(Shadowmarch #2) Shadowplay

DAW Books Presents
the Finest in Imaginative Fiction by
TAD WILLIAMS

SHADOWMARCH

SHADOWPLAY

TAILCHASER’S SONG

THE WAR OF THE FLOWERS

MEMORY, SORROW AND THORN

THE DRAGONBONE CHAIR

STONE OF FAREWELL

TO GREEN ANGEL TOWER

OTHERLAND

CITY OF GOLDEN SHADOW

RIVER OF BLUE FIRE

MOUNTAIN OF BLACK GLASS

SEA OF SILVER LIGHT

ShadowPlay

Volume Two

TAD WILLIAMS
ShadowPlay

Volume Two of Shadowmarch

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 © 2007 by Tad Williams.
All Rights Reserved.

Jacket art by Todd Lockwood

DAW Book Collectors No. 1393.

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 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.

ISBN: 978-1-101-21864-8

This book like the first volume, is dedicated to our children Connor Williams and Devon Beale—who, since that first dedication, are a couple of years older and louder, but still quite fabulous. I flinch with love every time they shriek at me.

Acknowledgements

Those wishing the full story of my gratitude should inspect the “thank-you-all” page in
Shadowmarch
. Nothing much has changed with the second volume.

Or those who don’t have Volume One to hand:

As always, many thanks to my editors Betsy Wollheim and Sheila Gilbert and everyone else at DAW Books, my wife Deborah Beale and our assistant Dena Chavez, and my agent Matt Bialer, and also my pets and children, who make every day a challenge and an adventure. (And whoever did good work without being challenged?)

Last of all, another shout-out to the folks at Shadowmarch.com. You are welcome to join us there. You don’t even have to bring booze or anything. (It’s a virtual community, after all.)

Author’s Note

For those who wish to feel securely grounded in the Who, What, and Where of things, there are several maps and, at the end of the book, indexes of characters and places and other important materials.

The maps have been compiled from an exhaustive array of traveler’s tales, nearly illegible old documents, transcripts of oracular utterances, and the murmurings of dying hermits, not to mention the contents of an ancient box of land-office records discovered at a Syannese flea market. A similarly arcane and wearying process was responsible for the creation of the indexes. Use them well, remembering that many have died, or at least seriously damaged their vision and scholarly reputations, to make these aids available to you, the reader.

Contents
Prelude

T
HE OLDER ONES IN THE HOUSEHOLD had hunted the missing boy for an hour without result, but his sister knew where to look.

“Surprise,” she said. “It’s me.”

His dark hose and velvet tunic gray with dust and his face streaked with grime, he looked like a very sad goblin. “Auntie ’Lanna and the other women are all making a great fuss, searching for you,” she said. “I can’t believe they didn’t look here. Don’t they remember anything?”

“Go away.”

“I can’t, now, stupid. Lady Simeon and two of the maids were just behind me—I heard them coming up the corridor.” She set the candle between two paving stones in the floor. “If I go out now they’ll know where you’re hiding.” She grinned, pleased with her maneuver. “So I’m staying, and you can’t make me go.”

“Then be quiet.”

“No. Not unless I want to be. I’m a princess and you can’t give me orders. Only Father’s allowed to do that.” She settled in beside her brother, staring up at the shelves, seldom used now that the new kitchens had been built closer to the great hall. Only a few cracked pots and bowls had been left behind, as well as a half-dozen stoppered jars whose contents were so old that opening them, as Briony had once said, would be an experiment dangerous enough for Chaven of Ulos. (The children had been thrilled to learn that the household’s new physician was a man of many strange and fascinating interests.) “So why are you hiding?”

“I’m not hiding. I’m thinking.”

“You’re a liar, Barrick Eddon. When you want to think you go walking on the walls, or you go to Father’s library, or…or you stay in your room like a temple-mantis saying prayers. You come here when you want to hide.”

“Oh? And what makes you so clever, strawhead?”

It was a term he used often when he was irritated with her, as though the differing color of their hair, hers golden-fair, his red as a fox’s back, made some difference—as though it made them any less twins. “I just am. Come, tell me.” Briony waited, then shrugged and changed the subject. “One of the ducks in the moat has just hatched out her eggs. The ducklings are ever so sweet. They go
peep-peep-peep
and follow their mother everywhere in a little line, as though they were tied to her.”

“You and your ducks.” He scowled as he rubbed his wrist. His left hand was like a claw, the fingers curled and crabbed.

“Does your arm hurt?”

“No! Lady Simeon must be gone by now—why don’t you go play with your ducks or dolls or something?”

“Because I’m not leaving until you tell me what’s wrong.” Briony was on firm ground now. She knew this negotiation as well as she knew her morning and evening prayers, as well as she knew the story of Zoria’s flight from the cruel Moonlord’s keep—her favorite tale from
The Book of the Trigon
. It might last a while, but in the end it would go her way. “Tell me.”

“Nothing’s wrong.” He draped his bad arm across his lap with the same care Briony lavished on lambs and fat-bellied puppies, but his expression was closer to that of a father dragging an unwanted idiot child. “Stop looking at my hand.”

“You know you’re going to tell me, redling,” she teased him. “So why fight?”

His answer was more silence—an unusual ploy at this stage of the old, familiar dance.

The silence and the struggle both continued for some time. Briony had moments of real anger as Barrick resisted her every attempt to get him to talk, but she also became more and more puzzled. Eight years old, born in the same hour, they had lived always in each other’s company, but she had seldom seen him so upset outside of the small hours of the night, when he often cried out in the grip of evil dreams.

“Very well,” he said at last. “If you’re not going to leave me alone, you have to swear not to tell.”

“Me? Swear? You pig! I
never
told on you for anything!” And that was true. They had each suffered several punishments for things the other twin had done without ever breaking faith. It was a pact between them so deep and natural that it had never been spoken of before now.

But the boy was adamant. He waited out his sister’s gust of anger, his pale little face set in an unhappy smirk. She surrendered at last: principle could only stretch so far, and now she was painfully curious. “So, then, pig. What do you want me to do? What shall I swear to?”

“A blood oath. It has to be a blood oath.”

“By the heads of the gods, are you mad?” She blushed at her own strong language and could not help looking around, although of course they were alone in the pantry. “Blood? What blood?”

Barrick drew a poniard from the vent of his sleeve. He extended his finger and, with only the smallest wince, made a cut on the tip. Briony stared in sickened fascination.

“You’re not supposed to carry a knife except for public ceremonies,” she said. Shaso, the master of arms, had forbidden it, fearing that Briony’s angry, headstrong brother might hurt himself or someone else.

“Oh? And what am I supposed to do if someone tries to kill me and there are no guards around? I’m a prince, after all. Should I just slap them with my glove and tell them to go away?”

“Nobody wants to kill you.” She watched the blood form a droplet, then run down into the crease of his finger. “Why would anyone want to kill you?”

He shook his head and sighed at her innocence. “Are you just going to sit there while I bleed to death?”

She stared. “You want me to do that, too? Just so you’ll tell me some stupid secret?”

“So, then.” He sucked off the blood, wiped his finger on his sleeve. “I won’t tell you. Go away and leave me alone.”

“Don’t be mean.” She watched him carefully—she could see he would not change his mind—he could be as stubborn as a bent nail. “Very well, let me do it.”

He hesitated, clearly unwilling to do something as unmanly as surrender his blade to his sister, but at last let her take it. She held the sharp edge over her finger for long moments, biting her lip.

“Hurry!”

When she did not immediately comply, he shot out his good arm, seized her hand, and forced her skin against the knife blade. It cut, but not too deeply; by the time she had finished cursing him the worst of the sting was over. A red pearl appeared on her fingertip. Barrick took her hand, far more gently now, and brought her finger against his.

It was a strange moment, not because of the sensation itself, which was nothing more noteworthy than the girl would have expected from rubbing a still-sore finger against her brother’s, smearing a little blood across the whorled fingertips, but because of the intensity in Barrick’s eyes, the way he watched that daub of red with the avidity of someone witnessing something far more arresting: lovemaking or a hanging, nakedness or death.

He glanced up and saw her staring. “Don’t look at me like that. Do you swear you’ll never reveal what I tell you? That the gods can punish you horribly if you do?”

“Barrick! What a thing to say. I’m not going to tell anyone, you know that.”

“We’ve shared blood, now. You can’t change your mind.”

She shook her head. Only a boy could think that a ceremony with knives and finger cutting was a stronger bond than having shared the warm darkness of a mother’s womb. “I won’t change my mind.” She paused to find the words to convey her certainty. “You know that, don’t you?”

“Very well. I’ll show you.”

He stood up, and to his sister’s surprise, clambered onto a block of wood that had been used as a pantry stool since before either of them could remember, then scrabbled in the back of one of the upper shelves before pulling out a bundle wrapped in a cleaning rag. He took it down and sat again, holding it carefully, as though it were something alive and potentially dangerous. The girl was caught between wanting to lean forward and wanting to scramble away, in case anything might jump out at her. When the stained cloth had been folded back, she stared.

“It’s a statue,” she said at last, almost disappointed. It was about the size of one of the privy garden’s red squirrels sitting up on its hind legs, but there the resemblance to anything ordinary ended: the hooded figure, face almost entirely hidden, was made of cloudchip crystal, gray-white and murky as frost in some places, clear and bright as cathedral glass in others, with colors ranging from the palest blue to pinks like flesh or watered blood. The squat, powerful figure held a shepherd’s crook; an owl crouched on its shoulder like a second head. “It’s Kernios.” She had seen it somewhere before, and reached out her hand to touch it.

“Don’t!” Barrick pulled it back, wrapped the cloth around it again. “It’s…it’s bad.”

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t know. I just…I hate it.”

She looked at him curiously for a moment, then suddenly remembered. “Oh, no! Barrick, is that…is that the statue from the Erivor Chapel? The one Father Timoid was so angry about when it went missing?”

“When someone
stole
it. That’s what he said, over and over.” Barrick flushed, a bold burst of red on his pale cheeks. “He was right.”

“Zoria’s mercy, did you…?” He did not speak, but that was an answer in itself. “Oh, Barrick, why?”

“I don’t know. I told you, I hate it. I hate the way it looks, so blind and quiet, just…thinking. Waiting. And I can feel it all the time, but it’s even worse when I’m in the chapel. Can’t you
feel
it?”

“Feel what?”

“It…I don’t know. It’s hot. It makes a hot feeling in my head. No, that’s not right. I can’t say. But I hate it.” His little face was determined again, pale and stern. “I’m going to throw it into the moat.”

“You can’t! It’s valuable! It’s been in the family for…for a long time.”

“I don’t care. It’s not going to be in the family any longer. I can’t even bear to look at it.” He stared at her. “Remember, you promised, so you can’t tell anyone. You swore an oath—we shared blood.”

“Of course I won’t tell. But I still don’t think you should do it.”

He shook his head. “I don’t care. And you can’t stop me.”

She sighed. “I know. No one can stop you doing anything, redling, no matter how foolish. I was just going to tell you not to throw it in the moat.”

He stared at her from beneath a furious brow. “Why?”

“Because they drain it. Don’t you remember when they did it the summer before last and they found those bones of that woman who drowned?”

He nodded slowly. “Merolanna wouldn’t let us go see—like we were babies! I was so angry.” He seemed to regard her for the first time as a true collaborator rather than an antagonist. “So if I throw it in the moat, someone will find it someday. And put it back in the chapel.”

“That’s right.” She considered. “It should go into the ocean. Off the outwall behind the East Lagoon. The water comes up right under the wall there.”

“But how can I do it without the guards noticing?”

“I’ll tell you how, but you have to promise me something.”

“What?”

“Just promise.”

He scowled, but she had obviously caught his curiosity. “So be it, I promise. Well, how do I throw it over without the guards seeing me do it?”

“I’ll go with you. We’ll say we want to go up and count the seagulls or something. They all think we’re children, anyway—they don’t pay any attention to what we do.”

“We
are
children. But why does you coming along help? I can throw it off myself, you know.” He looked down quickly at his clenched left hand. “I can get it into the water easily. It’s not very heavy.”

“Because I’m going to fall down just when we get to the top. You’ll be just in front of me and the guards will stop to help me—they’ll be terrified I’ve broken my leg or something—and you just step to the wall and…do it.”

He stared at her with admiration. “You’re clever, strawhead.”

“And you need someone like me to keep you out of trouble, redling. Now what about that promise?”

“Well?”

“I want you to swear on our blood oath that the next time you think of something like stealing a valuable statue out of the chapel, you’ll talk to me first.”

“I’m not your little brother, you know…!”

“Swear. Or the oath I made doesn’t count anymore.”

“Oh, very well. I swear.” He smiled a little. “I feel better.”

“I don’t. For one thing, think of all those servants who were stripped and searched and even beaten when Father Timoid was looking for the statue. It wasn’t their fault at all!”

“It never is. They’re used to it.” But he at least had the good sense to appear a little troubled.

“And what about Kernios? How is he going to feel about having his statue stolen and thrown into the sea?”

Barrick’s open expression shuttered again. “I don’t care about that. He’s my enemy.”

“Barrick! Don’t say such things about the gods!”

He shrugged. “Let’s go. Lady Simeon must have given up by now. We’ll come back and get the statue later. We can take it up to the wall tomorrow morning.” He stood, then reached down his good hand to help his sister, who was struggling with her long skirts. “We’d better clean this blood off our hands before we get back to the Residence or they’ll be wanting to know where we’ve been.”

“It’s not very much blood.”

“It’s enough to cause questions. They love to ask questions—and everyone pays attention to blood.”

Briony opened the pantry door and they slipped back out into the corridor, quiet as phantoms. The throne hall was also oddly quiet—tomb-silent, as though the immense old building had been holding its breath while it listened to the whispering voices in the pantry.

Other books

La promesa del ángel by Frédéric Lenoir & Violette Cabesos
John MacNab by John Buchan
Cut to the Bone by Alex Caan
Sworn Secret by Amanda Jennings
A Touch Morbid by Leah Clifford
New Title 1 by Jeffrey, Shaun
Final Edit by Robert A Carter
Black Widow by Jennifer Estep