First and Last Sorcerer (Noble Dead)

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9780451469311: First and Last Sorcerer (Noble Dead)

The New York Times bestselling authors of The Night Voice present the penultimate chapter in the Noble Dead Saga.

Waylaid in their quest for the orb of the Air, Magiere, Leesil, Chap, and Wayfarer have all been wrongly imprisoned. But it is Magiere, the dhampir, who suffers the most at the hands of a cloaked interrogator employing telepathic torture.

Arriving at the Suman port city in search of Magiere, Wynn Hygeorht and her companions—including vampire Chane Andraso—seek out the Domin Ghassan il’Sänke for assistance, which proves no easy task. The domin is embroiled in a secret hunt for a spectral undead with the power to invade anyone living and take the body as its host.

Even if Wynn manages to free her friends from prison, battling this entirely new kind of hidden undead may be a challenge none of them can survive....

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

New York Times bestselling authors Barb and J. C. Hendee live in a quirky little town near Portland, Oregon. They are the authors of the Noble Dead Saga, including A Wind in the Night and A Dog in the Dark. Barb’s short fiction has appeared in numerous genre magazines and anthologies. She is the author of the Vampire Memories and Mist-Torn Witches series. J.C.’s poetry, nonfiction, and short fiction have also appeared in many genre magazines.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Prologue

...what are you . . . why have you come . . . who do you serve?

Magiere lay on the cold stone floor of a locked cell beneath the imperial palace of Samau’a Gaulb, the main port city of il’Dha’ab Najuum and the Suman Empire as a whole. Shackled by her wrists with heavy chains anchored in the cell’s rear wall, her wrists had long ago torn, bled, and half scabbed from straining against her bonds. And those three questions repeated over and over in her mind.

She’d heard them pressed into her thoughts rather than spoken by a voice, and they still echoed even now. Her tormentor had asked these on his first visit to her cell, though she never once heard him speak aloud. At times, she awoke thinking he stood inside the closed door, but when she opened her eyes to the complete darkness . . .

Magiere was alone until he came again and tortured her without even touching her.

Was that even possible, or did she only think so?

She didn’t know anymore.

She lay curled up with her long black hair lying tangled and lank across the floor stones. Strands stuck to her nearly white face, which was smudged and marred with filth. Her falchion and Chein’âs white metal dagger had been taken before she’d been locked away. How many days or nights had she been here?

Hunger, thirst, cold, and pain were her existence, leaving little room to feel anything else . . . except fear for what had become of Leesil. She remembered her husband—and Wayfarer, and Chap, and the few others who were precious to her—but only by memories her tormentor had somehow ripped from where they hid in her mind.

Memories of those she loved had become shadows in the dark. Whether she closed her eyes or not, only Leesil remained clear enough to hold on to . . . along with her hate for the one who’d come again and again.

Hate now kept her alive more than anything else.

A metallic clack echoed in the cell.

Magiere flinched, shuddered, and struggled to the cell’s back wall. In the beginning, she’d risen into a crouch and watched the cell door open whenever he came. She hadn’t resisted her dhampir half when it overwhelmed her in those earliest days—or were they nights? There was no way to tell the difference in the dark.

Her jaws had ached under the sudden growth of her teeth. Her irises had widened until they blotted out the whites of her eyes. And she’d lunged again and again.

Chains creaked and clattered but never broke. Their anchored brackets wouldn’t rip from the wall. All she’d done was savagely claw the air halfway to that door . . . and him. But now she curled against the back wall, unable to summon her other half so she could at least see in the dark.

Perhaps this time it was just a guard sliding in another bowl of scraps or water.

When the door opened, its hinges squealed. She scrunched her eyes, shielding them with a raised hand against the sudden but dim light of a lantern. The iron door slammed shut before she lowered that hand . . . and there he stood.

As always, he was robed in shimmering gray with shadowy but glinting strange symbols upon the fabric. That was all she ever saw of him. With his arms raised waist high, each hand was always tucked into the opposing sleeve, and the sagging hood hid his face as well. He was slender, though tall for a Suman. She’d guessed he was a he only because the robe’s thin fabric would’ve exposed a woman’s build.

On the floor to his left but back nearer to the iron door sat an oil lantern with its wick turned down low. Perhaps it was the same one as before—and before—though she’d never seen him touch it in any of his visits. And each time she’d stopped screaming, she’d found herself on the floor. When she could lift her head, the cell had been dark and empty.

She’d never heard the door reopen, let alone close, when he’d left, though a few times she’d glimpsed the Suman guards outside. Once, when they’d opened the door to slide in food or water, she’d demanded to know who he was. They’d stared at her as if she were a witless, mewling beast, and then they’d left. It had taken a few more times before one apparently understood her.

“No one come you,” answered that one in broken Numanese, and then he’d snorted with disgust. “You lone . . . till die.”

She’d stared in confusion and shrieked like a beast when he left and the door clanged shut. After several more times, she gave up trying to talk to the guards. How could none of them remember letting in the one who now stood before her?

The whispers began again in Magiere’s head.

...no one left to trust . . .

...no one will come for you . . .

...all are locked away or fled . . .

...you are alone . . . forever . . .

Like a chorus of voices that rarely spoke the same words, they never stopped so long as he was there. They scratched and skittered like bugs in her skull until she’d clamped her hands over her ears. She didn’t bother anymore, for it wouldn’t stop them.

“What do you want . . . this time?” Magiere hissed through clenched teeth.

As if rising out of those whispers, memories came again . . . of home, her long-dead mother, the bloody tales of her birth . . . of her travels, her friends, allies, and enemies . . . of an orb once under her hands but now gone and hidden by someone else.

Her parched voice gained an edge. “I don’t know anything more! So why bother? Why keep me alive?”

Out of that noise trying to smother her thoughts, one whisper rose above the others.

For a bargain with my master . . . your master.

Magiere slumped down the cell’s back wall. It wasn’t the first time she’d asked, heard the answer, and he never explained.

“Then what?” she croaked. “I don’t have anything else . . . so what do you want . . . now?”

The gale of whispers waned to a soft breeze. That brief moment was an eternity of relief. Then they rose even louder and whipped into a frenzy.

Magiere grabbed her head as his answer came.

Another scream . . . please.

* * *

Leesil slumped against a cell’s left sidewall with his chained hands limp in his lap. The only scant light came from around the edges of a closed peep-window in the cell’s iron door, and this wasn’t enough to let him see anything.

Somewhere in the dark with him, Chap and Wayfarer—a large dog and a girl in her youth—lay sleeping, each of them chained to a separate wall.

From the first night, Leesil had tried to count passing days by when guards brought food or water. They were the only ones who ever came. Even so, he wasn’t certain how long he’d been here. The guards he’d seen changed now and then. What that meant for the passage of time he had no idea, for he didn’t know the length of their shifts. What little food they brought was so bad that Wayfarer hadn’t touched it for the first few days . . . or had those been nights?

Leesil listened in the dark and heard only Chap and Wayfarer’s slow, weak breaths. He wore the same clothes from the first day he’d been imprisoned, and all of it was filthy and stank. All of his weapons had been confiscated.

On the day they’d been arrested, in anticipation of resisting, he’d dropped the pack and travel chest he carried to free himself for a fight. Then he’d realized they were too outnumbered and a fight would further endanger those he cared about. Nearly everything they owned had been left behind in the street.

Only the aging assassin—that butcher, Brot’an—had eluded capture, as if he’d known what was coming.

“A guard should . . . might . . . bring water soon,” said a small, weak voice.

Leesil heard someone shift at the back wall, perhaps sitting up as chains dragged slowly across the stone floor. At the scrape and hiss of a sulfur-tipped stick, he shut his eyes against the sudden light. Blinking, he looked to where Wayfarer—once called Leanâlhâm—knelt at the rear wall, her wrists chained like his own. She touched the small flame to a half-burned-down candle already rooted to the filthy floor by melted wax.

“I’ll get you out of here,” he said for maybe the thirtieth time, though now it lacked any conviction. “I’ll find a way.”

He told her this every time she lit the candle, and she’d always replied, “I know, Léshil,” using the elven version of his name.

This time, Wayfarer said nothing.

As a mixed-blood elven girl only sixteen years old, she had her people’s darkly tanned skin, overly large but slanted eyes, and peaked ears. She didn’t have their amber irises, though, as she’d been marked at birth with darker ones. They scintillated between topaz and verdant green in bright light. Like Brot’an, she was of the elven people called the an’Cróan (“[Those] of the Blood”), from the far-off eastern continent. Where her people’s hair was mostly white-blond, hers was almost the color of her skin. And she was no taller than a human girl.

All of these oddities were supposedly from being one-quarter human.

Leesil was half elven—half an’Cróan—with even slighter peaked ears and slanted eyes. His irises were amber and his hair nearly white-blond, like his mother’s. But even in Wayfarer’s current state—starved, frightened, and with dark rings around her large eyes—her strange beauty and maybe her frailty had their effect upon men.

On their first night locked away, the cell’s darkness became too much for her—as if she didn’t have enough terrors already. One younger guard showed pity when she’d cried out and begged for light. That one brought her a candle and a thin cedar stick, along with a small clay jar with enough sulfur paste to replenish the latter. The candle was lit only for meals, or when they thought such would come. They didn’t know whether this pity would last long enough for another candle.

And whenever the candle had to be blown out, Leesil listened to Wayfarer’s whimpering breaths in the dark. Even his attempts at comforting words didn’t stop this, at least not until later, when she grew so weak she couldn’t stay awake and dropped onto the floor stones. Now she sat with knees pulled up and her chin upon them as she watched the door without blinking.

Wayfarer didn’t look at Leesil or even at the cell’s third occupant chained to the far wall. In his guilt, Leesil couldn’t bear looking at her and focused on the third prisoner in the cell.

Chap might look to most like a silver-gray wolf, though sometimes his fur had an almost bluish tint in twilight. When standing on all fours, he was taller than such an animal and longer of leg. He lay with his head on his paws, with two manacles for a prisoner’s wrists chained to the far wall fully opened and bolted together around his neck.

It was too tight a fit, and Leesil often heard his oldest friend struggling to breathe.

Chap’s body was that of majay-hì, descended from wolves of ancient times inhabited by eternal Fay spirits during the supposed mythical war at the end of the world’s Forgotten History. But he was different—more—than even this. He was a Fay spirit born years ago by his own choice into a majay-hì pup—a new Fay-born in the body of a Fay-descended being.

Chap barely cracked open his eyes, and the candle’s light flickered in his crystal-like sky blue irises. He glanced once at Wayfarer before looking across the cell . . . and words rose inside Leesil’s thoughts.

—She is not . . . being given . . . enough water—

Leesil’s throat was too dry to scoff. None of them was getting enough of anything.

He hadn’t always cared for Chap dipping into his head to find spoken words in memories with which to speak to him. Now it didn’t bother him so much. Chap had to see him to do this, which meant it happened only when the candle was lit.

In the past, Chap had communicated by pulling up any memories that he’d seen in someone at least once. It was his unique talent as a Fay-born into a Fay-descended body. Through bits and pieces of a person’s own memories, he made basic notions or commands reasonably clear . . . or just manipulated those unaware that he was doing so.

Learning to use only sound—words—in those memories was a new trick.

—Ask . . . the guards . . . to bring . . . more water—

Leesil stared at Chap. “Like I haven’t tried!”

“Tried what?” Wayfarer asked weakly, and then her gaze shifted to Chap.

“Nothing,” Leesil said. “You should rest while we wait.”

Wayfarer didn’t move. Chap closed his eyes with a coarse exhale. Leesil dropped his head back against the wall.

Nearly a moon ago, they’d all arrived by ship to seek one of the last two “orbs.” Some believed the Ancient Enemy had wielded these devices a thousand years ago in its war on the world. Its living and undead minions now surfaced to seek the orbs for their master, or perhaps just for themselves. The orbs could not be allowed to fall into such hands.

With no warning, Leesil and his companions had all been captured and arrested—except for Brot’an—upon arriving in the empire’s capital port. They’d been accused of multiple murders they hadn’t committed, and then Magiere, Leesil’s wife, had been dragged off separately.

Leesil, Chap, and Wayfarer had been locked up together, but they’d not seen Magiere since.

Chap had attempted to learn what he could by dipping any surfacing memories from the guards’ minds. Those men knew only to keep their charges locked up and fed enough to stay alive. All that Chap learned of Magiere was that she was in a cell farther away under separate guard. Worse was waiting for the only hint that she was still alive: the sound of her screaming.

That didn’t come often anymore.

Leesil hadn’t heard Magiere in five days or nights, at a guess. On the first night, when he hadn’t heard her by the time another meal came, he’d felt relieved that she might’ve finally been left alone. When the next meal came, he was lost for what to feel at all. At the meal after that, relief vanished, replaced with rising fear.

Helplessness was not something Leesil dealt with well. That Brot’an was the only one free didn’t help either. If the aging assassin had come up with a way to rescue them, he’d have done it by now. And Leesil kept waiting for any sign that his wife still lived.

A shriek suddenly echoed from somewhere outside the cell.

Chap’s head snapped up as his eyes locked on the door.

Wayfarer collapsed in a rattle of chains and clamped her hands over her ears.

Leesil’s wave of relief died quickly under anguish.

Magiere was still alive, but, as always, only her screams let him know this . . . until this scream ceased more quickly than ever before. He sat up to stare at the door and then looked across the cell. Chap still watched the door without blinking, his ears stiffened upright. Several long, tense moments followed. Leesil wasn’t sure how long.

A metal clack echoed in the cell and the iron door squealed open.

Wayfarer thrashed back against the rear wall and then threw herself toward Chap. The chains stopped her, and Chap quickly shifted as far as he could to reach her. She got close enough to bury her face in his neck.

Leesil blinked and squinted as light spilled in through the opened door, and when his sight cleared . . .

A robed figure in light gray stood inside the opening.

Leesil was too worn...

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Book Description Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2016. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. The New York Times bestselling authors of The Night Voice present the penultimate chapter in the Noble Dead Saga. Waylaid in their quest for the orb of the Air, Magiere, Leesil, Chap, and Wayfarer have all been wrongly imprisoned. But it is Magiere, the dhampir, who suffers the most at the hands of a cloaked interrogator employing telepathic torture. Arriving at the Suman port city in search of Magiere, Wynn Hygeorht and her companions--including vampire Chane Andraso--seek out the Domin Ghassan il Sanke for assistance, which proves no easy task. The domin is embroiled in a secret hunt for a spectral undead with the power to invade anyone living and take the body as its host. Even if Wynn manages to free her friends from prison, battling this entirely new kind of hidden undead may be a challenge none of them can survive. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780451469311

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Book Description Roc. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 480 pages. The New York Times bestselling authors of The Night Voice present the penultimate chapter in the Noble Dead Saga. Waylaid in their quest for the orb of the Air, Magiere, Leesil, Chap, and Wayfarer have all been wrongly imprisoned. But it is Magiere, the dhampir, who suffers the most at the hands of a cloaked interrogator employing telepathic torture. Arriving at the Suman port city in search of Magiere, Wynn Hygeorht and her companionsincluding vampire Chane Andrasoseek out the Domin Ghassan ilSnke for assistance, which proves no easy task. The domin is embroiled in a secret hunt for a spectral undead with the power to invade anyone living and take the body as its host. Even if Wynn manages to free her friends from prison, battling this entirely new kind of hidden undead may be a challenge none of them can survive. . . . This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN. Mass Market Paperback. Bookseller Inventory # 9780451469311

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