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Authors: C. E. Murphy

Wayfinder

BOOK: Wayfinder
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Wayfinder
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

A Del Rey Books Trade Paperback Original

Copyright © 2011 by C. E. Murphy

All rights reserved.

Published in the United States by Del Rey, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

D
EL
R
EY
is a registered trademark and the Del Rey colophon is a trademark of Random House, Inc.

eISBN: 978-0-345-52926-8

www.delreybooks.com

Cover design: David Stevenson
Cover illustration: © Gene Mollica

v3.1

Contents

Once upon a time …

In the city of Boston, there was a tailor who could not be told a lie. Even the most honest of men couldn’t offer Lara Ann Jansen so much as an insincere compliment without her knowing the truth of it. It was the bane of her existence—until a handsome weatherman recognized it for the gift it was, and named Lara a Truthseeker.

He had searched a hundred years to find her, a truth that no one else would believe. His name was Dafydd ap Caerwyn, and he was a prince of the Seelie courts: an elf. He needed Lara’s help to find the man who had murdered his brother Merrick ap Annwn.

Both reluctant and eager, Lara agreed to join him in the Barrow-lands, the world from which Dafydd came. No sooner did they arrive than they were attacked by nightwings, the night sky itself made into demonic creatures given life by magic. Together Lara and Dafydd fought the nightwings off, only to face a far greater threat: the anger of Dafydd’s father, Emyr.

Emyr was resentful of a human’s interference in his realm and more than eager to remind Dafydd that it had been his very own arrow that struck Merrick down. Afraid, and angry that Dafydd had misled her—oh, he had not
lied;
he was more careful than that, but neither had he told the whole truth—Lara fled the shining citadel that housed the Seelie people, and in the surrounding wood, found a blind poet.

Like Lara, the poet Oisín was mortal, though he had been within the Barrow-lands a very long time indeed. He shared a prophecy with her:

Truth will seek the hardest path

measures that must mend the past
.

Spoken in a child’s word

changes that will break the world
.

Finder learns the only way

worlds come changed at end of day
.

Armed with the prophecy, Lara faced Emyr again and forced a discovery none of them wanted: that Emyr’s older son, Ioan, who had been for many years hostage to Emyr’s oldest enemy Hafgan, had embraced his adopted father’s way of life and now rode against the Seelie people at the head of an army. It seemed Ioan was the likely culprit behind the magic that had forced Dafydd to murder Merrick.

At dawn, Lara, who had been just a tailor only the day before, rode with Dafydd’s army to face their common enemy.

Cruel magic ripped them apart, sending Dafydd back to Boston and leaving Ioan the opportunity to kidnap Lara and her gifts for his own people, the Unseelie. But once within his domain, Lara forced the truth from Ioan: he had ruled in his adopted father Hafgan’s
name for aeons, and now sought a powerful staff called Worldbreaker, in hopes of regaining the Barrow-lands for the Unseelie.

Thanks to Oisín’s prophecy, Lara knew the staff was meant for her hands. Determined that no Unseelie should wield it, she returned to Boston through use of a true path, a magic her growing power could now command.

To her horror, months had passed in her world. Worse, Dafydd ap Caerwyn, the last person to be seen with her, had been jailed for kidnapping and possible murder, charges he had not denied. As were all the Seelie, Dafydd was allergic to iron, and was very ill when Lara rescued him from prison. Only a link to the Barrow-lands, such as the worldbreaking staff, would return him to health. Lara, whose love for the Seelie prince had grown strong, was ever-more determined to find the staff and heal Dafydd.

Just as hope seemed at hand, the nightwing monsters from the Barrow-lands attacked in Lara’s world, binding themselves together to become a many-headed hydra. Dafydd and Lara fought them off, but at great cost: Dafydd’s strength was drained utterly, and Lara was forced to turn to Ioan for help in returning Dafydd to the Barrow-lands, where he might yet survive.

Angry and afraid again—but this time afraid of losing Dafydd forever—Lara hunted down the man who had brought the nightwings to her world. To her shock, it was Merrick, Dafydd’s brother, who had staged his own death as part of a power play within the Barrow-lands. He retreated to his own world, and Lara Jansen, resolved to uncover all the hidden truths, follows him.…

Music tore the world apart.

There was no rhythm to it, no melody to find, no predictable rise or fall in the thundering notes. Instead it was the sound of instruments at war with one another, screeching and bellowing as they strove to be heard. Lara Jansen stumbled under the cacophony, battered by it from all sides, and wondered what had gone wrong. She had traveled between worlds twice before—once under her own power, which should have been impossible. Even then, though, the pathway between her home and the elfin world called the Barrow-lands hadn’t been fraught with agonizing, aggressive music.

But the worldwalking spell distorted the very weft of the universe. It was a magic not meant to be: her world and the Barrow-lands were barely meant to touch, much less to be traversed regularly. That was a truth she knew in her bones, in the same way she’d always known whether she was being lied to. Falsehood had rung sour notes in her mind as far back as she could remember, and that gift
now said that the magic which thrust her between worlds was dangerously wrong.

Worse, the staff she carried reverberated in her hands, its ivory carvings bright with power that could break worlds. Its presence clearly distorted the spell further, as if the Barrow-lands, a world of magic, struggled to keep the weapon’s destructive ability away.

The music surrounding her surged, stringed instruments breaking with groaning snaps, keyboards playing flat and sharp with desperation. A vocalist joined the music in Lara’s mind, searching for a harmony until her voice turned to an unholy shriek. It finally shattered, and Lara fell between worlds to land hard in the Barrow-lands.

Music turned to the sounds of battle: to cries of pain and anger, to the metallic clash of blades, and to the incessant rumble of hooves against packed earth. A singular, voluble curse shot out above the rest of the uproar. Lara cowered as hooves flashed over her head, a horse’s belly looking broad and endless above her. There was no time for panic, just for a single terrified lurch of her heart that twisted into unexpected awe. She’d seen animals leap cameras in film, but the effect paled beside actually having a thousand pounds of horseflesh sail overhead.

No one, she thought, no one in her right mind would take time out from being nearly trampled to think how poorly cinema compared to reality in such situations. And because truth was her gift, and lies came hard to her, it seemed likely that in that moment, she was very probably
not
in her right mind.

Nothing else would explain why she scrambled to her feet, using the staff as leverage, and whipped to face an oncoming army. A rear vanguard, given the sounds of fighting that came from behind her, but still enough to be called an army. They rode across ruined earth, meadow flattened into green-streaked dirt, fresh clods ripping free to offer a loamy scent that counteracted the tang of blood in the air.

The riders wore armor of moonlight silver, sculpted and patterned
so delicately it looked like it couldn’t possibly withstand a single blow, much less the height of war. Lara knew better: she had worn a suit of the armor once, and for all its lightweight beauty, it was improbably strong as well. There was magic in its forging, as there seemed to be magic in every aspect of the Barrow-lands.

Cries of surprise rose up as the battle host swept to either side of her, leaving Lara a fixed point in a thundering wave of riders. Pale hues shot by: white, golden, strawberry blond hair streaming from beneath silver helmets; blue and green and yellow gazes glancing her way as the riders rushed past. Seelie warriors, so close that she felt horseflesh and body heat against her skin. Her heartbeat soared, fear so acute it became a kind of excitement.

BOOK: Wayfinder
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