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Authors: Katharine Kerr

The Silver Mage

BOOK: The Silver Mage
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Table of Contents
 
 
 
 
 
Katharine Kerr’s
Novels of Deverry,
The Silver Wyrm Cycle
 
Now available from DAW Books:
 
THE GOLD FALCON (#1)
THE SPIRIT STONE (#2)
THE SHADOW ISLE (#3)
THE SILVER MAGE (#4)
Copyright © 2009 by Katharine Kerr.
eISBN : 978-1-101-14918-8
 
All Rights Reserved.
 
 
DAW Book Collectors No. 1492.
 
DAW Books are distributed by Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
 
 
 
All characters and events in this book are fictitious.
Any resemblance to persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.
 
The scanning, uploading and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal, and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage the electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
First Printing, November 2009
DAW TRADEMARK REGISTERED
U.S. PAT. AND TM. OFF. AND FOREIGN COUNTRIES
—MARCA REGISTRADA
HECHO EN U.S.A.
 
S.A.

http://us.penguingroup.com

For Howard
First, Last, and Always
PROLOGUE THE NORTHLANDS SUMMER, 1160
The serpent of Time winds itself about the cross of Matter. Some say it has seven heads, some only three, but the difference counts for little. It is the body of the serpent, not the head, that crushes its prey.
 
—The Secret Book of Cadwallon the Druid
DEATH HAD TURNED DOUGIE’S
hair white and his flesh translucent. In the darkness he glowed with a faint silvery light as he stood smiling at Berwynna.
“Remember me, lass,” he said in the language of Alban, “but live your life, too. I loved you enough to wish you every happiness. Find a new man.”
“I don’t want to,” Berwynna said. “The only thing I want is for you to come back to me.”
“This is as far back as I can come, just up to this side of dying. Wynni, live your life!”
He vanished.
Berwynna screamed and sat up, scattering blankets. She found herself in a round tent so unfamiliar that for a moment she thought she still dreamt.
The Ancients,
she reminded herself.
I’m safe among the Ancients, but Dougie’s dead.
The first light of dawn fell like a gray pillar through the smoke hole in the center of the roof. Across from her, on the far side of the tent, a bundle of blankets stirred and yawned. Uncle Mic sat up and peered at her through the uncertain light.
“Are you all right?” he said in Dwarvish. “Did you make some sort of a sound just now?”
“I was dreaming,” she said. “In the dream I saw Dougie, and when he disappeared, I screamed.”
“Ai, my poor little niece!” Mic paused to rub his face with both hands and yawn prodigiously. “It sounded like a moan, here in the waking world.”
“That would fit, too.”
Mic let his hands fall into his lap. From outside came the noises of a camp stirring awake—dogs barking, people talking in an unfamiliar language, occasionally a child crying or calling out. Distantly a horse whinnied, and mules brayed in answer.
“We might as well get up,” Berwynna said.
“Indeed, and I wouldn’t mind a bit of breakfast, either.”
They’d both slept dressed. Mic pulled on his boots, then got up and left the tent. Berwynna busied herself with rolling up their bedrolls.
“Berwynna?” Dallandra pulled back the tent flap and came in. “You’re awake, then?”
“I am, my lady.”
“There’s no need to call me lady,” Dallandra said with a smile. “I wanted to tell you that your father’s flown off to scout the Northlands. He asked me to give you his love and to tell you he’ll be back again as soon as he can.”
“My thanks.” Berwynna bit her lip in disappointment. “I’d wanted to say farewell.”
“Dragons come and go as they please, not as we want, I’m afraid. He also told me about the lost dragon book.”
Berwynna winced. Dallandra sat down opposite her. In the pale light from the rising dawn, she seemed made of silver, with her ash-blonde hair, steel-gray eyes, and her pale skin, so unexpected in a person who lived most of her life out-of-doors.
Silver or mayhap steel,
Berwynna thought,
like the pictures on the doors of Lin Serr.
“In a moment I’ll have to go tend the wounded men,” Dallandra said. “But I wanted to ask you about the book. You’ve seen it, I take it.”
“I have,” Berwynna said. “Not that I were able to read a word of it, mind. Laz, he did say that it be written in the language of the Ancients, your language, that be.”
“It was written, then, in letters?”
“Be not all books written so?”
“They are, truly.” Dallandra smiled at her. “But some also have pictures in them.”
“I never did see such, but then, my sister wouldn’t be allowing me to turn its pages, and no doubt she were right about that, too. What little I did see did look to me much like the carvings on our walls.”
“The what?”
“Forgive me.” Berwynna smiled briefly. “I do forget you’ve not seen Haen Marn. In the great hall, the walls, they be of wood, and there be carvings all over them, letters and such, I do suppose them to be. Laz, he did call some of them sigils, whatever those may be.”
“They’re a particular type of sign, a mark that stands for the name of a thing or a place or suchlike.” Dallandra paused. “Well, that will do as an explanation, though it’s not a very good one.”
“’Twill do for me, truly. But the book, it were such a magical thing. It does ache my heart that I had somewhat to do with the losing of it.”
“No one’s blaming you, Wynni. Try not to blame yourself. You’re exhausted, you’re mourning your betrothed, and every little thing’s going to weigh upon you now. One of these days your mind will be clearer, and you’ll be better able to judge what happened.”
“I’ll hope that be true.”
“It
is
true. I lost a man I loved very much, and I thought at the time that I’d mourn him all my life. In time, I laid my mourning aside and found another love. So I know how you must feel.”
“You must, truly.” For the first time since Dougie’s death, Berwynna felt not hope, precisely, but a rational thought that one day hope would come. “My thanks for the telling of this.”
“You’re most welcome.” Dallandra reached over and patted her on the shoulder. “Now, about the book, though, I’d like to know how large it was, how thick, how many pages.”
“As to the pages, well, now, I be not sure of that. It were a great heavy thing—” Berwynna stopped, struck by a sudden realization. “At least, it were at first, when Dougie did bring it to Haen Marn. But it did shrink.”
“It what?”
“I did carry it once on Haen Marn, and it were so heavy that there were a need on me to clasp it in both arms.” Berwynna demonstrated by holding her empty arms out in front of her. “But when I did take it from the island, it did fit most haply in one of my saddlebags.”
“That’s extremely interesting.”
“Laz did talk of guardian spirits. Think you they do have the power to change it—oh, that sounds so daft!”
BOOK: The Silver Mage
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