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Thornlost (Glass Thorns Series #3)

Thornlost (Glass Thorns Series #3)

by Melanie Rawn

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Overview

Melanie Rawn returns to her rich high fantasy world in Thornlost, the sequel to Touchstone and Elsewhens.

Cayden is part Elf, part Fae, part human Wizard—and all rebel. His aristocratic mother would have him follow his father to the Royal Court, to make a high-society living off the scraps of kings. But Cade lives and breathes for the theater, and he's good, very good. He's a tregetour—a wizard who is both playwright and magicwielder. It is Cade's power that creates the magic, but a tregetour is useless without a glisker—an elf who can spin out the magic onto the stage, to enchant the audience. And Cade's glisker, Mieka, is something special too. So is their fettler, Rafe, who controls the magic and keeps them and the audience safe. And their masker, Jeska, who speaks all the lines, is every young girl's dream.

They are reaching for the highest reaches of society and power, but not the way Cade's mother thinks they should. They'll change their world, or die trying.


The Glass Thorns Series
#1 Touchstone
#2 Elsewhens
#3 Thornlost
#4 Window Wall
#5 Playing to the Gods (forthcoming)

At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.



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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781429946537
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 04/29/2014
Series: Glass Thorns Series , #3
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 996,559
File size: 717 KB

About the Author

MELANIE RAWN is the author of the bestselling Dragon Prince trilogy and the Dragon Star trilogy. Her most recent fantasy novels are Touchstone and its sequel, Elsewhens. She graduated from Scripps College and has worked as a teacher and editor. Rawn lives in Flagstaff, Arizona.


MELANIE RAWN is the three-time Locus Award–nominated author of the bestselling Dragon Prince trilogy, the Dragon Star trilogy, and the Glass Thorns trilogy, including Touchstone, Elsewhens, and Thornlost. She graduated from Scripps College with a BA in history and has worked as a teacher and editor. Rawn lives in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Read an Excerpt

Thornlost


By Melanie Rawn

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2014 Melanie Rawn
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-4653-7


CHAPTER 1

Reality intruded on Cayden's notice in the form of a flaming pig.

Seated in a place of honor in the small courtyard of Number 39, Hilldrop Crescent, he had an excellent view of every marvel of cookery that came out of Mieka Windthistle's kitchen door. Each was placed on a long trestle table for inspection by the guests, many of whom Cade didn't know. Friends and family were in attendance, of course, but there were also neighbors who knew the new residents of Number 39; those who didn't yet know them but were untroubled by the scandalous reputations of theater folk; those who were curious; and those who simply had heard that food and drink were to be had all afternoon and into the evening. Fortunately, Hilldrop wasn't a large village — a central cluster of shops and two small taverns, mayhap forty houses, most with a bit of acreage for grazing, and a tiny Chapel visited every fortnight or so by a Good Brother or Good Sister attending to the spiritual needs of the village. Simple folk they were in Hilldrop, all Human to look at, though with a hint of other races here and there, and Cade had found them friendly enough. They'd no reason not to be. There was music all afternoon, local musicians on flutes and drums thrilled beyond words to be accompanying the famous cousins Alaen and Briuly Blackpath and their lutes. Later there would be dancing round the bonfire. For now there was a parade of culinary wonders, all presented first to Cayden Silversun.

There was also thorn, but that was not offered to other guests.

Cade had been doing quite nicely all afternoon on a combination of very fine ale and one or another of Brishen Staindrop's mysterious concoctions of thorn. The latter was responsible for the way he saw the food. First had been a completely feathered purple swan that blinked its glassy green eyes, stretched its wings, and flew off its platter into the lazy spring afternoon. A little while later a blue and red striped lamprey — fully five feet long and glowing like a lantern lit by Wizardfire, coiled in a bed of salad greens — was sliced its entire length by a sharpened snake wielded by Mistress Mirdley. It spewed dozens of tiny yellow butterflies that followed the swan skywards. A pink porpoise was next, arched above frothing cabbage waves that shimmered white and green in the gathering dusk. The poor thing flapped its orange fins in valiant effort, but failed to join the butterflies and the swan.

Some part of Cade knew that none of these things actually happened, and that the swan, lamprey, and porpoise had all been the proper colors and carved up and eaten. Plates had been given to him, loaded with meat and appropriate garnishments. But it suited him to choose to believe in the butterflies.

The pig was different. As the sun dipped below the western hills and vague spring shadows spread through the courtyard, all the lovely prancing colors and blossoming visions dissolved when the pig was brought out on a pair of planks, ablaze from the curl in its tail to the apple in its mouth. He expected it to do something: snort rainbows out its snout, leap upright and dance a jig. (A piggy-jiggy, he told himself, vastly pleased with the rhyme; he'd make of himself a famous poet yet, see if he didn't.) At the very least, the flames ought to turn to glass and, fittingly for Touchstone, shatter.

But the flames were real, and as the rumbullion burned out, the pig did nothing more spectacular than lie there on the planks. Space was made on the table so Mistress Mirdley could carve with a knife that was definitely a knife. As a plate was piled for him, Cade's last hope was that the apple would sprout wings and flutter off to join the butterflies. The apple stayed an apple as the plate was presented to him: his Namingday, after all, and his the honor of the prime slices and garnishments. He smiled past his disappointment that the thorn had faded, and made much of praising the pig that had betrayed him by staying a pig.

With the thought of betrayal, he absolutely avoided looking at Mieka.

Mieka's mother-in-law, who had betrayed Cayden's secret to the Archduke after Mieka had drunkenly burbled it to her daughter, had been sneaking sidelong looks at him since his arrival. He could guess what she was thinking: There must be some sort of mark on him, some significance of face or glance that indicated he was something other than a Master Tregetour newly turned twenty-one years old. That which he truly was, some sign must needs betray.

That word again. With his extensive — nay, exceptional — vocabulary, he ought to be able to think up something else to call it. But a betrayal was a betrayal, just as the pig was a pig, and when Mieka came by to refill his glass, the last lingering bit of thorn mocked him by overlaying the glisker's perfect, quirky Elfen face with a snuffling swinish snout.

He realized he was writing it all in his head, and quite badly, too. For one thing, he was punning — snout was local colloquial for someone who betrayed his mates to the constables — and Cayden never punned. Worse, as if that triple s of snuffling and so forth weren't bad enough, the odd little almost-rhyme of local colloquial was just plain awful. He was a Master Tregetour. Before inflicting things like that on anyone, including himself, he ought to rip his own brains out through his nose with a hoof-pick.

It was definitely time to go home. He'd been here since the afternoon, partaking of liquor in public and Mieka's collection of thorn in private. It had been over two hours since the last pricking of mysterious powder, and Mieka hadn't been round to suggest more. Cade could stay drunk, of course. There was alcohol aplenty in the barrels of Auntie Brishen's whiskey and casks of very good locally brewed ale. But with thorn, the pig would not have disappointed him by staying a pig, and he didn't feel like dealing with reality just now. Especially not if reality included listening to another chide from Mieka's wife about polishing up her husband's accent. Sweet and delicate as the renewed entreaty was, Cade heard the impatience behind it. He bent his head over his plate of no-longer-flaming pork and wished somebody would come by with a full bottle just for him.

"Dearling, you have such a beautiful voice, and you're so brilliant in the way you think, but there are some people who won't hear anything you say, because of the way you say it."

"Anybody worth the talkin' to won't be carin' much, now, will they?"

Fundamentally, she was right. The drunker Mieka got, the fewer g's attached to the ends of words and the worse his grammar became. Hadn't Cade worked to smooth out his own accent after it turned sloppy during his years at Sagemaster Emmot's Academy? He saw the adoption of slurrings and slang as a deliberate, if unrealized at the time, taunt to his mother: typical adolescent rebellion. He also understood why he had abandoned those slumping consonants and harsh vowels. Words were important to him. Vital, in fact. Slapdash speech could not but influence the way he used words on paper. Precise; controlled; things Mieka was only onstage (it never looked that way, but he was). Offstage, he was ... Mieka. No sense trying to change him, to make him other than what he was. If that was his wife's goal, she was doomed to frustration.

"But, Mieka, when there are noble ladies present —"

Among the friends, relations, business associates, and new neighbors in the town of Hilldrop gathered in the little courtyard this night, there was only one noble lady: Cade's mother. The fact that she was here at all was another shard of reality he didn't much care for. Yet Lady Jaspiela seemed content to occupy a chair padded with velvet cushions over there under the rose trellis by the kitchen door, where she could survey the company and yet preserve a suitable aristocratic distance. And keep an eye on Derien, Cade added to himself: Derien, his adored little brother whose idea all this had been. One huge party to combine Cayden's twenty-first Namingday, the Windthistles' much delayed home-cozying, Touchstone's recent triumph with "Treasure," the completion of renovating the barn, and the arrival of Yazz and his new wife, Robel.

Oh, and a belated Namingday party for Mieka's daughter, whom Cade had glimpsed exactly once since her birth.

"If you'd just be a little more heeding — you meet so many important people now, like Her Ladyship, and what if we're invited to —"

"Be puttin' an end to it, lovie," Mieka laughed. "There's me girl!"

Somehow young Mistress Windthistle had missed the fact that Lady Jaspiela had been Mieka's devoted admirer since first they met. The girl didn't seem to be the shiniest withie in the glass baskets. But there was something else that escaped her, something more ... profound wasn't the word he wanted, but he was drunk and it would have to do. There were distinctions of bloodline and social class to which certain members of the nobility clung like drifting spars after a shipwreck. Manner of dress and address, the precise depth of a bow and the particular flourish of a feathered hat ... Mieka had long since sussed out Lady Jaspiela's rather mundane snobberies. Of course, he knew that Cayden, too, was a snob, and had teased him about it more than once. Cade's haughtiness was of the intellect, and he had scant patience with what he saw as inferior minds. Mieka claimed to be unable to decide which was worse: the innate arrogance of the aristocrat or the learned conceit of the academic.

I am what I was born, Cade told himself, and he'd much rather be born with a mind than with a mindless zeal for his own antecedents. He blessed the Lord and Lady and all the Angels and Old Gods who had given him the capacity to express himself in words, to step back from whatever was going on around him in order to observe and catalog it for possible future use, to keep himself separated from the seethe of events and emotions that he nonetheless gathered up to feed his art. Rather Vampirish, but that was how things were.

If he was what he was — so, too, was Mieka. And again Cayden wondered why he didn't find it extraordinary that he hadn't murdered the Elf for having revealed his secret. He'd even experienced an Elsewhen about it, a few days after their triumph at the Royal wedding celebrations this spring. He took it out now and examined it, allowing himself leisurely enjoyment of Mistress Caitiffer's shock. And her hatred.

{"Make no mistake, woman. I will finish you. I know a few things that I'm sure you'd prefer remained unknown in certain quarters."

"You know nothing!"

"Don't I?" He smiled. "You're forgetting what I am, what I can see."

The old woman's lips tightened but then she gave a little shrug. "And to ruin me, you'll offer what you know to the Archduke —"

"Good Gods! Are you truly that stupid? I don't have to offer him anything. What's going to happen ... well, I've already seen it, you know," he said, lowering his voice as if confessing. "Just as I saw you write the letter to the Archduke that told him what I am. 'Something to His Grace's advantage,' that's how you phrased it. Purple wax to seal it. I saw it all."

"And couldn't prevent it!" she spat. "No more than you could prevent that stupid little Elf from spilling the whole tale one night, or prevent my daughter from telling me after! He was that furious with you, and that drunk, and will be again, and what won't you be able to stop him doing the next time?" Then, as if the question had been feeding on her insides, she demanded, "Why didn't you kill him? You knew what he'd done, that he'd betrayed you. You saw it all, and yet you forgave him. Why didn't you kill him?"

He laughed at her. "Kill the best glisker in the Kingdom? Oh, I don't think so. He does have his uses. And I'm not quite finished with him yet."}

Forgive — there was another interesting word. Some part of him knew that Mieka was Mieka, and would do what he would do; as well blame him for breathing. Why fight it? What Cade would fight for, would spend himself to the marrow of his bones fighting for, was that future where Mieka surprised him with a party on his forty-fifth Namingday. He liked taking this Elsewhen out to examine, to see again the grin on Mieka's face and the little diamond sparkling from the tip of one ear. Especially did he like the singing certainty that Touchstone would still be together, would still be wildly successful — and that Mieka would still be alive.

{"You didn't remember, did you?" Mieka challenged.

"Remember? What's all this, then? Remember what?"

Excited as a child, he gave a little bounce of delight that his surprise had turned out a surprise after all. "Happy Namingday, Cayden!"

He was right; it was past midnight, and it was his Namingday. "Forty-five!" Cade groaned. "Holy Gods, Mieka, I'm too old to still be playin' a show five nights out of every nine!"

"Oh, I know that," Mieka said with his most impudent grin. "But try telling it to the two thousand people out there tonight who kept screaming for more!"}

That was the Mieka he wanted to see. Which of Cade's own decisions led to that Elsewhen, he couldn't know. Not yet. Maybe not ever. He had to trust in himself, and in Mieka, to make the right choices. But that was the future he wanted, the one he would fight for.

As of tonight, he had exactly twenty-four years to wait.

Ah, but mayhap it hadn't been an Elsewhen at all, only something concocted by thorn. If that one wasn't really a possible future, then the other one, the terrifying one, couldn't be real, either.

{He stared at the words so hastily scrawled by Kearney Fairwalk, read them once, and again.


Mieka died a few minutes after midnight.


The horror was cold and raw and completely sobering. Into the huge silence his own voice said, "But I'm still here."}

The magnificent self-importance of it, the colossal arrogance: he, Cayden Silversun, was the only person who truly mattered.

Both visions had come to him while deep in thorn-induced dreams. They weren't the regular sort of Elsewhen. He couldn't decide if they had been prompted or merely enhanced by thorn. But he knew that he must accept both, or reject both. Each must be real and possible, or neither must be. He couldn't pick the one he wanted to believe and choose to ignore the other.

Someone had gone round to light torches throughout the little courtyard, and someone else had come by to refill Cade's glass when he wasn't looking. A nice courtyard, it was, and a tidy house, and the newly refurbished barn was as he remembered it from the Elsewhen that had come to him on the day Mieka bought the place. Well, as it had been — would be — before Mieka blew it up with cannon powder.

Cade drank a private toast to the absolute certainty that this vision was truly an Elsewhen, unprompted by thorn, and he wouldn't have to wait twenty-four years for it. Until it happened, he'd enjoy the prettiness of the thatched-roof cottage and its courtyard and barn, all lit up and filled with food, drink, a bonfire, garlands of beribboned flowers, laughter, music, every charming thing that celebrated a young man's coming of age.

But no gifts. Not yet, anyway. As the day had progressed into evening — lurching or flowing, depending on whether he was just drinking or whether he and Mieka had sneaked off for another sampling of thorn — he'd begun to wonder if the party itself wasn't his gift. No, there was always something special to commemorate a man's twenty-first. In that future-to-be, when he'd turn forty-five, Mieka had given him a pair of crystal wineglasses. One day he'd have to open that Elsewhen inside his head just to take a closer look at them. Blye's work, they must have been. And Blye on the sly (ah, there he was, rhyming again!), because without an official hallmark bestowed by the Glass-crafters Guild, she wasn't allowed to make anything hollow. On the other hand, in twenty-four years, things might have changed. He liked that thought, and tucked it away for further contemplation at a time when he wasn't owl-eyed.

One day he'd make the choice that led to that future of the wineglasses and the diamond earring. It was all his to decide. He wouldn't have foreseen it, otherwise, because every Elsewhen he experienced was a direct result of his own actions. The futures that he could not affect, those were the ones he never saw in advance.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Thornlost by Melanie Rawn. Copyright © 2014 Melanie Rawn. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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