The Forsaken Isles are on the brink of revolution. Three individuals are about to push it over the edge and trigger events that will lead to a final showdown between ancient forces and the new overlords of the land. Spaeth Dobrin is destined to life as a ritual healer—but as the dhotamar of the tiny, isolated island of Yora, she will be caught in a perpetual bond between herself and the people she has cured. Is it slavery, or is it love? Meanwhile, Harg, the troubled and rebellious veteran, returns to find his home transformed by conquest. And Nathaway, the well-intentioned imperialist, arrives to teach Spaeth’s people “civilization,” only to become an explorer in the strange realm of the Forsakens. These two men will propel Spaeth into a vortex of war, temptation, and—just possibly—freedom.
. . .patch as far as the eye could see. “Look, they have drawn pictures on the land with plants!” Tway said. Torr knowingly explained that the patterns had to do with ownership rather than art.
The Inner Chain had been in Inning hands for sixty years, but it still seemed like the heart of the isles. They put in at Larbot for water and news, and gazed at the castle where Barrow had held a poisoned feast for his brother’s followers. Then it was on to the tumbled rock cliffs of Tirol, covered with a shaggy growth of pine and maple. This was the wild, rocky isle where Larse had found the door to the land of death, and made a bargain with the king who dwelt inside. In the afternoon of the fifth day they rounded Tirol’s shores and saw the low blue lines of Rusk in the west, and the bay of Sandhaven. They lined the deck to gaze at the site where Ison Orin’s fleet had made its last stand against the Innings.
The next day they came to Tornabay. They knew where Mount Embo lay long before they drew near, for a towering, flat-topped cloud stood motionless over the mountain’s peak. All morning the cone-shaped mountain rose higher. When they came into the strait between Embo and the jagged cliffs of Loth, they found a yellow haze hanging over the water, and the day darkened under the ashen cloud.
Their eyes smarted as they neared the great harbour. In the Outbay they passed three warships from the Southern Squadron. By now, their hostage was securely locked in the aft cabin. As they nosed into the crowded inner bay, thick with the shadowy shapes of other boats, Harg peered anxiously through the murk for any sign of Fairweather Friend.
Their plan was to stop at the dock long enough for a few of them to debark; then Torr would take the Ripplewill back to the Outbay to wait with the hostage till he saw a signal from his companions on shore. But as they neared one of the long-fingered docks, a rowboat drew up to them. An official-looking figure stood and summoned the Ripplewill to stop.
Leaning over the gunwale, Torr blinked to see who spoke. The oarsmen had cloths tied over their faces. Even the Torna in charge held a linen handkerchief to his nose.
“Customs!” the man called. “You cannot land until you have declared your cargo. I need to come on board.”
“Let me land my passengers first,” Torr said.
“If you have passengers, they must register with Immigrations.”
“Since when?” Torr objected.
“It was always the law.”
There was nothing they wanted less than a curious Torna bureaucrat on board, but Jobin whispered, “Don’t argue!”
The customs man had sheaves of papers under his arm and a pocketful of pencils. The exertion of clambering across made him cough hoarsely.
“This normal weather here?” Torr asked.
The Torna shook his head. “The mountain has been smoking for a week,” he said. “Can we go below?”
For an instant the captain hesitated, then led the way below to the main cabin. The official, a little disgruntled at not being shown to the privacy of the aft cabin, set himself up to write on the end of a cask.
“Port of origin?”
“Torbert of Grora.”
“Purpose in coming here?”
Torr told his lies like a professional. The others listened silently. After endless questions about the origins and values of his lading, the Torna handed the paper over for a signature and said, “The landing tax is eight decamedes.”
“That’s robbery!” Torr protested.
“It’s the law.”
Torr said, “My strongbox is in the aft cabin. I’ll go fetch it.”
“Never mind, Torr, I have some money,” Harg spoke up. The others took the hint and searched their pockets to put together the required sum. The official was counting the coins when he suddenly stopped to scrutinize one.
“A Rothur coin,” he said, holding it up. “Where did you get this?”
Shrugging, Torr said, “They’re common in the South Chain.”
“Have you been doing business with the South Chain?”
“Of course. Everyone on Grora does.”
“Know anything about. . .