Authors: Ian Irvine
Karan of Gothryme:
Her wild talents are born of a tragic, cursed heritage. They herald an unknown destiny—any give her an unexpected ability to stay alive…
Master Llian of the Zain:
A brilliant prodigy, his voice is his magic, his memory is his strength—but his ambition is his doom…
An austere orphan raised by the uncanny Faellem, her distant coldness masks terrible pain—and a more terrible power…
Relentless and ghastly, they exist only to serve—but have long forgotten who their master is…
Lord Yggur of Fiz Gorgo:
The conqueror/sorcerer may be a mad tyrant—or a hero cruelly wronged…
Magister Mendark of Thurkad:
Paternal and petulant, compassionate and cruel, avuncular and egomaniacal, the most powerful mancer has ruled wicked Thurkad for millennia—and plans to hold on forever…
“A great find! Irvine writes beautifully… refreshing, complicated, and compelling.”
—Kate Elliott, author of
WARNER BOOKS EDITION
Copyright © 1998 by Ian Irvine
Maps copyright © 1998 by Ian Irvine
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First eBook Edition: October 2009
To my legion of faithful readers,
companions on the long march,
who never faltered though having to
wait nine years for the ending.
But most especially to
Nancy and Eric
“A grain in the balance will determine which individual shall live and which shall die—which variety or species shall increase in number, and which shall decrease, or finally become extinct.”
Among the many people who have read drafts for me over the years and helped this novel to find its true home, I would particularly like to acknowledge the counsel and kindness of John Rummery, John Cohen, Van Ikin and Nancy Mortimer.
To all the warm-hearted people at Penguin Books, especially my publisher Erica Irving, thank you for your enthusiasm for the work and for providing the resources to make the series as good as it could possibly be. I would also like to thank Alex Skovron for meticulous proofreading, Barrie Frieden-Collins for cover-art concepts, Mark Sofilas for the wonderful covers, and Selwa Anthony, my agent.
To my editor Kay Ronai, it has been a privilege and a pleasure to work with you. Most of all, I would like to thank Anne Irvine
t was the final night of the Graduation Telling, when the masters and students of the College of the Histories at Chanthed told the Great Tales that were the very essence of human life on Santhenar. To Llian had fallen the honor and the peril of telling the greatest tale of all—the
Tale of the Forbidding
. The tale of Shuthdar, the genius who made the golden flute but could not bear to give it up; who had changed the Three Worlds forever.
The telling was perilous because Llian was from an outcast race, the Zain, a scholarly people whose curiosity had led them into a treacherous alliance in ancient times. Though their subsequent decimation and exile was long ago, the Zain were still thought ill of. No Zain had been honored with a Graduation Telling in five hundred years. No Zain had even been admitted to the college in a hundred years, save Llian, and that was a curious affair in itself.
So, his tale must best them all, students and masters too.
Succeed and he would graduate master chronicler, a rare honor. No one had worked harder or agonized more to make his tale. But even a perfect telling would bring him as many enemies as admirers. Llian could sense them, willing him to fail. Well, let them try. No one knew what he knew. No one had ever told the tale this way before.
Once there were three worlds, Aachan, Tallallame and San-thenar, each with its own human species: Aachim, Faellem and us, old human. Then, fleeing out of the void between the worlds came a fourth people, the Charon. They were just a handful, desperate, on the precipice of extinction. They found a weakness in the Aachim, took their world from them and forever changed the balance between the worlds
The Great Tales all began with that introduction, for it was the key to the Histories. Llian took a deep breath and began his tale.
In ancient times Shuthdar, a smith of genius, was summoned from Santhenar by Rulke, a mighty Charon prince of Aachan. And why had Rulke undertaken such a perilous working? He would move freely among the worlds, and perhaps the genius of Shuthdar could open the way. So Shuthdar labored and made that forbidden thing, an opening device, in the form of a golden flute. Its beauty and perfection surpassed even the dreams of its maker—the flute was more precious to him than anything he had ever made. He stole it, opened a gate and fled back to Santhenar. But Shuthdar made a fatal mistake. He broke open the Way between the Worlds…
The tale was familiar to everyone in the hall, but the crowd were silent and attentive. Llian did not relax for a moment. The story was hours long, and before it was done he
would need every iota of his teller’s
, that almost magical ability of great talesmiths to move their audience to any emotion they desired. It was an art that could not be taught, though the masters tried hard enough.