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Table of Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

If you purchased this book without a cover, you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as "unsold and destroyed" to the publisher, and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this "stripped book."

This book is an Ace original edition, and has never been previously published.


An Ace Book / published by arrangement with the author


Ace edition / May 1994

All rights reserved.

Copyright ยฉ 1994 by Daniel Hood.

Cover art by Bob Eggleton.

This book may not be reproduced in whole or in part, by mimeograph or any other means, without permission. For information address: The Berkley Publishing Group, 200 Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10016.

ISBN: 0-441-00055-X


Ace Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group, 200 Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10016.

ACE and the "A" design

are trademarks belonging to Charter Communications, Inc.


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Chapter 1

THE FEAST WAS a thing Liam Rhenford had never thought to see in Taralon and because of that, and his general feeling of being an outsider, he allowed himself a little too much of the hot, spiced wine.

Of course, the merchant Necquer was not really Taralonian; he was an expatriated Freeporter, and their sensibilities were less easily offended. Liam had spent a fair amount of time in the Freeports himself and was not offended, but he found himself wondering if any of Southwark's other merchants, Necquerโ€™s competitors, would consider such a feast with anything other than disgust.

Clerks and overseers in their rough best drank noisily in Necquer's home; stevedores and sailors, shorn to the ears in the traditional haircut of Taralon's lower classes, ate his food and sang dirty chanteys in his hall; spinning and weaving girls danced, giggling, to the minstrels Necquer had hired. Even in Southwark, the southernmost city of Taralon's southern duchies, position and the bounds of class distinction were well observed, if not as rigidly as in more northern parts. The merchant, however, had thrown propriety to the wind.

In his own home, Liam could hear other merchants saying, he let them dance in his own home, and smiled to himself over the social outrage.

Necquerโ€™s home was beautiful in a cramped way; a high, narrow wooden building nestled in the Point, Southwark's tiny rich quarter. Gleaming parquet floors shone under vibrant, imported rugs; light and warmth radiated from countless silver candelabra and roaring fireplaces. Fine food piled high on trestle tables disappeared almost as soon as it was served, and wine and ale flowed in silver and pewter mugs. Freihett Necquer was entertaining his lowborn workers in a style normally reserved for his social equals as if it were nothing and his workers, in tum, accepted it without question. Glass-paned doors at the rear of the house opened onto a rain-dark stone porch overlooking the harbor; a group of sailors formed a circle there, encouraging two wrestling men with catcalls and shouts. A trio of musicians played loudly, and the sound of Necquer's employees dancing, eating and celebrating was louder than the rain or the surf crashing below.

I had no idea he was so rich, Liam thought, casting admiring eyes about the merchant's home. I should have charged him more for those maps.

Ostensibly the feast was in honor of the upcoming Uristide, but the real reason was that Necquer was alive and well, and in a mood to celebrate. He had survived one of the worst storms in Southwark's memory andโ€”by a miracleโ€”come home with a cargo of immense value.

When Necquer's workers talked, which they did only rarely between laughing and eating and dancing breathlessly, they talked of that miracle, and many slyly hinted that Necquer had never kept a Uris-tide before, and probably did not know who Uris was.

The miracle was the disappearance of Southwark's Teeth, the towering, jagged rocks that guarded the city's harbor. Rising black and ominous from beneath the sea like the spine of a submerged sea-dragon, they stretched for miles from the west to close off most of the harbor, leaving only a small entrance to the placid harbor. They took a greedy toll for the protection, however, in the form of ships smashed against their unyielding sides, keeping many safe in return for the occasional wreck sent down to the Storm King. A week before, another merchant's caravel, bearing a fortune home from Alyecir, had been crushed into the Teeth. Three men out of a crew of sixty had escaped. Four days later, Southwark woke, blinked its eyes, and saw the Teeth gone. The sea rolled unstopped into the roadstead, and the coast looked barren, for all the world like an old man without his natural teeth. A day after that, Necquer had led four merchantmen limping into port. Experienced seamen declared it a miracle: battered as the ships were by the late season storms, they could never have negotiated the Teeth. And that morning, the day after Necquerโ€™s safe arrival, Southwark woke to find that the unknown thief had repented, and the Teeth were back, resuming their posts as if they had never left.

Necquer had more than enough reason to celebrate, and his employeesโ€”common sailors, poor clerks, burly stevedores and longshoremen, the girls who spun and wove his trade goodsโ€”accepted it wholeheartedly.

Liam listened to everything he could, circulating aimlessly around the noisy, crowded house, taking long sips of wine. He spoke to no one, because he knew no one, and thought more than once of the invitation extended to him by Necquer's wife.

He had arrived almost an hour after sunset, delayed as much by the fact that he would not know any of Necquer's employees as by the rain. The house was already full of people celebrating, and though the music had not started yet, the noise was deafening. He took a deep breath

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