Sethra LavodeSteven Brust
The Viscount of Adrilankha
The oldest person in the Dragaeran Empire. A military genius and master of sorcery whose story stretches back to before the dawn of history. Now, after a long absence, the undead Sethra Lavode, the Enchantress of Dzur Mountain, has re-entered the Empire's affairs. And the affairs of Khaavren and Pel, Tazendra and Aerich, and all their descendants, colleagues, and friends.
For since Adron's Disaster, when Dragaera City was turned instantly into a sea of amorphia, the Empire has been in ruins. Trade has declined, brigands rule the roads, plagues sweep through the population. Now an ambitious Dragonlord means to rebuild the Empire in his own name. But unknown to him, the true heir, the Phoenix Zerika, has already retrieved the Imperial Orb from the Paths of the Dead. Sethra Lavode means to see Zerika on the throne. To do so will entail a climactic battle of sorcery and arms, told with all the swashbuckling flair for which Steven Brust is known.
The first thing that crossed Tazendra's mind as she awoke was the reflection that she had been asleep for a long time. Then her memory began to return—walking into her home, the sudden explosions behind her, the feeling of a spell penetrating her defenses, and the sudden dizziness. And, as her memories came back to her, she realized that she was not alone, but, on the contrary, there were two individuals standing over her.
"We are together," said Illista, bowing. "Just as you will soon be, if I may use the expression, apart."
"Indeed?" said Tazendra, yawning. "You will forgive me if I am a little weary after my long sleep. Otherwise, you may be certain, I should display more emotion."
"Oh, we don't mind," said Illista. "No doubt, you will display more emotion presently."
"What am I to lose?" asked Tazendra.
"Everything," said Grita.
"All at once?" asked Tazendra in a tone of idle curiosity.
"No, we are beginning with your left ear."
"Ah, splendid. I have never liked that one. Indeed, I have often considered removing it myself."
"We are pleased to be able to perform this service for you."
"Well, why do you not begin?"
"Oh, we will in a moment, I assure you. We are only waiting for a guest."
Books By Steven Brust
The Dragaeran Novels
The Khaavren Romances
The Phoenix Guards
Five Hundred Years After
The Viscount of Adrilankha
The Paths of the Dead
The Lord of Castle Black
The Vlad Taltos 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)
The Viscount of Adrilankha
Describing Certain Events that Occurred
Between the 1st and 3rd Years
Of the Reign of Empress Zerika the Fourth
Submitted to the Imperial Library By Springsign Manor
House of the Hawk
On this 3rd day of the Month of the Athyra
Of the Year of the Vallista
Of the Turn of the Jhereg
Of the Phase of the Phoenix
Of the Reign of the Dragon
In the Cycle of the Phoenix
In the Great Cycle of the Dragon;
Or, in the 179th 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 Marchioness Poorborn
With Gratitude and Affection
Cast of Characters
Blackchapel and Castle Black
Morrolan—An Apprentice witch
Fentor e'Mondaar—A Dragonlord
Fineol—A Vallista from Nacine
Esteban—An Eastern witch
The Kanefthali Mountains
Skinter—A Count, afterward Duke
Marchioness of Habil—His cousin and strategist
Betraan e'Lanya—His tactician
Tsanaali—A lieutenant in Skinter's army
Izak—A general in Skinter's army
Brawre—A general in Skinter's army
Saakrew—An officer in Skinter's army
Udaar—An adviser and diplomatist
The Society of the Porker Poker
Piro—The Viscount of Adrilankha
Whitecrest and Environs
Daro—The Countess of Whitecrest
Dzur Mountain and Environs
Kytraan—The son of an old friend
Sethra Lavode—The Enchantress of Dzur Mountain
Sethra the Younger—Sethra's apprentice
The Necromancer—A demon
Tazendra—A Dzurlord wizard
The Sorceress in Green—A sorceress
Berigner—A general serving Sethra Lavode
Taasra—A brigadier serving under Berigner
Karla e'Baritt—A military engineer
Arylle and Environs
Aerich Temma—Duke of Arylle
Steward—His other servant
On the Road
Orlaan/Grita—A sorceress in training
Wadre—A brigand leader
Ryunac e'Terics—A lieutenant in Skinter's army
Magra e'Lanya—Ryunac's sergeant
Brimford—An Easterner and Warlock
Corthina Fi Dalcalda—King of Elde
Gardimma—Imperial Ambassador to Elde
The Halls of Judgment
Prince Tiawall—Hawk Heir
Jami—A Teckla in Mistyvale County
Marel—Proprietor of a general store
which consists of a succinct su
mmary of all that has gone before as well as a daring literary adventure embarked upon for the benefit of the loyal reader
Having, on the occasion of introducing the previous volume of this history, said all that needs to be said concerning the wisdom, or, rather, the lack of wisdom, of dividing a story into sections, we do not feel the need to repeat ourselves. That is, all of those who have read the previous volume understand our objections to making such necessarily arbitrary breaks in what was meant to be a single, unified text; and those who have not read the previous volumes will, without our having to say anything, quickly come to understand. However, in the course of preparing this summary, we came to the decision to do something that, so far as we know, has never been done in the history of letters—a daring step that we have chosen to take out of a sense of duty to the reader.
Instead of confining these few pages to an explication of the events which are already known to those of our readers who have done us the courtesy of remaining with us throughout the several volumes of this history, we have chosen to break with an iron-bound tradition for such summaries, and include, toward the end of this section, new information—that is to say, information which will be of value to all readers.
It is possible that we will come under attack for such a departure from tradition from our brothers in letters, as well as those who feed upon literature in the same way as certain insects feed upon deceased animals; but in our desire to be of service to the reader, we are willing and even happy to brave these attacks.
That noted, we will at once pass on to explain, as laconically as possible, the circumstances at the beginning of this volume of our history, and how those circumstances developed.
We have been following, first of all, two Dragonlords: Morrolan and Kâna. The latter of these has been attempting to expand his own holdings until they become, in effect, the Empire re-created. He achieved significant success, having started his projects around the fiftieth year after Adron's Disaster, so that, by the time two hundreds of years had passed, nearly half of the area that was once the Empire was either under his control or threatened by his forces.
The other, Morrolan, the Count of Southmoor, had been raised in the East in ignorance, not only of his heritage, but, indeed, even of his race. Early in our history, we saw how he migrated from the East along with several hundreds of practitioners of the Eastern heathen magical arts. He journied to Dzur Mountain under the impression that he was owed tribute, Dzur Mountain being part of his ancestral holdings. He received an immensely powerful artifact from the Enchantress, though we are inclined to believe this was less in the nature of tribute than it was a gift of friendship, or perhaps the product of inspired foresight on the part of the enigmatic Sethra.
Another figure whom we have been following with great attention is, in fact, Sethra Lavode herself, the Enchantress of Dzur Mountain. Seeing that the true Phoenix Heir, Zerika, had reached a sufficient age, Sethra revealed to this worthy Zerika's true name and destiny, and sent her, with the Viscount of Adrilankha, our old friend Tazendra, and a few others to the Paths of the Dead, where she managed to convince the Lords of Judgment to give her the Orb. She emerged from the Halls of Judgment, and so the Interregnum came to an end. This, the reader should understand, led directly to the Battle of Dzur Mountain, as this battle was, above all else, Kâna's attempt to take the Orb by force. He concentrated his two armies, together numbering over seventy thousand strong, on Dzur Mountain, which he knew was Zerika's destination. The attempt was defeated, largely thanks to Morrolan, as well as to assistance sent by Sethra Lavode, and a necromantic demon sent by the Lords of Judgment.
We should add that, after the battle, Morrolan caused to be built a floating castle, as was a tradition among his family, which had often lived in such structures before the Interregnum, either because of the ease of defending such a place, or else simply because they were able to.
With Kâna's army defeated and in retreat, Zerika marched from Dzur Mountain to Adrilankha and began construction of the Imperial Palace, unaware that the Pretender had other schemes working in case the military attack had failed. In particular, Grita, the daughter of our friends' old enemy, has offered her services to Kâna in exchange for help in achieving vengeance against Khaavren, Aerich, Pel, and Tazendra. She has been of no small help to the Pretender, in particular succeeding in finding Illista, an exiled Phoenix who has long nursed a hatred of our friends, and who, like Grita, is happy to assist Kâna in exchange for securing her revenge.
We have mentioned Piro, the Viscount of Adrilankha. It is also important for the reader to understand that he has fallen in love with the Dzurlord Ibronka, only daughter of Her Highness Sennya, the Dzur Heir. Khaavren, for his part, was outraged at Piro's wishes to marry outside of his House, and, after harsh words between them, Piro, Ibronka, and their friends, including the remnants of a certain band of brigands who had first been enemies and after soldiers of Her Majesty, have set up as highwaymen in a region some hundred miles northwest of Dzur Mountain.
With the reader's permission, we feel that, as we promised above, this is a good time to present new information: to wit, a general picture of what was occurring in the Empire during this crucial period, that is to say, what is usually considered the initial year of Zerika's Reign.
The reader should, first of all, understand that a confederation as strong and as large as that created by Kâna and Habil would not simply dissolve as the result of a military defeat or two. Though severely damaged, like a wounded toe-lizard, it thrashed around a bit, pulled its head in, retreated, hissed, and survived. By the time several months had passed, Kâna had pulled back so that he could reasonably claim to exercise his influence over the western third of the Empire, with the exception of the Fingers, which, except for its few ports, was of little importance anyway. Additionally, certain pockets above the Great Sea of Amorphia claimed allegiance to the Pretender, but this is generally considered to be a fluke, caused by age-old resentment against a previous Phoenix Emperor who took mining rights from various of the counts of the district.
While the geographical regions of support for the two supposed Emperors are clearly identifiable, the breakdown among the various strata of society is less clear. Zerika's support was strongest among the Lyorn, Tiassa, and Hawk nobles, a statistic that would seem irrational, as these Houses stood to gain the Orb sooner with a Dragon on the throne. Yet Lyorns have always held that the Orb was sacred, and, in such questions, the Tiassas have more often than not followed the Lyorns' lead. As for the Hawklords, many of them had interest in some of the iron-rich regions of the Southeast, and, as most of the smelters were near the Shallow Sea—that is to say, a region firmly under Zerika's control—they hesitated to offend her.
The House of the Dragon was, as the reader might expect, split, primarily according to family ties of those serving in the various armies, and secondarily according to other interests; but for the most part, they tended to support Kâna, because he was, after all, a Dragon himself. Most of the Dzurlords also sided with the Pretender, because so many of their holdings were near the Grand Canal and dependent upon it, and nearly the entire length of the Canal ran through the region firmly under his control.
We should note here that, as the reader may observe, it is, in fact, the influence of commerce, trade, and the practical considerations of day-to-day life that tended to exert the most influence on the loyalties and allegiances of the Houses, not high-sounding considerations of ideals, such as is believed by historians of the romantic school. Yet, to give credit to those historians, it is often those individuals who form exceptions to these tendencies who exert the most influence on the course of history, and are, in any case, the most pleasurable to study.
But to continue: Additional support for Zerika came from the Iorich, because most of them tend to live in cities, and, as a general rule, her support was stronger among those whose income depended upon the sort of manufacturing that was transported by sea, whereas Kâna had considerable symp
athy among those who depended upon overland transportation, such as the Athyra (many of whom had logging interests in the region to the west of the Pushta) as well as the Chreotha and Vallista. Of the Orca, those involved directly in shipping firmly backed Zerika, who controlled the most important seaports (not the least of which was proud Adrilankha herself), but the rest—which is to say, the majority—favored Kâna for the same reason as the Chreotha and Vallista: because he controlled so much of the interior transportation.
In many ways, transportation, as the reader may see, was a key issue; at least, it seemed so to Her Majesty. She was never ashamed to say, later, that she had studied many of the improvements instituted by the Pretender and had learned from them. She immediately implemented and extended his system of posts, which included the delivery of mails and use of post horses by any peer, as well as those on Imperial business. While this was not tremendously successful as a means of garnering support among the more recalcitrant nobles, it quickly turned into a more general system for the delivery of mail, until we have the liberal, inexpensive, and efficient system that we enjoy to-day.
One of the more daring (and controversial) decisions of Zerika's early reign was that, while she maintained the army, she did not increase it, instead devoting what funds she was able to garner from those nobles who pledged loyalty to her as individuals (decisions on approval by the Houses and the Council of Princes still being some years in the future) to the improvement of roadways, hoping to lure in this fashion more of the merchants.
By the time fourteen or fifteen months had expired, this support was still not especially noticeable. Everyone knew that Kâna was still formidable. To be sure, Zerika had received a pledge of support—that is to say, a promise of future recognition—from the the House of the Tiassa, but none of the others (except, naturally, the House of the Phoenix, which consisted of Zerika herself) had yet even gone that far, all of them preferring an attitude of waiting to see how matters would play out after the inevitable clash.
This was insufficient for Zerika, who continued negotiating with the Heirs and the Delegates, and making such decrees as she thought would win them over. While these maneuvers were not met with a great deal of success, it is certainly the case that none of the Houses ever gave serious consideration to recognizing Kâna from the moment Zerika arrived in Adrilankha.