FROM THE AUTHORS OF NYT BESTSELLER WHEN DARKNESS FALLS, NYT BESTSELLER THE PHOENIX TRANSFORMED, AND USA TODAY BESTSELLER TO LIGHT A CANDLE
They thought the war was over. They were wrong.
Runacarendalur Caerthalien has been a master of battle for hundreds of years, but he found himself on the wrong sidethe losing sidein the last war. Betrayed by his brother, trapped in a prophecy he does not understand, Runacar flees the battlefield.
Yet Runacar is no coward. In a twist he could never have imagined, the Elven War-Prince finds himself leading a new army into battlea force of centaurs, merfolk, gryphons, minotaurs, and talking bears who can perform magic. For centuries they have been trying to reclaim their lands from Elven invaders. With Runacar at the helm, they just might manage it.
Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory’s first collaboration, the Obsidian Mountain trilogy, introduced readers to a brilliant, continent-spanning fantasy world of high adventure and epic battle. Civilization shimmered with magic while in the nooks and crannies of the world, dragons and unicorns hid from people who believed them to be nothing more than legends.
The Dragon Prophecy, set thousands of years before that story, illuminates a time when long-lived Elves rule the Fortunate Lands. It is a time of dire prophecy, of battle and bloodshed, of great magics unlike any the Elvenkind have seen before. It is the story of the end of one world and the beginning of the next.
The Obsidian Mountain Trilogy
#1 The Outstretched Shadow
#2 To Light a Candle
#3 When Darkness Falls
The Dragon Prophecy Trilogy
#1 Crown of Vengeance
#2 Blade of Empire
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SNOW MOON TO ICE MOON: THE END OF ALL THINGS
One cannot pledge fealty to the wind.
— Elven Proverb
From Rade Moon to Storm Moon, Winter High Queen was the true ruler of the Grand Windsward. Only the Flower Forests, locked in their eternal Springtide, were exempt from snow and cold, and Elvenkind did not enter the Flower Forests.
It is a great mystery, Gonceivis Haldil mused once again, that we draw our ultimate power from a place we dare not go.
In the West, Lightborn might enter the Flower Forests whenever they chose — save, perhaps, on the Western Shore, and there it was merely dangerous. Only in the Grand Windsward was it impossible, for in the Grand Windsward, the Beastlings ruled. The Beastlings had been the enemy of Elvenkind since before Amretheon had reigned. They were monstrous and cruel, a terrible parody of Elvenkind in shape and manner. Centaurs — Minotaurs — Gryphons — there was no end to their horror, the shapes they came in ... or their bestial sorcery.
Gryphons had weather magic at their command; Aesalions could control the hearts of their prey; Bearwards were masters of sickness and plague. The Minotaurs slaughtered Elvenkind's herds and flocks, and Centaurs razed their villages. Sorcery could only be fought with Light, and so in the Grand Windsward, the Lightborn went regularly into battle. Mosirinde's Covenant demanded that the Lightborn draw their power from the Flower Forests alone, and by Mosirinde's Covenant, Elvenkind was bound to a dreadful bargain, for the Flower Forests were home to a thousand races of Beastling: fairy and sprite, dryad and Faun, nymph and gnome and pixie. To keep the Covenant, the Lightborn must hold sacrosanct the strongholds of their enemy, for those strongholds were the only source of their protection from that same enemy.
At least Winter brings us some respite from the eternal battle, Gonceivis thought. In Snow Moon, Haldil — first among the Houses of the Grand Windsward — opened its doors in revelry and celebration to any of the Hundred Houses who wished to enter. If the sennight of the Midwinter Festival was named a time of tacit truce throughout the Fortunate Lands, here in the Grand Windsward the Midwinter Truce was more than empty words.
Gonceivis Haldil looked down the length of his Great Hall. Its ceiling was low, the better to defend them from the incursions of fairies and pixies. It had no windows, for even an arrow slit could provide entrance to a Faun. It was so vast that there was not one Storysinger performing before the High Table, but rather half a dozen performers scattered among the revelers. The talk and laughter echoing from the banner-hung stone hushed the sounds as easily as a spell of silence might. Gonceivis had little interest in songs, and as War Prince he could see Lightborn Magery any time he chose. The entertainer chosen for the High Table was a Lightless illusionist: one who used deft trickery to make a pretense of Magery. He watched, diverted, as she turned one disk into two, then a dozen, then juggled them deftly. They glowed in the Silverlight set upon the walls and ceiling, flashing brightly before they returned to her hands. When they vanished, she replaced them with lengths of shining gilt ribbon that continuously swirled through the air. The fire trenches that crossed the floor were golden with coals, and one of the ribbons, swooping too close, burst into flame. For a moment Gonceivis thought this was an error, and made a note to have the steward who had chosen her flogged, but then all the ribbons burst into flame to become lanterns, then batons, and at last a single white bird. The illusionist flung the dove toward the ceiling; it flew along the line of war banners that hung upon the walls, their bright heraldry cooled by the Silverlight's soft radiance. The banners belled softly in the rising waves of heat, and at last the bird vanished behind one of them.
The Lightless illusionist swept him a low bow, and Gonceivis tossed her his empty cup in reward of her skill. She caught it with another low bow, then ran toward one of the staircases that entered the hall at its four corners.
"Thank the Light that's over," Ladyholder Belviel said. "My father had no patience with such trickery."
"Your father did not rule in Haldil," Gonceivis told her. He chewed thoughtfully upon a salted fig as his cupbearer brought him a new cup and filled it with wine. It was not the plain and lightweight sort he'd tossed to the performer, its worth only in the gold of which it was made: this was a massive thing, carved and jeweled, and capable of holding six gills of wine.
"Nor did my father lead his House into ruinous rebellion," Belviel responded, choosing a morsel of cheese from the tray before her.
"As I recall, you did not find it objectionable when we began," Gonceivis said.
"I was fond of Demi-Prince Malbeth," his wife replied placidly. "A pity he did not survive."
"A pity we did not know that had we but waited half a century we could have had the victory without the war," Gonceivis snapped.
A Wheelturn ago last Harvest, Oronviel fell to the last child of Farcarinon. At Midwinter, Vieliessar sent messages inviting the Windsward to rise up as her allies. The Windsward had declined Vieliessar's gracious invitation — still smarting from its inglorious defeat fifty Wheelturns before — but it had watched with interest. It was Serenthon Farcarinon's madness reborn, but the daughter outstripped the father. She struck the shackles of Mosirinde's Covenant from the Magery of the Lightborn. She armed the Landbonds and offered full pardon to any outlaw who would pledge to her. In War Season, half the Houses of the West fell to her in a handful of moonturns, and the rest, plunged into madness, formed a Grand Alliance, following her over the Mystrals. The Windsward Houses promptly proclaimed their independence from the West for the second time in a scant half-century. Vieliessar sent demands of fealty and the Grand Alliance sent demands for aid. Haldil and the rest of the Windsward Houses ignored them both.
No one expected the war to continue beyond moonturn.
Mirwathel, Haldil's Chief Storysinger, stepped forward to begin The Courtship of Amretheon and Pelashia. Gonceivis did his best to conceal a wince; it was a very long song. It was also the signal for all who had left childhood behind in the past year to gather before the High Table, and for the Lightborn to come to await them, for this was the sixth night of Midwinter, and on this night, everywhere across the whole of the Fortunate Lands, the Lightborn would Call the Light. Each Lightborn had a servant by their side; each servant held a basket filled with sweets and ribbons. Silver ribbons for those who would go to the Sanctuary in the spring, gold for those who would not.
If anyone goes anywhere in the spring, Gonceivis thought, for this had been a Wheelturn of wonders.
Kaelindiel Bethros raised his cup in a mocking toast. He was seated at Gonceivis's tuathal side, the place of greatest honor. "So we are once more in rebellion, Lord Gonceivis. Only ... against whom, this time?"
"I see no rebellion here," Gonceivis answered evenly. "Haldil is held in clientage by Caerthalien, as Bethros is by Aramenthiali. If they are no more, well, one cannot pledge fealty to the wind."
"But now — so they say — we are to have a High King. The Child of the Prophecy, perhaps, as Haldil once foretold — though, perhaps, prematurely," Kaelindiel answered.
"Then I wonder why you did not declare for Oronviel when Lord Vieliessar first sent to you," Gonceivis said tartly.
"Had I done so, I would be now as her princes are," Kaelindiel said. "Mourning so many dead no Tablet of Memory could contain them all."
The first of the children reached the waiting Lightborn. A brief touch, hand upon head, and it was done. Gold ribbons only, as was only to be expected: the nobles and the offspring of the Lords Komen were first, and Light was rarely found there.
"Yet her cause endures," Gonceivis said.
"Are your spies less able than mine?" Kaelindiel asked archly. "She flees. The Alliance follows."
"And Thurion Lightbrother tells us she will win, and we must pledge," Gonceivis answered. This was old news to them both: Thurion Lightbrother had come seeking alliance for his master moonturns ago — and many had listened. Kerethant, Penenjil, Enerchelimier, Artholor ... nearly a taille of Windsward Houses had declared for Lord Vieliessar before Thurion Lightbrother headed Westward again. Let them go, Gonceivis told himself. Let them all go. Let Kerethant and Artholor strip themselves of defenders. Let Enerchelimier follow a dream.
"Perhaps Penenjil's Silver Swords will grant her victory," Kaelindiel said. "It is an omen, you must agree. The Silver Swords have not left Penenjil since the fall of the High King."
"The last High King," Gonceivis corrected. "If she is to have her way."
"Let her be High King, or Astromancer, or the Mother of Dragons," Kaelindiel answered dismissively. "I care not, so long as she does it elsewhere. Perhaps she and the Twelve will devour one another and leave us in peace. And if she calls those Windsward Houses which have declared for her to her battlefield, well ... a domain is not merely its grand array. There will be Landbonds and Craftworkers in plenty seeking protection."
"Peace is what you and I most desire, of course," Gonceivis answered. He smiled as the first silver ribbon of the night was placed in a child's hands.
If Vieliessar Oronviel can become High King, so may Gonceivis Haldil, he thought to himself. A Kingdom is land, and wealth — and armies. It is not an empty throne. Or a handless sword.
Snow Moon became Ice Moon, and the news from the West was a muddle of conflicting information. Useless demands for aid came from the High Houses. Other words, private and clandestine, came from the Lightborn: Farspeech was the only thing that could reach across the Feinolon Peaks before Spring Thaw, and the Lightborn — now, as always — spoke among themselves. Every House of the Grand Windsward had sent children to the Sanctuary, and every child of the Windsward — given, as so many were, in tithe to the Great Houses of the West — hungered for news from home. Thus, Gonceivis had spies in the Grand Alliance and spies in the "High King's" army, for in exchange for the promise to pass word to their Lightless kin — a promise Gonceivis saw scrupulously kept — the Lightborn spoke of where they were and what they did. Once their words had been of weather and harvest, of minor triumphs, of such things as anyone might know. Since Thunder Moon, it had been of the daily life of an army upon the march, and the word had always been the same.
The High King fled. The Grand Alliance followed.
As the two armies drained the Flower Forests of the Uradabhur, the news became the merest trickle, for Farspeech needed Light. In Frost Moon it became a torrent once more, as the Lightborn — first of one array, then of both — found a new and seemingly inexhaustible wellspring to draw from. But the news did not change. The High King ran like a stag in winter. The Alliance followed, dogged as a pack of hounds.
"And what am I to think of it?" Gonceivis demanded of Othrochel Lightbrother. "This 'news' you bring me is no more than the mutterings of Lightborn! Even Caerthalien has stopped its eternal prating that Haldil do the impossible!" The day was clear, and so Gonceivis had called a council in his solar. It was not a particularly private council, for the solar was one of the most pleasant rooms in the Great Keep, and anyone permitted to be here by birth or office had come. Of that perhaps two dozen souls, nearly half were gathered around the table which dominated the center of the chamber.
"It is the only news there is," Aenthior Swordmaster pointed out. She fingered her necklace of Gryphon talons. "As you well know, Lord Gonceivis."
"Don't tell me what I know," he answered irritably. "Tell me what I do not know."
"The outcome of the battle yet to be fought?" Ranruth Warlord asked. "All we know is that it will come."
"My ... colleagues ... in both arrays say this," Othrochel Lightbrother said. He was a Lightborn of middle years, and he'd been Gonceivis's closest advisor for more than half his life. "The High King's Lightborn say she leads them to Celephriandullias-Tildorangelor —"
"A myth," Ladyholder Belviel said.
"— to claim Amretheon's city and the Unicorn Throne in actuality," Othrochel finished, unperturbed. "I find it interesting that the Lightborn of the Grand Alliance do not speak of a destination. Save, of course, wherever the High King's army stops."
"Do stop calling her that," Ranruth Warlord urged. "Or I shall feel the need to leap to my destrier's back and ride to lay down my sword at her feet at once."
Aenthior snorted rudely. "We have to call her something. If not that, what? Oronviel? Farcarinon? Lightsister? She styles herself High King, and holds the fealty of forty of the Hundred Houses. Although, of course, not Haldil." The Swordmaster bowed slightly in Gonceivis's direction.
"She has been promising to fight since last Flower Moon at least," Gonceivis said. "But when?"
"Soon," Ranruth said. "She's running out of room. Already she is hundreds of leagues south of the southern bounds. She'll be underwater soon if she keeps on as she is."
"There's nothing there," Heir-Prince Paramarth said. He peered down at the surface of the table. It was covered by a single sheet of velum containing a map that had taken decades to make. Its northwestern edge ended with the Medhartha Range. The southern boundary was towers and forests. And where Vieliessar now was ... blankness.
"Othrochel?" Gonceivis asked.
The Chief Lightborn came forward with a fragile sheet of parchment scraped almost to transparency. He set it carefully over a portion of the southern edge of the map. It was covered with marks in silverpoint. A few in ink. And a long line, straight as the flight of a fleeing dove, in charcoal.
"There is indeed something there, my lords," Othrochel said. "There is a Flower Forest so vast that the Lightborn of sixty houses cannot drain it. They call it Star-Bright Forest, and it is believed to lie to the west of the, ah, the Rebel Vieliessar's route, which lies through the forest her Lightborn have named Janubaghir. She and the Alliance are now upon the plain Ifjalasairaet, which is bordered upon the south by cliffs and upon the north by forests. This map is necessarily both incomplete and inaccurate, but it provides some notion of their present location. And of the size of the area across which they travel."
The party stared at the map in silence.
"But what is she going to do?" Gonceivis asked again.
No one had any answer for him.
Hallorad was far to the east of the other Windsward Houses; a mere sennight's journey west of the perilous shores of Greythunder Glairyrill. And Hallorad stood, as she had always stood, alone.
In season, Hallorad sent her Lightborn to the Sanctuary of the Star. She paid her tribute in the wealth of the Windsward: fur and feather, horn and bone, for her people grew barely enough grain to feed themselves. There were no vast farmholdings or manor houses in Hallorad: Hallorad's Great Keep was the only building anywhere upon the lands it claimed. Generations of Lightborn had worked to expand its underground chambers, until ten times as much living space lay below the ground as above. There were a hundred entrances into Hallorad's underworld, each entrance surrounded by a few dozen hectares of cropland.
Hallorad survived in a world filled with monsters by quickness and cleverness.
"Three Candidates, a mad Astromancer, and a High King," Paramarth Hallorad said. "What am I to do?"
Far to the east of Haldil, War Prince Paramarth and his advisors were gathered in the solar at the top of Hallorad Great Keep. The slanting rays of late-afternoon winter sunlight streamed through the slit-windows, its illumination almost enough to make the Silverlight lanterns unnecessary.
"The High King is there and we are here," Ladyholder Ingwinde said. "She is the least of our problems."
"Except for the fact she wishes me to go halfway across the world and swear fealty to her," Paramarth said.
"Swear to Haldil instead," Swordmaster Anande said. "Gonceivis is closer."
"If I swear to Haldil," Paramarth Hallorad said reasonably, "I still have to go west to do it." He sighed. "I have less objection to Vieliessar than to Gonceivis. I object to having to go and tell her so."
"The Windsward Houses pledged to her have done that and more than that," Anande pointed out. "They have gone west with everything they own. Meanwhile, Antanaduk and Rutharban have pledged to Haldil, so that alliance has ten Houses now."
"So Gonceivis is King at last. How nice for him," Ladyholder Ingwinde said.
"Over all save Hallorad," Paramarth said again. "In that, he and Vieliessar High King are equal. So far."
Excerpted from "Blade of Empire"
Copyright © 2017 Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory.
Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
PROLOGUE: Darkness Visible,
CHAPTER ONE: Snow Moon to Ice Moon: The End of All Things,
CHAPTER TWO: Ice Moon: The End of the Hundred Houses,
CHAPTER THREE: Ice Moon to Storm Moon: The Kingdom of the West,
CHAPTER FOUR: Storm Moon: The Good of the Land,
CHAPTER FIVE: Rain Moon: The Road Paved with Swords,
CHAPTER SIX: Rain Moon: The Mystery of Chains,
CHAPTER SEVEN: Rain Moon to Flower Moon: The Eyes of the Forest,
CHAPTER EIGHT: Rain Moon to Sword Moon: To Gain Sanctuary,
CHAPTER NINE: Thunder Moon and Beyond: The Art of War,
CHAPTER TEN: Harvest Moon: The Red Harvest,
CHAPTER ELEVEN: Harvest Moon: The Beginning of the Great Silence,
CHAPTER TWELVE: Rain Moon: A Month for War,
CHAPTER THIRTEEN: Sword Moon: The Rebounding Stroke,
CHAPTER FOURTEEN: Thunder Moon: Fire and the Folk of the Air,
CHAPTER FIFTEEN: Thunder Moon: A War Like No Other,
CHAPTER SIXTEEN: Thunder Moon: Rich, Beautiful, and Cursed,
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: Sword Moon: Smoke and Veils,
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN: Sword Moon to Thunder Moon: The End of the West,
CHAPTER NINETEEN: Thunder Moon: The Unicorn's Promise,
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