Authors: Mark Robson
SIMON AND SCHUSTER
First published in Great Britain by Simon & Schuster UK Ltd, 2006
A Viacom company
Copyright © Mark Robson, 2006
Map illustration © Ray Webb
Cover illustration by Geoff Taylor © Simon & Schuster 2006
Cover title design by
This book is copyright under the Berne Convention.
No reproduction without permission.
All rights reserved.
The right of Mark Robson to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.
Simon & Schuster UK Ltd
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eBook ISBN 978-1-471-11654-4
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to
actual people living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
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In Shandrim, Capital City of Shandar
FEMKE – Talented young spy for the Emperor of Shandar. Mistress of disguise.
SURABAR – Military General of the Shandese Legions. Becomes Emperor after the death of the imposter Emperor, Lord Vallaine.
SHALIDAR – Member of the Guild of Assassins and long time adversary of Femke.
LORD VALLAINE – Sorceror Lord of the Inner Eye. Known for his cunning and evil. Is using his powers of sorcery to pose as Emperor after using Shalidar to kill the real
VAMMUS – Commander of a Shandese Legion. An overweight soldier with ideas above his station.
LORD FERRAND – Master Spy. Mentor of Femke. Missing, presumed dead for two years.
LADY ALYSSA – A phantom. That is, an alias of Femke. A spoilt young woman known to be the daughter of a rich Merchant Lord from a coastal city. The true Lady Alyssa
– An unattractive young lady. Reclusive daughter of a Merchant Lord from the coastal city of Channa.
VERSANDE MATTHIASON – Proprietor of the Silver Chalice, a high class inn located in the centre of Shandrim.
RIKALA – Dressmaker and friend of Versande Matthiason.
REYINIK – Newly qualified Legionnaire of the General’s Elite Legion. One of only two such elite Legionnaires yet to reach their eighteenth birthdays.
LORD DANAR – A handsome young playboy of the Imperial Court. Only son of Lord Tremarle, a powerful old-school Lord. Renowned as a philanderer in the Shandese Court, he is
smitten with Lady Alyssa, an alter ego of Femke.
LORD TREMARLE – Powerful old-school Lord of Shandar. Father of Lord Danar.
LORD KEMPTEN – Old-school Lord of Shandar. Regent of the Shandese Empire in Emperor Surabar’s absence.
SIDIS – File Leader from the General’s Elite Legion. Companion to Femke during her journey to Thrandor.
KALHEEN – Overweight servant from the Imperial Palace in Shandrim. Prone to exaggeration and an incessant storyteller. Travelling companion to Femke during her journey to
PHAGEN – Servant from the Imperial Palace in Shandrim. Slim and introvert travelling companion to Femke during her journey to Thrandor.
LADY KEMPTEN – Gracious Lady wife of Lord Kempten. Known affectionately as Izzie by her husband.
In Mantor, Capital City of Thrandor
MALO – King of Thrandor. A kind old man, used to reigning over a peaceful kingdom, but who has recently faced hostile invasions of his country from both North and
KRIDER – Head of the Royal household staff of the King of Thrandor.
VELDAN – Chief Butler at the Royal Palace in Mantor.
LORD SHANIER – Acolyte of Lord Vallaine who outwitted his master by deliberately leading a Shandese army to their destruction in southern Thrandor.
BARON ANTON – Long time close friend of King Malo. Potential heir to the throne before his murder.
COUNT DREBAN – Unsavoury Nobleman of the Royal Court of Thrandor.
ENNAS – A name assumed by one of Femke’s fellow Imperial spies. Sent by Emperor Surabar to help Femke.
LORD BRENDEN – Thrandorian Nobleman. Speaker for the prosecution at Femke’s trial.
COMMANDER SATERIS – Commander of the Shandese First Legion. Speaker for the defence at Femke’s trial.
‘Seize that man! He’s to be held on charges of treason.’
For the slightest instant, Shalidar was off balance. He was expecting to meet the Emperor. Instead, General Surabar was standing inside the Emperor’s study, pointing at him with an
accusing finger. The two guards who had entered the room with Shalidar were slow to react to the order. Survival instinct and a wealth of experience gave him the edge he needed. In the blink of an
eye, Shalidar spun, hands flashing blows that felled both guards before they had a chance to move. Without pause, he drew a knife and hurled it at the General.
Time seemed to slow as he released the blade. As it left his hand, he saw the spy girl, Femke, draw a blade from her boot. Her face held a strange combination of pain and determination and her
grey-blue eyes chilled him with their intensity. General Surabar swayed aside, avoiding the thrown blade in an astonishing display of agility for one so old. Almost simultaneously Femke threw her
knife as Shalidar launched into a dive out through the open door.
The knife sliced past him so close that he felt it go by. It rammed home into the wooden door-frame with a juddering thud, leaving the assassin in no doubt that it had been thrown with deadly
force. Nobody had come that close to killing him for many years. Worse, the blade had been thrown by a young woman who had barely crossed the threshold into adulthood.
Assassins were normally the unseen killers – unknown and unexpected. Hits were planned meticulously to avoid any chance of the assassin being caught. There were always random factors that
defied the best planning, but Shalidar had a flair for improvisation. He was the best in the business and only the richest could afford to call on his services. No hit was planned today, but
somehow, Femke had turned the tables on him. The young woman had set him up, for which he would exact a painful retribution in due course. For now, his focus was on a clean escape from the
Like a shadow fleeing from the light, Shalidar raced down the corridor. His footfalls made no sound and he ran so smoothly that he appeared to flow along the passage-ways. After a few turns the
assassin paused to glance behind him and listen. There was no sign of pursuit, but he refused to take unnecessary chances.
Shalidar was known around the Palace, though few knew his profession. Most thought him a bodyguard or an advisor to the Emperor. The secrecy was essential, for if the truth of his role in the
Palace became known, he would become useless as a weapon.
Thoughts flashed through Shalidar’s mind as he reviewed his situation. The complexities of his web of deceit and his history of meddling in Imperial affairs were now in tatters. It was
most infuriating. Anger burned in his gut, but he clamped down on the emotion and concentrated.
It appeared that General Surabar was assuming power in Shandar, which was extremely bad news for all assassins. The General was well known for his dislike of hired killers. He believed that
killing was what soldiers did out of necessity in battle, not a trade for those who looked to gain wealth at the expense of the lives of others. It made sense for Shalidar to get out of the capital
as swiftly as possible. Maybe he should even consider leaving Shandar altogether.
Shalidar had always had an aloof disdain for what he saw as the oafish and obvious ways of the military, but he did respect General Surabar’s reputation for efficiency and thoroughness.
With the huge numbers of troops in the city maintaining public order in the wake of the recent unrest, General Surabar had the power to make life difficult for Shalidar.
‘Time to move on,’ he whispered, unconsciously twisting a silver wristlet part hidden by his sleeve. ‘But first, one loose end to tidy up.’
Proceeding at a brisk walk, Shalidar slipped along the corridors towards the nearest exit. Within minutes he was outside of the Palace building and heading for the nearest of the gates out into
the city. The guard at the gate barely glanced in Shalidar’s direction as the killer left the Palace grounds – his remit was to keep undesirables out of the Palace, not to keep people