City at the Edge of Time

City at the Edge of Time

Sacred Band Series Book 5

Join Tempus and Niko on the triple shores of land, sea, and eternity . . .
Where a young girl trembles between love and sorcerous obsession . . .
Where a prince's refusal to admit his flaws makes him a pawn of hell . . .
Where a city of immortals learn that Death has not forgotten it . . .
In the catacombs beneath a warlock's citadel, swords and courage face the jaws of demons -- with a girl's life and a god's vengeance resting on the outcome.

"An exciting and brilliantly colored sortie . . ." - David Drake

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About the Book

[excerpt from City at the Edge of Time: RAIN OF FISH AND MAN]

A red cloud rising out of the east was borne seaward on a hungry wind that howled like a devil. It was a hot cloud, a wet cloud full of the promise of rain, and yet it shed no drop on the forest below. It spread across the wilderness without end, a cloud like a funnel, a cloud like a waterspout turned on its side.

It crossed the scorched earth between the forest and the city on the coast, low to the ground and howling. Then it arched up like a striking snake, a hissing serpent that ate the sky and reared high over the city’s walls.

By then no one walked the city streets. Everywhere the city’s folk had fled indoors, even from the courtyards of the king. No peltast stirred on the battlements; no sentry held his ground. From within the walls of the palace, men peered out through slits at the unnatural red storm.

Women held each other in their boudoirs, and children sheltered under mothers’ skirts. Noise went everywhere, carried on a wet and flailing wind that made hairs stand up on arms and necks and dogs scramble under sturdy beds to whine.

Macon was in his father’s stables with his sister Tabet when the maelstrom started; and there he stayed, working with the grooms to calm the horses, lest one break a leg rearing and kicking. Among horses, as men, hysteria travels fast.

He’d lost track of his sister until he heard her screech above the whinnying and kicking horses and the cursing of the grooms.

Macon ran to the stable door just in time to see the end of the deluge in the stableyard — and nowhere else.

Water pelted down as if the Storm God Enlil had emptied his bucket there. And more: In the sluice of water that made a sea of mud in the stableyard were . . . fish. A hundred fish at first, then a thousand. Big fish; white-bellied carp as long as your arm: the rain of fish continued even when the downpour abated.

Macon saw his sister, drenched and knocked to the mud by the water, raise her arms to fend off the fish striking her. He should have gone to help, but he remained rooted to the spot. His eyes were fixed on the red sky, so opaque and full of fish.

Then something even larger cast its shadow over the courtyard as once again a torrent descended from the sky. And in this torrent, turning and rolling among the carp, fell a man.

Falling man and fish and water all hit the mud and fish and water in the courtyard with a thud and a splash, and Tabet screeched again.

This second screech released Macon from his trance — or perhaps the sky did, for suddenly it was no longer red and low and raining fish, but clear and blue with puffy clouds skewered by a double rainbow that arced over all the city, it seemed.

Tabet was trying to get to her feet among the mud and the fish by the time her brother reached her. It was slippery going, and treacherous. The stableyard’s walls sloshed with muddy water as if their father had decided to turn the king’s stable into a fish-filled pool.

Some of the fish were attempting to swim; some were flopping on piles of their fellows; some floated dead with gaping jaws on the water slowly draining. Macon had to get his sister out of there, he knew.

When he reached her, she was sitting calmly, up to her hips in water, knees bent and skirts revealingly high, staring at the man who had fallen with the fish from the sky.

His head and shoulders showed above the water, free of fish, only spattered with mud. He was beginning to stir.

“Get up,” Macon whispered to his sister. “Close your legs. Let me help you. Get into the stable — ”

Tabet laughed too loudly, pretending it was an everyday occurrence to be covered with mud and fish that rained from the sky and brought a man with them in a deluge. “Get up? Walk in this? On a carpet of fish and mud? You sit down, brother, and wait for the yard to drain.” She pulled at his belt. Overbalanced and surprised, he fell and landed, rump first, on a pile of carp that gave way with a sickening squish.

A grunt that wasn’t hers stopped Macon’s hand as he raised it to swat his sister, all disheveled and muddy and grinning crookedly as she pushed carp away from her.

The stranger stirred.

He got his elbows under him and raised his head, looked Macon straight in the eye, and then let that head fall back. Macon, prince of the city, had seen many men and many strangers, but never a man with a look like that upon his face. The eyes of the stranger had wanted to know only if harm was imminent. Those eyes had asked the question as clearly as could words, before the eyes closed.

Tabet, not Macon, said, “I think he’s half drowned,” and started to crawl to the aid of the man who’d fallen from the sky.

It wasn’t easy to make headway through the treacherous carpet of carp. By now grooms had come out of the stable, elbowing each other and whispering, unsure of anything but that it would be best not to laugh at the prince and princess. Mirth-choked voices began tentatively to ask after Macon’s health.

The prince called for help to get the newcomer inside. “And get Matilla, to tend to a man half drowned —  have her bring her herbs and tea and whatever else she needs. For us, too. Let’s get this man into the stableboys’ quarters. Now!”

Thus Macon himself forgot to consult the palace warlock in the matter of this stranger; by then, Tabet already had the stranger’s head in her lap and her lips to his.

“Sister!” The prince scrambled toward her, slipping as he went, muddy arms held high like a dancer’s to balance himself.

“Matilla taught me how to save a drowning soul!” said Tabet huffily. “Here, help me.” She took the man’s unresisting arms and showed Macon what to do.

A cough came from the stranger’s chest, then another. He seemed to want to roll over, and they helped him. Macon kept the stranger’s face out of the mud as he coughed up water; not until then did Macon become uncomfortably aware that the man who’d fallen from the sky was naked as a newborn.

When the stableboys, slipping and sliding through the mud and the flopping fish, came to help, they had nothing with which to cover the man any more than Macon did.

So the princess Tabet was treated to the sight of a mature, naked man’s muddy front and backside as the stableboys carried him out of the courtyard and up the stairs.

She herself would accept no helping hand. “What do you mean, not go up there? I found him, didn’t I? He fell to earth nearly by my side. Of course I’m going, Macon. And you should come too. This is a fine and wondrous omen, I am certain.” She rubbed at the mud on her face with the back of her hand, smearing her pale skin even more. Her honeyed eyes shone bright with excitement. “Come on, before we miss our chance. He’s ours — we found him. Lose this opportunity, and Seth and the rest will have him off where they can keep him to themselves. We haven’t met anybody from Outside, not to talk to . . .” Her voice was breathless and pleading.

And there was something else there that Macon didn’t want to think about, something that made her words thick and husky and . . . unsisterly.

He said, “Yes, I suppose. We did find him. Anyway, the stableyard is my responsibility . . .” Princess Tabet was already making her way across the yard, her dress sticking to her revealingly. “And you all get back to work,” Macon called to the help still loitering and staring unabashedly. “Get these fish out of here. Get this yard dried out if you have to use all the shavings we have on hand. And make sure those horses are bedded first — dry and bedded.”

There was no way to traverse that fish-strewn ground in a princely fashion. But then, he was too muddy and too determined to care, really. For the first time in far too long, something had happened to lighten the dour and pregnant and infinitely boring pall that had come down over the city once Father had turned over the running of things to the warlocks, seers, and priests, and sequestered himself in the high tower.

Possibly, this wondrous event would bring King Genos out of his rooms, where Macon could talk to him about the way the stewards were running the city. Perhaps the prince might even find out why, if Father had truly decided to retire, his son had been neither consulted nor drafted into the service for which he’d trained so long.

Authors: ,
Series: Sacred Band Series, Book 5
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Perseid Press
Publication Year: 2017
ASIN: B0755P12F2
ISBN: 9780998268705
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About the Author
Janet Morris

Best selling author Janet Morris began writing in 1976 and has since published more than 30 novels, many co-authored with her husband Chris Morris or others. She has contributed short fiction to the shared universe fantasy series Thieves World, in which she created the Sacred Band of Stepsons, a mythical unit of ancient fighters modeled on the Sacred Band of Thebes. She created, orchestrated, and edited the Bangsian fantasy series Heroes in Hell, writing stories for the series as well as co-writing the related novel, The Little Helliad, with Chris Morris. She wrote the bestselling Silistra Quartet in the 1970s, including High Couch of Silistra, The Golden Sword, Wind from the Abyss, and The Carnelian Throne. This quartet had more than four million copies in Bantam print alone, and was translated into German, French, Italian, Russian and other languages. In the 1980s, Baen Books released a second edition of this landmark series. The third edition is the Author's Cut edition, newly revised by the author for Perseid Press. Most of her fiction work has been in the fantasy and science fiction genres, although she has also written historical and other novels. Morris has written, contributed to, or edited several book-length works of non-fiction, as well as papers and articles on nonlethal weapons, developmental military technology and other defense and national security topics.

Janet says: 'People often ask what book to read first. I recommend "I, the Sun" if you like ancient history; "The Sacred Band," a novel, if you like heroic fantasy; "Lawyers in Hell" if you like historical fantasy set in hell; "Outpassage" if you like hard science fiction; "High Couch of Silistra" if you like far-future dystopian or philosophical novels. I am most enthusiastic about the definitive Perseid Press Author's Cut editions, which I revised and expanded.'

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