From Light to Dark - By Irene L. Pynn

Chapter One
From Light to Dark

Getting stoned to death wasn't the worst thing that could happen - or so Eref told himself when the first rock cracked over his head.

But it hurt. Blood trickled down his forehead and into his eyes, blocking the sharp rays of the sun overhead.

All around him, forty or fifty men dressed in long tunics shouted curses and flung stones at his naked body.




The bright power of the Governors' Moonstone from its hidden place in Light World made certain each rock hit its target.

So many people had come to this hidden corner to watch him die. Far from the rigid roads of Light World's city, each face glared at him. Each mouth snarled. Eref blinked the blood away. He thought for a minute that he saw Balor among the crowd. couldn't be. But it was true. His best friend pushed his way to the front, holding several large stones in his fist.

Eref tried to meet Balor's eyes. He tried to find something familiar in them....

As if to answer, Balor growled like an animal and hurtled one of his rocks into Eref's stomach, creating a lightning bolt of pain and knocking the wind out of him.

After that blow, Eref barely felt anything else, though a hundred stones crashed onto his skin and broke his bones. Only Balor's throws hurt, because they bruised his heart.

"Balor," Eref shouted, trying to be heard through the curses. For the first time throughout this ordeal, he let himself cry. "How can you do this?"

The crowd fell silent, and many faces turned to Balor, whose eyes blazed with something that looked like madness. He gripped another stone in his hand, holding it so hard that the dark skin on his knuckles whitened.

Eref wiped blood and tears from his face. "Balor. You're my best friend."

Balor glanced around at the crowd and then stared blankly at Eref. "You tried to destroy our way of life," he said in a monotone, quoting the morning's headlines. His fingers rubbed the stone in his right hand.

"But it was your idea, remember? You're the one who suggested I turn off the light - "

Balor reared his arm back like a pitcher and let loose. This rock knocked Eref to the ground. It smashed into his bare chest and crushed his ribs. He scrambled backward, gasping for breath.

More stones sailed. Eref curled into a ball and lay still, feeling each rock pummel his life out of him.

His life. His dreams. Once, he had hoped to become someone. Someone who could change things.

Now the people of Light World seemed determined to watch him die.

But it could have been worse, Eref reminded himself, feeling everything from pebbles to boulders pounding his limbs and back. Soon he would be free. He would never have to reach eighteen - the Age of Enlightenment. The age of brainwashed blindness.

How could he have endured going to the Eighteener Entrance, where his mind would have been stripped and his sanity exterminated?

The magistrate had taken Balor to the ceremony the day after the prank.

And now look at him.

Blood slid again from Eref's forehead into his eyes. He caught another rock in the jaw.

A week ago, Eref and Balor had basked in the bright, healthy rays that came from the Center. They had worshipped at the Light. They'd studied at the Learning.

But that was before Balor had suggested they shut off the power. Just for a moment, he'd said. The Learning could be so dull.

They'd had no idea....

Now Eref lay crouched in the End, the ugliest corner of Light World, miles from the Center and the Learning, accepting death one stone at a time.

An executioner stepped forward, and the crowd grew still as a reverent hush fell over their voices. The round, dark man balanced an enormous boulder in his stubby arms. Eref looked at the bloodstains on its jagged edges, where the heads of albinos, thieves, and rebels had....


Everything had become still and silent around the End. The only sound was the stomping of the executioner's feet drawing closer. Around the executioner's neck hung a ring on a chain. The Moonstone. The source of all Light World's power. He had the special blessing of the Governors' most precious gem. His would be the final blow.

Instinctively Eref looked for his friend, not for help, but to say goodbye. Balor still stood at the front of the crowd. He tossed several smaller stones up and down in his right hand, apparently itching to finish Eref himself.