Gate of Ivrel
||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (September 2009)|
Gate of Ivrel re-issue with original cover artwork
|Author||C. J. Cherryh|
|Cover artist||Michael Whelan|
|Series||The Morgaine Stories|
|Genre||Science fiction novel|
|Media type||Print (Paperback)|
|Followed by||Well of Shiuan (1978)|
Gate of Ivrel is a 1976 science fiction novel written by C. J. Cherryh and was her first published work. It is the first of four books composing the Morgaine Stories, chronicling the deeds of Morgaine, a woman consumed by a mission of the utmost importance, and her chance-met companion, Nhi Vanye i Chya.
It is tenuously set in her Union-Alliance universe, but has little in common with other works in that milieu.
The backward land of Andur-Kursh is split into many cantons, each with ambitious clans vying for power. The loyalty of a warrior of the nobility is given to one's clan. Vanye is one of them, if only the barely tolerated bastard son of the ruler of one of these cantons, the result of a mere night's amusement by a Nhi lord with a captive from an enemy clan, the Chya.
One day, he is brought before his father, after killing one legitimate half-brother and maiming the other with his sword, in a baiting that had gone awry. After turning down honorable suicide, he is made ilin, an exiled, clanless warrior akin to the Japanese ronin.
Hunted by his half-brothers' vengeful maternal clan, Vanye is forced to enter Morgaine's vale, a place anyone less desperate would have shunned. By chance, he releases Morgaine, a beautiful woman of distinctive appearance, from the Gate there. Vanye recognizes her as a legend from the past. It is winter and Vanye is weary, cold and hungry. So when Morgaine provides food and shelter, he accepts them. Only then does he remember that she, alone of all women, has been given lord-right; she can and does claim a year of service from him in return for accepting her hospitality.
Morgaine is determined to complete the mission she and four companions had set out on a century before: to close the master Gate at Ivrel. She explains to Vanye that the Gates that dot the land are passageways through both space and time. One hundred men and women had been sent by the Union Science Bureau on a one-way mission to close all the Gates, lest humanity suffer the fate of another species. The qujal had found the Gates and tapped their powers to rule an interstellar empire of lesser beings, including humans. But one reckless fool had succumbed to temptation and gone back in time, triggering a cataclysm that had wrecked qujal civilization.
After many years, the last five Union survivors had reached this world and recruited allies to attack Thiye Thiye's-son, the master of the Gate of Ivrel. But they were betrayed and nearly their entire army was swallowed up by the Gate; only Morgaine and a few soldiers, bringing up the rear, survived. Fleeing before the enemy, she had been forced to seek refuge in a lesser Gate, there to wait in stasis until freed.
She seeks aid from Clan Leth, a former staunch ally, but finds it greatly changed and its lord, Kasedre, half mad. His chief counselor, Chya Liell, comes to them late at night and warns them to leave before harm befalls them, killing a guard to give them no choice in the matter. Privately, Liell tries to persuade Vanye to desert Morgaine.
Morgaine and Vanye travel into neighboring Chya lands and find themselves uneasy guests of Chya Roh, Vanye's cousin. After questioning and some rest, they are let go, only to be attacked by Thiye's men. Morgaine is forced to draw her sword, Changeling, which turns out to be more than it seems; it can tap the power of the Gates to send its victims elsewhere. The two manage to escape, but run into a Nhi band. Rather than chance another fight, the wounded Morgaine orders Vanye to bargain for shelter and protection. She is set free, though without her sword, while he is forced to remain behind by his brother Erij, now the lord of Nhi. Erij wants his brother to help him rule, knowing him to be trustworthy and bound to him by blood. When persuasion and threats alike prove useless, he draws Changeling, not knowing its powers. Vanye takes advantage of the ensuing mayhem to retrieve the dropped sword and escape to rejoin Morgaine.
Roh had warned him not to trust Liell, that rumors said his body had been taken over by another. Morgaine confirms that such a thing can be done using a Gate. She knows that Thiye has prolonged his life by this method and suspects her century-old betrayer also still lives. The aged Liell's attempt to suborn Vanye suddenly takes on a more sinister aspect.
After another clash with Nhi warriors, Morgaine is personally escorted by Roh out of his domain. Fearing her intentions, he knocks out a too-trusting Vanye when Morgaine is asleep and ties them both up, but his timing could not have been worse. Liell and his men easily capture all three. He takes Vanye to a Gate, intent on switching bodies. The unease of Liell's men in the unnerving presence of the Gate allows Vanye to escape. By chance, the horse he steals is carrying Changeling. But Vanye's luck still runs bad; he is caught again, this time by his brother Erij.
Erij, emboldened by his possession of Changeling and for a variety of reasons, allows himself to be persuaded to go to Ivrel. After driving off Liell's men with the deadly sword, they reach Thiye's fortress. They wait for night before Erij uses Changeling to force their way in. Vanye then takes his brother by surprise and retakes Morgaine's sword. In mortal danger, Erij has no choice, but to guard his back. Inside, they come upon the aged Thiye, but before they can react, the old man is killed by Roh. Roh informs them that Morgaine is loose in the fortress and that Liell is dead. He warns them to flee while they still can, then follows his own advice.
Vanye finds Morgaine and surrenders the sword to her, much to Erij's dismay. She confirms Vanye's suspicion; Roh's body now houses Liell's mind. Fearing Morgaine, Roh/Liell had sabotaged the Gate controls so that he could escape to another world, leaving his enemies trapped here. But Morgaine believes that he left too much of a safety margin before the Gates on this world close forever and that she can follow him. She departs in all haste. Erij surprisingly bids his brother to go after her and Vanye gratefully complies. Together, Morgaine and Vanye pass through the Gate.
- Morgaine, a woman burdened and driven by an impossible mission
- Nhi Vanye i Chya, an outcast warrior who inadvertently becomes bound up in Morgaine's quest
- Nhi Erij, Vanye's half-brother
- Chya Liell, a counselor in Leth
- Leth Kasedre, petulant, weak-minded lord of Leth
- Chya Roh, lord of Chya, Vanye's cousin
- Thiye Thiye's-son, master of the Gate at Ivrel
- C. J. Cherryh. Gate of Ivrel. DAW Books 1976. ISBN 0-88677-257-5.