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Masques : Sianim Series : Book 1 - Patricia Briggs

Masques

Sianim Series : Book 1

Paperback

Published: 28th September 2010
For Ages: 18+ years old
In Stock. Ships from Australia today or next business day
RRP $15.99
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After an upbringing of proper behavior and oppressive expectations, Aralorn fled her noble birthright for a life of adventure as a mercenary spy. Her latest mission involves spying on the increasingly powerful sorcerer Geoffrey ae'Magi. But in a war against an enemy armed with the powers of illusion, how do you know who the true enemy is-or where he will strike next?

About The Author

Patricia Briggs graduated from Montana State University with degrees in history and German. She worked for a while as a substitute teacher but now writes full-time. Patricia Briggs lives in the Pacific Northwest.

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Very enjoyable

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great series

Cooma NSW

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A great book

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There are no words to express the writings of Patricia Briggs

Central Coast NSW Australia

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Masques

5.0 2

100.0

"Entertaining."--Locus "Many enjoyable aspects of the world-building and characters to savour. And a sweet and touching tentative romance."--Urban Fantasy Book Reviews

CHAPTER 1

The great hall of the castle was his favorite room.

At first she'd believed it was the grandeur that appealed to him -- a weakness he freely admitted. Now she concluded that it was something more. Certainly the pleasure of desecrating with his dark arts the only room of the ae'Magi's castle that had been kept free of magic for over a thousand years was not lost on him. Even now she could see one of the guests glance nervously at the shadows in the corners of the room. People who couldn't use magic tended to get nervous in a room where magic was performed often.

Most of all, she thought, the reason he loved the room was the delight he took in watching the highest aristocracy of a dozen nations dancing gaily where only a few hours before a young child had screamed out his life.

Aralorn shivered and paced behind the ornate black bars of her cage.

The great hall was resplendent; lavishly decorated for the pleasure of the people who tripped lightly across the floor. Soaring ceilings were etched with tear-shaped skylights. Pale pillars dripped down to a highly polished ivory floor that reflected the jewel-like colors of the dancers.

Aralorn's cage sat on a raised platform on the only wall of the room that lacked a doorway. From that perch she could observe the whole room and be observed in return. Or rather they could see the illusion that the ae'Magi had placed on the cage. Slavery was frowned upon by many of the nearby kingdoms. Instead of the tall exotically-blond woman that the ae'Magi had purchased from a traveling Slaver, observers saw a rare snowfalcon.

A chime sounded, announcing new visitors. Aralorn hugged herself as the ae'Magi greeted his guests with a warm smile. He'd smiled that same smile last night when he held the boy's pulsing heart in his hands.

Biting her lip, Aralorn gazed at the dancing royalty in an effort to distract herself. She matched names and countries to the dancers' faces with the ease of the professional spy that she was. Gradually she replaced the boy's dead eyes with dates and politics, but she still paced her cage restlessly.

There was a hypnotic quality to the kaleidoscopic, brilliant colors of the dancers: twisting around and around only to stop, rearrange themselves and swirl into motion once again. They surely felt it. Their laughing faces were strangely blank, without a hint of any other emotion than simple enjoyment. She saw the Duchess of Ti and the Envoy of the Anthran Alliance dancing cordially with each other. Four years ago the Envoy had the Duchess's youngest son assassinated, sparking a bloody feud that left bodies littering the Alliance like a plague.

The Envoy said something and patted the Duchess's shoulder. She laughed gaily in return as if she hadn't had the Envoy's third wife killed in a particularly nasty manner only a month ago.

When the musicians paused for a break, people crowded around the Archmage, Geoffrey ae'Magi, drawn to his twinkling eyes and mischievous grin the way butterflies surround the flowering coralis tree. Like the coralis he was extraordinarily beautiful with blue-back hair, high cheekbones and the smile of a child with his hands caught in the cookie jar. But the true attraction lay in his gentle warmth and the uncanny ability to poke fun at himself and others without causing hurt to any. Before she`d come here, Aralorn herself had been more than half enamored of him.

When an insect lands on the sweet-smelling, scarlet flower of the coralis, the petals close and the flower digests its hapless prey over a period of weeks.

She turned away from the ae'Magi and back to the room. Leaning lazily against one of the pillars a short, square built young man wearing the colors of the royal house of Reth also observed the throng: Myr, Prince -- no, King now, of Reth. His face was unremarkable except for the stubborn tilt to his chin that he'd inherited from his paternal grandfather, a formidable warrior and king. What caught Aralorn's attention was the expression of distaste that briefly crossed his face as he looked at the crowd, remarkably different from the vacuous smiles that everyone else wore.

He shifted unexpectedly and met her gaze. He looked quickly down, but then began to make his way through the crowd toward her cage. When he reached the platform, he tilted his head down so that no one could read his lips and asked in a low tone, "Do you need help, Lady?"

Surprised, she glanced quickly at the mirror that covered the back of the cage. The snowfalcon stared back at her indifferently. An old spy had once told her that the ruling family of Reth occasionally produced offspring who were immune to magic. Looking at Myr she decided that it was more probable that he was unaware of the illusion that cloaked her than that he commonly asked caged birds if they needed help. Rethians hated the practice of slave keeping, but it was a bold move to offer to help one of the ae'Magi's slaves to escape.

Intrigued, she responded as herself, rather than the slave she was supposed to be. "No, your highness, I am here to observe the ae'Magi."

"A spy?" It wasn't a question. "You must be from either Sianim or Jetaine. They are the only ones who would employ female spies in as delicate a position as this." He seemed to be thinking out loud, because when he finished speaking a flush rose to his face as he realized how insulting his last remark sounded.

Aralorn, though, was amused rather than offended. With a half smile she clarified, "I get paid for my work."

"A mercenary of Sianim then." He eyed her speculatively, "I am surprised that they thought there was a need for a spy here."

"'Struth, so am I," Aralorn allowed, giving him no more information. Having satisfied his curiosity as far as she was ever going to, she asked him a question of her own. "How did you see past the illusion of the snowfalcon that the ae'Magi placed on the cage?"

"Is that what you're disguised as?" His smile made him look even younger than he really was. "I wondered why no one said anything about the woman he had in the cage. Slavery might be legal here, but most people don't condone it."

He might have said more, but something in Aralorn's expression stopped him. He immediately straightened and stared at her as if she fascinated him.

"Ah, I see you admire my falcon, lord." The resonant voice could only belong to the ae'Magi, "She is beautiful, isn't she? I purchased her several months ago from a traveling merchant -- somewhere in the Northlands, I believe . . . I thought she would go well with this room." He waved a casual hand that managed to indicate the rest of the hall.

Aralorn had grown adept at reading the ae'Magi's voice and it was just a little too casual. He was baiting Myr, and she didn't know just why -- unless he too had heard rumors about the unusual talent that sometimes cropped up in Reth's royal family.

Reth was a small country in size, but rich in minerals and agriculture. It had a well trained army, left as legacy by Myr's grandfather. Myr was a very new king and certain conservative political factions would have been happier had he been the same kind of puppet as his father. Myr seemed to have the politicians pacified, but it wouldn't be hard for the ae'Magi to change that. Aralorn's growing apprehension was more than professional; Reth was her homeland.

Myr turned to the magician with a smile and more confidence than a boy his age should have. "Yes, the ivory tinge is the same as the color in the marble here. It's unusual to see a snowfalcon this far south, you must have paid a great deal for her."

Aralorn hoped desperately that the amusement she felt didn't show on her face, as the ae'Magi had little trouble seeing past his own illusion. Myr was quick.

They talked at length about falconry; something that Aralorn happened to know interested neither one of them. When they had exhausted the subject, the ae'Magi abruptly changed topics.

"Myr," said the ae'Magi, "I wish to express my sorrow at the death of your parents. I feel some responsibility for their deaths, since they were returning from one of my parties, when their coach overturned. I wish that they had decided to stay overnight -- as I asked. The tragedy might have been averted." The sympathy in the magician's blue eyes promised to heal. With professional interest, Aralorn heard the edge of guilt in his voice, he'd have made a wonderful spy with his acting ability.

He laid a fine-boned hand on Myr's shoulder, effectively forestalling what the younger man might have said. "Please, hear me out. If you have need of anything feel free to turn to me. I have connections and substantial power as the ae'Magi, and you may need what aide I can offer. It has never been easy to ascend the throne, especially now with the Uriah restless in the eastern forests. Not to mention that there are always opposing factions or . . . " he hesitated, waving his hand expressively, "other enemies."

Myr bowed his head quickly in gratitude; Aralorn hoped she was the only one who recognized his insincerity. "I shall do as you request, my Lord Magician. I know my parents counted you their friend." He paused and then said, "I apologize, lord, I have enjoyed our conversation, but I must excuse myself early. You see," he leaned in closer with the air of a young boy confessing a secret, "I just bought a new stallion and I'm not sure I trust him on the trails after dark." His face lost its eagerness for a moment, "After what happened to my parents, sir, I feel a need to be overly cautious."

The magician smiled understandingly. "I'll summon your servants for you."

Myr shook his head, "I left them outside with orders to meet me an hour before dark."

"The gods follow you then. With your courage and strength you will do credit to your lineage. I wish that my own son were more like you," to Aralorn's sensitive ears, the magician's voice held just the right amount of pain. She wondered why she hadn't noticed before she'd been assigned here that his emotions were always exactly right. She shouldn't have needed the opportunity, if that were the correct term, to observe his less savory endeavors to determine that there was something beneath the surface.

"Lord Cain could not be termed a coward, sir." Myr's voice held a matching amount of sympathy, as false as the ae'Magi's.

"No," said the ae'Magi, "I think that it would have been better for all of us if he were a coward. He would have done less harm. I have him under control now, but I don't know how long that I can keep him quiet."
Patricia Briggs

Patricia Briggs was born in Butte, Montana to a children’s librarian who passed on to her kids a love of reading and books. Patricia grew up reading fairy tales and books about horses, and later developed an interest in folklore and history.When she decided to write a book of her own, a fantasy book seemed a natural choice. Patricia graduated from Montana State University with degrees in history and German and she worked for a while as a substitute teacher.

Currently, she lives in Montana with her husband, children and six horses and writes full-time, much to the delight of her fans.

Visit Patricia Briggs's Booktopia Author Page


ISBN: 9780441019427
ISBN-10: 0441019420
Series: Sianim (Paperback)
Audience: General
For Ages: 18+ years old
For Grades: 12
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 306
Published: 28th September 2010
Publisher: Penguin Putnam Inc
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 17.2 x 10.8  x 2.3
Weight (kg): 0.16