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Authors: Garth Nix

Abhorsen

BOOK: Abhorsen
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GARTH NIX

Abhorsen

To Anna and Thomas Henry Nix

Contents

Prologue

Maps

PART ONE

1.
   A House Besieged

2.
   Into the Deep

3.
   Amaranth, Rosemary, and Tears

4.
   Breakfast of Ravens

5.
   Blow Wind, Come Rain!

6.
   The Silver Hemispheres

7.
   A Last Request

8.
   The Testing of Sameth

First Interlude

PART TWO

9.
   A Dream of Owls and Flying Dogs

10.
   Prince Sameth and Hedge

11.
   Hidden in the Reeds

12.
   The Destroyer in Nicholas

13.
   Details from the Disreputable Dog

14.
   Flight to the Wall

15.
   The Perimeter

16.
   A Major’s Decision

Second Interlude

PART THREE

17.
   Coming Home to Ancelstierre

18.
   Chlorr of the Mask

19.
   A Tin of Sardines

20.
   The Beginning of the End

21.
   Deeper into Death

22.
   Junction Boxes and Southerlings

23.
   Lathal the Abomination

24.
   Mogget’s Inscrutable Initiative

25.
   The Ninth Gate

26.
   Sam and the Shadow Hands

27.
   When the Lightning Stops

28.
   The Seven

29.
   The Choice of Yrael

Epilogue

About the Author

Credits

Copyright

About the Publisher

Abhorsen’s House and Grounds

Prologue

FOG ROSE FROM
the river, great billows of white weaving into the soot and smoke of the city of Corvere, to become the hybrid thing that the more popular newspapers called smog and the
Times
“miasmic fog.” Cold, dank, and foul-smelling, it was dangerous by any name. At its thickest, it could smother, and it could transform the faintest hint of a cough into pneumonia.

But the unhealthiness of the fog was not its chief danger. That came from its other primary feature. The Corvere fog was a concealer, a veil that shrouded the city’s vaunted gaslights and confused both eyes and ears. When the fog lay on the city, all streets were dark, all echoes strange, and everywhere set for murder and mayhem.

“The fog shows no signs of lifting,” reported Damed, principal bodyguard to King Touchstone. His voice showed his dislike of the fog even though he knew it was only a natural phenomenon, a blend of industrial pollution and river-mist. Back in their home, the Old Kingdom, such fogs were often created by Free Magic sorcerers. “Also, the . . . telephone . . . is not working, and the escort is both understrength and new. There is not one of the officers we usually have among them. I don’t think you should go, sire.”

Touchstone was standing by the window, peering out through the shutters. They’d had to shutter all the windows some days ago, when some of the crowd outside had adopted slingshots. Before that, the demonstrators hadn’t been able to throw half bricks far enough, as the mansion that housed the Old Kingdom Embassy was set in a walled park, and a good fifty yards back from the street.

Not for the first time, Touchstone wished that he could reach the Charter and draw upon it for strength and magical assistance. But they were five hundred miles south of the Wall, and the air was still and cold. Only when the wind blew very strongly from the north could he feel even the slightest touch of his magical heritage.

Sabriel felt the lack of the Charter even more, Touchstone knew. He glanced at his wife. She was at her desk, as usual, writing one last letter to an old school friend, a prominent businessman, or a member of the Ancelstierre Moot. Promising gold, or support, or introductions, or perhaps making thinly veiled threats of what would happen if they were stupid enough to support Corolini’s attempts to settle hundreds of thousands of Southerling refugees over the Wall, in the Old Kingdom.

Touchstone still found it odd to see Sabriel dressed in Ancelstierran clothes, particularly their court clothes, as she was wearing today. She should be in her blue and silver tabard, with the bells of the Abhorsen across her chest, her sword at her side. Not in a silver dress with a hussar’s pelisse worn on one shoulder, and a strange little pillbox hat pinned to her deep-black hair. And the small automatic pistol in her silver mesh purse was no substitute for a sword.

Not that Touchstone felt at ease in his clothes either. An Ancelstierran shirt with its stiff collar and tie was too constricting, and his suit offered no protection at all. A sharp blade would slide through the double-breasted coat of superfine wool as easily as it would through butter, and as for a bullet . . .

“Shall I convey your regrets, sire?” asked Damed.

Touchstone frowned and looked at Sabriel. She had been to school in Ancelstierre, she understood the people and their ruling classes far better than he did. She led their diplomatic efforts south of the Wall, as she had always done.

“No,” said Sabriel. She stood up and sealed the last letter with a sharp tap. “The Moot sits tonight, and it is possible Corolini will present his Forced Emigration Bill. Dawforth’s bloc may just give us the votes to defeat the motion. We must attend his garden party.”

“In this fog?” asked Touchstone. “How can he have a garden party?”

“They will ignore the weather,” said Sabriel. “We will all stand around, drinking green absinthe and eating carrots cut into elegant shapes, and pretend we’re having a marvelous time.”

“Carrots?”

“A fad of Dawforth’s, introduced by his swami,” replied Sabriel. “According to Sulyn.”

“She would know,” said Touchstone, making a face—but at the prospect of raw carrots and green absinthe, not Sulyn. She was one of the old school friends who had been so much help to them. Sulyn, like the others at Wyverley College twenty years ago, had seen what happened when Free Magic was stirred up and grew strong enough to cross the Wall and run amok in Ancelstierre.

“We will go, Damed,” said Sabriel. “But it would be sensible to put in place the plan we discussed.”

“I do beg your pardon, Milady Abhorsen,” replied Damed. “But I’m not sure that it will increase your safety. In fact, it may make matters worse.”

“But it will be more fun,” pronounced Sabriel. “Are the cars ready? I shall just put on my coat and some boots.”

Damed nodded reluctantly and left the room. Touchstone picked out a dark overcoat from a number that were draped across the back of a chaise longue and shrugged it on. Sabriel put on another—a man’s coat—and sat down to exchange her shoes for boots.

“Damed isn’t concerned without reason,” Touchstone said as he offered his hand to Sabriel. “And the fog is very thick. If we were at home, I wouldn’t doubt it was made with malice aforethought.”

“The fog is natural enough,” replied Sabriel. They stood close together and knotted each others’ scarves, finishing with a soft, brushing kiss. “But I agree it may well be used against us. Yet I am so close to forming an alliance against Corolini. If Dawforth comes in, and the Sayres stay out of the matter—”

“Little chance of that unless we can show them we haven’t made off with their precious son and nephew,” growled Touchstone, but his attention was on his pistols. He checked both were loaded and there was a round in the chamber, hammer down and safety on. “I wish we knew more about this guide Nicholas hired. I am sure I have heard the name Hedge before, and not in any positive light. If only we’d met them on the Great South Road.”

“I am sure we will hear from Ellimere soon,” said Sabriel as she checked her own pistol. “Or perhaps even from Sam. We must leave that matter, at least, to the good sense of our children and deal with what is before us.”

Touchstone grimaced at the notion of his children’s good sense, handed Sabriel a grey felt hat with a black band, twin to his own, and helped her remove the pillbox and pin her hair up underneath the replacement.

“Ready?” he asked as she belted her coat. With their hats on, collars up, and scarves wound high, they looked indistinguishable from Damed and their other guards. Which was precisely the idea.

There were ten bodyguards waiting outside, not including the drivers of the two heavily armored Hedden-Hare automobiles. Sabriel and Touchstone joined them, and the twelve huddled together for a moment. If any enemies were watching beyond the walls, they would be hard put to make out who was who through the fog.

Two people went into the back of each car, with the remaining eight standing on the running boards. The drivers had kept the engines idling for some time, the exhausts sending a steady stream of warm, lighter emissions into the fog.

At a signal from Damed, the cars started down the drive, sounding their Klaxons. This was the signal for the guards at the gate to throw it open, and for the Ancelstierran police outside to push the crowd apart. There was always a crowd these days, mostly made up of Corolini’s supporters: paid thugs and agitators wearing the red armbands of Corolini’s Our Country party.

BOOK: Abhorsen
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