The Spellsong War, the second book in New York Times bestselling author L. E. Modesitt, Jr.'s epic fantasy series the Spellsong Cycle about a singer and music instructor at Iowa State University who gets far more than she expected when she is magically transported to the world of Erde.
Anna Marshal is regent of the kingdom of Defalk only a few months after a sorcerer pulled her from her boring life as a music instructor. Her power and abilities saved Defalk from invasion, and now she must defend it against the greedy rulers of neighboring kingdoms who see an opportunity.
The Spellsong Cycle
The Soprano Sorceress
The Spellsong War
The Shadow Sorceress
Other series by this author:
The Imager Portfolio
The Saga of Recluce
The Corean Chronicles
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
The Spellsong War
Book Two of the Spellsong Cycle
By L. E. Modesitt Jr., David G. Hartwell
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 1998 L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
All rights reserved.
The heavy gong sounds, and the two women in the uniform of the Council turn and open the lacquered double doors, each bearing the ancient symbol of the Council of Wei. Each wears twin black-lacquered scabbards at her hips, and the scabbards contain the infamous short swords of the Nordan Guard.
Ashtaar moistens her lips and steps through the doors, then down the black carpet toward the dais.
The black-lacquered Council table is also ancient, and behind it sit seven figures. The woman in the center wears a silver-and-black seal on a heavy silver chain. Her dark eyes hold Ashtaar as the spymistress walks down the dark green carpet toward the space below the dais holding the table.
"The mist-world sorceress now holds Defalk. The Council has read your report, and would like to inquire further."
"Yes, Ancient One." Ashtaar bows.
"Please summarize the major events that led to the current state of affairs. Briefly."
"A travel sorceress and a player summoned the lady Anna from the mist worlds. Both are dead now. The sorcerer Brill spirited her away and tutored her in the ways of both Darksong and Clearsong. The Dark Ones tried to kill her and failed. She supported Lord Barjim against the Ebrans at the Sand Pass. Barjim and Brill were killed, and she collapsed, but not before she destroyed two-thirds of the invaders. She somehow found her way south and recovered in Synope, in the lands of Lord Hryding. Lord Behlem of Neserea then marched into Defalk and took Falcor, but not before Lord Jecks rescued the heir, his grandson Lord Jimbob. Lord Behlem offered his support to the sorceress, and she accepted it and went to Falcor. The Dark Ones gathered another army and marched toward Falcor. The sorceress used water magic and song to destroy the entire Ebran army and all the darksingers in Defalk. The Evult responded by flooding the Fal and destroying half of Falcor. Lord Behlem attempted to remove the lady Anna, and she used her sorcery to kill him and his consort and enlist the support of many of the Neserean troops in Falcor. Then she proclaimed a regency for young Jimbob. Shortly, almost at the dawn of winter, she marched a small force through the Ostfels and used her sorcery to destroy the Evult, the city of Vult, and most of Synek. She almost died, but the lords of Defalk, especially Lord Jecks, rallied behind her. So did the people. She has a reputation for being good and fair, and vindictively just." Ashtaar bows once more.
"The rains now fall on Defalk, do they not?" asks the red-haired woman to the left of the Council leader.
"Yes. The sorceress removed the chains on the clouds when she destroyed the Evult."
"Will the sorceress attempt to rule directly and put young Jimbob out of the way?" asks the dark-haired Council leader.
"That does not appear likely. She can have no children and has, in effect, adopted the boy."
"And Lord Jecks has not objected?"
"He publicly supports the sorceress. As do the lords Birfels, Nelmor, Hryding, Geansor, Clethner, and the lady Gatrune, and the Rider of Heinene. There are doubtless others, and none of the thirty-three have raised voice or hand against her."
"With her powers, I doubt any of sound mind would do so," suggests the Council leader. "Are there any whispers of discontent?"
"Almost none that we have been able to track. She holds but one hostage, and that is Wendella, the consort of Lord Dencer of Stromwer. Dencer is rumored to be less than happy."
"None that we know or can scry."
"What of Ebra?"
"The land has been flattened, mostly by the floods she unleashed down the river Elha, and Vult lies buried under the fire peak the Ebrans are calling Zauberinfeuer. Hadrenn has claimed the ruins of Synek. He is the one of the sons of an ancient lord, and several pretenders are struggling over Elawha. A lord named Bertmynn is raising armsmen in Dolov. He wishes to be lord of all Ebra." Ashtaar waits.
"We have received a scroll from the Liedfuhr. He protests our interference in Defalk. He also informs us that young Rabyn is the Lord of Neserea and under his protection and regency. What beyond that do you know?" The dark-haired Council leader smiles faintly.
"He has dispatched fiftyscore lancers to Neserea. They were delayed by the snows in the Mittpass, but travel the south road through the Great Western Forest."
"Spymistress of Nordwei ... is it fair to say that a year ago we faced possible threats from the Prophet of Music and the Dark Ones, and both have been destroyed?"
"Yes, Leader Tybra."
"Is it also fair to say that you chose not to remove the soprano sorceress?" asks Tybra.
"I waited to see whether the Dark Ones and the Prophet were successful in their attempts. The Dark Ones failed in four attempts. The Prophet and his consort failed as well. We have been able to trace at least two attempts by Neserea." Ashtaar inclines her head. "I thought it best not to turn the sorceress's wrath against Nordwei."
"So ... now we have a strong and united Defalk on our southern borders, and this is your doing?"
"We have a united Defalk, ruled by a woman for the first time in recorded history, and a Defalk that will take a decade or longer to recover from the drought and depredations of the Dark Ones and the Nesereans."
"That is what you say. For now ... for now, we shall see. You may go, but do not hesitate to inform the Council should this sorceress take any action that could possibly affect Nordwei."
"Yes, leader Tybra." Ashtaar bows a last time, then turns. She does not wipe the dampness from her forehead.CHAPTER 2
Through the scarcely cracked high window behind her, Anna could hear the half-frozen rain clattering on the stones of the liedburg. The entire keep felt damp, and even the small fire in her receiving room and de facto office wasn't enough to remove the dampness. She needed the slight draft from the window to keep from being suffocated from the fireplace, which drew poorly with small fires.
Sorceress, Regent of Defalk, Protector of the Heir, not to mention being Lady of Loiseau, and she had to worry about firewood. She hadn't thought about firewood being a problem — but nearly a decade of drought had wrought enormous damage on the once-wide forests of Defalk.
Then, there was so much that she'd never thought she'd have to consider. She'd been trained to be a professional opera singer, and fallen back on university teaching with the demands of Avery's career. Later when he'd left her and the children for his slim blonde young thing, the teaching, and several additional part-time jobs, had become necessities. Anna laughed softly to herself. She was slimmer and younger looking than Paulina now, and A very — the self-styled Antonio, king of the comprimarios — would never know. Neither would Mario and Elizabetta. Irenia ... Anna's eyes misted. Her oldest daughter's death had been the catalyst that had left Anna open to poor Jenny's and Daffyd's spellsong — that had brought her Liedwahr — and all the rest had followed, like dominoes falling, until she had become regent of a ravaged land. And she'd done little enough, with the press of the Regency, with the lands bestowed on her — Loiseau — because Brill had left no heirs. She'd granted the present tenants the right to remain, but she needed to do something about a more permanent arrangement. That meant traveling to Mencha, and she didn't have ten days to spare, not counting the time she'd need at Loiseau.
Anna sighed. She stood, pushed back the chair from the worktable, and moved toward the center of the room, her eyes shifting toward the high-backed gilt chair on the dais, the chair she avoided using whenever possible. After a moment she turned, stepped away from the side of the dais, and walked to the single window at the back of the receiving room, where the base of the sill was nearly chest-high. Once again, the dimness reminded her that she'd planned to rearrange the liedburg, perhaps put the receiving/conference area somewhere with more ventilation and light.
She sighed — another item low on her long, long list. Before long, she would need to use some of that sorcery to replace the bridge over the Falche, one of the casualties of the war with Ebra when the late Evult had melted all the snow off the northern Ostfels and sent a flood careening down the Fal River and into the Falche with enough force to rip out all the bridges and denude the banks for two hundred and fifty deks. Roughly, a hundred and fifty earth miles, she translated mentally, rubbing her forehead. She still had trouble thinking in rods, furls, deks, and leagues. There weren't any feet, and yards were still basically yards, and the units above were decimal-based, but she'd never been that good in mental arithmetic.
"Lady Anna?" Giellum knocked on the heavy door even as he peered inside. "Counselor Menares to see you. And your midafternoon repast." The young guard set the platter on the only open space on the table before straightening.
"Send him in." She headed from the window back to the worktable.
The heavyset and gray Menares stopped short of Anna and the table, and bowed, extending the scroll. "This arrived by messenger, Lady Anna."
"Lord Arkad of Cheor, I believe."
Anna looked at the plate heaped with bread and cheese before her on the round oak table that served as work-time eating place, desk, and conference table, then at the sealed scroll.
She didn't want to eat any more, and she certainly didn't want to read the latest scroll from Lord Arkad — or his scribe. But she had to eat, because of the energy demands of sorcery, or she'd literally wither away into anorexia or the local equivalent. She also had to read the scroll because Arkad was one of the thirty-three lords of Defalk. From what she recalled, he was also one of the handful who still hadn't paid his liedgeld to the Regency, nearly a season past the end of harvest when it was due.
"Sit down, Menares." She took the scroll, then motioned to the chair across from the one where she sat. After a long look at the platter, she took a swallow of water and a mouthful of bread and cheese, and a second, forcing herself to eat, still fighting a lifetime of habit that equated any healthy amount of eating with gluttony.
Menares shifted his weight on the chair, but said nothing.
Anna broke the seal and began to read to herself.
Arkad has always supported the rightful rulers of Defalk, and certainly recognizes the legitimacy of the late and great Lord Barjim, and of his son Jimbob. As we have expressed earlier, while Lord Jecks and other respected lords of Defalk have reluctantly endorsed the expediency of a prolonged Regency, as did we, our initial concerns about the continuity of such an arrangement remain, especially about the use of the liedgeld. As a loyal lord, we are deeply concerned that such funds, which have been sweated from the very soil, be employed in support of Defalk's long and glorious tradition. We ask your assurance and your pledge as regent that such funds be used as traditionally required. We look forward to your response, and to your continued efforts on behalf of Lord Jimbob. ...
Arkad hadn't signed the missive, but concluded with a sealmark and his name printed beside it.
Anna snorted. Lord Arkad of Cheor was getting to be an even bigger pain, with his missives and not-so-subtle hints that a male Regency or ruler was to be preferred and trusted, not to mention his use of the royal we. She had to put an end to such garbage, preferably without putting an end to the writer. She couldn't ensorcel or flame every chauvinistic lord in Defalk — not and have much of a kingdom left for Jimbob to inherit.
"Lord Jecks, Lady Anna," announced Skent, the dark-haired page, from the door.
"You may go, Menares. Lord Arkad has found another excuse to delay paying his liedgeld. You might think of the possible actions open to a disgusted regent."
The white-haired counselor, rose and bowed. "As you wish, Lady Anna."
"Have Lord Jecks come in." Anna took another mouthful of bread and cheese, then stood.
"Lady Anna." Jecks inclined his head.
Jecks still reminded her of a young-faced and white-haired Robert Mitchum with the smile of a Sean Connery. Despite his white hair, and a muscular frame somewhat stockier than the movie stars he resembled, his hazel eyes were clear and intelligent. Although he looked Older than Anna, she suspected that in actual years, the long-widowed lord was probably even younger than she was. Certainly, the clean-shaven Jecks remained the most attractive man she'd met in the year she'd been in Defalk. He was also one of the few lords respected near-universally by both his peers and the armsmen and workers of Defalk.
Then, part of that was the sorry state of Defalk. Jecks was widely respected by the common people not only for his fairness and honesty, but also for not taking his pleasure with every comely young maid on his lands, and instead providing them with a modest dowry. What a place, where women were usually chattels. Careful, Anna reminded herself, it hasn't been that long since all of earth was that way, and a lot of it still is.
"Please sit down. I need to eat. Again." After another sip of water previously orderspelled and a mouthful of bread and cheese, she added, "You had something to say. Please go ahead."
Jecks eased into the chair across the table from Anna. "Lord Birfels sent me a message."
"Yes." Anna wanted to scream. Birfels had supported her, but he much preferred to work through Jecks — or any man. "What is his difficulty?"
"Besides his reluctant acceptance of the present situation?" Jecks offered a wry smile. "He noted that the return of the rains offers the first opportunity in many years for the planting of all his fields. He also noted that seed grain is scarce."
Anna nodded, waiting for the shoe, or boot, to fall.
"The only source of such seed grain is the Ranuan factors in Sudwei or Ranwa, and they are hesitant to extend credit to Defalkan lords, especially when the Regency itself has not completed repaying those funds borrowed by the former lord."
"And I suppose Lord Birfels lacks sufficient golds to purchase the seed outright?"
"He did not write of that, but, as you know, the past years have been hard. Were I in his situation, even I would be pressed ..."
"Except you're more prudent than most and saved the necessary seed grain?" asked Anna, glancing toward the closed door to the receiving room.
"It was not easy, but Herstat and Dythya also insisted." Jecks grinned. "Herstat has been my saalmeister for many years, and when they insist, a lord should listen."
"That's why you let me borrow Dythya to get the liedstadt and liedburg accounts in order?"
"I do not feel quite so outnumbered now — at home. Here ..." As he smiled, Jecks' eyes went to the closed door of the receiving room, almost as though he were nervous about being alone with the regent.
Nervous? Why was every man in Defalk nervous to be around her? When she had appeared on Erde, and especially after Brill's death spell had turned her permanently young-looking, they'd all been leering, except Jecks, but he'd been interested, just more restrained.
Now ... once she'd demonstrated some power, and ability to rule, the leering and interest had vanished. Of course, using spells to burn up a dozen or so assassins and plotters didn't exactly help your sex appeal.
"I take it that this seed grain would be a problem for most lords in Defalk?" she finally asked, ignoring Jecks' glance past her.
"Many," admitted Jecks. "Especially those in the south. Ranuak is close, and they have relied on the grain dealers there for generations."
"How can I repay the Ranuans when I can't even get the lords of Defalk to pay liedgeld?" She extended the scroll from Arkad to the white-haired lord. "Please read this."
Jecks read slowly, then looked at Anna.
"What am I supposed to do with this Arkad of Cheor? Is it because he has no money?"
"That I would doubt. His lands, many of them, hold the bottomland between the Falche and the Synor. They are among the richest in Defalk, and there is water."
Another penny-pinching, chauvinistic self-centered prig! Or a troublemaker. "Was he like this before, or is he really upset about a female regent?"
"He was a problem to Barjim, I believe."
"He's getting to be more of a problem to me, and that's not going to help Jimbob any."
"If it should come to that, Jimbob will have fewer problems.
Arkad's sons died without issue, and he had no daughters, only a niece."
"So ... the lands will revert to Jimbob?"
Jecks frowned. "No. Should Arkad die without issue, as is now the case, you or Jimbob could bestow the lands to someone ..."
"More supportive?" asked Anna. "What about the niece — or her consort?"
"She might have a slight claim."
"But the other thirty-two would welcome another man?"
Jecks shrugged. "They will await your action."
This chauvinism ... can you ever make things better? "In short ... like everything else around here ... it's my problem." Anna forced another wedge of cheese and some bread into her mouth and chewed slowly.
Excerpted from The Spellsong War by L. E. Modesitt Jr., David G. Hartwell. Copyright © 1998 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
III Thema Und Variante,
Tor Books by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.,