Sacred Band Series Book 1

Here are the iconic adventures of Tempus, the Riddler, and his Sacred Band seen through the eyes of Nikodemos, his right-side companion, as Niko seeks his spirit's balance on Bandara's misty isles. Five pivotal Sacred Band stories from the earliest adventures of the Stepsons in a world of thieves. Ride with Tempus and his Band once again, for the first time. PUBLISHER'S NOTE: Parts of this work have been published in substantially similar form in several volumes of the Shared Universe Series, Thieves World®.

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About the Book

[excerpt from Tempus: HIGH MOON]

Just south of Caravan Square and the bridge over the White Foal River, the Nisibisi witch had settled in. She had leased the isolated complex – one three-storied “manor house” and its outbuildings – as much because its grounds extended to the White Foal’s edge (rivers cover a multitude of disposal problems) as for its proximity to her business interests in the Wideway warehouse district and its convenience to her caravan master, who must visit the Square at all hours.

The caravan disguised their operations. The drugs they’d smuggled in were no more pertinent to her purposes than the dilapidated manor at the end of the bridge’s south-running cart track or the goods her men bought and stored in Wideway’s most pilfer-proof holds, though they lubricated her dealings with the locals and eased her troubled nights. It was all subterfuge, a web of lies, plausible lesser evils to which she could own if the Rankan army caught her or Tempus’s Stepsons rousted her minions and flunkies or even brought her up on charges.

Lately, a pair of Stepsons had been her particular concern. And Jagat – her first lieutenant in espionage – was no less worried. Even their Ilsig contact, the unflappable Lastel who had lived a dozen years in the cesspool of Sanctuary without being discovered, was distressed by the attentions the pair of Stepsons was paying her.

She had thought her allies overcautious at first, when it seemed she would be here only long enough to see to the “death” of the Rankan war god, Vashanka. Discrediting the state-cult’s power icon was the purpose for which the Nisibisi witch, Roxane, had come down from Wizardwall’s fastness, down from her shrouded keep of black marble on its unscalable peak, down among the mortal and the damned. They were all in this together: the mages of Nisibis; Lacan Ajami (warlord of Mygdon and the known world north of Wizardwall) with whom they had made pact; and the whole Mygdonian Alliance which he controlled.

Or so her lord and lover had explained it when he decreed that Roxane must come. She had not argued. One pays one’s way among sorcerers. She had not worked hard for a decade nor faced danger in twice as long. And if one did not serve Mygdon – only one – all would suffer. The Alliance was too strong to thwart. So she was here, drawn here with others fit for better, as if some power more than magical was whipping up a tropical storm to cleanse the land and using them to gild its eye.

She should have been home by now; she would have been, but for the hundred ships from Beysib which had come to port and skewed all plans. Word had come from Mygdon, capital of Mygdonia, through the Nisibisi network, that she must stay.

So it had become crucial that the Stepsons who sniffed round her skirts be kept at bay. Or ensnared. Or bought. Or enslaved. Or, if not, destroyed. But carefully, so carefully. For Tempus, who had been her enemy three decades ago when he fought the Defender’s wars on Wizardwall’s steppes, was a dozen storm gods’ avatar; no army he sanctified could know defeat; no war he fought could not be won. Combat was life to him; he fought like the gods themselves, like an entelechy from a higher sphere – and even had friends among those powers not corporeal or vulnerable to sortilege of the quotidian sort a human might employ.

And now it was being decreed in Mygdonia’s tents that Tempus must be removed from the field, taken out of play in this southern theater or maneuvered north where the warlocks could neutralize him. Such was the word her lover-lord had sent her: move him north, or make him impotent where he stayed. The god he served here had been easier to rout. But she doubted that the absence of Vashanka would incapacitate the Riddler: there were other storm gods, and Tempus, who under a score of names had fought in more dimensions than she had ever visited, knew them all. Vashanka’s dénouement might scare the Rankans and give the Ilsigs hope, but more than rumors and manipulation of theomachy by even the finest witch would be needed to make Tempus fold his hand or bow his head. To make him run, then, was an impossibility. To lure him north, she hoped, was not. For this was no place for Roxane. Her nose was offended by the stench blowing east from Downwind and north from Fisherman’s Row and west from the Maze and south from either the slaughterhouses or the palace – she’d not decided which.

So she had called a meeting (itself an audacious move) with her kind where they dwelled on Wizardwall’s high peaks. When the meeting was done, she was much weakened (it is no small feat to project one’s soul so far) and unsatisfied. But she had submitted her strategy and gotten approval, after a fashion, although it pained her to need to ask.

Having gotten it, she went about setting her plan in motion. To begin it, she had called upon Lastel/One-Thumb and cried foul: “Tempus’s sister, Cime the free agent, was part of our bargain, Ilsig. If you cannot produce her, then she cannot aid me, and I am paying you far too much for a third-rate criminal’s paltry talents.”

The huge wrestler adjusted his deceptively soft gut. His east side house was commodious, filled with clientele sampling his wares. Dogs barked in their pens and favorite curs lounged underfoot, beneath the samovar, upon riotous silk prayer rugs, in the embrace of comely krrf-drugged slaves – not her idea of entertainment, but Lastel’s, his sweating forehead and heavy breathing proclaimed as he watched the bestial event a dozen other guests found fetching.

The dusky Ilsigs saw nothing wrong in enslaving their own race. Nisibisi had more pride. It was well that these were comfortable with slavery – they would know it far more intimately, by and by.

But Roxane’s words had jogged her host, and Lastel came up on one elbow, his cushions suddenly askew. He, too, had been partaking of krrf – not smoking it, as was the Ilsig custom, but mixing it with other drugs which made it sink into the blood directly through the skin. The effects were greater, and less predictable.

As she had hoped, her words had the power of krrf behind them. Fear showed in the jowled mountain’s eyes. He knew what she was; his fear was her due. Any of these were helpless before her, should she decide a withered soul or two might amuse her. Their essences could lighten her load as krrf lightened theirs.

The gross man spoke quickly, a whine of excuses: the woman had “disappeared… taken by Aškelon, the very lord of dreams. All at the Mageguild’s fete where the god was vanquished saw it. You need not take my word – witnesses are legion.”

She fixed him with her pale stare. Ilsigs were called Wrigglies, and Lastel’s craven self was a good example why. She felt disgust and stared longer.

The man before her dropped his eyes, mumbling that their agreement had not hinged on the magekiller Cime, that he was doing more than his share as it was, for little enough profit, that the risks were too high.

And to prove to her he was still her creature, he warned her again of the Stepsons: “That pair of Whoresons Tempus sicced on you should concern us, not money, which neither of us will be alive to spend if…” One of the slaves cried out, whether in pleasure or pain Roxane could not be certain; Lastel did not even look up, but continued: “…if Tempus finds out we’ve thirty stone of krrf in –”

She interrupted him, not letting him name the hiding place. “Then do this that I ask of you, without question. We will be rid of the problem these Stepsons cause, thereafter, and have our own sources who’ll tell us what Tempus does and does not know.”

A slave serving mulled wine approached, and both took electrum goblets. For Roxane, the liquor was an advantage: looking into its depths, she could see what few cogent thoughts ran through the fat drug dealer’s mind.

He thought of her, and she saw her own beauty: wizard hair like ebony and wavy; her sanguine skin like velvet: he dreamed her naked, with his dogs. She cast a curse without word or effort, reflexively, giving him a social disease no Sanctuary mage or barber-surgeon could cure, complete with running sores upon lips and member, and a virus in control of it which buried itself in the brainstem and came out when it chose. She hardly took note of it; it was a small show of temper, like for like: let him exhibit the condition of his soul, she had decreed.

To banish her leggy nakedness from the surface of her wine, she said, straight out: “You know the other bar owners. The Alekeep’s proprietor has a girl about to graduate from school. Arrange to host her party; let it be known that you will sell those children krrf – Tamzen is the child I mean. Then have your flunky lead her down to Shambles Cross. Leave them there – up to half a dozen youngsters, it may be – lost in the drug and the slum.”

“That will tame two vicious Stepsons? You do know the men I mean? Janni? And Stealth? They bugger each other, Stepsons. Girls are beside the point. That Stealth – he’s a fuzzbuster. Surely –”

“Surely,” she cut in smoothly, “you don’t want to know more than that – in case it goes awry. Protection in these matters lies in ignorance.” She would not tell him more. Not that Stealth, called Nikodemos, had come out of Azehur (where he’d earned his war name) and worked his way toward Syr via Mygdonia in search of a Trôs horse, hiring on as a caravan guard and general roustabout. Or that a dispute over a consignment lost to mountain bandits had made him bondservant for a year to a Nisibisi mage – her lover-lord.

There was a string on Nikodemos, ready to be pulled.

And when he felt it, it would be too late, and she would be at the end of it.

Series: Sacred Band Series, Book 1
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Perseid Press
Publication Year: 2013
ASIN: 0988755068
ISBN: 0988755068
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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.'

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the page above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."