Weavers of War (Winds of the Forelands Series #5)by David B. Coe
In the four previous books of his epic fantasy series Winds of the Forelands, David Coe has woven a complex tapestry of magic and politics, courage and betrayal, love and hate. Now, he brings the many strands of this enthralling series together in a climactic novel that will thrill readers of epic magical fantasy. For years the magical Qirsi people who live among the Eandi courts of the Forelands have conspired, weakening alliances among the realms. The renegades are led by a mysterious Weaver named Dusaan with powers that allow him to appear in the dreams of his followers and to bind the magic of many Qirsi into a single weapon more potent than any the Eandi have faced in a thousand years. Now, his planning begins to bear fruit. He reveals himself to friend and foe alike, knowing that none can stand against him. Dusaan takes control of the Empire and begins his march toward war, enlisting those who serve him in other realms to join the battle, as the ranks of his army swell. King Kearney's armies are forced to battle Eandi invaders from Braedon. However, this battle is a diversion contrived by Dusaan to weaken the Eandi armies. Grinsa, another Weaver, fights for the king. Knowing that the renegades are the true enemy, he struggles to make his people recognize this before it's too late. At last, the two Weavers do battle, Dusaan leading his army of Qirsi sorcerers, Grinsa standing with an alliance of Eandi nobles and warriors. Whichever side wins will bear a heavy cost for victory.
"War and politics, love and magic, all drawn in detail against a vividly imagined feudal background. A complex and excellent book."
David Drake, author of Lord of the Isles, on Rules of Ascension
"Turmoil and deception propel Coe's second entry in his Winds of the Forelands tetralogy, maintaining the momentum of its predecessor. The author deftly manages a multistrand plot full of political intrigue that never flags despite the wealth of engrossing detail. A large cast of characters both old and new enliven the sword and sorcery. Readers who go for good clean fantasy fun will eagerly await the next installment."
Publishers Weekly on Seeds of Betrayal
"Coe writes a wonderfully complex and engrossing tale, but what truly made this book for me was the richness and depth of the beautifully crafted characters. A good plot makes for a great read, but interweave that plot with rich, complex characters and you have a splendid book - and this is a splendid book. There is absolutely nothing superficial about Coe's writing - it is strong, complex, and emotionally very, very powerful."
Sara Douglass, author of The Wayfarer Redemption, on Bonds of Vengeance
"One of the things that delights me most when reading fantasy is being shown new worldsvivid, fascinating new places to explore, and find new adventures. In Rules of Ascension, David Coe gives us a world to remember, a world one can't help but want to know more about. I eagerly await other tales of the Forelands!"
Ed Greenwood, author of The Band of Four saga
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Weavers of War
Book Five of Winds of the Forelands
By David B. Coe, James Frenkel
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2007 David B. Coe
All rights reserved.
City of Kings, Eibithar, Adriel's Moon waxing
The touch of his mind on hers was as gentle as the Weaver's had been brutal, as tender and loving as the Weaver's had been vengeful and cruel. She sensed in that touch his passion, his longing to be with her, his hope that he could shield her from the pain that seemed to have enveloped all the land. And she wanted nothing more than to hold him in her arms — really to hold him, beyond this haven he had created so that he might speak with her as she slept — to show him that she yearned for him, too.
Theirs was the most unlikely of loves, having overcome deception, betrayal, and her devotion to the Weaver's conspiracy. But feeling the caress of his thoughts, Cresenne could not question the power of what they shared.
"Tell me about Bryntelle," Grinsa whispered, still holding her close amid the sun-warmed grasses of the plain he had conjured for this dream.
How could she not smile at the mention of their daughter? The girl had been the lone spark of light in a darkness that had consumed her days and nights over the past several turns.
"Bryntelle's fine. She's been up much of the day, crying, but I think that's because she's getting her first tooth."
He pulled away slightly, looking down at her, his face lit by a dazzling smile. "A tooth? Really?"
Cresenne nodded. "It's not much right now — just a little bump on her gums. But one of the healers tells me that once it appears it'll grow in very quickly."
Grinsa was still smiling, but there was a pained look in his eyes. "I wish I could be there to see it."
"Soon," she said, looking down, her chest tight. She sensed that he wanted to kiss her, and she kept her face turned away from his. "Has the fighting begun?"
"Yes, we fought our first skirmish this morning."
At that she did look up. "Are you all right?"
"She is, too. As are Kearney and Tavis."
"Good." She nodded again, shivering as if the warm breeze had grown icy and harsh. "That's good." She hesitated. Then, "Have you seen the Weaver yet?" Her stomach turned to stone as she spoke the words, but she tried to keep her voice even.
Grinsa shook his head. "Not yet. I expect he wants the war to begin in earnest before he reaches the Moorlands. The more damage the Eandi do to each other, the easier his task when the time comes."
She felt certain that he was right. While Grinsa and the Weaver had little in common beyond their powers and their formidable appearance, Grinsa had come to understand the conspiracy's leader quite well. Only a year before, Grinsa had been but a gleaner in Eibithar's Revel, concealing the true extent of his powers and spending his days and his magic showing others glimpses of their futures. Now he was an advisor to kings and nobles, though still they called him gleaner. Cresenne of all people, having been one of the Weaver's most trusted servants — a chancellor in his movement — knew how strong the enemy was, and so how great the land's need. If anyone could destroy the Weaver and his movement, her beloved could. So why did she find it so difficult to take comfort in Grinsa's arms, to believe that he could prevail in this war that loomed before them, as black and menacing as some seaborne storm summoned by Amon himself?
For a long time, neither of them spoke. Cresenne sensed that Grinsa was gathering himself to end the dream. She could feel his despair at the distance between them, how he begrudged every day they spent apart. No, there could be no doubting the power of their love.
All of which made what the Weaver had done to her that much more galling.
"I should return to the front lines," he said, grimacing. "Who knows when the empire's men will attack again?"
"You'll kiss Bryntelle for me?"
Again she smiled. "Of course."
Grinsa pulled her close again, kissing her deeply. Cresenne returned the kiss with as much passion as she could muster, not wanting him to sense how she suffered for it.
At last he released her, a frown on his handsome face.
"What's the matter?" he asked.
"Please, Grinsa," she said, closing her eyes, wishing she could just sleep. "I just ... It's going to take some time for me to ... to heal."
"I want to help."
"You can't. No one can," she added, seeing how this hurt him. "Just make certain that you win. Killing the Weaver will do more to help me than you can know. Destroy him for me, and I'll see to the rest."
He just gazed at her, looking so sad. "I'll do what I can."
That's not enough! she wanted to say. You can't fail at this! He'll kill me! He'll kill Bryntelle! But he knew all of this. As much as she wanted Dusaan jal Kania dead, Grinsa wanted it more.
"I know you will."
He brushed a strand of hair from her brow with the back of his hand. And even this gesture, done with such care and tenderness, was nearly enough to make her shudder with the memory of the Weaver's brutality.
"I love you, Grinsa."
"And I love you, more than you know."
She awoke to the sound of swifts chattering as they soared past the narrow window of her chamber. Bryntelle still slept in her cradle, her arms stretched over her head, her mouth making suckling movements. Cresenne sat up, taking a long breath and running both hands through her hair. Grinsa deserved better from her. He carried the burdens of every man and woman of the Forelands on his shoulders, and all she could think to do was tell him what he already knew: that in order to be whole again she needed for him to destroy the Weaver.
Her wounds had healed, and in recent days she had finally begun to eat again, slowly regaining her strength after the poisoning that almost killed her. But the Weaver had left her with other scars that remained beyond a healer's touch. True, she had managed to fight Dusaan off and then to end that horrific dream before he could take her life, but the memory of rape clung to her bed, her hair, her body — the stench of his breath, hot and damp against her neck. She could still feel him driving himself into her again and again, tearing her flesh, his weight bearing down on her until she wondered if she could even draw breath. She could hear him calling her "whore." It had only been a dream, she tried to tell herself, an illusion he had conjured by using her own magic against her. But did that lessen the humiliation or deepen it? It had been a violation in so many ways and on so many levels. Did his invasion of her mind make what he seemed to have done to her body any less real?
She feared that she might never again be able to bear Grinsa's touch. The Weaver had poisoned all of her dreams, even those in which her love spoke to her. Grinsa's merest kiss when he walked in her sleep, his most gentle caress, made her feel once more the savagery of Dusaan's assault. Cresenne wanted desperately to believe that it was the dreams that did this, that once she and Grinsa were together again, and he could hold her in his arms without touching her mind, everything would be all right. But she had no way of knowing this for certain, and doubt lay heavy on her heart.
Grinsa would have told her to sleep more. The sun would be up for several hours yet, and since she still didn't dare sleep at night, for fear of another attack from the Weaver, she wouldn't have another opportunity to rest for quite some time. But she was awake now, and she knew herself well enough to know that she could lie on her bed from now until dusk, and she wouldn't get back to sleep. Instead, she stared out the window and waited for Bryntelle to wake, knowing that the baby would be hungry when she did.
She didn't have long to wait. After nursing Bryntelle and changing her wet swaddling, Cresenne took her daughter in her arms and left their small chamber to wander the grounds of Audun's Castle. It was a rare treat for them to be out of doors during the daylight hours; Cresenne savored the warm touch of the sun on her skin, and the mild breeze that stirred her hair. Bryntelle seemed to enjoy the day as well. She squinted up at the sun repeatedly and squealed happily at the sight of clove-pink and irises blooming brightly in the gardens.
One of the advantages of wandering the castle at night was that Cresenne rarely found herself in the company of others. She had no desire to make conversation with ladies in the queen's court, and she dreaded being recognized as the "Qirsi traitor." Nurle, the young healer who saw her through the poisoning, occasionally joined her after tending to patients during the course of the night, but mostly she and Bryntelle kept to themselves. On this day, however, there were several people walking the castle grounds, and though Cresenne was loath to return to her chamber, she dreaded the thought of being among other people, particularly since everyone she saw was Eandi.
Hesitating, yet eager to find some way to enjoy this day without having to endure the stares of all these people, Cresenne ducked into a small courtyard off one of the main paths that meandered through the garden.
She knew immediately that she had erred. Cresenne had seen Leilia of Glyndwr, Eibithar's queen, only once before, but she recognized the woman immediately. The queen was seated on a small marble bench in the middle of the courtyard. Sunlight angled across her face, making her skin look pale and thick. Her black hair was tied up in a tight bun, and the dress she wore appeared so tight around the bust that Cresenne found it hard to imagine that she could be comfortable.
Several of the queen's ladies stood around her, chatting amiably, and four guards stood at attention nearby.
Cresennne had every intention of leaving the courtyard, but at that moment Bryntelle let out a small cry, drawing the stares of every person there. The guards turned toward her, glowering, and the ladies regarded her with frowns and pursed lips.
"Forgive me," she muttered, not entirely certain that they could even hear her. "I didn't know there was anyone here." She curtsied quickly and started to leave.
"You there! Wait a moment!"
Cresenne turned back to them. Leilia was eyeing her with obvious interest, though there was no warmth in her expression.
"Yes, Your Highness," Cresenne said, curtsying again.
For a moment she wondered if the queen expected her to approach, but then Leilia stood, and as the guards rushed to her side the queen began to walk toward her. Leilia paused, regarded them with obvious disdain, and waved a hand, seeming to dismiss them. One of the men said something to her in a low voice, but she merely glared at him until he bowed and backed away. Then she started toward Cresenne again.
Bryntelle had begun to make a good deal of noise — she wasn't crying, fortunately, nor did she seem particularly unhappy. But she certainly was being loud. Leilia glanced at the babe as she drew near, but only for a moment. Mostly, she kept her dark eyes fixed on Cresenne.
"They tell me that you're the renegade," the queen said, stopping just in front of Cresenne, and gesturing vaguely at the soldiers behind her. "The one who had Brienne killed. Is this true?"
Cresenne stared at the ground before her, her cheeks burning. A thousand replies sprang to her lips, any one of which would have earned her a summary hanging. In the end, she merely muttered, "Yes, Your Highness."
"They also warn me that you might make an attempt on my life. Is that your intent?"
"No, Your Highness."
"Good. Walk with me."
Leilia stepped out of the courtyard, and turned toward the north corner of the gardens, leaving Cresenne little choice but to follow. Emerging from the courtyard, she found Leilia waiting for her a few strides away, an arch look on her face.
"Well?" the queen said. "Aren't you coming?"
"Yes, of course, Your Highness. Forgive me."
But even after Cresenne reached her, the queen didn't resume her walking, at least not immediately. Instead, she regarded Cresenne's face critically, as if examining a new piece of art. It took Cresenne but a second to realize that Leilia was staring at her scars. She had to resist an urge to stomp off.
"You've healed well."
"Thank you, Your Highness."
"I can see why some think you pretty."
"Do they, Your Highness?"
Leilia began to walk again, sniffing loudly. "Come now, my dear. Let's not be coy. I'm certain that you've had no shortage of men in your life. Certainly, Eandi men seem fascinated by your kind."
Something in the way the queen said this caught her ear. As she hurried to keep up with the woman, Cresenne remembered that during her many conversations with Keziah ja Dafydd, Eibithar's archminister, she had found herself speculating about Keziah's relationships with both Grinsa and Kearney, the king. On several occasions she had wondered if one of the men might once have been Keziah's lover. The same thought came to her now. Leilia sounded very much the wounded wife, though clearly she had no cause to be jealous of Cresenne.
"Silenced you, have I?" the queen said, glancing at her sidelong.
"Have I given offense in some way, Your Highness? Is that why you wished to speak with me?" That, of all things, brought a smile to Leilia's lips, though it was fleeting. "No. You haven't given offense. I've been ... curious about you."
"I've been a curiosity since I arrived here, Your Highness."
"Yes, I'm sure you have. Is that why you spend your days in your chamber and your nights wandering the castle corridors?"
She thought the queen a strange woman. Her directness was both disconcerting and refreshing, and while Cresenne thought it best to keep her replies circumspect, she sensed that Leilia would not have taken offense had she chosen to be more candid.
"Actually, Your Highness, I sleep during the day to avoid the Weaver who attacks me in my dreams."
"I'd heard that, but I wondered if there were other reasons as well."
Cresenne said nothing.
"The child doesn't seem to mind?"
"She's hardly known any other way to live."
Leilia nodded, and they walked in silence for several moments, Cresenne gazing at a bed of brilliant ruby peonies.
"Tell me of the child's father," the queen said abruptly.
Cresenne made herself smile, sensing that their conversation had taken a perilous turn. "Her father, Your Highness?"
"Yes. This tall Qirsi who's been the subject of so much talk throughout the castle."
"I didn't know that people were speaking of him."
"Shouldn't they? He's little more than a Revel gleaner, yet he was Tavis of Curgh's lone confidant over the last year, and my husband thinks highly enough of him to include him in councils of war. Doesn't that strike you as odd?"
"Grinsa is a wise man, Your Highness, as I'm sure Lord Tavis will attest. I've no doubt that he'll serve the king well."
"I'm not questioning his worth, my dear. I'm merely asking you to tell me more about him. And I sense your reluctance."
"I'm not —"
"Don't dissemble with me." Leilia glanced at her again, as if gauging Cresennne's reaction. "Is he a traitor? Is that it? Have you both contrived this elaborate farce to gain Kearney's trust?"
"No, Your Highness! I swear it! Grinsa's no traitor!" Again, the queen smiled. "I believe you. You love him very much."
Cresenne nodded, afraid to speak. She had come close to losing him so many times, all of them her own fault. She had betrayed him, sent assassins for him, and nearly driven him away with her stubborn, foolish devotion to the Weaver and his movement. And she knew that she might lose him still. Or he her. Who could say whether he would survive the fighting between the Eandi armies, much less his inevitable encounter with Dusaan? Who knew how many more of the Weaver's servants had been sent to kill her?
"You fear for him."
"I fear for all of us, Your Highness. I've seen how wicked this Weaver is, though I was blind to it for too long."
"Kearney will find a way to prevail." The corners of her mouth twitched. "He always does." When Cresenne didn't respond, the queen looked at her again. "War is hardest on the women, you know. It's always been so, though men will deny it. Remaining behind, awaiting the outcome, fearing that the next messenger will bear word that your husband or lover or brother has fallen." She gazed up at the sky, as if to judge the time. "I envy the women of Sanbira, who fight their own battles alongside the men. Their way strikes me as being far more just."
Excerpted from Weavers of War by David B. Coe, James Frenkel. Copyright © 2007 David B. Coe. 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.
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Meet the Author
David B. Coe is the winner of the William L. Crawford Award for Best First Fantasy or Fantasy Series, awarded at the International Conference on the Fantastic, for Children of Amarid and The Outlanders, the first two novels of his LonTobyn Chronicle trilogy. His series Winds of the Forelands began with Rules of Ascension, and continued with Seeds of Betrayal, Bonds of Vengeance and Shapers of Darkness. He lives in Sewanee, Tennessee.
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Great finish to a tale worth reading.
David Coe has shown himself, yet again, as a truly gifted writer. David weaves tales of love, betrayal, vengeance, and personal discovery much like the Weavers he writes of. This book is amazing! I could not put it down. I read 400 pages in ONE sitting. I could not put it down! This book was the closing of a spectacular series that will always be a rival for all Fantasy writers to come. I recommend this book, and all of Coe's books, for all Fantasy readers. You will NOT be disappointed!
In the Forelands, the Eandi have subjugated the Qirsi, a race of incredible magical powers though they are small in numbers. Their white skins and yellow eyes set them apart from the rest of humanity and though they hold positions in the courts and stations of the various realms they are answerable to the Eandi who are their overlords. Sick of the status quo, a movement has built up over the years in which the Qirsi led by Dusaan foment rebellion, unrest among various realms houses and clans.---------------- Dusaan is a Weaver a powerful mage who not only has every Qirsi power but can use the powers of the various other Qirsi, weaving them into weapons that could be used against the Eandi in the seven realms. Only one man can stop him the Weaver known as Grinsa but first he must find a way to prevent the various Eandi factions from fighting each other and join against the common enemy. Even then he doesn¿t know, even with the Qirsi who are loyal to the Eandi and willing to back him, if he has strength to defeat Dusaan.-------------- This is the fifth and final book in the Winds of the Forelands saga and it ties up all the loose ends, as enemies are revealed and allies come out in the open in a final confrontation. Grinsa is a complex character who makes difficult choices and stands by them, allying himself with Eandi and those Qirsi loyal to them because that he believes is the only way his race will gain equality. David B. Coe is a powerful storyteller and an excellent worldbuilder.--------------- Harriet Klausner