The Warrior's Bond (Einarinn 4)

The Warrior's Bond

 

( Tales of Einarinn - 4 )

Juliet E. McKenna

Einarinn's greatest warrior, the swordsman Ryshad, has sworn to protect his lord, Messire D'Olbriot, even if it means watching his love, the beautiful thief Livak, embark on a dangerous quest to find the lost aetheric magic on her own. But shadow and intrigue lie over the land, and a journey to recover magical artifacts leads the swordsman back to the lost colony of Kellarin, whose settlers have only recently been awoken from centuries of enchanted sleep. Amidst the intricate halls and deadly intrigues of this royal court, even the most cautious of strategems can fail, and Ryshad must fight to save the future of Einarinn itself.

 

The Warrior’s Bond
The Fourth Tale of Einarinn
Juliet E. McKenna

For Mike and Sue, always there.

 Acknowledgements

Another year, another book and as always, I couldn’t do it without those who know a friend can’t be a flatterer—and when to offer unconditional support as well as bracing criticism, interesting facts, curious books and cunning notions. My thanks as ever to Steve, Mike, Sue, Helen, Liz, Lisa, Penny and Rachel, with particular gratitude to Andy G for providing inspiration at a crucial juncture by suffering concussion.

Michael S R merits special mention for his help with the ever-vexed title question on the Hammersmith and City Line, and Pete C did me a considerable service with his question about the arm ring. Also, thanks to the non-fictional Burquest family for allowing me the use of their name. In translating my work into Dutch, Richard H has made me pay close attention to several aspects of my writing, for which I am most grateful. I am also indebted to those, too numerous to mention, who have helpfully answered some downright bizarre email queries at first or second hand.

For constant help with the practicalities of life as author and mother, I thank Sharon, friend and neighbour without peer, and Margaret, for taking home one extra at key points. Ernie and Betty remain vital props and my thanks to Mum and David for the lads’ summer holiday (and thereby, child-free writing time).

Time brings change and at Orbit I am most ably supported by Simon, Ben and Tamsin, while Tim remains editor without equal. The unstinting efforts of Adrian and his colleagues are very much appreciated, as is the enthusiasm of so many booksellers and reviewers, such essential links in the chain between author and booklover. My final thanks go to all those readers who have passed their appreciation of our efforts back up the line.

 

CHAPTER ONE

The Sieur’s Frontispiece to the D’Olbriot

Chronicle, as Written by Messire Guliel in His

Own Hand at This Winter Solstice, Concluding

the Second Year of Tadriol the Provident

There are years when I swear it takes me as long to compose this short summary of notable events as it does for all the clerks and archivists, the stewards and chamberlains to abridge their ledgers and records for the posterity of the House. There have been times when I wonder if any Sieur in later generations will even read my carefully chosen words detailing important alliances, significant births or sorely mourned deaths. This year and last, my fear is that some future guardian of D’Olbriot’s interests will treat my record with the same amused condescension I have been wont to feel when reading the more fanciful entries made by my forebears.

But as a rational man I must accept I can do nothing to counter whatever beliefs or prejudices might influence subsequent readers of this annal. By that same token, I can only relate the startling dealings of this past year and ask that my words be accepted as the unvarnished truth, on my oath as Sieur of this House.

The first year of our new Emperor’s reign concluded with the discovery of islands far in the eastern ocean, inhabited by a race of men hostile to Tormalin and backed by inimical magic entirely unlike conventional wizardry. These men of the Ice Islands—or in their own tongue, Elietimm—were pursuing some arcane purpose of their own that led them to attack vulnerable members of this and other Names, robbing them of heirloom jewels and artefacts. As this year opened, I was persuaded by Planir, Archmage of Hadrumal, to assist his search for answers to this puzzle by granting him the service of Ryshad Tathel, sworn to this House for ten years and more. Ryshad had already done much to track these villians to their remote lair, as he sought justice in my Name for a victim from our House. I also acceded to the wizard’s suggestion that I reward Ryshad with an ancient sword the Archmage had recently returned to me.

Believe me as I declare here and for perpetuity that I had no notion what this seemingly innocent gesture might demand of Ryshad. But as my honour binds me, I confess I might have yet done the same, even had I known what would befall him. My duty as Sieur of this House demands I must look to the wider interests of all, even at severest cost to any one individual.

These Elietimm pursued Ryshad and the wizards he had been sent to protect, seeking the sword I had given and other artefacts held by the mages. By some foul connivance, the Elietimm encompassed Ryshad’s enslavement by the Aldabreshin, and it was only by virtue of his resourcefulness and courage that the man escaped alive and whole from the savagery of those southern islands. His first safe landfall beyond the Archipelago was regrettably the island of Hadrumal. There, Planir determined the sword Ryshad carried held vital knowledge, locked within it by archaic enchantments. I do not pretend to understand by what means but the Archmage had learned that this blade and other treasures sought by the brutal Elietimm had come from that supposedly rich and fertile colony founded by Tormalin nobles in the final years of Nemith the Last, and lost thereafter in the mists of the Chaos that toppled the Old Empire.

Thus far I can picture your astonishment, unknown reader, but hereafter I am concerned lest you dismiss my words as incredible. Do not; I charge you by whatever beliefs you hold dear. There will be other records to attest to this, as I have declared all that follows before the Convocation of Princes in my capacity as Adjurist.

The information Archmage Planir retrieved by his magics led him and mercenaries backed by D’Olbriot gold, carried on D’Olbriot ships, to the far side of the ocean, where they found the long-buried ruins of that lost colony. More astonishing yet, they discovered nigh on a thousand of those who had crossed the ocean in the distant past still living, if it could be called living, held in ensorcelled sleep through all the generations that had intervened. Enchantment was finally used in service of Tormalin blood to revive these unfortunates.

It is now clear that the Elietimm had been seeking these hidden sleepers intent on their utter destruction, determined to claim this vast, unfettered land. Seeing by whatever arcane means they had been outflanked, the Elietimm attacked and Ryshad Tathel again distinguished himself as the first assault was successfully driven off. Wizardly magic was also vital in countering fell Elietimm enchantments, so, of necessity, I continue my association with Planir. This will entitle me to call on his assistance, should any Elietimm magic be used against Tormalin. I am also taking steps to have every ancient record and archive of the House and the shrines under our protection searched for lore that might explain the mysteries of Artifice. Knowledge of such enchantments could prove critical in some as yet unforeseen struggle. When all else fails, one must fight fire with fire.

At this close of the year, I am relieved beyond measure to state we have seen no more ships come out of the north to harry coasts on either side of the ocean. The sole surviving noble patron of the original colony is Temar, Esquire D’Alsennin, and accordingly we are working closely with him. The colonists are even now attempting to rebuild their livelihoods, and as soon as the Spring Equinox brings surcease from winter’s storms we will send them all the assistance D’Olbriot can offer. However, it remains to be seen how close our two realms can grow, given these ancients are still so dependent on religious beliefs that we in this present generation have long since discarded as superstition. I foresee it will fall to D ’Olbriot to guide these innocents to a more rational understanding of the world and their place within it.

The Shrine of Ostrin, Bremilayne
9th of For-Summer in the Third Year of
Tadriol the Provident, Afternoon

It’s raining darning needles out there.” That’s what we say in Zyoutessela when a summer storm brings fine, piercing rain sweeping in from the ocean. Drizzle content to hang as mist on more sheltered shores is whipped by merciless winds to sting skin and soak clothing, leaving a lingering chill long after the sun has returned. Not that I had any concerns, watching the weather’s vagaries from a comfortable lodging high on a hill above the bustle of the harbour.

“Do you get storms like these in Hadrumal, Casuel? You must face heavy weather off the Soluran Sea.”

My companion acknowledged my remarks with a sour grunt as he snapped fingers at a candle stand. The wicks flared with surprise at being called into service, but the louring skies made the room too dim for reading. Today Casuel was fretting over his almanac, a tide table and a recently acquired set of maps. I suppose it made a change from the ancient tomes he’d been scouring for the last two seasons, hunting hints of lost lore from one end of Toremal to the other, garnering clues that might unravel the mysteries of the past. I admired his scholarship, but in his place I’d have taken these few days to draw breath, waiting to see if those on the ship we so eagerly anticipated could supply some answers.

There was a rattle behind me. I turned to see Casuel had pushed aside my game board. The trees of the Forest had toppled over to knock into apples thrushes and pied crows, sending the little wooden birds skittering over the scarred wooden surface. I held my peace; I didn’t particularly want to finish the game and Casuel wasn’t going to learn anything from another defeat to add to the three he’d already suffered. The wizard might be learned in his abstract arts but he was never going to win a game of Raven till he overcame the spinelessness that inevitably hamstrung his hopelessly convoluted plans.

I squinted into the gloom, trying to distinguish between the ripples in the glass and the torrents of rain blurring the vista. Black squalls striped the swags of grey cloud, dragging curtains of rain across the white-capped, grey-green swells. “Is that a sail?”

Casuel shot an accusing look at the timepiece on the mantelshelf. “I hardly think so. It’s barely past the sixth hour and we don’t expect them before the evening tide.”

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