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Five Hundred Years After

Steven Brust


  Khaavren Romances

  Book II



  A Tor Book

  Cover art by Sam Rakeland

  Copyright © 1994 by Steven Brust

  Published by Tom Doherty Associates, Inc.

  Library of Congress Catalog Number: 93-45291

  First mass market edition: March 1995

  First edition: April 1994

  ISBN: 0-812-51522-6


  Dangerous Appearances

  "There is no doubt," said Aliera, as if in answer to a question, "that there was a spell laid upon this fellow before his death; the traces of it remain. I suspect what it was, yet I cannot—"

  "Lady Aliera," said Khaavren, "if you would be good enough to tell me what you are doing here, well, I should be entirely in your debt."

  "Why, I am investigating this body, in order to learn how he came to die."

  "Or," said Sethra, "perhaps to remove all traces of the spell, so that nothing can be learned."

  Aliera looked at Sethra for a long moment before saying, "I don't know you, Madame."

  The Enchantress bowed. "I am called Sethra Lavode."

  Aliera bowed in her turn. "Very well, Sethra Lavode. I am called Aliera e'Kieron."

  Sethra bowed once more, and if she was surprised that Aliera displayed no reaction upon learning her identity, she gave no sign of it.

  "Now," said Aliera, "that introductions are made, there remains the matter of your last remark, which sounded to my ears very like an accusation. I must, therefore, beg you to make it either more explicit, so that I may respond appropriately, or to recast it in such a way that no response is called for."

  "Perhaps you are unaware," said Khaavren, "that to find you down here, engaged in I know not what activities with respect to the bodies, puts appearances against you."

  "Appearances, My Lord?" said Aliera, in a tone of voice, and with a simultaneous look, expressing the greatest disdain. "I have often heard that phrase, Appearances are against you, uttered by those who wish to conceal an accusation. Who are these people who believe appearances, My Lord? Would you care to name them?"

  "I am one," said Sethra, putting her hand on the dagger at her side.

  Books by Steven Brust

  The Dragaeran Novels

  Brokedown Palace

  The Khaavren Romances

  The Phoenix Guards

  Five Hundred Years After

  The Viscount of Adrilankha,

  Which comprises

  The Paths of the Dead

  The Lord of Castle Black

  Sethra Lavode

  The Vlad Taltos Novels










  Other Novels

  To Reign in Hell

  The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars

  Cowboy Feng's Space Bar and Grille

  The Gypsy (with Megan Lindholm)

  Freedom and Necessity (with Emma Bull)

  For The Fabulous Lorraine


  Thanks are due Terri Windling for helping me beat this one into shape, to Teresa Nielsen Hayden who did Many Fine Things for the manuscript, to Sam Rakeland for the nifty cover, and to Valerie Smith, for this 'n' that.

  Thanks are also due Patrick Nielsen Hayden, who provided support, encouragement, and arguments.

  I'd also like to thank Emma Bull, Kara Dalkey, Pamela Dean, and Will Shetterly, my co-conspirators.

  Special thanks to Ed Raschke, who supplied the leather. Don't ask.

  Five Hundred Years After

  Being in the Nature of a Sequel to

  The Phoenix Guards

  Describing Certain Events Which Occurred

  In the Year of the Hawk

  In the Turn of the Orca

  In the Phase of the Dragon

  In the Reign of the Phoenix

  In the Cycle of the Phoenix

  In the Great Cycle of the Dragon


  The 532nd Year of the Reign of Tortaalik the First

  Submitted to the Imperial Library

  From Springsign Manor

  Via House of the Hawk

  On this 3rd day of the Month of the Lyorn

  Of the Year of the Iorich


  In the Eleventh Year

  Of the Glorious Reign

  Of the Empress Norathar the Second

  By Sir Paarfi of Roundwood

  House of the Hawk

  (His Arms, Seal, Lineage Block)

  Presented, as Always

  To the Countess of Gamier

  With Gratitude and Hope

  Cast of Characters

  Of the Court

  Tortaalik I—His Majesty The Emperor

  Noima—Her Majesty the Consort

  Jurabin—Prime Minister

  Rollondar e'Drien—Warlord

  Countess Bellor—Superintendent of Finance

  Nyleth—Court Wizard

  Khaavren—Ensign of the Imperial Guard

  Brudik—Lord of the Chimes

  Lady Ingera—Lord of the Keys

  Navier—His Majesty's physicker

  Dimma—His Majesty's Chief Servant

  Daro—A Maid of Honor to Her Majesty

  Dinb—Master of the First Gate

  Of the Phoenix Guard

  Thack—Khaavren's corporal

  Tummelis e'Terics—A guardsman

  Naabrin—A guardsman

  Menia—A guardsman

  Sergeant—A guardsman

  Tivor—A guardsman

  Kyu—A guardsman

  Ailib—A guardsman

  Heth—A police-man

  Of the Imperial Palace

  Duke of Galstan (Pel)—An Initiate into Discretion

  Lady Glass—Chief of the Sorett Regiment

  Erna—Master of the Order of Discretion

  Klorynderata—A servant at the palace

  Of Lord Adron's Company

  Adron e'Kieron—Dragon Heir

  Aliera e'Kieron—Adron's daughter

  Molric e'Drien—Adron's chainman

  Durtri—A sentry

  Geb—A soldier

  Dohert—A soldier

  Eftaan—A soldier

  Of the Lavodes

  Sethra—Captain of the Lavodes

  Dreen—A Lavode

  Tuvo—A Lavode

  Roila—A Lavode

  Nett—A Lavode

  Of the City

  Raf—A pastry vendor

  Leen—A would-be assassin

  Greycat—A ruffian and a conspirator

  Laral—A Jhereg

  Chalar—An Orca

  Dunaan—A Jhereg

  Grita—A Half-breed

  Baroness of Clover—A Dragonlord

  Baroness of Newhouse—A Dragonlord

  Count of Tree-by-the-Sea—A Dzurlord

  Cariss—A Jhereg Sorceress

  Tukko—A Jhereg

  Mario—An assassin

  Of Others

  Aerich—Duke of Arylle

  Fawnd—Aerich's servant

  Steward—Aerich's servant

  Tazendra—Baroness of Daavya

  Mica—Tazendra's lackey

  Sir Vintner—A Lyorn delegate

  Lysek—A Jhegaala

  Seb—A messenger

  Theen—A brigand



  Book One

  Chapter The First

  Chapter The Second

  Chapter The Third

  Chapter The Fourth

>   Chapter The Fifth

  Chapter The Sixth

  Chapter The Seventh

  Chapter The Eighth

  Chapter The Ninth

  Chapter The Tenth

  Chapter The Eleventh

  Chapter The Twelfth

  Chapter The Thirteenth

  Chapter The Fourteenth

  Chapter The Fifteenth

  Chapter The Sixteenth

  Chapter The Seventeenth

  Book Two

  Chapter The Eighteenth

  Chapter The Nineteenth

  Chapter The Twentieth

  Chapter The Twenty-First

  Chapter The Twenty-Second

  Chapter The Twenty-Third

  Chapter The Twenty-Fourth

  Chapter The Twenty-Fifth

  Chapter The Twenty-Sixth

  Chapter The Twenty-Seventh

  Chapter The Twenty-Eighth

  Chapter The Twenty-Ninth

  Chapter The Thirtieth

  Chapter The Thirty-First

  Chapter The Thirty-Second

  Chapter The Thirty-Third

  Chapter The Thirty-Fourth


  About The Author


  In Which It is Demonstrated that the Works of Paarfi of Roundwood Display Both the Rigors of History and the Raptures of Fiction; With Examples Taken from Each of His Historical-Romantic Works.

  "Fiction, therefore, is more philosophical and more significant than history, for fiction is more concerned with the universal, and history with the individual."

  —Ekrasan of Sibletown

  "Truth is stranger than fiction."

  —variously attributed

  With the founders of our entire critical tradition expressing such opinions, it is no wonder that historical fiction, such as the volume you hold in your hand, occupies an uneasy position between scholarship and romance, and is pelted with opprobrium from both camps. When Paarfi of Roundwood published Three Broken Strings, those to whom he was responsible at this university's press asked him to use another name than his own, under which the press had occasionally published his historical monographs. He refused to do so, with the result that those who read his romance were in a position to purchase and read his historical monographs as well, and to put sorely needed money into the coffers of this institution.

  This happy outcome did not prevent the repetition of that same request when The Phoenix Guards was about to go to press; but since by then Paarfi had already become engaged in various disagreements with the university press concerning the presentation of footnotes and maps for his latest monograph, he once more refused it; and once more, his ardent readers purchased his monographs as well. Some of them have written to the university expressing their disappointment in the monographs, but it may be assumed that those who were satisfied did not bother to write.

  Writers of romance protest that there is no invention in historical fiction, no art, and no craft; writers of history protest that there is no scholarship in historical fiction, and furthermore that it is all, if not invention, at least that distortion which can be even more pernicious. Writers of historical fiction have so far kept quiet and gone about their exacting business.

  Let us examine the works of this author with these protests in mind. It is well to note that while these romances do not purport to be history, they are read by historians, as well as by those who will learn their history in no other way. The first have always been concerned about the second.

  Three Broken Strings was liberally accused of invention by several respected scholars, notably by the author of Bedra of Ynn and Lotro: An Historical and Poetical Comparison, and by the editor of Mountain Ballads. There is in fact no invention in Three Broken Strings, insofar as each of the episodes it details is attested to in at least three sources. Not all of these are reliable, as Paarfi clearly states in his preface; but none of them is his own invention. Where thoughts are attributed to the hero, they are taken from his own published words; dialogue is taken from the earlier sources, notably Tales of Beed'n, Mountain Ballads, Wise Sayings of Five Bards, Vaari's A Brief Consideration of Adverb Placement in the Colloquial Tongue, and the unpublished letters catalogued as Yellowthorn MSS 1-14 and lodged in the library of this institution.

  As for art and craft, Three Broken Strings was derided for possessing neither, notably by the honored author of the Short Life of Lotro and the three noble souls who kindly contributed their opinions, without giving themselves the credit of affixing their names, to Literary Considerations. But all of these protesters, historian and critics alike, are in fact deriding the book for not being a novel. It exhibits, if anything, an excess of both art and craft. The episodes of Beed'n's life are divided not chronologically, but by type: love affairs, political entanglements, artistic wrangles, travel, poetic composition, musical performances, and so on. The means whereby episodes are associated are often ingenious; the structure is not entirely successful from a narrative point of view, but one cannot deny that art and craft were expended upon it. It is true that no consistent portrait of the minstrel emerges. But as a collection of the available information, the book is valuable to the student; and as a collection of lively and affecting stories divided into types, it is, as its sales amply attest, of value to the lay reader as well.

  Historians had nothing to complain of in this first effort, although complain they did. Lay readers did not, in fact, complain, but there is something to complain of on their behalf: the arrangement and unity of the book are scholarly rather than artistic. The subject chosen is so lively and so popular a figure that these defects are less serious; this perhaps accounts for the absence of complaint not only on the part of the readers, but on the part of the usual critics as well.

  These defects are in any case remedied in The Phoenix Guards, which is a coherent narrative of the sort ordinarily associated with the romance. This circumstance has caused historians to complain even more vigorously that, the shape of the story being what it is, some liberty must have been taken with the actual events it depicts.

  And yet when one considers the available sources, this alleged liberty has not much scope to exercise itself. In any scene involving more than one person, it will be found by the assiduous researcher that at least one of them wrote a letter or a memoir, or talked to someone who did. The activities of the villains in the case were throughly explored at their trials. The Teckla lackey Mica, whose overhearing of several interesting conversations was so important to history, told his own personal history at great length to his companion Srahi, who wrote all of it down, if in a less than organized fashion, and preserved it with her household accounts. Hence even the asides concerning Mica's state of mind cannot be called invention.

  If one considers even the meals the companions are said to have eaten on their travels, one finds that the records of the inns they stayed at—and indeed made a considerable impression on—have been preserved. There is, admittedly, no actual record of what Khaavren's party ate on their journey from Adron e'Kieron's residence to the Pepperfields, but the food Paarfi puts into their mouths was in fact ordered by Adron's cook and steward and was therefore present in his kitchen at the time necessary, and was the sort of food generally carried by travelers.

  In the interests of accuracy it must be admitted that one aspect of our author's depiction of these events is not, in fact, strictly in accordance with the actual practice of the times. The mode of speech employed by those at court, and by Khaavren and his friends as well, in casual discussion or when leading up to speeches actually recorded in history, does not represent, so far as can be determined, any actual mode of speech, past or present. It is taken from a popular anonymous play of the period, Redwreath and Goldstar Have Traveled to Deathsgate, where it is found in a game played by the principals to ward off unwanted inquiries. The proof of this is the exclamation of one of their executioners at the end of the play, "The Dog! I think I have been asking for nothing else for an hour!" This, or simi
lar exclamations, are used several times in The Phoenix Guards, and more often in the book you now hold, to indicate that the time for empty courtesy is over.

  But in the subtleties of its employment, the gradations of consciousness with which it is used, the precise timing of its termination, this mode of speech does in fact give very much the flavor of the old court talk without that speech's tediousness or outmoded expressions: it is a successful translation that does not distort anything of significance to anybody except a linguist.

  So we answer the historians. But if they are silenced, the romancers rise up in their stead. Where are the art, the craft, and the invention, if every event, thought, and even meal is attested to in the records? Our three self-effacing critics all asked these questions, as did Vaari himself. They are readily answered. The art, craft, and invention reside in two places.

  The first is in the structure of the story, in what Ekrasan called the arrangement of the incidents. Note that, while The Phoenix Guards might have begun by detailing the intrigues brewing in the imperial palace, and sprung wildly from person to person and room to room, garnering evidence as the historian must, it does not. It enters the city and the palace with Khaavren of Castlerock, and it stays with him while he finds and befriends the main actors in this history.

  It may be objected that the main actors are rather Seodra, Adron e'Kieron, Lord Garland, Kathana e'Marish'Chala, and various other important figures, many of whom do not make their appearance until late in the book. But this is precisely where the genius of our author shows itself. Here is the second place in which art and invention may be demonstrated: in the choice of viewpoint. When Khaavren enters the city, he is nobody: he must meet people, discover things, have matters explained to him. The lay reader, whose knowledge of history is imprecise, if not actually erroneous, is in just Khaavren's position. And the author does not carry this technique to extremes, but heightens suspense at the right moment by showing us those who plot against Khaavren and the empire, while Khaavren proceeds in blissful ignorance succeeded by bewilderment—a state, it should be remarked, in which readers, should they find themselves there for too long a time, are apt to become impatient. The events are historical, but the order in which they are presented to us, and the vantage from which we view them, are determined by the author.