Ricardo Carillo wakes after a meteor explosion in a new body—and in a strange land of desert and danger named Gandalara, where a stolen gem holds the power to control or destroy.
Ricardo, now renamed Rikardon, has cleared himself of accusations that he stole the sacred Ra’ira. But he still has enemies, especially in Gandalara’s seamy, dangerous underbelly. A powerful moneylender is threatening Rikardon’s loved ones to ensure a debt is repaid. For their safety, Rikardon leaves the city of Raithskar for Thagorn, home to the Sharith—a brotherhood of warcat riders like himself.
Thagorn is expecting another new arrival too—an illusionist named Tarani, whose uncle, Volitar, is a famed glassblower with information on the Ra’ira’s whereabouts. Rikardon is drawn to the beautiful, intriguing Tarani, though she appears to be plotting against him. Tracking down Volitar forces them into an uneasy alliance and into the path of a murderous villain intent on using the gem’s power to rule Gandalara—no matter what the consequences may be . . .
Praise for the Gandalara Cycle
“Entertaining and well-paced . . . Full of swordplay and giant cats.” —Theodore Sturgeon, The Twilight Zone Magazine
“This series as a whole is possibly the best of its kind in many years.” —SF Chronicle
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Nobody, not even another Gandalaran, would call Worfit handsome. But nobody would tell him the truth, either. For one thing, he sat behind a big marble-topped desk and in front of two tough-looking characters whose expressions said: "Make the Chief mad and I'll break your face." For another, he had a certain personal trait which would make the most talkative person taciturn. In a word, that trait was meanness.
It glittered in the pinpoint eyes which lurked underneath extra-prominent supraorbital ridges. It could be seen in the way he used his thick-fingered hands. They lay still until they were needed. They didn't tap tables or crack knuckles. And when they moved, they moved fast, grasping at things as though each item were an enemy's throat.
Just now, his right hand lay on the desk before him, palm upward. On that palm were stacked the twenty-four coins which, in sum, repaid Markasset's debt to this man. With a sudden movement, Worfit flipped his hand over, scattering the smaller bronze and silver coins and slapping the two gold twenty-dozak pieces to the desk top.
"You owe me more than this, Markasset," he said. His voice was high-pitched, soft, menacing.
I knew what he meant, of course. I had killed one of his men. But his manner throttled the gracious apology I had planned.
"Seven hundred zaks is the exact amount of the debt," I said. "Enjoy it. It's the last money you'll see from me."
Worfit's head pulled back a little. He looked at me the way a dog might regard a rabbit who barked.
"You've said that before, Markasset, but I think you mean it this time. Don't tell me this hoorah over the Ra'ira has finally turned you into daddy's good little boy."
How could Markasset stand this creep? I wondered, with an unreasonable feeling of betrayal. Relying on Markasset's memory of Worfit as a "gentleman gamester" with a high sense of honor, I had made the difficult choice to come to his office unarmed. Now my hand itched to hold Serkajon's sword.
Keeshah, resting in his house in Thanasset's back yard, sensed my uneasiness.
*Need me?* came his thought. I could feel his eagerness. But there had been a number of armed men lounging around the closed gambling salon I had crossed a few minutes ago. I had the definite feeling that Worfit had expected my visit — and possibly one from Keeshah.
*Thank you,* I told the cat. *I can handle this.*
I hope, I added to myself. The exchange had taken only a fraction of a second, and Worfit was still staring at me with contempt plain on his face.
"Everybody changes sometime, Worfit," I said. "Look at you. You used to be a lot nicer."
I'd like to stuff those coins, one by one, through his digestive system in reverse, I thought.
"That was when you were a good customer, and paying on time. You've just said you're quitting the tables, and I believe you. That means you aren't worth being nice to any more."
*DANGER!* Keeshah's mind screamed the warning as, linked with me, he heard the soft step behind me.
I ducked to the right. A double-fisted blow that might have knocked my head off struck the top of my left shoulder and spun me around. I caught my balance and faced the man who had swung at me, a big, muscular man with a patch on one eye. Mamen, Worfit's assistant and bouncer.
"I been waiting for this a long time, Markasset. Let's see how far your uppity manners get you now." He spread his arms and came toward me. "Like the Chief said, I don't have to be nice."
At least he's not armed, I thought. Thank goodness for grudges. He wants to tear me apart, piece by piece.
He'll do it, too, if I don't get moving.
I bent over and lunged head-first at his midriff, which was hard as rock. But I did knock him backward, so that there wasn't much punch to the two-handed blow he landed on my spine. We crashed against the wall near the office door. I grabbed his ankles and pulled. He sat down heavily.
His big hands caught my tunic and jerked me toward him, and I didn't resist. When my head was near his chest, I braced my hands on the wall on either side of him, and snapped my head up under his chin. The back of his head slammed into the wall.
His grip relaxed.
My head hurt.
Oh, boy, did my head hurt.
Headaches seem to be a way of life with Markasset, I grumbled to myself as I staggered to my feet. Somewhat less than gracefully, I turned to face the desk, expecting the two plug-uglies behind Worfit to join in the fight. But they were right where they had been. One of them was even smiling.
Not too popular with the troops, are you, Mamen?
*Hurt?* came Keeshah's anxious thought. *Icome there.*
*No, Keeshah, I'm all right. I'd be dead by now if that's what Worfit wanted. I'm safe.*
Slowly, Worfit stood up. He was short, his head barely clearing my shoulder. But he was heavy and solid, with wide shoulders and a barrel chest. He came around the desk, and I tensed again, certain that Worfit would be harder to handle than Marnen. But he only came up to me and pushed a stubby finger into my chest.
"You owe me, Markasset," he said. "For the irritation and inconvenience of Zaddorn's close interest in my affairs because of that fleabitten Ra'ira. Maybe that wasn't your fault, but it feels that way to me.
"And you killed one of my men. You owe me a life.
"I won't kill you today, Markasset. Not for years, yet, maybe. But I collect all the debts I'm owed. Remember that, and keep looking over your shoulder. Don't make it easy for me."
His eyes were gleaming, and his mouth was stretched in an ugly smile. His large canine tusks looked eager.
He hates Markasset, I realized. He has always hated him. Because of Keeshah, Worfit never had the complete power over the boy that a life-threat brings. And Worfit wouldn't dare strike at Thanasset, because then boy and cat would come looking for him. So Worfit had to do a certain amount of play-acting to keep Markasset's respect — and his business.
Now he hates me, too, because I don't have Markasset's gambling fever. He's lost the little power he had. A few hundred zaks was nothing to Worfit. But now he figures it's worth it to put time and energy into finding a way to get to me. Just to prove he can do it.
He can. He's doing it right now, damn it.
I pushed his hand away, then I shoved Marnen with my foot to get him clear of the door. Before I could get through it, Worfit spoke again in that sneering voice.
"Watch your back, Markasset."
This ugly little man had belittled, threatened, and intimidated me. Worst of all, he knew he'd gotten to me, that I believed his threat. I wanted — badly — to wipe away his self-satisfied smirk.
"Markasset isn't my name," I said. "Call me Rikardon. Thanasset renamed me. When he gave me Serkajon's sword."
I left then, with a warm memory of Worfit's unpleasant features beginning to register shock. My gloating lasted about ten paces past the outer door of the gaming house.
How stupid can you get? I asked myself, then added: Don't test it out.
Sure, you impressed Worfit. He knows about Markasset's family history. He knows what Thanasset thinks of his son, to give him Serkajon's sword.
So now he'll be careful not to underestimate you.
And you gave him another reason to want you dead — that damned sword is valuable.
When Thanasset had presented the steel sword to me, I had been intrigued by its history and touched by the high regard implicit in the old man's gesture. It wasn't until I had all of Markasset's memories that I realized that it was a treasure beyond price. Markasset did not know of another steel sword which existed in Gandalara. Rika, as the sword was called, was unique.
Iron was amazingly scarce in this world. Raithskar had the only known deposit of it, and its mining was a community affair, closely supervised by the Council. Steel was forged, sold, and traded at premium prices in minute quantities. Its most common use was in the scissor-like sparkers, bronze tongs with cupped tips set with pieces of flint and steel for striking fires.
In the language of Gandalara, Gandaresh, the word for both steel and its basic material, iron, was rakor. Besides the sparkers, rakor was used for other, very special purposes. The lock mechanism of the chamber from which the Ra'ira had been stolen was a strong bar of wood with brackets and a locking pin made of rakor. That seemed to me to be another measure of the esteem in which the Council of Supervisors held the beautiful gem.
Serkajon's sword, because of its history as well as its composition, was the second most valuable article in Raithskar. Telling Worfit I had it had been like dangling a carrot in front of a donkey.
Except it's hard to tell which one of us is the jackass, I thought gloomily.
The thing to do, I decided, is not let it get under your skin. Worfit wants you to sweat a little. He won't do anything for a while, at least. So cheer up, have some breakfast, take a look at the city. Do you realize this is the first chance you've had to relax? Enjoy it!
I had stepped out into an open court, one of four good-sized plazas which surrounded the huge central meeting area of the city. Though all these courts were square in shape, when a Raithskarian spoke of "the Square", he meant the big one, with stone terraces stepping down to meet an elevated stage. The announcement of the Council's judgment had been made there last night, clearing Thanasset and Markasset of any blame in the Ra'ira incident.
This plaza was smaller and level, but it, too, was paved with hand-fitted stone. Benches were placed in attractive groups, often in combination with a planting of trees and shrubs which grew tall enough to shade the benches. Although there was a specific district in the city for restaurants, a few were allowed to operate facing each plaza, for the convenience of the workers of the surrounding districts.
I followed my nose into a pastry shop, and came out with two meat pies and an earthenware drinking bowl filled with a strong herb tea.
It was still early morning, as I had timed my arrival at Worfit's offices for just after the dawn curfew for gaming houses. I took my time over breakfast, enjoying the food, and letting the faint mist from the Skarkel Falls dampen my clothes. The three other plazas would be bustling with people on their way to work, but this one was nearly deserted at this time of day. It lay in the center of the night district, and the "rush hour" home had happened earlier, probably while I had been with Worfit.
One of the few people crossing the court was a young woman. Her golden head fur winked with a sheen of mist. It reminded me of walking in Thanasset's garden with Illia, and I thought: What better relaxation is there than the company of a lady?
I returned the drinking bowl to the restaurant, got back my deposit, and started northward. I had no trouble finding Illia's house, and she answered the door on the first knock. A smile of welcome froze and turned shy, and her mother appeared from a doorway somewhere.
"Who is it, Illia? ... Oh." She nodded a greeting to me, even while she was speaking to her daughter. "Don't be too long, dear, I do need your help." Illia's mother went back through the doorway — into the kitchen, I presumed. Both women were wearing long aprons heavily stained with a pinkish fruit juice.
"I'm sorry if I've come at a bad time," I said. "I only wanted to ask — will you have dinner with me tonight?"
"I'd like that very much," she said softly. "What time?"
We set a time, and I turned to go.
"Rikardon?" she called me back. "Thank you for asking."
Her smile thawed a little, and I left, feeling a keen anticipation of the evening. Breakfast, the walk, and the prospective dinner date had finally done away with the headache.
I walked through Raithskar, seeing it twice. Once with Markasset's familiarity, again with Ricardo's objectivity. I passed a party of vineh spreading a fresh coating of dark clay mud over a worn street. Markasset wouldn't have noticed them at all, but they sent Rikardon searching through the Gandalaran's memory for facts relating to the man-like animals.
Gandalarans aren't human physically, though they are mammalian humanoids. They are water savers, like the kangaroo rat of the American southwest. Socially and psychologically, they are so similar to humans that identifying them as men and women is no insult to Ricardo's humanity.
If the Gandalarans are the men of their world, then the vineh are the apes. Though the people of Raithskar had trained the beasts to perform simple tasks under close supervision, in their natural state they exhibited more ferocity than intelligence. Vineh are bigger than the men of Gandalara, and their stance is more erect than that of the apes of Ricardo's world. They are covered with a coarse and curly fleece, light tan in color.
In Raithskar, they wore shorts.
The first time I had seen vineh, I had assumed that the shorts were meant to respect the modesty of the people of Raithskar. That had seemed foolish to me, but on recalling a crusade during my former lifetime to put human-style clothes on the animals in zoos, I wasn't about to criticize.
In any case, I had been wrong. The only surefire, ironclad, indisputable reason for one male vineh to beat the living tar out of another one is the fact that the other is male, and might someday be competition for the attentions of a female. Obscuring sight of a rival's genitalia removed his identity as a rival.
Don't ask me why.
The men of Raithskar had discovered this quirk, collected a colony of vineh, and put the males to work. The females were always in some breeding phase, producing three males for every female. Whether this created the fierce rivalry, or was a natural compensation for the high murder rate among males, was a "chicken or egg" problem that didn't rate much analysis.
Beyond those facts, Markasset hadn't known a whole lot about the vineh. Having his memory accessible to me wasn't the blessing I had first thought it would be. For one thing, I had his understanding of facts and his impression of the events he remembered. For another, I needed always to be setting him aside to view things more objectively. Whenever I looked at anything within Markasset's experience, it stimulated a natural search for associations that I had come to think of as Markasset's "echo." Worst of all, Markasset took this world, these people, this city for granted. A lot of the things I wanted to know, he had never bothered to learn.CHAPTER 2
It was almost noon by the time I reached home. The meat pies had worn off, and I was looking forward to lunch.
*Hungry too,* Keeshah told me, as I started in the front door of the big stone house. He had been given an entire side of glith the evening before, but I could well believe he needed more food. He had carried two men almost six hundred miles in just over four days. Even though he had hunted and fed during that time, his reserves had to be just about gone.
*Right after lunch* I told him. *I promise.* Lunch, as it happened, was going to be delayed.
Thanasset came out of the sitting room to the right of the midhall as soon as I opened the door. He was taller than I, and his head fur was beginning to darken with age. But he always gave an impression of vigorous health and great dignity. Just now he looked relieved.
"We were beginning to wonder if something had happened to you," he said. He didn't mention Worfit.
" 'We'?" I asked.
"Yes, Ferrathyn has been here most of the morning, waiting to see you."
I hurried into the sitting room, where the slight old man was sipping a glass of faen, the Gandalaran equivalent of beer.
"It's good to see you again, Chief Supervisor," I said. "I'm sorry you had to wait. If I had known ..."
He waved his hand and shook his head. "Not at all, not at all. One of the few good things that has come from losing the Ra'ira has been my frequent visits to Thanasset's house. He and I have spent the morning renewing a friendship long neglected.
"Anyway, it happens that I have nothing else to do. Seeing you is my assignment from the Council."
Uh-oh, somethings up, I thought. It didn't take much deduction. Ferrathyn was smiling up at me, wrinkles wreathing his face. And Thanasset was beaming, but not looking at me, as though I might read the secret in his eyes.
"I am empowered to invite you, Rikardon, to join the Council of Raithskar as its thirteenth member," Ferrathyn said. "There are normally certain — uh — character tests to be passed, but these have been waived in your case, largely because the Council feels you have already proven yourself to be of excellent character. The Council will have a general meeting tomorrow, just after the luncheon hour. Please attend, and deliver your decision in person."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Glass of Dyskornis"
Copyright © 1982 Randall Garrett and Vicki Ann Heydron.
Excerpted by permission of Jabberwocky Literary Agency, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.