Read The Betrayal Online

Authors: Pati Nagle

The Betrayal

“In
The Betrayal
, Pati Nagle creates a magical world where the bright elves and their peaceful society are threatened by a darkly twisted new breed of elves who are as tragic as they are dangerous. Hope lies with a pair of young lovers joined by a powerful and unsettling magical bond. Lyrical and deeply romantic,
The Betrayal
is an enthralling read.”


MARY JO PUTNEY
, author of
A Distant Magic

“Pati Nagle has created a world and culture that play with elvish and vampiric themes in a fresh way. That freshness, combined with interesting characters and a fast-paced story, makes
The Betrayal
an entertaining read.”


ANNE BISHOP
, author of
Tangled Webs

“A rich, intriguing novel,
The Betrayal
presents a multifaceted tale loaded with everything a dedicated fantasy reader could desire. The complex political and social dynamic that binds the sylvan aelven to their tainted alben kin introduces a conflict of truly epic porportions.”


JANE LINDSKOLD
, author of
Through Wolf's Eyes

To Peggy, Beau, and Loui—my soul sisters.

Acknowledgments

Warmest thanks to those who helped bring this story, which is very dear to me, to publication: my editor, Liz Scheier, and Betsy Mitchell at Del Rey; Jane Lindskold and Peggy Whitmore for their encouragement and insight; and my husband, Chris Krohn, for his endless patience. Thanks also to Kris Rusch, Dean Smith, Laura Resnick, Pat McLaughlin, Mary Jo Putney, Plot-busters, the OWN gang, and the many other friends whose support has kept me going through dark times.

Walk many paths, leaving no mark behind but of beauty.

Honor the ældar and spirits who watch over all.

Serve in good faith, with true heart, those who share the bright journey.

Live in the world, giving thanks, speaking truth, harming none.


Creed of the Ælven,
first stave

 Alpinon 

A footfall on the forest floor below brought Eliani's head up sharply. The scroll in her hands curled back into itself. She had not been reading it—her thoughts had drifted long since. The Lay of the Battle of Westgard had failed to entrance her this day.

She leaned out from the branch where she sat and peered down between the leaves of her favorite oak, seeking the sound's source. A shadow of movement below, the edge of a cloak curling out of sight. Not a kobalen, then. Nor could it be a guardian, for Alpinon's patrols were always at least three strong.

Eliani laid a hand against the oak's trunk—slender there, near its top—and closed her eyes. The tree's khi was slow and deep. She sent her own khi through it and out into the forest: roots running strong into the earth, whisper-fine grasses moving with each light breeze, small creatures dwelling in branch or under root. A much brighter, stronger pulse of khi reverberated through the wood, one that could only be ælven. Eliani drew back from it, as the ælven did not trespass upon one another's khi.

She opened her eyes and carefully set her scroll in a notch of two branches where she had stored little treasures since childhood. She loved the old ballad—heroic mindspeakers and soul-consuming alben warlords still
thrilled her despite her inattention this day—but her curiosity about the intruder was more immediate.

She moved stealthily down to the oak's lowest limbs, making no sound at all, for she could have climbed the tree blindfolded in any direction. Pausing on a lower branch, she saw a solitary figure walking away northward: tall, male, pale-haired.

She caught her breath, thinking for an instant that it was an alben. Fear set her heart pulsing before reason reminded her that an alben would not be walking in daylight even if he dared to cross the mountains into Alpinon.

No, it was a Greenglen, his hair not white but pale blond, as was common to his clan. He wore a cloak of Clan Greenglen's colors—sage lined with silver—and carried a long bow slung over one shoulder.

Greenglens rarely were seen in Alpinon, though their homeland of Southfæld shared a nearby border. Eliani had met only a handful of them in her short fifty years, and none recently.

She smiled a hunter's silent plea sure. She would track this foreigner, try to glimpse his face, see how long she could follow him unnoticed. It was the sort of game she most enjoyed, and she was good at it, having spent the last two de cades in Alpinon's Guard. She felt a moment's wistfulness, reminded that soon she would become the Guard's commander. The other guardians would call her “Warden” instead of “Kestrel,” the nickname they had given her.

Tomorrow, on Autumn Evennight, she would be confirmed in her majority and formally named heir and designated successor to her father, Felisan, governor of Alpinon. The command of the Guard would pass to her as well. This was her last day of youth and irresponsibility. A little mischief might be forgiven her this last time.

Grinning, she turned her attention to her quarry. She tensed her thighs, balanced carefully, and sprang to the forest floor, making no more sound than the falling of a leaf.

Turisan walked at his ease, enjoying the rich earthen smell and myriad colors of autumn leaves, only mildly curious at first about his pursuer. He was not quite certain how long he had been followed.

He was not averse to meeting a patrol from Alpinon's Guard. In fact, he half hoped to encounter one, for he had not been in this realm previously and did not know the way to Highstone. His pursuer, however, though certainly ælven, was evidently not a guardian. Such a one would have challenged him, not stalked him. He therefore continued to stride through Alpinon's fair woodlands, which were full of life and untouched by ælven hands, as unlike as could be to his home in Glen-hallow.

Pausing to examine a spray of scarlet leaves, he saw a flicker of movement above. His brow creased in a slight frown. It was impolite to treat a visitor so, whether or not they knew who he was. He began to tire of the game.

And now he could hear his father berating him for not bringing along an escort suitable to his dignity. Had he been accompanied by ten of Southfæld's Guard, as Lord Jharan had wished, no zealous Stonereach would have dared to stalk him. In Jharan's view, a member of Southfæld's governing house should never travel unattended though he walk through the most benign lands. Indeed, he should not walk. He should ride a finely caparisoned steed or, better yet, take his ease in a chariot emblazoned with marks of state, surrounded by a mounted escort.

It was such excess of ceremony that made Turisan
long so often to be gone from the court at Glenhallow. The more he learned of the intricacies of governance, the more he yearned for the simplicity of a wild wood, a clear stream, and the flicker of stars through leafy branches.

This journey was in part an escape from court formalities, though at the end of it they awaited him again. His father had sent him here on a visit of ceremony, to pay respects and carry messages to Lord Felisan, the governor of Alpinon, and to witness the confirmation of his heir.

Turisan had made no objection to this errand, for he knew it to be his duty as his father's nextkin. Lord Jharan's eyes, so often stern, grew soft with fondness whenever he spoke of Felisan, and that alone made Turisan curious to know him. He also expected the visit to Alpinon's woodlands to satisfy his longing for wildness. Yet even here in the forest he was to have no peace, it seemed. Annoyed all at once, he turned in mid-stride and nocked an arrow to his bow, aiming it amidst the branches overhead.

“You have followed me half the afternoon. Come down and declare your business with me or begone.”

A moment's silence. Then a rustle in the branches, and a lanky ælven female in worn and dusky hunting leathers emerged, landing softly before him. She brushed a strand of nut-brown hair from her green eyes and stood gazing at him.

“Peace to you, friend. I meant no harm. We seldom have visitors from the south.”

Turisan lowered his bow. “And who are you?”

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