Read The Hidden City Online

Authors: Michelle West

The Hidden City

BOOK: The Hidden City
Table of Contents
The Critics Praise THE HIDDEN CITY:
“In a richly woven world, and with a cast of characters that ranges from traumatized street kids to the wealthy heads of the most prominent houses in Averalaan, West pulls no punches as she hooks readers in with her bold and descriptive narrative.”—
Quill & Quire
“This is a compelling story with riveting and finely wrought characters that will keep you up well into the night. This story will go down as one of the best novels in its genre, propelling West into the ranks of Robin Hobb and George R.R. Martin. It's simply a great read. Don't miss it.”
“West is growing into a superb storyteller, as demonstrated by this best effort to date, with a fully realized world populated by a diverse range of nicely developed characters and a compelling storyline that hooks readers in from the start.”—
“I am glad I read it. It is out of the ordinary for a fantasy tale, and is a
rather than a
Henry V.

Grasping for the Wind
“Michelle West tells a wonderful tale. . . . I really like the way West draws the characters, making them, even the children, memorable. A lot of untold riches are implied here, and I'm waiting eagerly for sequels.”
Philadelphia Center City Weekly Press
“This is a fantastic epic fantasy filled with intrigue and mystery that fans of Kate Elliot will appreciate . . . a vivid world that readers will believe exists with them in it.”
Alternative Worlds
The Finest in Fantasy by MICHELLE WEST
The House War
The Sacred Hunt
The Sun Sword
Copyright © 2007 by Michelle Sagara.
The scanning, uploading and distribution of this book via the Internet or 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.
First Paperback Printing, March 2009
eISBN : 978-1-440-68837-9

This is for Kelly, who waited so long, and who tries,
always, to understand the things that come
from the heart.
This was a particularly difficult book to write, and as usual, was longer than I anticipated. I often disappear inside my own head while writing, but with this book, I approached invisibility.
And so I'd like to thank Thomas, who waited, with near-perfect patience; my sons, Daniel and Ross, who understand that they will
be my babies, even if they're in no way babies anymore; John and Kristen Chew, and my parents, who also waited.
Terry Pearson remains my alpha reader of necessity and choice, and held that fort when I was in the (sadly usual) state of complete despair that any book causes any writer, and Sheila Gilbert also waited, with characteristic patience while I struggled with the words.
Jody Lee, as usual, gave me a painting that secretly makes me wonder if anything I'm writing is worth her work.
And the West list, with its constant encouragement and quiet love for the previous books also helped enormously, even if I was absent for long stretches.
Chapter One
405 AA
RATH CONSIDERED HIMSELF a businessman. Besides being something of an expert in the finer arts of item relocation, he also considered himself a linguist, a writer of some renown in the lower parts of town, and, in the same fashion, a scholar.
He did not consider himself a swordsman, although he had been considered promising in a youth that he was well quit of now. Swords were cumbersome, expensive, and an instant magnet for the eye of wary guards, and for that reason, he seldom carried his. The fact that he had not seen fit to
it said something about him; what, he was not inclined to examine more closely.
His hair was still a dark brown although with the passage of time it grayed; he took care not to notice just how much. He himself allowed no stoop of age to threaten his posture, and if the line of his nose, once patrician perfection, was now broken, he fancied that it added some character to his face.
So did the scars, and they were a less fortunate character, especially when he chose to make excursions to the more expensive parts of the Common. But it was in the more expensive arena of the Common that merchants fought their weaponless, almost clandestine duels, and it was in those brick-and-stone buildings, with their expensive windows and deplorably inexpensive guards, that he did most of his trade these days.
He had, therefore, learned a bit of the subtle art of makeup, a fashion he had once despised in his youth. His rooms—he had two at the moment, although that would no doubt change, as he moved frequently to avoid the lingering resentment of some of his clientele—were littered with clothing from all walks of life. Even the highest, although that clothing was also the oldest, and the one he chose most seldom to don.
It held some part of his memory, evidence of the truth of a past he had long since forgotten. Or, if he were honest, tried to forget. Drinking helped, and he drank seasonally for that reason. That, and to dull the Winter pain of old wounds and the breakage of old bones. Empty bottles stood in a neat row in the bedroom's easternmost corner.
Here, too, he had wigs, and face paint that would make a carnival proud; he had fine rings, silver at base, but plated with gold and the occasional real gem; he had heavy necklaces, the wearing of which made him appear to be one of the pretentious people who dreamed of wealth without ever comprehending the social subtleties that truly denoted it.
And he had names, although these were not so disorderly, existing as they did in an inventory contained by memory. One of them was real, if that word had meaning here, in the life he had chosen. He had letters, complete with wax seals, that designated him a courier of choice for any number of well-known merchant Houses; he had letters that designated him the negotiator of choice in the same way. They were written variously in spidery hand, in bold hand, in feminine perfection, and in words that were barely Weston; his inventory in this regard was large.
What he did not have—what he frequently promised himself he would never have—was a companion. He disliked anything that was beyond his control, and always had. He liked privacy, isolation, and the ability to let go of all his many faces the moment he closed the door behind him. Home, as it was always meant to be.
he thought, unusually honest on this bright and warm day,
not always.
There had been a time when home had meant something different. A time, later, when it had come to stand for everything he despised.
Now? Contempt took energy.
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