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Steven Brust

  For Reesa, with love


  Title Page



  The Cycle


  The Silver Tiassa


  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5


  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Conception (An Interlude)

  Special Tasks

  Chapter the First

  Chapter the Second

  Chapter the Third

  Chapter the Fourth

  Chapter the Fifth

  Chapter the Sixth


  Books by Steven Brust



  My thanks to Reesa Brown and Neil Gaiman for launching this one, and to Anne Gray for handling so many irritating details so I could work on it. Robert Sloan created much of the background of what became Dragaera, for which I am, as always, grateful. Thank you to Bethani at Twin Peaks, Round Rock, for keeping me supplied with coffee while I worked on this one. I very much appreciate the lessons in tournament poker from Adam “Hatfield13” Stemple and Chris “Pokerfox” Wallace.

  Finally, in working on this one, there were three websites that were especially helpful: The Dragaera Timeline by Alexx Kay:; Mark Mandel’s Crack and Shards page:; and the Dragaera Wiki:

  My sincere thanks to everyone involved in maintaining those sites.


  Sethra greeted me with the words, “There’s someone I’d like you to meet, Vlad.” I had expected something more like, “What are you doing here?” as I’d shown up at Dzur Mountain without any advance warning. But then, if Sethra Lavode had been accustomed to doing the expected, she wouldn’t have been Sethra Lavode.

  I had been visiting my friend Morrolan, who had been kind enough to teleport me to Dzur Mountain, and after a long climb up a wide and tiring staircase I had found her in a library, reading a book that looked like it must have weighed ten pounds.

  My familiar noticed it as well. “It’s not a book, Boss. It’s a weapon. It lands on you, and that’s it.”

  “I think you’re right.”

  I was torn between curiosity about this person she wanted me to meet, and the business that had brought me. She asked if I wanted wine, and I did, and her servant, a strange, twitchy old guy named Tukko, thumped a bottle and a glass down in front of a chair. I sat and drank and said, “Who?”

  “An Easterner.”


  “Far from here.”

  “All the Eastern kingdoms are—”

  “Very far. He doesn’t speak any language you’ve ever heard before.”

  “But you have?”

  “I hadn’t either, but I learned.”


  “The Necromancer taught me. Once you’ve learned a few languages, the others come easy. I’m working on teaching him ours, but it’s slow going.”

  “How’d you meet him?”

  “The Necromancer introduced us.”

  “Well. Now I’m intrigued.”

  “You were intrigued when I didn’t ask what brought you here.”

  “All right, now I’m more intrigued.”

  “What did bring you here?”

  “Now that I’m out of the army, I thought we could swap war stories.”

  She smiled and waited.

  “Okay,” I said. “It’s this.” I opened my pouch, found the object, and held it out for her to inspect.

  “My,” she said. “Where did you get it?”

  “That’s a long story. What is it?”

  “I’m not sure. It’s interesting, certainly.”

  “Who goes first?”

  “Up to you.”

  “This guy you want me to meet—what’s the deal? He have a job for me?”

  “Sort of. Not your usual kind.”

  “By my usual kind, I assume you refer to my perfectly legitimate herb shop?”

  “Yes. Not that.”

  “What then?”

  “He wants you to talk.”

  “About what?”

  “Everything. Everything you do, legal and illegal.”

  I studied her. She looked serious. “Sethra, if I ever did something illegal—which of course I never have—why would I be so stupid as to talk about it?”

  “Reason one: There is a lot of money in it. Reason two: There may, from time to time, be other things in it for you—useful trinkets. Reason three: Because I tell you, on my honor, that nothing you say will ever be heard by anyone who can do anything to you.”

  “How much money?”

  “Five hundred imperials’ worth of unminted gold for a few hours of conversation, with the option of doing it again if it works out for all concerned, and maybe several times.”

  “Five hundred.”


  “That’s a lot. Why me?”

  “He wanted me, but I won’t. I suggested you instead, because you can give him what he wants.”

  “What does he want?”

  “To understand what life is like here.”

  “At Dzur Mountain?”

  “In the Empire.”

  “And I can tell him that?”

  “I believe you can, yes.”

  “No one will hear it? On your honor?”


  “Okay, I’ll meet him, and I’ll think about it.”

  She nodded. “Good.” She held her hand out for it, and I gave her the object. She held it up and studied it carefully. It was a really remarkable thing—about the size of my palm, all of silver, except for the eyes, which appeared to be very tiny sapphires. The wings were thin, and filled with a multitude of tiny holes so the light shone through, and there were whiskers around the mouth. After a moment she pulled her eyes from it and looked back at me. “How did you say it came to you?”

  “I happened to come across a recently deceased individual, and it was in a pouch at his belt.”

  She smiled. “No you didn’t.”

  “Why Sethra, whatever do you mean?”

  “The idea of you going through the pockets of a random corpse you stumbled over is absurd. You’re trying to make me think it was someone you killed. But a Jhereg assassin never robs his victim. It’s unprofessional.”

  “Now, how would you know that?”

  “Vlad, I have been around a long, long time. So, tell me the truth. Where did you find the tiassa?”

  “Is it important?”



  “For reasons full of mystical significance. Now tell.”

  “I’d rather hear about the mystical significance.”

  “I’m sure you would.”

  “All right. You know the old market just above Northpier?”

  “Very well.”

  “That’s where I found it.”

  “Just lying there?”

  “Not exactly.”


  “Now, about that mystical significance.”

  “Vlad, I was kidding about that.”

  “No you weren’t. You had that look you have when you’re telling the truth in a way you hope won’t be believed.”

  That stopped her. “I’m impressed.”

  “Thank you. Now, what exactly did you mean?”

  “Tell me exactly how you found it.”

  “It came to me in a dream.”

  “How very tangible it is.”

�Okay, it was delivered by someone I only knew from a dream.”

  She tilted her head and said, “I think it might be straight answer time, don’t you?” I opened my mouth, and she said, “Vlad, you know very well you never win these.”

  That stopped me. “You’re right.”

  “I’m listening.”

  I started talking.




  The first time I saw the tiassa was nine Real Years before I was born. Mafenyi was holding it, and it was so pretty! When I saw it again, two hundred Real Years earlier, I had to take it so I did.

  I didn’t think Mafenyi would mind too much. She hadn’t made it to keep. She told me that she made it because she had to, but it shouldn’t ever stay with anyone for too long. She used silver that came all the way from Aelma, which is a city on the Chareq River near some mountains called Daeld, which is where the silver was found in the ground.

  Mafenyi said she melted the silver in a cauldron made of light, and she cut off her hand and put it in the cauldron, and plucked out one of her eyes and put that in, too, and then shaped it while it was still hotter than hot. She worked on it for years and years, so the ears would be so perfect, and you could see candlelight through the wings; she put tiny sapphires in for the eyes. I asked her how come she still had both hands and both eyes, and she said she was a Goddess and so she grew them back. She said I could be a Goddess if I wanted to be, and I said my grandmother was a Goddess and it didn’t seem like much fun.

  When we were done talking I went away, but then I came back. I wanted to just look at it some more, but she was sleeping, and that’s when I knew I had to have it, so I took it from her shelf.

  It wasn’t big, but it was so heavy I had to hold it in both hands. I went back home and just held it and looked at it, but I got fingerprints on it so I cleaned it off, and then wrapped it in cloth. I kept it in the cloth after that except when I wanted to look at it.

  There was a woman named Chuvin. She was an Athyra, and she was very nice. I thought she should have the tiassa, so I left it in her house, then I went off to see a new world being made, which was very exciting.

  When I got back, I went to look at the silver tiassa, but Chuvin didn’t have it anymore. She had made some very pretty psiprints, though, and I got to see them. She gave me one of Yevetna Falls that’s so good you can almost get wet looking at it. Mommy said that first, but I think it’s funny and true, so I’m saying it now. I asked Chuvin what she did with the tiassa, but she said she didn’t know, it just got lost somehow.

  It wasn’t hard to find it, though. When you looked in what the Necromancer calls the other place, it was like a big white light, with two blinking blue thingies. I saw it right away, and followed it because I wanted to know where it was, and really I just wanted to see it again. It isn’t hard to follow something in the other place, but it’s hard to talk about. It’s like painting when you don’t have paint, or singing when there’s no song, or talking when there are no words. I can’t explain. Anyway, I followed it.

  It was an old man who had it. He was a Lyorn and his name was Pindua. He made statues from big pieces of marble. I got to hold the tiassa for a little while, but then I left it with him. He made one called “Worill Reclining on Stairway” that they put in the Hall of Monuments in the Imperial Palace.

  A little while after he made it he died and they brought him to the Paths of the Dead. He owed a lot of money when he died, and when that happens they sell all your things to try to pay the people you owe money to, so the tiassa was sold to a man named Paarfi who was a Hawk and who wrote books.

  I didn’t think about it for a long time, but then I remembered it one day a year later, which was almost three hundred Real Years later. I looked for it, and Paarfi still had it. I went to talk to him about it. He talked about what he was writing. He was a nice man.

  I told him he should give the tiassa away, and he agreed, but said he wanted to keep it a little longer, until he finished his new book. I said that was okay, and he gave me one of his books and signed it for me. He wrote, “To Devera, a very special little girl.” I took it to Grandma’s and put it in the chest with my things, next to the seashell that whistles “March to the Kaanas” and the psiprint of Yevetna Falls and the tick-ticker and some other stuff I want to keep.

  While I was there, Grandma asked me what I was doing, and I said I was looking for the silver tiassa and she asked what that was so I explained where it came from. She asked some questions about it, but she had the look she gets when she’s being nice and doesn’t really care about what you’re telling her, so pretty soon I said good-bye and ran off.

  I went to a place called Tanvir where it was just spring and there were flowers in all the colors there are. After that, I went to an empty tower in a dead city and a man made of metal played music for me. After a while, I started wanting to see the tiassa again, so I went back to fifty Real Years later, and Paarfi still had it. I thought it was long enough, so I took it but left him a note, then I went to Adrilankha ten Real Years ahead and played with Vlad Norathar. I showed him how to look in the other place, and he showed me how to make a spinnystick with glitters.

  Then I was tired from all the jumping around so I put my spinnystick in the chest and took a nap. Mommy says naps are good for you, but I only take them when I’m sleepy. When I woke up again I found Daddy and showed him the tiassa and he said it was very pretty. I asked if he was ever going to come visit me and Mommy and he said he would soon because he wanted his sword back. He looked angry when he said it so I didn’t ask about it any more. While I was there Mafenyi came up and said I shouldn’t have stolen the tiassa and had to give it back and Daddy told her not to accuse me of stealing but I said I had just borrowed it to give to some people who needed it. They started arguing with each other so I left and took the tiassa with me.

  I started to Mommy’s but then a while later I looked in the other place, and saw Mafenyi was coming after me. I hadn’t thought she wanted the tiassa that much. I thought about jumping, but then I could never come back to now. I didn’t want to go to Grandma’s, because then she would fight Mafenyi and I’d feel bad, and if I went to Mommy’s I’d have to explain what I did.

  So please, Uncle Vlad. She’ll be here soon. Can you take it?



  I lie sometimes, just so you know. It goes with the job.

  Most of what I make comes from running untaxed gambling games of various sorts, owning unlicensed brothels of various qualities, dealing in stolen goods of various types, and offering usurious loans of various amounts. Why, you may ask, do I not pay the taxes, license the brothels, sell legitimate goods, and offer loans at legally acceptable rates? Because of customer demand, that’s why. The Empire, which we all naturally love and revere and to which we pledge our undying loyalty, doesn’t just tax the runner of the game, but also the customers; and the ones who win prefer not to pay those taxes. The licensing of the brothels requires intrusive observation by Imperial representatives, and customers aren’t fond of that. The goods I sell are at the rates people want to pay. The loans I dispense are to those the banks laugh out of their offices.

  If it weren’t for the demands of the customers, I’d be legitimate; I’d much prefer it that way.

  I did say I lie sometimes, didn’t I?

  Anyway, that’s where most of what I live on comes from; most of the rest comes from killing people, which I only do occasionally. And lest you think I’m a terrible person, I assure you that everyone I’ve ever killed has deserved it—at least according to whoever hired me.

  And then there is the in-between stuff, which I don’t do much of anymore. I’ve heard a lot of terms for it: lepip work, enforcement, muscle, convincing—one guy I knew used to say, “I’m a musician you see. I call myself a repercussionist.” Heh. Yeah, there are all sorts of ways to not say that what you’re really doing is either hurting someone, or threatening to hurt someone, to get him
to do what you want. What you want is for him to go along with agreements he made knowing what was liable to happen if he didn’t, so I don’t generally have a lot of sympathy for the individual who may become damaged in the process. And they’re always Dragaerans, whereas I’m human, so they consider themselves inherently superior to me, so I have even less sympathy than I otherwise might.

  I do not consider them superior.

  Bigger, stronger, they live longer, and they can do better than us at pretty much everything. I’ll concede that. I won’t concede superior.

  Like I said, I don’t do lepip work much anymore, but once in a while something will come up that will make me reconsider. On this occasion, it was a fellow named Byrna, and one named Trotter, and one named Kragar; the order depends on how you look at it.

  Let me start with Kragar, who is my executive assistant, or something like that. I need to find him a title. If you ask him, he’ll tell you he does all the hard work. Yeah, maybe.

  On this day, when I came in to work and was having my first cup of klava (I have it in a cup because glass burns my fingers, okay?), I had a number of things I wanted to talk to him about. I’d recently been through some experiences: I’d fought a losing war against a Jhereg who was tougher than me but I ended up winning in spite of it, I’d been killed, I’d been resurrected, and I’d learned many fascinating things about the internal workings of this great Empire that we love and happily serve. So of course, I was waiting to talk to Kragar about the girl I’d met in the middle of all of it.

  He never gave me the chance: he started talking before I even realized he was in the room. No, I wasn’t distracted, he just does that.