Authors: Jeff Wheeler
Books by Jeff Wheeler
The Covenant of Muirwood Trilogy
The Banished of Muirwood
The Ciphers of Muirwood
The Void of Muirwood
The Legends of Muirwood Trilogy
The Wretched of Muirwood
The Blight of Muirwood
The Scourge of Muirwood
Whispers from Mirrowen Trilogy
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Text copyright © 2015 Jeff Wheeler
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.
Published by 47North, Seattle
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Cover design by Ray Lundgren
Illustrated by Magali Villeneuve
I hail from the land of black sky and midnight day. Where there is darkness, there is courage. Where there is ambition, there is power. Where there is will, there is dominion. I thank the Medium for an unconquerable soul.
—Corriveaux Tenir, Victus of Dahomey
orriveaux Tenir tried to block out the waspy drone of the celebration and focused his gaze on the blackened visage of the Leering. The air was warm and yeasty with the mingled smells of ale and cinders. The heavy clunk of pewter mugs joined with the thudding of stamping boots, making him scowl. Drunkenness was a loathsome thing to Corriveaux. It addled the wits and inflamed the passions. It was excellent for controlling vast numbers of men. What some of them would do for even a swallow of brandy was almost laughable. Men would kill each other with enough drink. He counted on that.
He narrowed in on the eyes of the pockmarked stone face in front of him. This Leering had been harvested from an abbey in Avinion, moved by several oxen teams, and ferried by ship to Naess to be studied and saved. It was a special waymarker.
Corriveaux was fascinated by Leerings, which served as conduits for the Medium’s power. There were boundless varieties, and each one was unique and interesting. Some were small, tiny enough to fit in the palm of your hand; others were carved into mammoth boulders or the capstones of arches. Each had a face—whether it bore the likeness of a man, woman, or child; an animal or beast; or personifications of the sun, moon, or stars. And the range of powers they possessed was practically infinite. There were even tiny ones to stop clothes from wearing out or metal tools from rusting. As he had studied in the tomes, Leerings could be channeled to multiple purposes. Together, a fire and a water Leering could create steam. There was power in steam, he was discovering. His mind always whirled with dozens of ideas for how Leerings could be used in war, machinery, and harvesting. But not everyone could use Leerings. That privilege of power was reserved to the Dochte Mandar, who bore kystrels, and the maston Families steeped in the traditions of the Medium.
Some Leerings could not be transported, or they lost their function. Others retained their power wherever they were located. Each of the ships in the armada had a Leering built into the prow, called a figurehead. They invested the ships with various powers, such as speed and protection. A few of the figureheads could even belch fire.
Slowly, almost reverently, he reached out his hand to touch the waymarker. Closing his eyes, he summoned the power of the kystrel around his neck. A giddy, soothing feeling swept through him, making him shiver with delight. Yes, the men around him were satisfied with brandy, wine, and cider, but such simple pleasures did nothing for Corriveaux. He craved the magic of the Medium and how it made him
—the way his very bones seemed to melt in delight. His pleasure showed: the tattoos from his use of the kystrel already wreathed his neck up to the jawline of his trimmed beard. As his hand touched the rough stone, the Leering awoke instantly.
Waymarkers were special Leerings that were connected to other stones in a web. By touching one, you could
the others in the web—you could see through their stone eyes and touch the minds of other humans who were connected to one of the Leerings in the web. If your will was strong enough, you could even take control of that person and command him or her to obey you. Corriveaux’s will was impressively strong. He was the only Victus to have subdued a hetaera.
By touching the waymarker, he could see through the eyes of another Leering on the other side of the world. Through the ship’s figurehead, he saw the vast armada filling a crystal-blue lake fringed with evergreens. He saw the ongoing construction of a series of decks and harbors, which would allow the brunt of the armada to harvest the Leerings of Assinica and ferry them back to Naess.
The thought whispered into his mind as he connected with the Dochte Mandar stationed aboard the vessel. The man’s name was Pralt, and he was a seasoned member of the order, having been expelled from Comoros years ago, after the king of that land made the unprecedented decision to banish the order.
Greetings, Pralt. What news?
He could not only hear the man’s thoughts, he could actually experience his emotions. Most who used kystrels were not strong enough in the Medium to tap into the deeper ways of the magic, but Corriveaux had Family mixed in his blood, and the power came stronger to him than to many others. He could sense feelings of disappointment and fear. Pralt was dreading this communication.
The mastons fled.
He could feel the bile rise up in his throat. Anger began to churn inside Corriveaux’s heart. He would not lash out at the man. Kicking down underlings was not a way to foster loyalty.
The kingdom was abandoned. There was no opposition awaiting us. The Aldermaston sent a delegation to us to sue for peace and—
Corriveaux thought firmly.
How can a kingdom flee? Where did they go? Did they leave no tracks?
Of course they left tracks, Corriveaux. There are no walls or fortification around the city, as you know. The hunters went tracking into the woods and found nothing. All the tracks were within the city. They led to the abbey.
Corriveaux tried to restrain his impatience. From Pralt, he was sensing different emotions now—mingled frustration and fury. They had sent legions of soldiers to Assinica after whispering promises to them about plunder, rape, and riches beyond their dreams. Dreams of the glory to come had been enough to motivate the soldiers to risk the wrath of the Medium by slaying thousands of mastons. And now there would be no battle. It was entirely possible the armada would revolt against their Dochte Mandar overseers.