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       Green Rider, p.1

           Kristen Britain
 
Green Rider


  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  Copyright Page

  Acknowledgements

  Dedication

  Introduction

  GRAY ONE

  DEAD RIDER

  DISAPPEARING ACT

  GRAY ONE

  SEVEN CHIMNEYS

  PROFESSOR BERRY’S LIBRARY

  INTRIGUE

  MIRWELL

  SPAWN OF KANMORHAN VANE

  SOMIAL OF THE ELT WOOD

  AMBUSHED

  WEAPONS

  MIRWELL

  STEVIC G’LADHEON

  SWORDMASTERS

  WAYSTATION

  GRAY ONE

  NORTH

  KING-HATERS

  MIRWELL

  RALLY

  WILD RIDE

  RIDE’S END

  STEVIC G’LADHEON

  VISITOR TO THE REALM

  INTRIGUE AND INVITATION

  MIRWELL

  KARIGAN ATTENDS THE KING’S BALL

  A SILVER MOON NIGHT

  THE HUNTING

  BLACK ARROWS

  THE NEXT MOVE

  WOMAN OF THE SHADOWS

  THE GHOST

  BLOOD TRAIL

  HEROES AVENUE

  A WEAPON’S WRATH

  DECEPTION

  THE FINAL PLAY

  TRIAD

  HOMEWARD

  ALSO BY KRISTEN BRITAIN:

  Green Rider

  First Rider’s Call

  High King’s Tomb

  Copyright © 1998 by Kristen Britain

  Introduction copyright © 2008 by Kristen Britain

  All Rights Reserved.

  eISBN : 978-0-756-40548-9

  DAW Book Collectors No. 1102.

  DAW Books are distributed by the Penguin Group (USA).

  All characters and events in this book are fictitious.

  Any resemblance to persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.

  The scanning, uploading and distribution of this book via the Internet or any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal, and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage the electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

  First trade printing, November 2008

  DAW TRADEMARK REGISTERED

  U.S. PAT. AND TM. OFF. AND FOREIGN COUNTRIES

  —MARCA REGISTRADA

  HECHO EN U.S.A.

  .S.A.

  http://us.penguingroup.com

  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  Book dreams do not become reality without the support and inspiration of several special people whom I wish to thank:

  Cheryl Dyer, who insisted I read The Lord of the Rings at a young age, leading to my discovery of other authors and their tales, and eventually inspiring me to craft tales of my own. Cheryl is my steadfast friend, sounding board, and first reader. Her support so early on was essential, and still is today.

  Terry and Jeri Goodkind, for their friendship, hospitality, chairs, and . . . well, they know. Terry’s quest for excellence in his own work, and his high standards of quality in all aspects of his life, continually inspire me.

  My agent, Anna Ghosh, for championing a “green writer,” and for her hard work in finding the right home for this book.

  My editor, Betsy Wollheim, and assistant editor, Debra Euler, for their enthusiasm and patience, even after the die had been cast.

  Keith Parkinson, for the beautifully rendered cover art.

  Author John Marco, for comparing notes and sharing advice, and for listening with empathy to my harangues about noisy upstairs neighbors and squirrels (sometimes one and the same).

  Author Lynn Flewelling, for sharing with me advice and her experience in this mind-boggling world of publication.

  Batwing and Percival, who imitate office equipment all too well (paper shredder and paper weight respectively) and offered me companionship during the long and lonely efforts of writing a novel-length manuscript. They keep me humble.

  And finally, Karigan G’ladheon, for shouldering her way into my life and sweeping me along on one heck of a Wild Ride.

  For my parents

  INTRODUCTION TO THE TENTH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

  How can it be that my first novel, Green Rider, was published a whole decade ago? Where has the time gone?

  Well, the time has gone to wherever it goes and it has been quite a journey. I’m ten years older while my main protagonist, Karigan, has aged only a few years. I’d say that’s unfair, but considering the adventures and trouble I’ve put her through? I’m surprised she hasn’t stepped off the page to swat me on the head.

  Ten years is quite a span of time, but my relationship with Karigan goes back farther still. Did you know she was once male and just a minor character in another book I was trying to write? After I switched her gender and gave her a new name, she looked around the place, decided the story should be hers, and took it over. Green Rider was born and my life has not been the same since.

  When I started writing Green Rider in the early 1990s, I was a seasonal park ranger and decided to stay on part-time at Acadia National Park in Maine to see what it was like during the winter (cold, stormy, beautiful, quiet). I had also grown tired of being forced to move from park to park every three to eight months in order to remain employed full time. My ulterior motive, however, was to take a stab at writing a novel. I’d completed a novel during my teens and I wanted to see if I could do it again, this time challenging myself to create a publishable result, and thus achieving a lifelong dream.

  The writing of the book was wonderful fun. I worked out plot points and details while hiking, bicycling, and walking in Acadia. The park’s ecology and landscape, from the forests to the geology, became the model for the setting of the book.

  That winter, I remember sitting at my 80/88 XT Magnavox computer with my kitten, Batwing, purring on my lap, and the wind howling outside. The snowdrifts were up to the windows. My apartmentmate, Kate Petrie, was there only on weekends, and in the evenings would listen to all I had written during the week. She was the first to enter the world of Green Rider other than myself.

  After I finished the first draft, the inevitable revisions and rejections followed, with more revisions and rejections, and . . . you get the picture. I was fortunate to receive some guidance and inspiration from a fellow islander whose first fantasy novel had just been published, a guy named Terry Goodkind. I didn’t appreciate back then just how big he was going to get—a mega bestseller—I was just thrilled to find someone “in the neighborhood” who had written and published a fantasy novel. Yeah, there are a bunch of other famous people around here, but they don’t necessarily write, and certainly not in my chosen genre.

  Eventually the book was in good enough shape that Anna Ghosh of Scovil Chichak Galen Literary Agency agreed to represent it. I remember that night following our phone conversation, periodically sitting up in bed and declaring in the dark: “I’ve got an agent!” It was probably followed by gleeful cackling. I’m sure after a few repetitions of this the cats (by this time Percy had joined my household) were wondering just what the heck kind of human they were living with and could they leave, please, to live with a normal person.

  A couple months later Betsy Wollheim of the legendary DAW Books offered to publish the book, an offer I accepted. The date was November 6, 1996: Election Day, with a presidential contest in the offing. It was wild to think my book would be joining the ranks of authors I had read for years: Jennifer Roberson, Tad Williams, Mercedes Lackey, Tanya Huff, and more. DAW’s authors dominated my bookshelves then, and still do now.

  Several months later Betsy called me for the first time. I happened to be home from work w
ith a cold and in a bit of a stupor from medicine, but I had the presence of mind to jot notes. She used words like “commercial” and “hard-cover” and we talked about the cover art. It was definitely a WOW! conversation. I used to joke with a coworker when I was stepping out of the office to “take a message if New York called.” Now New York had really called!

  As for the cover art? My dream artist, Keith Parkinson, was hired. (By now, as a result of all my euphoria, the cats definitely wanted to catch the next boat out of town.) One of the most exciting stages of production for me is seeing the art, and Keith’s was spectacular, capturing the story, the scenery, and the feel of my book. It possesses a luminous quality that, in my opinion, sets it off from other books on the shelves. Sadly, this hugely talented, funny, kind man passed away in 2005, but I was so fortunate to have his art grace two of my covers.

  I could go on endlessly about the process, but the important thing is that after an agonizing wait of two years, Green Rider was finally published and my “little story,” as I thought of it, made its way into the world, hopefully to be picked up and enjoyed by readers.

  It was. I heard back from grandmothers, retired police officers and Marines, who loved the book. I heard from young people and people from across the country. Green Rider went backpacking across Europe and was taken to the Middle East. I was told it helped people through hard times, just as other books had helped me. Eventually the book was published abroad and soon I heard back from folks from all over the world.

  The most touching encounter I had with a reader was during a meeting arranged by bookseller extraordinaire, Saabrina Mosher. One of her customers, Pat Smith, loved fantasy and the color green, and consequently Green Rider. Though critically ill, she came to our meeting wearing her favorite color with her nails freshly polished in green. I remember we had a lovely conversation and I autographed her copy of the book.

  She died two weeks later.

  Nothing prepared me for the impact the book would have on some lives. Nothing prepared me for the impact some readers would have on me.

  It has been quite a journey, these past ten years, not all of it easy or thrilling. There have been plenty of bumps, lumps, and doglegs along the way, but those are stories for another time. Now is the time to celebrate ten years and the achievement of a dream, and all those who have come along for the ride. To those who took a chance on a new, unknown author and read Green Rider, thank you. For those of you picking it up for the first time, thank you, as well, and I hope you enjoy the ride.

  Now it is time I returned to the current work-in-progress so the journey may continue.

  Kristen Britain

  Bunchberry Cabin

  Bar Harbor, Maine

  June 2008

  GRAY ONE

  The granite was cold and rough against the gray-cloaked man’s palms. It was good, solid granite, from the bones of the earth itself. He traced barely perceptible seams between the huge blocks of the wall. It was the seams, he believed, that held the key. The key to the wall’s destruction.

  The wall towered above him to some unknown height. It was many feet thick, and it followed Sacoridia’s southern border for hundreds of miles, from the East Sea to Ullem Bay in the west. It protected Sacoridia and the rest of the lands from Kanmorhan Vane, known in the common tongue as Blackveil Forest.

  The wall had endured for a thousand years. It had been built after the Long War at the turn of the First Age. For a thousand years, the denizens of the dark forest had grown restless, had festered, trapped behind the wall.

  Now the Gray One must call on them and end their exile. He would bring these nightmares back into the daylit world. He would bring them slowly. Slowly at first.

  The wall was bound with such deep magic that it prickled his hands. The magic was ancient and powerful, even for the works of those long-ago humans. Today humans understood none of it. They knew little of what their ancestors had been capable of. Nor did they know what they, the citizens of present-day Sacoridia, were still capable of.

  A good thing.

  He brushed the layers of magic with his mind. Magic had been melded into each block of granite from the moment it was quarried, through its cutting, finishing, and placement. The mortar had been inlaid with strengthening spells not only to ensure that the wall stood for all time, but to prevent magic from breaking it.

  Oh, the spell songs the stonecutters must have sung as they hammered drills into the rock and refined the mortar mixture. The wall was magnificent, really. A great accomplishment that had taken generations of humans to complete. A pity it must be destroyed.

  The Gray One smiled beneath the shadows of his hood. He would return the world to a state it hadn’t known since before the Long War, far beyond the First Age, a time lost to memory; a time when humans lived in primitive bands that stalked herd beasts and game. There had been no kings back then, no countries, no organized religions. Just superstition and darkness. During the Black Ages, as that long-ago time was now called, they had had a better understanding of magic than they did today.

  The Gray One looked up. The pink clouds of dawn were fading, and birds squabbled in the trees. His collaborators would be growing impatient for his return. He supposed they had every right to be impatient: they were mortal.

  He closed his eyes and shielded himself. He began to follow songs of quarrymen and stonecutters wrought in a tongue modern Sacoridians would not recognize. The music sprang from the earth’s bones; it wove strands of resistance, barriers, and containment.

  The echoes of hammers wielded by stonecutters centuries ago clamored in the Gray One’s head. The blows jarred him, rang deep in his mind. He gritted his teeth against the pain and probed deeper.

  Men and women sang in unison. Their song intensified as his thoughts rippled along the seams. He caught the harmony of their ancient voices, allowed the cadence of the hammers to invade his mind, and he sang with them.

  His body swayed to the rhythm, and dripped with perspiration. But his body was a distant thing now, an afterthought, for his mind was deep within the granite. He flowed within the pink feldspar and crystalline quartz, within the pepper flecks of hornblende. He felt powerful enough to withstand the Ages, untouched by the weathering forces of nature. He could endure anything. But he must surpass this power. He must become stronger than even the granite to break the wall.

  His voice found its own harmony running counter to the rhythm within the wall. All great things must fall, he sang. Sing with me, follow me.

  Far away, his forefinger tapped the new rhythm on the wall. It wasn’t enough yet to disturb the hundreds of hammers, but it helped create discord. But did he detect uncertainty in the song? Did some of the hammers lose the rhythm?

  A splintering akin to the spring cracking of lake ice scattered his thoughts. He lost his bearing. The song and rhythm faded, his solidarity with the wall wavered.

  His body absorbed his mind like a sponge. The force sent him flailing backward, stunned and unwieldy in his corporeal form. When he remembered how to use his legs and arms, he inspected his handiwork.

  Yes, yes, yes! A hairline fracture in the mortar. The wound would grow, and he could come back and break the D’Yer Wall!

  Now he must return to the camp where the humans awaited him. Cracking the wall had sapped a great deal of his energy—there was barely enough left to transport him. He would be in bad shape for the rest of the day, but the soldiers would be impatient to hunt down the Green Rider. Soon he would be done with this intrigue the humans so valued, but for now, it served his purpose.

  As he slung the longbow and quiver of black arrows over his shoulder, he felt someone’s gaze upon him. He looked wildly about but saw only an owl roosting on a branch above. It blinked, extinguishing its moon eyes, and twisted its head away, as owls do.

  The Gray One had nothing to fear from an owl preoccupied with its early morning hunt. He spread his arms wide to begin the summoning. They trembled from the effort of having cracked the wall. “C
ome to me, O Mortal Spirits. You are mine to hold, bound to me in this world. Walk with me now and take me where I must go.”

  He willed them to him, and they couldn’t resist his call. A host of spirits, like a watery blur, gathered around him. Some sat mounted on horses, others stood afoot. Among them were soldiers, old men, women, and children. Ordinary citizens stood beside knights. Beggars huddled next to nobility. All were impaled with two black arrows each.

  “By the arrows of Kanmorhan Vane, I command you to walk with me now. We will walk on the quick time roads of the dead.”

  DEAD RIDER

  Karigan G’ladheon awakened to the chitter of waxwings and chickadees. Mourning doves cooed and jays defended their territories with raucous song and fluttering wings. Above her, the sky opened up like an expansive dusky canopy that winked with stars. The moon hung low in the west.

  Karigan groaned. She lay at the edge of a fallow farmer’s field, behind a hedgerow, and her back wasn’t taking it well.

  She pushed damp hair away from her brow. Everything was wet with dew and her clothes stuck to her like a cold and clammy second skin. She remembered aloud why she was here.

  “To get away from Selium.”

  Her own voice startled her. Aside from the birds, the countryside was wide open and empty and silent. There would be no tolling of Morningtide Bell here, nor the familiar creaking of floorboards as her fellow students moved around in her old dormitory building preparing for a day of classes.

  She stood up and shivered in the chill spring air. Indeed, she was “away” from Selium, and would get farther away still before the day was done. She gathered her blanket and things, stuffed them into her pack, stepped over the hedgerow, and started walking. She carried little more than a hunk of bread, some cheese, a change of clothes, and some jewelry that had belonged to her mother—the only objects precious enough to her to carry away. All the rest had been left in the dormitory in her haste to leave Selium.

 
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