Elsewhens
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Elsewhens

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by Melanie Rawn
     
 

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Theater, magic, art, and politics all blend in Elsewhens, the second installment of the amazing high-fantasy series from the imagination of Melanie Rawn.

Touchstone, the magical theater troupe, continues to build audiences. But Cayden is increasingly troubled by his "elsewhens," the uncontrolled moments when he is plunged into visions of the possible

Overview

Theater, magic, art, and politics all blend in Elsewhens, the second installment of the amazing high-fantasy series from the imagination of Melanie Rawn.

Touchstone, the magical theater troupe, continues to build audiences. But Cayden is increasingly troubled by his "elsewhens," the uncontrolled moments when he is plunged into visions of the possible futures. He fears that his Fae gift will forever taint his friendships; his friends fear that his increasing distance will destroy him.

But worldly success follows them-an apparent loss in the Trials leads to Touchstone being selected to travel to the Continent with a Royal Embassy to collect Prince Ashgar's new bride. They are the first theater artists to appear outside Albeyn for at least seventy years-for magic is suspect and forbidden elsewhere, and the Kingdom's easy race mixing and magic use horrifies the people they are to travel among.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Rawn knows what makes people tick, and how to create and present rich, complex characters the reader cares deeply about. Touchstone is a fascinating mix of character choreography, magic, and a refreshingly new fantasy backdrop.” —Jennifer Roberson, bestselling author of The Chronicles of Cheysuli
Library Journal
Touchstone, the magical theatre troupe, has gained in skill and talent since its first year in competitive performances. While it fails to win the annual Trials, the group is chosen to accompany Prince Ashgar to the Continent to collect his new bride. Unfortunately, their destination is a part of the world suspicious of magic and nonhuman races such as elves, goblins, and trolls. In the meantime, the deep friendship between Cayden, the mostly human playwright, and Mieka, the brilliantly eccentric elven Glisker who creates the troupe's visual effects, increasingly grows strained as Cayden's Fae-given dreams, or "elsewhens," show him many futures in which Mieka dies and Touchstone unravels. VERDICT The sequel to Glass Thorns adds new details and builds complex relationships. Rawn's elegantly written saga about an artist's compulsion to create is a superb homage to the world of the theatre and sets a new benchmark for excellence in high fantasy.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780765336859
Publisher:
Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date:
03/18/2014
Series:
Glass Thorns Series, #2
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
400
Sales rank:
1,141,052
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

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Read an Excerpt

Elsewhens

Book Two of the Glass Thorns


By Melanie Rawn

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2013 Melanie Rawn
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7653-2877-9


CHAPTER 1

He couldn't breathe. His chest was tight, his head aching. His hands shook as he rubbed his tear-streaked face, terrified that he might have cried out and woken someone —

By the Lord and Lady and all the Angels and Old Gods, please let him have cried out and woken someone in the vastness of Fairwalk Manor.

By the time he recovered his breath and his heart stopped thundering, he knew he had stayed silent. There was no one to knock on his door, call out his name, come into his room, exclaim with shock at what he knew must be in his eyes. There was no one.

Brishen Staindrop had promised him dreams to fire his imagination and make his writing richer, deeper. He ought to've known. Blockweed hadn't worked on him the way it was supposed to; neither had this, whatever it was. All he wanted was a few hours spent someplace beautiful that danced and sparkled, someplace safe. What he got instead was horror.

And he would have to remember it, wouldn't he? It was part of him now. To tuck it all away and forget the words that unlocked it would be to lose something of himself. If he was true to his own arrogance, he would have to keep this Elsewhen as he had kept all the others.

Pushing himself to his feet, he made his slow, aching way to the hearth and half-fell onto his knees, reaching for logs to stoke the fire. There was no clock in the bedchamber — Kearney Fairwalk forbade clocks at his residences, with the splendid disregard of a very rich man for such mundane concerns as being anywhere on time. Cade might have lingered in bed and rung for a servant to replenish the fire for him, but the frantic need to see another living being had faded. He didn't want anyone to see him like this.

To be in possession of a suite of rooms at Fairwalk Manor was a privilege not accorded many. Touchstone had been invited for the fortnight preceding Trials. After their first grueling Winterly Circuit and dozens of shows in and around Gallantrybanks, all four young men were in need of time off. But rather than visit Fairwalk Manor, Jeska had chosen instead to escort his mother to a seaside town where he'd taken a month's hire on a cottage for her, and stay for a couple of weeks. Rafe and his new wife, Crisiant, had accepted His Lordship's generosity as a welcome escape after the strains of putting together their wedding celebrations. Cayden, determined on other forms of escape and certain that Fairwalk Manor was precisely the location for them, hadn't blushed a single blush when he got into a carriage the morning after Rafe and Crisiant's wedding and betook himself to Fairwalk Manor. In fact, he hadn't seen the couple at all. Not only was the tall, sprawling house gigantic, but orders had also come down from Lord Fairwalk to his servants to give his guests whatever they wanted whenever they wanted it, and do this as unobtrusively as possible. What Rafe and Crisiant wanted was exactly what Cade wanted: privacy.

Cade knew exactly how they were spending their time. He spent his exploring the library, the grounds, the stables, and the little blue leather roll of thorn he'd purchased from Mieka Windthistle's Auntie Brishen.

He'd always thought Mieka would be with him when he did this. Don't worry about going too lost, Quill, I'll always come find you, he'd written in the note accompanying that first little green wallet of blockweed. But Mieka was in Frimham, pretending to stay at a seaside inn while really staying with the girl whose existence made the thorn necessary.

Cade was supposed to be working on various playlets, polishing those that Touchstone might have to present at Trials and crafting his own ideas into performable shape. He arrived at Fairwalk Manor fully intending to do his duty by his group and his talents. Instead, the afternoon following his arrival, he took a long walk about the sculpted grounds, ate an early dinner, and told the servants to leave him alone. And they had done so; even if he had cried out, no one would have come. He got out the roll of thorn and stared at it for almost an hour before deciding which little packet of powder to use.

He hated what was in his mind. He had to find some way of enduring what he knew was to come. If thorn helped, then he'd use it.

Elsewhens, Mieka called them: visions while he slept and sometimes when he was wide awake of futures that might come to pass. Cade had neglected far too long the orderly categorizing of what he'd foreseen. The memories of things that hadn't happened yet were crowding his head, and he knew he had to discipline them or run mad.

The Elsewhens about Tobalt Fluter in the Downstreet, talking to some reporter about Touchstone — those didn't count now, not since the tavern had burned. He didn't have to worry about them anymore. He didn't have to think about hearing Tobalt say, "His mind's cold, but his heart's colder" or "Touchstone is still together after twenty-five years." Whatever futures Tobalt had referred to, they would be different. Cade could rid himself of the despair of the first — and the determination not to let it happen. He had to let go of the joy of the second — and the fear that now it would never come true. The futures would be different, and those dreams didn't count.

But as he went through each in his mind, reviewing them before locking them away, he noticed something strange: the lutenist in the second vision. With a soundless bark of laughter he suddenly recognized Alaen Blackpath — twenty-five years older, his reddish curls turning silver —

— just as he'd seen Mieka's black hair silvered in a single tantalizing flash, lines framing his mouth and crossing his forehead; older, yes, but still bright-eyed and laughing and beautiful.

He wanted so much to hold on to that one. It was still possible, wasn't it? Just because Tobalt could no longer sit in the Downstreet and say that Touchstone was still together after twenty-five years, it didn't mean that Cade would never see Mieka like that.

No. He had to be ruthless. He couldn't keep that one just because it made him smile, because it comforted him. He had to get rid of at least some of these Elsewhens crammed into his brain. Not that he'd ever done it before, except the once.

"Once you've learned it, the technique will in all probability save your sanity," said Master Emmot. "If only by convincing you that there is an order to things, an order that you may impose upon them. Organization is a desirable thing. When we can accomplish it, in whatever area of life, it is to be cherished and defended. To impose order on the chaos of living, on the potential chaos of your own mind — what else is language, and the division of the world into separate nations, and even the ordering of time itself into hours, weeks, months, years? Thus, too, it must be with your foreseeings. And just as words are used to identify time, places, things, you may use a series of words to classify each separate dream."

To think he had actually been intrigued: learning how to select a couple of words or a phrase that encompassed a particular foreseeing, how to think of his mind like a trunk with an ever-increasing number of locks, each giving access to a little compartment where a dream was kept.

"It's very like what men used to do when they wanted to memorize large quantities of information, such as the solar or lunar calendars, or an epic poem cycle. They would construct whole houses in their minds, and furnish them from front doorway to attic roof with items that prompted memory of a particular thing or things. The four vases on a table in the vestibule, each containing flowers of a different season, might be reminder of the dates of the phases of the moon. Perhaps the railings of the staircase each depict a particular tree, like the old poem that describes the attributes of each. Yes, I know you've read it — but could you memorize it in perfect order and then tuck it away, to be brought out again when you look into your mind and see those railings? In our day, we are a literate society, so we don't have to use these techniques to remember and pass along information. We have only to go look it up in a book. There are those in this world who still practice this method of memory with images as their keys. But you are, as we both know, someone to whom words are of paramount importance, so the only image you will use is that of a large locked trunk. Make it as plain or as ornate as you wish. The keys will not be made of brass or iron, but of words."

To think that he had actually found it interesting: creating the trunk, dividing it into sections according to subject (one of them pretentiously labeled THE KINGDOM OF ALBEYN), choosing a primary word for each section and then more words for specific identification. He'd actually enjoyed it.

"Remember the whole of the experience, as I've taught you. Assign your key to it. Then lock it away until you wish to review it again. Or until you wish to be rid of it forever."

But he'd done that only once, just to prove to Master Emmot that he could indeed do it. His reasoning had not sat well with the old Sage.

"You tell me, Cayden, that if a man is the sum total of what he has learned and experienced, then to rid yourself of even one foreseeing would be to take away a portion of who you are. But did you hear what you just said? What a man has learned. What he has experienced. Those things are in the past. What you see is the future. Once a future becomes impossible, for whatever reason, you would be doing yourself and your overactive mind a favor by getting rid of it. Right now you are fifteen. What if you live to be eighty or ninety? Moreover, what if your turns as you get older become more frequent, or lengthier, or more detailed? They might do, you know. The brain grows and changes, and does not fully mature until the age of twenty-one or -two, perhaps longer for one of mostly Wizarding blood. My advice is to clear your mind of things that are no longer possible. Don't clutter up your life with irrelevancies. But the choice is yours, of course."

Irrelevancies — perhaps every dream he had ever dreamed was now irrelevant. Perhaps he ought to treat them as if they were.

He wanted so much to keep the one where he'd seen Mieka with those laughing eyes and that silvering hair.

But what of the others concerning him, others about him?

Watching the moonglade on a river: "Whatever I give you, you give back to me better than I could ever imagine it. You always do."

Watching the girl and her mother discuss their plans to tame him.

Watching himself slam Mieka against an icy lamppost.

Watching his own hand slap Mieka again and again and again.

Watching Mieka beat his pregnant wife.

Watching his own scarred fingers (when and how had those scars happened?) holding a note, reading the terrible words scrawled on it, hearing himself say, "But I'm still here."

He couldn't rid himself of any of it. Each of those foreseeings, and a hundred more — they were part of him. They were his memories, even if they hadn't happened yet, even if they would never happen. If he lost them, he would lose parts of himself.

"Don't worry about going too lost, Quill, I'll always come find you."

To lose himself for at least a little while seemed a very good thing. But the thorn hadn't done for him what it was supposed to do.

"I don't have the sort of dreams most people have...."

This new one had come in grim sequence, like a play. Or a fire set by a professional arsonist. The scene set and surveyed. The vulnerable points identified. The progress, inevitable and devastating, to the final taste of ashes: "Write me happy, Quill."

Perhaps it was his own instincts, his tregetour's brain, that had given him that long plotline instead of mere glimpses. Perhaps there had been a dozen separate dreams that his trained mind had organized into a whole. Perhaps it had been the influence of the thorn. Perhaps he simply didn't dream the way other people did.

As if any of that mattered.

He'd tried to fight his way out of it, truly he had, but the thorn was powerful in him by then and it was much too late. It would always be too late. If he saw a possible future, it meant that something had already happened that made that future possible. He couldn't change it. He was helpless. He couldn't control what other people did or said or thought or felt.

So why bother anguishing himself about it? Things would happen the way they would happen. He had no power over futures decided by other people's choices. Yet it seemed he was constructed inside in ways that compelled him to try. If a voice sounding remarkably like Master Emmot's whispered, "How?" he refused to hear it.

Over the next nine days at Fairwalk Manor, he used all the different thorn packets in the roll, daring them to do what they were supposed to do. Recklessly he gave himself over to the thorn, sometimes using just before he went to sleep, other times spending the whole day lying on a deep padded sofa in the shade of an apple tree, aware that anyone seeing him would think he was drowsing. He wasn't. His eyes were closed so that the view of serene pasture and green hillside could not compete with the scenes inscribing themselves on his brain.

Always it was the same dream, with variations that never made any real difference and occasionally with elaborations that gouged pieces out of his heart. The Elsewhen infected him like a wound gone to poison, suppurating into his every conscious thought. He knew why there were no significant changes. None of the decisions that would change it were his to make. He had no choices, none at all.

But Sagemaster Emmot had always said that if he had no choices to make, he would see no futures. He'd seen this one, over and over again; therefore he must have made a decision that caused it.

On the tenth night of his stay at Fairwalk Manor, having run out of thorn, he got drunk instead. The next morning he wrote a brief letter to Brishen Staindrop, asking what other sorts of thorn she could suggest. He spent that day and the next writing "Doorways." He told himself that by calling it that, and keeping it a single play instead of the series of plays that Broken Doors had been in the dream, he was beginning the changes that must be made in order to render that future impossible. And as for Bewilderland — he vowed never, ever to write anything even remotely like it, nor use the title or any variation thereof. Senseless word, anyway.

That last night at Fairwalk Manor, he had the dream about Tobalt Fluter again.

{The office was strut and brag from the carved door to the wide window overlooking the river. The walls were thick with books on shelves, and copies of important front pages and broadsheet articles framed under glass, and imagings of the famous with their signatures, all inscribed to Sir Tobalt Fluter. Little trinkets glinted on every shelf, some of them the symbols of various clans — Pheasant, Lion, Scorpion, Elk — some of them punning on the names of those who had given them: an apple made of oakwood, a circle of braided gold, a bent bow, a green glass lily leaf from the guilds of that town. A very important personage was Sir Tobalt, his influence coveted and his interest courted by anyone who was anyone or wanted to be. He sat at his desk, angled so he could see the door and the window view, and arched his brows at the young man who hunched in a severe wooden chair before him, pen and notebook at hand.

"I must've written dozens of pieces about them through the years," said Sir Tobalt. "But I'd never talked to the people around them at such length before. Gods and Angels, what some of them are saying —"

"Which people? The wives? Parents?"

A shrug and a thin, shrewd smile that crinkled the corners of his eyes. "Don't think I'll tell you my sources. All you're here for is a tickle of what the chapbook biography will contain."

"So make me laugh," the young man invited brazenly. "Set me positively howling. How much of what everyone's saying is true?"

"Nobody wants to admit to anything, especially concerning the Elf. You can't print that, by the way." He ran a fingertip along the trinket that had pride of place on his desk: a glass basket about the size of his cupped palm, with a little silver quill and a green glass withie propped inside along with a selection of the finest gold-nibbed pens. The gesture was lazy, at odds with the sudden vehemence of his tone. "Damned I'll be, though, if I include all those lies Mieka's wife told me. I hear enough of that muck from Cade." He snorted. "Bewilderland — that's what he'd like all of us to live in, some insane fantasy where his lies are the only truth."

"I don't understand what lying gets him. I mean, after all these years, to keep telling the same stories that nobody ever believed the first time he told them —"


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Elsewhens by Melanie Rawn. Copyright © 2013 Melanie Rawn. 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.

Meet the Author

MELANIE RAWN is the three-time Locus Award–nominated author of the bestselling Dragon Prince trilogy and of the Dragon Star trilogy. She graduated from Scripps College with a BA in History and has worked as a teacher and editor. Rawn lives in Flagstaff, Arizona.

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