- Author: Fred Saberhagen
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The Fourth Book Of Lost Swords
The Fourth Book of Lost Swords : Farslayer’s Story Copyright (c) 1989 by Fred Saberhagen
Cover Art : Harry O. Morris
This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to real people or events is purely coincidental.
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof, in any form.
Please purchase only authorized electronic editions.
Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.
Tor paper edition: ISBN: 0-812-55284-9
JSS Literary Productions
The Ardneh Sequence
Empire of the East series
The Broken Lands
The Black Mountains
Changeling Earth /Ardneh's World
( three titles also published in a heavily-revised omnibus form as Empire of the East)
The Book of Swords
The First Book of Swords
The Second Book of Swords
The Third Book of Swords
The Book of Lost Swords
The First Book of Lost Swords: Woundhealer's Story
The Second Book of Lost Swords: Sightblinder's Story
The Third Book of Lost Swords: Stonecutter's Story
The Fourth Book of Lost Swords: Farslayer's Story
The Fifth Book of Lost Swords: Coinspinner's Story
The Sixth Book of Lost Swords: Mindsword's Story
The Seventh Book of Lost Swords: Wayfinder's Story
The Last Book of Lost Swords: Shieldbreaker's Story
(original invitational anthology edited by Fred Saberhagen)
An Armory of Swords
Blind Man's Blade. . . . . Fred Saberhagen
Woundhealer. . . . . Walter Jon Williams
Fealty. . . . . Gene Bostwick
Dragon Debt. . . . . Robert E. Vardeman
The Sword of Aren-Nath. . . . . Thomas Saberhagen
Glad Yule. . . . . Pati Nagle
Luck of the Draw. . . . .Michael A. Stackpole
Stealth and the Lady. . . . . Sage Walker
In the middle of the day the black-haired mermaid was drifting carelessly in a summery river, letting herself be carried slowly through the first calm pool in the Tungri below the thunder of the cataract. It was a pool that was almost big enough to be called a lake, surrounded by the greenery and bitter memories of the shores.
Her name was Black Pearl, and she had been a mermaid now for something like six years, even though she had been born with two good legs and no tail at all, into a family of fisherfolk seemingly as far removed as anyone could be from magic.
Black Pearl’s pale face, now framed by the water, held an expression of intent listening, as if she might be trying to read some information from the open sky. Her black hair swirled in the water around her head, her small breasts poked above the surface. Drifting immobile now, holding her tail perfectly still, she was allowing the current to carry her out of the broad pool which was almost a lake, on a course that would take her between the two islands that were the most prominent features of this portion of the river.
To judge by the expression on Black Pearl’s face, if the sky was indeed trying to tell her anything, she did not care for the message it conveyed.
Mermaids’ Island, overgrown now with summer’s own green magic, slid by to the mermaid’s north, on her left hand as she floated on her back. Magicians’ Island, somewhat smaller and stranger and somewhat less green, with a certain aura of the forbidden about it, would soon be passing to her south.
According to her own best calculation, Black Pearl had recently turned eighteen years of age, at the beginning of the summer. She knew, therefore, that she had not very many years of life remaining. Mermaids, fishgirls, of her age never did. Black Pearl’s mother would be able to remember her age with accuracy, she supposed. But for years now her mother had no longer wanted to come to the shore and talk with her. If, indeed, her mother was still alive. A long time had passed since Black Pearl had tried to see any of her relatives.
As for the bitter memories—
Somewhere to the south and west of where she drifted now, no more than a few kilometers over the water, was Black Pearl’s home village though it was home to her no longer. Now, the only semblance of a home she knew was Mermaids’ Island. Her only family were the two dozen or so other fishgirls inhabiting this stretch of the Tungri, and with many of them Black Pearl did not get on at all.
If she made the effort, and sent her mind groping under a cloud of black and evil magic for the appropriate memories, Black Pearl could vaguely recall being caught, lured ashore from these waters three or four years ago. Caught in a net, and sold, and carried upstream riding in a tank of water carried in a wagon driven by strangers. Upstream, she had first become part of some small traveling show.
And then, somehow, she had been with that relatively innocent traveling show no more. But still she had been upstream, somewhere, so far that there the Tungri bore a different name. There she had been under the domination of a terrible and evil magician, whose face she could recall but not his name. A magician who had used her. There were certain gates of memory beyond which she was always afraid to go.
Outside those ominous gates, memory produced another face, this one with a clear name attached, that she had known briefly in those strange days. It was the face of a young man with curly hair, and who walked upon two legs of course as far as Black Pearl knew, nowhere in the world did there exist any young men who were equipped with tails and scales instead of legs that fate was reserved for females. The name of this young man with curly hair and two strong legs was Zoltan, and though she still sometimes dreamed of him, in recent months such dreams were becoming rare.
Now, at the pace of the river’s flow, here about that of a walking man, Magicians’ Island was drawing near. With mild