Righteous FuryMarkus Heitz
Jo Fletcher Books
An imprint of Quercus
New York • London
© 2014 by Markus Heitz
Map illustration © 2009 by Markus Weber
English translation © 2014 by Sheelagh Alabaster
Originally published in Germany in 2009 by Piper Verlag GmbH
First published in the United States by Quercus in 2015
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Cover design and illustration © Alejandro Colucci
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, institutions, places, and events are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons—living or dead—events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Dedicated to all who have a place in their hearts for life’s scoundrels—as long as those scoundrels possess that certain something.
Nagsar and Nagsor Inàste, the Inextinguishables
Sinthoras, älf warrior, of the Comets faction
Demenion, politician (Comets)
Khlotòn, politician (Comets)
Rashànras, politician (Comets)
Yantarai, artist (f)
Timanris, artist (f)
Robonor, warrior and companion of Timanris
Timansor, artist father of Timanris
Hirai, his wife
Jiphulor, politician (neutral)
Caphalor, älf warrior (Constellations faction)
Enoïla, Caphalor’s companion
Tarlesa, their daughter
Olíron, their son
Aïsolon, friend to Caphalor (Constellations)
Raleeha, female slave to the Älfar
Kaila, female overseer of Sinthoras’ slaves
Wirian, female slave to Sinthoras
Grumson, slave to Caphalor
Longin, slave to Mórcass
Kuschnar, slave to Mórcass
Hasban Strength-of-Seven, prince of the Sons of the Winds (barbarian tribe)
Farron Lotor, prince of the Ishmanti barbarians
Armon, prince of the Herumite barbarians
Vittran, superintendant of the barbarian vassals
Munumon, king of the fflecx
Jufula, one of his favorites
Sardaî, thoroughbred night-mare
Linschibog, a fflecx
Gålran Zhadar, dwarf-like being with a talent for magic
Dafirmas, elf henchman to Gålran Zhadar
Rambarz, demi-troll henchman to Gålran Zhadar
Karjuna, an obboona female
Uoilik, prince of the jeembinas
Tarrlagg, overseer of the vassal óarcos
Gattalind, female strategist of the giants
fflecx: also known as alchemancers and poison-mixers. A black-skinned gnomoid people.
gålran zhadar: dwarf-like beings with a talent for magic
obboonas: a humanoid people also known as flesh-stealers
Tandruus: a tribe of barbarians
botoicans: a race with latent magic qualities, living in the west of Ishím Voróo
baro: an extremely rare wild predator
kimarbock: a male deer
wuzack: an artificial being created by the fflecx
jeembinas: a hybrid people, half-crab, half-human
Gramal Dunai: an eradicated tribe of barbarians
phaiu su: blood-sucking webs
cnutar: tripartite symbiotic creatures, able to merge or separate at will
Nostàroi: high-ranking älfar general
Herumites, Jomonicans, Ishmantis, Fatarcans: barbarian peoples
gardant: commander of a troop of guards
Phondrasôn: a subterranean place of banishment
Tark Draan: Refuge of the Scum (=Girdlegard)
schronz: (an insult) idiot, cretin
They are said as a people to show more cruelty than any other.
They are said to hate elves, humans, dwarves, and every other creature so much that the blood runs black in their veins and darkens their eyes in the light of the sun.
They are said to dedicate their lives exclusively to death and to art.
They are said to use black magic.
They are said to be immortal . . .
Much has been said about the Älfar.
Read now these tales and decide what is said true and what is not.
These are stories of unspeakable horror, unimaginable battles, gross treachery, glorious triumphs, and crushing defeats.
But they are also tales of courage, integrity, and valor.
And of love.
These are the Legends of the Älfar
preface to the forbidden books which transfigure the truth,
The Legends of the Älfar,
Nagsar and Nagsor Inàste, the Inextinguishable Siblings, were looking for a home for themselves and their chosen companions.
They wandered hither and yon, surrounded by savage things, ugliness, and hideous creatures thrown in their path by the gods Shmoolbin, Fadhasi and Woltonn, in an attempt to destroy them. They named the place Ishím Voróo—Ubiquitous Horrendousness.
Epocrypha of the Creating Spirit,
Chapter 1, 1–7
Ishím Voróo (The Outer Lands), älfar realm Dsôn Faïmon, Radial Arm Avaris,
4370th division of unendingness (5198th solar cycle),
Sinthoras was throbbing with anticipation, intoxicated by the thought of a new creative work. Everything told him to grasp hold of the brush, dip it into the paint and let his hand follow his imagination.
But it was too soon.
He stepped away from the easel to study the effect of the somber background wash. It covered the fine canvas perfectly and was now ready for a unique work of art.
ured himself a glass of red and took a sip before placing it aside. Much as he usually enjoyed wine when painting, today it did not feel right. He was too animated.
“Excellent,” he breathed, his eyes shining, his hands clasped tight to prevent himself from picking up the brush.
The repetitive sound of the vents filtering the air echoed through the high-ceilinged sunlit room. The substantial blue-tinted windows had hinged vents to provide fresh air. Shelves covered the walls to a height of five paces, with glass jars in varying sizes holding the liquid and solid ingredients, pigments, colors, and other mixtures he needed for his work. All were costly, and some were so rare they were nearly priceless. The topmost jars could be accessed only from a long ladder on rollers.
Head held high, Sinthoras circled the easel, impatient to start. His dark red robe with black and white embroidery flowed behind him like the surface of a lake. Here and there were paint stains, some old, some new—evidence of his creativity.
To keep his long blond hair clear of the palette and canvas he wore it tied back in a braid. This emphasized his slim features; the pointed ears showed that his beauty was not of a human kind.
Sinthoras walked over to the window and opened it wide. As the evening sunlight fell on the easel and on himself, his eyes immediately turned black and became two dark orbs. He took deep breaths.
Samusin is favoring me, he thought, as he felt the invigorating east wind against his skin. The strong breeze carried the smell of fresh blossom; a few white petals fluttered into the room, settling on the dark stone floor.
There was a knock at the door and it opened. “The god of the winds is with you,” he heard an älfar voice say. “He has sent his lively east wind to inspire you.”
Sinthoras turned and bowed to the red-haired älf standing at the threshold in a brownish-black cloak. “Thank you for coming to support my artistry with your own, Helòhfor. With your help it will be an extraordinary work.”
Helòhfor stepped into the room, followed by two slaves in simple gray clothing. Their build suggested they were humans; the älf had made them cover their ugly features—you could hardly call them faces. Nobody with any sense of decency let one of their slaves appear in public unveiled.
One of them took Helòhfor’s mantle, revealing a black silk robe with dark red decorations at the hem. The other, at a gesture from Sinthoras, placed a large case down next to a chair. Then, after sending the slaves outside, Helòhfor sat facing his host, forearms resting on the arms of the chair. “You are quite sure, Sinthoras?”
“Of course,” came the answer without hesitation. “I am keen to see what happens when I combine my creative urges with the sounds of a soul-toucher’s music.”
“The effect will depend on the particular älf, but even I am not sure what will happen.” Helòhfor directed his dark gaze toward Sinthoras, studying his face. “You might fall in a trance, you might be taken by the desire to fling yourself from the window, or you might crave the sight of blood.” The soul-toucher looked at the canvas. “That you might complete a work of art is just one of many possibilities.”
“To the task, Helòhfor!” Sinthoras’ voice contained a mixture of request, command and longing. He had spoken out of turn, but had not been able to stop himself: he had been seized with the compulsion to create art that was superior to the work of any other painter—everyone should see that he was not only a warrior of great distinction but also an incomparable artist. “To the task,” he repeated softly, and hastened to the easel.
He would let only a single color touch the canvas, but that one color would make the work perfect. Carefully he removed the lid of one of the pots and revealed the glowing yellow substance inside. With a shudder of excitement, Sinthoras took up a large brush and glanced over expectantly at the soul-toucher.
Helòhfor had opened the case and taken out his instrument. The body was made from a spinal column, with silver elements connecting the vertebrae. Valves were attached with silver wire and holes had been drilled into the pieces of bone. Murmuring softly, the älf inserted other items, fashioned from metal, glass or bone, into the openings. Finally he decanted a brown liquid into a wide-bellied flask, which he screwed to the instrument.
Sinthoras had been following every movement and it did not escape his notice how exact the adjustments were. Without long training given by a master of the craft no älf other than Helòhfor would ever be able to play this instrument—and certainly no other creature would stand a chance. The fluid used was said to be brain liquor extracted from cadavers; it was held to contain the dreams of the dead. Tonal vibrations activated the thoughts contained within and allowed the player to affect the audience.
“Prepare to receive the driving force of the dead and of death itself, Sinthoras. May Samusin protect your soul,” he murmured, putting his lips to the mouthpiece and placing his fingertips on the tabs.
Helòhfor blew softly and a shrill tone slowly swelled. A gentle bubbling started in the liquid, increasing gradually to a rolling boil. Sinthoras saw steam swirling through the glass elements. As Helòhfor played, it seemed that several streams of air were circulating at the same time, creating brash, strident tones.
Sinthoras felt the hairs on his arms and on the back of his neck rise up and a sharp pain stabbed behind his eyes, blinding him. He gasped for breath. Suddenly the sounds changed and a strange melody emerged.
Energy coursed through his body; his fingers were surrounded by a blue light. As the east wind played on his features, his longed-for inspiration appeared.
Sinthoras watched himself dip the brush in the paint pot, watched the soft bristles absorb the color and watched his own hand carry pigment to canvas. He painted to the tones of the unearthly music—his hand, his soul and the east wind all in the power of the Divine.
The fine point of the full brush traveled slowly over the canvas, tracing a deep yellow line on the dark background. As the thin line grew fainter, Sinthoras was aware of the slight sound the paint made as it was transferred onto the wash.
The pigment was a mixture of molten, oily gold, a breath of black tionium and the liquid from a baro’s spleen. It had a metallic shimmer, but there was life in this extraordinary deep yellow: the spirit of life made liquid and imbued with an unsettling radiance.
The fine bristles bent to the right in a sweeping movement and then they suddenly resisted. The line had faltered and had broken off—incomplete!
But Sinthoras knew what the work still needed. In his mind’s eye he could see the finished article, and hear his name being called out, in both acclaim and in envy.
The tip of the brush hovered over the pot and dipped in and out. Only a tiny amount of yellow paint had adhered to it.
There is not enough! The mood of harmony shattered, forming an open wound out of which his inspiration poured. Not enough! His work was threatened. “Raleeha!” he shouted through the half-opened door.
To his own surprise, Sinthoras felt his soul follow where his voice was heading, as if he were hurling it away from himself while his body remained at the easel.
His summoning call flew down the corridor where paintings of stark beauty hung on the paneled walls, and forced its way through a wooden battle scene carving on a set of double doors.
He could see no further.
The right-hand side of the door was pushed open and a tall young human in a slim-fitting dark green dress hastened to his studio.
His soul swirled around her, following her steps.
For a human she was exceptionally beautiful; even elves would purse their lips and admit that she could almost match one of their own in beauty. That was why she was not made to cover her face. Around her neck was a leather slave collar with three silver filigree buckles, constricting her throat so that she could breathe only with difficulty. There were tears in her blue eyes and her black hair spread out behind her like a mourning veil.
Raleeha reached the half-open door through which light fell into the corridor, and behind which her
lord and master stood. She knocked and waited for permission to enter—should she enter without waiting her life would be forfeit; he had stressed that. Raleeha’s predecessor had paid for such a moment’s thoughtlessness with her life, even though she had already served him for a division of unendingness. He was an älf and he would never forgive a human.
Sinthoras was fascinated to realize that his soul could read her expression: the tone of his voice had warned her of his anger and she was distraught.
The music in the chamber ceased as Helòhfor stopped playing, aware the master of the house was displeased.
Something pulled the artist’s soul back and forced it once more into his body. The soul-journey was over and he had not been able to complete his picture—and it was her fault.
“Come,” he ordered, his voice soft, intending to hide his displeasure from her. He would not show his anger: not yet.
Quivering, she opened the door and entered the room, dropping her gaze. She was not allowed to look at him, not unless he said so.
“Master, how may I be of service?”
“Raleeha, you were told to inform me if the pirogand yellow ran low,” he said mildly, enjoying her increasing fear. She must be icy cold now. She had made a mistake and he was being civil to her—she must be assuming her fate was sealed.
She closed her eyes, shaking. “Kill me quickly, master,” she begged, biting her lip to suppress a sob. “May the ancestors of the Lotor tribe receive me with mercy.”
“The pirogand yellow, Raleeha.” Sinthoras still felt intoxicated; even if his soul was no longer outside of his body, his mind was. He could smell Raleeha’s fear and it was a sweet, enchanting fragrance.
“My mistake, master.” She prostrated herself at his feet. “I thought the pot was still one-third full. My eyes must have misled me, master.”
Sinthoras approached her. An älf’s steps could never be heard unless he or she wished it. It was one of their wonderful gifts. His slender hand took her by the chin and raised her head. “Look at me.” He pushed her head back so that her eyes swept over his form and she was forced to meet his gaze; the leather collar creaked.
Raleeha was robbed of the power of speech. He knew that his beauty caused her joy, suppressing her fear. This was why she had volunteered to serve him.