The setting for a series of stories by popular science fiction authors, Liavek is a hot, busy trade city, situated on the southern shore of the Sea of Luck at the mouth of the Cat River. In Liavek, magic is based on one’s “birth luck” and the length of time one’s mother was in labor, but it can only be used to power spells after it’s invested in some object outside oneself—a difficult and deadly task. . . .
From that mad and wonderful seed, Patricia C. Wrede and Pamela Dean create an enthralling set of stories, where a god is trapped in the body of a chipmunk, where a play has the potential to incite a riot and change a nation, and where a family is coming apart at the seams—and going to enormous lengths to stitch itself back together.
All of the stories are tied together by the unforgettable character of Granny, Ka’Riatha—the one the Book of Curses calls the Guardian of the S’Rian Gods. Granny moves through each story, casting spells and bringing her tart brand of wisdom to a world come undone. This collection is perfect for fans of both titans of the genre, and will bring equal parts thrilled gasps and charmed smiles to readers everywhere.
“This deeply enjoyable journey to Liavek will be of interest to longtime fans and newcomers alike.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
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About the Author
For over twenty years, Patricia C. Wrede (b. 1953) has expanded the boundaries of young-adult fantasy writing. Her first novel, Shadow Magic (1982), introduced Lyra, a magical world in which she set four more novels. Her other series include the Enchanted Forest Chronicles; the Cecelia and Kate novels, co-written with Caroline Stevermer; the Mairelon books, which take place in Regency England; and the Old-West Frontier Magic series. Wrede lives and works in Minnesota.
Read an Excerpt
Rikiki and the Wizard A S'Rian Folktale
By Patricia C. Wrede
Once there was a wizard whose luck-time was three days long. He was the luckiest wizard in the world, and he worked hard at his magic. He did a good business working magic spells for the people of Liavek. But the wizard was not satisfied.
He bought himself musty, dusty books in Old Tichenese and burned sheep-fat lamps until late at night while he read them and practiced the spells they contained. Soon he had a house on Wizard's Row and the Levar himself was buying spells from him. But the wizard was not satisfied.
He traveled to faraway places to learn their magic, then went into his cellar and invented spells of his own. He became the best wizard in the world, as well as the luckiest. People came from Ka Zhir and Tichen and even from the Farlands just to buy spells from him. The wizard became both very rich and very famous. But he was still not satisfied.
"Everyone knows who I am now," he said to himself. "But in a few hundred years they will not remember me. I must find a way to make my reputation last."
Now, the wizard had a daughter of whom he was very proud. She had skin like a flower petal, long hair that fell down to her feet, and bright black eyes that danced like the sun on the Sea of Luck. She was the most beautiful woman in seven cities, and her name was Ryvenna.
The wizard decided to call on the gods and offer his daughter in marriage to whichever one would promise to make him so rich and so famous that he would never be forgotten as long as people lived around the Sea of Luck. For, he thought, not only will I be as rich and famous as anyone could desire, I will also get my Ryvenna a husband worthy of her beauty.
The wizard made his preparations and cast his spells. He worked for a week to get everything right. But the gods were angry with him, because he had never asked his daughter whether she agreed to his plan.
"Bad enough that he presumes we'd want her," grumbled Welenen the Rain-Bringer. "But giving the girl away without telling her? He acts as if she were a pet dog or a camel!" And the other gods agreed.
So when the wizard cast his spell, none of the gods would answer. He called and called, for two days, and for three days, and nothing happened. Finally he resolved to try one last time. He set out the gold wire and burned the last of the special herbs and put all of his luck into the spell (and he was the luckiest wizard in the world).
Now, Rikiki had been at the meeting where all the gods agreed not to answer the wizard's summons, and he had agreed along with them. But Rikiki is a blue chipmunk, and chipmunks do not have long memories. Furthermore, they are insatiably curious. When the wizard put all his effort into his last try, Rikiki couldn't resist answering, just to see what was going on. So when the smoke cleared, the wizard saw a blue chipmunk sitting before him, looking up at him with beady black eyes. "Nuts?" said Rikiki.
The wizard was very angry to find that the only god who had answered his summons was a blue chipmunk. But Rikiki was a god, so the wizard said, "Rikiki! I will give you my daughter, who is the most beautiful woman in seven cities, if you will make me as rich and famous as I desire!"
"Daughter?" said Rikiki. "What daughter? New kind of nut?"
"No! She is a woman, the most beautiful woman in seven cities, and I will give her to you if you do as I ask!"
"Oh!" said Rikiki. "Seven cities of nuts! What want?"
"No, no! My daughter, not nuts!"
"Daughter? Don't want daughter. Want nuts! Where nuts?"
By this time, the wizard had decided that Rikiki was no use to him, so he said, "North, Rikiki. North along the shore of the Sea of Luck. Lots of nuts, Rikiki!"
"Good!" said Rikiki. "Like nuts!" And he scurried out of the wizard's house and ran north. He ran up and down the shore of the Sea of Luck, looking for the nuts the wizard had promised, but he didn't find any. He dug holes in the ground, looking for the nuts. The dirt that he threw out of the holes became the Silverspine Mountains, but Rikiki didn't find any nuts. So he went back to the wizard's house.
"No nuts north!" said Rikiki. "Where nuts?"
"I don't have any nuts!" said the wizard. "Go away!"
"Said nuts north. Didn't find nuts. Want nuts! Where look?"
"Go West, Rikiki," said the wizard. "Go a long, long way. Find nuts. And don't come back!"
"Good!" said Rikiki. "Like nuts!" And he scurried out of the wizard's house and ran west. He ran for a long, long time, but he didn't find any nuts. Finally he came to a mountain range on the other side of the plains.
"No nuts here," said Rikiki, and he turned around and went back. It was midday, and the sun was very hot. Rikiki let his tail droop on the ground as he ran, and it made a line in the dusty ground. The line became the Cat River. But Rikiki still didn't find any nuts. So he went to see the wizard again.
"No nuts west!" Rikiki said when he got back to the wizard's house. "Where nuts?"
"Not again!" said the wizard.
"Want nuts!" Rikiki insisted. He looked at the wizard with his black eyes.
The wizard remembered that Rikiki was a god, and he began to be a little frightened. "No nuts here, Rikiki," he said.
"Promised nuts!" said Rikiki. "Where?"
The wizard thought for a moment, then he said, "Go south, Rikiki. Go a long, long way south." He knew that south of Liavek is the Sea of Luck, and he was sure that it was deep enough and wide enough to drown a chipmunk, even if the chipmunk was a god.
Rikiki nodded and scurried off. The wizard heaved a sigh of relief and sat down to think of some other way to become rich and famous forever.
Now, the wizard's daughter Ryvenna had been listening at the door since her father started his spell-casting. She had thought Rikiki sounded nice, so she had run out to the Two-Copper Bazaar and bought some chestnuts from a street-vendor. She arrived back just in time to hear the wizard send Rikiki south to drown in the Sea of Luck.
Quickly, Ryvenna opened up the bag of chestnuts. When Rikiki came scurrying out, she said, "Nuts! Rikiki! Here are nuts!" and held out the bag.
Rikiki stopped. "Nuts? Nuts for Rikiki?" He came over and sat in Ryvenna's lap while she fed him all the chestnuts she had brought from the Two-Copper Bazaar. When he finished, he looked up at her and said hopefully, "Nice nut lady! More nuts?"
"I'm sorry, Rikiki," said Ryvenna. "They're all gone."
"Oh! Fix easy," said Rikiki. He looked at the empty bag and crossed his eyes, and the bag was full again. "More nuts!" he said, and Ryvenna fed him again.
Rikiki was just finishing the second bag of nuts when the wizard came out of his study. "What is he doing here?" the wizard demanded when he saw Rikiki.
"Eating nuts," said his daughter coolly. She was annoyed with him for trying to marry her to a god without asking her, and for trying to drown Rikiki. "He made the bag fill up again after it was empty."
"I don't care about nuts!" said the wizard.
Rikiki looked up. "Not like nuts?"
"Nuts aren't worth anything for people! I want gold! I want to be famous! And I want that blasted blue chipmunk out of my house!"
"Oh!" said Rikiki. He looked cross-eyed at the bag again, then said to Ryvenna, "Dump over."
Ryvenna turned the bag upside down. A stream of gold chestnuts fell out, more chestnuts than the bag could possibly hold. They rolled all over the floor. The wizard stood staring with his mouth hanging open.
"Gold nuts for nice nut-lady!" said Rikiki happily.
The wizard closed his mouth and swallowed twice. Then he said, "What about my fame?"
"Fame?" said Rikiki. "What fame? Fame good to eat? Like nuts?"
"No, Rikiki," Ryvenna said. "Fame is having everyone know who you are. Father wants to be so famous no one will ever forget him."
"Oh!" Rikiki thought for a minute. "Not forget?"
"That's right!" said the wizard eagerly.
Rikiki sat very still, staring at the wizard, and his tail twitched. Then he said, "Not forget! All fixed."
"You have?" said the wizard, who was beginning to regret sending Rikiki off to drown in the Sea of Luck.
"All done," Rikiki replied. He looked at Ryvenna. "Nuts all gone. Bye, nice nut lady!" And he disappeared.
"Well," said the wizard, "there's the last of my wishes; that blasted blue chipmunk is gone."
"I thought he was cute," said Ryvenna.
"Bah! He's a silly blue god who'll do anything for nuts. It was very clever of you to get some for him. Now help me pick up these gold chestnuts he made for me; we wouldn't want to lose one."
The wizard bent over and tried to pick up one of the golden chestnuts, but as soon as he touched it, it turned into a real chestnut. He threw it down and tried another, but the same thing happened. Only Ryvenna could pick up the golden chestnuts without changing them back into real nuts, and the magic chestnut bag would only make more gold for her. Worse yet, the wizard discovered that whenever he touched one of his gold levars it, too, turned into a chestnut. So did his jeweled belts and bracelets. Even the food he ate turned into chestnuts as soon as he touched it.
The wizard tried to keep his affliction a secret, but it was impossible. Soon everyone was talking about what Rikiki had done to the luckiest wizard in the world. Even people who never bought spells and who had no dealings with magicians heard the story and laughed at it. So the wizard became more famous than ever, more famous, indeed, than he wanted to be. And his fame has lasted to this day, for people still tell his story.
Ryvenna was a clever woman and she knew that magic does not last. The magic chestnut bag ran out in a year and a day, but before it did, she had poured a goodly supply of gold chestnuts out of it. She became a wealthy woman in her own right, and eventually fell in love with and married a sea captain who was as kind as he was handsome. And she never forgot to leave a bowl of nuts at the door for Rikiki every night as long as she lived.CHAPTER 2
By Patricia C. Wrede
The old woman stood on the moonlit hilltop, leaning on a heavy walking stick. Around her rose the homes and shops of Liavek's Old Town. At either end of the street stood an ancient cypress, visible only as an enormous silhouette against the stars. The street was silent and empty, except for the wind and the woman. The night had a feeling of strangeness in it, and those who lived on the Street of Trees had learned to stay indoors at such times.
The old woman tilted her head back and took a deep breath, tasting the wind. It was dry, dry as ashes, despite the nearness of the sea. Her lips tightened, and she darted a glance at the giant cypress ahead of her. Not a leaf stirred, despite the steady breeze. Bad, she thought. Very bad.
A cloud passed in front of the moon, plunging the hilltop into cold shadow. The old woman looked up. "All right, that's enough!" she snapped. "I can take a hint."
The air shivered and seemed to grow warmer. The moon came out, throwing silver shadows all along the edges of the street, and the leaves on the trees began twisting and rustling in a damp, salty breeze.
"That's better," the old woman muttered. She snorted and started toward a small, neat house near the center of the hilltop. Omens could be useful in their own way, but they seldom conveyed much real information. Lot of fuss and bother, and what did you end up with? Vague forebodings and rheumatism.
Inside the house she paused, considering. Something was happening, or would be soon — something with a wrongness about it. That description, however, could fit anything from an attempt to assassinate the Levar to a plague of aphids on her prized azaleas. She snorted again, wishing, not for the first time, that the gods could bring themselves to be a little more specific. Well, she would have the details eventually. The gods seldom made mistakes when they sent omens to a particular person. A smile touched her thin lips. If they had, they would hear about it.
* * *
The following morning, as she was sitting at her loom, there was a light rap at the door. When she did not answer at once, the rap was repeated with more insistence. The cats, all eight of them, looked up, affronted by the disturbance.
"Just a minute," the old woman called. She rose and started briskly toward the door, then paused and picked up her cane.
The girl outside started as the door swung inward. She was dressed in a brief, sleeveless blue tunic and a pair of worn leather sandals. Her dark brown hair was cut short and held back with a faded ribbon that had once, perhaps, matched the color of the tunic. She looked about seventeen, but she might be younger. Her eyes were brown, and her skin was dark, even for a Liavekan.
A touch of the old blood there, the old woman thought, and her eyes narrowed. "Come in where I can see you properly," she said, and swung the door wider.
The girl entered and looked around uncertainly. Her eyes came back to her hostess, and the uncertainty increased. "Granny Carry?"
"I'm called that, among other things," Granny said. "And who, exactly, are you?"
The girl flushed. "I'm sorry, Granny. I'm Jin Bennel."
"Ah. One of Marra's girls, then?"
"I'm her granddaughter."
"Been a bit longer than I thought since I saw her last. Did she send you?"
Jin hesitated. "She told me once to come to you if I ever needed help."
"Hmmph. Marra always did take a bit more on herself than she should have."
"I don't want to disturb —"
"Then you shouldn't have come at all," Granny said tartly. "But as long as you're here, you might as well sit down and tell me what you're after."
Jin looked at her doubtfully. "It's just that I don't know why you would be willing to help, or what you can possibly do about it."
Granny pressed her lips together. Was this chit of a girl deliberately trying to play on her curiosity? She thought about it, and reluctantly her lips twitched. If the girl was doing it purposely, she was succeeding quite well. She studied Jin, then said, "Think of me as a Great-Aunt, if it will help you decide what to tell me. If not, I'll get back to my weaving."
Jin sighed, shifted, and capitulated. "It's my brother, Raivo," she said. "He's — Do you know much about magic?"
"Quite enough for your purposes," Granny said dryly.
"Well, Raivo's always wanted to be a magician. But he's never found anyone who would train him. His Time of Power isn't very long, you see."
"You mean your mother rushed it when he was born," Granny said. "Silly wench. Why doesn't he try something he's more suited to?"
Jin flushed. "It's not Raivo's fault that he only took four hours to be born! He has more than enough luck to be a magician!"
"But he only has access to it for four hours a year," Granny said. "That's not much time to invest it in something, especially the first time. Still, I've known magicians who were no better off."
"Then why wouldn't any of them teach Raivo?"
"At a guess, he's like his mother — in too much of a hurry. No one wants to have a half-trained apprentice get himself killed trying to invest his luck too soon. It's bad for a wizard's reputation."
"I suppose so. But Raivo's finally found someone. Only ..."
"I don't trust her!"
Granny studied her. "Why not?"
"I don't know. She just gives me shivers. And why would a wizard work as a stage dancer?"
"Wizards do unlikely things. Have you told this brother of yours about your worries?"
Jin looked down. "I've tried, but Raivo won't listen to me."
"Mmmm." Granny looked at her sharply. "Your luck time is longer than his, I take it."
Jin looked up, startled. "How did you know?"
"Talent." Granny saw no reason to point out that most Liavekans had a luck time of more than four hours. Some women even paid midwives to prolong their labor, in hopes that their children would have a better chance of becoming wizards. Midwives seldom hurried a birth unless something went wrong — or unless the mother was fool enough to request it. "Tell me about this magician."
"Her name's Deremer Ledoro, and she works at Tam's Palace, down by the Levar's Park. That's where Raivo met her. He helps serve the patrons, and she ... entertains. She calls herself 'The Black Swan.' I'm told she's very good."
"And she's offered to train him?"
"Yes. He didn't even have to ask! That was a month ago, and now he spends nearly all his time with her. But he can't have learned much yet, and his Day of Luck is next Moonday, and I'm afraid —"
"If your brother wants to be a wizard, you shouldn't go around telling people when his luck-day is."
Jin flushed and nodded. "But if Deremer lets him try to invest his luck this year and he's not ready ..."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Points of Departure"
Copyright © 2015 Patricia C. Wrede & Pamela Dyer-Bennet.
Excerpted by permission of Diversion Publishing Corp..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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