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The Shining City

Kate Forsyth

  Kate Forsyth lives in Sydney with her husband Greg, their three children Benjamin, Timothy and Eleanor, a little black cat called Shadow and thousands of books. She has wanted to be a writer for as long as she can remember and has certainly been writing stories from the time she learnt to hold a pen. Being allowed to read, write and daydream as much as she likes and call it working is the most wonderful life imaginable and so she thanks you all for making it possible.

  You can read more about Kate at her website at or send a message to her at [email protected]




  The Pool of Two Moons

  The Cursed Towers

  The Forbidden Land

  The Skull of the World

  The Fathomless Caves


  The Tower of Ravens

  Full Fathom Five (writing as Kate Humphrey)

  The Starthorn Tree

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted by any person or entity, including internet search engines or retailers, in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including printing, photocopying (except under the statutory exceptions provisions of the Australian Copyright Act 1968), recording, scanning or by any information storage and retrieval system without the prior written permission of Random House Australia. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author’s and publisher’s rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.


  Book Two of Rhiannon’s Ride

  ePub ISBN 9781742742182

  Random House Australia Pty Ltd

  Level 3, 100 Pacific Highway, North Sydney, NSW 2060

  Sydney New York Toronto

  London Auckland Johannesburg

  First published by Random House Australia 2005

  Copyright © Kate Forsyth 2005

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

  National Library of Australia

  Cataloguing-in-Publication Entry

  Forsyth, Kate, 1966– .

  The shining city.

  ISBN 1 74051 185 9.

  (Series: Forsyth, Kate, 1966–

  Rhiannon’s ride; bk. 2).


  Cover illustration by Neal Armstrong

  Cover design by Darian Causby/Highway 51

  To my three beautiful children,

  Benjamin, Timothy and Eleanor


  About the Author

  Also by Kate Forsyth

  Title Page


  Imprint Page


  Map: Eileanan & The Far Islands

  Map: Rionnagan and Southern Eileanan


  Dark Wings



  The Prisoner

  Under the Portcullis

  The Lord of Fettercairn’s Skeelie

  Murderers’ Gallery

  Liberty of the Tower


  The Ghost

  On the Garth

  The Nisse and Nixie

  The Keybearer

  The Bluebird


  Walking the Dream-Road


  Squiring Lessons


  Bronwen’s Boudoir


  Dabbling in the Dew

  A Sweet Nosegay

  The Lovelock

  The High Table

  The Interrogation

  The Rowan Charm


  Gaol Fever

  Rat Hunting

  The Cat and the Fiddler

  The Court of Star Chamber

  The Accused

  White Mantles


  The Book of Shadows

  Singing the Summerbourne

  Storm Rising

  Wedding Bells

  One by One



  The Summons

  Winged Shadow

  Whoever Holds the Lodestar

  A Wilted Crown

  Bird in the Hand

  A Body without a Heart


  The Golden Fan

  The Courtiers of the Court

  Black into Black


  Rhiannon’s Ride Series

  The Witches of Eileanan Series

  ‘In thoughts from the vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth on men, fear came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones to shake.’


  chapter 4, verses 13–14

  Olwynne sat up in her bed, choking back a scream. For a moment her nightmare beat around her head with dark, suffocating wings. Then the dream dissolved away, leaving her with little more than an impression of overwhelming grief and horror.

  The air was cold on her damp skin, and she pulled her eiderdown up around her, grasping reluctantly at the tattered remains of the nightmare. Her aunt Isabeau said she should pay attention to her dreams, for they were often messages sent to warn or illuminate. All Olwynne could remember, though, was her father falling away from her into some deep pit, his black wings bent over his face, and then hundreds of ravens, an unkindness of ravens, plummeting from the sky to peck out her eyes.

  She shuddered and curled her knees to her chest. The wind was keening round her windows, rattling the old leaded glass in its frame, and sighing through the trees outside. It sounded like banshees wailing. Olwynne told herself it was only the wind, but still all the hairs on her body stood erect and quivering, and her pulse rate accelerated. Such a feeling of morbid foreboding came over her that she almost cried out again, but she bit her lip and wrapped her arms about her knees, her face pressed into her pillow. Still the strange, high wailing went on. As it grew louder, Olwynne realised that it was not the wind making that unearthly keening cry but something else. Something living.

  Shivering uncontrollably, Olwynne crept out of bed and went to stand by her window, pulling the curtain back a crack so she could peer out. It was a clear, starry night, with both the moons at the full. The sky was full of flying things, a whirling hurricane of bat-winged creatures that seemed to beat against the bright coins of the moons like moths against the glass of a lantern. Tall as the tallest of men, their limbs were like twigs and their tempestuous hair flowed and swirled like wind made visible. As they hurled themselves through the night sky, they screamed and sobbed, tearing at their wild manes of hair, beating themselves on their heads and breasts.

  Olwynne stood transfixed. She had seen the nyx fly before, on nights when the moons were full, but never before had she seen so many, and never had she heard them sing. It was a lament of such wild grief that Olwynne felt tears start to her own eyes, and her breath catch in her throat. Though she did not know why the nyx sorrowed, Olwynne slowly slid down to the floor and wept with them.

  By the time the night had drained away, the grey walls and flying buttresses of the Tower of Two Moons rising from the darkness, the nyx had all gone. Olwynne released her clutch on the curtains and stood up stiffly. She was very cold. She dressed herself in the long black gown of an apprentice-witch, then splashed her face vigorously with water. She combed back her sleep-tossed hair into its usual long, severe plait and wrap
ped her plaid tightly about her body. Still she felt cold and stiff and weary, but she had been taught to ignore the demands of her body. She opened the door to her little cell of a room, and stepped out onto the balcony that ran the length of the building. Everything was deathly quiet. It was too early for the bell to have sounded to wake up the students. Only the occasional bird called out.

  Olwynne went swiftly along the balcony and through a doorway into the Theurgia. She negotiated a number of stairs and corridors, coming at last to the northernmost tower, the building assigned to the Circle of Sorcerers. A magnificent spiral staircase wound up the centre of the tower, its stonework carved with the crescent shape of two moons and a single star, set amidst intricate knot-work. Olwynne climbed the staircase all the way to the top floor, her feet settling into deep hollows worn in the centre of each step. Her aunt Isabeau had her rooms up here, far away from the noise and bustle of the Theurgia.

  Olwynne stood for a while outside her aunt’s door, listening. Although she was sure Isabeau would be awake, she hesitated to interrupt her. It was very early. Just as she raised her hand to knock, the door opened and Isabeau stood in the doorway, smiling at her.

  ‘Morning, Olwynne,’ she said. ‘Come in. The kettle is just boiling. Would ye like some tea?’

  Olwynne nodded and came in shyly. She looked about her with pleasure as Isabeau went and swung the steaming kettle off the fire. She loved the Keybearer’s room. Shaped like a crescent moon, it took up half the top floor of the tower. There was a fireplace at either end, one to warm the bed with its soft white counterpane and pillows, the other warming Isabeau’s desk and chair where she worked. Comfortable chairs with deep blue cushions were drawn up before either fire. A spinning wheel was set up near one, with a little loom pushed up against the wall. A tapestry was half-woven upon it. Olwynne could see the pointed towers of Rhyssmadill overlooking a stormy sea, and wondered what Isabeau was weaving. Olwynne knew her aunt loved to spin and weave the old tales and songs, but had little time for it with all her other duties as Keybearer of the Coven.

  At the other end of the room, where Isabeau was busy making the peppermint tea, her desk was piled with papers and books. An old globe, so stained with age the lands upon it could hardly be seen, stood upon a wooden stand nearby. A crystal ball glowed softly to one side, set upon clawed feet. More books filled the bookshelves that rose from floor to ceiling all round the curve of the room. Set at regular intervals between the bookshelves were tall windows that looked out across the gardens to the golden domes of the palace, gleaming softly through the morning mist.

  The Keybearer was dressed in her long white gown trimmed with silver, and her hair was neatly combed and bound away from her face. Once Isabeau’s hair would have been the same fiery red as Olwynne’s, but its colour had faded to a soft strawberry blonde, with grey at the temples. Her eyes were as vivid a blue as ever, however, and her figure was slim and upright.

  Isabeau poured the tea into two delicate bone-china cups and beckoned to Olwynne to sit by the fire. Olwynne obeyed with alacrity, for she was still cold and shaken. She held the cup between both her hands and sipped the hot liquid, feeling some of her tension drain away.

  ‘Ye heard the nyx fly?’ Isabeau said tranquilly.

  Olwynne nodded.

  ‘Aye, it was uncanny, was it no’? I have never heard such a lament. It made all my skin come up in goose-bumps.’

  ‘Me too,’ Olwynne said eagerly. ‘Aunty Beau … what was wrong? Why did they sing like that?’

  ‘Ceit Anna is dead,’ Isabeau said after a moment, her face shadowing.

  Olwynne lowered her cup. Although she knew of the oldest and most powerful of the nyx, who had lived in a cave deep under the sewers of the palace, she herself had never seen the ancient faery. Stories were always told of her, though. Ceit Anna had woven the cloak of illusions that had kept Olwynne’s father, Lachlan the Winged, hidden in the shape of a hunchback for so many years. She had woven the cloak from her own hair, as she had woven a pair of gloves to conceal the magical hands of Tòmas the Healer, and as she had woven the choker that kept Maya the Ensorcellor mute and powerless. Ceit Anna appeared in many of the MacCuinn clan’s stories, and Olwynne knew she would be greatly missed.

  ‘The nyx live very long lives,’ Isabeau said. ‘I certainly have never heard the death flight afore, and I ken none who have. I was just reading about it in The Book o’ Shadows.’ She indicated the old and enormously thick book that lay open on her desk nearby. ‘The last time one was recorded was during the time o’ Feargus the Terrible, when Aldus the Dreamy was Keybearer. O’ course, we ken many nyx died during the Burning, but if the death flight was flown, there was certainly no-one around to record it.’

  Olwynne was silent.

  Isabeau looked at her intently then bent forward to lay her right hand on Olwynne’s knee. The other hand, her crippled one, was kept tucked in her lap. ‘What is troubling ye so much, my dear? Is it just the funeral song o’ the nyx or is there more?’

  Olwynne shrugged and looked away, embarrassed her aunt could read her so clearly.

  ‘Are ye still having those nightmares?’ Isabeau asked.

  Olwynne nodded, fiddling with her cup. ‘Last night I was attacked by a flock o’ ravens, hundreds o’ them, beating all round my head and trying to peck out my eyes.’

  ‘Ravens,’ Isabeau repeated, her brows drawing together.

  Olwynne nodded. ‘I thought at first, when I saw the nyx flying last night, that it was their wings I had dreamt, all those black wings against the moon. And it seemed I had dreamt that too, only … it is so hard to remember. For there are other wings in my dreams. My father’s wings. And Donncan’s too, turning all black like Dai-dein’s. A dark shadow falling on him, like the shadow o’ wings … or happen a black cloak … or a shroud. Sometimes I’m being suffocated by feathers. Or maybe I’m buried alive, in a tomb. Or Donncan is, I canna always tell. It doesna make sense. And I wake with this horrible sense o’ foreboding, like something awful is going to happen, and happen soon …’ Her voice trailed away.

  ‘Can ye remember anything else?’

  ‘Dai-dein falling into a dark pit … just falling … though sometimes it is me falling … or Bronwen. I dream o’ Bronwen too.’ Olwynne’s voice quickened. ‘I dreamt o’ her diving off a high cliff and falling too, falling hundreds o’ feet. And she was crying, I’m sure o’ it. A waterfall o’ tears. And I dream o’ her and Donncan drowning in a great pool o’ blackness, like ink spreading in water.’

  Isabeau’s frown deepened. ‘I have dreamt o’ ravens also,’ she said at last. ‘Though I ken o’ disturbing news from Ravenshaw, which could well have fed into my dreams, while ye have no’. I think your dreams may be prophetic, though I fear what they foretell.’

  ‘What news from Ravenshaw?’ Olwynne asked. Her voice rose. ‘News o’ Lewen? Is all well?’

  Isabeau smoothed the snowy folds of her gown over her knee. ‘Lewen is well. He is on his way back to Lucescere. I expect him any day now.’

  ‘But he is connected to your dreams o’ ravens somehow, is he no’?’ Olwynne demanded. ‘What is wrong?’

  Isabeau smiled ruefully. ‘Ye have guessed it. Lewen is very much involved in these happenings in Ravenshaw, and he has been much on my mind as a consequence. I may as well tell ye, the tattlemongers will have the news soon enough anyway.’

  ‘Tell me what?’

  ‘Lewen was to travel back to Lucescere with Nina and her caravan, as ye ken. On their journey they somehow stumbled on a plot to raise the ghost o’ the dead laird o’ Fettercairn, which you may remember is the castle that guards the way to the Tower o’ Ravens. Some necromancers were using the Heart o’ Stars at the tower to open a gate between this world and the world o’ spirits, and it seems they have raised a stronger spirit than they meant to. Nina scryed to me a few days ago, to tell me when they would be arriving, but although she was able to tell me most of the story, I am naturally eager to question Lewen and
this lass who actually saw the necromancers …’


  Isabeau glanced at Olwynne. ‘Aye, some lass from the Broken Ring o’ Dubhslain. She is named Rhiannon, I believe, and she rides a black winged horse.’

  ‘More black wings,’ Olwynne said hollowly. ‘Is it her coming that I foretell?’ She pressed the heels of her hands into her eyes.

  ‘I do no’ ken,’ Isabeau said, sounding troubled. ‘Olwynne, how long have these nightmares been haunting ye?’

  She shrugged irritably. ‘I dinna ken. It feels like forever.’

  ‘Ye first spoke to me about a dark dream on the night o’ the spring equinox. Was that the first such dream?’

  Olwynne moved jerkily. ‘I dinna remember. Happen so.’

  ‘Your floor mistress tells me ye have woken several times screaming in your sleep since then. How often do the dreams come, Olwynne?’

  ‘Every night,’ Olwynne answered wearily. ‘I have tried no’ to sleep, but I’m always too tired and fall asleep anyway. I’ve tried taking powdered valerian roots and drinking chamomile tea to help me sleep more deeply, but it doesna work. It just makes things worse, for I canna wake myself when the dream gets too bad, and when I finally do wake, I’m groggy and sick.’