Authors: Catherine Fisher
Tags: #Fantasy, #Juvenile
Finn has escaped from the terrible living Prison of Incarceron, but its memory torments him, because his brother Keiro is still inside. Outside, Claudia insists he must be king, but Finn doubts even his own identity. Is he the lost prince Giles? Or are his memories no more than another construct of his imprisonment? And can you be free if your friends are still captive? Can you be free if your world is frozen in time? Can you be free if you don't even know who you are? Inside Incarceron, has the crazy sorcerer Rix really found the Glove of Sapphique, the only man the Prison ever loved. Sapphique, whose image fires Incarceron with the desire to escape its own nature. If Keiro steals the glove, will he bring destruction to the world? Inside. Outside. All seeking freedom. Like Sapphique.
Also by Catherine Fisher
Incarceron The Oracle The Archon The Scarab The Lammas Field Darkwater Hall
Other titles available from Hodder Children's Books
Piratica II — Return to Parrot Island
Piratica III — The Family Sea
THE WOLF TOWER SEQUENCE
Law of the Wolf Tower
Wolf Star Rise
Queen of the Wolves Wolf Wing
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Text copyright © 2008 Catherine Fisher
First published in Great Britain in 2008 by Hodder Children's Books
right of Catherine Fisher to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
All rights reserved. Apart from any use permitted under UK copyright law, this publication may only be reproduced, stored or transmitted, in any form, or by any means with prior permission in writing from the publishers or in the case of reprographic production in accordance with the terms of licences issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency and may not be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
A Catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
ISBN-13: 978 0 340 89361 6
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L'amor che muove il sole e l'altre stelle.
Sapphique, they say, was not the same after his Fall. His mind was bruised. He plunged into despair, the depths of the Prison. He crawled into the Tunnels of Madness. He sought dark places, and dangerous men.
LEGEND OF SAPPHIQUE
The alleyway was so narrow that Attia could lean against one wall and kick the other. She waited in the dimness, listening, her breath condensing on glistening bricks. A flicker of flames around the corner sent red ripples down the walls.
The shouts were louder now, the unmistakeable roar of an excited crowd. She heard howls of delight, sudden gales of laughter. Whistles and stamping. Applause.
Licking a fallen drip of condensation from her lips she tasted its salty grit, knowing she had to face them. She had come too far, searched too long, to back out now. It was useless feeling small, and scared. Not if she ever wanted to Escape.
She straightened, edged to the
end of the alley, and peered out.
Hundreds of people were crammed into the small torchlit square. They were squeezed together, their backs to her, the stench of sweat and bodies overpowering. Behind the mob a few old women stood craning to see. Halfmen crouched in shadows. Boys climbed on each other's shoulders, scrambling up on to the rooftops of squalid houses. Stalls of gaudy canvas sold hot food, the pungency of onions and spitting grease making her swallow with hunger.
The Prison was interested too. Just above her, under the eaves of filthy straw, one of its tiny red Eyes spied curiously on the scene.
A howl of delight from the crowd made Attia set her shoulders; she stepped out deliberately. Dogs fought over scraps; she edged round them, past a shadowy doorway. Someone slipped out behind her; she turned, her knife already in her hand.
'Don't even try.'
The cutpurse stepped back, fingers spread, grinning. He was thin and filthy and had few teeth.
'No problem, darling. My mistake.'
She watched him slide into the crowd.
'It would have been,' she muttered. Then she sheathed her knife and barged in after him.
Forcing a way through was tough. The people were tightly packed and eager to see whatever was going on up front; they groaned, la
ughed, gasped in unison. Ragged
children crawled under everyone's feet, getting kicked and stepped on. Attia pushed and swore, slipped into gaps, ducked under elbows. Being small had its uses. And she needed to get to the front. She needed to see him.
Winded and bruised, she squirmed between two huge men and found air.
It was acrid with smoke. Firebrands crackled all around; before her, an area of mud had been roped off.
Crouched in it, all alone, was a bear.
The bear's black fur was scabby, its eyes small and savage. A chain clanked around its neck, and, well back in the shadows, a bearkeeper held the end, a bald man with long moustaches, his skin glistening with sweat. Slung at his side was a drum; he beat it rhythmically and gave a sharp tug on the chain.
Slowly, the bear rose to its hindlegs, and danced. Taller than a man, lumbering awkwardly, it circled, its muzzled mouth dripping saliva, its chains leaving bloody trails in its pelt.
Attia scowled. She knew just how it felt.
She put her hand up to her own neck, where the welts and bruises of the chain she had once worn were faded to faint marks.
Like that bear, she had been a manacled thing. If it hadn't been for Finn she still would be. Or, more likely, dead by now.
His name was a bruise in itself. It hurt her to think of his treachery.
The drum beat louder. The bear capered, its clumsy dragging at the chain making the crowd roar. Attia watched grim—faced. Then, behind it, she saw the poster. It was plastered on the damp wall, the same poster that had been pasted tip all over the village, everywhere she had looked.
Ragged and wet, peeling at the corners, it invited gaudily.
COME ALL YOU GOOD PEOPLE.
SEE THE LOST FOUND!!
SEE THE DEAD. LIVE!!!'
TONIGHT SEE THE GREATEST
Wearing the DRAGON GLOVE
THE DARK ENCHANTER
Attia shook her head in dismay. After searching for two months through corridors and empty wings, villages and cities, swampy plains and networks of white cells, for a Sapient, for a cell-born, for anyone who would know about Sapphique, all she'd found was a tacky sideshow in a back alley.
The crowd clapped and stamped. She was shoved aside; when she'd pushed her way back she saw the bear had turned to face its handler; he was hauling it down, alarmed, prodding it away into the darkness with a long pole. The men around her roared with scorn.
'Try dancing with it yourself next time,' one of them yelled.
A woman giggled.
Voices from the back rose, calling for more, something new, something different, sounding impatient and scathing. Slow handclaps began. Then they faded, to silence.
In the empty space among the torches a figure was standing.
He came from nowhere, materializing into solidity from shadows and flamelight. He was tall, and wore a black coat that glistened strangely with hundreds of tiny sparkles; as he raised his arms wide the sleeves fell open. The collar of the coat was high around his neck; in the gloom he looked young, with dark long hair.
No one spoke. Attia felt the crowd shock into stillness.
He was the image of Sapphique.
Everyone knew what Sapphique had looked like; there were a thousand pictures, carvings, descriptions of him. He was the Winged One, the Nine-Fingered, the One who had escaped from the Prison. Like Finn,
he had promised to return. Attia
swallowed, nervous. Her hands were shaking. She clenched them tight.
'Friends.' The magician's voice was quiet; people strained to hear him. 'Welcome to my ring of wonders. You think you will see illusions. You think I will fool you with mirrors and false cards, with hidden devices. But I am not like other magicians. I am the Dark Enchanter, and I will show you true magic. The magic of the stars
As one, the crowd gasped.
Because he raised his right hand and on it he was wearing a glove, of dark fabric, and from it white flashes of light were sparking and crackling. The torches around the walls flared and sank low. A woman behind Attia moaned in terror.
Attia folded her arms. She watched, determined not to be overawed. How did he do it? Could that really be Sapphique's Glove? Could it have survived? Was there some strange power still lingering in it? But as she watched, her doubts began to slip from her grasp.
The show was astonishing.
The Enchanter had the crowd transfixed. He took objects, made them vanish, brought them back, plucked doves and Beetles out of the air, conjured a woman to sleep and made her rise slowly, unsupported, into the smoky acrid darkness. He drew butterflies from the mouth of a terrified child, conjured gold coins and threw them out to desperate, grabbing fingers, opened a door in the air and walked through it, so that the crowd bayed and howled for him to come back, and when he
did it was from behind
them, walking calmly through their frenzy so that they fell away, awed, as if afraid to touch him.
As he passed Attia felt the brush of his coat against her arm; her skin prickled, all the hairs on her skin standing up with a faint static. He gave one glance to the side, his eyes bright, catching hers.
From somewhere a woman screamed, 'Heal my son, Wise One! Heal him.'
A baby was lifted up, began to be passed forward over people's heads.
The Enchanter turned and held up his hand.
'That will be done later. Not now' His voice was rich with authority. 'Now I prepare for the summoning of all my powers. For the reading of minds. For the entry into death and back to life.'
He closed his eyes.
The torches flickered low.
Standing alone in the dark the Enchanter whispered, 'There is much sorrow here. There is much fear.' When he looked out at them again he seemed overwhelmed by the numbers, almost afraid of his task. Quietly he said, 'I want three people to come forward. But they must be only those willing to have their deepest fears revealed. Only those willing to bare their souls to my gaze.'
A few hands shot up. Women called out. After a moment of hesitation, Attia put her hand up too.
The Enchanter went towards the crowd. 'That woman,'
he called, and one was shoved forward, hot and stumbling. 'Him.' A tall man who had not even volunteered was dragged out by those around him. He swore and stood awkwardly, as if transfixed by terror.
The Enchanter turned. His gaze moved inexorably across the massed faces. Attia held her breath. She felt the man's brooding stare cross her face like heat. He stopped, glanced back. Their eyes met, a dark second. Slowly he raised his hand and stabbed a long finger in her direction, and the crowd cried aloud because they saw that, like Sapphique, his right forefinger was missing.
'You,' the Enchanter whispered.
She took a breath to calm herself. Her heart was hammering with terror. She had to force herself to push through into the dim, smoky space. But it was important to stay calm, not show fear. Not show she was any different from anyone else.
The three of them stood in a line and Attia could feel the woman next to her trembling with emotion. The Enchanter walked along, his eyes scrutinizing their faces. Attia met his stare as defiantly as she could. He would never read her mind; she was sure of that. She had seen and heard things he could never imagine. She had seen Outside.
He took the woman's hand. After a moment, very gently, he said, 'You miss him.'
The woman stared in am
azement. A strand of hair stuck
to her lined forehead. 'Oh I do, Master. I do.'
The Enchanter smiled. 'Have no fear. He is safe in the peace of Incarceron. The Prison holds him in its memory. His body is whole in its white cells.
She shook with sobs of joy, kissed his hands. 'Thank you, Master. Thank you for telling me.'
The crowd roared its approval. Attia allowed herself a sardonic smile. They were so stupid! Hadn't they noticed this so — called magician had told the woman nothing? A lucky guess and a few empty words and they swallowed it whole.
He had chosen his victims carefully. The tall man was so terrified he would have said anything; when the Enchanter asked him how his sick mother was he stammered that she was improving, sir. The crowd applauded.
'Indeed she is.' The Enchanter waved his maimed hand for silence. 'And I prophesy this. By Lightson her fever will have diminished. She will sit up and call for you, my friend. She will live ten more years. I see your grandchildren on her knee.'