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Cast in deception, p.1
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       Cast in Deception, p.1

           Michelle Sagara
Cast in Deception


  Private Kaylin Neya thought her home couldn’t possibly get more crowded. But when one of her housemates, Annarion, decides to undertake the Barrani Test of Name, his friends refuse to let him face his task alone—and Kaylin’s sentient home, Helen, is the only structure capable of shielding the rest of Elantra from the magnitude of their power.

  Annarion and Mandoran almost caused the destruction of the High Halls once already. Add nine of their closest friends, and the danger is astronomically higher—especially since these guests are at the heart of a political firestorm. Imprisoned almost a millennium ago, their recent freedom threatens the rulership of several prominent Barrani families, and the machinations of those Lords make it almost impossible to tell friend from foe.

  As political tensions ramp up, the shadows beneath the High Halls are seeking a freedom that has never been possible before. Kaylin must find a way to keep those shadows from escaping, or that freedom will destroy her city, the empire and everything she holds dear.

  The Chronicles of Elantra


  New York Times bestselling author

  Michelle Sagara














  “Cast in Moonlight”

  found in


  an anthology with Mercedes Lackey and Cameron Haley

  Cast in Deception

  Michelle Sagara


  An imprint of HarperCollins Publishers Ltd

  1 London Bridge Street

  London SE1 9GF

  First published in Great Britain by HQ in 2018

  Copyright © Michelle Sagara 2018

  Michelle Sagara asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.

  A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

  This novel is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental.

  All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, down-loaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins.

  Ebook Edition © January 2018 ISBN: 9781474074681

  Version: 2018-01-05

  Praise for New York Times bestselling author MICHELLE SAGARA and The Chronicles of Elantra series

  “No one provides an emotional payoff like Michelle Sagara. Combine that with a fast-paced police procedural, deadly magics, five very different races and a wickedly dry sense of humor—well, it doesn’t get any better than this.”

  —Bestselling author Tanya Huff on The Chronicles of Elantra series

  “Readers will embrace this compelling, strong-willed heroine with her often sarcastic voice.”

  —Publishers Weekly on Cast in Courtlight

  “The impressively detailed setting and the book’s spirited heroine are sure to charm romance readers, as well as fantasy fans who like some mystery with their magic.”

  —Publishers Weekly on Cast in Secret

  “Along with the exquisitely detailed world building, Sagara’s character development is mesmerizing. She expertly breathes life into a stubborn yet evolving heroine. A true master of her craft!”

  —RT Book Reviews (4½ stars) on Cast in Fury

  “Each visit to this amazing world, with its richness of place and character, is one to relish.”

  —RT Book Reviews (4½ stars) on Cast in Silence

  “Another satisfying addition to an already vivid and entertaining fantasy series.”

  —Publishers Weekly on Cast in Chaos

  “Sagara does an amazing job continuing to flesh out her large cast of characters, but keeps the unsinkable Kaylin at the center.”

  —RT Book Reviews (4½ stars) on Cast in Peril

  “Über-awesome Sagara picks up the intense action right where she left off... While Kaylin is the heart of this amazing series, the terrific characters keep the story moving. An autobuy for sure!”

  —RT Book Reviews (4½ stars) on Cast in Sorrow

  With thanks to







  Sgt. Shivers

  Team NoD



  The Stronghold Team

  Torr Samaho





  Back Cover Text


  Title Page




  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28



  “You wake her up.”

  Kaylin’s eyelids felt glued shut. She opened them anyway. Above her head, a tiny dragon appeared to be running in place.

  “Why me? It’s not my decision that’s causing the difficulty!” That was definitely Mandoran.

  She didn’t immediately reach for the dagger under her pillow. She did, however, push herself into something that resembled a sitting position. Her familiar leapt up on her shoulder, where he squawked at the hair that then fell into his face.

  “You were the one who said we should warn her.” Annarion.

  Kaylin knew that the two Barrani men could argue with their mouths shut. They knew each other’s True Names, and had their miniature version of telepathy. Grimly—morning was her best time of day only if you made a list and turned it upside down—she slid off her bed and toward a night robe, determined to remind them that they could argue silently.

  “If the two of you could shut up for five minutes, I’ll wake her up.” That was Tain. Kaylin froze and changed clothing direction; there was no way she was going back to sleep.

  “I think she’s awake now,” Helen, her sentient house, said, with just a hint of disapproval.


  Say that in five minutes, Kaylin thought, shoving her arms
into her shirt. The buttons were on the inside, which was not where they were supposed to be. “Helen, can I have some light?”

  Light immediately flooded the room. The familiar squawked his resentment. Kaylin was saving hers for possible future need, but she was now worried. “Is Teela here?”

  “Not yet, dear.”

  Tain didn’t drop by for a random social visit. Not without Teela.

  “What’s happened?”

  “It’s not an emergency,” was Helen’s gentle reply. “Or at least not yet.”

  * * *

  “Don’t give me that look,” Tain said, before Kaylin could open her mouth.

  “Why are you here?”

  “Ask Mandoran.” Tain looked about as happy as Kaylin felt, which was unreasonable given that Barrani didn’t need sleep unless they were badly injured.

  Kaylin, however, swiveled in Mandoran’s direction.

  “Teela’s coming over,” he said.

  “What happened?”

  “Nothing yet.”

  “Why is she coming over?”

  The two younger Barrani exchanged a glance. To Kaylin’s surprise, it was Annarion who answered. “She’s coming to ask Helen if she can move in for a while.”

  Kaylin turned to Tain.

  “I haven’t spoken to her yet,” Teela’s partner replied. His eyes were blue.

  “I believe,” Helen said, interrupting them before Kaylin could speak, “you can ask her yourself. She’s almost at the front door.”

  “Don’t look at me like that,” Mandoran told Kaylin. “This has nothing to do with me. I voted against it.”

  “Against what?”

  When Mandoran failed to answer, she passed the frown on to Annarion, who looked both defiant and uncomfortable. “I’m taking the Test of Name.”

  Tain’s eyes darkened to a midnight blue, and if Kaylin hadn’t been human, hers would have joined them. “You’re what?”

  “I’m going to the High Halls to take the Test of Name.”

  * * *

  Kaylin was not stupid, in spite of what many of her early teachers had believed. She could put two plus two together and end up with four. “If Teela is coming over to ask if she can stay for a while,” Kaylin said out loud, “does that mean the rest of the cohort are coming to visit as well?”

  “Not without your permission,” Annarion replied, guilt shifting the corners of his eyes and mouth.

  “Look, some of us think it’s an incredibly stupid decision. But we know it’s dangerous, and none of the rest of us have taken the Test, either. If he goes, we’re not going to let him go on his own.”

  “Teela’s taken the Test.”

  Mandoran exhaled. “Yes. We know. That’s part of the problem. She can’t come with us.” He stared, quite deliberately, at his feet. Since this meant—to Kaylin—that he was trying not to look at anyone else, she frowned.

  “She can’t go with you.”

  “No. Not if she follows the customs and laws of the High Halls.”

  Kaylin did look up then. “But Tain hasn’t taken the Test of Name.”


  Kaylin said, “Oh, no. No. I am not getting between the two of you while you’re arguing. You won’t kill each other, but the collateral damage will probably kill anyone who isn’t Barrani!”

  “We are not arguing,” Tain replied. His voice was chilly, his eyes the same dark blue.

  Annarion apparently also found his feet interesting.

  Tain was not a Lord of the High Court. He was Teela’s partner, and Teela was. But the other Barrani Hawks were like Tain. A second class of citizen, a lesser class, in the eyes of most Barrani Lords. He’d never seemed to give a damn. But clearly, he did now.

  She wondered who, among the cohort, had voted against Annarion taking the Test. Mandoran and Teela, certainly. But had any of the others?

  “Yes,” she said, out loud. “The cohort can stay here as our guests. Given what happened with the two of you,” she added, looking at the Barrani who were still staring at their feet, “I want some of the city to remain standing.”

  “They’ve been taking the same lessons we have,” Mandoran offered. “They learn what we learn.”

  “Are they like you or like Annarion?”

  “...We’re not sure yet.”

  “Then they are definitely staying where Helen can keep an eye on them.”

  * * *

  By the time Teela arrived at the front door, Tain, Annarion and Kaylin were standing in front of it. Mandoran hung back, but not with any real hope of avoiding a face full of blue-eyed, angry Teela, which is what greeted them when Helen opened the front door.

  Her eyes shifted into indigo when she saw Tain. Tain didn’t appear to notice, but he wasn’t one of the cohort, and he’d lived in the real world—near Teela—for much longer than anyone else had.

  “What are you doing here?” she demanded, with no grace whatsoever.

  Tain didn’t throw Mandoran to the wolves, which is clearly what Mandoran had been dreading. “I’ve heard that the cohort, as Kaylin calls them, is coming to stay.”

  That wouldn’t have been Kaylin’s choice of opening words, but Kaylin was not Teela’s partner.

  “Please come in,” Helen said, before Teela could respond. “Kaylin hasn’t eaten yet.”

  No one had eaten yet. No one really felt like eating, either, as far as Kaylin could tell.

  Teela and Tain quit what might have devolved into a staring contest as Helen ushered everyone into the dining room. They took their chairs as if chairs were weapons or armor. Teela even turned hers around so the back faced the table and she could fold her arms over it.

  “Why,” she said again, “are you here?”

  “I told you.”

  “My friends are not your problem.”


  Teela’s eyes narrowed; she turned to glare at Mandoran, who shrugged. Her words, however, continued to be aimed at Tain. “I don’t want you to endanger yourself needlessly.”

  “I’m not. I’ve always been far more cautious than you are.”

  This was arguably true, but Kaylin was not nearly suicidal enough to make the argument. She looked at breakfast as it appeared on her plate, and wondered if it would be safer if breakfast for everyone else—or at least the Barrani—could be finger foods for just one day. Teela was giving the cutlery a side-eye that suggested she might use it for something other than food.

  “You are not taking the Test with them.”

  “I haven’t taken the Test. I can.”

  “You’ve never wanted to be a Lord of the High Court. And babysitting—”


  “—is not nearly a good enough reason to change your mind.”

  “No. It’s not.”


  “The cohort are coming to Elantra. Sedarias is coming to Elantra. The High Court has maintained the polite fiction of joy at the rescue of the cohort.”

  Teela said nothing.

  “How long do you think that joy is going to last? Annarion is the bloodline heir. Karian is the bloodline heir. Mandoran is—god help his family—the bloodline heir. And Sedarias is the bloodline heir.”

  Kaylin turned to Tain. “Wait, what do you mean?”

  “Annarion is not the only person present who intends to take back what Nightshade lost. Sedarias, however, would have been the Lord of her line had she not been sent to the green. The others are technically heirs because of politics or deaths due to the wars.” He exhaled and turned to her.

  “Is this really the time for a teachable moment?” Kaylin demanded. Tain continued to stare at her, which was his answer. “Fine. Their family lines—what are they, anyway?—have been ruled just fine since they were sent to the green. The Lords of those lines probably have no intere
st at all in being displaced.”

  “I have no interest in reclaiming my family holdings,” Mandoran said.

  “You said your family was gone!”

  Mandoran shrugged. “As far as I’m concerned, they are.”

  “The High Court would not agree,” Teela said, her voice dry as tinder.

  Mandoran made clear what he thought the High Court could do with its disagreement.

  “You are correct,” Tain continued, speaking to Kaylin as if there had been no interruption. “Those families have held power for centuries. The children of the green were a myth—a sorrowful myth, perhaps—one that could be safely used. Now they are a very real fact.

  “Teela is Lord of her line. She has had centuries to establish her rule. She is secure enough in that rule to be a Hawk—an Imperial Hawk. But the alliances she’s built to maintain that power are going to shift.”

  “There is no guarantee of that,” Teela said.

  Tain didn’t bother to reply, but his expression made clear just how little he thought of her counterargument. And he took his life in his hands by continuing to address his words to Kaylin. “Teela will, therefore, be drawn into the drama of the Test of Name. As long as none of the cohort are Lords of the High Court, everything remains academic. If they are not Lords of that court, they cannot claim their inheritance. It’s possible,” he said, his emphasis bordering on sarcasm, “that the High Court could be talked into believing that Mandoran, Eddorian, and Karian have no interest in ruling. There is nothing in the Empire that could induce the High Court to believe that Sedarias does not.”

  Sedarias was the name Kaylin heard most often, when Mandoran referred to the members of his cohort who still resided in the Hallionne Alsanis. Her opinion was either valuable or dangerous—but it was never dismissed out of hand.

  “And this is dangerous to Teela because?”

  “Because some of her allies will be directly—and badly—impacted should the cohort decide to reclaim what is technically theirs. If Sedarias remained in the green, she could finesse the situation; Sedarias was not Lord of the High Court. If Sedarias is coming to Elantra—”

  “She’ll become a Lord.” If she passed the Test. “And she’ll attempt to secure her place as head of her family.” The family that had abandoned her.

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