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Companions on the Road by Tanith Lee

Companions on the Road (1977)

by Tanith Lee

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Really, nice, really well-written quest fantasy in the classic vein. Three unlikely companions, all with different motivations, end up looting a chalice from the sacked city of Avillis.
On the road, however, they come to know that the chalice is cursed.
Will the soldier Havor be able to fulfill his vow to a dying companion; to bring money to his destitute family? Or has he met his doom with the ill-advised theft?

Tanith Lee's writing brings a richness and depth to this type of story that's rarely seen. However, this book is very, very short. (This edition only contains the one story.) It's really a novella, not an novel. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
*note to self. (copy from Al).
  velvetink | Mar 31, 2013 |
This book features two short narratives--Companions on the Road and The Winter Players--set in undefined fantasy realms. Companions on the Road begins at the end of a long military campaign, the first, the warrior Havor has just finished a campaign, when through a series of events, he joins with Feluce the rogue and Kachil the brigand to seek out treasure hidden in the dungeons of Avillis. But instead of a lengthy dungeon hack, the three promptly find the treasure they are seeking. And that's when the story really gets going. The three soon learn that they are being followed by something all of their battle experience has not prepared them to face, something that stalks and kills as subtly as it does relentlessly. Lee combines heroic fantasy with horror elements in a tense race against time.

The second story, The Winter Players, features the priestess Oaive, who guards the Mysteries of the Shrine. One day a wolf-like stranger comes to town, offering to buy one of the objects, which Oaive refuses to do. When the stranger returns, a confrontation ensues in which she learns that the stranger is more than he appears to be. Difficult choices and a perilous chase ensue, as the stranger leads Oaive onward towards an even greater danger. While Companions wove horror elements into its fantasy tale, Players' fantasy incorporates questions of free will and destiny, endless cycles, and a feel for the folklore of lonely fishing villages.

While slightly different in theme, both or excellent works of fantasy, told with Lee's consummate skill for character, setting and pace. ( )
  CarlosMcRey | Jun 10, 2009 |
The subtitle (Wondrous Tales of Adventure and Quest) made me expect more than the two stories included, but those two novellas were amble reward for opening the book.
The first one, which the book is named for, deals with a soldier who retires after the taking and burning of a town. He's been tasked to bring a small pouch of coins to the family of one of his young soldiers, but is side tracked by the prospect of some treasure underneath the castle. Three of them start out to take the treasure to a larger town to sell it and split the take, but it turns out that they're being followed by dark sorceries. It has a traditional sort of structure, with the three who start, and three following them, and the resolution, but the road to get there is rich with detail and foreboding.
The second novella starts with a stranger visiting a priestess and stealing an artefact from her. She follows him to regain her treasure, and uncovers his hidden motivations as she travels far from home. Most of the story is focussed on the mystery of the stranger, but there's a strong sub plot concerting the maturation of the priestess as a sorceress. ( )
  silentq | Jan 8, 2008 |
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The siege was over. The citadel of Avillis had burned, burned through the night, with its terrible Lord and his monstrous children in it. Nothing remained now but broken walls, charred stumps where trees had, grown, tattered lattices open to the sky. But at the heart of the palace the great Cup of Avillis stood untouched: pure gold, crusted with jewels each worth an emperor's ransom. Small wonder that Kachil, common thief, should covet it. Or Feluce, dapper arrogant climber; riches would mean much to him. But why did Havor of Taon, the hawk, join them to carry the cursed Cup away? For it was Havor who found that the Chalice once stolen could not be lightly cast aside, even in horror and despair. While always, inexorably, half-seen, slipping through shadows, shapes in the mind's eye, three phantom riders followed after it across the winter-blasted plain.
This chilling tale of flight and inescapable pursuit rises to a confrontation of ghostly powers. Havor thought his story could have only one ending, but the spirit world can summon Forces of Light as well as Dark. (dustwrapper copy)
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In the first of these two works, a stolen chalice brings misery to those who covet it and in the second, a priestess decides to pursue the thief of the sacred relic of her people.

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