Elegy for a Lost Star sets the stage for a major turning point in the Symphony of Ages series.
The dragon Anwyn--who has lain for three years in deathlike sleep in a grave of rock and black coal is freed by the cataclysm that concluded REQUIEM FOR THE SUN. sisoriented and confused, she remembers only two things-the person who trapped her in dragon form and locked her in the grave-Rhapsody-and an all-encompassing desire to wreak vengeance.
Meanwhile, Achmed, the Firbolg king, resumes rebuilding the his shattered home, while a guild of merciless assassins set about taking revenge on him for the killing of their leader.
A horribly deformed but magical being finds its way through a carnival of freaks to the palace of an evil despot, who sees in it the potential to be the instrument by which his plans of conquest and brutal domination of a continent will be realized.
With the rise of new leaders, good and evil, the long-awaited birth of the Child of Time, the dark plans of assassins and rulers, a confrontation that shakes the relationship of the Three, and a battle to the death between two dragons of unimaginable elemental power, the seeds of chaos are planted for a war that will, by its end, consume half of the world.
At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.
About the Author
As the daughter of an air force officer, ELIZABETH HAYDON began traveling at an early age and has since traveled all over the world. She draws on the imagery of these visits in The Symphony of Ages series, and blends her love of music, anthropology, herbalism and folklore into much of her writing. Haydon is also a harpist and a madrigal singer (a singer of medieval songs). She lives with her family on the East Coast.
Read an Excerpt
Elegy for a Lost Star
Book Five of the Symphony of Ages
By Elizabeth Haydon, James Minz
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2004 Elizabeth Haydon
All rights reserved.
When the mountain peak of Gurgus exploded, the vibrations coursed through the foundations of the earth.
Above ground, the debris field from the blast stretched for miles, ranging from boulder-sized rubble at the base of the peak to fragments of sand that littered the steppes more than a league away. In between, shards of colored glass from windows that had once been inlaid in the mountain's hollow summit lay like a broken rainbow, glittering in the sun beneath an intermittent layer of sparkling dust.
Below ground, a small band of Firbolg soldiers felt the concussion rumble beneath their feet, though they were some miles east of Gurgus. A few moments of stillness passed as dust settled to the floor of the tunnel. When Krarn finally released the breath he was holding, the rest of his patrol shook off their torpor and resumed their duties. The Sergeant-Major would flay them alive if they let something as small as a tremor keep them from their appointed rounds.
A few days later, the soldiers reluctantly emerged under a cloudless sky, having reached the farthest extent of this section of their tunnel system, and the end of their patrol route.
Krarn stood on the rim of the craterlike ruins of the Moot, a meeting place from ancient times, now dark with coal ash and considered haunted. Nothing but the howl of the wind greeted him; no one lived in the rocky foothills that stretched into steppes, then out to the vast Krevensfield Plain beyond.
Having finished their sweep of the area, his men had quietly assembled behind him. Krarn was about to order them back into the tunnels when the hairs on his back — from his neck to his belt — stood on end.
It began as the faintest of rumblings in the ground. The tremors were not enough to be noticed on their own, but Krarn noted the trembling of vegetation, the slightest of changes in the incessantly dry landscape, little more than the disturbance that a strong breeze might make. He knew that it was no wind that caused this disturbance; it had come from the earth.
Silently ordering his men into a skirmish line, Krarn scanned the area, looking for any more signs. After a few minutes, the feeling passed, and the earth settled into stillness again. Nothing but wind sighed through the tall grass.
"Aftershocks," he muttered to himself.
With a shake of his head, Krarn led his men back into the tunnels.
And in so doing, missed the chance to sound a warning of what was to come.
As the days passed, the tremors grew stronger.
The surface of the Moot, baked to a waterless shell by the summer sun, began to split slightly, thin cracks spreading over the landscape like the spidery pattern on a mirror that had broken but not shattered.
Then came steam, the slightest of puffs of rancid smoke rising up ominously from the ground beneath the tiny cracks.
By day it was almost impossible to see, had eyes been in the locality to see it. By night it mixed with the hot haze coming off the ground and, caught by the wind, wafted aloft, blending with the low-hanging clouds.
Finally came the eruption.
Waves of shock rolled through the earth as if it were the sea, waves that intensified, growing stronger. The earth began to move, to rise in some places, shifting in its underground strata.
Then, with a terrifying lunge, it ripped apart.
The rumbling beneath the surface suddenly took on movement. It started outside of Ylorc but traveled quickly. It was heading north.
Unerringly, determinedly north, toward the icy land of the Hintervold.
All along the eastern rim of the mountains, then westward across the plains, a movement within the ground could be felt, a shifting so violent that it sent aftershocks through the countryside, uprooting trees and splitting crevasses into the sides of rolling hills, causing children miles away to wake in the night, shaking with fear.
Their mothers held them close, soothing them. "It's nothing, little one," they said, or uttered some similar words in whatever language they were accustomed to speaking. "The ground trembles from time to time, but it will settle and go quiet again. See? It is gone already. There is nothing to fear."
And then it was gone.
The children nestled their heads against their mother's shoulders, their eyes bright in the darkness, knowing on some level that the shivering they had felt was more than the ripples of movement in the crust of the world. Someone listening closely enough might sense, beyond the trembling passage, a deeper answer from below the ground.
Much deeper below.
As if the earth itself was listening.
Deep within her tomb of charred earth, the dragon had felt the aftershocks of the explosion of the mountain peak.
Her awareness, dormant for years, hummed with slight static, just enough to tickle the edges of her unconscious mind, which had hibernated since her internment in the grave of melted stone and fire ash in the ancient Moot.
At first the sensation nauseated her and she fought it off numbly, struggling to sink back into the peaceful oblivion of deathlike sleep. Then, when oblivion refused to return, she began to grow fearful, disoriented in a body she didn't remember.
After a few moments the fear turned to dread, then deepened into terror.
As the whispers of alarm rippled over her skin it unsettled the ground around her grave, causing slight waves of shock to reverberate through the earth around and above her. She distantly sensed the presence of the coterie of Firbolg guards from Ylorc, the mountainous realm that bordered the grave, who had come to investigate the tremors, but was too disoriented to know what they were.
And then they were gone, leaving her mind even more confused.
The dragon roiled in her sepulcher of scorched earth, shifting from side to side, infinitesimally. She did not have enough control of her conscious thought to move more than she could inhale, and her breath, long stilled into the tiniest of waves, was too shallow to mark.
The earth, the element from which her kind had sprung, pressed down on her, squeezing the air from her, sending horrific scenes of suffocation through her foggy mind.
And then, after what seemed to her endless time in the clutches of horror, into this chaos of thought and confused sensation a beacon shone, the clear, pure light of her innate dragon sense. Hidden deep in the rivers of her ancient blood, old as she was old, the inner awareness that had been her weapon and her bane all of her forgotten life began to rise, clearing away the conundrum, settling the panic, cell by cell, nerve by nerve, bringing clarity in tiny moments, like pieces of an enormous puzzle coming together, or a picture that was slowly gaining focus.
And with the approaching clarity came a guarded calm.
The dragon willed herself to breathe easier, and in willing it, caused it to happen.
She still did not comprehend her form. In her sleep-tangled mind she was a woman still, of human flesh and shape, not wyrm, not beast, not serpentine, and so she was baffled by her girth, her heft, the inability of her arms and legs to function, to push against the ground as they once had. Her confusion was compounded by this disconnection between mind, body, and memory, a dark stage on which no players had yet come to appear. All she could recall in her limited consciousness was the sense of falling endlessly in fire that had struck her from above, and blazed below her as she fell.
Hot, she thought hazily. Burning. I'm burning.
But of course she was not. The blast of flame that had taken her from the sky had been quenched more than three years before, had sizzled into smoky ash covering the thick coalbed that lined her tomb, baking it hard and dry in its dying.
Fighting her disorientation, the dragon waited, letting her inner sense sort through the jumble, inhaling a bit more deeply with each breath, remaining motionless, letting the days pass, marking time only by the heat she could feel through the earth when the sun was high above her tomb, and the cooling of night, which lasted only a short while before the warmth returned.
Must be summer's end, she mused, the only cognizant thought to take hold.
Until another image made its way onto the dark stage.
It was a place of stark white, a frozen land of jagged peaks and all but endless winter. In the tight containment of the tomb the memory of expansiveness returned; she recalled staring up at a night sky blanketed with cold stars, the human form she had once inhabited, and still inhabited in her mind, tiny and insignificant in the vastness of the snowy mountains all around her.
A single word formed in her mind.
With the word came the will.
As the puzzle solidified, as the picture became clearer, her dragon sense was able to ascertain direction, even beneath the ground. With each new breath the dragon turned herself by inches until, after time uncounted, she sensed she was pointed north-northwest. Across the miles she could feel it calling, her lair, her stronghold, though the details of what it was were still scattered.
It mattered not.
Once oriented in the correct direction, she set off, crawling through the earth, still believing herself to be human, dragging a body that did not respond the way she expected it to relentlessly forward, resolute in her intent, slowly gaining speed and strength, until the ground around her began to cool, signaling to her that home was near. Then, with a burst of renewed resolve, she bore through the crust of the earth, up through the blanket of permafrost, hurtling out of the ground in a shower of cracking ice and flying snow, to fall heavily onto the white layer that covered the earth like a frozen scab, breathing shallowly, rapidly, ignoring the sting of the cold.
She lay motionless for a long while beneath that endless night sky blanketed with stars, thought and reason returning with her connection to this land, this place to which she had been exiled, in which she had made her lair. The dragon inhaled the frosty wind, allowing it to slowly cleanse her blackened lungs as the dragon sense in her blood was cleansing her mind.
And along with thought and reason, something else returned as well, burning hot at the edges of her memory, unclear, but unmistakable, growing in clarity and intensity with each moment.
The fury of revenge.CHAPTER 2
The king of the mountainous realm was away when the peak exploded.
A man born as an accidental by-product of depravity and despair, of mixed bloodlines that came from the earth and the wind, his skin was almost magically sensitive, a network of traceries of exposed nerves and surface veins. He was, as a result, innately aware of the vibrations in the wind that others defined as Life, could oftentimes tell when things were not as they should be, when something was disturbing the natural order of the earth, especially the earth that was his domain. Had he been in his kingdom when the wyrm awoke from her sleep, he would have known it.
But Achmed the Snake, king of the Firbolg and lord of the realm of Ylorc, was half a continent away, traveling overland on his way home when it came to pass.
So, like his subjects, the guards who walked the edge of the grave itself, he missed the chance to intervene, to stop what was to come.
And, by chance, because of a weapon of his own design, the cwellan, which he had adapted just for the purpose of penetrating the hide of a dragon, he alone might have been able to do so while the wyrm lay in her sepulcher, prone and disoriented. His weapon had drawn her blood before.
By the time he returned home, the beast was long gone.
His mission in the west accomplished, he had chosen to return to his kingdom in the eastern mountains alone, riding the same route as the guarded mail caravans, but refusing to wait to travel with them in the safety of numbers. In addition to his natural tendency of isolation, his complete disdain for the majority of the human race, and his desire not to be slowed down in his return by traveling with others, Achmed needed time alone to think.
The heat of summer's end was waning as he traveled the trans-Orlandan thoroughfare, the roadway built during the most prosperous days of the previous empire. The thoroughfare bisected the land of Roland from the seacoast to the edge of the Manteids, the mountains known as the Teeth, where he now reigned. The cooling of the season and the fresh wind that came with it gave him a clear head, allowing him to sort through all he had experienced.
The western seacoast he had left behind him was burning still, though the fires had begun to be extinguished by the time he left. The ash from the blackened forests had traveled east on the wind as well, and so for the first few days of his journey his nostrils and sensitive sinuses were sore from their exposure to the soot. But by the time he reached the province of Bethany, the midpoint of the realm of Roland, the wind had turned clearer, and so had his head.
His mind, distracted by the disappearance of one of his two friends in the world, was able to refocus on what had been his priority for the last few months. Now that she was safe, his thoughts were locked obsessively on the completion of his tower.
Many of the reasons for his obsession with rebuilding the instrumentality that had once been housed in the mountain peak of Gurgus were lodged in the past. But the most important one was the future.
The pounding of the horse's hooves was a tattoo that drove extraneous thoughts away. The Panjeri glass artisan I hired in Sorbold has had a good deal of time to make progress on the Lightcatcher; the ceiling of the tower must be complete by now, the king thought, ruminating on what Gurgus would look like when restored. A full circle of colored glass panes, seven in all, each precisely fired to the purest hues of the spectrum, the mountain peak would soon hold a power that would aid him in his life's mission.
Keeping the Sleeping Child safe from the F'dor, fire demons that endlessly sought to find her.
From the time he had begun the undertaking of building the tower, the Firbolg king's mind had known even less peace than usual. His obsession was coupled with uncertainty; he was by training and former trade an assassin, a murderer, an efficient killer who had for centuries plied his trade alone, choosing only the contracts that interested him, or that he felt warranted his attention. Life and circumstance had taken him from an old land, his birthplace, now dead and gone beneath the waves of the sea, and deposited him here, in this new and uncertain place, where he had put his skills to good use, seizing control of the loose, warlike tribes of mountain-dwelling mongrels, forging a ragged kingdom of demi-humans. Under his hand, with the help of his two friends, he had built them into a functioning nation, a realm of silent strength and resolute independence. Now he was a king. And he was still a skilled killer.
What he was not was an engineer.
When he had discovered the plans for the Lightcatcher buried deep in the vault of the kingdom he now ruled, once a great civilization fallen into ruin by its own folly, he had broken into a gray sweat. He could not read the writing on the ancient parchment; it was drafted in a tongue that had been old when his long-dead homeland was still young. As a result, he could not be certain of the specifications of the drawings, of the directions to build the instrumentality, and, more important, of what its powers were. He only knew he recognized in the detailed renderings something he had known in the old world as an apparatus of unsurpassed power, a device that had held an entire mountain range invulnerable from the same evanescent demons that were now seeking the Earthchild he guarded.
That device had apparently been duplicated here long ago.
From that moment on it had become a challenge to rebuild it. For the first time in his life he'd had to rely on outside help, on expertise other than his own, to fashion something that was part weapon, part scrying device, part healing instrumentality. And it was being done in secret, in the hope that he was not being betrayed or misled. Achmed did not really believe in hope, and therefore had suffered mightily, plagued with doubt and worry mixed with the burning belief that this apparatus, and this apparatus alone, would be able both to make his kingdom invulnerable to the invaders he knew would someday come, bent on its destruction, and, far more important, to help him protect the Sleeping Child from those invisible monsters that endlessly sought to find her.
One of his two friends in the world was a Lirin Namer, schooled in the music of words, ancient lore, and the dead language of the drawings. She had been disquieted by the depth of the magic she saw in the renderings, had implored him not to meddle in matters he didn't fully understand, but in the end her loyalty to and love for him had won out over her reservations, and she had given him a brief translation of one of the documents, at his insistence. It had contained a poem, a riddle really, and the schematic of the color spectrum, along with the power each color held.
Excerpted from Elegy for a Lost Star by Elizabeth Haydon, James Minz. Copyright © 2004 Elizabeth Haydon. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Song of the Sky Loom,
The Weaver's Lament,