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First published in the United States 2011
by Dial Books
an imprint of Penguin Group (USA), Inc.
First published in Great Britain by Red Fox 2001
Copyright © 2001 by Catherine Fisher
All rights reserved
The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Fisher, Catherine, date.
The Margrave / by Catherine Fisher.
p. cm.—(Relic Master ; 4)
Summary: Their quest to find a secret relic with great power leads
Master Galen and his sixteen-year-old apprentice, Raffi, into the Pitts
of Maar and the deep evil world at the heart of the Watch.
ISBN : 978-1-101-51767-3
[1. Fantasy. 2. Apprentices—Fiction. 3. Antiquities—Fiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.F4995Mar 2011 [Fic]—dc22 2010043237
think you should confide this fear to your master,
the tree said gently.
Raffi gave a sour laugh. “No point.”
He is, I admit, difficult to approach.
A small sparkbird, brilliantly red, fluttered among the branches; the tree rustled thoughtfully over Raffi’s head.
If he was one of my kind, he would be holly. Or dark firethorn that grows in the chasm of Zeail. Such a one is Galen.
Raffi nodded. He lay on his back in the dappled green light, eyes closed against the sun. The tree was a birch; young, and very curious.
Tell me where it takes you, this Deep Journey.
“It’s a vision.” Raffi sat up and gazed out hopelessly into the depths of the warm spring woodland. “It happens in your mind. The Litany says there are different “ stages—the Cosmic Tree, the Plain of Hunger.”
Hunger is a sensation?
“Emptiness. No food.”
The tree sounded fascinated.
Our roots are always storing. Rootless creatures, it seems to me, are most vulnerable. The Makers were wise, but sometimes we feel you were something of a failed experiment.
“And then,” Raffi said, half to himself, “comes something called the Barrier of Pain.”
The tree was silent. Finally it whispered,
You fear that.
He nodded. “And the last thing even more. To be a keeper every scholar must pass through utter darkness into something the books won’t even describe. They call it the Crucible of Fire.”
The birch shuddered down to its very roots, every leaf quivering. The sparkbird flew out with a cheep of alarm.
Fire is the worst of enemies! The Watch burned the forest of Harenak, every leaf, every sapling. Who could fail to mourn so many deaths?
Galen had woken in a black temper. He came out of the shelter, still looking tired, and snapped, “Any news?”
“As soon as there is, let me know.” The keeper turned, tugging his black hair loose from the knot of string. “And stop wasting your time. Read! Flain knows you need to.”
Raffi picked the book up without glancing at it. “He’s a nightmare,” he muttered, “since Marco died.”
The tree was silent.
Galen limped between the birches to the stream. He waded in, scooping the cold water up to drink, splashing it over his face. For weeks he had been working on the sense-lines, driving himself nonstop. Already they had a chain of lines between a few known keepers and through re-awakened channels of tree-minds and earth-filaments that reached to Tasceron itself; in fact, last night, after days of effort, Galen had spoken with Shean, the keeper of the Pyramid in the Wounded City. It had been a triumph. But it had worn him out.
Looking down on him, Raffi thought of the night of Marco’s death, of Galen’s terrible oath, that he would seek out the Margrave. That he would kill the Margrave.
“That’s why he’s so desperate to set the sense-grid up. And to get me through the Journey. He thinks he won’t come back alive.”
the tree said gently,
you are really afraid
Raffi jumped up, brushing pollen from his clothes. Already it was back, that sickening terror he could never lose for long. He felt the tree’s consciousness spiraling into him, intrigued.
Do you really believe,
it whispered, curious,
that this Margrave is hunting especially for you?
“I can’t talk anymore.” Raffi turned abruptly, blocking its voice out. Sickness was already surging in him, a choking stress, blurring the tree-words to a crackle of leaves. He started to stumble through to the stream, then swung around for the book, feeling the sweat on his back chill as he bent, dizziness making his vision spin. He gasped and leaned on the tree.
it said urgently, its voice bursting through his panic.
Bewildered, he felt for the sense-lines. They were intact.
“Galen!” His voice was a whisper, a croak, but the keeper was already racing up; a firm hand grabbed him.
“Can’t be. Can’t feel anything.” Weak, he crouched on the tree roots. Galen spun around, facing the footsteps.
It was the Sekoi.
Wiping his clammy mouth and streaming eyes, Raffi staggered up and tried to focus, but the creature was close to them before he could see it properly. Then he stared. The Sekoi was worn and ragged. Dried blood clogged its fur from a half-healed wound under one ear. Its yellow eyes were glazed with weariness.
Galen grabbed its thin shoulders. “For God’s sake, did they ambush you? Have they got the Coronet?”
Exhausted, the creature collapsed onto the leafy bank. For a moment it seemed too worn out to speak. Then it whispered, “The Coronet is safe in Sarres. We were on our way back when we ran into the Watch.”
“Thank God,” Galen breathed, but the Sekoi seemed not to hear. Over his shoulder it glanced at Raffi. “They’ve got Carys,” it said hopelessly.
The Broken Hills
When the work of the Makers stopped,
Halen fell silent. He answered no one.
He climbed far into the hills and built a
fearsome castle. He built it in a day and a
night, and no one came there but himself.
Throughout its dim corridors, there were
Book of the Seven Moons
HE SLAP WAS HARD, and when she dragged her head up she tasted blood.
Breathing deeply, she stared at the Watch captain. Fury almost made her quiver. Fury and fear.
“I said, get in line,” he snarled.
Carys stepped back, giving one glance at the old woman who lay collapsed on the verge of the road. The Watch captain turned and prodded the inert body with his boot. When it didn’t move he kneeled and took out a knife.
But all he did was slice the rope that held the woman to the rest of the prisoners.
“Are you just going to leave her there!” Carys snapped.
“She’s no good to us. You there, at the front! Walk!”
The razorhounds snarled and scrabbled at the mesh of their cages, and the small line of prisoners stumbled quickly back into motion, the jerk of the rope tugging Carys on despite her anger. The road was steep, rutted with recent cart-tracks, a great gash along the flank of the mountain, plummeting on the left to a dizzy ravine. All the hot day they’d stumbled up it, with water only once at a stream, hours ago.
Carys sucked her swelling lip. Her hair and clothes were filthy with road-dust and she was almost too tired to think. Only anger kept her going. She clenched the knotted ropes around her hands as if anger was a thing she could hold on to, tight.
Around her waist the second rope slackened, sagging as the weary group closed up, stung by the irritating dartflies that had followed all day in a buzzing cloud.
With the old woman gone, Carys was last. It was a relief not to have to hear that terrible gasping, or have the constant jerk of the rope as the woman stumbled, but the thought of the frail figure lying on the bleak road, without water, a prey to night-cats, was unbearable. Carys cursed herself for talking to the woman, for getting to know her. Her name had been Alys. At one of the pauses she had whispered to Carys that she “had a granddaughter, dear, very like you.”
She looked back. The Watch captain, Quist, was far behind, striding up fast.
“Turn around!” he yelled, and she turned, grim.
They were taking no chances with her. Not now that they knew who she was. Speaking up for the woman had been useless, she’d known that. Before she met Galen she’d never have done it. But before she met Galen she’d never have been in such a mess.
It had been three days since she’d been caught. The patrol had jumped them in seconds. How the Sekoi had gotten away she had no idea, but they’d loosed the razorhounds after it instantly, thin silver beasts streaking into the wood. An hour later their handlers had dragged them back, bloodied. They’d certainly caught something.
The line stopped; she slammed into the prisoner in front. A lanky youth, older than her, pimply and stinking of sweat, one of his teeth black. “Rest,” he gasped, crouching and clutching his side.
Carys didn’t waste breath talking. Instead she watched Quist walk past her to the front. His number was 8472. High. No child from a Watchhouse, but a volunteer, enlisting as an adult. A dangerous, agile man.
The first thing he’d done was have her searched, and he’d found the Watch insignia. Galen had warned her often enough to get rid of them, the small silver discs with her old number, name, hard-earned promotions. But they were still part of her. She hadn’t been able to let them go. Seeing them glint in the sun in Quist’s fingers had been strange; as he’d read them and looked at her curiously she’d felt as if some last protection had been snatched away.
Sitting now on the edge of the road she rubbed sweat from her neck and looked around. The road edge was sheer, plunging down to a valley far below. She couldn’t see over. Behind her was woodland, some squat, dark species; ahead, the road rose along the arduous slopes of the mountains. Where it led she had no idea, but it had seen heavy traffic lately, its surface cracked and worn.
The patrol was an eight-man standard. Three horses and a cart, with the razorhounds’ cage and various food sacks. Ten prisoners left, all roped in line.
Water was being passed back. She stood and grabbed it from the boy’s hand, clutching the dirty jug with both fists, drinking fast, then splashing the last drops on her face.