Red Tide, the third volume in Marc Turner's The Chronicles of the Exile, following When the Heavens Fall and Dragon Hunters
The Augerans are coming. And their ships are sailing in on a red tide.
The Rubyholt Isles are a shattered nation of pirate-infested islands and treacherous waterways shielding the seaboards of Erin Elal and the Sabian League, a region even dragons fear to trespass.
The Augerans beseech the Warlord of the Isles, seeking passage for their invasion fleet through Rubyholt territory. But they are sailing into troubled waters. Their enemies have sent agents to sabotage the negotiations, and to destroy the Augeran fleet by any means necessary.
The emperor of Erin Elal seeks to forge an alliance with the Storm Lords, hoping to repulse the Augerans with a united front. But the battle lines for the struggle are not as clearly drawn as it first appears, for the Emira of the Storm Isles mistrusts the Erin Elalese as much as she does their common enemy. And the Augerans might just be planning a little sabotage of their own.
But nothing in the realm of mortals escapes the notice of their meddling gods; every step they take is shadowed, and every choice they make ensnared in a web so subtle and vast, its true shape may be fathomed only when it is far, far too late.
A new epic adventure in the fantastic world of When the Heavens Fall and Dragon Hunters!
About the Author
MARC TURNER was born in Toronto, Canada, but grew up in England. He graduated from Lincoln College, Oxford University, in 1996 with a BA (Hons) in Law, and subsequently worked at a top-ten law firm in London. After more than ten years in the legal profession he gave in to his lifelong writing addiction and is a full-time writer. His other novels are When the Heavens Fall and Dragon Hunters.
Read an Excerpt
By Marc Turner
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2016 Marc Turner
All rights reserved.
Standing on the quarterdeck of the Whitecap, Guardian Amerel Duquy watched the headland fall away to reveal the city she had come to condemn. Bezzle, capital of the Rubyholt Isles. Judging by the smoke above the place, someone must have beaten her to the punch, damn them. But then the wind veered so it was in her face, and the sudden stink made it clear the haze was caused not by fires, but by the brine boileries and fish-glue factories clustered round the harbor.
If you were going to condemn a city, Bezzle was a good one to choose. Since Amerel had last been here, the place had bloated like a carcass in the sun. To the north was the Old Town with its crumbling buildings of pale blue-veined stone that shimmered in the midmorning sun. While to the south and west were districts of shanties that looked like they might slump into the bay with the next breath of wind. No more permanent than a castle of sand, but when you'd been invaded as often as the Rubyholters had, you didn't build things to last. At the ring of a bell the whole population would board their ships and melt away into the maze of waterways all about — as they had so many times before.
Even at this distance, Amerel could make out scores of ships bobbing at quayside. Among them was a Thaxian brigatina with its black-and-white-banded hull, an Androsian corrick with its high-rounded stern, along with a host of other vessels the Guardian had no name for. No two craft were of the same construction, but pirates couldn't be particular when it came to sourcing their fleet. Oh, the Bezzlians would chafe at the name "pirates," but if there was a better word to describe them — to describe all Rubyholters — it wasn't the sort you would use in polite company. What else did you call a people with no culture, no trade links, no industry worth mentioning? A people whose very existence relied on the bounty they stole from the ships of Erin Elal, Corinia, Mellikia, and the Sabian League?
As the Whitecap entered a strip of water between two islets, its Rubyholt guide shouted, "Rift to starboard!" It was a cry Amerel had heard a dozen times during their passage through the Isles. As she now scanned the sea off the starboard bow, she saw a telltale shadow in the water that marked a gateway where this world overlapped with another. There were countless such gateways scattered across the Isles. Legend had it they were created in some apocalyptic clash between gods and titans in the Eternal War — a clash that had shattered a once hale continent into the tangle of islands and waterways that it now comprised, and burned holes through the fabric of the world to create portals to other lands. In the waters through which the Whitecap now sailed, there was evidence aplenty to support that tale. Amerel could make out flooded buildings of the same blue-veined stone as in Bezzle's Old Town, statues and obelisks draped in strands of fireweed, forests of columns reaching so close to the surface it seemed the Whitecap's keel must scrape them as it passed.
The submerged ruins throughout the Isles had sunk more ships than even the rocks along Erin Elal's Bone Coast. But the underwater gateways posed a still greater threat to passing vessels, because beyond those gateways were otherworldly creatures waiting to ambush the unwary. Some were even large enough to take down a ship the size of the Whitecap. Earlier the vessel had passed the entrance to a channel called the Dragon's Boneyard, and Amerel hadn't needed their Rubyholt guide's gleeful commentary to guess how the waterway had earned its name. Now, as the Whitecap approached the rent, the wave of water-magic carrying it subsided. Doubtless the captain had slowed the vessel to avoid drawing the eye of any creature lurking below. Amerel, by contrast, would have raised the wave of water-magic as high as it would go, and fled for the safety of the harbor.
The combination of underwater gateways and submerged ruins made the Isles a perilous place for foreign ships — as Erin Elal's emperor, Avallon Delamar, had discovered to his cost a few years ago. Incensed at the killing of one of his Circle in a hijacking on the Ribbon Sea, Avallon had sent twenty ships to the Isles to hunt down the pirates responsible. A week later, that force had limped back to Arkarbour, half its original size. Ten ships had been sunk or taken by the enemy, and what had the Erin Elalese accomplished to warrant such losses? Nothing, save to raze a dozen empty Rubyholt towns. Before, Avallon had promised to teach the pirates a lesson, and they'd learned it well enough. The number of raids on Erin Elalese ships had doubled thereafter. And while there had been fewer raids of late, the Rubyholt Isles remained an embarrassing blot off the empire's eastern seaboard.
Now, though, that stood to change. Now the Isles held — perhaps — the promise of Erin Elal's salvation, for in extending from the Rent in the north to the Hook in the south, they shielded the whole of Erin Elal's eastern seaboard from attack. And an attack was surely coming now that news had filtered through of the Augerans' appearance on Dragon Day eleven days ago. Even as the great and the good of the Sabian League were being feasted on by dragons, a stone-skin emissary was presenting himself to Warlord Dresk Galair of the Isles and his son Galantas, requesting an audience for a delegation to follow. That delegation was expected in Bezzle at noon tomorrow. Amerel could well guess the reason for its coming. A pact between the Augerans and the Rubyholters.
The significance of such a pact could not be overstated. True, the Rubyholters were too divided to pose a threat to Erin Elal themselves. But if they allied with the Augerans, the stone-skins would get guides to lead them through the Isles, maybe even staging posts from which to attack the empire. An invasion could be days away, and it was an invasion for which Erin Elal was not ready. How did you prepare for an enemy as strong as the Augerans when you were given only weeks to plan?
That point had been made to Amerel with mind-numbing frequency during a meeting with Tyrin Lindin Tar three days ago. With Erin Elal a virtual island, there was no way to prevent the stone-skins from landing. But where they made that landing was critical. The empire's eastern seaboard was the most vulnerable, because the major cities were located there, along with the Bone Road that connected them. The fate of those cities now lay in Amerel's hands. If she could turn the Rubyholters against the Augerans, the stone-skins would be faced with an unenviable choice: try to pass through the Isles without the Rubyholters' agreement, and face the same resistance the emperor's fleet had met all those years ago; or sail south round the Hook to attack Erin Elal from the west, and in doing so risk a clash with both the Kalanese and the pirate lords of Taradh Fold. Either option would cost them dear in ships and time. And it was time that Erin Elal most needed if it was to arrange a suitable welcome for their invaders.
Amerel swung her gaze back to Bezzle. Just one more day until the Augerans docked here, and the future of Erin Elal was decided. One day for her to set the Rubyholters against the stone-skins — a people they had no argument with, and whom they had never even encountered before.
No pressure, then.
The sun reflected bright off the waves, and Amerel squinted against the glare. Her eyes were scratchy from lack of sleep. Over the last few days, her dreams of blood had grown stronger as the threat of conflict loomed. In Arkarbour she'd taken cinderflower in an effort to shelter her niece Lyssa from the effects of those dreams. But while the drug delivered oblivion during the deepest part of the night, by dawn the visions would return. Now they pressed on her thoughts even through her waking hours ...
A footfall sounded behind, and she looked back to see the Breaker Noon approaching. She'd done her best to avoid him during the two-day crossing from Erin Elal, but there were only so many places you could hide on a ship. The man was tall and lean, and had a curl to his mouth that suggested he found cause for amusement in everything he looked at.
"Ugly bastard, isn't he?" he said, pointing to his left.
Amerel glanced in the direction indicated, and saw carved into a nearby cliff a huge representation of Warlord Dresk Galair. She'd seen many such carvings during the Whitecap's passage through the Isles. Most had been not of people, but of dragons or denkrakils or other monsters of the deep. It was a brave man who committed his likeness to stone when his dignity could so easily be stolen by an enterprising vandal. And such had apparently been Dresk's fate here, for one of his front teeth had been chipped away, and his eyes had been skillfully reworked to appear crossed.
Amerel said, "I think you'll find that image is quite flattering."
"You've met him, Princess?"
Princess? Did he know something she didn't? "No. But I saw him from a distance when I was last here — as I believe I mentioned in my briefing."
"There was a briefing?"
"Yes, there was. If you'd bothered to read it, you would know that a few years back our spy in Dresk's court managed to draw Galantas's suspicions. I was sent here by the Guardian Council to help."
Noon blew into his hands as if the sun had left him cold. "Help how?"
"By convincing Galantas that his misgivings were unfounded. Even at that time, Dresk and his son had their hands round each other's throats. I was able to ... persuade Galantas — thanks to my Will — that his distrust was due solely to his dislike for his father's followers."
"As easy as that?"
"I never said it was easy. In truth, Galantas proved surprisingly strong-willed. But then he was only sixteen at the time."
"Age matters, does it?"
"Naturally. The young see things in such simple terms. They have none of the doubts that plague their elders. And doubts are what I feed on." Amerel leaned against the rail. "Using the Will to change someone's mind is like trying to change the path of an arrow in flight. Nudging it a fraction off course takes little effort. Turning it to face the other way is another matter entirely."
"But it can be done?"
"Given time, yes." The Will could be used as much to compel as it could to persuade. The problem was, people tended to notice when the mind of someone close to them was snuffed out like a candle flame.
Noon frowned. "It may yet come to that with Dresk. If he's meeting the stone-skins tomorrow, that doesn't give you much time to put him on a leash."
And that was assuming he granted Amerel an audience at all. The warlord had no idea she was on her way to Bezzle now. And she wouldn't be convincing him of anything from the wrong side of his fortress's walls.
The Whitecap had glided past the underwater gateway, and the wave of water-magic beneath the ship abruptly swelled again, lifting the ship into the air with a swiftness that made Amerel's stomach flip. Her gaze tracked the rent until it disappeared from view off the starboard quarter.
Noon studied her. "Aren't you worried the Rubyholters might recognize you, Princess? Your face isn't easily forgotten."
"I'll take that as a compliment."
It hadn't been meant that way, of course. Seven years ago she'd been in Arap, working to bring the city into the Confederacy, when an assassin in the pay of the sacristens had slipped nightspur into her wine. She'd been lucky to live. A month she had spent unconscious, another two in bed trying to coax her limbs to move. And even when she was back on her feet, the poison had left its mark, turning her hair as pale and fine as spider silk, and blackening the tiny blood vessels in her eyes so that the orbs appeared shattered. But that had all happened after her last visit to the Isles. There was little chance that anyone in Dresk's court would recognize her now.
Noon rubbed his hands together. "I must admit, I'm looking forward to seeing you lock horns with Dresk. As I heard it, the last Erin Elalese he met he left hanging upside down over a fire. This time tomorrow, that could be you."
Amerel didn't credit that with a response.
"Lot of bad blood between us and the Rubyholters," Noon went on. "Too much to be made right in twenty-four bells."
"I don't have to become Dresk's best friend. I just have to make sure he doesn't ally with the Augerans."
"If you say so. After what happened on Dragon Day, though, it wouldn't surprise me if he breaks out the bunting for the stone-skins. They sabotaged Dragon Day, right? Dresk has been trying to do that for years."
"A fact that Galantas will be quick to remind him of."
"Meaning even as I use my Will to steer Dresk to our cause, I will be using it to steer Galantas away from it. Persuade Galantas to speak in favor of the Augerans, and my task is halfway done. With luck, the chance for Dresk to spite his son will be reason enough for him to send the stone-skins packing."
Noon's expression was thoughtful. "What did you make of him? Galantas, I mean. The way our spy tells it, we're lucky Dresk is warlord and not his son."
"He tells it right." Even nine years ago there had been a steel to the youth that had left Amerel relishing their clash of wills. The latest reports from Bezzle suggested he'd lost none of his self-assurance in that time. Ambitious and charismatic, he was said to possess the ability to unite the Isles' fractured clans in a way his father never had. "Makes you wonder why the emperor has let him live this long," Amerel said with a pointed look at Noon.
"Is that why you think Avallon chose me to come with you? So I can put Galantas in the ground while you're charming his father?"
The thought had crossed her mind. "I've read your file," she said. "Lots of gaps in it." They'd been the most interesting parts by a distance. "Gaps that suggest you've been doing a few things your superiors don't want anyone knowing about."
The Breaker's expression gave nothing away. "I've read your file, too —"
"I didn't realize I had one."
"And I saw a few gaps in there as well. Like the time you disappeared in Kal for five months on a job that should've taken as many days. Five months on the run from the Kalanese, and you show up without even a scratch on you."
"I accounted for all my time in my report to the Guardian Council." A heartwarming tale of heroism and sacrifice, it had been — a tale Amerel had spent weeks dreaming up. She was thinking of reworking it for the stage.
"There were rumors that you'd gone over to the Kalanese. That you'd betrayed the empire."
And none as bad as the truth. "Yet here I am."
"Here you are," Noon agreed. "Betrayal's not something new to you, though, is it, Princess? I'm curious, why did you betray the Guardians and come over to the emperor's side?"
Amerel rolled her eyes. "Betrayal" was such an emotive word. And so ripe with hypocrisy. The First Guardian had flung it at her when she'd dropped by to tell him she was leaving the order. Like he thought it would make her feel guilty. Like he thought she owed him for all the murder and the blackmail she'd carried out in the Guardian Council's name. And perhaps he did think that, for along with the anger in his look, there had been a hint of hurt and indignation. It was for just such a look that she had gone to break the news to him in person, rather than slipping out the back door as Borkoth had done. In response to Noon's question, she said, "Maybe the emperor made me an offer I couldn't refuse."
"Yeah, that sounds about right. That's the problem with you people born with a silver spoon in your mouth: all you can think of is that it should have been gold."
"What makes you believe it was money that swayed me? Maybe I just didn't fancy being the next Guardian sent through the Merigan portals."
"Maybe," Noon said. "Still, can't have been easy walking out on the Guardians like you did. Big fish like you. Leading light on the Guardian Council. Architect of the Confederacy."
"Please, you're making me blush."
"Makes you wonder, though. If you can walk out on your friends like that, how quickly might you walk out on the emperor when the squeeze is on?"
Amerel sighed. There was no pleasing some people. If she'd remained a Guardian, Noon would have called her a traitor for opposing Avallon's will. Yet now that she'd joined the emperor, he was condemning her for doing so?
Excerpted from Red Tide by Marc Turner. Copyright © 2016 Marc Turner. 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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Table of Contents
PART I Blood from Stone,
PART II City of Snakes,
PART III Deep Waters,
PART IV Red Tide,
Books by Marc Turner,
About the Author,