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Faery Lands Forlorn [A Man of His Word #2]
by Dave Duncan

Category: Fantasy
Description: A princess and a stableboy? It sounds like the worst sort of hackneyed formula romance. Think again, for "A Man of His Word" may well be the most original fantasy you ever read. The magic is unique and applied in unexpected ways, some of which the late Lester del Rey admitted he had not met in fifty years as writer and editor. The world itself is unique--there are no humans in Pandemia, only imps, elves, gnomes, jotnar, and many more, all of whom you will recognize as "human". When Inos was abducted through the magic casement and Rap tried to follow her, they arrived in places very strange--and very far apart...
eBook Publisher: E-Reads, 2005
eBookwise Release Date: June 2005

eBookeBook

96 Reader Ratings:
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Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [585 KB]
Words: 128356
Reading time: 366-513 min.


ONE

Behind the veil

1

Eastward from the bare crags of the Agoniste Mountains, the land fell off in scabby ridges and gullies, sere and drab. Rare oases like green wounds pitted the valleys, but otherwise that desolate country was fit only for antelope and wild goats, watched over by buzzards drifting in the thin blue sky. Below the hills, a roasted desert stretched away to meet the surf of the Spring Sea.

In the main, the ironbound coast of Zark was as deadly and inhospitable as the interior. Yet, at long intervals where some trick of the landscape caught the nourishing sea wind or cool springs gushed from the rocks, life erupted in abundance. There the soil yielded crops of uncountable variety. The people dwelt there, on islands encircled half by ocean and half by desert. Whereas in other lands the earth spread its generosity widely, in Zark it hoarded all its goodness into these few green enclaves, like rich emeralds knotted on a string.

Richest of them all was Arakkaran, a narrow land blessed with twisting valleys of deep soil and legendary fertility. Its wide bay was the finest harbor on the continent. Many trade routes met in its markets, depositing wealth there in heaps to be fondled by the soft-fingered merchants: dates and pomegranates, rubies and olives, costly vials of perfume, intricate rugs, and the silver fish of the sea. From distant lands came gold and spices, elvish arts and dwarvish crafts, pearls and silks, and merfolk pottery unequaled in all Pandemia.

The city itself was beautiful and ancient. It was noted for its cruelty, and for fine racing camels. It boasted of a history written in blood. Near the close of Ji-Gon's Campaign, the young Draqu ak'Dranu had turned back the Imperial legions at Arakkaran, and there they won their revenge nine centuries later under Omerki the Merciless. During the Widow War, the city had withstood a siege of a thousand and one days.

From the loud and overscented bustle of the markets, it climbed by slope and precipice, in a tapestry of nacreous stone and flowering greenery. Trees had wedged in every unused crevice, hanging welcome shadow over steep alleyways and winding stairs. On the crest of the hill, celebrated in many ancient stories, the Palace of Palms was a marvel of domes and spires and towers, graced with lush parks and exotic gardens, as widespread in itself as many a respected town.

Throughout recorded history, a sultan of Arakkaran had ruled in that palace. There had been many sultans; their names and deeds were uncountable as the shells of the beaches. Some had held sway over half of Zark, while others had barely controlled the docks. A few were celebrated for justice and wisdom; many had been despots of a savagery to make the Gods recoil. No single family had ever dominated for long, no dynasty prevailed; old age had rarely troubled them.

Whatever he had been--warrior or statesman, tyrant or scholar, poet or giver of laws--every sultan of Arakkaran had invariably been renowned for his ferocity and for the number and beauty of his women.


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