Authors: Amanda Downum
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are
used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2009 by Amanda Downum
The Bone Palace
copyright © 2009 by Amanda Downum All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part
of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or
retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
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First eBook Edition: September 2009
Isyllt wrapped a concealment around her, and a ward against the flames, and crossed the street.
Her ring blazed as she entered the shop, pushing back the crackling heat—no survivors inside. Flames consumed the doors and
wall hangings, rushed over the ceiling to devour the rafters. Lamps melted on shelves, brass and silver charring wood as they
dripped to the floor. Witchlight flickered around her in an opalescent web, holding guttering flames at bay. But it wouldn’t
keep the ceiling from crushing her when it came down.
The smell of charred flesh and hot metal seared her nose, and something else. The air was heavy with intent, with sacrifice.
The magic that turned the shop into an inferno had been dearly paid for.
A spell so powerful must have left a trace. She nearly stepped in a puddle of brown-burnt blood, nudged a body aside with
her toe. The man’s eyes melted down his charred cheeks and Isyllt frowned; intact, he might have shared his dying vision with
her. Not that she had time to scry the dead.
The Necromancer Chronicles
The Drowning City
For New Orleans
Drowning is not so pitiful
As the attempt to rise.
Hope lies in the smoldering rubble of empires.
—Rage Against the Machine
(“Calm Like a Bomb”)
Waiting for the Rain
1229 Sal Emperaturi
ymir. The Drowning City.
An exile, perhaps, but at least it was an interesting one.
Isyllt’s gloved hands tightened on the railing as the
cleared the last of the Dragon Stones and turned toward the docks, dark estuarine water slopping against her hull. Fishing
boats dotted Ka Liang Bay, glass buoys flashing in the sun. Cormorants dove around them, scattering ripples as they snatched
fish from hooks and nets.
The west wind died, broken on the Dragons’ sharp peaks, and the jungle’s hot breath wafted from the shore. Rank with brine
and bilge, sewers draining into the sea, but under the port-reek the air smelled of spices and the green tang of Sivahra’s
forests rising beyond the marshy delta of the Mir. Mountains flanked the capital city Symir, uneven green sentinels on either
side of the river. So unlike the harsh and rocky shores of Selafai they had left behind two and a half decads ago.
Only twenty-five days at sea—a short voyage, though it didn’t feel that way to Isyllt. The ship had made good time, laden
only with olive oil and wheat flour from the north.
And northern spies. But those weren’t recorded on the cargo manifest.
Isyllt shook her head, collected herself. This might be an exile, but it was a working one. She had a revolution to foment,
a country to throw into chaos, and an emperor to undermine with it. Sivahra’s jungles and mines—and Symir’s bustling port—provided
great wealth to the Assari Empire. Enough to fund a war of conquest, and the eyes of the expansionist Emperor roved slowly
north. Isyllt and her master meant to prevent that.
If their intelligence was good, Sivahra was crawling with insurgent groups, natives desperate to overthrow their Imperial
conquerors. Selafai’s backing might help them succeed. Or at least distract the Empire. Trade one war for another. After that,
maybe she could have a real vacation.
dropped anchor before they docked and the crew bustled to prepare for the port authority’s inspection; already a skiff rowed
to meet them. The clang of harbor bells carried across the water.
Adam, her coconspirator and ostensible bodyguard, leaned against the rail beside her while his partner finished checking over
their bags. Isyllt’s bags, mostly; the mercenaries traveled light, but she had a pretense of pampered nobility to maintain.
Maybe not such a pretense—she might have murdered for a hot bath and proper bed. Sweat stuck her shirt to her arms and back,
itched behind her knees. She envied the sailors their vests and short trousers, but her skin was too pale to offer to the
“Do we go straight to the Kurun Tam tonight?” Adam asked. The westering sun flashed on gold and silver earrings, mercenary
gaud. He wore his sword again for the first time since they’d boarded the
. He’d taken to sailor fashions—his vest hung open over his scarred chest, revealing charm bags around his neck and the pistol
tucked into his belt. His skin was three shades darker than it had been when they sailed, bronze now instead of olive.
Isyllt’s mouth twisted. “No,” she said after a moment. “Let’s find an extravagantly expensive hotel tonight. I feel like spending
the Crown’s money. We can work tomorrow.” One night of vacation, at least, she could give herself.
He grinned and looked to his partner. “Do you know someplace decadent?”
Xinai’s lips curled as she turned away from the luggage. “The Silver Phoenix. It’s Selafaïn—it’ll be decadent enough for you.”
Her head barely cleared her partner’s shoulder, though the black plumage-crest of her hair added the illusion of more height.
She wore her wealth too—rings in her ears, a gold cuff on one wiry wrist, a silver hoop in her nostril. The blades at her
hips and the scars on her wiry arms said she knew how to keep it.
Isyllt turned back to the city, scanning the ships at dock. She was surprised not to see more Imperial colors flying. After
rumors of rebellion and worries of war, she’d expected Imperial warships, but there was no sign of the Emperor’s army—although
that didn’t mean it wasn’t there.
Something was happening, though; a crowd gathered on the docks, and Isyllt caught flashes of red and green uniforms amid the
blur of bodies. Shouts and angry voices carried over the water, but she couldn’t make out the words.
The customs skiff drew alongside the
, lion crest gleaming on the red-and-green-striped banners—the flag of an Imperial territory, granted limited home-rule. The
sailors threw down a rope ladder and three harbor officials climbed aboard, nimble against the rocking hull. The senior inspector
was a short, neat woman, wearing a red sash over her sleek-lined coat. Isyllt fought the urge to fidget with her own travel-grimed
clothes. Her hair was a salt-stiff tangle, barely contained by pins, and while she’d cleaned her face with oil before landfall,
it was no substitute for a proper bath.
Isyllt waited, Adam and Xinai flanking her, while the inspector spoke to the captain. Whatever the customs woman told the
captain, he didn’t like. He spat over the rail and made an angry gesture toward the shore. The
wasn’t the only ship waiting to dock; Isyllt wondered if the gathering on the pier had something to do with the delay.
Finally the ship’s mate led two of the inspectors below, and the woman in the red sash turned to Isyllt, a wax tablet and
stylus in her hand. A Sivahri, darker skinned than Xinai but with the same creaseless black eyes; elaborate henna designs
covered her hands. Isyllt was relieved to be greeted in Assari—Xinai had tutored her in the native language during the voyage,
but she was still far from fluent.
“Roshani.” The woman inclined her head politely. “You’re the only passengers?” She raised her stylus as Isyllt nodded. “Your
“Isyllt Iskaldur, of Erisín.” She offered the oiled leather tube that held her travel papers. “This is Adam and Xinai, sayifarim
hired in Erisín.”
The woman glanced curiously at Xinai; the mercenary gave no more response than a statue. The official opened the tube and
unrolled the parchment, recorded something on her tablet. “And your business in Symir?”
Isyllt tugged off her left glove and held out her hand. “I’m here to visit the Kurun Tam.” The breeze chilled her sweaty palm.
Since it was impossible to pass herself off as anything but a foreign mage, the local thaumaturgical facility was the best
The woman’s eyes widened as she stared at the cabochon black diamond on Isyllt’s finger, but she didn’t ward herself or step
out of reach. Ghostlight gleamed iridescent in the stone’s depths and a cold draft suffused the air. She nodded again, deeper
this time. “Yes, meliket. Do you know where you’ll be staying?”
“Tonight we take rooms at the Silver Phoenix.”
“Very good.” She recorded the information, then glanced up. “I’m sorry, meliket, but we’re behind schedule. It will be a while
yet before you can dock.”
“What’s going on?” Isyllt gestured toward the wharf. More soldiers had appeared around the crowd.
The woman’s expression grew pained. “A protest. They’ve been there an hour and we’re going to lose a day’s work.”
Isyllt raised her eyebrows. “What are they protesting?”
“New tariffs.” Her tone became one of rote response. “The Empire considers it expedient to raise revenues and has imposed
taxes on foreign goods. Some of the local merchants”—she waved a hennaed hand at the quay—“are unhappy with the situation.
But don’t worry, it’s nothing to bother the Kurun Tam.”