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- Seven Sorcerers
Baleful Betrayal. Ominous Overworld. Insidious Insurrection. Conrad Edison and the Anchored World. Conrad Edison and the Broken Relic. Conrad Edison and the Infernal Design.
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Mars Rising. Hunter of Demons. Destroyer of Worlds. Summoner of Storms. Mocker of Ravens. Dancer of Death. Drinker of Blood. Wild Wild Hex. Restless Spirits. Dangerous Spirits. Flux of Skin. Fifth of Blood. All But Human. Men And Beasts. The Burning World. Monster Born. Vampire Cursed. Getting Sideways. Stronger Than Magic. Finding Flame.
Promise of Magic. Taking Earth. Elements of Magic. By Fairy Means or Foul.
Damon Snow and the Nocturnal Lessons. Damon Snow and the Incubus Rake. Damon Snow and the Viscount Temptation. Damon Snow and the Nocturnal Confession. Damon Snow and the Necromancer Vow. Family Magic. Witch Hunt. Demon Child. The Long Lost. Flesh and Blood. Full Circle. Divided Heart. First Plane. Light and Shadow. Queen of Darkness. Dark Promise. Unseelie Ties.
Ancient Ways. The Undying. Shifting Loyalties. Coven Leader. The Last Call. Birthright A Daeva and Drach Novella. The Outcast. Steam Union.
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The Brotherhood. Lord of the Drach. The Order. Dark Brother. Blood of the Maji. The Planeless. Second Seat. Rite of Passage. Yet the empire that he built—that all of them helped him to build—even now drew him into itself, calcifying his existence, his very identity, like nothing else ever could. Zyung was his empire; the Living Empire was Zyung. On the altar of his supremacy she had found the black shard of hope that was her deadliest weapon. She kept it hidden for generations, like a dagger tucked into the robe of a patient yet ambitious slave. No one else had seen the dark glimmer of its blade.
The Garden of Twenty-Seven Delights lay in an obscure corner of the temple- palace complex, a labyrinth of trellised walls, sculpted avenues, and fountained walks. Orchards, arboretums, vineyards, and cloistered parks surrounded the garden. A white tower of five sides rose above the sparkling domes to block the view of the temple-palace proper. The Holy Mountain, the faithful called it. Yet the citadel was not carved from any existing mountain; it was built by the hands of Men to stand as high and magnificent as any natural peak.
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The work of a million slaves, their tiny, broken lives scattered across the centuries. The stones of the soaring walls were mortared with their blood and bones. The last stone had been set, the last chisel laid down, more than five hundred years ago, yet the vision lived as clearly in her mind as if seen only yesterday. She avoided looking at that titanic face, both in the light of day and in the silver gloom of night. In the same way that she avoided the carven face, she had learned to avoid the true face of the Almighty when it suited her purposes.
The trick was to focus his attention elsewhere, as it had been for centuries now. The Almighty dreamed of the ripe, untamed lands beyond the Outer Sea. His growing obsession with the expansion of the Living Empire gave her the opportunity she had awaited since the City of Celestial Truth had been a mud-walled village alongside a stinking river. Sungui arose from a carpet of grass and petals, donning a robe of iridescent silver.
Mahaavar did the same, brushing purple blossoms from his shoulders. His shimmering vestment was identical in every way to her own. There were no distinctions among the High Seraphim. Another way in which Zyung reinforced their Diminishing: Making them equal. She smirked at the moon, which the earth's shadow had divided precisely in half. Could there be an omen in that particular astronomic event? She had not consulted the moon charts when planning tonight's gathering.
They did not need to speak, Mahaavar and she. Their bodies had expressed everything in the ciphers of touch and sensation. The earthly manifestations of their eternal spirits. The complimentary nature of their bodies was their most effective communication. Mahaavar kissed her lips once again before leaving the garden; his were still hot and tasted of cinnamon. Along the Path of Contemplation they walked, two silver-robes strolling in the unhurried way common to those in power. Slaves tending the nightflowers scurried from the path, prostrating themselves; the clacking of shears resumed as they passed.
Guards in hawk-faced visors stiffened as the two High Seraphim walked by their stations upon garden walls and bridges. A nightingale sang sweetly among the clustered vines that hemmed the pathway. Sungui's bare feet on the polished marble made no sound; Mahaavar moved as quietly as she. They passed through an arch of jade carved into a parade of winged children, and so came into the Grotto of Sighing Flowers.
A breeze stirred the hems of their garments, the naked breath of great, pulsing blossoms. At the nearest of the Inner Walls, they paused while an alabaster gate rose to admit them. They entered the courtyard of the Thirty-Ninth Tower and crossed a lawn where white- barked trees harbored flocks of nesting doves. Only here, away from the ears of passing slaves and functionaries, did Mahaavar speak to her. Longer than you could guess.
Do you remember—truly remember—how old you are? Mahaavar looked at the shadows swimming about the tree roots.
A holy viper crawled through the grass, its white scales speckled with a pattern of scarlet diamonds. Sungui turned and the pace resumed. Through a second gate of whitewashed oak and iron they entered a narrow corridor with recessed candles lining the walls. A slave carrying a bundle of cloth paused before them, lying flat upon the floor so that they might walk upon his back.
Sungui and Mahaavar stepped across the man's bony frame one at a time. He neither groaned nor complained, although she did hear the complaint of his brittle bones. As they proceeded down the corridor, the slave was up again and carrying his burden in the direction from which they had come. She breathed deeply the close air of the Slave Quarters. She smelled only sweat, soap, and the exhalations of simple cuisine. Slaves' cooking.
6 thoughts on “Editing Work”
Mahaavar was her spoiled lover, unaccustomed to walking in the lower precincts of the Holy Mountain. He was much like a boy, and she loved him for that as much as for their ancient and bloodless kinship. She allowed herself a lingering glance at his handsome face: high-set cheekbones, ebony hair, eyes blue as sapphire, the petulant mouth of a princeling.
A lost and doddering God of the ancient world might look as fetching, were there ever any such beings. Adoring the beauty of his face, recalling the hot embrace of his body, she could understand why humans had created this notion of Gods. Yet that was long ago, and all those imaginary deities had been slain, forgotten, or suffused into the essence of the High Lord Celestial himself.
Zyung was their only God now. The one God they could believe in because he walked among them working miracles, casting dooms, spreading his gifts of pain and death. For thousands of years it had been so. And it might be so for thousands more. Mahaavar grinned.
His Holiness would never expect to find a single one of his High Seraphim in such a place. Curtains of steam wafted in the damp air. A corridor of unadorned stone led them into an underground gallery dominated by a great, square pool of murky water. Young slaves tended two hearths where flames licked about hot stones. As the two High Seraphim entered, a terrified boy dropped a burning rock he was lifting with a pair of iron tongs. It fell steaming to the floor between his feet, glowing like a miniature red sun.
Several adult slaves were bathing in the pool. Their faces lit with surprise, then abject fear. They rushed up out of the pool, grabbing towels to wrap themselves and shuffling the bath-tenders out of the chamber with a series of bows, prostrations, and nervous words.
In a few seconds the chamber stood empty but for the two High Seraphim in their glittering robes, perspiring in the steam. Sungui raised a finger to her lips, ensuring Mahaavar's silence. They did not have long to wait. Four dark archways glimmered silver as ten more High Seraphim entered the chamber to stand about the abandoned pool.
Sungui's eyes greeted each of them in turn. Damodar with his shaven skull and large ears, nose pierced by a hoop of sacred platinum. Eshad, whose impressive physique shamed even that of Mahaavar, cords of muscle coiled beneath the bright skin of his robes. Myrinhama, whose golden hair fell to her waist, and whose almond eyes were golden as well. Gulzarr and Darisha, who had been lovers for centuries, ageless and inscrutable behind faces of serene beauty. Durangshara, portly as any spoiled merchant, who took his joy from the fruits of the earth and his pleasure from the howls of slaves. Johaar and Mezviit and Aldreka, who could be triplets they were so alike in form, taste, and bearing.
And finally Lavanyia, whose hair was a mound of sable silk piled atop her lovely head. She reminded Sungui of the great lionesses that roamed the Weary Plains to the south. She could also be as dangerous, as bloodthirsty, and as unforgiving as one of those proud beasts.