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Authors: Naomi Novik

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Empire of Ivory

BOOK: Empire of Ivory
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Empire of Ivory
Book Jacket
Temeraire [4]
“A new writer is soaring on the wings of a dragon.”–The New York Times“Enthralling reading–it’s like Jane Austen playing Dungeons & Dragons with Eragon’s Christopher Paolini.”–Time, on His Majesty’s DragonTragedy has struck His Majesty’s Aerial Corps, whose magnificent fleet of fighting dragons and their human captains valiantly defend England’s shores against the encroaching armies of Napoleon Bonaparte. An epidemic of unknown origin and no known cure is decimating the noble dragons’ ranks–forcing the hopelessly stricken into quarantine. Now only Temeraire and a pack of newly recruited dragons remain uninfected–and stand as the only means of an airborne defense against France’s ever bolder sorties.Bonaparte’s dragons are already harrowing Britain’s ships at sea. Only one recourse remains: Temeraire and his captain, Will Laurence, must take wing to Africa, whose shores may hold the cure to the mysterious and deadly contagion. On this mission there is no time to waste, and no telling what lies in store beyond the horizon or for those left behind to wait, hope, and hold the line.“A gripping adventure full of rich detail and the impossible wonder of gilded fantasy.”–Entertainment Weekly, on His Majesty’s Dragon“A thrilling fantasy . . . All hail Naomi Novik.”–The Washington Post Book World, on His Majesty’s Dragon

Temeraire 04

Empire of Ivory

By Naomi Novik

To Francesca,

may we always flee lions together

Chapter 1

SEND UP ANOTHER, damn you, send them all up, at once if you

have to," Laurence said savagely to poor Calloway, who did

not deserve to be sworn at: the gunner was firing off the

flares so quickly his hands were scorched black, skin

cracking and peeling to bright red where some powder had

spilled onto his fingers; he was not stopping to wipe them

clean before setting each flare to the match.

One of the little French dragons darted in again, slashing

at Temeraire's side, and five men fell screaming as a piece

of the makeshift carrying-harness unraveled. They vanished

at once beyond the lantern-light and were swallowed up in

the dark; the long twisted rope of striped silk, a pillaged

curtain, unfurled gently in the wind and went billowing

down after them, threads trailing from the torn edges. A

moan went through the other Prussian soldiers still

clinging desperately to the harness, and after it followed

a low angry muttering in German.

Any gratitude the soldiers might have felt for their rescue

from the siege of Danzig had since been exhausted: three

days flying through icy rain, no food but what they had

crammed into their pockets in those final desperate

moments, no rest but a few hours snatched along a cold and

marshy stretch of the Dutch coast, and now this French

patrol harrying them all this last endless night. Men so

terrified might do anything in a panic; many of them had

still their small-arms and swords, and there were more than

a hundred of them crammed aboard, to the less than thirty

of Temeraire's own crew.

Laurence swept the sky again with his glass, straining for

a glimpse of wings, an answering signal. They were in sight

of shore, the night was clear: through his glass he saw the

gleam of lights dotting the small harbors all along the

Scottish coast, and below heard the steadily increasing

roar of the surf. Their flares ought to have been plain to

see all the way to Edinburgh; yet no reinforcements had

come, not a single courier-beast even to investigate.

"Sir, that's the last of them," Calloway said, coughing

through the grey smoke that wreathed his head, the flare

whistling high and away. The powder-flash went off silently

above their heads, casting the white scudding clouds into

brilliant relief, reflecting from dragon scales in every

direction: Temeraire all in black, the rest in gaudy colors

muddied to shades of grey by the lurid blue light. The

night was full of their wings: a dozen dragons turning

their heads around to look back, their gleaming pupils

narrowing; more coming on, all of them laden down with men,

and the handful of small French patrol-dragons darting

among them.

All seen in the flash of a moment, then the thunderclap

crack and rumble sounded, only a little delayed, and the

flare dying away drifted into blackness again. Laurence

counted ten, and ten again; still there was no answer from

the shore.

Emboldened, the French dragon came in once more. Temeraire

aimed a swipe which would have knocked the little Pou-deCiel flat, but his attempt was very slow, for fear of

dislodging any more of his passengers; their small enemy

evaded with contemptuous ease and circled away to wait for

his next chance.

"Laurence," Temeraire said, looking round, "where are they

all? Victoriatus is in Edinburgh; he at least ought to have

come. After all, we helped him, when he was hurt; not that

I need help, precisely, against these little dragons," he

added, straightening his neck with a crackle of popping

joints, "but it is not very convenient to try and fight

while we are carrying so many people."

This was putting a braver face on the situation than it

deserved: they could not very well defend themselves at

all, and Temeraire was taking the worst of it, bleeding

already from many small gashes along his side and flanks,

which the crew could not bandage up, so cramped were they


"Only keep everyone moving towards the shore," Laurence

said; he had no better answer to give. "I cannot imagine

the patrol will pursue us over land," he added, but

doubtfully; he would never have imagined a French patrol

could come so near to shore as this, either, without

challenge; and how he should manage to disembark a thousand

frightened and exhausted men under bombardment he did not

like to contemplate.

"I am trying; only they will keep stopping to fight,"

Temeraire said wearily, and turned back to his work. Arkady

and his rough band of mountain ferals found the small

stinging attacks maddening, and they kept trying to turn

around mid-air and go after the French patrol-dragons; in

their contortions they were flinging off more of the

hapless Prussian soldiers than the enemy could ever have

accounted for. There was no malice in their carelessness:

the wild dragons were unused to men except as the jealous

guardians of flocks and herds, and they did not think of

their passengers as anything more than an unusual burden;

but with malice or none, the men were dying all the same.

Temeraire could only prevent them by constant vigilance,

and now he was hovering in place over the line of flight,

cajoling and hissing by turns, encouraging the others to

BOOK: Empire of Ivory
10.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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