The Paths of the Dead (Viscount of Adrilankha)

BOOK: The Paths of the Dead (Viscount of Adrilankha)
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For Betsy
Table of Contents
“Your lordships perceive,” began the envoy, “that I wear the Phoenix livery.”
“We had even remarked upon it,” said Daro.
“I serve the one called Sethra Lavode, whose name is, I expect, not unknown to you. And Sethra, on her part, serves Zerika.”
“Zerika?” said Khaavren. “I do not believe I know her, but—”
“She is,” said the envoy, “the last being born of the House of the Phoenix. Her mother was the Princess Loudin, the Phoenix Heir at the time of Adron’s Disaster. Her father was—”
“Vernoi,” said Khaavren, suddenly remembering a conversation with that worthy gentleman, a scant few days before the fall of the Empire.
“It seems Lord Vernoi had a premonition of catastrophe, and sent his wife, the Princess Loudin, to a safe place some days before the Disaster, where she was delivered of a child.”
“Zerika.”
“Exactly. And it is now the last time …” His voice trailed off and he looked expectantly at Khaavren.
“Yes? It is now time?”
“Well, Sethra Lavode deems the time is ripe.”
“The time is ripe for what, my dear sir?
“As to that, I cannot say …”
The Viscount of Adrilankha
The Paths of the Dead
Describing Certain Events Which Occurred
Between the 156th and the 247th Years
of the Interregnum
 
Submitted to the Imperial Library
By Springsign Manor
House of the Hawk
On this 3rd day the Month of the Athyra
Of the Year of the Vallista
Of the Turn of the Jhereg
Of the Phase of the Phoenix
Of the Reign of the Dragon
In the Cycle of the Phoenix
In the Great Cycle of the Dragon
Or, in the 179th Year
Of the Glorious Reign
Of the Empress Norathar the Second
 
By Sir Paarfi of Roundwood
House of the Hawk
(His Arms, Seal, Lineage Block)
 
Presented, as Always,
To Marchioness Poorborn
With Gratitude and Affection
 
 
Concerning the Fall of the Empire,
Lord Adron e’Kieron, and the
“Dragon-Jhereg War”
 
T
his preface is addressed specifically to those who have read our earlier histories of
The Phoenix Guards
and
Five Hundred Years After,
readers to whom this volume is their first introduction to those characters with whom we have concerned ourselves are invited to pass over it with full confidence in having missed nothing of any significance. Indeed, it is our firm hope that such readers will need no introduction other than this volume, and we will confess to having failed in our duty should any reader feel himself bewildered because of unfamiliarity with history in general, or with our history in particular.
That said, we wish to indulge our right as the author to address certain issues that have arisen from the publication of the works mentioned above.
Some students of history who have done us the kindness to follow us through our previous volumes have raised questions concerning a supposed unpleasantness within the House of the Dragon, and of a “war” between the Dragon and the Jhereg, and of the influence of these events on the fall of the Empire—questions, no doubt, encouraged by information disseminated by our brother historians. We have been accused of neglecting to pay sufficient attention to these affairs when we treated with the matter of Lord Adron e’Kieron and what is popularly called “Adron’s Disaster.”
For those who have not made the assiduous study of history that might lead to these questions, allow us to mention a few facts which might, hereafter, permit us to both clarify the events of this vital yet confusing stage of history, and explain the reasoning which led us to make those choices we made.
A certain Dragonlord, the Count of Kee-Laiyer Meadows, who was the Dragon Heir for a short time early in Tortaalik’s reign, was killed in battle with an army commanded by Sethra Lavode. There were accusations that Lord Adron e’Kieron, who had been the Dragon Heir before and after, had had Kee-Laiyer assassinated in the middle of the battle, and had then protected the assassin. There was bloodshed over the dispute, but the issue was never resolved because the Interregnum intervened. Moreover, several powerful Dragonlords were struck down by Jhereg assassins owing to some complications that many believe stemmed from the affair mentioned above.
It is perhaps true that the author has been culpable if, as some say, these facts conceal issues important to an understanding of Adron’s Disaster, which matter was lightly treated with in our previous history. It is, however, the opinion of the author that neither the squabble within the House of the Dragon nor the dispute between the Dragon and the Jhereg had much bearing on Adron’s decision to use elder sorcery against the Orb; and, as the reader is by now aware, the author has diligently avoided any digressions of any sort in unfolding the history of Sir Khaavren and his friends.
The reader may recall that when we were first introduced to Lord Adron, in our history of
The Phoenix Guards,
he was then the Dragon Heir. When he appeared in our later history of
Five Hundred Years After
he was the Dragon Heir. If there was, in between, a period of time, more or less prolonged, in which he was not the Heir, we can hardly be held responsible for failing to describe events that fall outside of the realm of our investigations.
But we feel it our duty, in any case, to separate fact from myth; truth from legend; possible from impossible. We will acknowledge, then, that there are stories—and these from reliable sources—that have linked Mario Greymist, who slew the Phoenix Emperor, with Lord Adron. While these stories,
perhaps, have their origin in someone who knew Adron well, we should also add that these stories have come from one who also knew Mario, and who had reason to wish history to hold a higher opinion of the assassin than, perhaps, he deserves. We nevertheless maintain that under no circumstances would Lord Adron have used an assassin, nor given sanctuary to one. We defy anyone, however well informed, to point to anything even Adron’s detractors of the period have said, that would lead us to believe the Duke of Eastmanswatch would countenance such methods under any circumstances whatsoever.
We should add that the vilification of Lord Adron that has occurred since the Disaster is as natural as it is predictable; nevertheless, this author will not indulge in such conduct himself. Whatever else he was, Adron was above all a human being, with all of the strengths and weaknesses that implies: there is no more reason to treat him as an inhuman monster than there is to present him as a military genius. As we have attempted to do with all those who pass through our pages, we endeavored to present him as he was, leaving judgment to the reader. Those who have censured us for “apologizing” for the Duke in our previous work no more deserve our attention than do those who have accused us of “bending the fabric of history to sustain a dubious maxim,” as one supposed historian has suggested.
There nevertheless remain two valid questions: Did the quarrels within the House of the Dragon, and between the Dragon and the Jhereg, contribute to the fall of the Empire? And, if so, is the historian negligent in having failed to discuss them?
In the opinion of this historian, the rôle played by these two quarrels in the fall of the Empire is negligible at best—the disagreement over who was to be Heir, which occurred early in Tortaalik’s reign, was resolved well before the end of it; and if a certain bitterness lingered among the supporters of Kee-Laiyer, it was an impotent bitterness. More importantly, those few wizards who were assassinated by the Jhereg could have no effect on the power unleashed by Lord Adron’s spell, and to claim that, had they been present, he would not have required the spell, is to engage in the most base and unhistorical sort of speculation.
The figure at the center of this controversy is, of course, Adron’s daughter, Aliera, who appears to have made certain comments to the Enchantress of Dzur Mountain. If Aliera did make these comments, then we should point out that they were made to Sethra Lavode, who then somehow relayed them to another party, from whose mouth or pen they fell into the hands of a supposed historian. The reader is encouraged to consider: Aliera makes an interpretation; Sethra summarizes this interpretation; some third party records this summary; a historian writes based on this record. How far removed we are from truth! To call this “hearsay” is to accord it far more weight, even, than it deserves.
This historian, we may add, has, over the years, had the honor to carry on a limited but fascinating correspondence with Sethra Lavode, in the course of preparing for the work (as yet unpublished) from which, accidentally, sprang our two previous histories; and the Enchantress has never mentioned any such conversation to this historian.
In short, we would like to say that, while historical speculation is, perhaps, an amusing pastime, it has no place in serious works of history; and this author has avoided, and will continue to avoid, such speculation in the course of laying before the reader the interesting lives of those few persons with whom these narratives have concerned themselves.
There are other remarks that could, perhaps be made; but we long ago made the choice, regarding these works, to avoid insulting our readers by explaining matters with which anyone is likely to be familiar. We would no more offer an explanation, then, of conditions obtaining during the Interregnum, where we begin our narrative, than we would describe the location of Adrilankha itself.
With this firmly established, we hope the reader will, without further delay or digression, allow us to embark once more on a narrative journey through a stormy and enchanting time in our recent past.
 

Paarfi
2/2/10/11 (Norath. II: 181)
BOOK: The Paths of the Dead (Viscount of Adrilankha)
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