The Sea Thy Mistress

The Sea Thy Mistress

by Elizabeth Bear

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781429928304
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 02/01/2011
Series: The Edda of Burdens , #3
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 1,025,718
File size: 352 KB

About the Author

ELIZABETH BEAR is a two-time Hugo Award winning writer. She is the author of fourteen previous novels, including the first two books of The Edda of Burdens: All the Windwracked Stars and By the Mountain Bound. She lives in Connecticut.


Elizabeth Bear shares a birthday with Frodo and Bilbo Baggins. This, coupled with a tendency to read the dictionary as a child, doomed her early to penury, intransigence, friendlessness, and the writing of speculative fiction. She was born in Hartford, Connecticut, and grew up in central Connecticut with the exception of two years (which she was too young to remember very well) spent in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom, in the last house with electricity before the Canadian border.

She's a second-generation Swede, a third-generation Ukrainian, and a third-generation Transylvanian, with some Irish, English, Scots, Cherokee, and German thrown in for leavening. Elizabeth Bear is her real name, but not all of it. Her dogs outweigh her, and she is much beset by her cats.

Bear was the recipient of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2005. She has won two Hugo Awards for her short fiction, a Sturgeon Award, and the Locus Award for Best First Novel. She is the author of the acclaimed Eternal Sky series, the Edda of Burdens series, and coauthor (with Sarah Monette) of the Iskryne series. Bear lives in Brookfield, Massachusetts.

Read an Excerpt

The Sea Thy Mistress


By Elizabeth Bear

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2011 Elizabeth Bear
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-2830-4



CHAPTER 1

34 A.R. (After Rekindling) On the First Day of Spring


An old man with radiation scars surrounding the chromed half of his face limped down a salt-grass-covered dune. Metal armatures creaked under his clothing as he thumped across dry sand to wet, scuffing through the black and white line of the high-tide boundary, where the sharp albedo of cast-up teeth tangled in film-shiny ribbons of kelp. About his feet, small combers glittered in the light of a gibbous moon. Above, the sky was deepest indigo; the stars were breathtakingly bright.

The old man, whose name was Aethelred, fetched up against a large piece of sea wrack, perhaps the wooden keel of some long-ago ship, and made a little ceremony of seating himself. He relied heavily on his staff until his bad leg was settled, and then he sighed in relief and leaned back, stretching and spreading his robes around him.

He stared over the ocean in silence until the moon was halfway down the sky. Then he reached out his staff and tapped at the oscillating edge of the water as if rapping on a door.

He seemed to think about his words very hard. "What I came to say was, I was mad at you at the time, for Cahey's sake ... but I had some time to think about it after you changed, and he ... changed, you know. And I've got to say, I think now that was a real ... a real grown-up thing you did back there. A real grown-up thing.

"So. I know it isn't what you hold with, but we're building you a church. Not because you need it, but because other folks will."

A breaker slightly larger than the others curled up at his feet, tapping the toes of his boots like a playful kitten.

"I know," he said, "but somebody had to write it down. The generation after me, and the one after that ... You know, Muire. It was you wrote it down the last time."

He frowned at his hands, remembering reading her words, her own self-effacement from the history she'd created. He fell silent for a moment, alone with the waves that came and went and went and came and seemed to take no notice of him. "I guess you know about writing things down."

He sighed, resettled himself on his improvised driftwood bench. He took a big breath of clean salt air and let it out again with a whistle.

"See, there's kids who don't remember how it was before, how it was when the whole world was dying. People forget so quick. But it's not like the old knowledge is gone. The library is still there. The machines will still work. It's all just been misplaced for a time. And I thought, folks are scattering, and the right things would get forgotten and the wrong things might get remembered, and you know how it is. So I wanted folks to know what you did. I hope you can forgive me."

He listened, and heard no answer — or maybe he could have imagined one, but it was anyone's guess if it was a chuckle or just the rattle of water among stones.

"So I got with this moreau — they're not so bad, I guess: they helped keep order when things got weird after you ... got translated, and if they've got some odd habits, well, so do I. His name is Borje; he says you kissed him in a stairwell once — you remember that?"

The waves rolled up the shore: the tide neither rose nor fell.

"Anyway, he's not much of a conversationalist. But he cares a lot about taking care of people. After you ... left ... nobody really had any idea what they should be doing. With the Technomancer dead and the crops growing again, some people tried to take advantage. The moreaux handled that, but Borje and I, we thought we should write down about the Desolation, so people would remember for next time." He shrugged. "People being what people are, it probably won't make any difference. But there you go."

The moon was setting over the ocean.

When Aethelred spoke again, there was a softer tone in his voice. "And we wrote about you, because we thought people should know what you gave up for them. That it might make a difference in the way they thought, if they knew somebody cared that much about them. And that's why we're building a church, because folks need a place to go. Even though I know you wouldn't like it. Sorry about that part. It won't be anything fancy, though; I promise. More like a library or something."

He struggled to his feet, leaning heavily on the staff to do it. He stepped away, and the ocean seemed to take no notice, and then he stopped and looked back over his shoulder at the scalloped water.

A long silence followed. The waves hissed against the sand. The night was broken by a wailing cry.

The old man jerked upright. His head swiveled from side to side as he shuffled a few hurried steps. The sound came again, keen and thoughtless as the cry of a gull, and this time he managed to locate the source: a dark huddle cast up on the moonlit beach, not too far away. Something glittered in the sand beside it.

Leaning on his staff, he made haste toward it, stumping along at a good clip with his staff.

It was a tangle of seaweed. It was hard to tell in the darkness, but he thought the tangle was moving slightly.

He could move fast enough, despite the limp, but when he bent down he was painfully stiff, leveraging himself with his staff. The weight of his reconstructed body made him ponderous, and were he careless his touch could be anything but delicate. Ever-so-cautiously, he dug through the bundle with his other hand. His fingers fastened on something damp and cool and resilient.

It kicked.

Faster now, he shoved the seaweed aside. A moment, and he had it: wet skin, flailing limbs, lips stretched open in a cry of outrage. He slid his meaty hand under the tiny newborn infant, scooping it up still wrapped in its swaddling of kelp. After leaning the staff in the crook of his other elbow, he slipped a massive pinkie finger into its gaping mouth with an expertise that would have surprised no one who knew him. The ergonomics of the situation meant both his hands were engaged, which for the time being meant as well that both he and the infant were trapped where they stood on the sand.

"Well, this is a fine predicament, young man," Aethelred muttered.

At last, the slackening of suction on his finger told him the baby slept. Aethelred balanced the child on one hand, laid his staff down, and picked up the sheathed, brass-hilted sword that rested nearby in the sand.

"Heh," he said. "I recognize that." He shoved the blade through the tapestry rope that bound his waist.

With the help of his reclaimed staff, the old man straightened. Sand and seaweed clung to the hem of his robes.

The baby blinked at the old man with wide, wondering eyes, eyes that filled with light like the glints shot through the indigo ocean, the indigo night. The old man had a premonition that this child's eyes would not fade to any mundane color as he grew.

"Oh, Muire." Aethelred held the infant close to his chest, protectively. She'd been the least and the last remaining of her divine sisterhood, and she had sacrificed everything she was or could have become to buy his world a second chance at life. And now this: a child. Her child, it must be. Hers, and Cathoair's. "Takes you folks longer than us, I suppose."

He turned his face aside so that the tears would not fall on the baby. Salty, he thought, inanely. He shook his eyes dry and looked out at the sea.

"Did you have to give this up, too? Oh, Muire, I'm so sorry."

CHAPTER 2

Year Zero and After


Over three and a half decades, Cathoair had found his rhythm. In the beginning, after Muire sacrificed herself, he and the humanoid snow-leopard moreau Selene had tried to use ancient swords salvaged from the Technomancer's Tower to make more waelcyrge and einherjar. It hadn't worked, and though he and Selene were fond of each other, the association eventually wore thin.

After they parted company, he had mostly just walked. Walked and found things to do, at first in the lonely places and then, as the vanguard of human resettlement caught up with him, along the frontier. The resettlers found resources, long abandoned — the Desolation had been so complete as to leave sturdier structures standing as untouched by organic decay as if they had been preserved in a nitrogen environment — and found also the fruits of Muire's miracle, paid for with her life and independence.

Fire could not burn Cahey now, nor cold freeze him, nor the long night weary his bones — and so he fought fires and sat late on lambing watches, and carried out all the small possible tasks of making the world less hurtful to those he encountered.

Angels walked the world again, he said, though they were few in number. And you never knew where you might find one.

The lambs didn't surprise him — if Muire's self-immolation had brought them birds and trees and flowers, it only seemed natural that she, being Muire, would make certain the practicalities were handled. Nor did it surprise him that the humans he met behaved just as he expected humans to behave, from the very start. Some few impressed him with their common decency, their loyalty, their sense of purpose.

But the majority were no better than they should be, and Cathoair found that comforting. They were human, after all. Just people, and people were fragile.

He found he missed the permission to be fragile most of all.

He visited Freimarc with the first wave of immigrants, amazed by how different it was from Eiledon — a warm seaside town, its pastel adobe houses mostly empty under tile roofs — and helped to find a killer in a little farming village that grew up under the branches of an olive grove not far away. Selene came down to assist, and he found her presence comforting and disquieting in equal measure. She told him that she, Mingan and Aethelred were planning a shrine on the beach near Eiledon, but Cahey could not bring himself to participate. It was too much like forgiving Muire's choice, and though he would fight for her legacy, absolving her of abandoning him was more selflessness than he could manage.

And that was without even considering Mingan, Muire's brother, the ancient immortal who styled himself the Grey Wolf. And to whom Cathoair owed a debt of hatred that left his mouth sticky with fear and rage to so much as hear his enemy's name.

Cathoair had words with Selene over it, that she would even speak to Mingan. She simply gazed at him, impassive, luxuriant smoke and silver tail twitching at the tip, whiskers forward in a sort of mocking unspoken question, and shrugged and turned away. So he left her to the palm-stuck cobble streets of Freimarc on a balmy sun-soaked afternoon, and headed north again, walking over fields where the plows still turned up a new crop of bones after every winter.

Not to Eiledon, though. He hadn't returned to the city on the banks of the river Naglfar since he left Muire there for the last time, and that, too, was an oversight he had no intention of correcting. But there was a lot to do in the world, and he was well-suited to doing it.

CHAPTER 3

36 A.R. Autumn into Winter


Thirty-six years after Muire went into the sea, in one such fallow autumn field, Cahey found a girl who reminded him a little too much of who he'd been, once upon a time.

When they'd gotten tired of raping her, or maybe when she quit fighting enough to be interesting, they'd started in with the knives. They were still at it when Cahey — following a swanning, a kind of imposed intention he'd become familiar with since he became immortal — heard the screaming, and came from the road down an untended track at a run. He saw, through the dusk, the silhouettes, the moving shadows he could have seen as men and instead recognized only as the demons of his own memory.

Cathoair drew the sword Muire had given him, the blade he'd never drawn in anger. He slaughtered all five of them in about ten seconds, and only realized afterwards that he'd killed.

Against the purple dusk, three-hundred-year-old oaks with no business existing loomed in indigo silhouette. Alvitr burned in Cahey's hand, stark behind the strings of blood that flew from her when he snapped his wrist. He licked his lips, frowning at the blue-silver light that cast razor-real shadows behind the bodies at his feet. A shudder rattled him, clattered his teeth, heavy as his breathing.

With panicked concentration, he put the blade away.

His first murders in thirty-six years. He guessed he was out of practice.

Shaking, he went to the girl who lay on the wet earth beyond them, curled around a broken arm that could not by any imagining have been the worst pain in her body.

She was a redhead, although you almost couldn't tell under the blood and in the dark, and she had freckles and the stubbornest chin and nose he'd ever seen. She tried to fight him when he picked her up, and then passed out, which he figured was a blessing.

Well then, where to? he asked the knowledge in his head.

East, it swanned him. So east he went, and found there — hearth-cold, hours abandoned — a shaggy-turfed gray farmhouse with an unmilked goat bleating on her tether in the yard. A gray cat hissed in the dooryard and fled in the kitchen window when he approached.

Inside, he kindled a light, and a fire in the cold stove, and ladled water into a bucket from the barrel by the door to wash the blood from his damsel in distress and begin to assess her injuries.

Her eyes had been green. She still had one of them.

She wasn't dead, and she wasn't ready to die, either.


* * *

Three days later, she woke lucid and free of fever in her own homestead's bedroom, in a pretty wrought-iron bed she must have salvaged from Ailee. She was a patchwork of the neat black stitches with which Cathoair had sewn her up, her arms and face matching her own patchwork quilt, which Cahey had tucked her under.

She pushed herself up on her elbows, fell back against the pillows, and said, "Who the Hel are you?" Her voice cracked a little, coming out girlish and fragile as a thread.

He'd been watching her from a chair across the room. Even when she was delirious, she'd start to scream if he got too close, so he stayed away unless he was changing the dressings. Funny thing, that: Cahey didn't have any medical training, though he had some experience both with nursing the dying and with rough-and-ready fighter's first aid.

But Muire knew how to splint an arm and sew a wound, and after she gave him her soul-kiss, he knew how, too. She left a bit of herself inside him. Just as the Wolf had.

Except it wasn't the same thing at all.

"My name is Cathoair," he said, in his most placating tones. "Don't be scared: I rescued you."

She tried to sit up in the bed, and then she rolled to the side and puked all over the floor. Tried, anyway — she hadn't much in her but the broth he'd been feeding her, so what came up was frothy yellow bile.

He came over to hold her hair back, and she shied away so violently that he retreated across the room instead. She curled away from him, huddled under the blanket, and for a minute or two he wondered if he should withdraw. But if it had been him, he'd have wanted someone to stay there, even if he wasn't strong enough to face them yet.

After a little while, without poking her head out, she said, "Why?"

"I don't know why," he answered. "It's crazy shit, is what it is, and it isn't because of anything you did."

"No," she said. She sat up, the blankets still pulled to her chin. "Why didn't you let them kill me?" She touched the bandages over the socket of her right eye gingerly, wincing.

Cahey felt the sting behind his eyes, and had to keep his hands down when they wanted to creep up and press the ugly furrowed scar across his own cheek. She looked like she'd been pretty, not that it made any difference. Well, maybe it made things worse for her.

She said, "Why make me live like this?"

Cahey shook his head. "That's your choice to make, not mine. In the meantime, now that you're awake, I'll be in the other room if you want me." He stood and walked toward the door. "Just yell if you're hungry or need a lift to the toilet. I've played nurse before."

She didn't say a word. He had walked halfway out before he remembered and turned around.

"Hey, what's your name?"

She picked her head up off the pillow with a grimace of pain. "Aithne," she said. "Now leave me the Hel alone."


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Sea Thy Mistress by Elizabeth Bear. Copyright © 2011 Elizabeth Bear. 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.

Table of Contents

Contents

Cover,
Title Page,
Dedication,
Book One. Binding,
34 A.R. (After Rekindling) On the First Day of Spring,
Year Zero and After,
36 A.R. Autumn into Winter,
37 A.R. High Summer,
37 A.R. Spring,
37 A.R. High Summer,
37 A.R. Summer,
38 A.R. Spring Solstice,
38 A.R. Early Summer,
38 A.R. Summer,
38 A.R. Summer,
38 A.R. Summer,
38 A.R. Autumn,
42 A.R. Winter,
42 A.R. Midwinter,
44 A.R. Autumn,
48 A.R. Winter,
48 A.R. Winter,
49 A.R. Summer,
49 A.R. Early Autumn,
50 A.R. On the First Day of Spring,
50 A.R. On the Second Day of Spring,
Book Two. Branding,
50 A.R. On the Second Day of Spring,
50 A.R. Spring and Summer,
50 A.R. On the Fortieth Day of Spring,
50 A.R. On the Twentieth Day of Summer,
50 A.R. On the Twentieth Day of Summer,
50 A.R. On the Twenty-first Day of Summer,
50 A.R. On the Twenty-third Day of Summer,
50 A.R. On the Thirty-third Day of Summer,
50 A.R. On the Fortieth Day of Summer,
50 A.R. On the Sixtieth Day of Summer,
50 A.R. On the Seventh Day of Autumn,
50 A.R. On the Twentieth Day of Autumn,
50 A.R. On the Twenty-first Day of Autumn,
50 A.R. On the Twenty-second Day of Autumn,
50 A.R. On the Twenty-fifth Day of Autumn,
50 A.R. On the Twenty-fifth Day of Autumn,
50 A.R. On the Twenty-sixth Day of Autumn,
50 A.R. On the Twenty-seventh Day of Autumn,
Book Three. Breaking,
50 A.R. On the Twenty-seventh Day of Autumn,
50 A.R. On the Twenty-eighth Day of Autumn,
50 A.R. On the Twenty-eighth Day of Autumn,
50 A.R. On the Twenty-eighth Day of Autumn,
50 A.R. On the Twenty-ninth Day of Autumn,
50 A.R. On the Twenty-ninth Day of Autumn,
50 A.R. On the Twenty-ninth Day of Autumn,
50 A.R. On the Thirty-third Day of Autumn,
50 A.R. On the Thirty-third and the Thirty-fourth Days of Autumn,
50 A.R. On the Thirty-fourth Day of Autumn,
50 A.R. On the Thirty-fourth Day of Autumn,
50 A.R. On the Thirty-fourth Day of Autumn,
52 A.R. On the First Day of Winter,
Tor Books by Elizabeth Bear,
Copyright,

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The Sea Thy Mistress 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
cat8864 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
It's been 36 years since the Rekindling. The world is growing, the people thriving and the World-killer arrives. The goddess from the dead world that tricked the Children into destroying themselves, mortally wounded the new world then stepped forward in time two millenia to enjoy the apocalypse. Needless to say, she didn't get what she wanted. With the World-killers arrival, Mingan begins his path to gaining Vengeance for the souls slaughtered all those years ago. But he can't do it alone, nor does Heythe take her time in getting what she wants.The final installment of the Edda of Burdens is a treat all it's own. The book, like the previous two, has been written in a different style. It does a wonderful job of collecting and tieing up all the loose ends (even those barely noticeable) from the rest of the trilogy. The time-skips are a bit jarring if you aren't paying attention, but the overall transition is smooth between them and the occasional shift in perspective. And the incorporation of the Voluspo, in an edited format, is a wonderful touch.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
harstan More than 1 year ago
To save the world, Muire the Angel gave herself up by diving into the sea to become the Bearer of Burdens (see All the Windwracked Stars). However, not everyone she left behind rejoice with her ascension sacrifice. In Eiledon Cathoair the immortal warrior angel mourns his loss, which he sees everyday in their offspring Cathmar, who he raises as a single dad knowing the lad will never meet his mother. Even more raging is Heythe the Goddess, who had set in motion the end of the world before Muire interceded, but riding into the future she is shocked to find a renewed world rather than a dead orb. Knowing what Muire sacrifice has cost her, Heythe takes out her anger and frustration on tormented Cathoair who wallows in pity. She encourages the relatively new immortal to walk a personal path of destruction to force Muire to break her Bearer of Burdens oath and cause the final demise of Valdyrgard. On the other hand her other toy is the son but he displays maturity as he becomes an adult. Meanwhile Mingan the wolf observes the return of the evil enemy and plans to prevent Heythe's second chance at ending the world. This fantasy is fascinatingly more a character study as readers see deep into the souls of father and son and to a lesser degree other cast members. Elizabeth Bear enables her fans to feel Cathoair's torment; yet there is plenty of action as Heythe tries to force Muire to return to save her beloved mate and their son. Although Heythe is not quite as powerfully wicked as she was in All the Windwracked Stars, The Sea Thy Mistress is a super thriller as the audience wonders how the heroine of the first thriller will react to the latest threat. Harriet Klausner