Read Carousel Seas Online

Authors: Sharon Lee

Tags: #Fiction, #Fantasy, #General, #Contemporary, #Dark Fantasy

Carousel Seas

BOOK: Carousel Seas
5.97Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Carousel Seas

Sharon Lee

Sequel to National Bestseller 
Carousel Sun. 
A gripping contemporary fantasy thriller from master storyteller Sharon Lee, award-winning cocreator of the highly popular Liaden Universe® saga.

NO GOOD DEED GOES UNPUNISHED

Welcome to Archers Beach in the Changing Land, the last and least of the Six Worlds, where magic works, sometimes, and the Guardian husbands the vitality of the land and everyone on it -- earth spirit and plain human alike.

Kate Archer, Guardian and carousel-keeper, has been busy making some changes of her own, notably beginning a romantic relationship with Borgan, the Guardian of the Gulf of Maine, Kate's opposite number, and, some would say, her natural mate.

Oh, and she's been instrumental in releasing the prisoners that had been bound into the carousel animals -- which she's inclined to think is a good thing. . .

Until a former sea goddess sets up housekeeping in the Gulf of Maine, challenging Borgan's authority; endangering Kate and everything she holds precious.

. . .because the goddess has fallen in love in Borgan; and she'll stop at nothing to possess him.

Archers Beach is about to suffer a sea-change -- and the question is whether Kate can survive it.

Nationally best-selling co-creator of the Liaden Universe® saga, Lee brings high energy action and romance to this tale of contemporary fantasy and redemption.

BAEN BOOKS by SHARON LEE and STEVE MILLER

THE ARCHERS BEACH SERIES

by Sharon Lee

Carousel Tides

Carousel Sun

Carousel Seas

THE LIADEN UNIVERSE
®

by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

Fledgling

Saltation

Mouse and Dragon

Ghost Ship

Dragon Ship

Necessity’s Child

Trade Secret

Dragon in Exile
(forthcoming)

Short Story Collections

A Liaden Universe Constellation, vol. 1

A Liaden Universe Constellation, vol. 2

A Liaden Universe Constellation, vol. 3
(forthcoming)

The Dragon Variation
(omnibus)

The Agent Gambit
(omnibus)

Korval’s Game
(omnibus)

The Crystal Variation
(omnibus)

THE FEY DUOLOGY

by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

Duainfey

Longeye

CAROUSEL SEAS

This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.

Copyright © 2015 by Sharon Lee

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form.

A Baen Books Original

Baen Publishing Enterprises

P.O. Box 1403

Riverdale, NY 10471

www.baen.com

ISBN: 978-1-4767-3696-9

Cover art by Eric Williams

First printing, January 2015

Distributed by Simon & Schuster

1230 Avenue of the Americas

New York, NY 10020

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Lee, Sharon, 1952–

Carousel seas / Sharon Lee.

pages ; cm.
— (Archers
beach ; 3)

Summary: “Archers Beach, Maine, in the Changing Land, the last and least of the Six Worlds, where magic works, sometimes, and the Guardian husbands the vitality of the land and everyone on it—earth spirit and plain human alike. Kate Archer, Guardian and carousel-keeper, has been busy making some changes of her own, notably beginning a romantic relationship with Borgan, the Guardian of the Gulf of Maine, Kate’s opposite number. But now a former sea goddess sets up housekeeping in the Gulf. She’s determined to challenge Borgan’s authority—and doesn’t care if she endangers Kate and everything she holds precious” — Provided by publisher.

ISBN 978-1-4767-3696-9 (pbk.)

I. Title.

PS3562.E3629C34 2015

813’.54—dc23

2014038691

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Pages by Joy Freeman (
www.pagesbyjoy.com
)

Printed in the United States of America

eISBN: 978-1-62579-341-6

Electronic Version by Baen Books

www.baen.com

Many, many thanks to:

Meg Davis, for writing “Captain Jack and the Mermaid”

Steve Jackson, for being a good sport

Mike Barker, for beta reading par excellence

Archers Beach, Maine, is a fictional town, though it owes portions of its history, coast line, and geography to the communities of Old Orchard Beach, Ocean Park, Kinney Shores, Camp Ellis, and to the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge.

The Chance Menagerie Carousel at Palace Playland in Old Orchard Beach occupies roughly the spot where one would find the Fantasy Menagerie Merry-go-Round in Fun Country at Archers Beach.

The cure for anything is salt water:

sweat, tears or the sea.

—Isak Dinesen

It is not the strongest of the species that survives,

nor the most intelligent, but the one

most responsive to change.

—Charles Darwin

IN THE CHANGING LAND, A STRANGER . . .

By ways unseen, she came to the sea.

There, she paused, caught by the murmur of the surf, to overlook the undulating surface, and the drowning reflections of stars.

She had been afraid, but now she was content, with the damp breeze caressing her cheeks, and the whisper of moving water in her ears. Her head felt bright and empty, like a room made ready for a tardy guest.

She breathed in, tasting salt; and sighed, tasting desire.

It was good, the sea.

Yet, for all that it was
a
sea, and good, it was not
her
sea; so much she knew. It was very nearly everything she knew, now that she was free . . .

Free
.

She considered the thought, and so recalled a dreary, long expanse of fog: imprisonment.

An imprisonment that had ended without warning; the ties that bound her exploding; ejecting her into a maelstrom of chaotic forces. She had narrowly escaped dissolution, snatching up what power she might before a sizzling bolt singed her hand, awakening her to danger.

She ran, then; ran for her life.

Ran
.

Until instinct brought her to the sea.

Which was not, so said her heart,
her
sea.

No, she thought, gazing out over the breakers, and the white mists rising from their lacy skirts to the stars; this was no sea . . . no sea . . .

This was no sea . . .

. . . such as she . . . knew.

She knew . . . the ways of the sea. Of
a
sea. She knew the silken caress of water against naked skin; the sweet rocking of the waves; the exuberant crash of breakers. The sea . . .
belonged
to her, and she to it. Neither could thrive without the other.

And, yet . . . this was
not
her sea.

That certainty burned in the bright empty space of her mind. She felt the truth of it in her soul, even as she longed to step into the waves, to immerse herself, and become one with the waters. Surely . . . surely even a stranger sea would shelter her?

She stepped forward, until the frothing edges of spent breakers twined ’round her ankles like crystal chains. From . . . somewhere—perhaps the past?—she heard a keening, and felt a shiver of fear.

But that, she knew, was nonsense.
She
need never fear a sea.

She waded further out, bending to stroke the silken backs of swells.

Power petaled over her skin, soft and damp, smelling slightly of mud. She straightened, the energy she had stolen stirred watchfully at the base of her spine.

From the rolling waters before her rose a woman, yellow-haired, and pale of skin.

“My name is Daphne,” she said, and her voice was as fair and as strange as her seeming. “The sea brought your scent to my sister and me. We would make common cause with you.”

Common cause? she thought. A seductive swell stroked her waist; she yearned toward it, aching; lost for a moment . . .

. . . which would not do. She was at risk here, with her bright, empty head, and her meager supply of power. Sternly, she forced herself to regard the yellow-haired woman, who stood motionless among the moving water. Fair face, and fair words, and the woman
wanted
something from her. There was a slender safety in being needed. Best, then, to learn more.

“What is your cause?” she asked the yellow-haired woman. Her own voice was high and lilting, like bird song. She smiled to hear it.

Before her, Daphne also smiled, showing the pointed teeth of a goblin.

“Our dominion has been torn from us by a usurper. We would have it back.”

Goblins were not trustworthy; she knew that. And yet this tale of having lost dominion . . . resonated. And she knew, though she did not know how—
very well
she knew in what manner to deal with a usurper.

“I am interested,” she said, and again the goblin smiled.

“My sister and I offer you safe passage, and our protection, while we explore these matters further,” she said.

The sea sealed the promise; she felt it in the busy current, and bowed.

“It is done.”

She clasped the white, webbed hand of the goblin Daphne. Her own was long and tan and free of webbing.

The odor of mud grew stronger as Daphne manipulated her magic, binding them together.

“We go now,” said the goblin, and drew her beneath the welcoming waves.

CHAPTER ONE

MONDAY, JUNE 26

12:06
A.M.
EDT

I put my palms flat against the unicorn’s gilded saddle, and stepped Sideways. This was the tricky part—well. And not burning down the carousel in the process.

The unicorn, in Side-Sight, was a void, a blankness, nothing but a carved wooden animal, with neither wit nor soul about it.

Exactly what you’d expect, right?

Right. Except if you happen to be looking with wizard’s eyes at the Fantasy Menagerie Carousel in Archers Beach, Maine.
Then
, what you’d expect to see in Side-Sight would be two things:

One: a binding spell enclosing the entire animal, woven with interlocking cords of forgetfulness, immobility, and sleep.

Two: the faint red gleam of a soul, ensorcelled and unaware, barely visible between the binding cords.

The fact that this wasn’t what there was to be seen by those with the ability to see such things . . .

. . . was very,
very
bad.

Which was why I was standing on the carousel at midnight-oh-six with my hands on the unicorn’s back, raising just the tiniest, rosiest smidge of power, pinching it off, and placing it into the hollow wooden body.

I withdrew my will, and watched as the mite of power settled into its new home.

“Does that,” I asked aloud, though without stepping out of Side-Sight, “look convincing to you?”

“You’re doing fine, Katie,” Mr. Ignat’ said from his lean against the utility pole. Let it be said that Mr. Ignat’—the Ozali Belignatious, formally—is my grandfather. He’s also my spellcraft tutor. Which means he can run circles around me, magically speaking, and by rights ought to have been the one doing the detail work, except . . .

. . . well . . . it’s complicated.

See, until very recently—by which I mean a little under twenty-four hours ago—five of the twenty-four animals and one chariot that comprise the company of the Fantasy Menagerie Carousel had been . . . prisons. Prisons for people from other Worlds—criminals so badass their own people had given them over to the council of beings called the Wise—sort of an inter-World court of last resort. Who had, in their—dubious, in my view—wisdom bound those criminals into the carousel in the hope—
even more
dubious—that the natural forces at work in the Changing Land would do . . . something . . . possibly beneficial to them.

Oh. This place here, that we like to call the Real World? The citizens of the other Worlds call it the Changing Land, when they call it anything at all; the last and the least of the Six Worlds.

So, a little less than twenty-four hours ago, all five of the prisons had been breached, all five of the prisoners unbound, awakened—and freed. After which—and very naturally—they’d run off.

Except the two who were dead; they had just . . . evaporated.

I’d like to say that nothing about this rather comprehensive mess was my fault, but unfortunately, the only truthful thing I can say is that
not all of it
was my fault.

I’m Kate Archer, Guardian of the Land of Archers Beach, carousel-keeper, and Ozali-in-training. And, no, I’m not making
any
of this up.

“All right, then,” I said to Mr. Ignat’. “Onward to step two.”

This was the easy part: a simple matter of reweaving the shredded bindings. I had the binding spell down cold, having watched my grandmother weave it every Season and end-of-Season since I was even shorter than I am now. In fact, I’d put the previous set of bindings in place at the beginning of this current summer Season, Gran having been busy elsewhere, and that . . . was the reason that
I
had to place the decoys. My magical signature was all over the bindings—as it should be. If anyone—no, let me be specific—if any of the Wise happened by and looked with Ozali eyes at the carousel, they would therefore and correctly see my signature everywhere.

That might, according to Mr. Ignat’, buy us some time. And there was a chance—granted, a
very small
chance—that whoever was doing the looking would be fooled into thinking the prisons were still occupied by prisoners.

The reason
that
was important is that the . . . let’s say, the
major architect
of the jailbreak had been after the liberation of one, specific prisoner. One, specific,
wrongly imprisoned
prisoner. Having recovered that prisoner, his sovereignty, his life, and the life of his recovered lover stood at forfeit, the moment it was discovered that all the prisoners were free.

So, I was covering for a jailbreaker. Say my sense of justice was offended by the imprisonment of an innocent. Hell, say that I was tired of minding a jail, a job I hadn’t signed up for—and I was pretty sure Gran hadn’t, either. The Wise had just sort of . . . decided that we had volunteered.

The Wise being what they are, it’s really better not to protest these little whims of theirs.

Now, it’s true that I had no idea why the remaining four individuals bound to the carousel had been imprisoned—and at this point, I didn’t care to know. The carousel was dangerous enough, being as it also was the official Gate between Worlds, without the added danger of pissed-off magic-using criminals escaping to ravage the countryside.

I
am
the Guardian of Archers Beach; I take my duty to the land—belatedly, I admit—seriously.

If the Wise wanted a prison, they could damn’ well build their own, out ’tween-Worlds someplace.

The bindings were in place. In Side-Sight, the unicorn looked precisely as it ought.

More or less.

“Well done, Katie!” Mr. Ignat’ called. “Only four more to go!”

“Piece o’cake!” I said with a heaping tablespoon of false bravado.

Then I walked down the curve of the carousel, to the next empty prison.

BOOK: Carousel Seas
5.97Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Mr. Miracle by Debbie Macomber
Jack Frake by Edward Cline
Trinity Blue by Eve Silver
Death's Daughter by Kathleen Collins
Rude Awakening by Sam Crescent, Natalie Dae