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Authors: Margaret Weis

Serpent Mage

BOOK: Serpent Mage
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ENEMIES BY DECREE,
FRIENDS BY FATE

Alake fell, writhing with pain, on the ground. The dragon-snake's head hovered in the air, loomed over its victim.

Haplo drew his dagger.

Instantly, Samah spoke a word. Glowing sigla surrounded the Patryn, closed like manacles over his hands and feet.

“Let me go, you fool! I might be able to save them.”

“I will not fall for your trickery, Patryn. You don't expect me to believe you care about these mensch!” Samah began to sing the runes.

“Haplo, help us!”

Alake's screams rang in his ears. Haplo fought to escape his bonds, but the magic waas too strong.

And then, suddenly, the spell ended.

“Go on, Haplo,” said Alfred, standing beside him, stooped body upright, thin shoulders squared. “Go to the children. Save them, if you can.”

A hand closed over his. Haplo looked down at his wrists. The manacles were gone.

Dagger raised, he ran to face the dragon-snakes….

Bantam Spectra Books by Margaret
Weis and Tracy Hickman

THE DARKSWORD SERIES
Forging the Darksword
Doom of the Darksword
Triumph of the Darksword
Legacy of the Darksword

DARKSWORD ADVENTURES

ROSE OF THE PROPHET
The Will of the Wanderer
The Paladin of the Night
The Prophet of Akhran

THE DEATH GATE CYCLE

Dragon Wing
Elven Star
Fire Sea
Serpent Mage
The Hand of Chaos
Into the Labyrinth
The Seventh Gate
and by Margaret Weis

STAR OF THE GUARDIANS The Lost King

King's Test
King's Sacrifice
Ghost Legion

Dedicated to my new granddaughter,
NATALIE BRIANA BALDWIN,
and to her mother and father,
DAVID AND JOYCE.


Margaret Weis

Dedicated to
DON
and
JERI ALLPHIN
with love


Tracy Raye Hickman

Do I dare
disturb the universe?

T. S. Eliot,
“The Love Song
of J. Alfred Prufrock”

PROLOGUE

I VISITED MY WRATH UPON HAPLO THIS DAY.
1
AN UNPLEAS-ant task. Few would believe me, but it grieved me to do what had to be done. It would have been easier, perhaps, if I did not feel in some part responsible.

When it became clear to me that we Patryns were nearing our time, when we were almost strong enough to be able to break out of this heinous prison into which the Sartan hurled us and move once again to take our rightful place as leaders in the universe, I chose one among us to go forth and learn about the new worlds.

I chose Haplo. I chose him for his quickness of mind, his independence of thought, his courage, his adaptability to new surroundings. And those, alas, are the very qualities that have led him to rebel against me. Therefore, I reiterate—in this way I am responsible for what has befallen.

Independence of thought. Necessary, I deemed, when facing the unknown territories of worlds created by our
ancient enemy, the Sartan, and populated with mensch.
2
It was vital that he be able to react to any situation with intelligence and skill, vital that he not reveal to anyone on any of these worlds that we Patryns have broken free of our bonds. He behaved quite splendidly on two of the three worlds he visited, with a few minor lapses. It was on the third that he failed not only me but himself.
3

I caught him just before he would have left to visit the fourth world, the world of water, Chelestra. He was on board his dragonship, the one he took from Arianus, preparing to set sail for Death's Gate. He said nothing when he saw me. He did not appear surprised. It was as if he had been expecting me, perhaps even waiting for me, though it seemed, from the disorder on board the ship, that he had been preparing for a hasty departure. Certainly there is much turmoil within him.

Those who know me would call me a hard man, hard and cruel, but I was bred in a place far harder, far crueler. I have in my long life seen too much pain, too much suffering, to be touched by it. But I am not a monster. I am not sadistic. What I did to Haplo, I did out of necessity. I took no pleasure in the doing.

Spare the rod and spoil the child—an old mensch proverb.

Haplo, believe me when I say I grieve for you this night. But it was for your own good, my son.

Your own good.

BOOK: Serpent Mage
12.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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