Elvenborn: Book 3 of the Halfblood Chronicles

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9780812571233: Elvenborn: Book 3 of the Halfblood Chronicles
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In this long-awaited new novel in The Halfblood Chronicles, fantasy greats Norton and Lackey tell the enthralling story of the reclusive elvenlord Kyrtian, who emerges as a hero in a world torn by politics and war. When his cousin, Aelmarkin, tries to prove that Kyrtian is unfit to run his estate, the plan backfires, and soon Kyrtian, who doesn't share the venal, greedy nature of his cousin, finds himself with more power than he ever wanted.

Like his father before him, Kyrtian has always treated the humans on his estate like servants, instead of enslaving them as other elvenlords do. His father's legacy also leads Kyrtian to learn ancient military skills long since lost to elvenkind through the carelessness of the elvenlords. Kyrtian's rediscovered knowledge piques the interest of the current elvenlords, and soon Kyrtian finds himself appointed the new commander of the army, to the relief of his ruling peers.

For the sons of the most powerful elvenlords, the Young Lords, have rebelled against their fathers and are waging war. But by taking advantage of both the privileges of his new command and the help of some unexpected new friends, Kyrtian finally gains the resources to embark on his own, personal quest--resuming his father's search for the Great Portal, the magical doorway through which the original elvenlords entered this world.

As war rages between some sons and fathers, Kyrtian searches desperately for his own lost father, hoping to uncover not only the mystery of his disappearance, but also the secret behind the origin of elvenkind.

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About the Author:

Andre Norton (1912-2005) was one of the most popular science fiction and fantasy authors in the world. From SF series such as Solar Queen and Beast Master, to fantasy series such as Witch World, Norton's work has enthralled readers for decades. She was lauded as a Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America and received a Life Achievement Award from the World Fantasy Convention. An Ohio native, Ms. Norton lived for a number of years in Winter Park, Florida, and then moved to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where she lived until her death in 2005.

Mercedes Lackey is the author of the bestselling Valdemar series, the Obsidian Trilogy with James Mallory (The Outstretched Shadow, To Light a Candle, and When Darkness Falls), the Enduring Flame trilogy with James Mallory (The Phoenix Unchained, The Phoenix Endangered, and The Phoenix Transformed), and the Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms. She has written many other books, including Trio of Sorcery, Phoenyx and Ashes, Sacred Ground, The Firebird, The Fairy Godmother, and Alta. Mercedes Lackey was born in Chicago and graduated from Purdue University. She has worked as an artist's model, a computer programmer, and for American Airlines, and has written lyrics and recorded more than fifty songs. She lives in Oklahoma.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

1
V’kel Aelmarkin er-Lord Tornal smiled down at the slave who rested her pale-tressed head on his knee. She was his current personal favorite, a young human female nestled trustingly against his leg. Her thin, fine-boned face and porcelain complexion pleased him with their flawless symmetry and perfection. She returned his smile shyly, yet with a touch of the coquette, her round, blue eyes reflecting her callow, unsophisticated nature. No rebellious thoughts dwelling in thatnarrow skull--in fact, he would be surprised if she managed to conjure up more than one or two thoughts of any kind in an average day! Her pedigree was immaculate, out of a long line of carefully chosen slaves famed for their beauty and delicacy to be nothing more complicated than any other ornamental object.
He sighed with contentment, and smoothed the pale gold, silken hair away from her brow with a gentle caress. She was exquisite; lovely, eager to please, pliant, graceful, innocent and incredibly easy to manipulate. Exactly the sort of slave that gave him the most pleasure. He carefully cultivated that innocence, and none of his other slaves would dare his wrath by spoiling that naivete. No tales of floggings or more extreme punishments, no harem-stories of his other “favorites” and what had become of them--nothing to hint that he had aspects she had never experienced. So far as she was concerned, he was the gentle, loving, ever-kind master that she believed him to be.
He turned his attention back to his most important guest. “There, you see?” he said, gesturing expansively to the hall before them and its raucous occupants. “Did I not promise you would be far more amused here than in dancing attendance on all the dull, hopeful maidens at your father’s fete?”
Elvenlord Aelmarkin did not possess enough magic to create a fanciful illusion in his Great Hall, so the luxurious surroundings here were all quite real; guests at his entertainments would always find themselves in the same opulent room that they had graced at the last entertainment, rather than a new and exotic setting vastly different from their last. He made up for the lack of novel surroundings by the lavishness of his entertaining, which had begun to earn him something of a reputation.
Take this room, for example: fortunately it had been beautifully constructed in the first place, and he had only needed to embellish it when it came into his possession. The north and south walls were mostly of glass--northwards lay a natural lake, artfully landscaped, and southwards were the pleasure-gardens. The east and west walls, paneled in wood bleached to silver, held silver-rimmed doors that led to the rest of the manor. The ceiling with its bleached-wood beams from which hung great silver fantasies of lights, crystals, tiny glass sculptures and silver filigree, also boasted vast transparent skylights; just now the reflection of the myriad lights made it impossible to see anything of the outside world, but later, when the lights were dimmed, the stars would shine impassively down on the celebrants. The black carpet of the floor was kind to the bare feet of the slaves, but Aelmarkin had selected black carpeting largely because it was easy to clean after one of his entertainments and was far more forgiving a surface for a drunken reveler to fall on than marble or wood. The east and west walls were hung with silver draperies, and the silver dining-couches were upholstered in black to match the carpet. Between each couch and the next stood an enormous silver censer, from which came sensuous and intoxicating incense-smokes. Silver tables stood before each couch, and the guests provided the only touch of color in the room. The couches themselves each held two occupants, an invited guest and a companion of his (or her) choosing--either a fellow guest or one of Aelmarkin’s harem-slaves dressed in silver gossamer and matching silver collar. Picturesque wine-slaves, dressed in abbreviated silver tunics, stood at each couch with their silver pitchers, and more slaves dressed in silver tunics and gossamer skirts or trews served the guests with plates of dainties. Enough wine had been drunk by this time that the guests were starting to raise their voices in less-than-delicate jests, and lose what few inhibitions they had when they arrived here.
V’sher Tennith er-Lord Kalumel raised one long, silver eyebrow sardonically as he surveyed the occupants of the dining couches before and below him. “I must admit,“ he drawled, “that seeing Varcaleme making a fool of himself is far more entertaining than fending off would-be brides and their anxious fathers.”
Aelmarkin laughed and continued to caress the platinum tresses of his slave, chosen out of all the possible candidates presented to him, because she most resembled a delicate Elven maiden. He dressed her like an elven girl, too, in flowing gowns of delicate pastel silks with huge, butterfly sleeves and long embroidered trains, ordering her attendants to weave strings of pearls in her silver-blond hair--and to arrange her hair so that it covered the round tips of her ears. So long as one didn’t look too deeply into her eyes, the illusion was complete; and he coulduse his magic to change her blue eyes to Elven-green if he chose. Her name had been “Kindre” until he ordered it changed to the Elven “Synterrathe.”
The aforementioned Varcaleme was chasing one of the wine-girls around his couch; the flower-wreath she had bound around his brows had slipped sideways and was obscuring one eye, and the fact that he had drunk most of the wine in her now-empty flask was not aiding his ability to catch her. She had cast one look at her master when she began eluding those clutching hands, to see if he objected to her evasions; he had nodded slightly, and she needed no further encouragement to keep dodging his advances. Varcaleme’s couch-companion, one of his personal concubines, a tall, dark-haired wench gowned in brilliant emerald that matched the beryl of her controlling collar, seemed relieved that she no longer had to entertain him, and was nibbling on spiced fruit, wearing a bored, but wary, expression.
Now the rest of the guests had taken an interest in the proceedings, calling out encouragement to Varcaleme or the slave, taking bets on whether or not he would catch her, as she dodged his outstretched hands and outpaced his stumbling feet. Most of Aelmarkin’s guests were male, with a scant pair of Elven ladies. One of the ladies, clad in pearly silks that revealed scarcely less than the slaves’ costumes, had brought her own couch-companion, a muscle-bound human gladiator; the other Elven lady, swathed from nape to ankle in skin-tight black satin, had come with another of the Elvenlords--who was nother affianced. Of the remaining twenty guests, half had brought their own concubines, and half had made a selection from the slaves offered to them by Aelmarkin.
All of the Elvenlords present, with the exception of Aelmarkin and the lady who had brought her own male concubine, were the sons of ruling Elvenlords--but had notjoined the Young Lords’ Rebellion. Most of them saw themselves as losing far more than they would gain by rebelling, and the rest were cynically hoping for the rebellion to eliminate their fathers for them.
Aelmarkin and V’dann Triana Lord Falcion--who, despite being female, was Lord of the Falcion holdings in her own right, and thus (it recently had been ruled) was entitled to the title of Lord rather than Lady or er-Lord--were the only Elvenlords in the room with their own estates and property. Aelmarkin, however, was hardly a Great Lord--his property was a fraction of the size of any of those with real power; most of his wealth came from the sale of the exquisitely bred and trained concubines who were literally worth their weight in gems. That gave him a certain status, but no real power. As for Triana, her standing had plummeted after her involvement in the debacle of the Second Wizard War, and she was no longer a desirable ally to anyone on the Great Council. She generally kept to herself on her own estate. He suspected that she was biding her time, waiting to see which way the wind blew in the Young Lords’ Uprising, before she tried to worm her way back into the good graces of the powerful.
As a party guest, however, she was still of value; an acid wit and a reputation for depravity gave her all the fascination of a captivating serpent, and people enjoyed seeing what she would say or do next. Any time Aelmarkin invited her to one of his entertainments, he knew he would have full participation, and her own parties continued to be extremely popular among the younger sons, those who did not possess great power, and those who did not have a Council seat.
Aelmarkin was by no means as certain as the Great Lords that Triana would remain out of power for the foreseeable future. She was clever, resourceful, and learned from her mistakes. The Wizard Wars and the Rebellion were changing everything; it was always possible that Triana would prove to be a potent ally at some point. It was even possible that she would somehow claw her way to power entirely on her own. The extent of her boldness was demonstrated in her dress tonight; gowned in transparent silks like a concubine, she knew very well that however tempting she might be, there was no one here with sufficient power to dare touch her without her consent--and so she taunted them with her very appearance.
Besides, she had no scruples to speak of; he liked that in a woman--provided he didn’t have to marry her.
“Have you heard anything more from the Council about your petition?” Triana called to him from across the room with a half smile. Her gladiator offered her a choice tidbit with a servile gesture; she allowed him to feed it to her, nibbling at it with white, sharp teeth. He was new to Aelmarkin, but that was hardly surprising; Tria...

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