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For fifty thousand years the Kzinti Patriarchy thrived on battle fought for conquest. Against all odds the humans stopped them, and for five wars kept on stopping them. With its violent expansion checked internal strains have built up within the Patriarchy, and now they threaten to tear it apart. When the ambitious Kchula-Tzaatz makes a bid for ultimate power the established order comes tumbling down, and the flames of war burn hot in Destiny's Forge. Hammered on that Forge are; Major Quacy Tskombe, battle ...
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For fifty thousand years the Kzinti Patriarchy thrived on battle fought for conquest. Against all odds the humans stopped them, and for five wars kept on stopping them. With its violent expansion checked internal strains have built up within the Patriarchy, and now they threaten to tear it apart. When the ambitious Kchula-Tzaatz makes a bid for ultimate power the established order comes tumbling down, and the flames of war burn hot in Destiny's Forge. Hammered on that Forge are; Major Quacy Tskombe, battle hardened warrior turned diplomat. His life is duty, his mission takes him to the Citadel of the Patriarch in a last ditch effort to avert war. When it all falls apart he's forced to choose between love and loyalty, with the fate of humanity hanging in the balance. Captain Ayla Cherenkova, starship commander. As talented as she is beautiful, her hatred of the Kzinti has driven her to the top. Her space combat genius is unmatched, but when she's trapped alone in the jungles of Kzinhome her survival will depend on a whole new skillset. Pouncer, First-Son-of-Meerz-Rritt, heir apparent to the galaxy's most powerful empire, now a nameless fugitive with the collapse of his father's dynasty. Survival demands escape, but honor demands vengeance, and the price of his Name will be paid in the blood of worlds.
Paul Chafe presents a masterpiece in the grand tradition of epic science fiction. No fan of Larry Niven's best-selling Known Space series can miss Destiny's Forge.
We are Kzin-ti because we are wild, born of Savannah and Jungle. We are Kzin-ti because we are hunters swift and silent, cunning and strong. We are Kzin-ti because we are warriors, with honor won in battle and proved in blood. We are Kzin-ti, we are the hunters, we are Kzin-ti. -Saga of the Fanged God
The zitragor paused, head coming up to scan the area, delicate nose sniffing inquisitively. The beast seemed nervous, as though it sensed something wrong, but after a long moment it lowered its head to the rivulet to drink.
Watching from his concealment on a rock behind a spreading burstflower bush, Pouncer twitched his tail unconsciously, eyes locked on his prey. It was a good four leaps away, drinking where the little stream narrowed and speeded up before disappearing around a bend in the canyon. It wasn't the easiest place for the zitragor to drink, but it was safer by far than the larger pool where Pouncer was waiting.
Had it scented him? No, the light breeze was still in his face, and it would not have stayed if it knew a predator was in the area. Its nervousness was just well applied caution. Would it come closer? The air smelled of ozone, alive with the promise of a gathering storm, but overhead the sunburned hot in clear blue sky flecked with just a few white clouds. Somewhere nearby a charge suppressor was neutralizing high-altitude ions to prevent the clouds from building up to thunderheads. That allowed the wind to carry the uncondensed moisture over the high Long Range mountains to moisten the Plain of Stgrat beyond them, but the ground here in the foothills was parched as a result. The zitragor was feeling the effects of the drought, and it was thirsty, very thirsty. Pouncer settled lower on his rock, his hunt-cloak blending with the vegetation around him. He waited. It needed to come closer. A v'pren blurred past, its wings a high keening note. Pouncer looked up sharply, ready to run, but it was alone. A single v'pren bite was a trivial annoyance, but when they swarmed they were lethal.
The zitragor looked up again and seemed to hesitate. Had it heard the v'pren? Had it seen his motion? Four leaps was a long way to go if he wanted to ensure his kill. A zitragor could outrun a kzin with a four-leap head start, seven times in eight. It looked around, flicking its ears, then bent to drink again. Pouncer gathered himself for the leap and willed the beast to come closer. It swallowed in quick gulps, looked up, twisting its long neck around to scan behind it. A swiftwing rustled in the bushes behind it, and it started, half turning. This was it! But the zitragor didn't run and Pouncer didn't leap. It scanned the area again, scenting the air, then returned to drink again. It was agitated, but its thirst was stronger than its fear. Perhaps it had scented the rest of the hunting party on the plateau above the canyon. His father and brother and the others were hunting as a group, but Pouncer preferred his own company. He might not gain as many kills by himself, but they were his own, and that was important. Politics claimed more attention than prey when the Patriarch led a hunt, and Pouncer had little liver for the toadying of courtiers trying to gain his father's favor. In two days the Great Pride Circle of all the Patriarchy met, and Great- Pride-Patriarchs and double-named Emissaries had been arriving from beyond the singularity for the last Hunter's Moon. Many of them had never been to Kzinhome before, and they came with strange foods and stranger customs, retinues of retainers, trains of slaves, and any number of demands, pronouncements, propositions, and intrigues. And all of them wanted nothing more than to share a hunt with the Patriarch, or failing that, his oldest heir. When Younger-Brother mentioned this water-hole, Pouncer had leapt at the chance to lead himself on his own private hunt.
The zitragor looked up nervously, then went back to drinking. If only it would come closer! Unconsciously Pouncer's lips curled back from his fangs. Not that Younger-Brother's suggestion was free of intrigue itself. He knew Pouncer's preference for solitude, and with First-Son-of-Meerz-Rrit away by himself, the attention would fall to Second-Son. Pouncer licked his chops, concentrating on the zitragor. Let him play his palace games of strakh and precedence. Today was a day for the chase.
The zitragor turned and jumped into the bushes. Pouncer screamed and leapt. The kill scream was meant to paralyze prey, but this victim was simply galvanized into full flight. Four leaps later it had a five-leap lead, clearing a fallen tangletree and dodging sideways. Pouncer kept his eyes focused on its hindquarters, running on all fours, putting every sinew into every stride. He managed to close the distance to three strides, gulping air in deep pants, and then his quarry dodged sideways and the distance widened as his claws dug into the dirt to make the turn. No! It would not get away! His muscles were already screaming with fatigue, but Pouncer drove his legs forward, gained back a leap when it half-stumbled over a boulder, gained another when he anticipated a dodge and cut the corner as it tried to shake him. It is tiring too, he told himself. He could almost taste it, fresh meat in his fangs, blood squirting warm and rich down his throat. His kill! A single leap in front of him. It would not get away. Half a leap!
The zitragor burst through a line of shrubs and Pouncer followed, fangs extended for the kill. A gray wall loomed in front of him, ivory tusks gleaming, huge bodies milling aimlessly as they grazed.
Pouncer skidded to a stop, nearly falling. The exhausted zitragor dodged between two of the hulking beasts. Agitated by its passage, one of the herd-mothers bellowed. Pouncer dropped to the ground, still as death, letting his hunt cloak settle over him. Tuskvor rarely came so high out of the jungle below, but it was late summer, fodder was scarce, and they would be migrating soon. Farther back in the herd another bellow answered the first, and the herd began to stir. Pouncer's heart pounded. If they charged he would die, it was that simple. A tuskvor's lumbering walk was not much slower than a kzin could run, and they could walk all day. A herd charge mowed down all before it. He slowly adjusted his hunt cloak around his body to conceal himself better.
In front of him a vast herd-grandmother turned ponderously, tossing the air with her tusks. She must have outweighed him eight-cubed to one, big as a scout craft from her long neck to her armored tail. The great beast turned slowly to face him, her huge eyes staring. The gentle breeze carried her heavy musk to his nostrils. She snorted, thrusting her tusks in threat display. Tuskvor had good vision, but hunt cloaks were nearly perfect camouflage. Had she seen him? Pouncer began to back slowly away, seeking the cover of the bushes behind him. A smaller herd-mother bellowed, and her young crowded close behind her for safety. The beasts stirred restlessly, and the grandmother angrily uprooted a bramblebush. She knew something was wrong, but she hadn't seen him. Not yet.
Slowly he raised himself to all fours and carefully, paw by paw, crawled backward, keeping low, using what cover he could. The grandmother flapped her ears and seemed to settle down. One of the young began to drink from its mother's teats, and Pouncer allowed himself to relax slightly. Behind him a swiftwing called as it launched itself into the air. It banked overhead, riding the rising air currents out of the mouth of the canyon. The clouds were piling up in the sky overhead, converging into pillars that climbed for the top of the atmosphere, and the scent of ozone was stronger now. Despite the charge suppressors there would be a storm in the afternoon, a big one. The swiftwing banked again as the wind changed, rippling through Pouncer's fur.
The wind! It would carry his scent ... Even as he thought it, the herd grandmother snorted, head coming back around to peer at him. She snorted again at the rank scent of carnivore and bellowed, the booming cry echoing from the canyon walls. The others in the herd answered. Ponderously the beast started toward him, her momentum building. Others moved with it; the herd was charging. Pouncer turned and sprang into a run. Fire burned in his legs, already spent from the zitragor chase, but the growing rumble behind him was reason enough to ignore it. Bellow after bellow shook the air. He leapt over the same trunk the zitragor had in its flight, breath coming now in gasps. Behind him the rumble grew to thunder. He risked a glance backward and saw the herd bearing down on him like a living avalanche, half obscured in its own dust. He had enough of a lead to escape, perhaps, if he could run until the charge ran out of momentum. Ahead of him the canyon narrowed and the vegetation thickened. That would slow him down but not the herd. Exhaustion weighed on his legs, but he drove himself forward, angling toward a clearer corridor. Behind him the pounding feet drew nearer, the herd grandmother bellowing in rage. They had his scent, and they weren't going to stop until they overran him. At the head of the canyon large rocks had fallen from the cliffface, too big for a tuskvor to tumble, too high for them to gore him. If he could get on top of one of those he would be safe, if he reached them with enough strength to leap to the top.
He risked another look back, saw the herd-grandmother's narrowed eyes fixed on him. If he reached them at all ... The herd had noticeably narrowed the gap. Saplings snapped like twigs as they came to the heavier vegetation, and thick bramblebushes were pounded into the dirt.
Nothing survived a herd charge, it was common knowledge. Nothing a kzin could carry could take down a tuskvor, save for a lucky head shot, and a herd held eight-cubed of the beasts.
The body follows where the mind leads. Guardmaster's training ran through his brain. Pouncer's legs were spent but he ran on, inexorably slowing. He came on the stream where he'd waited so patiently for the zitragor and leapt it without hesitation, putting everything he had into it. On the far side a rock rolled under his foot and he tumbled, slamming hard against the rocks as he fell, just as the herd-grandmother bellowed in rage. Pain flared in his hip as he came to his feet. They were almost on him and he could run no farther.
His head snapped around at the shout. A gravcar! Guardmaster! It swooped down ten leaps ahead of him and he put every sinew into one last burst of speed, ignoring the pain, feeling the ground trembling under the herd behind him as they splashed into the stream. He leapt for the car's open back, Guardmaster's paws pulling him inboard even as the pilot lifted out. The car jolted sideways as the herd-grandmother's tusks slammed into it in a vain attempt to wrench her quarry from the sky. One paw slipped free and for a moment he dangled, not enough strength left to keep himself from falling into the churning mass of flesh below, then he was grabbed again, hauled bodily into the vehicle to lie panting on the floor. Concerned eyes looked down into his.
"Myowr-Guardmaster!" He could barely get the words out. "Thank the Fanged God!"
"Sire! Are you injured?" His mentor's worry was clear.
"Only my pride." Pouncer panted, recovering himself. He ran a paw down his side to his hip. Pain flared again but nothing seemed broken.
"Only a fool stalks tuskvor."
"It was a zitragor, but it knew where to run for safety." Pouncer breathed in heavy gasps. "I owe you my life."
"Meerz-Rrit would end my line if I let his eldest son be trampled."
"Where is my father?"
"He made his kill. He's returning to the Citadel. I was coming to let you know that."
"Fortune is with me in your presence."
"You shouldn't hunt alone. Not even here, much less the jungle."
"You know about that?" Pouncer had thought his private expeditions to the dangerous jungle verge were his own secret.
Guardmaster rippled his ears in amusement. "I know everything. I was once my father's eldest."
"Hrrr." Pouncer grimaced. "Then you know my thoughts on Patriarchal hunts."
Guardmaster rippled his ears again. "Second-Son does not share your reticence."
"Black-Stripe yearns for the strakh of the Patriarchy. If he felt the burden of its responsibility he would be less eager."
"It would not hurt you to practice your diplomacy. Balancing the factions is vital."
"When I am Patriarch I will outlaw factions. I want no one currying favor with me."
Guardmaster's whiskers twitched, and he turned a paw over to contemplate his claws. "Some things even the Patriarch cannot command."
The older kzin turned to give direction to the pilot, and Pouncer looked out over the side as the gravcar slid over the hills, south toward the Hrungn valley. The tuskvor herd had eaten a huge swath through the savannah and into the foothills where they had started their charge. From that point forward the ground was churned, vegetation and everything else crushed into the dirt. Pouncer looked away. It could have been him down there. It would have been him, save for blind luck. Some things not even the Patriarch could command.
The Great Prides require a great master. -Si-Rrit
Stkaa-Emissary paced restlessly, impatient and nervous at once, waiting in the Patriarch's quarters for the Patriarch to get back from his hunt. Occasionally he stopped to take in the vista. He had never been to Kzinhome before, but everything about it, the smells, the colors, the very air, told him he was home, home in a way that even his native W'kkai had never been, much as he missed it. Still, the panorama gave him no pleasure. The Patriarch's Tower was the tallest structure in the Citadel by design and the tallest on the planet by decree. Its windows gave him a panoramic view of the vast fortress and the rolling countryside beyond it. Surrounding the Citadel were small groups of low buildings built of stone and stonewood, the homes and shops of smallholders and crafters who served those who served the Patriarch. Farther out he could see great expanses of ripening fields, hsahk and meeflri for the grazing meat beasts. The vista was broken up by the huge tracts of forestland that marked the hunt parks of the Lesser Prides of Kzin, whose smaller strongholds were scattered across the plain like children's toys. Everywhere the riding lights of gravcars sparkled like flashflits in the early dusk, shuttling between the splashes of light that marked communities and enterprises big and small. On the eastern horizon the last rays of the setting sun glinted from the steady stream of freighters shuttling to the spaceport called Sea-of-Stars from the orbital dockyards invisible overhead. At regular intervals sat the domes of space-defense weapons, firepower enough to rip a fleet from orbit. Eight-to-the-sixth kzinti and eight-to-the-seventh slaves occupied half a continent here, churning out products from wine to warships. The Plain of Stgrat was the single greatest concentration of military and economic power in the Patriarchy.
To Stkaa-Emissary it seemed insignificant. He had been to Earth.
The doors opened and he spun around, expecting the Patriarch's advance guard. There was only a single kzin, followed by a buzzing Whrloo slave and a floating servitorb.
"Where is ..." He began, then caught sight of the crimson sash and the sigil on it. "Patriarch! I abase myself."
Meerz-Rrit waved away his crouching obeisance. "Stkaa-Emissary, welcome to my home."
Stkaa-Emissary studied Meerz-Rrit carefully. The Patriarch comes without guards, without retainers. Does this mean I have his trust, or is he simply that confident? The Patriarch was tall and very fit. The handle of his variable sword was well worn, its scabbard made for ease of use and not ostentation. His belt held no more than a pawful of ears. He does not need to duel often, Emissary decided, but when he does he wins.
"Clean kill I trust, Patriarch?"
There were half a dozen ornate prrstet in the room, set around a low obsidian table polished to a mirror gloss. Meerz-Rrit hopped on to one and reclined, inviting his guest into another with an open paw.
"Clean kill, Emissary. It was a satisfying one, a prime zitragor." Four kdatlyno filed into the room, carrying the still warm kill on a large platter, now cut into thick slices and seasoned. A pair of pointed skeceri blades skewered the meat so it could be handled and cut without bloodying the paws.
Excerpted from Destiny's Forge-A Man-Kzin War Novel by Paul Chafe Copyright © 2006 by Paul Chafe. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted July 5, 2006
I have only read the first chapter, but wow what a captivating book. I can't wait to finish. Pouncer, the next in line for the patriarchy of the kzin is especially well done character. The exposure of the inner emotions and thoughts of Ayala (one of humanity's three envoys to the kzin) is also well done.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.