L.E. Modesitt, Jr.'s Natural Ordermage continues his bestselling fantasy series the Saga of Recluce, which is one the most popular in contemporary epic fantasy.
Rahl, a young apprentice scrivener, likes life to work out in his favor. To make sure things go his way, he uses a small amount of order magic in opportunistic moments—but his abilities gains the attention of the Council magisters. Rahl's misuse of his strengthening abilities gets him banished to the empire of Hamor.
As an exile in Hamor, working in the Ordermage Council's import and export business, Rahl's powers increase more—and so does the amount of trouble he can get into.
“An intriguing fantasy in a fascinating world.”—Robert Jordan, New York Times bestselling author of The Wheel of Time® series
Saga of Recluce
#1 The Magic of Recluce / #2 The Towers of Sunset / #3 The Magic Engineer / #4 The Order War / #5 The Death of Chaos / #6 Fall of Angels / #7 The Chaos Balance / #8 The White Order / #9 Colors of Chaos / #10 Magi’i of Cyador / #11 Scion of Cyador / #12 Wellspring of Chaos / #13 Ordermaster / #14 Natural Order Mage / #15 Mage-Guard of Hamor / #16 Arms-Commander / #17 Cyador’s Heirs / #18 Heritage of Cyador /#19 The Mongrel Mage / #20 Outcasts of Order / #21 The Mage-Fire War (forthcoming)
Story Collection: Recluce Tales
Other Series by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
The Imager Portfolio
The Corean Chronicles
The Spellsong Cycle
The Ghost Books
The Ecolitan Matter
At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.
About the Author
L. E. Modesitt, Jr., is the bestselling author of the fantasy series The Saga of Recluce, Corean Chronicles, and the Imager Portfolio. His science fiction includes Adiamante, the Ecolitan novels, the Forever Hero Trilogy, and Archform: Beauty. Besides a writer, Modesitt has been a U.S. Navy pilot, a director of research for a political campaign, legislative assistant and staff director for a U.S. Congressman, Director of Legislation and Congressional Relations for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a consultant on environmental, regulatory, and communications issues, and a college lecturer. He lives in Cedar City, Utah.
Read an Excerpt
By L. E. Modesitt Jr., David G. Hartwell
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2007 L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
All rights reserved.
"Rahl ... how are you coming on Tales of the Founders?" In the light of a spring afternoon, Kian glanced across the workroom toward his younger son, seated behind the battered but spotless oak copying table. The two south windows were glazed and overlarge for the workroom, but the light they provided made the work far easier.
"I've just finished the embellishments on the bottom of the last page in the fourth chapter." The black-haired apprentice scrivener smiled politely. "I'm copying those exactly as they are. That's what you wanted, wasn't it?" Rahl knew well that was what his father desired, but he'd also learned that such questions reassured the master scrivener.
"After you finish that, would you check the next batch of ink? I worry about the latest oak galls we got from Clyndal ... and the iron-brimstone." Kian carefully set the copper-tipped iron-pointed pen down on the blotting pad, well away from the inkwell. "Folks don't take the care they used to, not at all. It was bad enough in my father's time, but these days ..."
Rahl finished the last stroke, then cleaned his pen and set it aside. "I'll check that ink now, while the embellishment is drying."
"Don't take too long. I promised that copy to Ziertol before the turn of summer."
Rahl was well aware of that. His father mentioned it at least once a day. But the youth said nothing as he made his way out of the workroom, past the angled and padded shelf set before the small glass display window. On the shelf were sheets of parchment — samples of Kian's handwork — and a thin black-bound copy of the Council Ordinances. Rahl had actually copied some of that, but only a master scrivener would have been able to tell, so much like his father's was his hand, especially when he used standard hand style.
The oak door was propped ajar to let in the fresher air of spring, and Rahl had to move the heavy square gray stone blocks that served as doorstops in order to open the door wide enough to let himself out. He also had to be careful not to hit his head on the doorframe, since the door and frame had been built for Kian's sire, a man almost half a cubit shorter than Kian, and close to a full cubit shorter than Rahl.
Once he was outside, he replaced the doorstops immediately to forestall any words from his father. The late-afternoon sun had almost touched the top of the hills to the west, and the shadow of the structure that held both shop and dwelling stretched almost to the far side of the narrow paved street.
If Rahl had walked to the corner, he could have looked northward and downhill to the small harbor at Land's End. Instead, he walked around the house to the small brick shed set a good ten yards back of the rear covered porch and beside the grape arbor. A third of the shed was for ink and binding preparation, and the remainder was where his mother wove and stored her baskets before she sold them. The arbor ran from the southwest corner of the porch due west and parallel to the shed. Beyond the shed were the low square walls that held the compost heap that he periodically took from to fertilize his mother's garden. The garden itself stretched another ten yards beyond the shed to the stone wall that marked the beginning of the protected forest — such as it was — with its low pines.
Rahl slipped the catch on the shed door and stepped inside, where he checked each of the covered glazed pots that held the ink. The ink was setting up properly, as it should, although it had taken just a touch of order to stabilize the iron-brimstone. The brimstone had been a touch excessive, but Rahl had managed. He'd never told his parents of his small order-abilities. The last thing in the world he wanted was to undergo instruction in the use of order by the magisters — and risk exile and dangergeld. Besides, his abilities were modest, and he'd never even tried to use them other than for good results — even with the girls.
Even though he sensed that the ink would be fine, he dipped a thin strip of reed-paper in the first pot, another in the second, then held them away from him to dry. After a moment, he covered the pots again and left the shed. He was careful to relatch the door and to keep the ink-damp paper from touching his tunic. His mother would berate him all too thoroughly if he were careless enough to get ink anywhere but on his hands and blotting pad — and especially if he got ink on any of her reeds and grasses. If he ended up with much ink on his hands, he'd hear about it from his father.
At the separate outside door to the shop, he bent and moved the outside doorstop, then stepped inside and replaced it. He straightened and carried the two thin strips to Kian.
"Here you are, ser."
Kian set aside his pen once more. His eyes studied the strips. Then he smelled them. Finally, he pressed them against his blotting pad. "Getting there. Not quite, but they'll be ready before we finish off this batch." He looked up at Rahl. "Best get back to copying. Book won't copy itself, Rahl."
"Yes, ser." Rahl slipped back to the smaller copying desk, where he settled himself onto the square woven-reed seat of the stool — backless, unlike the one used by his father.
He opened the original of Tales of the Founders, and his eyes read the next few lines.
... Shierra was in those days the Guard Captain of the Westwind Guards, and her twin blades were near as mighty as those of Creslin and Megaera, and her skill as an instructor in arms was unsurpassed. In less than three years, she and Captain Hyel created the Guards of Recluce, more than five squads, each squad more than a match for five squads of the best blades from any other land ...
Rahl suppressed a snort. Five times as effective? He paused. The original Guards of Recluce had eventually become the Guards of the Council, and his brother Kacet was one of those guards at the garrison at Reflin. More than once Kacet had told him stories of how comparative handfuls of marine guards had boarded pirate vessels and destroyed entire pirate crews. From his own senses, Rahl had known Kacet had not been lying.
His eyes dropped back to the book. Still ... five times as effective? Even against the crimson of Hamor?CHAPTER 2
Only a single oil lamp sat upon the oblong oak table. Spotless and shining as the glass mantel was, or had been, the light in the chamber was dim because the wick barely protruded over the edge of the brass flange of the wick tube.
Kian sat at the head of the table, his back to the kitchen area, with Khorlya to his right, and Rahl across from him.
Rahl took another spoonful of the barley-and-fowl soup. It was really thick enough to be a stew, but he'd learned years before that, no matter how thick it was, if his mother called it a soup, it was a soup. He added a small dollop of the cherry conserve to the chunk of fresh bread on the edge of the platter that held the old ochre soup bowl. He would have preferred dark bread with the soup, but molasses was getting dear again. Or so his mother had said.
So he took another small spoonful of the stew-soup, and then added another dollop of conserve to the bread. He'd learned as a small boy that small dollops were seldom noticed the way heaping spoonfuls were, particularly by his mother. After several more small spoonfuls of the soup, he added a last small portion of conserve to the bread and took a bite.
"Good bread, Mother," he said after chewing his mouthful deliberately. "It's always good. So is the soup."
"We do the best we can. Of course, we might have done better in Nylan." Khorlya glanced at her consort. "They have more coins for decorative work."
Kian ignored the sideways look. "Excellent soup. Couldn't get barley this good down south. Not near Nylan."
"No, but the fowl would be cheaper," countered Khorlya.
"Both Land's End and Nylan are better than Reflin, aren't they?" asked Rahl.
"That's like saying a snug cot and a mansion are better than a hut," replied Khorlya. "Anyway, we're probably better here ... now."
Kian looked up, clearly surprised.
"They say that the black engineers of Nylan are working on a machine that will copy many books at one time," offered Khorlya "They won't need scriveners before long."
"Who are these people who say that?" asked Kian dryly.
"Eldonya. Her brother is a road patroller between Skil and the Black Wall of Nylan."
"How many people have repeated what he said? Skil is seven hundred kays or more from Land's End."
"Kacet says that the engineers are always working on things," Khorlya added.
"That's why they're engineers. But not everything they make is good for everyone. That's why the wall is there and why the Council is here in Land's End. I can't see the Council allowing a machine — even one bound in order — to replace the honest work of a scrivener, and that's if they can even build something that works."
Rahl concealed a smile. His father, as good and solid a scrivener as he was, was order-blind. The order in his life resulted from following the rules and careful habit. Kian couldn't have felt order or chaos if a black mage had arrived and filled the small dwelling with it or if one of the white wizards of Fairhaven had descended on white lightnings from the sky. So far, that had worked to Rahl's advantage. Still, he was careful to avoid any of the black mages. Because Kian was a scrivener, and considered a learned man, Rahl had left school earlier than many others his age — and before he'd begun to realize his small abilities with order. While he doubted he had that much order-ability, he had no desire to call attention to himself.
He had a roof over his head, good food, if plain, and plenty of time before he had to settle down.
"What do you think about Tales of the Founders?" asked Kian. "You're reading it as well as copying it, aren't you?"
"Yes, ser." Rahl paused slightly. He usually did in answering his father's questions, both to give himself a moment to think and to create the impression of thoughtfulness even when he didn't need the time. "I've only read what I've copied, but I don't think the writer is telling the whole story."
"That happened more than five hundred years ago," replied Kian dryly, "and you know that he left something out?"
Rahl laughed easily. "Yes, ser. All stories leave something out. Otherwise, they'd go on forever and say little in too many words. It's like copying a book. You don't tell a customer all the things you do to make the book, from the binding and gluing to the illustrations and embossing, if it has any. You just say that you copied it. Books are like that. They don't tell what people have for every meal —"
"Of course not," snorted Kian. "But that doesn't change things. You're talking about something else. Say what you mean."
Rahl wished he hadn't said so much. Still, he offered a smile. "The story says that Creslin was a master blade, and that he killed scores of Hamorians, but it also says that he was raised in the Legend in Westwind, where no men bear arms. It doesn't say how he became a master blade. You're always telling me that to be good at anything I have to study, and work, and practice. That's got to be true for a master blade, too. But there's nothing about that."
"It's a legend," replied Kian. "They leave things out."
Rahl refrained from pointing out that he had just said that, suppressing his irritation at the fact that his father had ignored what he'd said just a few moments before. His father always ignored what was inconvenient. "It's interesting, though. I'd like to know how he and Megaera ever got together. She was supposed to be all chaos, and he was all order."
"Opposites attract," suggested Khorlya. "That's something you'll need to watch out for when it's time for you to choose a consort. Great attraction beforehand sometimes means greater conflict afterward."
"He's got a consort-to-be, woman, if he'd only look. Shahyla is as good a catch as any young fellow could want. With but her one brother, she'll hold all the upper pastures and half the herds one day. Bradeon's getting grayer and frailer every eightday."
Rahl nodded politely. One way or another, Shahyla was not going to be his consort. She was pleasant enough and not bad-looking, but from what he recalled from when they had been in school together she had the curiosity of a milk cow and the brains of a stone wall.
"That's if Bradeon doesn't take a liking to some other young fellow and his family." Khorlya looked to her son. "You'll be needing to pay her a call on the end-days. I'll bake you a honey cake to take with you. You can't be calling empty-handed."
"Will you make the kind with the almonds?"
"We might be having some left," Khorlya said. "I'll see."
"You're spoiling him," replied Kian.
"It's not for him, remember, dear. It's for Bradeon and Shahyla. Poor man has no consort, and I hear tell that Shahyla's so tied up with the milk cows and the creamery, she's no time to bake properly."
"I suppose it can't hurt." Kian pursed his lips. "Be there enough for a small one for us?"
Khorlya laughed. "I could manage that, I'm sure."
Rahl finished the last of the heavy soup, and then took the last mouthful of bread, the corner with most of the conserve on it. He liked having a bit of sweetness at the end of a meal.
"Might I be excused?" he asked.
"Where are you going?" asked Khorlya.
"It's a pleasant evening. I've been inside all day. I'm going to take a walk. If Sevien's around, we'll play plaques. Otherwise, I won't be late."
"Don't be late at all," suggested Kian. "You need the sleep for a steady hand. I promised that copy by summer. Good copying can't be rushed. Means steady days, every day."
"Let him go, Kian. I recall someone who sneaked back through the shutters more than once."
"Was different then ..." muttered the scrivener.
His son and consort laughed.
Before Kian or Khorlya could say more, Rahl smiled and slipped off the bench and toward the door.
"Not too late!" called Kian.
Outside the house, in the fading twilight, Rahl stopped beside the pump and the cistern. Each house had one fed by pipes from the springs supposedly found or created by the black ordermastery of Creslin hundreds of years before. He washed up carefully, brushed the dust off his brown tunic, and smoothed his hair back in place. Then he checked the truncheon at his belt. With a smile, he walked out to the street and turned southward.
At the next corner, just short of Alamat the weaver's place, he turned left and followed the street to the end, where a small wooden gate stood closed between two waist-high stone walls. Rahl unlatched the gate, entered the orchard, and closed the gate behind him. The pearapple blossoms had mostly fallen onto the sparse grass between the trees, and then faded into a white transparency, but there remained a faint scent, particularly around the trees in the higher and slightly colder southwest corner.
He walked silently down the line of trees toward the small storage barn with its closed and angled doorway that led down to the fruit cellar. To the right was an old wooden bench. Rahl took a rag from his tunic and wiped it off, then sat down.
After a time, he cupped his hands and concentrated, then did his best to imitate the soft call of a rat-owl. "Tuwhoooo ..."
While he waited, he listened, but all he heard were the sounds of insects, and the faint whisper of leaves in the light and intermittent breeze.
Before that long, he could sense a feminine presence slipping away from the house. He stood, but said nothing as Jienela neared. She wore a sleeveless summer tunic and loose trousers, and carried something, a cloak perhaps, although the night was warm for midspring.
He took her hand. "I hoped you'd hear."
"I was afraid you wouldn't come. Father's doing his accounts tonight, and Mother's over at Aunt Denya's. They're working on the consorting quilt for Jaired."
"He's getting consorted?" Rahl couldn't imagine anyone putting up with the hot-tempered Jaired, especially since Jaired wasn't the brightest copper in the wallet.
"It's sort of a secret. With Coerlyne."
"I know, but ... he's been seeing her for a long time, and Father and Mother finally gave in."
Rahl had the feeling that Coerlyne and Jaired might be having an addition to their soon-to-be family somewhat sooner than might ordinarily be the case. "We might as well sit down." He gestured.
"I brought an old blanket. The bench can be hard, and it's dirty."
Rahl took the blanket, folding it twice and laying it on the wood. Then he gestured for Jienela to sit down.
"You always make me feel special."
He settled beside her. "That's not hard. You are."
Carefully, oh so carefully, he brushed her with just a touch of order. Doing that, he'd discovered, not only left the girls with fairer and smoother skin, but also tended to make them more receptive to his caresses.
"Did I tell you that you're beautiful?" Rahl let his fingers caress Jienela's hand, then brushed back her long brown hair, his fingertips barely grazing her long neck.
Her eyes dropped shyly. "You're kind, Rahl, but I'm not beautiful, not like Ermana."
Excerpted from Natural Ordermage by L. E. Modesitt Jr., David G. Hartwell. Copyright © 2007 L. E. Modesitt, Jr.. 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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Tor Books by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.,