Read an Excerpt
Magi'i Of Cyador
By L. E. Modesitt Jr., David G. Hartwell
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2000 L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
All rights reserved.
THE MAN WEARS white trousers and a white tunic, belted with white leather and secured with a glistening white metallic buckle. His boots are white, including the thick leather soles, and his hands are encased in white gloves. The only items of color upon his body are the pair of gold starbursts—one on each of the short square collars of his tunic.
A dark-haired boy wearing shimmering gray trousers and a short-sleeved shirt of the same shimmering fabric holds the man's left hand. Both walk along a corridor. The floors, walls, and ceiling are all of white granite, except for one window of a glass-like substance so dark it appears nearly black. The black window is on the man's right, exactly halfway between the two metal doors, each also of shimmering white metal.
When the pair reaches the window, the man halts, bends, and lifts the boy, holding him so that their heads are almost even with each other. The man inclines his head toward the dark expanse of glass. "There. There is the First Tower."
The dark-haired youth, his amber eyes shielded by the ancient dark glass, stares at the glittering trapezoid of light beyond the wall. The dark transparency filters out all that lies beyond the wall except for the blistering light that is the Tower.
"One day," says the man, "one day, Lorn'elth ... you and your brother will be Magi'i of the Rational Stars. One day, you will direct the workings of Towers of Light to harness the power of chaos and to continue to bring peace and prosperity to Cyad and to all of Cyador."
Abruptly, the boy shivers, then stiffens, though his eyes do not leave the chaos light of the Tower.
"To be of the Magi'i—it is a long and difficult struggle." The man smiles at his son, and even his sun-golden eyes smile. "But as you grow older, you will see that it is worth the effort, for nothing compares to the glory that is Cyad, and the peace and the grace of her people."
The magus slowly lowers Lorn'elth to the polished white stone floor and takes his son's hand once more. They continue along the corridor to the second door, where the father raises his hand. A flicker of golden energy flashes from a point just beyond his gloves to the door. Then he slides the door into its recess—to his left. The two enter the second corridor, and the magus closes the door behind them.
Another window awaits them midway down the second white stone corridor.
At this window, the man again lifts his son, speaking softly as he does. "You will be the ones who will transfer the pure chaos energy from the towers to the fireships, to the firewagons, and to the firelances of Cyador. You will ensure that the fair city remains so, and that her people bless the Emperor and the Magi'i of the Rational Stars."
Serious-eyed, the boy watches through the darkened glass—not so dark as that in the first corridor—as the six-wheeled firewagon rolls silently into the shimmering enclosure that flanks the chamber holding the mighty tower. Figures scurry and remove the square cells from the rear of the vehicle, replacing them with other cells that almost glitter. Then the firewagon rolls out, and another rolls in and halts.
"This is the heart of Cyad, and Cyador, and it can be yours, Lorn'elth." The father lowers his son once more. "It will be yours."
The two return as they came, their heavy boots whispering but slightly on the hard stone of the corridor.CHAPTER 2
RISING ABOVE THE bay and the Great Western Ocean to the south are puffy white clouds, clouds not dark enough to forecast rain at any time soon, nor high enough to block the sun that casts its mid-day autumn light upon the playing field that had been carved from the hillside generations earlier. There on the field, with a gentle sea-breeze cooling them, a score of students alternate jerky bursts of speed with sudden stops, their polished wooden mallets glistening as they jockey for position on the reddish surface. All wear white trousers and undertunics, but the undertunics bear green collars and green borders upon the sleeves.
"Lorn!" calls one student as the polished wooden oval skitters from his mallet toward another youth.
"Thanks!" With his dark-brown hair and wiry frame, Lorn is neither the largest nor the smallest on the playing field, but he streaks past a defender, his mallet almost lazily precise as it strikes the oval that is weighted unevenly. Lorn slips one way, and the oval flashes the other way, yet both Lorn and the oval meet at full speed beyond the defender as Lorn sprints inward and toward the trapezoidal frame in the middle of the circular field of play. His eyes take in the last defender and the smaller redheaded player dashing toward the goal.
Lorn smiles and flicks his wrist, calling, "Tyrsal, it's yours!" Lorn's mallet strikes the oval, and it skitters over the packed clay toward Tyrsal.
The small and redheaded Tyrsal darts around the taller and more muscular young defender and swings his mallet. The oval spins, but lifts off the clay and accelerates toward the trapezoidal goal. When it strikes to one side of the goal frame, it veers sideways and skids into the net of the opening.
"Goal!" The redhead jumps up in glee. "I got by you, Dett!"
"That's the last time, Tyrsal!" The tall and heavily muscled blond student drops his mallet and tackles the redhead, whose polished wooden mallet skids across the smooth red clay as both students lurch toward the ground.
Despite Tyrsal's struggles, Dett handily dumps the smaller youth onto the clay and raises an arm as if to strike Tyrsal.
"Bruggage! Bruggage!" Four other youths jump on top of the two who struggle.
The dark-haired Lorn is the second to slam into the pile, but the first to put his shoulder and then his elbow into the midsection of the larger Dett.
" ... oooffff ..."
Dett struggles to take his hands away from the squirming Tyrsal, to fend off the hidden attack on himself.
A low voice whispers in the muscular boy's ear, "Don't do it again, Dett. Ever."
"Says who?" The bully gets his knees under him and one hand on the clay and starts to elbow his way clear, unsure of who has spoken to him.
Snap ... snap!
The other students fall away from the larger figure, who bellows, then staggers upright holding an injured hand, coddling two fingers that have already begun to swell. "Barbarians! Sheep-loving swill-drinkers!" Dett turns toward the students who had piled on. "Cowards! You just wait ... You'll see."
"Dett ... hurt his hand."
" ... couldn't happen to a better fellow ..."
" ... bullied enough ... deserved it ..."
" ... careful ... get you ..."
Even before he rises, neither the first nor the last, Lorn slips the polished pair of wooden rods back inside his belt. After he stands, he limps slightly as he walks toward the mallet he abandoned, bending gracefully and scooping it up left-handed.
Tyrsal, the last to scramble up, quickly extinguishes a grin and avoids looking at the injured Dett.
"That's it! Over here!" orders the schoolyard proctor, a tallish man with a pointed goatee and wavy black hair that stands away from his head. "All of you. You know the rules! Bruggages are forbidden!"
The score of students slouch toward the proctor and the columns of the low white stone building behind him. None move to brush away the smears of reddish clay upon their student garments, nor lift their eyes to the shimmering white of the Palace that stands farther to the south and which dominates the gradual slope rising from the harbor, nor even to the white structures that lie uphill of the school, the dwellings of the senior Magi'i and Mirror Lancer commanders.
"Line up! All of you."
Lorn somehow materializes in the second rank, nearly in the middle, the expression on his face one of mild concern.
"What happened? How did Dettaur'alt's hand get injured?" demands the proctor. His eyes travel the youths, picking out a stocky student. "Allyrn'alt? You always know."
"Ser ... Dett fell on Tyrsal, and everyone tripped in the bruggage. When we got untangled, Dett was holding his hand. I guess he fell on it." Allyrn'alt's face is carefully blank.
"I made the goal, and I jumped around. I must have bumped into Dett, ser. We all got tangled in the bruggage. Maybe Dett's hand got kicked by someone's boot." The small redhead looks apologetically at the proctor.
"No, ser. I wasn't even in the bruggage, ser."
" ... never is ..." murmurs someone.
"Quiet!" The proctor turns to another. "Shalk'mer?"
"Ser ... I got tangled up, but I didn't see anything." The square-faced merchant's son looks directly at the proctor.
"Lorn'elth? You wouldn't know ... of course, you wouldn't." The proctor shakes his head. "You never see anything."
"I'm sorry, ser." Lorn looks contritely at the proctor.
"All of you, except Dettaur'alt, get back to your studies." The proctor sighs and motions for the muscular injured student to follow him toward the healer's room.
Before he turns to follow the proctor, Dett's eyes rake over the other students, but each in turn meets his eyes openly, without flinching.CHAPTER 3
CYADOR IS A paradox, one wrapped in an enigma, and offered as a riddle to the world it dominates by its sheer force of being. No land, no ruler, can contest the might of Cyador, yet its people look no different from other folk, except by their raiment and their deportment.
The Towers of Chaos descended from the Rational Stars, yet they serve those upon the land and water, those who can but observe the distant chaos of those stars, yet who can bring such chaos upon their foes.
For does the White Empire not have the fireships of war that can destroy all other vessels? Yet the trade vessels that dock at Cyad and Fyrad and Summerdock are carried there by sails, and not by the power of chaos.
Do not the firewagons roll endlessly across the finest of granite roads that link all of the Empire together, carrying passengers and cargoes smoothly and speedily? Yet even within mighty Cyad, are not the white streets of the great city filled, not with firewagons, but carts and carriages pulled by horses, by men on horseback and women on foot?
Does not the Emperor, Protector of the Steps to Paradise, Ruler of the Towers of Chaos, command the firelances before which quail the barbarians of the north and east? Yet those firelances are borne by lancers who ride the same horses as do the barbarians, and those lancers also bear blades, even if such blades are of white cupridium, against which the poor iron of Candar cannot stand.
Do not the towers of chaos send forth light so bright that it must be shielded by solid stone? Yet the Palace of Eternal Light is lit by the diffuse chaos of the sun and the lesser chaos of oil lamps.
Is not the Emperor himself a figure of might and majesty? Yet all in power fear that an emperor may again arise who is truly mighty, like the one who is seldom mentioned by the high in Cyad.
Maintaining this paradox, this enigma that is Cyad, that is the task of the Magi'i, and the duty of every magus who has ever lived and ever will live, now and forevermore. ...
Paradox of Empire
Bern'elth, Magus First
Cyad, 157 A.F.CHAPTER 4
IN THE BLESSING and warmth of chaos, in the prosperity which it engenders, and for the preservation of all the best of our heritage, whether of elthage, altage, or merage, let us give thanks for what we receive." The silver-haired man at the north end of the table lifts his head and smiles.
The family is seated around the dining table on the covered upper balcony, from where they can look downhill and south directly at the harbor—and to the west and slightly uphill at the Palace of Eternal Light. Although the sun has set, the sky remains the purple that precedes night, and the white stone piers of the harbor glitter above the darkness of the Great Western Ocean. The Palace gleams a shimmering white—both from the white sunstone from which it was constructed all too many years before and from the innumerable lamps which bathe its endless corridors and vaulting halls in continuous light.
The dining table around which the family sits is lit but dimly by two lamps set in gleaming cupridium brackets, each affixed to a pillar, the two closest to each end of the table. None of those seated appear to be affected by the dimness. The mahogany-haired Nyryah, who sits at the end of the table opposite the silver-haired Kien'elth, lifts a silver tray that holds both dark bread and sun-nut bread and tenders it to the sandy-haired young man on her left. "Go ahead, Vernt."
"Ah ... thank you."
"And don't take all the sun-nut bread," suggests Myryan from where she sits across from the still-lanky Vernt. "We like it, too."
"There's plenty there, children," suggests Nyryah, "and there's another loaf in the kitchen."
Vernt grins and takes one slice of each bread, then passes the tray to Lorn, who takes only a single slice of dark bread before passing the tray to his father. Kien'elth, like his younger son, takes one slice of each, and hands the tray to Jerial, dark-haired, and the eldest child. She, like Lorn, takes but a slice of dark bread, and smiles across at Lorn as she hands the tray to Myryan, also black-haired, and the youngest of the four siblings. Myryan takes a single slice of sun-nut bread and returns the tray to her mother.
The fowl casserole that had been set before Kien'elth makes a circuit of the table, but all helpings are so similar in size that they would have to have been weighed for an outsider to determine which is the largest—or the smallest. After the casserole comes the dish of buttered and nutted beans.
When Myryan sets down the serving spoon for the beans, all six begin to eat, silently for a moment, until each has had at least one mouthful of something.
"You were a little late, dear," suggests Nyryah.
"We had to chaos-charge a second complement of firewagons," replies Kien'elth. "The two new companies of Mirror Lancers are being sent along the Great Eastern Highway tomorrow. The barbarians of the northeast have tried to attack the cuprite mines. While they were thrown back across the Hills of Endless Grass, the Emperor has determined that the lancers of the northeast shall be more greatly reinforced to carry the message to the barbarians that they may be reminded of the futility of such attacks."
"You find that amusing?" asks Vernt.
"The name's amusing," she admits. "Nothing's endless, not even the Rational Stars. So how can grass be endless?"
"The barbarians are endless," says Vernt. "Every year there are more of them."
"More doesn't mean endless."
"And they're just as stupid every year. Tens of scores of them try to cross the border, and most of them die." Vernt looks at his father. "There must have been more than usual if you had to do more chaos-charging."
"I was told that the lancers have it well in hand," answers his sire.
"And they will push the barbarians back across the not-so-endless Grass Hills," Myryan says, "no matter what the barbarians call the grass."
"I do believe we've heard this before," suggests Kien'elth politely. "We decided the name was a barbarian affectation." He clears his throat, then takes another mouthful of the fowl casserole, nodding as he tastes it.
"We just ought to take over all of Candar—the western half, anyway," says Vernt.
"That way, we wouldn't have to worry about the smelly barbarians."
"The chaos-towers can't be moved," Lorn points out. "That's why Emperor—"
"Lorn," interjects Kien'elth quickly. "Not at dinner."
"We don't need to move the towers," continues Vernt, seemingly oblivious to his father's warning to Lorn. "The barbarians' iron blades are so soft that a cupridium blade cuts through any of their weapons." The younger son snorts. "We don't need firewagons and highways to conquer them."
"No—but would you want to live in a mud-brick hut or a tent?" Kien'elth laughs. "You wouldn't get cooking like this, or cities like Cyad or Fyrad or Summerdock."
"We've heard this discussion before, too," interjects Jerial. "Cyador already has more land than we'll ever need, and so do the barbarians. They don't attack from need, but from perversity. They want to take what we've built, because they're too lazy and too stupid to make things for themselves."
"They do not have chaos-towers, nor could they fabricate them if they wanted to," says her father gently.
"They don't have to live like swine," counters Vernt. "You can smell them from kays away."
"They weren't born with your advantages," Kien'elth points out.
"We've sent teachers out to the north and east." Vent's voice rises. "And those that weren't killed had to kill the barbarians to escape with their lives. ..."
"Maybe they don't want to learn," suggests Jerial, with a hint of a laugh in her voice. "They don't like books as much as you do."
Excerpted from Magi'i Of Cyador by L. E. Modesitt Jr., David G. Hartwell. Copyright © 2000 L. E. Modesitt, Jr.. 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.