Shards of time, p.1
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       Shards of Time, p.1

           Lynn Flewelling
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Shards of Time


  Praise for the Nightrunner Series

  CASKET OF SOULS

  “Full of intrigue and plots upon plots.”

  —RT Book Reviews

  “A solid high fantasy novel, with engaging characters, espionage, magic, political intrigue, and a well-realized world, [though] the real draw of the book (or of any other Nightrunner book) is the characters. The cast of characters in this series probably consists of some of the most genuinely likeable people in high fantasy.”

  —Bookshelf Bombshells

  THE WHITE ROAD

  2010 Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award Nominee for Career Achievement in Sci Fi/Fantasy

  “The White Road is an action-packed and terrific read—enjoy. Flewelling is at the top of her game, and her game is very, very good indeed.”

  —PATRICIA BRIGGS, New York Times bestselling author of the Mercy Thompson series

  “Picking up right where the fourth book left off, this is an action-packed and exciting read.… Seregil and Alec remain two of the most memorable heroes in fantasy.”

  —RT Book Reviews

  “Marvelous … one of the most entertaining series out today … What makes Flewelling’s books so appealing is that they manage to blend Tolkienesque world-building with characters who are three-dimensional, realistically drawn, and often gritty. Though the stories themselves are awash with spells, prophecies, war, and other high fantasy conceits, the characters are always at the foreground—characters who live and breathe and love.”

  —Rob Will Review

  SHADOW’S RETURN

  2008 Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award Nominee for Best Fantasy Novel

  “The fourth book in Flewelling’s superb Nightrunner series picks up right where the last book left off with nary a hiccup. Seregil and Alec continue to be entertaining, while Flewelling pulls off the near impossible in this compelling page-turner.”

  —Romantic Times (4½ stars)

  “Excellent! … This [is a] terrific fantasy thriller that can stand alone, but is enhanced by the other tales in the Skalan saga.”

  —BookReview

  “Flewelling presents a well-developed fantasy world with faie from many clans, wizards, alchemists, and ambitious humans. Love and jealousies abound and drive the story.”

  —SFRevu

  TRAITOR’S MOON

  “While fans of Dungeons and Dragons–style lore will find enough wizardry, necromancy, swords, daggers, and devilishly clever traps here to satisfy the most avid, this book also provides entry to a complete and richly realized world that will please more mainstream readers.”

  —Bangor Daily News

  STALKING DARKNESS

  “Flewelling is bringing vigor back to the traditional fantasy form. In this highly engaging adventure novel, the most powerful magic is conjured out of friendship and loyalty. The author has a gift for creating characters you genuinely care about.”

  —TERRI WINDLING, editor of The Years’s Best Fantasy and Horror, Eleventh Annual Collection

  LUCK IN THE SHADOWS

  “Memorable characters, an enthralling plot and truly daunting evil.… The characters spring forth from the page not as well crafted creations but as people.… The magic is refreshingly difficult, mysterious, and unpredictable. Lynn Flewelling has eschewed the easy shortcuts of clichéd minor characters and cookie-cutter backdrops to present a unique world.… I commend this one to your attention.”

  —ROBIN HOBB

  “Part high fantasy and part political intrigue, Luck in the Shadows makes a nice change from the usual ruck of contemporary sword-and-sorcery. I especially enjoyed Lynn Flewelling’s obvious affection for her characters. At unexpected moments she reveals a well-honed gift for the macabre.”

  —STEPHEN R. DONALDSON

  “Exceptionally well done and entertaining.”

  —Locus

  Praise for The Tamír Triad

  “Some of the most inventive and emotionally gripping fantasy to come down the pike in years … Flewelling takes the stock trappings of the sword-and-sorcery genre and turns them into a riveting epic story that is unique, disturbing, and enthralling.”

  —Mythprint

  “Perhaps the deepest psychological novel I’ve ever read—the fantasy makes the unconscious issues real. Gorgeous but dark.”

  —ORSON SCOTT CARD

  THE ORACLE’S QUEEN

  “A splendidly stirring coming-of-age tale.”

  —Romantic Times (4½ stars)

  “Magic, mystery, politics, emotions, and rare golden threads of the numinous all make this book a rich tapestry of a read right through the climax … This trilogy is a must for those who love fantasy with all the Good Stuff stitched together by intelligent world-building and a wise eye for the frailties, and the greatnesses, of the human spirit.”

  —SF Site

  HIDDEN WARRIOR

  “Stellar high-concept fantasy.”

  —Mysterious Galaxy

  “A beautiful, compelling, dark tale.”

  —Booklist

  “Satisfying … intriguing … exploring not merely issues of gender and power but questions of honor as well.”

  —Lambda Book Report

  THE BONE DOLL’S TWIN

  “A thoroughly engrossing new fantasy. It got its hooks into me on the first page, and didn’t let loose until the last. I am already looking forward to the next installment.”

  —GEORGE R. R. MARTIN

  “Lynn Flewelling’s The Bone Doll’s Twin outshines even the gleaming promise shown in her earlier three books. The story pulled me under and carried me off with it in a relentless tale that examines whether the ends can ever completely justify the means.”

  —ROBIN HOBB

  “Masterful … readers will be hooked.”

  —Bangor Daily News

  “Magnificent, impressive … capture[s] some of the same flavor found in T. H. White’s classic, The Once and Future King, as well as in Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea books. Factor in some essence of Mervyn Peake, and you have a winning combination.”

  —Realms of Fantasy

  “An intensely poignant tale that begs the question—how far should one go to change destiny. Lynn Flewelling delivers a tightly crafted narrative with vivid characters and a detailed background that quickly pulls the reader into her world.”

  —Romantic Times

  “Flewelling is the best thing that could have happened to the fantasy genre.”

  —BookWeb

  Shards of Time is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

  A Del Rey eBook Edition

  Copyright © 2014 by Lynn Flewelling

  All rights reserved.

  Published in the United States by Del Rey, an imprint of Random House, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, New York.

  DEL REY and the HOUSE colophon are registered trademarks of Random House LLC.

  Map on this page by Virginia Norey; map on this page by Robert Bull

  ISBN 978-0-345-52231-3

  eBook ISBN 978-0-345-54673-9

  www.delreybooks.com

  Cover design: David G. Stevenson

  Cover illustration: © Michael Komarck

  v3.1

  Contents

  Cover

  Title Page

  Copyright

  Maps

  Chapter 1: Rain on the Roof

  Chapter 2: A Timely Offer

  Chapter 3: Seregil and Alec Go to Court

  Chapter 4: Sails and Tales

  Chapter 5: The Sacred Isle

  Chapter 6: Madhouse

>   Chapter 7: Mirror Moon

  Chapter 8: Micum Goes to Town

  Chapter 9: Wizard’s Work

  Chapter 10: Dreams and Arrivals

  Chapter 11: Menosi

  Chapter 12: The Oracle’s Caves

  Chapter 13: Tears

  Chapter 14: Night Visitors

  Chapter 15: Detour

  Chapter 16: Rhazat

  Chapter 17: The Grey Land

  Chapter 18: Ghosts and Shadows

  Chapter 19: Lost

  Chapter 20: Old Magic

  Chapter 21: Kordira Lends a Hand

  Chapter 22: Zella’s Return

  Chapter 23: Beyond the Help of the Four

  Chapter 24: Taking a Gamble

  Chapter 25: Secrets, Salves, and a Spade

  Chapter 26: Old Sorrows

  Chapter 27: Despair and Hope

  Chapter 28: Hard Choices

  Chapter 29: Respite

  Chapter 30: Mourning Night

  Afterword

  Dedication

  Acknowledgments

  Other Books by This Author

  EARLY-SPRING rain lashed against the windowpanes next to Alec’s chair and drummed on the inn’s roof slates overhead. With a fire crackling on the hearth, a good supper just dispatched, and an interesting tome borrowed from the Orëska House library open on his lap, Alec was looking forward to a peaceful evening. His companion, however, had other ideas.

  Sprawled in a pile of cushions in front of the fire, Seregil had thumbed through a succession of apparently uninteresting letters, discarded several books, and now lay staring up at the ceiling and whistling a sad tune softly—and rather annoyingly—through his teeth. Alec guessed he was composing some new song, as he maddeningly kept repeating phrases and tapping time against the ash shovel with one bare foot. Even Ruetha and her kittens had lost patience with him and had retreated to their basket in the corner.

  But as distracting as it was, and as melancholy as the tune sounded, Alec felt a certain amount of relief, too. It had been difficult for both of them, losing more people they cared about—Myrhichia, Lady Kylith, Duke Malthus—the previous year. They’d nearly lost Micum Cavish’s daughter Illia, as well. Alec had felt the losses deeply, but Seregil was always one to hang on to pain, tinged as it was with guilt.

  This was the first time Seregil had shown any interest in composing in months, so the interruption was almost welcome, even if it did mean Alec wasn’t going to get any reading done.

  He closed his book. “That’s a pretty tune you’re working on. Play it for me?”

  Seregil glanced up at the Aurënfaie harp hanging on the wall. “It’s not done yet.”

  “So play me what you have.”

  Seregil cast him a sidelong glance. “I’m annoying you.”

  “Just a little.”

  With an apologetic half smile, Seregil marshaled his long limbs and resurrected himself from his nest. Taking the harp down, he plucked at the strings, tuned them a little, then played a few bars of what sounded like a lament.

  The melancholy tune together with Seregil’s overall restlessness were familiar weather signs. Hoping to lighten his lover’s mood, Alec said, “You know, you once promised me you’d never say it again.”

  “I haven’t said a thing in the past hour,” Seregil said, brows arching over sea-grey eyes.

  Alec snorted softly. “And we haven’t accepted a nightrunner job in nearly a month.”

  “There haven’t been any worth our time. They’re all so—” Seregil threw up his hands in exasperation.

  “Go on, then. Just say it.”

  “Boring!” Seregil hung the harp back on its hook and faced Alec with his hands on his hips. “If I have to deliver one more love token or look for any more compromising letters, I’m going to hang myself!”

  “We spend time at court.”

  “Yes, we do—and as much as I care for our young queen, I’ve made about as much polite chitchat as I’m capable of.”

  Alec couldn’t argue that point. It had been a long, hard winter, burying Rhíminee in treacherous slush and ice that had curtailed riding and outdoor shooting; the last hunt had been just after Mourning Night.

  They were relative newcomers in the royal inner circle, and favorites of Queen Elani despite their lowly rank, so naturally they were despised by a good many of the more established members of the entourage. Seregil won so consistently at the bakshi table, and Alec so consistently defeated other would-be archers—soft-handed nobles who’d never had to shoot true or else starve—that few would take them on anymore. Some had taken to calling them the queen’s lapdogs behind their backs.

  Their detractors might have had a great deal more to say if they could see them now, lounging in their hidden rooms at the Stag and Otter in decidedly unfashionable Blue Fish Street behind the Harvest Market. Seregil secretly owned the place, and it was their true home and refuge from the endless round of social obligations their public reputations demanded: entertaining at the Wheel Street villa, attending salons of their remaining friends, evenings at the Orëska House with Thero and Magyana, the requisite keeping up with the latest fashions via their tailors and jewelers. With the end of the war a year and a half earlier, luxuries were once more abundant and the black-market dealers were going hungry. Many people still decried the state of theater, since Master Atre and his marvelous company had abruptly disappeared near the war’s end. The Golden Crane stood empty, but the other companies around the city were still suffering by comparison.

  “Well, what do you want to do?” asked Alec.

  “Get out of the damn city!”

  “Then let’s go out to Watermead. We haven’t seen Micum and the family in ages.”

  Seregil looked out at the rain, and his thin lips tilted into a doubtful line. It would be a wet, cold ride, and he avoided being wet and cold as much as possible. “Maybe in a few days, if the weather breaks. Anyway, we’re due back at Wheel Street in time to appear for Korathan’s birthday.”

  He threw a few logs onto the fire and subsided back among the cushions with one of his scattered books.

  Peace at last, thought Alec, returning to his own book—until Seregil started whistling again.

  THEY returned to Wheel Street and public life a few days later, attending the prince’s birthday gala, and the social whirl began again. The foul weather continued—with sullen rain giving way to dank fog. They went to the theater, to gambling houses, and to a few salons, including that of Marquise Alania, a fashionable dowager who’d taken quite an interest in them since Seregil’s risqué display at the Three Dragons nearly a year ago. To her credit, her circle was an interesting collection of well-educated nobles, philosophers, artists, and amusing ne’er-do-wells like Seregil. The food and wine were always exquisite. Even Seregil had to grudgingly admit that life was a bit less tedious than it had been.

  The weather improved at last, rain giving way to bright sunshine and brisk winds. They were at Alania’s house one night during the Festival of Flowers when Alec noticed Seregil blinking and rubbing absently at his left temple as he lost a bakshi game to the court painter, Vireus. Finishing his game of Blue Goose with Alania and two flirtatious young noblewomen, Alec laid his cards aside and went to sit by Seregil.

  “What’s wrong?” he murmured as Seregil conceded the game.

  “Headache,” Seregil replied. “I’m afraid I’m going to have to make an early night of it.”

  “I’m so sorry to hear it,” said the marquise, coming to join them. “I can have Evers prepare you a willow bark tea.”

  “That’s very kind of you, but I think a good night’s sleep is in order.” Seregil bent over her hand and kissed it gallantly. “I promise you a fine dinner at Wheel Street to make up for this.”

  The wind had blown out many of the street lanterns, and those few left cast uncertain shadows at the edges of the street. It was a good night for footpads, even in this fashionable district of guards and walls, but Seregil seemed unusually distra
cted, often raising a gloved hand to his brow as he rode.

  “You’re in real pain.”

  “Must be the change in the weather.”

  As soon as they got home Seregil went to bed with a cup of willow bark infusion. When Alec came to bed later, he was asleep but restless. Alec touched Seregil’s brow and was relieved to find it cool. He didn’t wake when Alec blew out the night lamp and climbed into bed to pull him close. That seemed to calm him, and Alec soon drifted off.

  A buffeting wind yanked persistently on his cloak and whipped his hair across his eyes as Seregil bent to inspect the lock on the huge oak door. The moon was high, casting enough light to see the rusted plate and enormous keyhole. Nothing in his tool roll was large enough to pick the lock. Surrounded by lichen-blotched stone, the door stood between him and Alec, and he had to get to Alec. The thought made his head and his heart pound painfully: must find Alec!

  Thrusting his hand into the keyhole, he felt for the tumblers. They were razor-sharp, cutting the sensitive pads of his fingertips, but he could not stop. The pain was unbearable, but at last he felt the lock give. Withdrawing his bloodied hand, he swung the door open and found himself in a long corridor.

  “Alec!” His voice came out strangled, barely audible. He tried again but could only force out a hoarse whisper.

  As he started down the corridor, however, he heard his name called from a great distance that had nothing to do with stone walls. The corridor was long, and at the far end stood Alec, facing away from him.

  “Alec!” Seregil croaked, knowing there was no way that Alec would hear.

  As he’d feared, Alec disappeared around a corner to the right. Seregil ran to the turning, only to find another equally long corridor and, once again, Alec with his back to him. He called out, but Alec disappeared again—to the left this time. It happened again and again, as if they were playing some strange and frustrating game not of Seregil’s choosing.

  Rounding a final turn, he could see Alec crouched against the wall that dead-ended at the far end of the hallway. He had his face in his hands but Seregil knew him by his blond braid and his clothing. When his lover looked up, his once beautiful face was nothing but an empty-eyed skull. Suddenly a door opened behind him and Alec fell through it. The door disappeared as suddenly as it had come.

 
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