For the first time in an omnibus edition, this duology tells the tale of a twilight age for magic, as one ancient mage tries to hide the secrets that might destroy the world.
It is the twilight of the mages....
Only one of these terrifying and mysterious men still remains--the difficult and enigmatic Lord Eldrich. More than one hundred and thirty years of age, but appearing no older than forty, Eldrich dwells in seclusion, his precious knowledge disclosed to no one, his very existence subject to speculation. For motives of his own, he has dedicated his life to eliminating all remaining vestiges of magic in the world.
But his work does not go unchallenged: for there are those sworn to preserve the very lore Eldrich is striving to eradicate. Fanatical followers of a long-dead mage-apprentice, the Tellerites will stop at nothing to reclaim the forbidden powers of the magical arts--even if it means braving Eldrich's wrath and descending into the perilous depths of a labyrinthine cave system, in search of secrets that have lain hidden since the time of the first mage.
Release date: October 9, 2018
Print pages: 640
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River Into Darkness
It is, perhaps, less than true to say it all began in a brothel, but I found Samual Hayes hiding in such an establishment and this marked the turning point if not an actual beginning. How Samual Hayes had become misfortune's whipping boy, I will never understand.
--The journal of Erasmus Flattery
Hayes thought it particularly appropriate that the streets of the poor lacked public lighting of any kind. One passed out of the light of the better areas into near darkness, only dull candlelight filtering through dirty panes and casting faint shimmering rectangles on the cobbles. At night one often saw dark feet and legs passing through these rectangles of light, or if the passerby walked closer to the window, one would see a silhouetted head and shoulders floating oddly above the street. Hayes had sat in his window often enough to mark this strange anatomical parade passing by-incomplete men and women flitting into existence before each dull little window, then ceasing to be, then coming to meager life again.
Paradise Street-he wondered if the man who named it had foreseen its future-lay near the boundary between the light and darkness, an area of perpetual twilight, perhaps. Almost a border town where few seemed to make their homes permanently. Most were on their way into darkness-a handful were moving toward the light. It was a place where a young man might end up if his family had sacrificed their fortune to foolishness and keeping up appearances, as was the case with Samual Hayes.
For him Paradise Street was also a place to hide from one's creditors, as astonishing as that seemed to him-a young man who, for most of his life, had never given money a second thought.
He passed through a candlelit square of light and looked down at his hands. There he was, not gone yet. Still more or less substantial. Perhaps there was hope.
"His High and Mightiness is still among us, I see," came an old man's voice out of the shadows. Hayes stiffened, but walked on, feeling his resolve harden as well.
He would have thought his fall from grace into this world would have made him one of them, perhaps even engendered some sympathy, but for some few it made him an object of enormous disdain. How could anyone born to privilege have fallen so far as to land in Paradise Street? That is what they thought. Only a fool or a weakling could take such a fall. And there were moments when Hayes feared they were right. It made him all the more grateful for the kind treatment he received from some of his other neighbors.
As he came up to his rooming house, he realized that there were perhaps a dozen people gathered in the shadows across the street, but they were uncommonly quiet.
"Mr. Hayes!" said a woman who was one of the local busybodies. "There's men taking your rooms apart. Look, sir." She pointed up at his windows.
Shadows were moving in his room, though Hayes knew he'd left no lamp burning.
"Flames!" he heard himself say. He realized that everyone stood looking up, but no one made a move to interfere.
Someone laid a hand on his arm as he went to run for his door. It was an old soldier who lived down the street. "Them's navy men, Mr. Hayes," he said with distaste. "Mark my words. Navy men, whether they wear their fine uniforms or no. You'd be best to give them a wide berth, sir. That's my advice, for what it's worth."
"Navy men?" Hayes' rally to save his possessions was stopped short. "Agents of the Admiralty?" There was clearly some mistake.
"And they aren't the only ones, Mr. Hayes," the woman said. "When they arrived, they surprised others already in your rooms. Those'ns jumped out the window. My Tom saw 'em, didn't you, Tom?" she said to a boy who clutched her hand.
The boy nodded and took his fingers from his mouth. "They floated down, landin' soft as pigeons, if you please. Soft as birdies."
The woman looked back to Hayes, as though awaiting an explanation.
"But who were they?" Hayes said, asking a question instead. "Robbers? I-I have so little to steal."
"If they were robbers, Mr. Hayes, they were uncommonly well-dressed ones. 'Gentlemen,' Tom said, and the old blacksmith saw them, too. 'Gentlemen,' he said as well. I don't know what you've been up to, Mr. Hayes, but there are men around asking after you-navy men. You'd best be on your way before someone turns you in for the few coins they'll get. There are enough around that would do it, too, I'm sorry to say."
"I'll talk to them. There's some explanation, I'm sure. . . ."
The old soldier touched his arm again. "I'm sure you didn't do whatever it was they think you done, sir, but you'd best go. When authorities come bustin' down your door, they don't want to hear no explanations. The gaol is no place for the likes of you, Mr. Hayes. Find the most well-placed friend you have, sir, and go to him. That's your best hope-that and a good barrister. Be off now, before some'un turns you in, as Mrs. Osbourn said. Good luck to you, Mr. Hayes."
A group of burly men appeared around the nearby corner and in the light from a window Hayes saw someone pointing toward him, and he was sure the men he was leading weren't residents of Paradise Street.
Hayes slipped back into the shadow, making his way along the fronts of the buildings, hugging the wall. He pulled up the collar of his frock coat quickly to hide the white of his shirt and neckcloth. Fifty feet farther he broke into a lope, as quiet as he could, passing ghostlike through the rectangles of stained light.
He dodged down an alley, slowing now for lack of light, feeling his way, his heart pounding and his breath short, though he'd hardly run at all. Fear, he realized. I am running in fear from the authorities. This was how men disappeared into the darkness of the poor quarter.
There were shouts behind him and the sound of men running, then suddenly slowing. A lantern swung into the alley at his back, but it was too far away for the light to touch him.
In a hundred feet he came out into another street and turned left. His instinct was to head for the lighted streets-the safe streets-but the men chasing him were not cutthroats who kept to the dark, and in the streetlights he would be seen more easily.
But still he found himself gravitating that way, mothlike. It was the habit of a lifetime; a desire to escape, to not disappear entirely.
He continued to hear the men shouting. Hayes pushed himself on, fighting to catch his breath, not even sure if they were still following him-afraid to look back.
He was heading toward Brinsley Park, and Spring Street-the beginning of the lighted boulevards. This is madness, he told himself. The darkness was his ally now. The place he thought constantly of escaping, and now it sheltered him. He should cling to it, wrap it around himself, for it was all that protected him.
But if he stayed here, in the twilight quarter, someone would give him away-for he would never be anything but an outsider, here. Not safe in the darkness or the light. Better the light, then. Too many disappeared in the darkness.
Hayes took the risk of pausing before he went out onto the lit street that bordered Brinsley Park. For a moment he stood listening to the sounds down the darkened alley he was about to leave. His pursuers were likely not far behind.
Almost more than hear, Hayes sensed noise down the street, not on top of him but too close. Composing himself, he stepped out onto the lamplit street, monitoring his pace so that he would not stand out, yet making the best time he could.
Couples walked at their leisure, especially on the street's far side, which is where he wanted to be, as far from his tormentors as he could be. Weaving between carriages and tradesmen's carts, Hayes strode quickly to the opposite side, realizing that this was a mistake-because of the size of the park there were no streets leading off from that side of the avenue for a distance equal to several blocks. More than anything, he needed to make as many turns as he could to confound his hunters, and now that wasn't possible. They might think he'd scrambled over the iron fence into the park, keeping to darkness like any criminal would, but the fence was so high. . . .
He pressed on, fighting the urge to look back-a man who appeared to have pursuers would be noticed, no question of that.
Men and women passed, arm in arm, chatting and laughing. A coach clattered by, a young man leaning out its window, toasting the passersby theatrically; his drunken companions laughed and as one of them tried to fill his glass, a crimson stream of wine splashed over the cobbles.
"Hayes?" someone called.
Hayes looked about wildly. Bloody blood and flames, someone was announcing his name to everyone on the avenue!
"Samual Hayes?" the voice came again; from the carriage, he realized. "Driver! Heave to, man."
Slowing, the carriage veered toward the curb, frightening pedestrians, clearly not in perfect control. Hayes was not sure who had called to him, but he took one look back and made a dash for the still-moving carriage. As he approached, the driver set it off again, laughing inanely, for it was another young gentleman with the reins in hand. Hayes forced himself to sprint, and as the door swung open, he reached out and grabbed the carriage, feeling hands take hold of him and drag him in where he sprawled on the floor.
Half a dozen men his own age looked down at him, grinning. "Why, Samual Hayes," one of them said, "have a drink," and proceeded to pour wine all over Hayes' face.
"Hume!" Hayes managed, almost choking. He pushed himself up, fending off the bottle.
The young gentlemen were laughing madly.
"Aye, have another drink, Hayes." Hume began tilting another bottle toward Hayes, but he managed to push this one away, too.
"Flames, Hume, but you came just in time. I was being chased by footpads."
"On Spring Street?" someone said, clearly certain he was joking.
"You'd have been better off with the footpads, I'll wager," someone laughed. "We're celebrating Hume's impending demise. Marriage, that is."
Hayes struggled up into a crouch and stared out the rear window. He could see them now, a group of men at the run, but too far back to be distinguished. Too far back to catch them, that was certain.
"Blood and flames," Hume said, twisting around to look out. "You were serious."
"Let's go back and give them what-for," someone called out. "I've a rapier in here somewhere."
"No!" Hayes said quickly. "Drive on."
"Hah! Out of the frying pan into the fire, Hayesy. You're with us now and our intent is far more wicked than any footpads. Driver," the young man called, "The brothel!"
"The brothel!" The others took up the cry, and the carriage careened off down the street, only the fragile common sense of horses keeping the gentlemen from disaster.
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