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The Lord of Castle Black: Book Two of the Viscount of Adrilankha

The Lord of Castle Black: Book Two of the Viscount of Adrilankha

4.5 6
by Steven Brust

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Continuing the swashbuckling epic begun in The Paths of the Dead

Journeys! Intrigues! Sword fights! Young persons having adventures! Beloved older characters having adventures, too! Quests! Battles! Romance! Snappy dialogue! Extravagant food! And the missing heir to the Imperial Throne!
In the swashbuckling, extravagant manner of The


Continuing the swashbuckling epic begun in The Paths of the Dead

Journeys! Intrigues! Sword fights! Young persons having adventures! Beloved older characters having adventures, too! Quests! Battles! Romance! Snappy dialogue! Extravagant food! And the missing heir to the Imperial Throne!
In the swashbuckling, extravagant manner of The Phoenix Guards, Five Hundred Years After, and The Paths of the Dead, this is an old-fashioned adventure--moving at a twenty-first-century pace.

The Interregnum is over. To everyone's astonishment, Zerika, a very young Phoenix, has coolly emerged from the Paths of the Dead, carrying with her the Orb, which everyone had thought was lost in Adron's Disaster. The Orb is the heart of the Dragaeran Empire, the source of all its magic--and the infallible sign that Zerika is the new Empress.

But not everyone is happy to hear the news. It's been 250 years since Adron's Disaster, and power vacuums never stay that way for long. Kâna, a Dragonlord, has been expanding his holdings. He now controls almost half the area that was once the Empire -- in effect, the Empire re-created, with himself on the throne.

Among those opposing him is a young Dragonlord named Morrolan - the same Morrolan familiar to every reader of the Vlad Taltos adventures. Until recently, Morrolan was an orphan raised among Easterners, unaware of his lineage, but it has belatedly come to his attention that he's a high-ranking Dragonlord, and now he means to act like one. And from Sethra Lavode he has received a gift of immense significance and power: Blackwand, a magical artifact in the form of a sword.

He'll find plenty to do with it.

At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Full enjoyment and occasionally mere understanding of Brust's first book in his Viscount of Adrilankha series, Paths of Glory (2002), depended on knowledge of the author's two earlier books, Phoenix Guards (1991) and Five Hundred Years After (1994), inspired by Dumas pere's swashbuckling D'Artagnan romances. This amusing if somewhat pale pastiche makes similar demands. Zerika, the Phoenix Heir, emerges from the Paths of the Dead with the Orb. Thus Zerika becomes empress and the Interregnum ends, but pseudo-Emperor Kuna has two huge armies rushing to possess the Orb. Luckily, the Musketeer-like Khaavren, Pel, Aerich and Tazendra have reunited and-along with Khaavren's son Viscount Piro of Adrilankha, hero of Paths of Glory, and his companions-make up a small but valiant band to defend and reinstate the Empire. Meanwhile, the Dragonlord Morrolan, befriended by the Enchantress of Dzur Mountain, is fulfilling his vision and establishing himself as Count of Southmoor. As before, the author uses the conceit of his being the "translator" of the prolix historian Sir Paarfi to narrate and overexplain. Once Brust completes the trilogy, readers will probably be well rewarded by reading all five volumes of this wry high fantasy epic in order, but starting here may prove perplexing. (Aug. 29) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Piro, the Viscount of Adrilankha, has succeeded in delivering the Phoenix Heir to Deathgate Falls, where she retrieved a magical artifact known as the Orb. Now Piro and his companions continue on their journey through the Dzur Mountains to help reestablish the former empire. Brust's sequel to The Paths of the Dead follows the fortunes of a young noble as he plays his part in history, adventure, warfare, and romance. Fans of swashbuckling fantasy with a 19th-century feel will enjoy this addition to a popular series by the author of the "Vlad Taltos" novels. For most fantasy collections. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Second installment in Brust's current series (The Paths of the Dead, 2002) about a power struggle over who inherits the Dragaeran Empire. Zerika, the Phoenix heir, having survived the Paths of the Dead, has reclaimed the Orb, a magical artifact whose capabilities are only slowly being revealed. But Zerika's rule is being challenged by the Duke of Kâna, a Dragon who has declared himself Emperor and assembled a huge army to enforce his will. Most of the gods support Zerika-they're obligated to maintain the current Phoenix cycle and must keep the mysterious and hostile Jenoine at bay. Also assisting Zerika will be old friends Khaavren, Aerich, Pel and Tazendra; the young warriors Piro, Kytraan, Röaana, and Ibronka; and young Lord Morrolan who, coming to claim his ancestral lands and build himself a castle, gradually becomes involved in the war against Kâna. On a visit with Sethra Lavode, the Enchantress of Dzur Mountain, Sethra gives him a magical black sword that devours the souls of those it slays and renders its possessor all but invincible in battle. Backing Kâna are his cousin Habil, a devious and subtle strategist, the evil sorceress Grita, various vengeful conspirators, and, so Morrolan hopes, at least one of the gods. And, once the hurly-burly is done, Piro and Ibronka find themselves in love, though forbidden by their parents to marry because they are of different races. Perforce, they become outlaws. Huge, persuasive plot, witty and ironic dialogue, and long-lived characters who actually talk and act as though they had thousands of years at their disposal: another captivating effort from the reliable Brust.

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Chapter the Thirty-Fifth

How Pel Met Wadre and Engaged Him in Conversation

Two hundred and forty-six years after Adron's Disaster, Zerika succeeded in retrieving the Orb. Zerika, for her part, was never able to tell how long she had spent in the Paths of the Dead and the Halls of Judgment, but, certainly, it was a length of time measured in hours, or, at the most, in days, which calculation is proven by the fact that Zerika is human, and the human being, with his animal shell enclosing a spiritual essence, cannot remain awake, moving, and active for more than a count measured in hours, or, at the most, days.
With this in mind, it may be difficult to comprehend that, in fact, the time between when Zerika leapt from Deathgate Falls and when Sethra Lavode became aware of her (for it is our understanding that the Enchantress of Dzur Mountain was, indeed, the first to become aware of Zerika) must be measured in months. Yet this is inarguably the case.
The explanations for this phenomenon are many and varied, having come from such diverse sources as the Athyra Hangston, who postulates that between the leap from the top of the Falls to landing in the Paths one, in fact, enters a different world than our own, to the Lyorn Pushtagrae, who suggests that the Lords of Judgment assert conscious and deliberate control of every aspect of their realm. For our part, we will make no effort to solve this mystery, but instead will observe that time was never considered an absolute before the invention of the Orb permitted agreement on the intervals of its passing, and so there is no reason to consider time an absolute in a realm where the powers of the Orb have no effect.
Whatever may be the explanation, it is the case: A considerable amount of time passed before Zerika emerged with the Orb. For the historian, this strange, diverging time can present a problem, as history is meaningless without cause and effect, and cause and effect are, in turn, meaningless without sequence. For our purposes, then, we have placed Zerika's re-appearance where it belonged with as much accuracy as possible from her perspective. It remains, then, to explore what had occurred in that time from the perspective of others. And we are obliged to insist that, not only had there been a considerable amount of time passed, but that this time had been filled with activity.
Realizing this, it becomes our duty to lay before the reader an account of this activity, so that when we next see Zerika--that is, when the two "diverging streams of time once more form a river," as the above-mentioned Pushtagrae expressed it so eloquently, the reader is in a position to clearly understand the events as they unfold from that moment on.
We begin, then, with Pel. Whereas we left him in a small village on the southern slopes of Dzur Mountain, we now find him just outside a small village, this one called Trader's Rock, on the western slopes of Hanging Mountain.
We will dispense with a description of Trader's Rock itself for the simple reason that the events upon which we turn our eye are not in the village, but, as we have said, a place near it, within the shadow of the mountain, with its steep slopes, from which so many streams run leading down from its peculiar curved peak. At this time, the day is drawing to a close, and, beneath the slopes of this venerable mountain, there is a small campfire glowing. Pel approached this campfire and said, "Good evening, stranger. May I share your fire? I have some dried fruit, as well as cheese, and, if it should please you, why, I am more than happy to share them."
"You are most welcome, sir," said the other, "and would be even if you had nothing. It is lonely in the mountains, or even at their feet, and company is always welcome."
Pel dismounted, hobbled his horse, and approached the fire, saying, "I am called Galstan; may I inquire as to whom I have the honor of addressing?"
"I am Wadre, a road agent by trade, although you need have no fear on that score, as I do not work alone, and my associates are not, at this time, near at hand."
"Ah, I am reassured. Here, may I offer you these figs? I have made trial of them upon myself and found them excellent."
"You are very courteous. For my part, I have managed to save a little wine, and, by the Gods, you are welcome to the half of it."
"I am deeply in your debt, my friend. Tell me, if you would, how you happen to be out here alone, if, as you say, you ply your trade in a band?"
"I met with misfortune, and became separated from my companions. But you, what brings you to these mountains alone, if you will forgive my curiosity?"
"I am on a mission."
"A mission?"
"Yes, exactly, and of the most serious kind."
"Ah! You say, 'serious.'"
"And if I do?"
"That is to say, rewarding?"
"Rewarding? Well, it is not impossible that, at its end, there will be a certain recompense."
"In that case, well, do you have any need of a confederate?"
"How, a confederate?"
"Well, you perceive I have a sword, and I give you my word I am tolerably well acquainted with its use. If this would be useful to you, we could perhaps consider a partnership of some sort. I tell you frankly that I have been unable to decide upon my course of action, after losing my companions; indeed, I have been sitting in this very spot trying to come to some sort of decision, and, as I have sat here, I have watched my few provisions gradually disappear. You have already given me some aid, in that you have brought food just as I was coming to a most unwelcome understanding of hunger. In short, I am, just now, meeting severe circumstances, and I look to you for rescue. You perceive I hold back nothing; I hope that, even if you cannot use my services, you will love me a little for my honesty."
"You interest me exceedingly, young man, and I must say that I am considering your offer in all earnestness."
"I am glad you are considering my offer, because I certainly made it with no question of joking."
"What of your companions?"
"Well, what of them?"
"Do you speak for them as well?"
"Only under a certain condition."
"A condition? Let us hear this famous condition, then."
"Feathers! It is that I find them again!"
"Ah. Well, I understand how this could be necessary."
"And if I find them, are we agreed?"
"Permit me to consider."
"Oh," said Wadre, "please believe that I would never question a gentleman's right to consider. Even when I was with my band, and we would come upon a stranger and I would offer him his life in exchange for whatever he possessed of value, well, even then I would not begrudge him some time to consider."
"And you were right not to. In this case, there are many things to consider, but, above all, I must consider whether my objectives will be aided by having a swordsman, or perhaps, indeed, a few swordsmen, near at hand; or whether these objectives will be hindered. As I consider, perhaps you will tell me what you have been doing in these regions, and how you happened to become separated from your associates."
"Oh, that is easily enough explained."
"Well, I am listening, then."
"We were hired for a mission by a sorceress, which mission proved to be overly difficult for us."
"Well, but you must understand that this answer, laconic as it is, only produces more questions."
"How, does it?"
"I promise you it does."
"Well, I cannot help that."
"But can you answer them?"
"My dear sir," said Wadre, "should you but ask, I will turn my entire attention to doing so."
"Very well, let me begin then."
"You perceive that I am listening."
"You say you were hired by a sorceress?"
"I say so, and I even repeat it."
"Tell me, then, about this sorceress, for it is unusual to meet someone with such skills in these days when the Orb is no longer whirling merrily about the head of an Emperor."
And in this way, Pel very soon had extracted from the bandit the entire history of the recent encounter between Orlaan and Piro in all significant details. And, although Wadre mentioned nothing that might divulge the identity of Zerika or her friends, he did happen to include Tazendra's remark about having known the sorceress by another name.
"Grita?" said Pel. "That was the name of the sorceress? Grita? You are certain?"
"It is as I have had the honor to say, my dear sir."
"And the name of the Dzurlord?"
"This name I never heard pronounced."
"But she was wearing a uniform of sorts, mostly of black, yet with hints of silver as a Dragonlord might wear, similar to the old uniform of the Lavodes?"
"Yes, indeed."
"And she was the one who called the sorceress by the name Grita?"
"It was none other; indeed, there is no question in my mind that the Dzurlord and the sorceress knew each other."
"Well, that is more than a little interesting," said Pel, considering the matter deeply.
"You think so?"
"Believe me, my friend, I am captivated by your tale."
Wadre bowed. "I am glad that you are."
"But it does make me wonder one thing, my dear brigand."
"What is that?"
"It concerns loyalty."
"How, loyalty?"
"Exactly. Suppose that my mission were to conflict with that of this Grita, or Orlaan, or whatever her name is. Where would your loyalty lie?"
"Why, I am always utterly loyal to whoever pays me, at least for a while."
"For a while?"
"Yes. For example, if we were to fight with Orlaan--"
"Yes, if we were to fight her, what then?"
"Why then, as you had hired me, I should fight for you at least until the end of the battle."
"So then, you are not fanatical in your loyalty."
"Oh, I think I am fanatical in nothing. And, as for loyalty--"
Wadre shrugged. "I am a highwayman. You perceive, loyalty is not of great value in my profession."
"Yes, there is some justice in what you say. But I must know if I can depend upon you to remain loyal for a certain period of time."
"If you have engaged me for it, and I have agreed, you can depend upon me."
Pel nodded. "I will take you at your word," he said.
"You may do so with confidence," said the brigand. "But, what is it you would have me do?"
"In the first place, you must find your confederates, because we may require them."
"That may be difficult."
"The reward will be commensurate with the difficulty."
Wadre bowed. "I will take you at your word."
"You may do so with confidence," said Pel.
The highwayman made a respectful salute and set off. When Wadre had departed to begin looking for his associates, Pel spent some few moments in deep consideration; as he considered, he frowned, then briefly shook his head as if to dispel a stray or distracting thought that had intruded upon his contemplations. Sometime later he permitted himself a brief smile, after which he nodded abruptly, as if he had at last come to a decision. The results of this decision we will see presently.

Copyright © 2003 by Steven Brust

Meet the Author

Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and raised in a family of Hungarian labor organizers, Steven Brust worked as a musician and a computer programmer before coming to prominence as a writer in 1983 with Jhereg, the first of his novels about Vlad Taltos, a human professional assassin in a world dominated by long-lived, magically-empowered human-like "Dragaerans."

Over the next several years, several more "Taltos" novels followed, interspersed with other work, including To Reign in Hell, a fantasy re-working of Milton's war in Heaven; The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars, a contemporary fantasy based on Hungarian folktales; and a science fiction novel, Cowboy Feng's Space Bar and Grille. The most recent "Taltos" novels are Dragon and Issola. In 1991, with The Phoenix Guards, Brust began another series, set a thousand years earlier than the Taltos books; its sequels are Five Hundred Years After and the three volumes of "The Viscount of Adrilankha": The Paths of the Dead, The Lord of Castle Black, and Sethra Lavode.

While writing, Brust has continued to work as a musician, playing drums for the legendary band Cats Laughing and recording an album of his own work, A Rose for Iconoclastes. He lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where he pursues an ongoing interest in stochastics.

Steven Brust is the bestselling author of Issola, Dragon, The Phoenix Guards, Five Hundred Years After, and many others. A native of Minneapolis, he currently lives in Las Vegas.

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