“The Secret of the Blue Star” — Marion Zimmer Bradley

Marion Zimmer Bradley was the author of the best-selling classic Arthurian novel The Mists of Avalon, the long-running Darkover series, and many other novels. Her short fiction has appeared in magazines such as Amazing Stories, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Fantastic, If, and in numerous anthologies. She was also editor of the acclaimed and influential Sword and Sorceress anthology series and Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine. She was a winner of the Locus Award and the recipient of the World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award. She died in 1999.

Our next story originally appeared in the first installment of the Thieves’ World shared world anthology series. The series, which invited different fantasy authors to write stories set in the rough-and-tumble backwater of Sanctuary, achieved immense popularity but eventually succumbed to mischievous feuding among the various authors, who dreamt up ever more elaborate and sadistic fates for each other’s characters, causing the whole project to spin out of control.

Marion Zimmer Bradley later took her sorcerer Lythande (pronounced “lee-thond”), first introduced in this tale, and produced a book-length collection of stories about the character, titled Lythande. Lythande is an adept of the Blue Star, and such wizards are bound by some of the most interesting rules of magic ever presented in a fantasy story. Each adept must choose a secret to be the source of his power—the greater the secret, the greater the power. But if that secret is discovered by a fellow adept, the rival can steal all of that wizard’s magic. It’s a brilliant conceit that fits perfectly with the cloak-and-dagger milieu of Sanctuary, a city roiling with dark prophecies, bitter rivalry, and life-or-death intrigue.