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A Shadow in Summer

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A Shadow in Summer

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Author: Daniel Abraham
Publisher: Tor, 2006
Series: The Long Price Quartet: Book 1
Book Type: Novel
Genre: Fantasy
Sub-Genre Tags: High Fantasy
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(44 reads / 22 ratings)


The powerful city-state of Saraykeht is a bastion of peace and culture, a major center of commerce and trade. Its economy depends on the power of the captive spirit, Seedless, an andat bound to the poet-sorcerer Heshai for life. Enter the Galts, a juggernaut of an empire committed to laying waste to all lands with their ferocious army. Saraykeht, though, has always been too strong for the Galts to attack, but now they see an opportunity. If they can dispose of Heshai, Seedless's bonded poet-sorcerer, Seedless will perish and the entire city will fall. With secret forces inside the city, the Galts prepare to enact their terrible plan.

In the middle is Otah, a simple laborer with a complex past. Recruited to act as a bodyguard for his girlfriend's boss at a secret meeting, he inadvertently learns of the Galtish plot. Otah finds himself as the sole hope of Saraykeht, either he stops the Galts, or the whole city and everyone in it perishes forever.


Chapter One

As the stone towers of Machi dominated the cold cities of the north, so the seafront of Saraykeht dominated the summer cities in the south. The wharves stood out into the clear waters of the bay, ships from the other port cities of the Khaiem—Nantani, Yalakeht, Chaburi-Tan—docked there. Among them were also the low, shallow ships of the Westlands and the tall, deep sailing ships of the Galts so strung with canvas they seemed like a launderer's yard escaped to the sea. And along the seafront streets, vendors of all different cities and lands sold wares from tall, thin tables decked with brightly colored cloths and banners, each calling out to the passers-by over the cries of seagulls and the grumble of waves. A dozen languages, a hundred dialects, creoles, and pidgins danced in the hot, still air, and she knew them all.

Amat Kyaan, senior overseer for the Galtic House Wilsin, picked her way through the crowd with a cane despite the sureness of her steps. She savored the play of grammar and vocabulary crashing together like children playing sand tag. Knowing how to speak and what to say was her strength. It was the skill that had taken her from a desperate freelance scribe to here, wearing the colors of an honorable, if foreign, house and threading her way through the press of bodies and baled cotton to a meeting with her employer. There were ways from her rooms at the edge of the soft quarter to Marchat Wilsin's favorite bathhouse that wouldn't have braved the seafront. Still, whenever her mornings took her to the bathhouse, this was the way she picked. The seafront was, after all, the pride and symbol of her city.

She paused in the square at the mouth of the Nantan—the wide, gray-bricked street that marked the western edge of the warehouse quarter. The ancient bronze statue of Shian Sho, the last great emperor, stood looking out across the sea, as if in memory of his lost empire—rags and wastelands for eight generations now, except for the cities of the Khaiem where the unrest had never reached. Below him, young men labored, shirtless in the heat, hauling carts piled high with white, oily bales. Some laughed, some shouted, some worked with a dreadful seriousness. Some were free men taking advantage of the seasonal work. Others were indentured to houses or individual merchants. A few were slaves. And all of them were beautiful—even the fat and the awkward. Youth made them beautiful. The working of muscles under skin was more subtle and enticing than the finest robes of the Khaiem, maybe because it wasn't considered. How many of them, she wondered, would guess that their sex was on display to an old woman who only seemed to be resting for a moment on the way to a business meeting?

All of them, probably. Vain, lovely creatures. She sighed, lifted her cane, and moved on.

The sun had risen perhaps half the width of one hand when she reached her destination. The bathhouses were inland, clustered near the banks of the Qiit and the aqueducts. Marchat Wilsin preferred one of the smaller. Amat had been there often enough that the guards knew her by sight and took awkward poses of welcome as she entered. She often suspected Wilsin-cha of choosing this particular place because it let him forget his own inadequacies of language. She sketched a pose of welcome and passed inside.

Working for a foreign house had never been simple, and translating contracts and agreements was the least of it. The Galts were a clever people, aggressive and successful in war. They held lands as wide and fertile as the Empire had at its height; they could command the respect and fear of other nations. But the assumptions they made—that agreements could be enforced by blades, that threat of invasion or blockade might underscore a negotiation—failed in the cities of the Khaiem. They might send their troops to Eddensea or their ships to Bakta, but when called upon for subtlety, they floundered. Galt might conquer the rest of the world if it chose; it would still bow before the andat. Marchat Wilsin had lived long enough in Saraykeht to have accepted the bruise on his people's arrogance. Indulging his eccentricities, such as doing business in a bathhouse, was a small price.

The air inside was cooler, and ornate woodworked screens blocked the windows while still letting the occasional cedar-scented breeze through. Voices echoed off the hard floors and walls. Somewhere in the public rooms, a man was singing, the tones of his voice ringing like a bell. Amat went to the women's chamber, shrugged out of her robe and pulled off her sandals. The cool air felt good against her bare skin. She took a drink of chilled water from the large granite basin, and—naked as anyone else—walked through the public baths, filled with men and women shouting and splashing one another, to the private rooms at the back. To Marchat Wilsin's corner room, farthest from the sounds of voices and laughter.

"It's too hot in this pisshole of a city," Wilsin-cha growled as she entered the room. He lay half-submerged in the pool, the water lapping at his white, wooly chest. He had been a thinner man when she had first met him. His hair and beard had been dark. "It's like someone holding a hot towel over your face."

"Only in the summer," Amat said and she laid her cane beside the water and carefully slipped in. The ripples rocked the floating lacquer tray with its bowls of tea, but didn't spill it. "If it was any further north, you'd spend all winter complaining about how cold it was."

"It'd be a change of pace, at least."

He lifted a pink and wrinkled hand from the water and pushed the tray over toward her. The tea was fresh and seasoned with mint. The water was cool. Amat lay back against the tiled lip of the pool.

"So what's the news?" Marchat asked, bringing their morning ritual to a close.

Amat made her report. Things were going fairly well. The shipment of raw cotton from Eddensea was in and being unloaded. The contracts with the weavers were nearly complete, though there were some ambiguities of translation from Galtic into the Khaiate that still troubled her. And worse, the harvest of the northern fields was late.

"Will they be here in time to go in front of the andat?"

Amat took another sip of tea before answering.


Marchat cursed under his breath. "Eddensea can ship us a season's bales, but we can't get our own plants picked?"

"Apparently not."

"How short does it leave us?"

"Our space will be nine-tenths full."

Marchat scowled and stared at the air, seeing imagined numbers, reading the emptiness like a book. After a moment, he sighed.

"Is there any chance of speaking with the Khai on it? Renegotiating our terms?"

"None," Amat said.

Marchat made an impatient noise in the back of his throat.

"This is why I hate dealing with you people. In Eymond or Bakta, there'd be room to talk at least."

"Because you'd have soldiers sitting outside the wall," Amat said, dryly.

"Exactly. And then they'd find room to talk. See if one of the other houses is overstocked," he said.

"Chadhami is. But Tiyan and Yaanani are in competition for a contract with a Western lord. If one could move more swiftly than the other, it might seal the issue. We could charge them for the...

Copyright © 2006 by Daniel Abraham


Excellent world-building and multi-faceted ch...

- Tantara
A Shadow in Summer - Daniel Abraham

- valashain
A Shadow in Summer: 5 out of 5 stars

- Bormgans


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