Cast in flight, p.1
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       Cast in Flight, p.1

           Michelle Sagara
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Cast in Flight


  New York Times bestselling author Michelle Sagara returns to the city of Elantra with a thrilling tale rife with ancient magic, assassination attempts and political intrigue.

  Private Kaylin Neya already has Dragons and Barrani as roommates. Adding one injured, flightless Aerian to her household should be trivial. Sure, the Aerian is Sergeant Moran dar Carafel, but Kaylin’s own sergeant is a Leontine, the definition of growly and fanged. She can handle one Aerian.

  But when a walk to the Halls of Law becomes a street-shattering magical assassination attempt on the sergeant, Kaylin discovers that it’s not the guest who’s going to be the problem: it’s all of the people who suddenly want Moran dar Carafel dead. And though Moran refuses to tell her why she’s being targeted, Kaylin is determined to discover her secret and protect her at all costs—even if keeping Moran safe means dealing with Aerian politics, angry dragons and something far more sinister.

  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

  The Chronicles of Elantra by New York Times bestselling author

  Michelle Sagara

  CAST IN SHADOW

  CAST IN COURTLIGHT

  CAST IN SECRET

  CAST IN FURY

  CAST IN SILENCE

  CAST IN CHAOS

  CAST IN RUIN

  CAST IN PERIL

  CAST IN SORROW

  CAST IN FLAME

  CAST IN HONOR

  And “Cast in Moonlight” found in HARVEST MOON, an anthology with Mercedes Lackey and Cameron Haley

  Michelle Sagara

  Cast in Flight

  To the denizens of the War Room, without whom writing would be a much, much more isolated—and isolating—activity.

  Contents

  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

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Acknowledgments

  Excerpt from Cast in Honor by Michelle Sagara

  Chapter 1

  Morning was not Kaylin’s friend.

  Helen’s Avatar stood in front of the open bedroom door, her expression as pinched as it ever got. Sentient buildings were in most ways a living marvel, but they definitely had their drawbacks.

  “I’m not hungry,” Kaylin told Helen as she dragged herself out of bed. “I need sleep more than I need food.” She could see only one of her shoes. “Is there anything you can do about Nightshade and Annarion? I never thought I’d say this, but Dragons roaring at each other at the top of their lungs was more peaceful.”

  “I’m sorry, dear. I’ve done what I can to isolate the noise in the house, but Annarion’s voice travels through most of my barriers.”

  “It’s not just Annarion. I can hear every word Nightshade is saying.”

  “That would be because you bear his mark, dear. He can’t control you through it while he’s under my roof, but the connection is still active.”

  Kaylin reached up to touch her cheek. Nightshade’s mark looked like a tattoo of a small flower, and she’d had it for long enough she was barely aware of it, except in moments like these.

  Helen looked down at her hands, which weren’t really hands; Helen was a building. Her Avatar appeared to be human. It wasn’t. Clearing her throat was also an affectation, and she did that, as well. “Regardless, breakfast is an important meal. You have work today. You need food.” Helen’s Avatar folded her arms. As far as Helen was concerned, this was a fight worth having, and as it happened, Helen won all these fights.

  The winged lizard flapping around Kaylin’s face in obvious annoyance made it hard to pull clothing over her head. Kaylin swatted halfheartedly at her familiar.

  “That’s what buttons are for, dear. If you unbuttoned—and folded—your clothing, getting dressed would be less chaotic.”

  Small and squawky settled on Kaylin’s left shoulder with a little more claw than usual. “I used to daydream about having an older brother,” she said as she spied the missing shoe under her bed. “If nothing else, this has cured me of that.”

  “I have a question.”

  Of course she did. “What?”

  “Annarion is upset at his older brother.”

  “Clearly.”

  “He is not saying anything that you have not said, or thought, yourself. He dislikes the governance of the fief of Nightshade.”

  Dislike was far too mild a word.

  “You hate it.”

  Kaylin exhaled. “I grew up there. Barely. I survived. But a lot of people—a lot of kids—didn’t. When I see what Tiamaris has done with his own fief, it’s very clear to me that life in Nightshade didn’t have to be like that. Nightshade’s the fieflord. He could have chosen to do what Tiamaris is doing. The fief is his. So yes, I agree with every single word Annarion’s been saying. Or shouting. Or screaming.”

  “But you feel pain on Nightshade’s behalf.”

  Kaylin grimaced. “Nightshade spent centuries trying to rescue Annarion. I think he might have killed his father because
his father chose to sacrifice Annarion to the green. The only person on earth Nightshade cares about that way is his younger brother. In some ways, his choices revolved around Annarion. He’s outcaste because of those choices.

  “Getting Annarion back should have been a good thing. And I think it is. But...Annarion’s so disappointed, so hurt, it’s caused almost nothing but pain.” And that pain? It was killing Kaylin’s ability to sleep. No one who had half a heart could sleep through the ruckus. “To both of them.”

  “And you don’t want Lord Nightshade to be in pain.”

  “I think he deserves it, to be honest. But...not from Annarion.”

  “People have always been complicated.”

  “Even the immortal ones?”

  “Especially the immortal ones.”

  No one with any intelligence wanted to get between two brothers while they were fighting. No one with any sense of self-preservation got between two Barrani when they were fighting. Kaylin hoped fervently that Lord Nightshade had returned to his own castle this morning.

  * * *

  Kaylin chewed on her thoughts while her familiar chewed on her hair as she walked down the foyer stairs toward the dining room. The dining room’s fancy doors were open, there was food on the table, and she was—as usual—late. Annarion was seated beside Mandoran. If Nightshade was Annarion’s brother by blood and lineage, Mandoran was a sibling by shared experience. Seated across from Mandoran was Bellusdeo, her golden hair pulled back in a braid that was looped together on the back of her head. Given the slightly orange tinge to her eyes, it was clear she and Mandoran had already started their daily bickering.

  Having a Dragon living in the same house as a Barrani who’d lost his family to the Draco-Barrani wars was never exactly peaceful.

  Before she could enter the dining room, Annarion looked up from his untouched plate. “I want to know how you first met my brother.”

  No, mornings were definitely not her friend.

  “I don’t think,” Helen said to Annarion as Kaylin made her way—silently—to her chair, “that Kaylin wishes to discuss your brother at breakfast.”

  Or ever.

  “I told him you’d say that,” Mandoran added, half-apologetically. Half was usually as much as he could muster.

  “I’m surprised he didn’t listen,” Bellusdeo said, picking up a fork as if it were a fascinating, rarely seen utensil. “Usually you’re the one who chooses to be selectively deaf.” She smiled at Mandoran. “I’ve come to find it quaintly charming.”

  Mandoran’s eyes shifted to a steady, deeper blue, the universal sign of Barrani fear or anger. And he certainly wasn’t afraid. “As charming as a Dragon in mortal clothing?”

  “Oh, infinitely more so. I assume once you’ve developed better command of your manners, I will be far less entertained. But I don’t expect that to happen in the next decade. Or two.”

  Mandoran’s natural dislike of Dragons as a race left Kaylin stranded with Annarion, who was still staring at her. No one could outstare Barrani.

  “Why won’t you speak about my brother?” he asked. The question was softly spoken, but his tone made it more of a command than a request for information.

  She considered and discarded a number of replies as she began to eat. She wasn’t hungry, and even if she had been, Annarion’s question would have killed her appetite. But she’d grown up on the edge of starvation, and she could always eat.

  None of her possible replies were good. The truth was, she liked Annarion. He was—for a Barrani—honest, polite, self-contained.

  “I don’t suppose you could ask your brother.”

  Mandoran took a break from his barbed “conversation” with Bellusdeo. “He’s asked.”

  “Nightshade didn’t want to talk about it?”

  “No, he talked about it.”

  “Then what’s the problem?”

  “He was lying.”

  Annarion glared at Mandoran, looking as if he wanted to argue. He turned back to Kaylin instead. “I want to know your side of the story.” Meaning, of course, that he agreed with Mandoran’s assessment.

  “I’ve got the usual mortal memory,” Kaylin replied evasively. “And I might lie, as well.”

  Mandoran snorted again. “Your attempts at lies are so pathetic you should probably use a different word to describe them.”

  Kaylin glared at Mandoran. Bellusdeo, however, said, “He has a point.”

  Kaylin wasn’t certain how she would have answered. She was saved by the appearance of the last of her housemates. Moran—Sergeant Carafel in the office—entered the dining room. Moran was almost never late for anything, even breakfast.

  Clearly, she had some reason for being late now, and it wasn’t a pleasant one. Her wings—or what remained of her wings—were stiff and as high as they could get with their protective bindings. Her eyes were blue. Aerian eyes and Barrani eyes overlapped in only one color. Moran was either angry, worried or both.

  Kaylin had risen before she realized she’d left her chair, which did nothing to improve Moran’s mood. Moran did not appreciate any worry that was aimed in her direction. Ever.

  “As you were, Private.” She sat on the stool provided for her; Aerian wings and normal chair backs didn’t get along well. To Helen, she added, “The mirror connection was smooth and solid.”

  It certainly hadn’t started out that way. Helen had a strong dislike of mirrors, or rather, of the mirror network that powered their communication. Regular silvered glass didn’t bother her in the slightest. “I made a few adjustments, dear. I’m terribly sorry that the faulty connections to date have caused so much difficulty for you.”

  “They haven’t,” Moran replied, her voice gentling, her eyes darkening.

  Helen’s Avatar smiled. “They have.”

  “The people on the other end of the connection have caused—or are trying to cause—the difficulty. It has nothing at all to do with you. If the connection had been faultless and solid, it would have given them more time to make things even less pleasant. I’m grateful for the respite.” Her eyes had shifted to a more neutral gray by the time she reached the end of her reassurance. She looked across the table at Bellusdeo.

  “Was it the Caste Court?” Kaylin asked. Helen frowned at her but said nothing.

  Moran glared Kaylin into the silence Helen would have preferred, but then relented slightly. “It was two castelords and one Hawklord. Before you ask, none of them were particularly happy. And it is caste business. Aerian business. Is that clear?”

  “Yes, sir.”

  “Good.” Moran then turned to Bellusdeo. “Are you accompanying us to the Halls today?”

  Bellusdeo’s eyes were golden. “Of course.”

  Moran then concentrated on breakfast. Annarion’s attention had fallen on the Aerian, as had Mandoran’s. Neither of the boys interacted much with her except at meals, and while Moran was polite, she wasn’t highly talkative.

  “Helen,” Mandoran said, “what happened?”

  “I don’t think she wishes to discuss that, dear.”

  “That’s why I’m asking you.”

  Even Annarion looked pained. “He’s gotten worse since he arrived in this city. He used to be capable of actual manners,” he said to the table at large.

  “When they were necessary, yes. Here, no one needs them, and I hate to go through the effort when it won’t be appreciated in the slightest.”

  * * *

  Less than ten minutes later, Teela and Tain appeared in the dining room as if they’d been summoned. What was left of the breakfast conversation died as they were noticed.

  “What, are we not welcome?” Teela asked as she sauntered in. She was wearing a sword. So was Tain.

  “You are always welcome,” Helen told her. “Any friend of—”
r />   “Yes, yes. Thank you, Helen.” Chairs appeared at the long dining table as if by magic. Well, actually, by magic. Teela turned one of the two so that its back almost touched the table’s edge. She sat, folding her arms across the top rail and resting her chin on her forearms. To Moran, she said, “What kind of trouble are you expecting?”

  Moran glared at Mandoran. She knew the boys could communicate with Teela the same way they communicated with each other. They knew each other’s True Names. All of the children that had been taken, centuries ago, to the West March did. Kaylin thought it a bit unfair that Moran immediately blamed Mandoran.

  Mandoran apparently didn’t. “What?” he asked, spreading his hands. “You asked the Dragon if she was heading into the Halls today. You know it gives Kaylin’s sergeant hives the minute she crosses the threshold. You’ve never asked before. Obviously you’re concerned that something requiring brute strength—or magical competence—might happen.”

  Moran was silent.

  “There are perfectly competent Barrani here. I’ll be damned if I let you depend on a Dragon for heroics. And Teela has to go to the Halls anyway.”

  The Dragon in question said, “I’m still going. And in case it’s escaped your notice, Barrani can’t fly.”

  “Some can.”

  “Not naturally.”

  Mandoran shrugged. “If we’re going to get technical, you can’t legally fly, either. Not without Imperial permission.”

  The word permission touched off a distinct orange in Bellusdeo’s eyes.

  Teela glanced at Moran with some sympathy. “I hear,” she said, her eyes almost green, the Barrani happy color, “that you have a lovely suite of personal rooms. I do hope they make up for the shared spaces.”

  Moran was silent for half a beat. “Yes,” she finally said, “they do. They’re very quiet and very peaceful.” She surveyed the table with weary resignation. “I suppose I shouldn’t have expected that the rest of the house would be the same—Kaylin lives here, after all.”

  * * *

  Helen wouldn’t tell Kaylin the content of Moran’s mirror-based discussion. Normally, this wouldn’t have bothered Kaylin; today, for reasons she felt were obvious, it did.

 

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