Guy Gavriel Kay Children of Earth and Sky

ISBN 13: 9781473628113

Children of Earth and Sky

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9781473628113: Children of Earth and Sky
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The bestselling author of the groundbreaking novels Under Heaven and River of Stars, Guy Gavriel Kay weaves a world inspired by the conflicts and dramas of Renaissance Europe. Against this tumultuous backdrop the lives of men and women unfold on the borderlands—where empires and faiths collide.

From the small coastal town of Senjan, notorious for its pirates, a young woman sets out to find vengeance for her lost family. That same spring, from the wealthy city-state of Seressa, famous for its canals and lagoon, come two very different people: a young artist traveling to the dangerous east to paint the grand khalif at his request—and possibly to do more—and a fiercely intelligent, angry woman posing as a doctor’s wife but sent by Seressa as a spy.

The trading ship that carries them is commanded by the accomplished younger son of a merchant family, ambivalent about the life he’s been born to live. And farther east a boy trains to become a soldier in the elite infantry of the khalif—to win glory in the war everyone knows is coming.

As these lives entwine, their fates—and those of many others—will hang in the balance when the khalif sends out his massive army to take the great fortress that is the gateway to the western world....

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About the Author:

Guy Gavriel Kay is the internationally bestselling author of, among others, The Fionovar Tapestry, Tigana, The Last Light of the Sun, Under Heaven, and River of Stars. He has been awarded the International Goliardos Prize for his work in the literature of the fantastic, and won the World Fantasy Award for Ysabel in 2008. In 2014 he was named to the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian honor. His works have been translated into more than twenty-five languages.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:



   


        Chapter I
   


   


        It was with a sinking heart that the newly arrived ambassador from Seressa grasped that the Emperor Rodolfo, famously eccentric, was serious about an
        experiment in court protocol.
   


   


        The emperor liked experiments, everyone knew that.
   


   


        It seemed the ambassador was to perform a triple obeisance—two separate times!—when finally invited to approach the imperial throne. This was, the very
        tall official escorting him explained, to be done in the manner of those presented to Grand Khalif Gurçu in Asharias.
   


   


        It was also, the courtier added thoughtfully, how the great eastern emperors had been approached in long-ago days. Rodolfo was apparently now
        interested in the effect of such formal deference, observed and noted. And since Rodolfo was heir to those august figures of the past, it did make
        sense, didn’t it?
   


   


        It did not, at all, was the ambassador’s unvoiced opinion. He had no idea what this alleged effect was supposed to be.
   


   


        He smiled politely. He nodded. He adjusted his velvet robe. In the antechamber where they waited he watched as a second court official—young,
        yellow-haired—enthusiastically demonstrated the salutations. His knees hurt with anticipatory pain. His back hurt. He was aware that, carrying evidence
        of prosperity about his midriff, he was likely to look foolish each time he prostrated himself, or rose to his feet.
   


   


        Rodolfo, Jad’s Holy Emperor, had sat the throne here for thirty years. You wouldn’t ever want to call him foolish—he had many of the world’s foremost
        artists, philosophers, alchemists at his court (performing experiments)—but you needed to consider the man unpredictable and possibly
        irresponsible.
   


   


        This made him dangerous, of course. Orso Faleri, Ambassador of the Republic of Seressa, had had this made clear to him by the Council of Twelve before
        he’d left to come here.
   


   


        He regarded the posting as a terrible hardship.
   


   


        It was formally an honour, of course. One of the three most distinguished foreign posts a Seressini could be granted by the Twelve. It meant he might
        reasonably expect to become a member on his return, if someone withdrew, or died. But Orso Faleri loved his city of canals and bridges and palaces
        (especially his own!) with a passion. In addition, there were extremely limited opportunities for acquiring more wealth at Obravic in this role.
   


   


        He was an emissary—and an observer. It was understood that all other considerations in a man’s life were suspended for the year or possibly two that he
        was here.
   


   


        Two years was a distressing thought.
   


   


        He hadn’t been allowed to bring his mistress.
   


   


        His wife had declined to join him, of course. Faleri could have insisted she do so, but he wasn’t nearly so self-abusive. No, he would have to
        discover, as best one might, what diversions there were in this windy northern city, far from Seressa’s canals, where songs of love drifted in the
        torchlit night and men and women, cloaked against evening’s damp, and sometimes masked, went about hidden from inquisitive eyes.
   


   


        Orso Faleri was willing to simulate an interest in discussing the nature of the soul with the emperor’s philosophers, or listen as some alchemist,
        stroking his singed beard, explained his search for arcane secrets of transmuting metal—but only to a point, surely.
   


   


        If he performed his tasks, both public and secret, badly it would be noted back home, with consequences. If he did well he might be left here for two
        years! It was an appalling circumstance for a civilized man with skills in commerce and a magnificent woman left behind.
   


   


        And now, the Osmanli triple obeisance. To be done twice. Good men, thought Faleri, suffered for the follies of royalty.
   


   


        At the same time, this post was vitally important, and he knew it. In the world they inhabited, good relations with the emperor in Obravic were
        critical. Disagreements were acceptable, but open conflict could be ruinous for trade, and trade was what Seressa was about.
   


   


        For the Seressinis, the idea of peace, with open, unthreatened commerce, was the most important thing in the god’s created world. It mattered more
        (though this would never actually be said ) than diligent attention to the doctrines of Jad as voiced by the sun god’s clerics. Seressa
        traded, extensively, with the unbelieving Osmanlis in the east—and did so whatever High Patriarchs might say or demand.
   


   


        Patriarchs came and went in Rhodias, thundering wrath in their echoing palace or cajoling like courtesans for a holy war and the need to regain lost
        Sarantium from the Osmanlis and their Asharite faith. That was a Patriarch’s task. No one begrudged it. But for Seressa those god-denying Osmanlis
        offered some of the richest markets on earth.
   


   


        Faleri knew it well. He was a merchant, son and grandson of merchants. His family’s palace on the Great Canal had been built and expanded and
        sumptuously furnished with the profits of trading east. Grain at the beginning, then jewels, spices, silk, alum,
       
       
        lapis lazuli. Whatever was needed in the west, or desired. The caressing silks his wife and daughters wore (and his mistress, more appealingly) arrived
        at the lagoon on galleys and roundships voyaging to and from the ports of the Asharites.
   


   


        The grand khalif liked trade, too. He had his palaces and gardens to attend to, and an expensive army. He might make war on the emperor’s lands and
        fortresses where the shifting borders lay, and Rodolfo might be forced to spend sums he didn’t have in bolstering defences there, but Seressa and its
        merchant fleet didn’t want any part of that conflict: they needed peace more than anything.
   


   


        Which meant that Signore Orso Faleri was here with missions to accomplish and assessments to make and send home in coded messages, even while filled
        with longings and memories that had little to do with politics or gaunt philosophers in a northern city.
   


   


        His first priority, precisely set forth by the Council of Twelve, had to do with the savage, loathed, humiliating pirates in their walled town
        of Senjan. It happened to be a matter dear to Faleri’s own merchant heart.
   


   


        It was also desperately delicate. The Senjani were subjects, extremely loyal subjects, of Emperor Rodolfo. They were—the emperor’s phrase had been
        widely quoted—his brave heroes of the borderland. They raided Asharite villages and farms inland and opposed counter-raids, defending Jaddites
        where they could. They were, in essence, fierce (unpaid) soldiers of the emperor.
   


   


        And Seressa wanted them destroyed like poisonous snakes, scorpions, spiders, whatever you chose to call them.
   


   


        They wanted them wiped out, their walls destroyed, boats burned, the raiders hanged, chopped to pieces, killed one by one or in a battle, burned on a
        great pyre seen for miles, or left out for the animals. Seressa didn’t care. Dead was enough, chained as galley slaves would do. Would maybe even be
        better—you never had enough slaves for the fleet.
   


   


        It was a vexed issue.
   


   


        No matter how aggressively Seressa patrolled, how many war galleys they sent out, how carefully they escorted merchant ships, the Senjani raiders found
        ways to board some of them in the long, narrow Seressini Sea. It was impossible to completely defend against them. They raided in all seasons, all
        weather. Some said they could control the weather, that their women did so with enchantments.
   


   


        One small town, perhaps two or three hundred fighting men inside its walls at any given time—and oh, the havoc they wreaked in their boats!
   


   


        Complaints came to Obravic and to Seressa, endlessly, from the khalif and his grand vizier. How, the Asharites asked in graceful
        phrases, could they continue to trade with Seressa if their people and goods were subject to savage piracy? What was the worth of Seressini assurances
        of safety in the sea they proudly named for themselves?
   


   


        Indeed, some of the letters queried, perhaps Seressa was secretly pleased when Osmanli merchants, pious followers of the teachings of Ashar,
        were seized by the Senjani for ransom, or worse?
   


   


        It was, the Council of Twelve had impressed upon Faleri, his foremost task this autumn and winter. He was to induce a distractible, erratic emperor to
        surrender a town of raiders to Seressa’s fury.
   


   


        Rodolfo needed to understand that Senjan didn’t only raid over the mountains against godless infidels or seize their goods on ships. No! They
        rowed or sailed south along their jagged coastline to Seressini-governed towns. They went even farther south, to that upstart marine republic of
        Dubrava (the Seressinis had issues with them, too).
   


   


        Those towns and cities were Jaddite, the emperor knew it! In them dwelled devout worshippers of the god. These people and their goods were not to be
        targets! The Senjani were pirates, not heroes. They boarded honest merchant ships making their way to sell and buy in Seressa, queen of all
        Jad’s cities, bringing it wealth. So much wealth.
   


   


        The vile, dissembling raiders claimed that they only took goods belonging to Asharites, but that was—everyone knew it!—a pose, a pretense, a bad, black
        joke. Their piety was a mask.
   


   


        The Seressinis knew all about masks.
   


   


        Faleri himself had lost three cargoes (silk, pepper, alum) in two years to the Senjani. He wasn’t any worshipper of the Asharite stars or the two
        Kindath moons! He was as good a Jaddite as the emperor. (Maybe a better one, if one considered Rodolfo’s alchemy.) His personal losses might even be,
        he suddenly thought, as the young, smooth courtier straightened from his sixth obeisance (six!), the reason he’d been appointed here. Duke Ricci, head
        of t...

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