Thieves' World: Enemies of Fortune

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9780765353269: Thieves' World: Enemies of Fortune
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Empires rise and fall, but Sanctuary lives on.
Sanctuary, a lawless city governed by evil forces, powerful magic, and political intrigue where survival is an unexpected bonus.

A recent storm has left a ship filled with exotic cargo and arcane secrets wrecked off the shore of Sanctuary in this second of a new series of shared world anthologies. Thieves' World: Enemies of Fortune continues the story with tales of necromancers and assassins, urchins and knaves, and of course, thieves. This unexpected booty leads to boons and curses for the world-weary residents ... as well as the usual power struggle among factions wishing to take deadly advantage at any new turn of events.

All new stories by Lynn Abbey, Stephen Brust, C.J.Cherryh, Jeff Grubb, Mickey Zucker Reichert, Dennis McKiernan, Andrew Offutt, Robin Wayne Bailey, Diana Paxson, Jody Lynn Nye, Selina Rosen, and Jane Fancher.

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About the Author:

Lynn Abbey lives in Leesburg, Florida. She and her ex-husband created Thieves' World over twenty years ago, where it launched the shared world anthology subgenre.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Thieves' World: Enemies of Fortune
Widowmaker 
 
C. J. Cherryh and Jane Fancher 
 
 
"Sail ho!" the cry was, and Capt. Jarez Camargen of the Widowmaker climbed to the masthead himself with his best glass, sweeping the dawn sea.A day and night of treacherous shifts and tricks, and now, with the wind off the starboard quarter, the Widowmaker's best sailing point, there she was, their chase, the Yenized ship Fortunate, sail above the horizon."Ho, Cap'n!" came from his lieutenant, below. "No longer quite as Fortunate, eh?"Camargen grinned, a wicked and wolfish sort of grin. Widowmaker was, to put it in the very best light, a pirate. Her prey had run her every trick in a thick old book, and here they were again, out of the isles and onto the southern coast.They were a Yenized polacre xebec themselves, the Widowmaker --at least Yenized-built, before they'd taken her in the Isles. Capt. Camargen had liked the look of her: long, low-waisted, a pretty set to her lateen sails fore and aft, her bastard mizzen, which gave her power, and quick, oh, much better in his able hands than in the hands of the fool that had left her largely unmanned and anchored off Keina's Head. Her former captain had been taking on wateron that island when they'd seen black smoke billowing up from the harbor and their sweet xebec standing out to sea under all sail. The Happy Isle, she'd been, under a fool; but Widowmaker she'd become, and she had a nose for treasure--had a sure, keen nose, these days, wizardguided, since they'd met up with old Hada Korgun and his grievance, and used him for a weathervane.There he was, out under the bowsprit, incorruptible, as good a guide as a pirate's instinct to the whereabouts of the Fortunate. They didn't check him often, but he was there, arm outstretched, glassy eyes open, mouth still stretched wide with his dying curse, and where he pointed, there they sailed.There was a Yenizedi wizard on board the Fortunate, likely in better shape. And they'd tried the soft approach--used Widowmaker's Yenized-built outlines and her old Yenizedi flag to get close to the Fortunate the first time, but that trick would never work twice. Hada Korgun had laid his curse, burst his heart doing it, and now forget all the old bastard had said about duty to the king of Enlibar and the pardon they'd get if they only got his treasure back. A dead wizard didn't keep promises any better than a live king, and Camargen never had liked that part of the bargain.The Fortunate carried a number of items along with a scoundrel of a Yenized wizard, a man after Camargen's own heart, who'd stolen this treasure from Hada Korgun by an act of hospitality betrayed ... clever man, who had a very well-known ruby, the Heart of Fire, along with a book of spells and a gold-headed wand.The Enlibrite, Hada Korgun, had lost his court job over that theft, the ruby being the property of the king of Enlibar. He desperately wanted his king's property back, along with the head of the offender, that being the condition of his reinstatement. He'd approached them in the free port of Anbec, offered them considerable inducement topursue the fugitive--for starters--and claimed the magical ability to track this prize.All this was useful until they had the ship in sight and Korgun tried some rite or another attempting to link the two ships. He died in the magical backlash--died, or something like it. The crew had lashed him to the mast and kept him there four days, in the hopes he'd come around and blast the ship that now ran them a merry chase. His arm moved. Where that ship went, when it tacked or wore, it tracked, no matter the weather. But he'd begun to have an effect on the crew, just standing there in the way of hands on business, and it seemed less and less likely he'd come to and be himself again.So they'd lashed him under the bowsprit, down where hands bound for the head could look out and wish him a good day, if they wanted. At night he had a wan kind of bluish glow about him, and for his part, Capt. Camargen would just as soon cut him free for fish bait, being averse to wizardry from the start and convinced by a long shot he didn't need a wizard-compass to run down a bloody great Yenizeder merchantman in the middle of the ocean.But the captain of that vessel was a right seaman, no question. They'd used all their tricks on each other, setting out decoys at night, muffling up their wizard-compass with sailcloth and dousing all lights to creep closer on a following breeze. They'd gotten the most of every wind that would serve, crept through a maze of islands and chartless reefs, turned tricks of light and weather, and all he'd done had kept the bastard from any civilized port, at least. Run as he would, every time he came close to land, he'd gotten between and chased him out to sea.They'd be rich. The law of the Brotherhood was share and share alike, and they'd be rich when they ran that beggar down.So the crew put up with misery, put up with a chase that dragged into days and weeks, into calms and blows andheat and frozen, deadly rigging. The deep calms had set them in sight of one another, the weed growing thick on both their bottoms, until they both sailed like slugs, and no time for either of them to heave down and scrape clean. The chase took on a nightmare slowness at times, every scrap of sail aloft and the log running slower, slower, while they blazed away at one another with Yenized Fire, and flung glass bombs, trying to set sails or pitch-soaked wood ablaze. Crew were scarred with burns, to a man.Then they reached latitudes where storms grew deadly icicles in the maintop, that plunged to deck and dented the planks, where men took horrible falls, and thus far survived them. "'Cause he's dead, we ain't," was the common wisdom, and the crew didn't want to look at their wizard--all frozen up with icicles, one report said, but still moving--but they had acquired a superstitious belief that old Korgun was their luck as well as their compass.A sensible captain might have called it enough. Widowmaker's situation had gotten desperate, running them low on provisions and on water, the bitter latitudes wearing the already thin sails and rigging to a perilous state. At times they thought they'd have lost their quarry, and Captain Camargen began to think of ordering the Widowmaker to some wooded shore, some foreign port where they might forget the foolishness and get it out of their blood.But there was that damned wizard-compass up under the bow, their figurehead. And just when they thought they'd lost her, there was the thrice-damned Fortunate. At times a glass showed her clearly, let them see that cursed Yenizedi wizard walking around, talking to the crew, sometimes just lingering back by the stern and watching them, just watching, silver hair streaming in the wind--a live wizard, to their dead one."We can find other prey," Capt. Camargen had said. Even he had a conscience, and when water itself ran short, when they could take no time to send boats ashore: "We'redown to a ton of water," he told the assembled crew, "and even the hardtack is running slim.""We ain't et all the rats, yet," the crew shouted back. "We're goin' on, Cap'n!"The log itself had gone strange. What Capt. Camargen thought he'd written turned out written differently when he checked his course. His charts showed frayed and lost lettering just where it might have been most useful.But now they were closer than they had been in weeks. The Fortunate was hull-up, and lagging, the wind deserting her sails as she bore close to a shore where the charts warned of reefs and shoals, another of her tricks, but not one she could play to great advantage: The Widowmaker could skin through channels where the Fortunate risked her bottom, and a xebec's sails gave her much more maneuverability in the tricks of wind.Around a headland, skimming close, close to shore, and now there seemed to be a spot on the lens. Capt. Camargen closed the glass, polished the lens with his cuff, and tried again.Not a spot, after all. A spot of bluish haze, the sort of color that ought to belong on the horizon, but that had set down on the sea, right near that coast, and the sea beyond it all wrinkled with wind.Camargen snapped the glass shut and glared, not needing a glass now to see that situation, the dog.They had the wind off their starboard quarter, carrying them along at a good rate, no danger of a lee shore while this wind blew, but that riffling of the blue water out there was a white squall of the sort infamous in the southern sea, a brutal shift in the wind, in this case bearing right toward the coast, and the Fortunate sailing right along that coast. The Fortunate had that squall in their sights, too. Had it in their sights, bloody hell! That blackguard wizard might have stirred it up as a favor to the captain.Hammer and anvil, the coast for the anvil and the squallfor the hammer, and them a good long ways behind. The Fortunate was meaning to skin through, pass by that deadly rocky headland before the squall came sweeping down on that coast, and leave them in her wake. It intended the squall to cut them off, to force them to veer out to sea and sail wide of the weather.They were both short of water and short of rations, damn them, and if the Widowmaker had to turn out to sea, she had as well turn around and go back to the Isles, her prey escaped, all this long chase for nothing.That or a long, thankless search in every cove and inlet on this impoverished, treeless coast, for a ship taking on water.Crew had seen it too--exhausted crew that had been hauling up glass bombs and fitting the cables to the catapult. Some tried to point to the situation."Carly!" Camargen yelled for the bosun. "All aloft. Mizzen royal, storm trysails! Gunners, shift everything forward!"Carly stared at him half a heartbeat, the whole intention implicit in those orders. The pipe shrilled. There was a moment's awful hesitation, old hands knowing full well what the game was: It was in their eyes. But then they howled with one voice, "Camargen or the devil!" and top hands swarmed aloft to spread all the canvas she had, while gunners worked like devils to shift their light catapults to the forecastle to back up the bowchasers.Camargen dived down to the xebec's little cabin for another look at his charts. The shore was notorious for its hidden reefs. In sight of the shoreline, he had his landmark in the headland itself, and he set everything in memory well as he could, because they might sail on their wind right across the teeth of that squall, much faster than the Fortunate on this point of sailing, and they were going to have to run up the Fortunate's backside and come under fire from that towering deck in order to clear that space of coast before the squall swept them onto the reefs. The crewsaw their prize; they cheered the choice they saw. They knew they could overhaul that bastard. If they could withstand the fire she could throw long enough and not sink her, they could board and take her.The crew was mad with desire, seeing gold for every man jack of them; and now he might have caught the contagion himself ... hell, if he'd fall off now and let that Yenizedi dog skin past, laughing at them. Wizard or no wizard aboard that ship, they had old Korgun up there for a charm, and they were going to take that Yenizeder bastard this time.He ran up on deck, already feeling the difference in the ship's motion with the new sails abroad, and hoping their weather-worn canvas held ... that was the devil in it, because if something carried away, they might not have the speed to make it past that squall. Fool, something said to him, reminding him there was still escape. Fool, no treasure is worth it. But there was no hesitation in the crew at all, who worked like madmen. Catapults brought to the forecastle were bowsed up to the fine, fair view of a square-rigged ship coming closer and closer, as the Widowmaker's full spread of canvas hurled her along the fine line between that squall and hidden rocks.Thought I didn't have the charts, did you? he asked his enemy. Thought we'd not have the nerve? The Widowmaker ripped along, rigging singing, the whole deck humming. Old Korgun was getting a soaking up there, the bow wave sending up continuous spray, so that the gunners had to canvas their catapults' cables and shield their slowmatches from the wet.Closer and closer, with the white squall a haze on their larboard bow, and the Fortunate towering up ahead of them. No need for the glass now. A blind man could see the tall stern of their enemy, could see one head and another take a look at them over the taffrail--could see activity back there and know that they were preparing their own rain of fire and missiles, and their deck so high they didn'thave to worry about the spray. A silver-haired man leaned on the rail up there--Yenizedi, no question, and their wizard. Wind caught that hair and spread it like a banner."Off covers!" Camargen shouted at his gunners. "Fire at will!"Canvas came off. Bombs were heaved up and settled into their padded slots, their fuses set alight, and thump-thump-thump! the catapults cut loose, two at once and the others close after, the glass bombs flying. One smacked against their enemy's stern-post, one fell in the sea, and others hit near the rail. Silver-hair vanished for a moment and reappeared.The gunners worked like fiends, angling up for maximum loft, winching back, no longer in unison. It was a race, and the first went off, then two and three so close they made one thump, sailing up and over the enemy's rail, spreading fire. The fourth hit the rail itself, right where Silver-hair was standing. The heavy bomb splintered the rail and spattered fire.Silver-hair's robe caught. He made a futile gesture to put it out, turned in a sheet of fire, and in a gust of wind, lost his footing and fell, his black robes and pale hair a downward trail, a small flutter of fire amid the dark cloak."Ha!" the gunners crowed."Get that bugger!" Camargen roared to midships, and junior officers and spare gunners rushed to the rail to seize up two of the xebec's long oars from their stowage. They ran them out, while the gunners kept lobbing bombs at their target, and now bombs came back, belated fire from a towering great merchantman. Bombs burst on the deck and made puddles of fire that spread in the watery sheet of spray as crew ran to dowse them and wash them overboard.Camargen dodged between two such and saw the wretch hauled in, half drowned and snagged between crossed oars.Silver-hair it was, but not the old wizard, not wearing any great ruby, but a young man, a drowned duck of ayoung man who coughed up water and had to be hauled up to his feet, streaming water."He's not the one," Camargen said as the thump of catapults went on and an enemy missile exploded off the mainmast. "Search him for valuables and pitch the bastard in the hold.""Fool!" the drowned man cried. "You're caught, we're all caught, we're all gone mad! Turn back! Turn back now or we're cursed, all of us are cursed!"The hands had their superstitions. "Wot curs...

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