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Authors: Jennifer Roberson

Karavans

BOOK: Karavans
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Raves for Jennifer Roberson’s
Karavans
:

“The first volume in a new fantasy saga from Roberson (
Sword-Dancer
) establishes a universe teeming with fascinating humans, demons and demigods … the pieces are in place for what promises to be a story of epic proportions.”

—Publishers Weekly

“In Roberson’s rather original tale of sorcery and change in the aftermath of war, the land of Sancorra has been conquered by the bloodthirsty Hecari, and many of its inhabitants are fleeing. High-quality characterization and world building abet Roberson’s novel conception.”

—Booklist

“Jennifer Roberson’s
Karavans
(the opening volume of her first new series in two decades!) is a storytelling tour de force with all the trappings of a classic fantasy saga: a cast of fully realized and singularly unique characters, desperate quests, ominous prophecies, and intertwining plotlines filled with dark magic and supernatural intrigue—all set in a war-torn realm drenched in blood. Fans who have enjoyed Roberson’s previous works will be absolutely blown away by this emotionally charged nomadic adventure through a world teetering on the brink of chaos. Set in one of the most vividly described and downright intriguing fantasy realms to come along in years,
Karavans
is arguably Roberson’s best work to date. Featuring breathtaking cover art by artist extraordinaire Todd Lockwood, this is a ‘must-read’ fantasy if there ever was one.”

—The Barnes & Noble Review

“The many mysteries set up are tantalizing enough to make me impatient for more.”

—Locus

“Beautifully written … All the characters are beautifully drawn and Roberson has uncanny lyrical phrasing.”

—Romantic Times Bookclub

DAW titles by
JENNIFER ROBERSON

KARAVANS
DEEPWOOD
*

THE SWORD-DANCER SAGA
SWORD-DANCER
SWORD-SINGER
SWORD-MAKER
SWORD-BREAKER
SWORD-BORN
SWORD-SWORN

CHRONICLES OF THE CHEYSULI
Omnibus Editions
SHAPECHANGER’S SONG
LEGACY OF THE WOLF
CHILDREN OF THE LION
THE LION THRONE

THE GOLDEN KEY
(with Melanie Rawn and Kate Elliott)

ANTHOLOGIES
(as editor)     
RETURN TO AVALON
HIGHWAYMEN: ROBBERS AND ROGUES

*
Coming Soon in Hardcover from DAW

J
ENNIFER
ROBERSON

K
ARAVANS

DAW BOOKS, INC.

DONALD A. WOLLHEIM, FOUNDER
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
ELIZABETH R. WOLLHEIM
SHEILA E. GILBERT
PUBLISHERS
http://www.dawbooks.com

Copyright © 2006 by Jennifer Roberson.
All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-101-64251-1

Cover art by Todd Lockwood.

Book designed by Elizabeth Glover.

DAW Books Collectors No. 1359.

DAW Books Inc. is distributed by Penguin Group (USA).

All characters in the 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 Paperback Printing, April 2007
1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9

DAW TRADEMARK REGISTERED
U.S. PAT. OFF. AND FOREIGN COUNTRIES
—MARCA REGISTRADA
HECHO EN U.S.A.
Printed in the U.S.A.

I dedicate this to my uncle and to my aunts, with love,

Sam Hardy
Molly Hardy
Clare Witcomb

and to the memory of my mother

Shera Roberson

Table of Contents

Prologue

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 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Epilogue

About the Author

Prologue

A
FTER SO MUCH TIME, his voice, the words, came hard. He had been—
other
—for time out of mind.

“I,” he said. And, in shock, repeated it: “I.”

Other words, more words, came back to him. Words that, strung together, shaped identity. He knew those words. And knew himself, when he had not for an endless time, immured in darkness.

“I … am … man.”

A man. He was.

Human.

“I am man. I am
a
man.”

The emphasis was important.


I am a man.

He crowed victory, no longer mute.

He was a man.

Was he not?

Around him the world shuddered. Darkness bled into light. Nausea took him. Bile burned the back of his throat, occluding a sob.

So close.

So close to … elsewhere.

So close to home.


I am a man.

He was. Had been. Was born so.

Man. Male. Mortal.

He remembered,
remembered
, after a space—for time out of mind—when he could not.

“I am,” he said aloud, seeking solace, seeking strength.

But darkness wrapped its fingers around him. Darkness took him up, as if to inspect him more closely. His head filled, and his eyes. His ears. His mouth and his nose. He choked on it.

Darkness.

Darkness dangled him by the scruff of his neck, as if he were vermin caught by a dog. Darkness smelled him. Shook him. And then, with a twitch of negligent hand, darkness discarded him.

He fell. And fell.

When he landed, when he had recovered breath enough to speak, strength enough to move, he sat up. Light. In place of darkness, light. He saw. He smelled. He heard. He felt. He
tasted.

“I am a man,” he said. And, “Home.”

He stood. Balanced. Began to walk.

To humankind. To home.

To anywhere other than where he had been.

Alisanos.

Human?

Was he?

Could he be, after dwelling in Alisanos?

He stopped walking. Stretched out his arms, and gazed upon them. Began to tremble.

At the end of his arms, in place of his hands, were—
other.

He screamed.

Human?

No.

Not he.

Screamed and screamed and screamed.

ILONA AWOKE ABRUPTLY to the sound of a scream resounding within her skull. For that moment of shock, the initial instant of confusion caused by a
sudden awakening out of deep sleep, she heard it. And then realized the sound had not been a true scream but merely the futile attempt of her sleep-fettered body to cry out. She had managed at most a moan.

Her wagon was dark. She had dropped the oilcloth sides of the roof canopy and blown out the last lantern hours before. The karavan encampment, wagons gathered within a sprawling grove of wide-crowned trees at the edge of a haphazard tent settlement, still slept, save for the occasional yip or bark of a dog, the restless wuffling of picketed draft animals, the ceaseless metallic scraping of insects known as nightsingers.

She lay awake in the narrow cot beneath the roof ribs of her tall, high-wheeled wagon, recalling the scrambled flashes of dream-born images. Confusion, mostly: scarlet lightning, a roaring wind, black skies, steaming rain, the glimpse of a woman’s profile, a Hecari warrior with war-club raised, a karavan turning back. None of it made sense.

Ilona closed her eyes and rubbed the lids with her fingers, stretching them out of shape. Jorda, the caravan-master, had never turned back in all his years on the roads throughout Sancorra province. His reputation was for always getting his people where they paid him to go. It made no sense that Jorda would turn back.

Voice hoarse from sleep, Ilona chastised herself. “You read
hands
, remember? Reading dreams is not your gift.”

But she could not shake the images, the memory of panic. Red lightning, a roaring wind, black skies, a woman, inexplicably steaming rain, and a karavan turning back.

Not Jorda’s karavan, then. Perhaps nothing more than a dream construct, false images conjured from the back of her mind.

Ilona turned onto her side, resettling blankets over her upper shoulder. She was a diviner, yes, but the omens and auguries she read lay always in a human palm, not in images fed to her in the darkness. Her dreams were merely dreams, albeit some more dramatic than others. Nightmares, however, only rarely plagued her.

BOOK: Karavans
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ads

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