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Authors: David Zindell

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Diamond Warriors

BOOK: Diamond Warriors
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The Diamond Warriors

Book Four of the Ea Cycle

David Zindell


I would like to thank the people closest to this book, who made it possible: My daughters, who journeyed with me on many long and magical walks through Ea and helped generate this story with their pointed-questions blazing imagination, dreams and delight. My agent, Donald Maass, for his great enthusiasm, brilliant suggestions and help in fine-tuning the story. And Jane Johnson and Joy Chamberlain, whose inspired editing, unstinting support and sheer hard work in the face of great pressure brought this book to life






Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43



Chapter 1

n clear summer nights, I have stood on desert sands in awe of the stars. From these countless radiant points, my ancestors believed, comes all that is good, beautiful and true. The Lightstone had its source there. The stars make light itself and that secret, irresistible force which warms angels' hearts and illuminates all things. What man could ever hold this most brilliant of fires? Only one who can endure burning. And one who wills with all his heart that the stars must go on shining forever and can never die.

They shone upon my grandfather and upon Elahad and the ancient Valari who came to earth from other worlds; and still they shone upon
world, even though the Great Red Dragon named Morjin threatened to make war upon all Ea's lands and call down that black and starless night without end. In the spring of the fourth year since I had set out to seek the Lightstone and defy Morjin, the stars guided me home. Late into evenings filled with the calls of meadowlarks and the fragrance of new flowers, my companions and I ventured across savage lands, setting our course by Aras and Solaru and the heavens' other bright lights. And at dawn we journeyed toward the Great Eastern Sun: the Morning Star for which my grandfather had named me Valashu. This fiery orb still rose each day over the mountains of Mesh and the dwellings of my people. Where Morjin called my brothers and sisters demons from hell that must be nailed up on crosses or burned alive, I knew them as noble warriors of the sword - and spirit - who remained true Valari. It was upon me to return to them in order to seize my fate and become their king.

On the first day of Soldru, on a warm afternoon, my seven companions and I rode through the Valley of the Swans below my family's ancient, burned-out castle. Our way took us through a thick and ancient wood. Here grew tall oaks and elms through which I had run as a child. Wild grape and honeysuckle twined themselves around the trunks of these great trees, while ferns blanketed the forest floor. Many flowers brightened this expanse of green and sweetened the air: bluets and trillium and goldthread, whose white sepals gleamed like stars. Each growing thing, it seemed, greeted me like an old friend to which I had long ago pledged my life. So it was with the warblers and the sparrowhawks calling out from branch or sky, and the rabbits, voles and badgers who made their abodes beneath them. Our procession through the trees startled a stag feeding on the bracken; just before he sprang away, his large, dark eye fixed on my eyes and called to me as if we were brothers. He did not, I sensed, worry that his forest home might soon be destroyed and the whole world with it. This great being cared nothing for the struggles and aspirations of men, and knew only that it was good to be alive.

'Ah, another deer.' Next to me, from on top of a big, brown horse, my friend Maram watched the stag bounding off through the trees. He was himself a big man, with a thick beard and soft brown eyes which easily filled with worry. 'These woods are still full of deer.'

We rode along a few paces, and our horses' hooves cracked through old leaves and twigs.

'And where there are deer,' he went on, 'there are certainly bears. These huge, brown bears of yours whose like I have seen in no other land.'

I turned in my saddle to look after Daj and Estrella riding behind us. Daj's gaze met mine, and his black curls fell over his face as he inclined his head to me. Although he couldn't have been much older than twelve years, he held himself straight and proud as if he were a knight who knew no fear. Already he had slain more men than had most knights - and sent on as well an evil creature more powerful than any man. Estrella, of an age with him, guided her pony along in silence. Although she could make no words with her throat and lips, her dark eyes and lively face seemed almost infinitely expressive and full of light. Behind her rode Master Juwain and Liljana, who might have been the children's grandparents. They wore the same hooded traveling cloaks that we all did, even Atara, who brought up the rear. This beautiful woman - my betrothed - hated the itch of woven wool against her sunburned skin, for she had lived too long on the plains of the Wendrush with the savage Sarni warriors, who usually wore silks or beaded skins, when they wore garments at all. She was herself a warrior, of that strange society of women known as the Manslayers. As she pressed her knees against the flanks of her great roan mare, Fire, she gripped one of the great, double-curved Sarni bows. A white blindfold bound her thick blond hair and covered the hollows beneath her brows. It was a great miracle of her life that although Morjin had taken her eyes, sometimes by the virtue of her second sight she could still see. If a bear charged out of the bracken at us, I thought, she could put an arrow straight through its heart.

'Bears,' I said, turning back toward Maram, 'rarely hunt deer -only if they come upon one by chance.'

'Like that bear that came upon
He pointed at my face and added, 'The one who gave you

I pressed my finger against the scar cut into my forehead. This mark, shaped like a lightning bolt, had actually been present from my birth, when the midwife's tongs had ripped my skin. The bear, who had nearly killed my brother Asaru and me during one of our forays into the woods, had only deepened it.

'I doubt if it is my fate,' I said, smiling at him, 'to see us attacked here by a bear.'

'Ah, fate,' Maram said, shaking his great, bushy head. 'You speak of it too much these days, and contemplate it too deeply, I think.'

'Perhaps that is true. But we've avoided the worst that might have befallen us and come to our journey's end without mishap.'

to our journey's end,' he said, waving his huge hand at the trees ahead of us. 'If you're right, we've still five miles of these gloomy woods to endure. If you hadn't insisted on this
we might already have been sitting at Lord Harsha's table with Behira, putting down some roasted beef and a few pints of your good Meshian beer.'

I cast him a long, burning look. He knew well enough the reasons for our detour through the woods, and had in fact agreed upon them. But now that he could almost smell his dinner and taste his dessert, it seemed that he had conveniently forgotten them.

'All right, all right,' he said, turning his head away from me to gaze off through the trees. 'Why indeed take any chances when we
come so far without mishap? It's just that now I'm ready to enjoy the comforts of Lord Harsha's house, it seems that the farmland hereabouts - and the rest of your kingdom - surely holds fewer perils than do these woods.'

'It is not my kingdom,' I reminded him. 'Not yet. And whoever wins Mesh's throne, you may be sure that this wood will remain near the heart of his realm.'

Far out on the grasslands of the Wendrush, as we had taken meat and fire with the chieftain of the Niuriu, Vishakan, we had heard disquieting rumors that Mesh's greatest lords were contending with each other to gain my father's vacant throne. War, it seemed, threatened. Vishakan himself told me that Morjin had stolen the souls of some of my own countrymen - and had turned the hearts of others with threats of crucifixion and promises of glory and everlasting life for anyone who followed him. The Lord of Lies had pledged a thousand-weight of gold to any man who brought him my head. So it was that my companions and I had entered Mesh in secret. Twenty-two kel keeps, great fortresses of iron and stone, encircled the whole of the kingdom and guarded the passes through the mountains. But I knew unexplored ways around three of them - and through the country of the Sawash River and past Arakel, Telshar and the other great peaks of the Central Range. And, of course, through the fields and forests of the Valley of the Swans. So it was that we had come nearly all the way to Lord Harsha's little stone chalet without stopping at an inn or a farmhouse.

BOOK: Diamond Warriors
12.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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