The Standing Dead - Stone Dance of the Chameleon 02

BOOK: The Standing Dead - Stone Dance of the Chameleon 02
The Standing Dead - Stone Dance of the Chameleon 02
Book Jacket
Stone Dance of the Chameleon [2]

The sequel to The Chosen and the second book in The Stone Dance of the Chameleon trilogy.

Twelve years in the creating, Ricardo Pinto's sumptuously imagined Commonwealth of the Three Lands first enthralled fantasy readers in his acclaimed debut, The Chosen. Now the story of the Masters and their imperious, cruel world continues in a novel as original and absorbing as the first. Escaping the clutches of the Empress Ykoriana, Carnelian and Osidian find themselves captives of a barbarian tribe from the southern plain. Dark, unexpected and unbidden forces surface, threatening this new-found world. Rich in detail, passion and drama, The Standing Dead confirms Ricardo Pinto as one of fantasy's most singular and literate new voices.







Originally published in Great Britain by Bantam Press, a division of Transworld Publishers

Bantam Press edition published 2002 Bantam edition published 2003


Copyright © Ricardo Pinto 2002

The right of Ricardo Pinto to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988

All of the characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons, alive or dead, is purely coincidental.

Condition of Sale
This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out or otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

Set i
n ll/12pt Bodoni by Falcon
Graphic Art Ltd.

Bantam Books are published by Transworld Publishers 61-63 Uxbridge Road, London W5 5SA, a division of The Random House Group Ltd, in Australia by Random House Australia (Pty) Ltd, 20 Alfred Street, Milsons Point, Sydney, NSW 2061, Australia, in New Zealand by Random House New Zealand Ltd, 18 Poland Road, Glenfield, Auckl
and 10, New Zealand,
and in South Africa by Random House (Pty) Ltd, Endulini, 5a Jubilee Road, Parktown 2193, South Africa.

Printed and bound in Great Britain by Cox & Wyman Ltd, Reading, Berkshire.

Praise for
The Standing Dead:

that rarest of things - a deeply original fantasy
a heady, exotic mix of cultural influences
His world is amazingly complicated and beautifully detailed
Make no mistake, this is a deeply layered work about the human condition. An allegory for the stranglehold the corrupt West has on our world, rich with symbolism and with nary an elf in sight'

'Succeeds in creating one of the more unique imaginary realms and heroes in high fantasy. I expect much from this relative newcomer'
SF Site,
'Best Fantasy of 2002'

'Scottish fantasy writer Ricardo Pinto returns with his eagerly awaited second book
The Standing Dead,
the follow up to his wonderful and critical
ly acclaimed de
The Chosen
Pinto's complex and beautifully written second fantasy is a book to be savoured and devoured slowly. He is immaculate in the detail of people, clothing, buildings and landscapes and purposely spends a lot of time introducing you to his intricately-imagined world
There are a lot of timely lessons here on the persecution of those considered different or unwilling to conform to so-called majority law, but Pinto's story is not so black and white. Everyone is flawed to a point and their own convictions and motivations, no matter how worthy or distasteful, are as utterly convincing to us as they are to them. Pinto writes beautifully and his prose is a refreshing antidote to much of the action-led fantasy that dominates the genre. This is a thoughtful, engrossing and dynamic piece of work that should establish Pinto as one of fantasy's most ambitious and creative exponents. If you aren't reading Pinto, you shouldn't be reading fantasy at all' Jonathan Weir,

'Following on from
The Chosen,
Ricardo Pinto's brilliant d6but novel,
The Standing Dead
forms the second part of
The Stone Dance
the Chameleon
series. Those of you familiar with Ricardo Pinto's first novel will no doubt welcome a second dose of his wonderful writing style. Those who have not yet experienced his writing are advised to do so post-haste
Pinto has managed the rarest of events in the fantasy genre, in that he has managed to build and depict a vivid unique world which borrows little from Tolkien. Instead he ties diverse strands from Aztec mythology and American Indian beliefs together with his own rich ideas to produce something brand new. For those who are sick of twee Tolkienesque works and looking for something a little different, are seeking a bold new voice, or indeed are simply looking for a gripping read, look no further than this great new author, for he delivers all of this and more'

'In a genre populated by endless Tolkien imitators, Ricardo Pinto's
The Chosen
stood out in a blaze of colour
This latest chapter in Pinto's series is a shock to the system but a most welcome one. Rather than delivering a pat sequel that initially looks as if it may force the series on, he turns the world around and points it in a new direction that leaves the reader wondering where it may go. Pinto is part of the bravura which has infested British writing, this sense of breaking rules and writing in a fashion that is counter to genre expectation. This book seals this series as one to be read by all interested in good fantasy'

'A dark, satisfying work
does succeed in mixing the familiar with the novel, and the predictable with the profoundly unsettling. This Edinburgh-based writer could actually give the genre a good name'
The List

'In fantasy terms JRR Tolkien and Mervyn Peake ruled the 20th century. The 21st century sees the arrival of a new master: Ricardo Pinto
As panoramic, riveting and stimulating as
The Lord
the Rings
The Stone Dance
the Chameleon
makes its mark as a major achievement in the fantasy genre
The Standing Dead
is a majestically structured and vivid piece of fantasy writing — and it's a fantasy novel with no magic, no wizards and no demons'

'I was enthralled. This is a book which definitely shouldn't be read in isolation from the first in the trilogy, as this gives crucial insight into the politics and mindset of the characters, but actually this is a much more engrossing romp, that leaves you eagerly awaiting the conclusion'

Praise for
The Chosen:

'If fantasy is to thrive, it needs fresh, original voices. Ricardo Pinto's first novel is
a fantasy novel without prophecies, spells or evil enchanters. There are no battles, no thick forests, no magical rings or swords. This, is no nostalgic vision of pre-industrial Europe; instead we have a highly structured and cruel society which appears to have its roots in Chinese, Indian and Polynesian cultures, but cannot be seen as a simple reflection of any real historical period
Pinto is particularly good at describing his imaginary world, a world of unusual complexity
This is a boldly conceived and intelligently written fantasy which lingers in the memory like a strange and disturbing dream'

'Ricardo Pinto is the Alan Hollinghurst of fantasy fiction.
The Chosen
is the outstanding d6but of a new kind of writing within a well-established genre. Pinto is blazing a trail where others, no doubt, will follow' Amanda Foreman

'Pinto writes with an almost Donaldsonian/Feistian grip on language, content and description. There is no question that he will find a dedicated readership' Anne McCaffrey

'An incredibly well-written book, literary fantasy of the highest order. The characters, locations and situations he describes are amongst the most vividly realised that I have come across
Pinto manages to combine Michael Moorcock's eldritch surrealism with Gene Wolfs arcane mysticism in a tale of great atmospheric elegance and charm
With such depth of detail, history and narrative, this is a series that will surely develop into one of the finest flowerings of the genre. In an age in which fantasy is derided by many for its "yet another Tolkien" image, it's really good to find a novel, and a writer, that's not afraid to smash through the genre's literary boundaries in true style' Waterstone's
The Alien Has Landed

'Ricardo Pinto's
The Chosen
strikes the reader with great force. His extraordinarily salient story has the quality of a lucid dream. I am impressed by the archetypal strength of his writing - the continual tension of opposites, the keen eye for naturalistic detail
It is a pleasure to watch Pinto celebrate the evanescence of life and the enduring truth of love with such elan. I envy the visceral power of this book that dares to speculate so inventively, so colourfully, so humanely about our mortal limits' A A Attanasio

Towering, moving with all the grace and elegance of the Chosen themselves, Ricardo Pinto's splendid tale draws us into a fantasy world rich in detail and passion and drama; it is a remarkable feast which I avidly consumed' Dennis L McKiernan

'Ricardo Pinto takes his hero on a vast journey through a brilliantly imagined land
Part of Pinto's appeal lies in the meticulous research he puts in — virtually to the point of obsession — to create a believable world'
The List

Also by Ricardo Pinto


and published by Bantam Books



Once again various experts have given me invaluable support. Ben Harte corrected the geology of the Earthsky and adjoining lands and valleys. Richard Bateman guided my forays into paleobotany and I hope he will forgive me for not having followed his suggestions religiously. Dominic Prior confirmed my astronomical calculations. David Adger made the translations into Quya which I then transcribed into glyphs. Mark Haillay gave me access to his horticultural brain. I bothered Robbie repeatedly with enquiries into plague, leprosy and other medical conditions rarely encountered by an Edinburgh GP. Though no longer my editor, Broo Doherty kindly read the manuscript and made many helpful suggestions.

Writing novels has completed my transformation into a hermit: I have not been fun to live with. When I let them, my friends tried to keep me human. Three Gadgie' evenings, Tai Chi and Robbie were my sails, rudder and keel. Others who made important contributions were Steve Rizza, John Robertson, my brother David, Jan Gillen, Jon Weir and my Apple G3. Robbie, Sammy Leuty and Sam Edenborough read the final drafts. Even more important to me than their comments was the delight I derived from their enjoyment of the book.

I am grateful to Simon Taylor for his editing and for much support; to Claire Eddy for her incisive contributions; to Claire Ward and the other people
at Transworld; Jim Bums for the
cover, Neil Gower for his elegant rendering of my maps and glyphs and Antonia Reeve for my mugshot. As for my agent, Victoria Hobbs, I am taking so long to write
The Stone Dance
that I now think of her as an old friend. She is always there encouraging me, shielding me, and she has gracefully seen me through every mood-swing.



Father, do you remember me telling you I had found a lover? Then I believed he was a divided sybling: at the election I discovered him to be Osidian Nephron. I did not easily forgive him the deception. Can you understand our wish to have one last day together before we are parted for ever by his Apotheosis? No search will find us. Expect us in the Labyrinth on the thirty-second day of Tuta; the thirty-third at the latest, your son, Suth Carnelian

(a letter sent by Su
th Cornelian to his father, the Ruling Lord Suth Sardian, at the time, He-who-goes-before )

Beneath the imperious gaze of the funerary colossi of the Chosen, the fires lit by a hundred thousand tributaries formed a trembling field of light on the Plain of Thrones. High above the colossi, on a balcony cut into the cliff enclosing the plain, stood the Ruling Lord of House Suth. He turned his head enough that the eyeslits of his mask shielded his eyes from the dying sun, then surveyed the scene below. Flanked by the immense, towered saurians the barbarians childishly called dragons, the crowd seemed numberless. More than a third were the children brought by tribes from beyond the Commonwealth to pay their flesh tithe. The rest were either their kin or the deputations the cities had
sent with their taxes of coined
bronze. All had cowered there for days awaiting the ceremony of the Rebirth which would occur as the Rains broke over the crater of Osrakum. This Rebirth would include the Apotheosis of a new God Emperor.

Suth withdrew into the gloom of his apartments in the cliff so that he might free his white, unpainted hands from his sleeves without danger of them being tainted by the sun. He unfolded a parchment under a lamp and reread the glyphs drawn on its panels. The profiles of the faces in the glyphs were unmistakably in his son's hand. Further, the letter had been sealed with Carnelian's blood-ring. The letter promised that he would return on the last day of the year, but that had dawned and passed and his son had not returned.

Suth put the letter down, removed his mask and set it on top, then rubbed his eyes. He stretched his hands out and watched their tremor. To cheat the weakness from his unhealed wound, he had had to revert to the drug the Wise had given him. The powder gave him only a febrile strength. It was the Empress Ykoriana's agents who had wounded him, trying to ensure he did not reach Osrakum in time for the election. Foolishly, the election won, he had thought her beaten. Cursing softly, he let his gaze wander through the columns to the far shadows of the hall. If only he had probed Carnelian at the time when he had confessed to finding a lover. Neither the relentless demands of t
he sacred election nor the brittl
e mind-state the drug induced should have made him so dangerously uncurious about his son's expedition. Three days had passed since Tain had been scared into yielding up the letter. He had been keeping faith with Carnelian's command that he should only deliver it at nightfall on the day Carnelian disappeared. Though a half-caste, a mammaga, Tain was still Suth's son, but even then, in wrath, he might have condemned the boy to crucifixion had it not been that he knew Carnelian would never have forgiven him.

Sinking onto a couch, Suth dropped his head into his hands. That Carnelian should choose to disappear at such a delicately balanced time was bad enough, but that he should do so in company with the God Emperor elect, that was a disaster. Suth had not yet recovered from that moment of sickening premonition when he had read the letter for the first time. With terrible threats he had wrung from Carnelian's household everything they knew about his forays before the election. The clothes he had taken, the time away, all suggested a journey of some distance. Since at the time Carnelian had been with the court in the Sky, a descent to the Yden had been the only plausible solution. Suth had recalled rumours that routes existed down from the Pillar of Heaven other than the Rainbow Stair. That morning, when he could bear to wait no longer, he had dared to send a search party of his guardsmen into the Forbidden Garden of the Yden. Fear for his son had made him risk alerting the Great to the situation. Of course, the expedition had returned from the vast water meadows with nothing.

Time was running out.

One of his blinded slaves disturbed his misery. 'Master, the Ruling Lord Aurum is at your door craving audience.'

Regarding the man's stitched-up eyes, Suth mused that even Aurum was a welcome distraction from his imminent meeting with the Wise. Suth sent the slave to let him in, then rising, put on his mask and composed himself. Aurum must have found out about the disappearance of Osidian Nephron. Soon all the Great would know. Suth felt his grip on hope weakening.

'My Lord, a rumour led me to seek an audience with the God Emperor elect but
was turned away by ammonites. Why do the Wise seclude Nephron?'

Unmasking, Suth forced Aurum to follow him; he wished to see the old Lord's eyes. Under their misty blue survey, Suth could see that his weakness was betrayed, his misery. Auxum's eyes narrowed. 'My Lord...?'

Suth handed him Carnelian's letter. Aurum hesitated before taking it, then opened the panels and read. Suth watched as what little colour there was in Aurum's alabaster face drained away. The blue eyes lifted.

'Is there still hope they will return?'

Suth shrugged. 'Soon it will make little difference. The Wise have summoned me to appear before them.'

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