*Kirkus' Best Fiction of 2017*
Recluce Tales: Stories from the World of Recluce collects seventeen new short stories and four popular reprints spanning the thousand-year history of Recluce. First-time readers will gain a glimpse of the fascinating world and its complex magic system, while longtime readers of the series will be treated to glimpses into the history of the world.
Modesitt's essay “Behind the ‘Magic’ of Recluce” gives insight into his thoughts on developing the magical system that rules the Island of Recluce and its surrounding lands, while “The Vice Marshal's Trial” takes the reader back to the first colonists on Recluce. Old favorites “Black Ordermage” and “The Stranger” stand side-by-side with thrilling new stories.
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
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Stories from the World of Recluce
By L. E. Modesitt Jr.
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2016 L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
All rights reserved.
Over the years, readers have pleaded with me to write a book about the beginning of Cyador. My editor has pleaded that I not do so. In the spirit of compromise, here is a story about one aspect of the founding of Cyador.
THE VICE MARSHAL'S TRIAL
The gray-haired man walked slowly into the receiving hall, his eyes glancing toward the malachite throne. He shook his head, then turned and retreated through the inconspicuous side door to the small private study. There he seated himself. After a time, he opened the green-sheened, silver-covered book, one of a pair, turning pages until he reached the lines that fit his mood.
Should I recall the Rational Stars?
There I had a tower for the skies,
where the rooms were clear,
and the music filled the walls.
The light clothed the halls,
and the days were long.
The nights were song ...
After a time, he closed the book, stood, and walked to the balcony from where he looked out at the city of shimmering white and brilliant green. How did it all come to this, a strange glory he had never imagined? Another set of lines crept into his thoughts.
We stand in a world we did not know
reaping lives and deaths we did not sow ...
"Except we did ... oh, yes, we did," he murmured, as his thoughts went back through the long years, the years that inspired another verse set in the volume few will ever read.
Worlds change, I'm told,
mirror silver to heavy gold,
and the new becomes the old,
with the way the story's told.
But who else would know the way the story actually happened? His thoughts went back ... across the years.
Vice Marshal Kiedral Daloren walked through the air that felt as though it steamed around him, under a green-blue sky and a white sun that could not coexist under any astrophysics he had ever studied. The crisp color of the sky created a contrast with the rich air that seemed equally improbable, but then everything that had happened since translation had been either impossible or improbable. Even before he stepped fully inside the plastfoam dome that served as the operations center of Colonization Force Five, a comm-tech called out to him.
"Ser! There's still no word from the eastern terraforming team. Marshal Keif wants to know what you're going to do about it."
Of course he does, not that he understands much about this world. Then, none of them did, least of all Keif, whom most of the senior officers called "the emperor" behind his back.
Kiedral didn't hide his frown. He'd been the one who'd insisted on sending the team so far. If they didn't reach out, then they'd just huddle around one small settlement, and history had shown that didn't work on colony worlds. Were you too ambitious in ordering them to cut back that odd forest for pastures, cropland, and a river port? He stopped short of the crude wooden table that served as his desk. "How long since we've heard?"
"The regular report at sixteen hundred yesterday, ser. There wasn't a morning report. They don't answer their comm. There's not even an indication of a carrier."
"Half the time, the damned things don't work anyway, especially there." Not that anything works the way it should — except for the fusactors that this world that shouldn't exist has transformed into what resemble mirror towers. How simple digital commsets carried more static than meaning while the output of the mirror towers was staggering was beyond him — and beyond the ken of the engineers. The "emperor" didn't even acknowledge any of that, either.
"Do you want us to send the flitter?"
"Not yet. Not until we can figure out how to repower it." Nothing was working the way it should, and most of the powered equipment was failing, except for the dozers, and that was because they were truly low-tech, simple enhanced-ethanol-powered earthmovers, with converters that could turn almost anything organic into fuel. The idea had been to leave them with the colonists. Except that the colony ships in orbit weren't going anywhere, their drives and translators fused to slag in the freak translation that had brought them to this misbegotten world where the summers were near unbearable, instead of in a system guarded by the deep space towers of the Unity. At that thought, Kiedral blotted his forehead.
"What do you want us to do?" asked Subcommander Kharl, young for his rank.
Aren't we all? But that was what happened in a war that lasted generations, especially against the Sybrans and their damned United Faith Alliance, although he had to admire their ability. What he didn't understand was how a culture like that of the Sybrans that was based almost totally on personal combat and weapons skills had a workable economic system. And they have the nerve to call themselves "angels."
"I'll take one of the groundscouts out there myself with a half squad of combat techs ... and the best comm unit we have left." The groundscouts were rechargeable lightly armored personnel carriers, not designed for combat, but certainly well-enough protected against local fauna, especially with a top-turret gunner able to direct osmiridium expanding shells in a complete circle around the vehicle. The other advantage of the groundscout was that, under the apparently freakish laws of physics or nature that applied on the planet, they held their charges a good ten times longer than they should have.
One of the few areas where local conditions are working for us.
"Ser, that's three days close to nonstop. Maybe more if there are problems with the road."
"I know, but I think it's time for an on-site inspection." Besides which, it will be easier than waiting here without comm while Keif breathes down my neck. "I haven't been out there, and I need to see what the problems are. Besides, everything here is going as well as it can, and Commander A'Kien is perfectly able to do anything I could do. "And it won't hurt to get away from sewers, water lines, reviewing decisions on what gets built where by whom ... all of it, especially arguing with Keif.He almost laughed. A'Kien thought that what Kiedral did was so easy. Let him see for himself, especially with all the useless micromanaging from Keif. "I'll leave a delegation order for him. And a message for the marshal telling him that I'm personally inspecting. How soon can we leave?"
"I'll have the groundscout and combat techs ready in half an hour, ser. Will you need to get your gear?"
"I've got a kit bag here."
"Yes, ser. I'll let you know."
Kiedral nodded and settled behind the table, picking up the tablet that displayed the latest status reports on the various building projects, nodding as he noted that all the initial sewer mains had been laid and that the biotechs were seeding the modified water lilies and adapted biosphere to deal with wastes before releasing them into the river over the stone sluices designed to give the water a last dose of sunlight.
The bay formed a naturally protected harbor, and the land to the north and east of the river was on solid bedrock that sloped gradually uphill in a way that would allow expansion over the years as the city, and the colony, grew. The same bedrock underlay the land on the west side of the river, but a bridge across it could wait.
At present, while a street system had been laid out, all of the colonists remained in the temporary plastfoam barracks, although most of them had opted to build their own quarters on streets that, except for the buried waste collection and water systems, were still little more than packed dirt and clay tracks. They were allowed to sign out equipment on a rotating basis, and some dwellings actually had stone walls that were close to chest-high, although the engineers were using the fusactor-powered lasers most of the time to cut stone in order to shelter the fusactors from the weather, creating what looked like white stone towers.
Kiedral had to admit that the stone, something like a cross between alabaster and limestone, except harder, made not only an excellent building material, but an attractive one as well, and there was certainly plenty of it in the hills to the east of the harbor.
He frowned as he studied the second report on the tablet, the last one from the eastern terraforming team. The team had crossed the hills to the east and was reshaping the land bordering the road into gentler contours, as much as they could with the earthdozers, and cutting back the strange forest. They reported the loss of one laser-tech, who had been killed by a creature that was black like an extinct Terran panther, but larger than either the equally extinct tiger or a lion.
What sort of biosphere supports a predator that large? What does it prey on? He used his light stylus to note the question, but he had to concentrate on doing so, as if the device did not want to work unless he was focused on it. Something else to go wrong.
With all the reports and details, as well as the message to the marshal, with whom he avoided talking any more than absolutely necessary, it only seemed a few minutes before Subcommander Kharl announced, "Ser, the groundscout is here."
"Good." Kiedral flicked his index finger over the tablet, putting it on standby, then stood, pulled the kit bag from under the table, and hurried out of the dome. There was little sense in taking the tablet. The netlink barely covered the area planned for the town that he hoped would one day be a city.
Standing outside the dome, he studied the combat techs as they filed into the rear of the groundscout, six men and a woman. The woman had brilliant red hair, if cut short, a particular shade that had appeared after the strange ship translation among a handful of officers, crew, and even colonists. There was something about her ...
As if she had sensed his eyes on her, she turned and looked at him, if but for an instant, far too short a period for such a look to be termed either unprofessional or disrespectful, yet Kiedral had the feeling that he'd been assessed and weighed in some fashion.
Ridiculous! She barely passed her eyes over you. But that bothered him slightly, too, he had to admit. After all, he was second in command of the colonization force, and the actual force behind most of what had been accomplished.
At Kharl's voice, Kiedral turned. "Yes."
Kharl handed him a slip of paper, only a slip, since paper was getting scarce. "Those are the techs and the driver."
"Thank you." Kiedral smiled, glad that the subcommander had covered for him. Kharl knew that Kiedral made a habit of addressing subordinates by name.
He slipped into the seat beside the driver, also a combat tech, and closed the hatch, immediately lowering the glastic window because of the heat built up inside the groundscout. Given the distance they had to cover, using the cooling system was out.
"The techs are loaded, ser," said the driver.
"Take the way along the main east-west avenue." Kiedral wanted to see how work was progressing on the main power complex. He'd feel happier, he knew, once the fusactors were all shielded in stone. No matter what the engineers said about altered anomalous-metal containment, anything that had once been transformed could be altered again — and much already had been a second time by the freak translation.
"Yes, ser." The driver turned the groundscout back toward the center of what would soon be, Kiedral was convinced, a well-planned and thriving town from which the colonists could extend their efforts to convert a wilderness into a thriving nation capable of adding its capabilities to the rest of the Unity.
Kiedral scanned the roster.
Thaeron, Tech2, squad leader
Fhostah, Tech3, driver
Alphabetical, except for the squad leader, and not by rank, but easier to recall that way. Kiedral suspected that Tech Ryaelth was the woman, but he'd find out sooner or later. He eased the slip into his summer uniform coveralls, which, light as they were, still felt far too warm most of the time.
As the groundscout moved onto the avenue — the only thoroughfare paved from one end to the other thus far — Kiedral's eyes moved from the largely completed stone walls of what would be the operations and administrative center to the plaza some hundred meters seaward from the building. The plaza was so far merely a paved circular space, with a smaller raised circular paved area in the center. The groundscout was, of course, the only vehicle on the avenue as it circled the plaza and then continued eastward.
Kiedral had insisted on having the center plaza paved, with the beginning of all the avenues and boulevards started in stone, to give the colonists the immediate idea that the dirt streets were only temporary necessities to lead to the fields beyond the staked boundaries of the township, and that before long the remaining main thoroughfares, at least, would be paved in that tough white stone that held the faintest tinge of green.
A half kay east of the plaza rose the stoneworks surrounding the fusactors, all looking shorter than they were, because Kiedral had insisted that the ground be cleared down to bare rock, and the rock fused solid. He nodded. To the eye the stonework looked finished, although he knew it was still a few weeks from completion. If nothing else goes wrong ... which it will.
When the groundscout reached the edge of the cultivated fields, Kiedral could hear the squad leader's voice from the aft compartment. "Zhalert, you got the turret for the first shift."
That meant Zhalert was likely the least accomplished gunner.
Kiedral looked eastward along the road ahead, if "road" happened to be the right word, since it had been cut, roughed out, and packed down by the dozers sent east to terraform some of the land and begin the layout of what would be a river port town. The trees and vegetation cut along the way had been rendered down into biomass to fuel the dozers.
The other senior officers had been aghast at Kiedral's insistence on creating two highways, each more than six hundred kays long, one to reach another port city location and the other to reach a point in the middle of an endless forest. Although the northern road that the groundscout followed, the one to the middle of the forest, was less than a highway and more than a packed track, it was largely straight and level, and capable of bearing significant weight and resisting even torrential downpours. In time, Kiedral was determined, it would also be stone-paved.
Cultures with good roads survive.
Slightly after midday, when the indicators read that the groundscout had covered a hundred kays, Kiedral studied the terrain outside, still a mixture of hilly ground and scattered trees, almost like the hilly savanna of Afrique, although it would not be long before they entered the odd forest that covered most of the area west of the mid-continent mountains and south of the grassy hills that bordered on being desert. He turned to the driver. "Time to pull over and stretch, Fhostah."
The golden-haired and pale driver nodded. "Yes, ser."
Even as the groundcar eased onto the shoulder of the crude road, Kiedral found himself smiling. There was no need to leave the road. They were the only ones on it and would be for the entire trip. Old habits die hard.
Before he stepped from the groundscout, Kiedral lifted the portable comm unit from the holder between his seat and the driver's and thumbed it on. "Main base, Star One, comm check."
"Star One. Clear and strong."
"Main base. Good signal this time. Out."
Kiedral slipped the portable comm unit back into the holder, then opened the door and stepped out. His left hand brushed the holstered slug-thrower at his waist, which was turning out to be far more reliable than many of the standard Anglorian energy weapons. But then, half of them don't work the way they're supposed to ... and none of the armorers can say why.
The air wasn't nearly so damp as at the main base, but it wasn't nearly as dry as the hilly grasslands led him to believe. He watched as the techs stepped out of the groundcar, all seven of them wary, their eyes rapidly surveying the terrain as they moved. The last to emerge was Zhalert, the tech4 who had manned the turret.
Six of the techs spread out, moving away from him and the groundscout. Kiedral and Squad Leader Thaeron waited as they swept the area, not that Kiedral thought they'd find anything inimical so close to the colony. Except you never know.
The red-haired combat tech — one of the comparatively few women in such a capacity in the Unity forces — was the last to return, slipping back from the area to the north of the groundcar with graceful movements. She turned to Thaeron. "All clear to the north, Squad Leader."
"Nothing moving there, Tech Ryaelth?"
"No, Squad Leader." The hint of a smile quirked her lips, suggesting something.
Her expression intrigued Kiedral, but she said nothing more as the other techs reported, and as Thaeron turned to the vice marshal. "Area appears clear, ser."
"Thank you, Squad Leader." Kiedral nodded, then walked some thirty meters up a small rise to get what he hoped would be a better view of the land to the north and east. Ryaelth and another tech — Gorran, since he was the other tech3 — flanked him.
Excerpted from Recluce Tales by L. E. Modesitt Jr.. Copyright © 2016 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.
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Table of ContentsBehind the “Magic” of Recluce
The Vice Marshal’s Trial
The Forest Girl
The Most Successful Merchant
Songs Past, Songs for Those to Come
Sisters of Sarronnyn; Sisters of Westwind
ArtisanFour Portraits and a Miniature
Brass and Lacquer
Ice and Fire
A Game of Capture
The Assistant Envoy’s Problem
The Price of Perfect Order