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Brokedown Palace

Steven Brust


  A Tom Doherty Associates Book New York

  This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this novel are either fictitious or are used fictitiously.


  Copyright © 1986 by Steven K. Zoltán Brust

  Originally published in 1986 by Ace Books, a division of The Berkley Publishing Group.

  All rights reserved.

  Map design by David Cain

  An Orb Book

  Published by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC

  175 Fifth Avenue

  New York, NY 10010

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Brust, Steven, 1955—

  Brokedown Palace / Steven Brust.—1 st Orb ed.

  p. cm

  "A Tom Doherty Associates Book."

  ISBN-13: 978-0-765-3 1 504-5

  ISBN-10: 0-765-31504-1

  I. Title.

  PS3552.R84B76 2006



  Printed in the United States of America








  and especially for

  Billy and Micky


  Patrick and Teresa, and Tom-who-always-buys-such-great-dinners. Also my thanks to David Cain for the pretty new map, Kathy Marschall for the original map, Nicole de las Heras for interior design, and Robert Sloan for much background work.

  Fred Levy Haskell made many useful comments, as well as starting the whole thing by playing the song so beautifully; I fell in love with it before I'd ever heard the boys do it. Berry Goldstein answered many geology questions, and Chuck Hoist answered questions about rivers. David S. Cargo was very helpful with castle architecture, and my father was extremely helpful with language questions. I should also thank Jon Singer for proofreading the original, as well as for, you know, being Jon Singer. Have you met him? You will.

  A Note on

  Fenarian Pronunciation

  In Hungarian—whoops!—in Fenarian we have one of the world's most phonetically spelled languages. Having once learned their alphabet, school children from this land do not waste their precious youthful years, as do their less fortunate English-speaking counterparts, in endless hours of drudging homework to learn orthography. Even as adults, many—perhaps most—speakers of English persevere, resentfully, as slaves of old Dan Webster. Hence, a spelling bee is an unheard of institution in a country where the language is pronounced exactly as it is written and written exactly as it is pronounced.

  Another delightful plus for the native Fenarian (and an enormous bonus for foreigners learning his language) is the uniformity of accent. Unlike English or Russian or even German, Fenarian stress is permanently fixed: on the first syllable of every word. Only those who toiled to acquire any of the above three languages can appreciate what a blessing it is to confront such regularity. Still, despite the uniformity of stress, Fenarian is an exceptionally musical language whose underlying principle is based on vowel harmony, a feature of the linguistic family to which it belongs.

  The Fenarian alphabet proper consists of forty letters. Of these twenty-six are consonants, but an additional five consonants, so as to include foreign words, give the language a total of forty-five characters. By the use of the long and short diacritical marks (which have nothing to do with accent) over the customary vowels—a, e, i, o, and u—these five are expanded to fourteen vowels, enabling every Fenarian sound to have its own distinctive symbol. It is a phonetic tour de force.

  An approximation of these vowel sounds in American pronunciation would be: a as in law; a as in father; e as in met; é as in the ay of day; i as in the ie of field; í as ee in bee (longer than ie in field); o as in old; ó as in oh (longer than old); u as in rule; ú as in pool (longer than rule); ü represents a sound similar to the ü of German über or the u in French tu. For readers unfamiliar with these languages, ü can be thought of as a sound similar to the i in English fin but pronounced through pursed lips. The ű is a longer and tenser version of this sound. The ö is very much like the ö of German schön or the eu of French meurt. Again, some readers not familiar with these languages may be guided by the hint that ö resembles the e of her, only tenser and the ő is a longer and even tenser version of this same sound.

  With the exception of c, j, and s the consonants are by and large not too unlike those in English. The c (and in older proper names the cz) is pronounced as ts in the word hits. The j has the sound of y in you. The s is like sh in she or the s in sure. The consonant combinations are as follows: cs is like the ch in church; sz as the s in sun; and zs as the z in azure.

  Finally, the letter y, except in old proper nouns—mainly family names—or in modern foreign loan words when it is equivalent to the English ie in field, appears only as part of consonant combinations and palatalizes or softens the preceding consonant. The gy in nagy (big) would be pronounced somewhat like the d and the y in the words mind you, when pronounced rapidly. The l in the combination ly as in the name of the composer Kodály is mute so that the second syllable rhymes with high. The consonants ny as in hanyag (negligent) and ty as in tyúk (hen) are sounded and the y in both cases approximates the y in you.

  —W. Z. Brust

  March, 1985

  St. Paul, Minnesota

  Author's Note: The names Devera, Alfredo, and, in fact, Fenario, are not Fenarian, and one oughtn't use the above rules in pronouncing them.

  —S. K. Z. Brust

  Minneapolis, Minnesota






































  The Legend of Fenarr

  Long ago there lived a mighty lord named Fenarr. Some say he came from the lands around the North Sea, where the cold winds had frozen his sinews until they were like fine steel. Others say the Great Plains to the east had tempered his heart with the burning sun, so he feared nothing. There are those who tell how he came from the ocean far to the south, through underground streams that emerge high in the Grimtail, the southeastern part of the Grimwall, where he learned to live with great privation. Still others claim he grew to manhood in the Western Mountains on the very borders of Faerie, and thus knew the denizens of that land better than any other mortal man.

  Wherever he came from, he arrived one day in the land bounded to the west by the Western Mountains, which are sometimes called the Mountains of Faerie, to the north and east by the Grim Circle, and to the south by the Wandering Forest and the Great Marsh. In this land he found a people who had lived for long years, even then, beneath the shadow of Faerie. They were a warlike people descended from horsemen who had lived by plundering until they had come through the Grimwall Pass into the area they now inhabited.

  It is told that a great chieftain of the tribe was shown a cl
od of earth from the River basin and was given a taste of water from the River, and said, "We have found our home." From that time on they had dwelt around the lakes and in the great sweeping plains and hills and valleys of the land.

  They lived with the threat from the west, and often they would bring out their straight swords and long spears, giving battle to the lords of Faerie who challenged them for possession of the land. There was no peace then, and the people suffered, and many spoke of returning to the old ways of riding and plundering—of leaving the land in the mountains.

  Then Fenarr came and soon grew to love the land. When he learned of the troubles that beset it, he resolved to go into Faerie and win peace from those who dwelt there. He built a mighty army from the people of the land, even of the women and children, yet he could find no way past the borders of Faerie.

  At last, in desperation, he went alone into the mountains to find a passage. As the days went by he became hungry. Yet he remained, searching for a way to pass the border. One night, he felt he was close to starving to death. Yet he had promised the people that he would find a way or die, so that is what he resolved to do. When hunger and fatigue finally overcame him, he fell asleep. Then, as he lay sleeping on a rock, a mighty stallion, all of white, caused him to waken. It spoke to him, for it was a táltos horse and knew the tongue of men. The stallion said, "Master, look beneath this rock and thou shalt find thy salvation."

  So Fenarr turned over the rock on which he had slept, and beneath it was a Sword, taller than he (yet he was of great height), and filled with the power of Faerie itself. Then the stallion said, "Turn over the next rock." Fenarr did this, and beneath it was food enough to last him for many days.

  When he had eaten his fill, the stallion bade him turn over the third rock. Beneath it were garments of silver. Fenarr dressed himself and took the Sword into his hand.

  Then the stallion said, "Mount upon my back, master, and I will bear thee to the lord of Faerie. But first you must groom and brush me until my coat shines like the stars. Then you must make a fire. When it has burned down to embers, you must let me eat the embers, and bring me a cask of water to wash them down."

  Fenarr groomed the horse carefully, using his cast-off shirt, until the stallion's coat gleamed so that it hurt his eyes. Then, using the Sword of Faerie, Fenarr cut down wood from the spruce that grew in the mountains. He built a great fire. When the fire had burned down to embers, the táltos stallion ate them all, then drank a cask of water.

  "Come, master," he said. "We are ready."

  So Fenarr mounted upon the back of the stallion, and the stallion carried him through secret ways in the mountains until they came to a land on the other side, where the sun hid its face from the lords of Faerie.

  Fenarr came to them, even to the seat of Kav, mightiest of the lords of Faerie, and said, "Stay you in your lands, and we will stay in ours. Make war upon us no more." But Kav laughed, for he was filled with the power of Faerie, and he called upon his power to destroy Fenarr. But the stallion leapt up before Fenarr and was slain in his stead. Then Fenarr was filled with a terrible anger. He brought forth the Sword of Faerie and held it at Kav's breast. Kav was astounded and cried, "How hast thou a Sword from the land of Faerie?"

  But Fenarr only said, "With this Sword will I slay thee, and all of thine, unless thou vowest to leave my people alone."

  "I will vow this, indeed," said Kav. "But thou must return the Sword unto us, for 'tis not a weapon for humankind."

  Fenarr did not trust him, and said, "An thou would'st have this Sword, thou must take it from me, and I will slay all who try, and thee first."

  "Yet," said Kav, "thou can'st not slay us all." The other lords of Faerie gathered around, preparing to slay Fenarr if he should strike Kav with the Sword. But then fires poured from the mouth of the táltos stallion, and black smoke came from his nostrils. Then a voice came from his body, and it spoke to Fenarr, saying, "Master, thou can'st trust him. An he vow, he shall keep his word."

  The lords of Faerie were astounded and filled with fear, but Fenarr said, "I will give this Sword unto thee, an thou vow never to harass the people of my land." So Kav did vow never to cross the Mountains of Faerie save in peace, and never to make war upon the people of Fenarr.

  Then did Fenarr give unto Kav the Sword of Faerie, and he returned over the mountains to the land he had left. There he built a home next to the River of Faerie, and soon a city was built around it, and the city and then the land came to be called Fenario, as they are still called today.


  The Horse

  First, consider the river.

  It began in thunder; a cascade from Lake Fenarr, pouring over the lip of Mount Szaniszló. From there it cut a deep, straight path through the center of Fenario, eventually joined by other, lesser rivers. It cut a gap in the Eastern Grimwall, after which it turned south toward the sea, passing beyond the ken of Fenario's denizens.

  Once, when Miklós was eleven, he had been in a mood of pleasant melancholy and had gone down to the near bank, to a secret place between the Palace loading docks and Midriver Rock. There, hidden by rushes and reeds, he had sat holding a single yellow flower that he had wanted to present to his middle-older brother. But his brother had been busy and had brushed him off, which was the reason for his melancholy. So he had taken the flower and thrown it into the river. The idea was to watch it as it floated out of sight, while thinking of how the world mistreated him. With luck, he could bring tears to his own eyes, which would cap the event nicely.

  But the River, perverse thing that it was, had carried the offering back to him, spoiling the gesture completely. It always did things like that.

  Now, remembering this, Miklós decided that the River ought to rise from its banks and sweep his wounded, broken body away, out of sight to the east. But it wouldn't.

  Miklós was twenty-one years old, and dying.

  * * * *

  Next, the Palace:

  It loomed over the bend in the River, over the city of Fenario, over the River Valley, over the land, and over Miklós's left shoulder.

  It had stood for nearly a thousand years if you count the hut. Nine hundred and fifty years if you count the fort. Seven hundred years if you count the Old Palace. Four hundred years by any way of counting, and that is a long time. And for all of that time, back to when it was merely the hut where Fenarr had dwelt, the idol of the Demon Goddess had watched over it.

  Miklós craned his neck to look at the Palace and to try to forget the pain. It jutted up against wispy night clouds and a few halfhearted stars. The central tower resembled a stiletto; the River Wall resembled a blank, gray shield. Above it and above him, jhereg circled ominously, their cries harsh and distant, commenting on his state and, obliquely, on the Palace itself.

  It looked its age. The nearest tower had a perceptible tilt, and he'd overheard his eldest brother, the King, speak of the way the wind played games with it. The River Wall was cracked and breaking. Its bones were showing.

  Are my bones showing? he wondered. Enough of them are certainly broken, and I'm bleeding in enough places. There are probably a few bones coming through the skin.

  The thought would have made him retch, but he hadn't the strength.

  * * * *

  Now, observe the interior:

  Start at the bottom. The Palace had been built without a basement of any sort, but tunnels had been dug during the long siege when the Northmen came down from the northern Grimwall Mountains and swept over the land more than three hundred years before.

  The siege had lasted five years, and by the end of that time the whole area beneath the Palace, and beneath much of the surrounding city, was riddled with cunning tunnels that were used to sneak food in, or to harass the Northerners, or to spy out fortifications. When the enemy was finally driven out, the tunnels were promptly turned into wine cellars—which is one of the reasons that the wines of Fenario are known for thousands of miles around.

  Let us move up from the

  The walls throughout on the main floor were done in the palest of pale blues, and thought had been given to the areas of darkness and of light. Rippling patterns from a candelabrum, unlit, drew and erased wavering lines on the floor before the entrance. Now, was the candelabrum responsible for the patterns, or were the hanging, swaying oil lamps? Both, certainly. One determined essence, the other determined shape.

  Here was the nursery, when Miklós was very young. All thoughts of taste had been left for other chambers. Here was a cacophony of colors and hanging beads and flowing streamers. It had been filled with things that rolled and things that tumbled and things that pushed or pulled other things that rolled or tumbled.

  When Miklós was five, it was time for Prince László, then fifteen, to have his own chambers. Miklós had to move out. The nursery was emptied of things that rolled and tumbled, and filled with things that cut and stabbed. It was emptied of bright colors and filled with tasteful decorations of people cutting and stabbing.

  But let us not be heavy-handed.

  Every room was in use. Many were used for things for which they were not intended. This bedchamber was once a library. That servants' dining room was once a private study. Miklós's bedchamber, which had been one in the original design, was in the process of becoming a study. Now, was the bedchamber a misused library, or has the change in function changed the definition? Do definitions matter?

  Well, define "dying." How about: "that state where the absence of life is imminent."

  It would seem clear that Miklós cannot be blamed for having received the beating when, really, all he did to bring it on was to be there for twenty-one years. But consider the candelabrum and the lamp.

  If you don't find this a fair analogy, rest assured that Miklós didn't either.

  Miklós thought that it would be nice, in any number of ways, if the River would pick him up and drown him or carry him off to die far away. The longer he lay there dying, the nicer the idea seemed. In his chambers at night, alone, death was a mysterious, terrifying mystery—a wall whose contemplation sent shudders through him while he couldn't help trying to see over it. But here, death was merely a relief from pain—a relief that he began to fear would never come. Above him, the jhereg had given up, save one whose cries now seemed to say, The River! The River!