The whole society of Hamor is a new culture for L. E. Modesitt, Jr., to explore, one in which magic is a monopoly of the state. Rahl is a mage now, powerful and still just as dangerous to himself and to others. This is the story of how he gains more knowledge and power while also learning more self-control.
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Kirby Heyborne is an accomplished actor, musician, and comedian who has received a number of AudioFile Earphones Awards for his audiobook narrations. He has had starring roles in over a dozen features and many short films. Kirby is also a cofounder and director of the Los Angeles-based improv comedy group The Society.
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Rahl stood on the port wing of the fast frigate’s bridge, looking out at the seemingly endless gray-blue waters of the Eastern Ocean. Even in midocean, the early-fall air seemed hazy and cool, and the cloudless green-blue sky held a hint of silver. Below the iron decks, he could sense the controlled chaos of the boilers and engines of the E.S. Ascadya as she steamed northeast—toward Recluce. He could also feel the latent chaos of the powder in the locked iron magazines below the forward gun turret with its twin guns.
He glanced toward the covered center of the bridge where Captain Jaracyn stood beside the officer of the day, both slightly back of the helmsman. Although the captain had been polite and courteous to both Rahl and Taryl—particularly toward the older mage-guard—Rahl could sense Jaracyn’s distaste for his mission. As a fighting commander of the Hamorian Navy, the captain would have preferred a more active role in dealing with the rebellion in Merowey than to transport two mage-guard envoys to Nylan, even though the mission was designed to keep the black ships of Nylan from becoming involved in hostilities against the Emperor.
Rahl glanced back as the frigate pitched forward, slicing through a heavy swell that sent spray flying back from the bow. Two ratings in khaki trousers and collarless khaki shirts didn’t even duck as the cool spray showered them.
Rahl couldn’t help but shake his head at how his life had twisted since he’d left Land’s End more than a year before. He’d been exiled from the north of Recluce to the Black City of Nylan, and from there to Hamor because he could not control his abilities with order. He’d been drugged with nemysa to destroy his memory after he’d discovered the thefts by the director of the Nylan Merchant Association, and ended up as laborer in the ironworks of Luba, where he’d been rescued and trained by a self-exiled mage-guard—Taryl—who had once been the Emperor’s Mage-Guard Triad. Then Rahl had been posted to Swartheld as a junior mage-guard, where he’d uncovered the Jeranyi pirate plot to destroy the merchant sector of the harbor—and killed his superior and destroyed the entire Nylan Merchant Association in the process of saving the rest of the merchant houses. As a result, he and Taryl were now being dispatched to Nylan to explain all that had happened.
Yet, because Rahl had not learned enough about handling order, he knew he could not return permanently to Nylan. After his exile from Nylan and the conditions set forth for his return, if it were not for Deybri, the healer whose image and warmth he could not forget, he would not have been looking forward to returning at all—because he had little more control over his abilities to handle order than when he had been dispatched and because every time he thought about the events leading to his exile, he had to fight the anger and rage those memories sparked.
“You’re looking somber,” observed Taryl. The thin-faced and angular mage-guard stepped to the bridge railing inboard of where Rahl stood. “You’re concerned about the reception you might get?”
Rahl nodded. He was concerned about two reactions—that of the board of magisters in Nylan and that of Deybri.
“You’re an official envoy of the Emperor,” Taryl said. “The most they can do is tell you to depart once we’ve delivered our messages.”
“You’re really the envoy, ser. You’re a former Triad, and I still don’t see why anyone really needed me.”
“I suppose Jyrolt told you about the Triad?”
“Yes, ser. He didn’t tell me much, except that all the rumors were wrong, and that I was to tell anyone who suggested such that they were.”
Taryl shook his head. “They won’t believe you. Rumors are far more attractive, as you will discover.”
“Ah . . . ser . . . you didn’t say why anyone needs me.”
“Because, as I’ve told you several times,” Taryl replied patiently, “they know who you are, and what you are, and they’ll be able to tell that you’re telling them the truth. Also, you’re the only one alive who has firsthand knowledge about the way the managing director of the Nylan Merchant Association in Swartheld was linked to the Jeranyi.”
Rahl supposed that was true, but what difference would it make? The magisters hadn’t ever really listened to him before. Why would they now, especially since he was a mage-guard of Hamor?
“The engineers aren’t the Council of Recluce,” Rahl pointed out.
“Exactly.” Taryl smiled. “But they are the real power on the isle. Most of the trade comes through Nylan. They have the only warships that can challenge Hamor. By dealing with the magisters of Nylan, we will foment a certain amount of internal unrest in Recluce. That may focus their interest internally, rather than on Hamor, because the Emperor is suggesting that the true power lies in Nylan and not at Land’s End.”
“You said that Fairhaven might be aiding the rebels in Merowey. If that is so, why would Recluce want to get involved? They wouldn’t want to do anything to help Fairhaven.”
“No, they wouldn’t. You’re right about that. But . . .” Taryl paused. “If they thought that they could weaken us by restricting trade or some other means, they might. That’s why we need to point out that the Jeranyi were behind the attack on Swartheld and that the Jeranyi were willing to sacrifice the Nylan Merchant Association and all its goods and revenues in order to strike at Hamor. That confirms the Jeranyi as an enemy of both Recluce and Hamor. That’s also why the captain is making speed. We need to be the ones to explain what happened first, to show good faith and concern.”
“The Council in Land’s End has already declared the Jeranyi as an enemy and restricted trade,” Rahl said. “They did that more than a year ago.”
“But Nylan still trades with them, according to our people there. That embargo only applies north of the black wall.”
Rahl hadn’t known that.
“Most trade comes through Nylan now, remember,” added Taryl. “You’ll need to make the Jeranyi role clear. I will tell them the truth. They will be skeptical, and they will ask you. You are to convey what you know completely truthfully. You will tell them exactly what happened, and you will also tell them that the Emperor will announce that the Jeranyi were acting to cripple trade in Swartheld, but that they were stopped before they could complete their efforts.”
“What if they ask about what I did?”
“You tell them. If you’d done nothing, the merchant association still would have lost everything.”
Rahl nodded. That was certainly true enough, but he wondered if the magisters would see it that way, and, even if they did, whether the traders would.
He put his hand on the bridge railing to steady himself as the frigate pitched forward slightly, then rolled a bit to starboard on the recovery before righting herself. His eyes took in the port lookout, standing at the outboard end of the bridge, five cubits beyond the two mages. The rating had not even budged while Rahl was grasping to keep his balance.
“You had said that Swartheld would not be suitable for my further training, but you did not say what that training would be,” Rahl finally ventured.
“I did not,” replied Taryl.
“Most of the mage-guards one sees are white and handle chaos. I assume you have noticed this.”
“The reason for that is obvious. They can deal with malefactors quickly, and the way in which they do also inspires fear and respect. One does not build a land on fear alone. Order is also required, but mastering order and understanding its uses takes far longer and much more work. In your case, because you are a natural ordermage, it will take even longer.
“On our return, you and I, as well as a number of other ordermages, will be sent to Merowey and placed at the disposal of Marshal Charynat to assist him in dealing with the rebellion there.” Taryl’s lips curled into a wry smile. “I am certain we will both learn a great deal.”
“The rebellion is still continuing? Against the Emperor?”
“It is likely to continue for a considerable time,” Taryl replied. “It appears that the Emperor’s elder brother is behind it.”
“All the Emperor’s offspring are trained as leaders and administrators. Those who are unqualified are exiled. The one who succeeds is not necessarily the oldest, but the one in the bloodline who the Triad and the High Command feel is best qualified.” The older mage laughed. “There have been mistakes, but not so many as when the Emperor’s successor was always the eldest son.”
“The older son was the administrator in Merowey?” asked Rahl.
“He still is, and he has trained and raised his own army.”
The more Rahl learned about Hamor, the less he knew . . . or so it seemed.
He glanced out to the horizon. Even though there were no clouds in sight, he had the feeling that there would be storms ahead.
Excerpted from MAGE-GUARD OF HONOR by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
Copyright © 2008 by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
Published in July 2008 by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.