Casket of Souls
horror and whimsy, lust and blood, intrigue and honor, great battles and greater loves. It is a journey through a world so strange and real you can taste it, with companions so mysterious and memorable you won’t forget it. Lynn Flewelling is a fine teller of tales who delivers all she promises, cuts no corners, and leaves us dazzled, moved, and hungry for more.
is a wonderful book.”
—P ATRICK O’L EARY
“While fans of Dungeons and Dragons–style lore will find enough wizardry, necromancy, swords, daggers, and devilishly clever traps here to satisfy the most avid, this book also provides entry to a complete and richly realized world that will please more mainstream readers.”
—Bangor Daily News
Casket of Souls
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
A Spectra eBook Edition
Copyright © 2012 by Lynn Flewelling
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Spectra, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
S PECTRA and the portrayal of a boxed “s” are trademarks of Random House, Inc.
Grateful acknowledgment is made to Jennifer Crow for permission to reprint “The Hour of Blue Leaves” by Jennifer Crow, copyright © 2010 by Jennifer Crow. Reprinted by permission.
Map by Virginia Norey
Cover art: © Michael Komarck
S EREGIL hadn’t been sure what to expect—or rather, he hadn’t expected much. This sweltering, run-down little theater in Basket Street used to cater to merchants of middling means with aspirations to culture, but who had neither the purse nor polish for the likes of the Tirari in the Street of Lights across the city. This place had been shuttered last he knew. The proscenium’s faded paint was peeling, its gilt dull, and the footlights flickered in the draft. Only the scrim behind the stage was new, expertly painted to suggest a dark, forbidding forest.
The theater was barely large enough for a hundred people, most of them groundlings in front of the raised stage. It was nearly full, and the smell of overheated bodies was already oppressive. It was unusual for it to be this hot so early in the summer.
“Are you certain this is the right theater?” asked Duke Malthus as he handed his wife Ania, Lady Kylith, and her niece Ysmay into their chairs.
“I was just wondering the same thing myself,” Seregil remarked, settling cautiously into a rickety chair between Alec and Kylith.
“Of course it is!” Kylith chuckled, tapping them both playfully with her fan.
Malthus and Kylith were considerably older than Seregil appeared, but he’d known them both in their youth. Malthus had risen to become one of the queen’s senior exchequers. He had a short cropped beard but wore his grey hair to hiscollar—rather daring for a man in his position. Kylith, a former lover, was one of Seregil’s closest friends, and an unimpeachable source of society gossip.
Seregil dabbed the sweat delicately from his upper lip with a lace-trimmed handkerchief and scanned the crowd, acknowledging those he knew—merchants and sea captains mostly—who puffed up among their friends at his notice. Even at this level of society, whom you knew, and whom you were known to know, meant a great deal. Seregil, the infamous Aurënfaie exile, had made his living playing that game in Rhíminee for a good many years now.
He and his party were certainly attracting looks and whispers. Lady Kylith’s elaborately coiffed hair sparkled with jeweled pins as she murmured something to Duke Malthus. As always, she, Ania, and Ysmay were dressed in the height of summer fashion in light silks and jewels; here they looked like swans among ducks. Seregil supposed they all must. No doubt there were a few cutpurses in the audience below, sizing them up for later.
Seregil and Alec cut quite a figure themselves, two handsome, lanky young men—one dark-haired, one fair—dressed in long linen summer coats stitched in gold, fawn breeches, and well-polished boots. Seregil’s long, dark brown hair was caught back with a thin red silk ribbon that matched his coat. Alec’s thick blond braid hung down the back of a coat the same dark blue
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