Silverheartby Michael Moorcock, Storm Constantine
This is a novel set at the very heart of Michael Moorcock’s multiverse, in Karadur, city of metal, steam, and ancient families, the mighty clans of the metal. In six days, Max Silverskin, thief and trickster, must discover the secrets of his heritage or die from the witch mark – the silverheart – which will devour his heart. Lady Rose Iron,
This is a novel set at the very heart of Michael Moorcock’s multiverse, in Karadur, city of metal, steam, and ancient families, the mighty clans of the metal. In six days, Max Silverskin, thief and trickster, must discover the secrets of his heritage or die from the witch mark – the silverheart – which will devour his heart. Lady Rose Iron, daughter of the leader of the powerful Clan Iron is thrown into an edgy alliance with Max as she searches for the secrets that could save the city’s future. Captain Cornelius Coffin, head of the clans’ security forces, is in love with Lady Rose and obsessed with capturing Max. And there are others, in Shriltasi, Karadur’s underworld twin, who know the prophecy which says that only Max Silverskin can save both realms.
In Silverheart, Michael Moorcock and Storm Constantine have combined their talents to produce a novel that is both surreal and gothic.
- Prometheus Books
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.30(w) x 9.26(h) x 1.67(d)
Read an Excerpt
A NOVEL OF THE MULTIVERSE
By MICHAEL MOORCOCK STORM CONSTANTINE
Copyright © 2005
Michael Moorcock and Storm Constantine
All right reserved.
Chapter One A THIEF IN GRAGONATT
In the dim light of the steam carriage, Lady Melodia Gold looked hungry, but not for food. The gold pleated tissue of her gown spilled from the front of her red velvet cloak, which was laced tight against the cold. Lord Prometheus Iron, sitting opposite her, observed the extraordinary eagerness in her expression, which she sought to hide beneath a mask of chill disdain. This hunger slightly disgusted him. His own interest in the task ahead was more academic. He wanted to interview the prisoners as much as Melodia did-they'd been caught in the process of stealing some of her jewellery from New Mint Yard-but his motives were more complex, even to himself.
The cold was a predatory beast on the darkened streets that led to the prison building, Gragonatt Fortress, which lay in the centre of Ihrn Fief. Night was always a punishing time in Karadur. The chill that had crept in off the ice sought to freeze and still the mechanisms of the carriage, so that the furnace in the forecabin would flicker away. Then, the breath of night might investigate the cooling interior and put the blue mark of death upon the passengers within. A cast-iron grille beneath the seats exhaled warm, stuffy breath from the engine up front, but without it, the travellers might freeze and die.
The only other passenger was Captain Cornelius Coffin, who sat on the same plush bench as Lord Iron, but some distance away from him. Coffin was dressed in a severe steel-studded black uniform and a thick black coat, which hung open. His wide-brimmed beaten iron hat lay on the seat beside him. His face was strong-featured and square-jawed, and always appeared slightly unshaven, whatever the time of day. Coffin looked both eager and gloating, clearly aware he was due praise, if not promotion. So far, Lord Iron had remained purposefully tightlipped about the reason for their journey that evening. He had made it clear that before he made any assessment, he would have to see for himself if the man now incarcerated in the Fortress was indeed the infamous thief Max Silverskin.
Silverskin had been an irritant for years. Bad blood. Something wrong with him. The parentage was dubious, after all. His father had been a nobleman of Clan Silver, who for reasons known only to himself, but which were probably no more than simple lust, had taken up with a distant cousin, a woman of the Silverskin family, who were a minor tributary of the Silver Clan. Maximilian had been the unfortunate fruit of this imprudent union. The Silverskins had always been questionable characters, obviously nonconformists no matter how much they tried to justify themselves as innovators and thinkers. They lived at the edge of Akra Fief, as close to the free zones as it was possible to get without being part of them. The Silverskin women had reputations associated with banned or unwholesome arts, and the whole family was famous for its heresies. Clan Silver had refused to countenance a marriage between the two. Neither was it known when or where Augustus Silver and Sophelia Silverskin had married, though the most fanciful stories suggested it had taken place in one of the legendary Cities of the Rim, which lay far beyond the visible horizon. Other tales declared the eloping couple had escaped to the Ice Caverns below the surface of the plain, where it was rumoured that entire towns existed. These were undoubtedly only fantasies, but there wasn't a person in Karadur who could or would venture onto the ice in an attempt to see whether any of the stories were true. For a start, the journey would be impossible. Steam carriages could only travel a short distance from the city before they seized up, and no one could survive on the ice without transport. In the distant past, a few reckless souls had set out to explore, but none had ever returned to tell of fabulous Cities of the Rim or underground lands.
Lord Iron did not, for a moment, believe the romantic notions that Max's parents had died or disappeared out on the ice or in some mythical landscape. It was ridiculous to think that some strange denizen of the frozen waste had brought the child back to Karadur, where he'd been taken in by kind-hearted people of the zones. Iron knew exactly what had really happened. Silverskin's parents had run into the warrens of the free zones, and had there lived with the lowlifes until becoming ultimately their prey. What happened next was well known. The boy had been fostered by the questionable Menevek Vane, obviously a miscreant of the lowest order. It had only been Vane's persistence that, when Max was nine years old, had eventually persuaded Clan Silver to relent, declare the boy one of their own and take him back into the bosom of his family. No doubt Vane had hoped to ingratiate himself with the clan, but he'd been proved wrong there. The doors of the Moonmetal Manse had slammed in his face.
Maximilian's acceptance by his family had never worked. Despite the best in education and the guidance of more honourable peers, Max had turned out bad. He balked at authority, even as a child committing immeasurable indiscretions and petty crimes within the confines of the Moonmetal Manse. Lord Iron knew the trouble Silver had had with him. Later, of course, when the boy became more self-aware, his excursions out into the city had led to all sorts of problems. He was attracted to scum, no doubt the legacy of his mother's blood, and clearly felt more at home in the free zones than in the respectable atmosphere of Akra. No amount of discipline and punishment had curbed his criminal urges. He'd actually stolen from the clan houses, apparently taking delight in the consternation this caused. What was worse, the lowlifes of the city looked upon him as a kind of folk hero, which had undoubtedly contributed towards his self-important disregard for tradition. Eventually, Silver had had no option but to cast out the embarrassing by-blow. It was hoped that this indignity would chasten him, that once the privileges of palace life were lost to him, he'd recognise the error of his ways and reform. Clan Silver had been confident the reprobate son would come crawling back to them, begging for readmittance. Unfortunately, the opposite had proved true.
Among the free zones and the markets of the city proper, Max Silverskin had claimed he'd left his clan of his own volition and had publicly scorned the long-held orthodoxies of the Metal. He had adopted his mother's name of Silverskin and bore it like a banner in defiance of the Moonmetal Manse, whose protection and disciplines he had rejected and abused. By taking his mother's name, he had declared himself in opposition to all the Lords of the Metal stood for. Now, the scum of the zones viewed him as a herald for their witless causes. With verminous cunning, Silverskin did more than live up to his reputation. He had continued to steal from clan houses and revile their names. No more, though. For years, Captain Coffin had hunted the thief, the self-styled Fox of Akra, and now he'd trapped him. Fortunate that there were still lowlifes prepared to accept a bribe for information. One of Silverskin's own tribe of reprobates had betrayed him. This had enabled Coffin to corner and arrest Silverskin, and charge him with the loathsome crime of Public Deceit, as well as the lesser violation of Common Larceny. It had been convenient that Silverskin had had no help from his mother's family. The Silverskins might spout heresies, but they were obviously too cowardly to shield a wanted criminal in their midst.
Lost in these aggravating thoughts, Lord Iron arranged his grey robes around him more securely and uttered a tut of disapproval, which conjured curious glances from his fellow passengers. The mere idea of the Silverskins annoyed him. Despite being shunned by respectable society, the family still persisted in their delusions. More than one Silverskin had claimed to possess actual knowledge of the Cities of the Rim and the lands that lay beneath the ice and, in days when they'd possessed more credibility, had sought to initiate exploratory expeditions. Such ideas were not only forbidden but dangerous. They had invoked stringent punishment. During the disruptive early years of the Reformation, Silverskins had died in the Brass Jester and on Old Granny's Skillet, which were two legendary instruments of torture still exhibited in the great Museum of the Metal in the Shinlech Fief of Clan Copper. Now the law was far more humane. Instead, it sentenced miscreants to Gragonatt Fortress for reeducation.
Lord Iron twitched aside the heavy woollen curtain of the observation port. Outside, the cityscape was shrouded in the eternal mist that rose from the ice at night and drifted throughout the city, freezing to a crust upon the roads and buildings as it went. The carriage's metal wheels threw up a vicious spray of glittering shards from the road that tinkled against the sides of the vehicle. And there, ahead, the Fortress itself, rearing up against the indigo sky. It was crafted of a strange fusion of stone and metal, huge and impregnable, an image of human suffering worked in its bulk and severe lines. This was the symbol of law and order in Karadur. It represented the immutable truth that crime would not be tolerated. Criminals, by their very nature, were deceitful and duplicitous.
Now Max Silverskin and Menevek Vane would be sentenced to a lifetime of reeducation in the Fortress-from which not so much as a scream had escaped in all the millennia of its existence.
Gragonatt Fortress was a product of the Clan Wars, when the noble families of Karadur had built themselves impregnable cities within cities, wasting generation after generation of workers to realise their architectural dreams. Countless healthy bodies had broken upon the unyielding basalt, so that the rock itself had bloomed with rich young blood. The Fortress was all that remained of that dark period of civil strife, and had been a prison for most of its existence. No place for a person of spirit. It was hard to imagine that once the elegant Clan Gold had lived within it, but that had been immeasurable years before, and the building had undergone many structural changes since then.
Lord Iron glanced at Melodia, who was also looking out of the port. Did she imagine herself dwelling there, imprisoned by the severe walls, gazing out wistfully at the mist-veiled spires of Karadur?
"Nearly there," Coffin announced unnecessarily. He shifted in his seat.
Lord Iron both respected and despised the captain. He was efficient, but officious, diligent but often petty. It was also apparent he harboured an affection for Lord Iron's daughter, the Lady Rose. What was he thinking of? True, the man had dragged himself up from the gutters sufficiently to own a modest fortune. Also, if the captive in Gragonatt really was Silverskin, Coffin would soon add to his fortune the substantial reward the clans had put up for Max's capture. Coffin had revolutionised the security forces of the city. His private army of brutal "Irregulars"-who were kin to the honest foundrymen, but appeared more like monstrous throwbacks to the dawn of humanity-policed the streets with greater and greater impunity. The free zones were nominally under the jurisdiction of their inhabitants, and the clans of the Metal were by tradition barred from their streets. This did not stop Coffin and his Irregulars from roaming them at will, behaving with increasing arrogance. The free zoners naturally objected to this and continually sent deputations to the Lords of the Metal, demanding that Coffin's men should be prevented from entering their territory. In view of recent civil unrest, however, the petitions were ignored.
The majority of the Irregulars had been drawn from the ranks of outcast foundrymen, who had been banished from their families for worshipping at unwholesome shrines. Religion was seen as a sickness in Karadur, a delusion spawned by fear. Reasonable people were not subject to such fears. Coffin had offered his recruits a reeducation of sorts. They were massively muscled, men of few words, who were adept with every kind of skinning knife and flensing tool a butcher could dream of owning. When times were slack, many Irregulars worked in the slaughterhouses, where it was supposed they achieved considerable job satisfaction. Coffin insisted they had abandoned the practice of adoring their secret goddess, Sekmet, who was the old pagan deity of the Foundry, scoured from history since the Reformation. When Coffin had first introduced the Irregulars to impress the lords with their effectiveness, they had been tolerated by the clans. The lords' own mechanical guards, the Roaring Boys and the Blinding Boys, had begun to show signs of decrepitude, despite their enormous power. They were likely to lock up suddenly, in a spray of sparks, and emit choking clouds of steam. A familiar sight in Karadur was of teams of mekkaphants-half-organic beasts of burden created in the Foundry-towing away mechanical failures for repair.
Captain Coffin was openly contemptuous of the automated constables. They could no longer keep the peace. The likes of Silverskin were able to run rings round them most of the time. The captain made plain his view that they were redundant and should be scrapped, replaced by his own efficient force. Reluctantly, the lords had partly complied and now paid him for his services, while still retaining some control via their ailing Battle Boys.
No doubt Coffin thought that once the million platinum mirror reward was safely in his hands, his power and influence would equal that of the lords themselves. Let him think it. He had his uses.
The carriage puffed to a halt at the gates to the Fortress. The driver sounded the horn. Guards within the Fortress, who had no doubt been watching the visitors approach and had recognised the crest of Clan Iron fluttering from the carriage's forecabin, began to unseal their domain. First, a great portcullis squealed upwards, followed by the agonised opening scrape of three sets of metal-bound doors. Mist swirled at ground level. The Fortress was mostly dark within, lit by the feverish glow of a few torches. The carriage surged beneath the shadow of the gates and stood panting in a shawl of steam in the great courtyard beyond.
Lord Iron alighted from the vehicle and held out his hand to assist Lady Melodia down to the rusting cobbles. Captain Coffin jumped out nimbly beside them and slapped his hands together, exhaling plumes of smoking breath. "Ah, here's Mantwick," he said, nodding his head towards the large man emerging from a lighted doorway.
Mantwick, governor of the Fortress, bowed respectfully to Lord Iron and Lady Gold. "Welcome, Lords. The prisoners are ready for your inspection."
Lord Iron made a fastidious gesture. "Lead on. We have little time. We have to attend the final ceremony of the Jewel in a couple of hours."
"This way, Lords." Mantwick gestured for them to enter the building.
Within, the Fortress was haunted by the distant hiss of steam and the churning of great machinery as shifts of prisoners toiled in the workshops. The air was oddly scentless, which always surprised Lord Iron. With so many miscreants packed in together, he expected the rotten effluvia of their corruption to fill the air with foulness. Mantwick led the group down a series of metal-walled passages lined with doors, all of which had closed observation windows at eye level. Halfway down one corridor, Mantwick paused and lifted the keys from his belt. He unlocked the door before him and pushed it open. Lord Iron and Captain Coffin entered the cell together.
The walls of the cell were all of polished metal, which must make the eyes ache after a period of incarceration. The prisoners were sitting on the floor, their hands and feet shackled. "Maximilian Silverskin and Menevek Vane," announced Mantwick in a toneless voice.
Lord Iron drew in a breath through his nose, conscious of the rustle of Lady Melodia's gown behind him. There was no doubt the prisoners were who Coffin claimed them to be. Max had sunk low. At twentysix, he had already reached the end of useful life. His pale hair was lank about his shoulders, his eyes deep sunk. Where was his dashing mien now? He looked defeated, dazed, while Vane simply looked old and worn out, his greying dark hair a lunatic mane about his face.
"It was only a matter of time before you found yourself here, Max," Lord Iron said.
Lady Melodia stalked past him. "Where is my ring, scum? Where is it?"
Silverskin merely gaped up at her, as if mindless. His face bore the bruises and swellings of an earlier beating.
"My lady," Captain Coffin murmured, stepping forward. "Allow me." He leaned down and struck the prisoner hard across the face, making his head slam against the metal wall behind him. "Answer the lady, that's a good boy."
Excerpted from SILVERHEART by MICHAEL MOORCOCK STORM CONSTANTINE Copyright © 2005 by Michael Moorcock and Storm Constantine. Excerpted by permission.
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
Born in 1939, Michael Moorcock is a highly respected author who has won many awards over his prolific career. His novella Behold the Man won the Nebula Award. He is also the recipient of the World Fantasy Award and the British Fantasy Award, among others. Currently he resides in Texas, with wife, Linda.
Storm Constantine has written over twenty books, both fiction and nonfiction, and well over fifty short stories. Her novels span several genres, from literary fantasy, to science fiction, to dark fantasy. She is most well known for her Wraeththu trilogy (omnibus edition published by Tor) and has recently completed a new set of novels set in the world of Wraeththu, concluding with The Ghosts of Blood and Innocence (Tor, 2005, USA; Immanion Press, 2005, UK). Storm is also cofounder of the small publishing house Immanion Press, created in order to get classic titles from established writers back in print and innovative new authors an audience. She’s currently working on several ideas for new books, as well as reading and editing a far too large pile of manuscripts for other writers. She lives in the Midlands of England, with her husband, Jim, and eight cats.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews