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In the land of Alera, where people bond with the furies--elementals of earth, air, fire, water, and metal--young Tavi struggles to cope with his lack of magical talent, until his homeland erupts into fierce conflct between rebels and loyalists and Tavi discovers that he holds the key to his realm's survival.
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A martial arts enthusiast whose resumé includes a long list of skills rendered obsolete at least two hundred years ago, Jim Butcher turned to writing as a career because anything else probably would have driven him insane. He lives with his wife, his son, and a ferocious guard dog.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Table of Contents
Praise for FURIES OF CALDERON
“Jim Butcher’s new novel is epic fantasy in the best way, inspired by Tolkien, but not just another imitation. Like Tolkien, Butcher’s book understands that even the greatest of stories can be guided by the smallest of people. It’s the men and women on the ground, at the cutting edge, who get to decide all the things that really matter. Butcher’s book is sharp, fast-moving, full of deadly dangers and double dealing.” —New York Times bestselling author Simon R. Green
“Filled with plot twists and white-knuckled suspense, this is a ripping good yarn that delivers terrific magic and non-stop action. A page-turner all the way.”
—Deborah Chester, national bestselling author of The King Betrayed
“Butcher has created a fascinating world and magic system, and peopled it with some truly engaging characters — and intriguing hints of a great Destiny . . . the start of a promising series.” —Locus
“With strong, likable characters and a graceful storytelling style, this series debut should appeal to fans of epic fantasy.” —Library Journal
“Absorbing fantasy . . . Butcher does a thorough job of world-building, to say nothing of developing his action scenes with an abundance of convincing detail. This page-turner bodes well for future volumes.” —Publishers Weekly
“A real page-turner, with the classic plot of a kingdom threatened by both an outside invader and internal treachery enlivened by an abundance of original details and sheer storytelling gusto . . . A promising series-launcher.”
Praise for Jim Butcher’s
THE DRESDEN FILES
“What’s not to like about this series? . . . I would, could, have, and will continue to recommend [it] for as long as my breath holds out. It takes the best elements of urban fantasy, mixes it with some good old-fashioned noir mystery, tosses in a dash of romance and a lot of high-octane action, shakes, stirs, and serves.” —SF Site
“Filled with sizzling magic and intrigue . . . will have fans rapidly turning the pages.” —Booklist
“Intense and wild . . . a skillful blend of urban fantasy and noir, sure to satisfy any fan and leave them begging for more.” —Green Man Review
“A haunting, fantastical novel that begins almost as innocently as those of another famous literary wizard named Harry.” —Publishers Weekly
“Few horror, fantasy, or mystery tales get any better than this wonderful plot that smoothly combines all three genres into one novel.” —BookBrowser
“Good fun for fans of dark fantasy mystery.” —Locus
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
FURIES OF CALDERON
An Ace Book / published by arrangement with the author
Copyright © 2004 by Jim Butcher.
All rights reserved.
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For my son, hero in training. And in memory of my father, a hero in truth.
I would like to thank Jennifer Jackson, for her excellent advice in reworking this book. Thanks to my wife and son, as always, and to the beta reading asylum. And a whole ton of thanks to all those insane men and women of the International Fantasy Gaming Society, with whom I have spent many a weekend slaying and being slain in return. Keep your foam swords dry, carry lots of water on course, and watch out for snakes and head shots.
But can anyone tell me why I have to keep carrying these whistles into games?
The course of history is determined not by battles, by sieges, or usurpations, but by the actions of the individual. The strongest city, the largest army is, at its most basic level, a collection of individuals. Their decisions, their passions, their foolishness, and their dreams shape the years to come. If there is any lesson to be learned from history, it is that all too often the fate of armies, of cities, of entire realms rests upon the actions of one person. In that dire moment of uncertainty, that person’s decision, good or bad, right or wrong, big or small, can unwittingly change the world.
But history can be quite the slattern. One never knows who that person is, where he might be, or what decision he might make.
It is almost enough to make me believe in Destiny.
FROM THE WRITINGS OF GAIUS PRIMUS FIRST LORD OF ALERA
“Please, Tavi,” wheedled the girl in the predawn darkness outside the steadholt’s kitchen. “Just this one little favor?”
“I don’t know,” said the boy. “There’s so much work today.”
She leaned in closer to him, and the boy felt her slender body mold against his, soft and flower-scented and delightful. She pressed her mouth to his cheek in a slow kiss and whispered in his ear, “I’d be very grateful.”
“Well,” the boy said. “I’m not sure if, um.”
She kissed his cheek again and whispered, “Please.”
His heart pounded more quickly, and his knees felt weak. “All right. I’ll do it.”
Amara rode atop the swaying back of the towering old gargant bull, going over the plan in her head. The morning sun shone down on her, taking the chill out of the misty air and warming the dark wool of her skirts. Behind her, the axles of the cart squeaked and groaned beneath their loads. The slave collar she wore had begun to chafe her skin, and she made an irritated mental note to wear one for a few days in order to grow used to it, before the next mission.
Assuming she survived this one, of course.
A tremor of nervous fear ran down her spine and made her shoulders tighten. Amara took a deep breath and blew it out again, closing her eyes for a moment and blocking out every thought except for the sensations around her: sunlight on her face, swaying of the pungent gargant’s long strides, creaking of the cart’s axles.
“Nervous?” asked the man walking beside the gargant. A goad dangled from his hand, but he hadn’t lifted it in the entire trip. He managed the beast with the lead straps alone, though his head barely came to the old bull’s brown-furred thigh. He wore the plain clothes of a peddler: brown leggings, sturdy sandals, with a padded jacket over his shirt, dark green on homespun. A long cape, tattered green without embroidery, had been cast over one shoulder as the sun rose higher.
“No,” Amara lied. She opened her eyes again, staring ahead.
Fidelias chuckled. “Liar. It’s not a brainless plan. It might work.”
Amara shot her teacher a wary glance. “But you have a suggestion?”
“In your graduation exercise?” Fidelias asked. “Crows, no. I wouldn’t dream of it, academ. It would cheapen your performance.”
Amara licked her lips. “But you think that there’s something I should know?”
Fidelias gave her a perfectly guileless look. “I did have a few questions.”
“Questions,” Amara said. “We’re going to be there in a few moments.”
“I can ask them when we arrive, if you prefer.”
“If you weren’t my patriserus, I would find you an impossible man,” Amara sighed.
“That’s sweet of you to say,” Fidelias replied. “You’ve come a long way since your first term at the Academy. You were so shocked when you found out that the Cursors did more than deliver missives.”
“You love telling that story even though you know I hate it.”
“No,” Fidelias said with a grin. “I love telling that story because I know you hate it.”
She looked down at him archly. “This is why the Cursor Legate keeps sending you away on missions, I think.”
“It’s a part of my charm,” Fidelias agreed. “Now, then. My first concern —”
“Question,” Amara corrected.
“Question,” he allowed, “is with our cover story.”
“What question? Armies need iron. You’re an ore smuggler, and I’m your slave. You heard there was a market out this way, and you came to see what money could be made.”
“Ah,” said Fidelias. “And what do I tell them when they ask where I got the ore? It isn’t just found by the roadside, you know.”
“You’re a Cursor Callidus. You’re creative. I’m sure you’ll think of something.”
Fidelias chuckled. “You’ve learned delegating skills, at least. So, we approach this renegade Legion with our precious ore.” He nodded back toward the squeaking cart. “What’s to stop them from simply taking it?”
“You’re the harbinger of a smuggling network, representing several interests in the business. Your trip is being watched, and if the results are good, others might be willing to bring supplies as well.”
“That’s what I don’t understand,” Fidelias said, his expression innocent. “If this is indeed a renegade Legion, as rumors say, under the command of one of the High Lords, in preparation for overthrowing the Crown—aren’t they going to object to any word about them getting out? Good, bad, or indifferent?”
“Yes,” Amara said. She glanced down at him. “Which works in our favor. You see, if you don’t return from this little jaunt, word is going to spread all around Alera about this encampment.”
“Inevitable, since word would get out anyway. One can hardly keep an entire Legion secret for long.”
“It’s our best shot,” Amara said. “Can you think of anything better?”
“We sneak in close, furycraft ourselves into the camp, obtain evidence, and then run like the crows were after us.”
“Oh,” Amara said. “I considered it. I decided it was too brainless and predictable.”
“It has the advantage of simplicity,” Fidelias pointed out. “We recover the information, give solid evidence to the Crown, and let the First Lord launch a more comprehensive antisedition campaign.”
“Yes, that’s simpler. But once whoever is running this camp knows that they have been observed by the Cursors, they will simply disperse and move their operations elsewhere. The Crown will simply spend money and effort and lives to pin them down again—and even then, whoever is putting out the money to field their own army might simply get away.”
Fidelias glanced up at her and let out a low whistle. “So you want to get in and out undetected, get word to the Crown and — then what?”
“Lead a few cohorts of Knights Aeris back down here and crush them where they lie,” Amara said. “Take prisoners, have them testify against their backers, and wrap it all up right here.”
“Ambitious,” he commented. “Very ambitious. Very dangerous, too. If they catch on to us, they’ll kill us. And it’s reasonable to expect that they’ll have Knights as well — and that they’ll be on the lookout for a Cursor or two.”
“That’s why we don’t get caught,” Amara said. “We play the poor, greedy smuggler and his slave, haggle for all the money we can get from them, and leave.”
“And keep the money.” Fidelias frowned. “On general principle, I like any mission that involves a profit. But, Amara—there’s a lot that could go wrong with this one.”
“We are the First Lord’s messengers, are we not? His eyes and ears?”
“Don’t quote the Codex at me,” Fidelias snapped, annoyed. “I was a Cursor before your mother and father had called their first furies. Don’t think that because the First Lord has taken a shine to you that you know better than I do.”
“You don’t think it’s worth the risk?”
“I think there’s a lot you don’t know,” Fidelias said, and he looked very old for some reason. Uncertain. “Let me handle this, Amara. I’ll go inside. You stay here, and I’ll pick you up on the way out. There’s no reason to risk both of us.”
“No,” she said. “In the first place, this is my mission to run. In the second, you will need your full attention to play your role. I’ll be able to make observations—especially from up here.” She slapped the gargant’s broad back, and the bull snorted up a small whirlwind of trail dust in response. “I’ll also be able to watch our backs. If I get the impression that they’re onto us, we can get out of there.”
Fidelias muttered, “I thought we’d just use this guise to pose as travelers. Get close and slip into the camp after dark.”
“When no one else is coming in and when we’re certain to arouse suspicion if we’re seen?”
He blew out a breath. “All right,” he said. “All right. We’ll do it your way. But you’re gambling yourself with the crows.”
Amara’s stomach fluttered again, and she pressed a hand to it, trying to will the fear away. It didn’t leave. “No,” she said. “I’m gambling both of us.”
Though the gargant’s...
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