, if all goes well. If she shows no aptitude, send her back to me and we’ll try Jake.”
Jake started visibly.
“I think she’ll do fine, though. I never knew a gunslinger who didn’t take to new weapons like birds to a new pond. And I must have at least one who can either throw the dish or shoot the bah, for we are four with only three guns we can rely on. And I like the dish. Like it very well.”
“I’ll show what I can, sure,” Zalia said, and gave Susannah a shy look.
“Then, in nine days’ time, you and Margaret and Rosalita and Sarey Adams will come to the Old Fella’s house and we’ll see what we’ll see.”
“You have a plan?” Tian asked. His eyes were hot with hope.
“I will by then,” Roland said.
They rode toward town four abreast at that same ambling gait, but where the East Road crossed another, this one going north and south, Roland pulled up. “Here I leave you for a little while,” he told them. He pointed north, toward the hills. “Two hours from here is what some of the Seeking Folk call Manni Calla and others call Manni Redpath. It’s their place by either name, a little town within the larger one. I’ll meet with Henchick there.”
“Their dinh,” Eddie said.
Roland nodded. “Beyond the Manni village, another hour or less, are a few played-out mines and a lot of caves.”
“The place you pointed out on the Tavery twins’ map?” Susannah asked.
“No, but close by. The cave I’m interested in is the one they call Doorway Cave. We’ll hear of it from Callahan tonight when he finishes his story.”
“Do you know that for a fact, or is it intuition?” Susannah asked.
“I know it from Henchick. He spoke of it last night. He also spoke of the Pere. I could tell you, but it’s best we hear it from Callahan himself, I think. In any case, that cave will be important to us.”
“It’s the way back, isn’t it?” Jake said. “You think it’s the way back to New York.”
“More,” the gunslinger said. “With Black Thirteen, I think it might be the way to everywhere and everywhen.”
“Including the Dark Tower?” Eddie asked. His voice was husky, barely more than a whisper.
“I can’t say,” Roland replied, “but I believe Henchick will show me the cave, and I may know more then. Meanwhile, you three have business in Took’s, the general store.”
“Do we?” Jake asked.
“You do.” Roland balanced his purse on his lap, opened it, and dug deep. At last he came out with a leather drawstring bag none of them had seen before.
“My father gave me this,” he said absently. “It’s the only thing I have now, other than the ruins of my younger face, that I had when I rode into Mejis with my ka-mates all those years ago.”
They looked at it with awe, sharing the same thought: if what the gunslinger said was true, the little leather bag had to be hundreds of years old. Roland opened it, looked in, nodded. “Susannah, hold out your hands.”
She did. Into her cupped palms he poured perhaps ten pieces of silver, emptying the bag.
“Eddie, hold out yours.”
“Uh, Roland, I think the cupboard’s bare.”
“Hold out your hands.”
Eddie shrugged and did so. Roland tipped the bag over them and poured out a dozen gold pieces, emptying the bag.
Jake held out his hands. From the pocket in the front of the poncho, Oy looked on with interest. This time the bag disgorged half a dozen bright gemstones before it was empty. Susannah gasped.
“They’re but garnets,” Roland said, almost apologetically. “A fair medium of exchange out here, from what they say. They won’t buy much, but they
“Cool!” Jake was grinning broadly. “Say thankya! Big-big!”
They looked at the empty sack with silent wonder, and Roland smiled. “Most of the magic I once knew or had access to is gone, but you see a little lingers. Like soaked leaves in the bottom of a teapot.”
“Is there even more stuff inside? “Jake asked.
“No. In time, there might be. It’s a grow-bag.” Roland returned the ancient leather sack to his purse, came out with the fresh supply of tobacco Callahan had given him, and rolled a smoke. “Go in the store. Buy what you fancy. A few shirts, perhaps-and one for me, if it does ya; I could use one. Then you’ll go out on the porch and take your ease, as town folk do. Sai Took won’t care much for it, there’s nothing he’d like to see so well as our backs going east toward Thunderclap, but he’ll not shoo you off.”
“Like to see him try,” Eddie grunted, and touched the butt of Roland’s gun.
“You won’t need that,” Roland said. “Custom alone will keep him behind his counter, minding his till. That, and the temper of the town.”
“It’s going our way, isn’t it?” Susannah said.
“Yes, Susannah. If you asked them straight on, as I asked sai Jaffords, they’d not answer, so it’s best not to ask, not yet. But yes. They mean to fight. Or to let us fight for them. Which can’t be held against them. Fighting for those who can’t fight for themselves is our job.”
Eddie opened his mouth to tell Roland what Gran-pere had told him, then closed it again. Roland hadn’t asked him, although that had been the reason he had sent them to the Jaffordses’. Nor, he realized, had Susannah asked him. She hadn’t mentioned his conversation with old Jamie at all.
“Will you ask Henchick what you asked Mrs. Jaffords?” Jake asked.
“Yes,” Roland said. “Him I’ll ask.”
‘Because you know what he’ll say.”
Roland nodded and smiled again. This was not a smile that held any comfort; it was as cold as sunlight on snow. “A gunslinger never asks that question until he knows what the answer will be,” he said. “We meet at the Pere’s house for the evening meal. If all goes well, I’ll be there just when the sun comes a-horizon. Are you all well? Eddie? Jake?” A slight pause. “Susannah?”
They all nodded. Oy nodded, too.
“Then until evening. Do ya fine, and may the sun never fall in your eyes.”
He gigged his horse and turned off on the neglected little road leading north. They watched him go until he was out of sight, and as always when he was gone and they were on their own, the three of them shared a complex feeling that was part fear, part loneliness, and part nervous pride.
They rode on toward town with their horses a little closer together.
“Nayyup, nayyup, don’tchee bring that dairty bumble-beast in ‘ere, don’tchee never!” Eben Took cried from his place behind the counter. He had a high, almost womanish voice; it scratched the dozy quiet of the mercantile like splinters of glass. He was pointing at Oy, who was peering from the front pocket of Jake’s poncho. A dozen desultory shoppers, most of them women dressed in homespun, turned to look.
Two farm workers, dressed in plain brown shirts, dirty white pants, and zoris, had been standing at the counter. They backed away in a hurry, as if expecting the two outworlders carrying guns to immediately slap leather and blow sai Took all the way to Calla Boot Hill.
“Yessir,” Jake said mildly. “Sorry.” He lifted Oy from the pocket of the poncho and set him down on the sunny porch, just outside the door. “Stay, boy.”
“Oy stay,” the bumbler said, and curled his clockspring of a tail around his haunches.
Jake rejoined his friends and they made their way into the store. To Susannah, it smelled like ones she’d been in during her time in Mississippi: a mingled aroma of salted meat, leather, spice, coffee, mothballs, and aged cozenry. Beside the counter was a large wooden barrel with the top slid partway aside and a pair of tongs hanging on a nail nearby. From the keg came the strong and tearful smell of pickles in brine.
“No credit!” Took cried in that same shrill, annoying voice. “Ah en’t ever give credit to no one from away and Ah never will! Say true! Say thankya!”
Susannah grasped Eddie’s hand and gave it a warning squeeze. Eddie shook it off impatiently, but when he spoke, his voice was as mild as Jake’s had been. “Say thankya, sai Took, we’d not ask it.” And recalled something he’d heard from Pere Callahan: “Never in life.”
There was a murmur of approval from some of those in the store. None of them was any longer making even the slightest pretense of shopping. Took flushed. Susannah took Eddie’s hand again and this time gave him a smile to go with the squeeze.
At first they shopped in silence, but before they finished, several people-all of whom had been at the Pavilion two nights before-said hello and asked (timidly) how they did. All three said they did fine. They got shirts, including two for Roland, denim pants, underwear singlets, and three sets of shor’boots which looked ugly but serviceable. Jake got a bag of candy, picking it out by pointing while Took put it in a bag of woven grass with grudging and disagreeable slowness. When he tried to buy a sack of tobacco and some rolling papers for Roland, Took refused him with all too evident pleasure. “Nayyup, nayyup, Ah’ll not sell smokeweed to a boy. Never have done.”
“Good idea, too,” Eddie said. “One step below devil grass, and the Surgeon General says thankya. But you’ll sell it to me, won’t you, sai? Our dinh enjoys a smoke in the evening, while he’s planning out new ways to help folks in need.”
There were a few titters at this. The store had begun to fill up quite amazingly. They were playing to a real audience now, and Eddie didn’t mind a bit. Took was coming off as a shithead, which wasn’t surprising. Took clearly
“Never seen no one dance a better commala than he did!” a man called from one of the aisles, and there were murmurs of assent.
“Say thankya,” Eddie said. “I’ll pass it on.”
“And your lady sings well,” said another.
Susannah dropped a skirtless curtsy. She finished her own shopping by pushing the lid a little further off the pickle barrel and dipping out an enormous specimen with the tongs. Eddie leaned close and said, “I might have gotten something that green from my nose once, but I can’t really remember.”
“Don’t be grotesque, dear one,” Susannah replied, smiling sweetly all the while.
Eddie and Jake were content to let her assume responsibility for the dickering, which Susannah did with relish. Took tried his very best to overcharge her for their gunna, but Eddie had an idea this wasn’t aimed at them specifically but was just part of what Eben Took saw as his job (or perhaps his sacred calling). Certainly he was smart enough to gauge the temperature of his clientele, for he had pretty much laid off nagging them by the time the trading was finished. This did not keep him from ringing their coins on a special square of metal which seemed reserved for that sole purpose, and holding Jake’s garnets up to the light and rejecting one of them (which looked like all the others, so far as Eddie,Jake, and Susannah could see).
“How long’ll ‘ee be here, folks?” he asked in a marginally cordial voice when the dickering was done. Yet his eyes were shrewd, and Eddie had no doubt that whatever they said would reach the ears of Eisenhart, Overholser, and anyone else who mattered before the day was done.
“Ah, well, that depends on what we see,” Eddie said. “And what we see depends on what folks show us, wouldn’t you say?”
“Aye,” Took agreed, but he looked mystified. There were now perhaps fifty people in the roomy mercantile-and-grocery, most of them simply gawking. There was a powdery sort of excitement in the air. Eddie liked it. He didn’t know if that was right or wrong, but yes, he liked it very well.
“Also depends on what folks want,” Susannah amplified.
“Ah’ll tell you what they ‘unt, brownie!” Took said in his shrill shards-of-glass voice. “They ‘unt peace, same as ever! They ‘unt’t’town’t’still be here arter you four-“
Susannah seized the man’s thumb and bent it back. It was dextrously done. Jake doubted if more than two or three
“I’ll take that word from an old man who’s lost most of his sense,” she said, “but I won’t take it from you. Call me brownie again, fatso, and I’ll pull your tongue out of your head and wipe your ass with it.”
“Cry pardon!” Took gasped. Now sweat broke on his cheeks in large and rather disgusting drops. “Cry’er pardon, so Ah do!”
“Fine,” Susannah said, and let him go. “Now we might just go out and sit on your porch for a bit, for shopping’s tiring work.”
Took’s General Store featured no Guardians of the Beam such as Roland had told of in Mejis, but rockers were lined up the long length of the porch, as many as two dozen of them. And all three sets of steps were flanked by stuffy-guys in honor of the season. When Roland’s ka-mates came out, they took three rockers in the middle of the porch. Oy lay down contentedly between Jake’s feet and appeared to go to sleep with his nose on his paws.
Eddie cocked a thumb back over his shoulder in Eben Took’s general direction. “Too bad Detta Walker wasn’t here to shoplift a few things from the son of a bitch.”
“Don’t think I wasn’t tempted on her behalf,” Susannah said.
“Folks coming,” Jake said. “I think they want to talk to us.”
“Sure they do,” Eddie said. “It’s what we’re here for.” He smiled, his handsome face growing handsomer still. Under his breath he said, “Meet the gunslingers, folks. Come-come-commala, shootin’s gonna folia.”
“Hesh up that bad mouth of yours, son,” Susannah said, but she was laughing.
Henchick of the Manni and Roland of Gilead nooned in the shadow of a massive rock outcrop, eating cold chicken and rice wrapped in tortillas and drinking sof cider from a jug which they passed back and forth between them. Henchick set them on with a word to what he called both The Force and The Over, then fell silent. That was fine with Roland. The old man had answered aye to the one question the gunslinger had needed to ask.
By the time they’d finished their meal, the sun had gone behind the high cliffs and escarpments. Thus they walked in shadow, making their way up a path that was strewn with rubble and far too narrow for their horses, which had been left in a grove of yellow-leaf quaking aspen below. Scores of tiny lizards ran before them, sometimes darting into cracks in the rocks.
Shady or not, it was hotter than the hinges of hell out here. After a mile of steady climbing, Roland began to breathe hard and use his bandanna to wipe the sweat from his cheeks and throat. Henchick, who appeared to be somewhere in the neighborhood of eighty, walked ahead of him with steady serenity. He breathed with the ease of a man strolling in a park. He’d left his cloak below, laid over the branch of a tree, but Roland could see no patches of sweat spreading on his black shirt.
They reached a bend in the path, and for a moment the world to the north and west opened out below them in gauzy splendor. Roland could see the huge taupe rectangles of graze-land, and tiny toy cattle. To the south and east, the fields grew greener as they marched toward the river lowlands. He could see the Calla village, and even-in the dreaming western distance-the edge of great forest through which they had come to get here. The breeze that struck them on this stretch of the path was so cold it made Roland gasp. Yet he raised his face into it gratefully, eyes mostly closed, smelling all the things that were the Calla: steers, horses, grain, river water, and rice rice rice.
Henchick had doffed his broad-brimmed, flat-crowned hat and also stood with his head raised and his eyes mostly closed, a study in silent thanksgiving. The wind blew back his long hair and playfully divided his waist-length beard into forks. They stood so for perhaps three minutes, letting the breeze cool them. Then Henchick clapped his hat back on his head. He looked at Roland. “Do’ee say the world will end in fire or in ice, gunslinger?”
Roland considered this. “Neither,” he said at last. “I think in darkness.”
“Do’ee say so?”
Henchick considered a moment, then turned to continue on up the path. Roland was impatient to get to where they were going, but he touched the Manni’s shoulder, nevertheless. A promise was a promise. Especially one made to a lady.
“I stayed with one of the forgetful last night,” Roland said. “Isn’t that what you call those who choose to leave thy ka-tet?”
“We speak of the forgetful, aye,” Henchick said, watching him closely, “but not of ka-tet. We know that word, but it is not our word, gunslinger.”
“In any case, I-“
“In any case, thee slept at the Rocking B with Vaughn Eisenhart and our daughter, Margaret. And she threw the dish for’ee. I didn’t speak of these things when we talked last night, for I knew them as well as you did. Any ro’, we had other matters to discuss, did we not? Caves, and such.”
“We did.” Roland tried not to show his surprise. He must have failed, because Henchick nodded slightly, the lips just visible within his beard curving in a slight smile.
“The Manni have ways of knowing, gunslinger; always have.”
“Will you not call me Roland?”
“She said to tell thee that Margaret of the Redpath Clan does fine with her heathen man, fine still.”
Henchick nodded. If he felt pain at this, it didn’t show. Not even in his eyes. “She’s damned,” he said. His tone was that of a man saying
“Are you asking me to tell her that?” Roland asked. He was amused and aghast at the same time.
Henchick’s blue eyes had faded and grown watery with age, but there was no mistaking the surprise that came into them at this question. His bushy eyebrows went up. “Why would I bother?” he asked. “She knows. She’ll have time to repent her heathen man at leisure in the depths of Na’ar. She knows that, too. Come, gunslinger. Another quarter-wheel and we’re there. But it’s upsy.”
Upsy it was, very upsy indeed. Half an hour later, they came to a place where a fallen boulder blocked most of the path. Henchick eased his way around it, dark pants rippling in the wind, beard blowing out sideways, long-nailed fingers clutching for purchase. Roland followed. The boulder was warm from the sun, but the wind was now so cold he was shivering. He sensed the heels of his worn boots sticking out over a blue drop of perhaps two thousand feet. If the old man decided to push him, all would end in a hurry. And in decidedly undramatic fashion.
On the far side of the boulder, the path ended in a ragged, dark hole nine feet high and five wide. A draft blew out of it into Roland’s face. Unlike the breeze that had played with them as they climbed the path, this air was smelly and unpleasant. Coming with it, carried upon it, were cries Roland couldn’t make out. But they were the cries of human voices.
“Is it the cries of folks in Na’ar we’re hearing?” he asked Henchick.
No smile touched the old man’s mostly hidden lips now. “Speak not in jest,” he said. “Not here. For you are in the presence of the infinite.”
Roland could believe it. He moved forward cautiously, boots gritting on the rubbly scree, his hand dropping to the butt of his gun-he always wore the left one now, when he wore any; below the hand that was whole.
The stench breathing from the cave’s open mouth grew stronger yet. Noxious if not outright toxic. Roland held his bandanna against his mouth and nose with his diminished right hand. Something inside the cave, there in the shadows. Bones, yes, the bones of lizards and other small animals, but something else as well, a shape he knew-
“Be careful, gunslinger,” Henchick said, but stood aside to let Roland enter the cave if he so desired.
The shape in the shadows grew clearer. He wasn’t surprised to see it was a door exactly like those he’d come to on the beach; why else would this have been called Doorway Cave? It was made of ironwood (or perhaps ghostwood), and stood about twenty feet inside the entrance to the cave. It was six and a half feet high, as the doors on the beach had been. And, like those, it stood freely in the shadows, with hinges that seemed fastened to nothing.
There was no keyhole. The knob appeared to be crystal. Etched upon it was a rose. On the beach of the Western Sea, the three doors had been marked with the High Speech: the prisoner on one, the lady of the shadows on another, the pusher on the third. Here were the hieroglyphs he had seen on the box hidden in Callahan’s church:
“It means ‘unfound,’ ” Roland said.
Henchick nodded, but when Roland moved to walk around the door, the old man took a step forward and held out a hand. “Be careful, or’ee may be able to discover who those voices belong to for yourself.”
Roland saw what he meant. Eight or nine feet beyond the door, the floor of the cave sloped down at an angle of fifty or even sixty degrees. There was nothing to hold onto, and the rock looked smooth as glass. Thirty feet down, this slippery-slide disappeared into a chasm. Moaning, intertwined voices rose from it. And then one came clear. It was that of Gabrielle Deschain.
Next from that reeking darkness came the voice of his father.
“I’ve known since you toddled that you were no genius,” Steven Deschain said in a tired voice, “but I never believed until yestereve that you were an idiot. To let him drive you like a cow in a chute! Gods!”
When he stepped around the door (minding the drop now to his right), the door was gone. There was only the silhouette of Henchick, a severe man-shape cut from black paper standing in the cave’s mouth.
“A trifle upsetting, isn’t it?” tittered the voice of Walter from deep in the Doorway Cave’s gullet. “Give it over, Roland! Better to give it over and die than to discover the room at the top of the Dark Tower is empty.”
Then came the urgent blare of Eld’s Horn, raising goose-flesh on Roland’s arms and hackles on the back of his neck: Cuthbert Allgood’s final battle-cry as he ran down Jericho Hill toward his death at the hands of the barbarians with the blue faces.
Roland lowered the bandanna from his own face and began walking again. One pace; two; three. Bones crunched beneath his bootheels. At the third pace the door reappeared, at first side-to, with its latch seeming to bite into thin air, like the hinges on its other side. He stopped for a moment, gazing at this thickness, relishing the strangeness of the door just as he had relished the strangeness of the ones he’d encountered on the beach. And on the beach he had been sick almost to the point of death. If he moved his head forward slightly, the door disappeared. If he pulled it back again, it was there. The door never wavered, never shimmered. It was always a case of either/or, there/not there.
He stepped all the way back, put his splayed palms on the ironwood, leaned on them. He could feel a faint but perceptible vibration, like the feel of powerful machinery. From the dark gullet of the cave, Rhea of the Coos screamed up at him, calling him a brat who’d never seen his true father’s face, telling him his bit o’ tail burst her throat with her screams as she burned. Roland ignored it and grasped the crystal doorknob.
“Nay, gunslinger, ye dare not!” Henchick cried in alarm.
“I dare,” Roland said. And he did, but the knob wouldn’t turn in either direction. He stepped back from it.
“But the door was open when you found the priest?” he asked Henchick. They had spoken of this the previous night, but Roland wanted to hear more.
“Aye. ‘Twas I and Jemmin who found him. Thee knows we elder Manni seek the other worlds? Not for treasure but for enlightenment?”
Roland nodded. He also knew that some had come back from their travels insane. Others never came back at all.
“These hills are magnetic, and riddled with many ways into many worlds. We’d gone out to a cave near the old garnet mines and there we found a message.”
“What kind of message?”
” ‘Twas a machine set in the cave’s mouth,” Henchick said. “Push a button and a voice came out of it. The voice told us to come here.”
“You knew of this cave before?”
“Aye, but before the Pere came, it were called the Cave of Voices. For which reason thee now knows.”
Roland nodded and motioned for Henchick to go on.
“The voice from the machine spoke in accents like those of your ka-mates, gunslinger. It said that we should come here, Jemmin and I, and we’d find a door and a man and a wonder. So we did.”
“Someone left you instructions,” Roland mused. It was Walter he was thinking of. The man in black, who had also left them the cookies Eddie called Keeblers. Walter was Flagg and Flagg was Marten and Marten… was he Maerlyn, the old rogue wizard of legend? On that subject Roland remained unsure. “And spoke to you by name?”
“Nay, he did not know’s’much. Only called us the Manni-folk.”
“How did this someone know where to leave the voice machine, do you think?”
Henchick’s lips thinned. “Why must thee think it was a person? Why not a god speaking in a man’s voice? Why not some agent of The Over?”
Roland said, “Gods leave siguls. Men leave machines.” He paused. “In my own experience, of course, Pa.”
Henchick made a curt gesture, as if to tell Roland to spare him the flattery.
“Was it general knowledge that thee and thy friend were exploring the cave where you found the speaking machine?”
Henchick shrugged rather sullenly. “People see us, I suppose. Some mayhap watch over the miles with their spyglasses and binoculars. Also, there’s the mechanical man. He sees much and prattles everlastingly to all who will listen.”
Roland took this for a yes. He thought someone had known Pere Callahan was coming. And that he would need help when he arrived on the outskirts of the Calla.
“How far open was the door?” Roland asked.
“These are questions for Callahan,” Henchick said. “I promised to show thee this place. I have. Surely that’s enough for ye.”
“Was he conscious when you found him?”
There was a reluctant pause. Then: “Nay. Only muttering, as one does in his sleep if he dreams badly.”
“Then he can’t tell me, can he? Not this part. Henchick, you seek aid and succor. This thee told me on behalf of all your clans. Help me, then! Help me to help you!”
“I do na’ see how this helps.”
And it might not help, not in the matter of the Wolves which so concerned this old man and the rest of Calla Bryn Sturgis, but Roland had other worries and other needs; other fish to fry, as Susannah sometimes said. He stood looking at Henchick, one hand still on the crystal doorknob.
“It were open a bit,” Henchick said finally. “So were the box. Both just a bit The one they call the Old Fella, he lay facedown, there.” He pointed to the rubble-and bone-littered floor where Roland’s boots were now planted. “The box were by his right hand, open about this much.” Henchick held his thumb and forefinger perhaps two inches apart. “Coming from it was the sound of the
“The door were only ajar, like the box, but a terrible light was coming through it. I’ve traveled much, gunslinger, to many
“The Eye,” Roland said.
Henchick looked at him. “An eye? Do’ee say so?”
“Who is he?”
“I don’t know,” Roland said. “Only that he bides far east of here, in Thunderclap or beyond it. I believe he may be a Guardian of the Dark Tower. He may even think he owns it.”
At Roland’s mention of the Tower, the old man covered his eyes with both hands, a gesture of deep religious dread.
“What happened next, Henchick? Tell me, I beg.”
“I began to reach for Jemmin, then recalled how he stepped on the man’s hand with his bootheel, and thought better of it. Thought, ‘Henchick, if thee does that, he’ll drag you through with him.’ ” The old man’s eyes fastened on Roland’s. “Traveling is what we do, I know ye ken as much, and rarely are we afraid, for we trust The Over. Yet I were afraid of that light and the sound of those chimes.” He paused. “Terrified of them. I’ve never spoken of that day.”
“Not even to Pere Callahan?”
Henchick shook his head.
“Did he not speak to you when he woke up?”
“He asked if he were dead. I told him that if he were so, so were we all.”
“What about Jemmin?”
“Died two years later.” Henchick tapped the front of his black shirt. “Heart.”
“How many years since you found Callahan here?”
Henchick shook his head slowly back and forth in wide arcs, a Manni gesture so common it might have been genetic. “Gunslinger, I know not. For time is-“
“Yes, in drift,” Roland said impatiently. “How long would you
“More than five years, for he has his church and superstitious fools to fill it, ye ken.”
“What did you do? How did thee save Jemmin?”
“Fell on my knees and closed the box,” Henchick said. “‘Twas all I could think to do. If I’d hesitated even a single second I do believe I would ha’ been lost, for the same black light were coming out of it. It made me feel weak and… and
“I’ll bet it did,” Roland said grimly.
“But I moved fast, and when the lid of the box clicked down, the door swung shut. Jemmin banged his fists against it and screamed and begged to be let through. Then he fell down in a faint. I dragged him out of the cave. I dragged them both out. After a little while in the fresh air, both came to.” Henchick raised his hands, then lowered them again, as if to say
Roland gave the doorknob a final try. It moved in neither direction. But with the ball-
“Let’s go back,” he said. “I’d like to be at the Pere’s house by dinnertime. That means a fast walk back down to the horses and an even faster ride once we get there.”
Henchick nodded. His bearded face was good at hiding expression, but Roland thought the old man was relieved to be going. Roland was a little relieved, himself. Who would enjoy listening to the accusing screams of one’s dead mother and father rising out of the dark? Not to mention the cries of one’s dead friends?
“What happened to the speaking device?” Roland asked as they started back down.
Henchick shrugged. “Do ye ken bayderies?”
“While they worked, the machine played the same message over and over, the one telling us that we should go to the Cave of Voices and find a man, a door, and a wonder. There was also a song. We played it once for the Pere, and he wept. You must ask him about it, for that truly is his part of the tale.”
Roland nodded again.
“Then the bayderies died.” Henchick’s shrug showed a certain contempt for machines, the gone world, or perhaps both. “We took them out. They were Duracell. Does thee ken Duracell, gunslinger?”
Roland shook his head.
“We took them to Andy and asked if he could recharge them, mayhap. He took them into himself, but when they came out again they were as useless as before. Andy said sorry. We said thankya.” Henchick rolled his shoulders in that same contemptuous shrug. “We opened the machine-another button did that-and the tongue came out. It were this long.” Henchick held his hands four or five inches apart. “Two holes in it. Shiny brown stuff inside, like string. The Pere called it a ‘cassette tape.’ “
Roland nodded. “I want to thank you for taking me up to the cave, Henchick, and for telling me all thee knows.”
“I did what I had to,” Henchick said. “And you’ll do as’ee promise. Wont’chee?”
Roland of Gilead nodded. “Let God pick a winner.”
“Aye, so we do say. Ye speak as if ye knew us, once upon a season.” He paused, eyeing Roland with a certain sour shrewdness. “Or is it just makin up to me that ye does? For anyone who’s ever read the Good Book can thee and thou till the crows fly home.”
“Does thee ask if I play the toady, up here where there’s no one to hear us but them?” Roland nodded toward the babbling darkness. “Thou knows better, I hope, for if thee doesn’t, thee’s a fool.”
The old man considered, then put out his gnarled, long-fingered hand. “Do’ee well, Roland. ‘Tis a good name, and a fair.”
Roland put out his right hand. And when the old man took it and squeezed it, he felt the first deep twinge of pain where he wanted to feel it least.
“Mayhap this time the Wolves’ll kill us all,” said Henchick.
“Yet still, perhaps we’re well-met.”
“Perhaps we are,” the gunslinger replied.