Anselm Audley Heresy (Aquasilva Trilogy)

ISBN 13: 9780743414845

Heresy (Aquasilva Trilogy)

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9780743414845: Heresy (Aquasilva Trilogy)
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In this first volume of The Aquasilva Trilogy, we are introduced to a world as well realised as that of Dune - and an author who is one of the genre's most exciting new voices. On the storm-wracked waterworld of Aquasilva, supreme religious power is held by the Domain, dedicated to the element Fire. But this must change. One of the agents of change - albeit unwillingly - is Cathan, son of a count, who travels to inform his father of the discovery on a cache of iron in their territory. But on the way to the clan congress which his father is attending, Cathan stumbles upon a plot to unleash a new age of fundamentalism. As new alliances are made, Cathan and his allies also discover dissidents ('heretics' in the Domain's eyes) and begin to see the truths behind the political and religious beliefs which drive their land - and their world. All across the world, change is being fought and ruthlessly suppressed by the Domain and its holy warriors, the Sacri. A weapon must be forged to fight them, and Cathan discovers at first hand how long and difficult that struggle will be. An outstanding fantasy novel, with echoes of Frank Herbert's Dune sequence, introduces one of the genre's most exciting voices of the new millennium.

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About the Author:

Anselm Audley is nineteen years old and is just beginning his college education at Oxford. Heresy is his first novel.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One

"IRON! IRON!"

The shout drifted up through the forest out of the tumult ahead, near the entrance to the gem mines. Birds settled in the branches of the cedar trees shrilled and rose from their perches. I urged my horses on, the wheels of the chariot stirring up clouds of fine dust from the path behind me. Then I pulled on the reins, slowing the chariot down as the path twisted abruptly around a tree.

Ahead of me the trees gave way to grass, falling away down the slopes of the foothills. To the right was the stone wall around the compound of the gem mines, its guard towers deserted. I could see a large knot of people in the entranceway where the gates hung wide open. What were they doing there? Had there been an accident? A riot? That was all we needed.

As I slowed down in the empty space of the killing field around the mines and wheeled the chariot around, they spotted me. I stopped the chariot a few feet from them.

A tall man, one of only a few wearing robes rather than laborers' tunics, stepped out of the crowd as they turned toward me, excitement showing on his face. It wasn't a riot, then, or an accident.

"Escount Cathan, it's fortunate that you have arrived; may Ranthas be with you." His beard was cut quite short, and his oiled hair was overlaid with powdery dust. His face was thin and gaunt, his eyes deep-sunk but alight with the same interest as the others'.

"What's all the commotion, Maal?" I asked. "What's so important that work's been interrupted, with the ship due to arrive any day now?" Any day now, that was, as long as the coriolis storm out over the ocean dissipated soon. It was the second this month, and the ship had already been delayed once.

"Master, we have found iron! The priest of Ranthas who offered to help our mining operations has discovered a huge seam of the red ore!"

I almost refused to believe him at first. Iron? Had we been sitting on top of one of the most valuable commodities of all for these last few ailing months and neglected it? Iron was in short supply across Aquasilva; the floating islands simply didn't hold enough of the ore to meet the demands of the steel foundries -- and, ultimately, of the continents' armies. After flamewood and its derivatives, iron was the most highly prized of all the raw materials.

"Is this certain?" I demanded, keeping my face impassive. I didn't want to show too much excitement in front of the mine workers.

In answer, Maal called to someone in the throng. There weren't as many of them as I'd thought at first; about twelve or fifteen people were clustered there, mostly overseers and foremen. Someone at the back tossed a lump of rock over their heads. Maal deftly caught it and handed it to me.

One of the horses whickered as I turned the rock over in my hand, noting the gray-black crystals in it.

"Is it mineable?"

"The priest thinks so. He's in the mine with Haaluk."

"Someone come and hold the reins," I said. One of the men moved over and took them, and I stepped out of the chariot.

"Take me to the priest," I said to Maal. "The rest of you continue with your work."

A path opened for me to pass through them. Maal led me across the court inside the palisade. There were buildings along one side, and the opencast trenches on the other. Opposite us yawned the black hole of the mine entrance. I wasn't particularly fond of going in there -- I hate caves -- but this was important, so I'd have to try not to think about being underground. This gemstone mine was the principal reason for the existence of Clan Lepidor, the northernmost of the fifteen clans on the continent of Oceanus, and by a small margin the northernmost continental clan in the world. There hadn't been a city here before the Tuonetar War, but a hundred and fifty-eight years ago a prospecting party had discovered rich gem seams and shortly afterward a group of Oceanian and Archipelagan refugees had settled in the area and founded a new clan.

We were rather lucky, in fact -- there were rich fishing grounds nearby, and the mountains gave better than usual protection from the storms, allowing a lush forest to grow up along the coast. I was glad of that -- it made Lepidor territory a lot less bleak than the lands of some of the more southerly clans, which were too exposed for trees to grow there, and hence were very depressing places to be.

My House had been in power since its founding, after some distant ancestor or other had performed an extraordinary service for the city and the other Houses had unanimously chosen him to lead them. At least, that was the official story. It sounded rather dubious to me, and I guessed the reality had been somewhat less honorable. Still, that was history now, and my father, Count Elnibal II, was known as one of the most upstanding of the present fifteen Counts of Oceanus.

The problem for us at the moment was that over the last few years the price of gemstones had been dropping and the mine had become less profitable, and in recent months the Count and the merchants had been struggling to make ends meet. We could survive, of course, without the mine: there was fertile farmland along the coast and extensive fisheries for food, and the forests would supply us with wood and keep some exports going.

But without the gems there was nothing worthwhile to trade, and so Clan Lepidor would degenerate into a farming combine, not fit to be called a clan. And since I didn't want to inherit a mere combine, nor see my clan's fortunes plummet, I'd been as worried about the future as anyone.

Until now. My head was suddenly full of possibilities. If there was enough iron, and it could be exploited, we'd be rich again as soon as the first cargo was sold in the markets of Oceanus's capital, Pharassa. We might even be able to sign a contract with a Great House to carry it across the ocean to Taneth, Aquasilva's trading capital. It was a long journey, and I knew it was much more dangerous, but the iron prices would be much higher there.

I ducked under the wooden framework of the gateway and into the tunnel of the mine, lit by three flamewood torches. I heard two voices a little way ahead.

"...Seam extends out for hundreds of feet, I tell you."

"I know the rock around here, Domine, and there's no possible way it can." The voice of the mine's manager, Haaluk-Itti, coarser than the smooth, modulated tones of the priest of Ranthas. Haaluk had been exiled from Mons Ferranis two years ago after a quarrel with a merchant, and would spend another year supervising Lepidor's mines before we lost him again to his homeland. It would be a pity: despite his abrasive bitterness, he was a good manager.

"Ah, Escount Cathan," the priest said, as he saw me. His face was in shadow.

Haaluk, who was standing with his back to the entrance, swung around. "Doubtless you've heard," he said. "I have found myself forced to disagree with Domine Istiq, despite all his wisdom, on the extent of the deposit." Priests were always called Domine, a title from the old tongue.

"What's the difference in your estimates?" I ask Haaluk.

"His are twice as large as mine."

"Is the mine workable with your figure?"

"By all means. The Domine will tell you," he said gruffly.

"My calculations are rough guesses, you understand," Domine Istiq said, "but I would estimate you have enough here to sell ten thousand corons' worth every month, for more than a century and a half."

I attempted to calculate the resulting profit figures in my head, but failed. I was never very good at mental arithmetic, although I could work sums out easily enough on paper.

"Your annual expenses amount to around two thousand, Escount Cathan," Istiq said. "Eight thousand left over, at least four remaining after other expenses such as tithes and a merchant's cut." A sideways reminder there that we'd have to pay their dues to the Domain temple again, dues that had been waived this last year to help our survival. Lepidor's Avarch, while not native-born, had been in charge of the temple for twenty-six years and was more of a Lepidorian than a priest now; he was always very helpful and considerate.

"Those calculations are made with Haaluk's estimates?"

"Yes. With mine, you can go on mining for three centuries."

I wasn't worried. "Either way, we get back in profit."

"You'll need to hire trained iron miners from Pharassa, and they're much in demand. A contract as well, with some merchant from Pharassa or Taneth."

"Don't forget the Cambressian Admiralty," I said, remembering the third possible market, but Istiq looked doubtful. "Will you come back to the city for supper?" I added.

"Thank you for your offer, but I'll stay here a while longer to see if we can find out the exact extent of these deposits." Istiq bowed, and I returned the courtesy before turning around and making my way back up the tunnel, cursing as I almost cracked my head on one of the wooden support beams. Maal followed me.

I blinked as we emerged again into the bright sunlight of the yard, now resounding again with a dull thudding sound as the gem miners broke up the ore with flamewood hammers, melting away what wasn't pure gemstone. At least, that was what I remembered my tutor telling me. I found the whole mining process even less interesting than theology lessons; it had nothing to do with the sea.

"Will you be going back to the city now, Lord Cathan?" Maal asked.

"Yes," I replied. "Work should continue as normal for the rest of the day. Haaluk is to come to me with some figures this evening. I need some hard facts before I take any action."

Actually, it was my mother, effective Regent in my father's absence, who would make any decisions. Not yet of age, I wasn't experienced enough to take full charge of the Count's duties while my father was away, and so I sat on the dais with the First Adviser whispering Countess Irria's advice into my ear. I'd actually been trying to pay more attention to statecraft lessons since my father left, because it was galling not to know enough to make my own decisions.

I went back across the courtyard and under the gate, noting that its towers were once again occupied by watchers who could survey the surrounding hillsides for traces of barbarian raiding forces. Not that they were likely to find any -- there was only one pass into the mountains within the city's territory, and it was well guarded, as were the coastal approaches.

The man to whom I'd entrusted my chariot handed me the reins. I hadn't taken my wrist guards off, so I curled the reins around my forearm, flicked the whip, and moved off along the path down to the city.


It was an exhilarating feeling, rushing along the road behind the perfectly trained two-horse team, and the speed more than compensated for the jolts as the wheels went over loose stones or shallow potholes. The road was beginning to show signs of disrepair, and I saw one or two holes big enough to lose a wheel in. It would need a team of road masons with proper tools to carry out repairs -- that was, if we had enough money for the flamewood. Well, the iron should solve that problem, I reflected.

The path straightened when I reached the main valley, and I passed between huge cedars interspersed with stretches of clear land. Once or twice I passed horse-drawn woodcarts manned by lumberjacks, carrying logs from the logging sites on the slopes. Then the road curved around and the trees fell away as I came out opposite Lepidor.

The city was built on a promontory, with a lagoon to the east, my right, serving as the city's harbor. To the west the coastline curved away, a long vista of farmland and stands of acacias, gently sloping down to a long sandy shore. Shining stone-built walls erected across the end of the promontory protected the city: I could see the houses of the Land Quarter just beyond them.

Lepidor wasn't a big city; the last census, carried out for tax purposes two years ago, had shown just under two thousand citizens. What it lacked in size, however, it made up for in cleanliness and the quality of its architecture. I'd seen most of the other cities on the continent and, even allowing for my loyalty to Lepidor as my home, I thought it was the best of communities, its buildings the most beautiful.

Every building inside the walls that ringed the outside of the promontory was built of the local white stone, and many stretched to three stories. From every roof, above the colonnaded windows of the first floor, a verdant garden sprouted, rooted in earth that had mostly been carried up by hand; there were some things that even flamewood couldn't do. One or two of the larger dwellings had small domes on their roofs.

In the surface harbor, also protected by walls, I could see warehouses and wharves, the masts of nine or ten fishing ships, and over to one side a small domed building -- the top of Lepidor's undersea harbor, where mantas docked and Lepidor's single home -- stationed undersea warship was kept.

I raced across the green open space that lay before the city and through the gates of the Land Quarter, the outermost of the city's three districts. The guards, both of whom I recognized, waved cheerily, and I waved back to them as I sped through. I had to slow down inside the gates, but at least the main street led almost straight through to the gates of the other two quarters -- Palace and Seaward. All three districts were circular, and protected by their own set of walls -- they had to be, for proper shielding from the storms. That was another reason I was glad to live here -- because the storms were less severe, our walls could be lower and weren't the dark, towering monstrosities of some other cities.

I passed the internal gate into the Palace Quarter, where the main marketplace and official buildings were, as well as my home -- the Palace.

The royal Palace -- more of a mansion than a Palace, really -- stood at the end of the main street, only a couple of hundred feet away. Both sides of the street were lined with shops, each one with an awning extending out of its front. Their counters were spread with wares whose holders nodded cheerily at the slow-moving chariot. I maneuvered my horses around the fat, green-robed bulk of the merchant Shihap, who was bargaining furiously with his friend the shield engineer.

"A fine day, is it not?" Shihap called, turning from his haggling. "You look happy!'

"Believe me, I am," I said, "and so will you be when the money begins to flow again." The story of the discovery would be all over the city by nightfall, so it wouldn't do any harm if I planted the first rumors of it. I spurred the horses on before Shihap had a chance to enquire further: let whoever Haaluk sent to spread the news have the pleasure of telling the citizens what had happened.

I slowed twice more to greet people before I reached the small square in front of the Palace. The stables were hidden away on one side, against the outer walls, downwind of course, and I handed over the chariot to a servant who ran out to take the reins. I unknotted the thongs of my wrist gu...

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Anselm Audley
Published by Earthlight (2002)
ISBN 10: 0743414845 ISBN 13: 9780743414845
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