The Phoenix Guards

The Phoenix Guards

by Steven Brust

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Overview

Khaavren of the House of Tiassa is a son of landless nobility, possessor of a good sword and "tolerably well-acquainted with its use." Along with three loyal friends, he enthusiastically seeks out danger and excitement. But in a realm renowned for repartee and betrayals, where power is as mutable as magic, a young man like Khaavren, newly come from the countryside, had best be wary. His life depends on it. And so does the future of Draegara.

Set in the same world as Stephen Brust's beloved Vlad Taltos books, The Phoenix Guards is a fantasy rewrite of The Three Musketeers—a swashbuckling tale of adventure.


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781429997317
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 10/14/2008
Series: Phoenix Guards , #1
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 151,873
File size: 442 KB

About the Author

STEVEN BRUST is the New York Times bestselling author of Dzur, Issola, Dragon, Jhegaala, and many others. A native of Minneapolis, he currently lives in Las Vegas.


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.

Read an Excerpt

The Phoenix Guards


By Steven Brust

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 1991 Steven Brust
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-9731-7


CHAPTER 1

In Which We Introduce Several Persons With Whom, In the Hopes of the Author, The Reader Will Wish to Become Better Acquainted


IT HAPPENED THAT ON THE sixth day of spring, in the first year of the reign of His Imperial Majesty Tortaalik I of the House of the Phoenix, a young gentleman entered a small hostelry, in the village of Newmarket, some sixty leagues from Dragaera City. The inn was called The Three Forts, and its sign depicted three tall fortresses with doors flung wide open. The name was taken from those fortresses built during the War of the Barons, in which the district had been much involved, that could be seen from the west end of town.

The village (and, consequently, the inn) was located in the wide valley between the Yendi and the Shallow Rivers, a region renowned for its wheat and maize fields and for the unique odor of its kethna farms. If we go on to say that Newmarket was in that portion of this valley which was located within the County of Sorannah, and that within the Duchy of Luatha, we hope we shall have identified the place well enough to satisfy all but the most exacting of our readers.

As for the village itself, it should be said that there was little to distinguish it from other villages in the area. That is, it had its inn, it had its leather-worker, it had its mill and bins. It had no sorcerer, but did have an augur and a healer. It had no steelbender, but did have a smith and wheelwright. It had no packing-house, but did have a smokehouse. It had no mayor, but did have its Speaker, with a low Speaker's House that was the only building of stone in the town. It had one street, that for half the year was mud and for the rest was the good, black soil of the district. It was near enough to the Imperial Highway that a coach came by the inn every morning and evening, but far enough away that it was a good refuge for the few bandits and highwaymen who dared to brave the wizards of the Athyra Guard, just lately retired with the turning of the Cycle from the Athyra to the Phoenix and with the ascension of the Emperor Tortaalik.

This day was the thirteenth of Tortaalik's reign, and this reign the eighteenth of the House of the Phoenix. The inaugural festivities still had four days to run their course. So it was that the young gentleman found Newmarket in a state of quiet and serene celebration.

This gentleman, to whom we now have the honor of returning, was, we should say, dusty. In those days, before the Interregnum, a gentleman who had been traveling on foot was easily seen to be poor. And yet he was surely of gentle birth. He had long, curly black hair, parted at his noble's point; soft brown eyes; and a rather long, pleasant face, distinguished by the creases in the forehead that show high intellect and by the strong chin that indicates determination and will. To these features, add high cheekbones, a proud nose, and a fair complexion, and it will be seen at once that he was not only a gentleman, but clearly of the House of the Tiassa—which was proved by the color of his garments, where they could be discerned beneath the dust he wore as his outer, and, no doubt, inner, layer of clothing.

His tunic was of white cotton, with puffed sleeves, and was drawn tight around the waist. He had a light woolen overtunic of pale blue with wide lapels. The tunic ended in a short flared skirt without fringe or tassel. Beneath, he wore hose of the same shade of blue, and lyornskin boots, undyed, with low heels and rounded toes. A chain of flat links around his waist held a light sword of good length. The chain also held a thong which ran from scabbard to belt, preventing the sword from scraping the ground when he walked, as well as a sheathed dagger next to the sword, and a purse on the opposite hip. The purse, upon close inspection, looked rather anemic.

He was of medium height, but well built and athletic-looking. He wore neither jewelry nor hat—this last because it had been lost in a gust of wind two days before. To round off our description, with which we hope our readers have not lost patience, we will say that he had a clear, friendly eye, an open countenance, and a frank, pleasant smile. With these things and a sword of good length, much can be done, as we will, by and by, endeavor to show.

The Tiassa, whose name was Khaavren, entered the inn, and stood for a moment to let his eyes adjust to the darkness. On one side was a table where sat the host, waiting for travelers. On the other was a single large room, lit by kerosene lamps and containing four long tables. At first glance, every chair seemed to be occupied, but a closer look revealed a few empty places in the farthest corner. Khaavren made his way there, smiling his apologies to a Jhegaala and a Chreotha, into whom he could not help bumping. Since the inaugural festivities continued, and since the Tiassa's countenance was one of friendliness, neither one was inclined to take offense, so he soon found himself seated on a plain, hard-backed wooden chair.

At length, he identified a servant who seemed to be keeping the patrons supplied with cheer. This servant, however, was on the other side of the room, so Khaavren relaxed, making up his mind to wait patiently. To pass the time, he looked around, his gaze slipping by the numerous Teckla to dwell on persons of more interest. To his right a wizard of the House of the Athyra sat drinking alone, staring into his cup, and, we must assume, thinking deep and subtle thoughts. Next to this wizard was a Vallista with her head on the table, snoring loudly. To Khaavren's left was an attractive young lady of the House of the Dzur, who was engaged in a game of three-copper-mud with a Lyorn and two Hawks. As Khaavren's eye was about to pass over them, the Dzurlord suddenly stood, a hand on the greatsword she carried over her shoulder. Several pairs of eyes turned to her as she frowned at one of the Hawklords. The Hawk at whom she stared seemed suddenly pale.

"My lady," he said in a raspy voice. "What troubles you?"

The Dzur, as Dzur will when in the presence of someone showing fear, allowed a smile to play about her lips. "It is very simple, my lord," said she, in a strong voice. "I have an amulet, given me by my uncle, Lord Tuaral." She paused here, evidently to see if the name produced an effect. When it didn't, she continued. "This amulet emits a small sound, which only I can hear, whenever sorcery occurs near it."

"I fail to see," said the Hawk, "how I am concerned with an amulet given you by your uncle."

"Ah, but you soon will."

"How so?"

"Well, this way: four times now, you have made very difficult throws. Twice, you managed three Thrones over my split high; once, you achieved three Orbs over my three Thrones; and now, just lately, you threw three Orbs followed by a split high after my three Orbs."

"That is true," said the Hawk. "But how does this concern your amulet?"

Khaavren, who saw things faster than the Hawklord pretended to, drew in his breath and leaned forward.

"It concerns the amulet," replied the Dzur, "in that at each of the throws I have just had the honor to describe, I have heard that sound. Had it been only once, I should have thought nothing of it. Even hearing it twice, no action would have been called for. But four times—come now, my lord. Four times is excessive, I think."

The Hawklord seemed to understand at last. His brows came together. "I almost think you accuse me," he said.

"Well, yes," said she.

He glanced around, then said to the other Hawklord, "Will you stand for me, my lord?"

"Gladly," said the other. Then the latter turned to the Dzur and said, "Have you a second?"

"I have no need," she said, "If this gentleman"—here she indicated the Lyorn next to her—"will be so kind as to judge for us."

The second Hawklord turned to the Lyorn. "My lord?"

Now, all this time there had been more and more interest in the proceedings from those nearby, until nearly everyone in the room was watching the interplay. But the Lyorn, who had been one of the players, had shown no sign of interest save for a slight, sad smile which flitted across his face, rather like the small, red daythief across an afternoon sky. When spoken to, however, he shrugged. Then he said to the Dzurlord, in a quiet, melodious voice, "Do you accuse?"

"I do," she answered, with a toss of her head that sent her dark hair from one side of her neck to the other.

He turned to the second Hawklord while pointing to the first. "Do you deny?" he asked.

They looked at each other, and the principal nodded. "He does," said the second.

"Well, then," said the Lyorn, and drained his glass in one motion, his throat bobbing smoothly. He set the glass down gently and stood up. "Perhaps the street," he suggested. He looked around, his eye coming to rest on Khaavren. "Would you care to draw the circle?"

Now, we would not be faithful to our role of historian if we did not say that Khaavren was young, and, moreover, had come from a noble family, albeit one that had fallen on hard times. He had been as well-educated as his poverty would permit, but the Fallen Nobility, as they were beginning to be called in that day, usually had little experience with the ways of Court, or even the ways of the more prosperous of the aristocracy; yet they invariably craved such knowledge and experience. A young gentleman, such as Khaavren, could hardly be made such a request without being delighted. He nodded.

Remembering what was involved as best he could, he walked out into the street, which was, fortunately, rather wide. He noted the size of the Dzurlord's blade, estimated the distance between the hostel on the one side and the livery stables on the other, and decided that it would do. He took more pains with his task because, in addition to other factors, he had been living far out in the country, and, in his ninety-five years, he had never been this close to a duel. To be sure, he had once, as a child, peeking over the stone wall that surrounded his home, had occasion to see his father beat a neighbor with the flat of his sword over some insult, but that was hardly the same as a duel, with all of the formalities that, like war, make legal and proper injury or death inflicted on one's fellow man.

As he was making his observations, the Dzurlord emerged, speaking to the Hawklord's second, apparently deciding on the terms of the engagement. The Lyorn came after them. Khaavren looked at the latter briefly, noticing the short, straight brown hair brushed back off a high forehead, the thin face, the small chin, small mouth, and hooked nose. These, along with the dark complexion, identify the Lyorn even without his costume. This Lyorn, who was very tall for one of his House, seemed to be a warrior, as he was wearing soft leather boots, a plain red blouse, and a brown skirt that came to his ankles. He had no visible weapon, but wore a pair of copper or bronze vambraces.

The Tiassa turned back to his task then, and drew his sword. He found a spot to make the corner, and lowered his blade to begin drawing the line. He was interrupted, then, by a low, soft voice near him: "No, not your sword."

He looked up and saw the Lyorn standing near his elbow.

"No?" he inquired.

"Use your knife," said the Lyorn.

"Why?" asked Khaavren.

The Lyorn smiled sadly. "Name?"

"Khaavren of Castlerock."

"Aerich," said the other, accompanying the word with a gesture to indicate himself.

"But," said Khaavren, "about the sword—"

Aerich gestured at the weapon's point. "This is your honor," he said. "It must never touch the ground. Use your knife."

Khaavren looked at Aerich for a moment, trying to decide if the Lyorn were jesting. But then, he thought, Aerich was the judge. He sheathed his sword, took out his dagger, and drew a line across the width of the street, then one along the side, twice seventeen paces in length, then crossed the street again, and back to where he had begun to complete the rectangle. He straightened his back with some relief and looked up at Aerich, who nodded solemnly.

Aerich turned and gestured to the combatants, indicating where they ought to stand. The Dzurlord removed her doublet and folded it carefully, setting it on the street outside of the circle. She drew her sword from behind her back. The weapon seemed close to her own height, yet she had no apparent trouble wielding it. The Hawk had a short broadsword, and a dagger in the other hand. Aerich looked at the Hawklord's second.

"Terms," he said.

The other Hawk frowned. "We have agreed—"

"State them aloud, please," said Aerich.

The Hawk nodded. "Plain steel weapons, sword and dagger, to first blood, no healer present, but a healer may be summoned at once upon conclusion."

Aerich looked an inquiry at the Dzurlord, who seemed disgusted, but nodded. The Lyorn stood between them, so they were each separated from him by five paces, and from each other by ten. He raised his hand.

"As your chosen Imperial intermediary, in accordance with the laws of the Empire, I ask if you will not be reconciled." His tone of voice indicated a certain lack of interest in the answer.

"No."

"No."

"Very well," he said, and lowered his hand in a motion that was at once graceful and sudden.

Both Hawk and Dzur seemed to be startled but the Dzur recovered first. With a yell, she sprang at her enemy, her blade visible only as a blur. The Hawklord barely had time to assume a defensive posture, and at once there was the ringing sound of steel on steel, which sent a thrill through Khaavren's heart.

The Hawk stepped back, and swung his blade wildly—and from so far away that Khaavren could see it was a useless gesture. The Dzur smiled contemptuously and stepped in, and, to Khaavren's inexperienced but expert eye, she moved with a grace and fluidity that would have made her a worthy opponent of his own sword-master.

With her next step, she beat aside the Hawklord's sword and, with the same motion, gave him a good cut across his right shoulder and down to his chest. The sound that came from his throat was more squeak than moan as he fell over backward, the point of her sword still lodged in his chest, breaking two ribs and nearly cutting open his lungs.

The Hawklord's weapons fell from his hands as he lay on the ground, staring upward in horror as the Dzur pulled her sword free and raised it for the killing stroke.

"Lady!" called Aerich, in a tone that was far sharper than Khaavren would have suspected possible from the quiet gentleman. It was used to good effect, too, as the Dzurlord stopped, looked at him, then sighed and nodded.

"Ah, yes," she said, with a hint of contempt in her voice. "First blood."

Then, turning her back on the fallen Hawklord, she walked back into the inn, stopping only to clean her blade and retrieve her doublet. The Hawk's second approached his principal and dropped to his knee, looking at the wound.

"A healer!" he cried.

The village healer, such as he was, was sent for, and Khaavren returned to the inn, following Aerich back to the same corner he had occupied earlier. They sat down next to the Dzur, who had already resumed her place with an air which indicated that the battle in which she had just been victorious was not even worth the trouble to discuss. Aerich picked up the three copper pieces they had been playing with, threw them into the air, looked at the result, and carelessly set out two silver orbs.

"With only two players?" asked the Dzur, who was gathering the Hawklord's winnings over to her side of the table. Khaavren studied her for the first time. Her hair and eyes were quite black, the hair hanging straight down to well below her shoulders without evidence of a curl. Her cheekbones were high, and she had the upward tilting eyes of the House of the Dzur. She was fully as tall as he, with a dark complexion. Her nose was long and straight, her chin strong. She wore a black doublet of finely woven linen, which came to just below her waist. The collar was high, but she had no ruff. The sleeves were nearly as puffed as Khaavren's own, with a bit of white lace at the cuff. The buttons on the doublet seemed to be of gold, and had inlay work that looked to be Serioli in style. Her belt of black leather was wide with brass buttons. He couldn't see her legs, but his memory told him that her hose were of silk, and finely knit. She wore gleaming black boots with cuffs just below the knee. Around her neck was a pendant on a silver chain, with the face of a dzur pictured on it.

Aerich shrugged and looked an inquiry at Khaavren. The latter felt himself blushing. "Lord Aerich," he said, "I do not play."

Aerich studied him, then wordlessly drew several coins from in front of him and set them in front of Khaavren.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Phoenix Guards by Steven Brust. Copyright © 1991 Steven Brust. 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.

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The Phoenix Guards (Khaavren Romances Series #1) 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In the Dragaeran Empire, the swordsman Khaavren tries to become a member of the Imperial Guard whose mission is to protect the new Phoenix Emperor. On his trek to the capital, he meets three other somewhat wary travelers (Aerich, Tazendra and Pel) also seeking positions with the Imperial Guard. The foursome becomes friends vowing to be there for one another.

They become Imperial Guards, but soon know their pledge to one another is critical if they are to achieve and survive their mission to protect the royals. They soon uncover seditious plots against the Emperor and the Empire and Khaavren, which require them to make bold intelligent decisions to stay alive and keep Dragaera and their royal charges safe.

This is a reprint of an early 1990s tale that obviously pays homage to Alexandre Dumas. The saga occurs about a millennium before the time that Vlad Taltos roamed Dragaera. The adventures of the four musketeers are fun to follow though none come across as more than courageous, loyal, but somewhat superficially charming rogues who lack depth. Still THE PHOENIX GUARDS is an engaging swashbuckling sword and sorcery fantasy.

Harriet Klausner
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you love Dumas, you won't find a funnier, more loving pastiche anywhere than The Phoenix Guards and Five Hundred Years After. And if you liked these two books, go ahead and read the Dumas Musketeer books. Brust's Vlad Taltos books are set in the same universe, but are so different in tone, I'm not at all sure that enjoying the Khaavren books means you will enjoy the Vlad books or vice versa.
Ishpeck on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
With a prose that emulates the charm of eighteenth century novels while still keeping itself READABLE, Phoenix Guards is one of the most charming books ever written by human hand. Read it or suffer.
Jinjifore on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In The Phoenix Guards, Steven Brust tackles a difficult job, and does it well. It's no easy feat to pay homage to a style of writing and storytelling that's long been abandoned, and do it so well that it becomes a style on its own. Add to that a cast of intriguing characters and a beautifully convoluted plot, and the result is a book that has been on my regular re-read list for many years.
blakeja on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I tried to get through this book, but failed, it was just terrible. Steven Brust tries to write the character dialog using some type of "old timey" talk and it just DOES NOT WORK. I use caps on purpose, it is that bad.
Anduril85 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found this to be an excellent read, it's very loosely based on the idea of the three musketeers, the text is a mixture of old style English so it's a little confusing at first but the book as a whole gives an old story idea a fresh twist and adds life like and engaging characters that you come to feel you know as if they were not just people from the pages of a book.
pauliharman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Enjoyable, but the conversation style quickly grew to irritate me. Staring a conversation meant reading half a page of back-and-forth that was slightly funny the first time, but not thereafter...
Karlstar on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In Three Musketeers style, and his own distinctive style, this is a book about a very complicated and dangerous time in the past of the Dragaeran empire, pre-Vlad. A lot of history from the Vlad series gets filled in here. At times, it goes a bit long as the characters explore parts of their personalities, but otherwise excellent.
egb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is Steven Brust's version of "The Three Musketeers", but instead of being set in France it is set in the same world as his Taltos series. It takes place in an era which at the time of the Taltos books is historical. At least for the short-lived humans. The style of the book is reminiscent of the Three Musketeers too, and it takes some getting used to. I doubt that anybody actually talked like that, but this was the way characters in books was whe that books was written and Brust does a good job of it. All in all a quite enjoyable book.
woakden on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The style is just lovely as long as I remember to take a deep breath, relax, and just let the words flow over me. At the same time as reading frantically to find out what happens next.
TadAD on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As with the Viscount of Adrilanka novels, the stories are fine but the narrator character's speech patterns are almost unbearable. This book and the sequel, Five Hundred Years After, are fairly amusing takes on The Three Musketeers.
vidroth on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Before anything else, I should point out that this is a writer's book. If you do not appreciate "words on the page" for themselves, and not just the story they tell, then you will find that "The Phoenix Guards" is slow, meandering, and possibly too boring to finish. I think Steven Brust understands that full well, and doesn't really mind; he has other books that are much more accessible.On the other hand, if you love classic prose, well-crafted writing that was done for its own sake, you might love this. I think it's brilliant, hilarious, and a little awe-inspiring in scope. And the story is superb; inspired by Dumas' "The Three Musketeers" but far better written.A familiarity with the world of Dragaera (from his other novels) is a very definite plus, but probably not crucial.I would look at this book before buying it. If you make it through the first 5 or 6 pages without getting impatient, you'll absolutely love it. If they feel like "work," just move on to one of the Vlad Taltos books, which move fast as lightning and are much more accessible.As for me, I loved it.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
i've come to love all of Brust's novels (except Brokendown Palace). I love the adventure, the first person approach, but i absolutely hate waiting for the next one in the series to come out. Fortunately they are always worth the wait. I love the non-sexist society.