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Authors: Stephen Leigh

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Assassins' Dawn

BOOK: Assassins' Dawn
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DAYBREAK ON NEWEDEN

 

Night-quiet, the two assassins advanced—like shadows unseen in the overlying murk and as deadly as the wind-spiders of the western tundra. Just ahead, Gunnar, the contracted victim, ran, ignoring the pain that constricted his chest and stabbed in his lungs. He ducked instinctively as the Khaelian-made dagger creased him in a burning line from shoulder to mid-back, then slipped and fell in the rank mud at his feet.

The Hoorka assassins stood over him. Gunnar lay face down in the mud, and they knew he was waiting for the cold violation of steel to pierce his body. But relays warned them that morning had touched the Dawnrock with delicate fingers. It would be so easy to kill Gunnar despite the Hoorka code. No one was there to see . . .

Strong hands helped Gunnar to his feet, grunting with the man’s limp weight.

“Our admiration, Gunnar. Your life is your own once more,” the Hoorka said in a voice that masked his bitterness. “You may go with the light.”

ASSASSINS’
DAWN

 

SLOW FALL TO DAWN

DANCE OF THE HAG

A QUIET OF STONE

 

 

STEPHEN LEIGH

SLOW FALL TO DAWN copyright © 1981 by Stephen Leigh.

 

DANCE OF THE HAG copyright © 1983 by Stephen Leigh.

 

A QUIET OF STONE copyright © 1984 by Stephen Leigh.

 

Introduction copyright © 2013 by Stephen Leigh.

 

All Rights Reserved.

 

Cover art by Paul Young.

 

Cover design by G-Force Design.

 

DAW Book Collectors No. 1622.

ISBN 978-1-101-62000-7

 

DAW Books are distributed by Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

 

All characters and events in this book are fictitious.

Any resemblance to persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.

 

The scanning, uploading and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal, and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage the electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

Contents

Cover

Title Page

Copyrights Page

Introduction

 

SLOW FALL TO DAWN

Dedication

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

 

DANCE OF THE HAG

Dedication

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

 

A QUIET OF STONE

Dedication

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

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Introduction

THIS UNIVERSE ISN’T GOOD ENOUGH;

I’M MAKING ANOTHER ONE

 

Way back (and at this point in my life, believe me, “way back” is the correct terminology) when I was first starting to devour adult science fiction, I became fascinated by the fabulous, intricate fictional universes created by the writers of the time: Asimov’s “Foundation” stories, the “Mars” tales of Ray Bradbury, the ambiguously-linked future of many of the Heinlein novels, James Blish’s “Cities in Flight” novels, E.E. Smith’s “Lensman” series, and so on. When I eventually started writing my own fiction, those examples were still in my head, and so I created my own universe sandbox in which to play.

Now, I have to say that there’s a significant issue with writing fiction set in some far-off future: no writer’s
ever
going to be able to predict the technology of the far future, especially given the rapid increase in technological innovation. We’re destined (almost always) to fall short of technological advances, and probably miss badly no matter how much we push the envelope. The technologies of our fictional future usually end up being invented long before that time arrives, or we totally miss new technologies that will arise after we wrote the story. At the time I’d read those Asimovian, Bradburian, and Heinleinian stories, I was already a few decades past when they’d been originally written and the technologies in those books had nearly all—except for the magical hyperdrive—been invented in the meantime, or been surpassed. Often, the technology of those universes was laughably outdated.

After all, if someone in the 1400s tried to imagine the technology of today, it’s extremely unlikely that he or she would accurately predict or describe the world all of us inhabit. No matter what we like to think, humans aren’t
good
at predicting what a world two or three or four centuries further along might be like. Heck, we’re not really good at predicting what a world ten years from now will look like. Fiction written in the 1950s generally reflects 1950s sensibilities. Just watch the classic movie “Forbidden Planet” if you want to witness that—a spaceship from 22nd century Earth crewed by an exclusively white, exclusively male crew? The same applies to 1960s fiction, and 1970s, and 1980s, and so on. You see the time in which the stories were written echoed subtly in the background.

Unless . . . My “clever strategy” to avoid this problem was to postulate a total collapse of civilization, followed by a genuine “dark age” where most technology was lost (and lost in erratic fashion)—thus providing a convenient, built-in excuse for me when the reader’s technology inevitably caught up with what I wrote in the Alliance stories. “Sure, the technology’s outdated even now,” I could tell my future reader. “Yes, I know that we already have superior technology, and it’s only twenty years past when I initially wrote the story, but you see, there was this collapse, and that’s why their technology is still behind ours . . .”

The “dark age” would explain the relatively small technological leaps from “now” to “then.” Mind you, my “now” was the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s for the Alliance stories, and looking at those stories several decades later . . . well, just as with the old tales I’d read Way Back Then, technology has indeed already passed by my imagined future ones, and I can see where I entirely missed certain advances.

So you see, dear reader, before you read this book, I want to tell you that there was this collapse . . .

Remember that, and forgive the paltry limits of my imagination. One of the statements I often make to my writing classes, when talking about science fiction, is that the genre really
isn’t
about the future. It’s actually about the
present
—the present of the time in which the story was written—with the author holding up a funhouse mirror to the world he or she knows and thinking “What if
this
went on . . . ?” The imagined future is our reflection in that warped mirror, showing us a “present” stretched and taffy-pulled into a future.

Science fiction tells us far more about how we were at the time of the story than about any future generation.

Now that you have my excuse, let’s get back to the history of the stories I wrote for the Alliance universe. Many of the first stories I wrote in that universe never sold—for good reason; I was still learning the craft. Mind you,
I
thought those newbie efforts were
tremendous
and I couldn’t understand how the editors could be so blind as not to see the incredible genius of them. But . . . now when I scan the crumpled, mail-worn manuscripts lingering forlornly in their folders in my file cabinet, I can see why they never sold.

They
sucked
.

But I persevered through the barrage of rejection slips and even managed to learn a bit about the craft in the process, and eventually started selling a few of the tales, the majority of them still set in what I called the “Alliance” universe. In the end, I placed several short stories in that alternate history in the various magazines and anthologies.

And three novels, as well—and those three novels are what you’re holding in your hand right now. Here’s how the first one, SLOW FALL TO DAWN, came about . . .

Around 1976 or so, I read an article about the Hashshashin, an early band of assassins, which started me thinking about the concept of “ethical assassins”—murderers who would attempt an assassination, but would for philosophical reasons permit the victim a small chance of survival. I started putting together a world (yes, in the Alliance universe, which was nothing if not flexible) with these “ethical assassins,” which I was calling the “Hoorka.” I suddenly realized, as I starting planning and writing this tale, that this wasn’t going to be a short story or novelette, but a full-fledged novel.

Characters and sub-plots and complications. Oh, my!

Honestly, I rather rapidly became lost in the book. One thing writing short stories hadn’t prepared me for was how complicated novels are, how long they take to write, how difficult it is to hold the details in your head, and the amount of persistence and dedication required to complete them . . .

BOOK: Assassins' Dawn
13.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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