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Author: L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
Publisher: Tor, 2002
Series: Spellsong Cycle: Book 5
Book Type: Novel
Genre: Fantasy
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The Climax of The Spellsong Cycle

Secca, foster daughter of the Soprano Sorceress, and now her successor as Sorceress Protector of Defalk, must deal carefully with her willful master and wield her power to save his kingdom from the armies, fleets and master sorcerers of the Maitre of Sturinn. Faced with seemingly insurmountable odds, she is forced to test her own powers over and over again, while teaching her new husband and her inexperienced apprentice the skills they will need to aid her in creating spells powerful enough to shake the foundations of the world.




Mansuus, Mansuur

Heavy wet flakes drift past the windows of the Liedfuhr's study, each window hung with maroon velvet drawn back to reveal an early-spring snow that has already dropped more than half a yard of whiteness on the city, and on the ice that still covers the River Toksul.

The man who stands before the windows, looking out, wears a sky-blue tunic with a silver chain bearing the amulet-seal of the Liedfuhr of Mansuur around his neck and a mourning band of black and maroon upon his left arm. For a moment, his hard green eyes flick to the ice-and-snow-covered river that cuts through the city, if well below and beyond the hill on which the palace rests. Then, he turns, standing beside the polished wooden desk that has graced the study for three generations, and asks, "You think Neserea will fall before harvest?"

"As matters now proceed, it is most likely," replies the trim overcaptain in the maroon uniform of the Mansuuran Lancers. There are but a few streaks of raven black amid the silver-gray of the lancer's short hair. His thin eyebrows are silvered as well, but the dark eyes are deep and intent. "Despite the efforts of the Sorceress of Defalk, Aerlya and Annalyal hold but an area little more than a hundred desks around Esaria."

"If we dispatch the fifty companies of lancers from Unduval? Then what, Bassil?" Kestrin runs his right hand through short-cropped brown hair that is already half-gray, although he will not reach his full second score of years until the turn of the following spring.

"Are you willing to risk all fifty companies? And to slaughter

all those who do not support your sister and her daughter?"

Kestrin tilts his head slightly as he studies Bassil. "If I must."

"You must. You must also avoid facing the sorcerer Lord Belmar. He is strong enough to dispatch all your lancers with his spells."

"Unless we can catch him in a snowstorm or the rain." Kestrin laughs.

"You risk much if you send your lancers into Neserea," cautions the older man.

"I risk more if I do not."

"Your seers report that the Sea-Priests are readying a fleet to sail from the Ostisles," reports Bassil.

"They are doubtless sailing eastward, but not to Mansuur."

Bassil raises his eyebrows, but does not speak.

Outside the private study of the Liedfuhr, the wind moans. The snowflakes are smaller, and falling faster, and the light dims as the clouds overhead darken, as if winter is returning to Mansuus.

"This Secca--Lord Robero's new Sorceress Protector of the East--she has destroyed all the Sturinnese vessels that had threatened Liedwahr. Do you think that the Maitre of Sturinn will decide to invade us while he has forces in Dumar that are threatened by the sorceress?"

"She remains in Encora for the moment." Bassil pauses. "Yet it is most likely that she will travel to Dumar and use her sorcery against the Sea-Priests there before the Maitre can reinforce them. That will not be easy for her. The Maitre can use the sea to land more sorcerers and lancers, but it will be weeks, if not longer, before the snows melt enough for Lord Robero to send reinforcements to Lady Secca."

"He will not send them even then," predicts Kestrin. "He fears Belmar as much as the Sturinnese. Lady Secca has been successful without further aid. Lady Clayre is slowly losing in Neserea, as you have pointed out, and Aerlya and Annayal may have to flee before long."


Kestrin sighs. "Perhaps to Nordwei."

"It is yet winter there."

"And you question that I should send lancers into Neserea?"

"I cannot see how you could do otherwise--when you can. They cannot cross the snows of the Mittpass yet." Bassil shakes his head. "If you do not dispatch them, once the snows melt, Belmar will take all of Neserea by midsummer. But…if he is as bright as he seems, he will turn to face your lancers, in order to destroy them."

"They must not face him. Their task is to destroy those who rebelled against Aerlya." Kerstrin's voice is hard. "If he turns, then the Sorceress of Defalk may be able to strengthen Aerlya's hold on the north and east."

"That is possible," Bassil concedes, his voice neutral.

"Not likely, but possible," Kestrin replies with a grim laugh. "Better that than we do nothing. The lady Secca may yet retake Dumar from the Sturinnese, but this Belmar is their tool, and even she will be hard-pressed if Neserea falls and the Sturinnese reinforcements land in Narial."

"Because she will be caught between him and the Sturinnese?"

The Liedfuhr nods slowly. "Because we will then face the Sea-Priests alone."

Outside the study, in the growing darkness, the moaning of the returning winter wind rises with the night.

Copyright © 2002 by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.


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