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Soarer's Choice

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Soarer's Choice

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Author: L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
Publisher: Tor, 2006
Series: The Corean Chronicles: Book 6
Book Type: Novel
Genre: Fantasy
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L. E. Modesitt, Jr. returns to the world of Corus and concludes the trilogy of the intertwined stories of Dainyl, the Alector, and Mykel, the native soldier, which began in Alector's Choice and Cadmian's Choice.

The civilization of the Alectors, which has farmed and developed all life on Corus to produce sustaining life force for their vampiric civilization, must move wholesale from one planet to another every few thousand years as it exhausts the life force of another world. This time, two worlds have been prepared, and the time is at hand for the great move. And Corus is the looking like the loser, to be abandoned by the civilizing forces of the government of Alectors, but used as a dumping ground for malcontents and others who don't make the cut to move on to a richer new world. This neither bodes well for the future of human civilization, nor for the honest Alector's such as Dainyl, trying to hold everything together, as all systems are failing. But the mysterious Ancients, the Soarers, are a force to be reckoned with, and they may hold a powerful and destructive trump card.


Chapter One

Dainyl sat behind the wide desk in the large study in headquarters. On the desk were stacks of reports. To his left on the polished wood was a shorter stack--the immediate orders he had written for the Myrmidons in an effort to undo the worst of his predecessor's plotting. Outside, the morning sunlight of late harvest warmed the courtyard and the blue-winged pteridons of First Company--those that were not flying dispatches and undertaking other duties. The solid granite of the courtyard and the walls sparkled in the bright sun, clean and crisp.

He'd permanently reassigned the Seventh Company of Myrmidons to Tempre from Dulka to keep them from being suborned by Quivaryt, the regional alector in Dulka, and clearly the tool of Brekylt, the Alector of the East in Alustre. After that had come the cover letter forwarding copies of Dainyl's appointment as marshal to each of the eight Myrmidon companies spread across Corus. Beside those lay the draft of his report on what he had done to quash the "revolt" in Hyalt and Tempre. Of course, he couldn't tell the entire story, because his superior, the High Alector of Justice, the most honorable Zelyert, had firmly ordered him to treat the matter as a local revolt, rather than the first thrust of a conspiracy masterminded by Brekylt. To make matters worse, and more delicate, Dainyl suspected that Brekylt was being quietly urged on by Samist, the Duarch of Ludar.

Dainyl looked up from the various papers and back out through the window at the nearest pteridon in the courtyard behind the headquarters building, standing on its wide raised stone square and stretching its blue leathery wings. The long crystalline beak glittered in the sunlight. After a moment, Dainyl's eyes dropped back to the papers before him.

Despite the proclamation that lay on his table desk and the green-edged gold stars on the collars of his blue and gray shimmersilk uniform that attested to his rank, Dainyl still didn't feel like the Marshal of Myrmidons.

Add to that the fact that he was dreading the translation trip to Alustre, but the longer he waited, the more dangerous the situation became, and it wasn't something he could delegate. For one thing, he didn't have anyone to whom he could delegate the task. He'd been the submarshal in Elcien, and Colonel Dhenyr, who had been the Myrmidon operations director, had attempted to kill Dainyl when Dainyl had discovered Dhenyr's treachery. Dainyl was the only senior officer left in headquarters. The other submarshal, Alcyna, was stationed in Alustre, the width of the continent away. For years, she had directed Myrmidon operations in the east, and she was one of the reasons Dainyl had to go to Alustre--and before long.

He took a deep breath and reached for the next document on the top of the taller pile. In less than a glass, he was due at the Palace of the Duarch in Elcien, to meet with Duarch Khelaryt to brief him personally on all that had happened in Hyalt and Tempre. He assumed that he would also be asked for his plans for the Myrmidons. That possibility worried him far more than explaining the past, because he doubted that it would be wise to reveal the reasons behind what he planned until he had a better idea of what the Duarch--and those around him--already knew.

Still, he needed to finish catching up on the other Myrmidon and Cadmian operations, or as many as he could, before he met with the Duarch. He began to read the report from Colonel Herolt, commander of the First Regiment, Cadmian Mounted Rifles.

When he finished, Dainyl couldn't help but frown. Except for Second Battalion, every battalion in the First Regiment was understrength, and the colonel was reporting that matters were worsening. And why in the Archon's name had a battalion been sent to Soupat? The mines there were marginal. At least he thought so, but it wouldn't hurt to ask Lystrana. As a chief assistant in the Palace of the Duarch, his wife might know the trade and finance background.

Slowly, he got up and headed for the records chamber.

Doselt, the squad leader in charge of records, then jumped to his feet. "Yes, Marshal?"

"Would you find me the records of and the orders to the First Cadmian Regiment that deal with the deployment of its Sixth Battalion to Soupat last season?"

"It might take a bit, sir."

"Just bring them to me. If I'm not here, leave them on the corner of my desk."

"Yes, sir."

Dainyl moved down the corridor to see if Captain Ghasylt was in his study. Dainyl needed some help, and he needed it now. Ghasylt might be out in the courtyard--he spent more time flying or with the pteridons than did many company commanders. Dainyl was fortunate. The captain was standing by his desk, holding a report, looking at it quizzically.

He dropped it on the table. "Sir?"

"Ghasylt... you know that we have no operations director..."

"Yes, sir." Ghasylt swallowed. "No, sir."

"No, sir?" Dainyl couldn't help smiling.

"I'm a flier, sir. I can't do operations and scheduling and paperwork."

"Your reports are excellent," Dainyl pointed out.

"That's because I don't do them. Undercaptain Zernylta does. She has for years."

Dainyl laughed. "I might steal her, then."

"She writes well, sir. I'd hate to lose her, but she'd do better than I would."

"Where is she?"

"She's on the dispatch run from Ludar. She won't be back until late."

"Would you leave word that I would like to see her?"

"Yes, sir." Ghasylt sounded disconsolate.

"If she works out, she won't get jumped three ranks to colonel," Dainyl said. "She'll be a captain and assistant operations director." Of course, there might not be an operations director for a while, but Dainyl needed the job done. "And you could still make majer... without doing much paperwork." He grinned. "If you can find another undercaptain who can write."

"Ghanyr's not bad. Chelysta's nearly as good as Zernylta, but don't steal her. She's the best squad leader in the air."

Dainyl made a mental note to jot that down when he got back to his study. He could never tell when he might need another good company commander. He'd also have to check on Ghasylt. He might be able to promote him to majer anyway. The commanding officer of the Elcien company probably ought to be one, and Dainyl needed a good flying commander and loyalty as much as he needed an operations officer. "I appreciate the information, and even more, I appreciate your honesty and loyalty. These days, it means a great deal."

Although Ghasylt's expression remained politely attentive, Dainyl sensed the concealed surprise--and gratitude.

"We need to talk, before too long, about what may lie ahead for you and First Company."

"Yes, sir."

Dainyl nodded, then turned and headed back toward his study. He didn't make it.

"The duty coach is ready, sir!" That was Undercaptain Yuasylt, the duty officer.

"I'll be there in a moment." Dainyl paused. There was nothing he really needed in his study. He turned and headed toward the archway to the front entrance.

Outside, waiting with the coach, was Wyalt. As always, the duty driver had a smile on his face when Dainyl strode out of headquarters. "Good morning, Marshal."

"Good morning, Wyalt. The Duarch's Palace."

"Yes, sir."

Dainyl stepped up into the coach and closed the door.

Once the coach began to move, he concentrated on how best to brief the Duarch. Some of that would depend on whether Khelaryt wanted a private briefing or one that included other High Alectors.

As the duty coach neared the Duarch's Palace, Dainyl looked out at Elcien, a city built on an isle, of stone and tile and gardens and trees, orderly and vibrant, with stone-walled dwellings set on tree-lined streets, shops with their perfect tile roofs set around market squares that held everything produced on Acorus. Goods shipped from across the world flowed from the wharves and docks on the southern shore into endless warehouses and to everyone in Elcien, alectors and landers alike.

His eyes lingered on the twin green towers flanking the Palace, soaring into the silver-green sky, gleaming and glittering in the midmorning sunlight, symbolically crowning the accomplishments of the alectors of Acorus, who had turned a freezing and dying world into a place of life and achievement. Even as he marveled at the towers, Dainyl recalled the words of the ancient soarer. You must change, or you will die. That seemed so unlikely, yet the ancient had been so certain... and so melancholy in saying those words.

The coach slowed and came to a halt under the portico at the main entrance to the Duarch's Palace. Dainyl stepped out.

"I'll be waiting for you, sir," Wyalt called down from the driver's seat.

Dainyl almost told him to return to headquarters because others might need him, but cut off the words before he spoke. There wasn't anyone there who would need the coach, not without a submarshal or an operations director. "Thank you. I don't know how lon...

Copyright © 2006 by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.


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