Three years ago, Lift asked a goddess to stop her from growing oldera wish she believed was granted. Now, in Edgedancer, the barely teenage nascent Knight Radiant finds that time stands still for no one. Although the young Azish emperor granted her safe haven from an executioner she knows only as Darkness, court life is suffocating the free-spirited Lift, who can't help heading to Yeddaw when she hears the relentless Darkness is there hunting people like her with budding powers. The downtrodden in Yeddaw have no champion, and Lift knows she must seize this awesome responsibility.
Other Tor books by Brandon Sanderson
The Stormlight Archive
The Way of Kings
Words of Radiance
The Mistborn trilogy
Mistborn: The Final Empire
The Well of Ascension
The Hero of Ages
Mistborn: The Wax and Wayne series
Alloy of Law
Shadows of Self
Bands of Mourning
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The Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians series
Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians
The Scrivener's Bones
The Knights of Crystallia
The Shattered Lens
The Dark Talent
The Rithmatist series
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Lift prepared to be awesome.
She sprinted across an open field in northern Tashikk, a little more than a week's travel from Azimir. The place was overgrown with brown grass a foot or two high. The occasional trees were tall and twisty, with trunks that looked like they were made of interwoven vines, and branches that pointed upward more than out.
They had some official name, but everyone she knew called them drop-deads because of their springy roots. In a storm, they'd fall over flat and just lie there. Afterward they'd pop back up, like a rude gesture made at the passing winds.
Lift's run startled a group of axehinds who had been grazing nearby; the lean creatures leaped away on four legs with the two front claws pulled in close to the body. Good eating, those beasties. Barely any shell on them. But for once, Lift wasn't in the mood to eat.
She was on the run.
"Mistress!" Wyndle, her pet Voidbringer, called. He took the shape of a vine, growing along the ground beside her at superfast speed, matching her pace. He didn't have a face at the moment, but could speak anyway. Unfortunately.
"Mistress," he pled, "can't we please just go back?"
Lift became awesome. She drew on the stuff inside of her, the stuff that made her glow. She Slicked the soles of her feet with it, and leaped into a skid.
Suddenly, the ground didn't rub against her at all. She slid as if on ice, whipping through the field. Grass startled all around her, curling as it yanked down into stone burrows. That made it bow before her in a wave.
She zipped along, wind pushing back her long black hair, tugging at the loose overshirt she wore atop her tighter brown undershirt, which was tucked into her loose-cuffed trousers.
She slid, and felt free. Just her and the wind. A small windspren, like a white ribbon in the air, started to follow her.
Then she hit a rock.
The stupid rock held firm — it was held in place by little tufts of moss that grew on the ground and stuck to things like stones, holding them down as shelter against the wind. Lift's foot flashed with pain and she tumbled in the air, then hit the stone ground face-first.
Reflexively, she made her face awesome — so she kept right on going, skidding on her cheek until she hit a tree. She stopped there, finally.
The tree slowly fell over, playing dead. It hit the ground with a shivering sound of leaves and branches.
Lift sat up, rubbing her face. She'd cut her foot, but her awesomeness plugged up the hole, healing it plenty quick. Her face didn't even hurt much. When a part of her was awesome, it didn't rub on what it touched, it just kind of ... glided.
She still felt stupid.
"Mistress," Wyndle said, curling up to her. His vine looked like the type fancy people would grow on their buildings to hide up parts that didn't look rich enough. Except he had bits of crystal growing out of him along the vine's length. They jutted out unexpectedly, like toenails on a face.
When he moved, he didn't wiggle like an eel. He actually grew, leaving a long trail of vines behind him that would soon crystallize and decay into dust. Voidbringers were strange.
He wound around himself in a circle, like rope coiling, and formed a small tower of vines. And then something grew from the top: a face that formed out of vines, leaves, and gemstones. The mouth worked as he spoke.
"Oh, mistress," he said. "Can't we stop playing out here, please? We need to get back to Azimir!"
"Go back?" Lift stood up. "We just escaped that place!"
"Escaped! The palace? Mistress, you were an honored guest of the emperor! You had everything you wanted, as much food, as much —"
"All lies," she declared, hands on hips. "To keep me from noticin' the truth. They was going to eat me."
Wyndle stammered. He wasn't so frightening, for a Voidbringer. He must have been like ... the Voidbringer all the other ones made fun of for wearing silly hats. The one that would correct all the others, and explain which fork they had to use when they sat down to consume human souls.
"Mistress," Wyndle said. "Humans do not eat other humans. You were a guest!"
"Yeah, but why? They gave me too much stuff."
"You saved the emperor's life!"
"That should've been good for a few days of freeloading," she said. "I once pulled a guy out of prison, and he gave me five whole days in his den for free, and a nice handkerchief too. That was generous. The Azish letting me stay as long as I wanted?" She shook herhead. "They wanted something. Only explanation. They was going to starvin' eat me."
Lift started running again. The cold stone, perforated by grass burrows, felt good on her toes and feet. No shoes. What good were shoes? In the palace, they'd started offering her heaps of shoes. And nice clothing — big, comfy coats and robes. Clothing you could get lost in. She'd liked wearing something soft for once.
Then they'd started asking. Why not take some lessons, and learn to read? They were grateful for what she'd done for Gawx, who was now Prime Aqasix, a fancy title for their ruler. Because of her service, she could have tutors, they said. She could learn how to wear those clothes properly, learn how to write.
It had started to consume her. If she'd stayed, how long would it have been before she wasn't Lift anymore? How long until she'd have been gobbled up, another girl left in her place? Similar face, but at the same time all new?
She tried using her awesomeness again. In the palace, they had talked about the recovery of ancient powers. Knights Radiant. The binding of Surges, natural forces.
I will remember those who have been forgotten.
Lift Slicked herself with power, then skidded across the ground a few feet before tumbling and rolling through the grass.
She pounded her fist on the stones. Stupid ground. Stupid awesomeness. How was she supposed to stay standing, when her feet were slipperier than if they'd been coated in oil? She should just go back to paddling around on her knees. It was so much easier. She could balance that way, and use her hands to steer. Like a little crab, scooting around this way and that.
They were elegant things of beauty, Darkness had said. They could ride the thinnest rope, dance across rooftops, move like a ribbon on the wind. ...
Darkness, the shadow of a man who had chased her, had said those things in the palace, speaking of those who had — long ago — used powers like Lift's. Maybe he'd been lying. After all, he'd been preparing to murder her at the time.
Then again, why lie? He'd treated her derisively, as if she were nothing. Worthless.
She set her jaw and stood up. Wyndle was still talking, but she ignored him, instead taking off across the deserted field, running as fast as she could, startling grass. She reached the top of a small hill, then jumped and coated her feet with power.
She started slipping immediately. The air. The air she pushed against when moving was holding her back. Lift hissed, then coated her entire self in power.
She sliced through the wind, turning sideways as she skidded down the side of the hill. Air slid off her, as if it couldn't find her. Even the sunlight seemed to melt off her skin. She was between places, here but not. No air, no ground. Just pure motion, so fast that she reached grass before it had time to pull away. It flowed around her, its touch brushed aside by her power.
Her skin started to glow, tendrils of smoky light rising from her. She laughed, reaching the bottom of the small hill. There she leaped some boulders.
And ran face-first into another tree.
The bubble of power around her popped. The tree toppled over — and, for good measure, the two next to it decided to fall as well. Perhaps they thought they were missing out on something.
Wyndle found her grinning like a fool, staring up at the sun, spread out on the tree trunk with her arms interwoven with the branches, a single golden gloryspren — shaped like an orb — circling above her.
"Mistress?" he said. "Oh, mistress. You were happy in the palace. I saw it in you!"
She didn't reply.
"And the emperor," Wyndle continued. "He'll miss you! You didn't even tell him you were going!"
"I left him a note."
"A note? You learned to write?"
"Storms, no. I ate his dinner. Right out from under the tray cover while they was preparing to bring it to him. Gawx'll know what that means."
"I find that doubtful, mistress."
She climbed up from the fallen tree and stretched, then blew her hair out of her eyes. Maybe she could dance across rooftops, ride on ropes, or ... what was it? Make wind? Yeah, she could do that one for sure. She hopped off the tree and continued walking through the field.
Unfortunately, her stomach had a few things to say about how much awesomeness she'd used. She ran on food, even more than most folks. She could draw some awesomeness from everything she ate, but once it was gone, she couldn't do anything incredible again until she'd had more to eat.
Her stomach rumbled in complaint. She liked to imagine that it was cussing at her something awful, and she searched through her pockets. She'd run out of the food in her pack — she'd taken a lot — this morning. But hadn't she found a sausage in the bottom before tossing the pack?
Oh, right. She'd eaten that while watching those riverspren a few hours ago. She dug in her pockets anyway, but only came out with a handkerchief that she'd used to wrap up a big stack of flatbread before stuffing it in her pack. She shoved part of the handkerchief into her mouth and started chewing.
"Mistress?" Wyndle asked.
"Mie hab crubs onnit," she said around the handkerchief.
"You shouldn't have been Surgebinding so much!" He wound along on the ground beside her, leaving a trail of vines and crystals. "And we should have stayed in the palace. Oh, how did this happen to me? I should be gardening right now. I had the most magnificent chairs."
"Shars?" Lift asked, pausing.
"Yes, chairs." Wyndle wound up in a coil beside her, forming a face that tilted toward her at an angle off the top of the coil. "While in Shadesmar, I had collected the most magnificent selection of the souls of chairs from your side! I cultivated them, grew them into grand crystals. I had some Winstels, a nice Shober, quite the collection of spoonbacks, even a throne or two!"
"Yu gurdened shars?"
"Of course I gardened chairs," Wyndle said. His ribbon of vine leaped off the coil and followed her as she started walking again. "What else would I garden?"
"Plants? Well, we have them in Shadesmar, but I'm no pedestrian gardener. I'm an artist! Why, I was planning an entire exhibition of sofas when the Ring chose me for this atrocious duty."
"Smufld gramitch mragnifude."
"Would you take that out of your mouth?" Wyndle snapped.
Lift did so.
Wyndle huffed. How a little vine thing huffed, Lift didn't know. But he did it all the time. "Now, what were you trying to say?"
"Gibberish," Lift said. "I just wanted to see how you'd respond." She stuffed the other side of the handkerchief into her mouth and started sucking on it.
They continued on with a sigh from Wyndle, who muttered about gardening and his pathetic life. He certainly was a strange Voidbringer. Come to think of it, she'd never seen him act the least bit interested in consuming someone's soul. Maybe he was a vegetarian?
They passed through a small forest, really just a corpse of trees, which was a strange term, since she never seemed to find any bodies in them. These weren't even drop-deads; those tended to grow in small patches, but each apart from the others. These had branches that wound around one another as they grew, dense and intertwined to face the highstorms.
That was basically the way to do it, right? Everyone else, they wound their branches together. Braced themselves. But Lift, she was a drop-dead. Don't intertwine, don't get caught up. Go your own way.
Yes, that was definitely how she was. That was why she'd had to leave the palace, obviously. You couldn't live your life getting up and seeing the same things every day. You had to keep moving, otherwise people started to know who you were, and then they started to expect things from you. It was one step from there to being gobbled up.
She stopped right inside the trees, standing on a pathway that someone had cut and kept maintained. She looked backward, northward, toward Azir.
"Is this about what happened to you?" Wyndle asked. "I don't know a lot about humans, but I believe it was natural, disconcerting though it might appear. You aren't wounded."
Lift shaded her eyes. The wrong things were changing. She was supposed to stay the same, and the world was supposed to change around her. She'd asked for that, hadn't she?
Had she been lied to?
"Are we ... going back?" Wyndle asked, hopeful.
"No," Lift said. "Just saying goodbye." Lift shoved her hands in her pockets and turned around before continuing through the trees.
Yeddaw was one of those cities Lift had always meant to visit. It was in Tashikk, a strange place even compared to Azir. She'd always found everyone here too polite and reserved. They also wore clothing that made them hard to read.
But everyone said that you had to see Yeddaw. It was the closest you could get to seeing Sesemalex Dar — and considering that place had been a war zone for basically a billion years, she wasn't likely to ever get there.
Standing with hands on hips, looking down at the city of Yeddaw, she found herself agreeing with what people said. This was a sight. The Azish liked to consider themselves grand, but they only plastered bronze or gold or something over all their buildings and pretended that was enough. What good did that do? It just reflected her own face at her, and she'd seen that too often to be impressed by it.
No, this was impressive. A majestic city cut out of the starvin' ground.
She'd heard some of the fancy scribes in Azir talk about it — they said it was a new city, created only a hunnerd years back by hiring the Imperial Shardblades out of Azir. Those didn't spend much time at war, but were instead used for making mines or cutting up rocks and stuff. Very practical. Like using the royal throne as a stool to reach something on the high shelf.
She really shouldn't have gotten yelled at for that.
Anyway, they'd used those Shardblades here. This had once been a large, flat plain. Her vantage on a hilltop, though, let her make out hundreds of trenches cut in the stone. They interconnected, like a huge maze. Some of the trenches were wider than others, and they made a vague spiral toward the center, where a large moundlike building was the only part of the city that peeked up over the surface of the plain.
Above, in the spaces between trenches, people worked fields. There were virtually no structures up there; everything was down below. People lived in those trenches, which seemed to be two or three stories deep. How did they avoid being washed away in highstorms? True, they'd cut large channels leading out from the city — ones nobody seemed to live in, so the water could escape. Still didn't seem safe, but it was pretty cool.
She could hide really well in there. That was why she'd come, after all. To hide. Nothing else. No other reason.
The city didn't have walls, but it did have a number of guard towers spaced around it. Her pathway led down from the hills and joined with a larger road, which eventually stopped in a line of people awaiting permission to get into the city.
"How on Roshar did they manage to cut away so much rock!" Wyndle said, forming a pile of vines beside her, a twisting column that took him high enough to be by her waist, face tilted toward the city.
"Shardblades," Lift said.
"Oh. Ooooh. Those." He shifted uncomfortably, vines writhing and twisting about one another with a scrunching sound. "Yes. Those."
She folded her arms. "I should get me one of those, eh?" Wyndle, strangely, groaned loudly.
"I figure," she explained, "that Darkness has one, right? He fought with one when he was trying to kill me and Gawx. So I ought to find one."
"Yes," Wyndle said, "you should do just that! Let us pop over to the market and pick up a legendary, all-powerful weapon of myth and lore, worth more than many kingdoms! I hear they sell them in bushels, following spring weather in the east."
Excerpted from "Edgedancer"
Copyright © 2016 Dragonsteel Entertainment, LLC.
Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
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