Peril's Gate (Book Excerpt)
by Janny Wurts
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Two hundred twenty-five leagues west of Jaelot as the crow
flew, the Fellowship Sorcerer who served Athera as Althain's Warden lay
stricken in his tower chamber. Stilled on his cot, tucked under the moth-frayed
wool of the blankets he was always too harried to air, Sethvir lay like a wax
effigy. His slack hands stayed crossed, his pixie-boned frame unmoved since the
hour his colleague, Asandir, had laid him in repose before his pressured
departure. Overtaken by crisis without precedent, Sethvir languished, his mind
savaged by bursts of mental imagery, torn without order from the fragmented
stream of his tie to the wounded earth.
While the magnetic lanes of the planet were skewed, the
broadranging gift the departed Paravians had bestowed upon Althain's Warden
remained whipped by the roiled flux. His earth-sense stayed deranged, a
wildfire that raged and burned like loose rope snapped through his slackened
grasp. Sethvir wrestled through sick, spinning senses to snatch the barrage of
images back into cohesion.
Fleeting bursts showed him glimpses of Jaelot's armed
guardsmen, riding head down against rising storm; in close haloes of
candlelight, he saw Koriani seniors in purple robes and red-banded sleeves
gathered in deep consultation. Lately given the news of the late Prime's
succession, they would not yet know that Morriel's plot had upset the lane
forces, a move aimed to cripple Fellowship resources and drive the first wedge
through the compact.
Caught at the crux, while damaged wardspells came unraveled
across Mirthlvain Swamp, and packs of venomous methspawn stirred in their
roiling thousands, Sethvir fretted behind his sealed eyelids. Predatory fish
and venomed serpents might prey upon innocent lives; yet worse perils
threatened. The most troubling could not be seen or touched, but lurked beyond
the airless void that hung between distant stars.
Racked by sharp worry, Sethvir forced his innermind through a
swift survey of the barrier ward raised to warn against an invasion of free
wraiths from the dead planet of Marak. Left unguarded, the grand interstices of
the construct glowed soft blue in quiescence. Yet the calm bought him no
reassurance. Sethvir had no source for his gnawing concern. The circling fear
chafed him that the more evolved body of the Mistwraith left cut off beyond
Southgate might move in and prey on the vulnerable world while Fellowship
resources were engaged elsewhere.
Since Morriel Prime's insidious machinations to mask her
irregular succession, his Warden's perception had been whirled like a moth in a
downdraft amid the spiraling disarray of the lane flux. Sethvir did not
dissociate from the event, though he could have; too many guardian ward rings
stood vulnerable to the effects of a magnetic imbalance. The most dangerous of
these he held bound in check by direct, personal intervention. The drain of
such effort bled his faculties without mercy, until tactile awareness of his
body thinned to cobwebs. Moment to moment, he existed as a spark of naked will
adrift on a scattered stream of imagery.
If a colleague now stood in support at his bedside, Sethvir
held only the vague recognition that he was no longer alone. Words whirled
between the smashed links of identity, the sound of struck consonants like
flurried sparks whose meaning touched him in snatches.
"... no, he's not sleeping, but drawn inward." The gusty,
lecturing tone was Luhaine's, the discorporate colleague first to arrive when
disaster broke the past evening. "His sighted vision made him the only one
of our Fellowship with the resource at hand to map the full scope of the damage
on the hour the lanes went unstable."
Again, Luhaine qualified with a stone's endless patience.
"Yes, the lanes are retuned, now, except for the sixth, which sustains a
remedial spell to guide it back to alignment. Since that stay should suffice,
Sethvir's engaged elsewhere. He's bridging the seals that keep critical wards
from unraveling. . ."
Copyright© 2002, HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. This excerpt has been provided by HarperCollins and printed with their permission.