Imagers challenge, p.1

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Imager's Challenge
 



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Imager's Challenge


  Imager’s

  Challenge

  Tor Books by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

  The Imager Portfolio

  Imager

  Imager’s Challenge

  The Corean Chronicles

  Legacies

  Darknesses

  Scepters

  Alector’s Choice

  Cadmian’s Choice

  Soarer’s Choice

  The Lord-Protector’s Daughter

  The Saga of Recluce

  The Magic of Recluce

  The Towers of the Sunset

  The Magic Engineer

  The Order War

  The Death of Chaos

  Scion of Cyador

  Fall of Angels

  The Chaos Balance

  The White Order

  Colors of Chaos

  Magi’i of Cyador

  Wellspring of Chaos

  Ordermaster

  Natural Ordermage

  Mage-Guard of Hamor

  Arms-Commander (forthcoming)

  The Spellsong Cycle

  The Soprano Sorceress

  The Spellsong War

  Darksong Rising

  The Shadow Sorceress

  Shadowsinger

  The Ecolitan Matter

  Empire & Ecolitan

  (comprising The Ecolitan Operation

  and The Ecologic Secession)

  Ecolitan Prime

  (comprising The Ecologic Envoy

  and The Ecolitan Enigma)

  The Forever Hero

  (comprising Dawn for a Distant

  Earth, The Silent Warrior, and

  In Endless Twilight)

  Timegod’s World

  (comprising Timediver’s Dawn

  and The Timegod)

  The Ghost Books

  Of Tangible Ghosts

  The Ghost of the Revelator

  Ghost of the White Nights

  Ghost of Columbia

  (comprising Of Tangible Ghosts

  and The Ghost of the Revelator)

  The Hammer of Darkness

  The Green Progression

  The Parafaith War

  Adiamante

  Gravity Dreams

  Octagonal Raven

  Archform: Beauty

  The Ethos Effect

  Flash

  The Eternity Artifact

  The Elysium Commission

  Viewpoints Critical

  Haze

  Imager’s

  Challenge

  The Second Book of the

  Imager Portfolio

  L. E. MODESITT, JR.

  A TOM DOHERTY ASSOCIATES BOOK

  NEW YORK

  This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events

  portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

  IMAGER’S CHALLENGE: THE SECOND BOOK OF THE IMAGER PORTFOLIO

  Copyright © 2009 by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

  All rights reserved.

  Map by Jackie Aher

  A Tor Book

  Published by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC

  175 Fifth Avenue

  New York, NY 10010

  www.tor-forge.com

  Tor® is a registered trademark of Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Modesitt, L. E.

  Imager’s challenge : the second book of the Imager portfolio /

  L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

  p. cm. — (Imager portfolio ; 2)

  “A Tom Doherty Associates book.”

  ISBN 978-0-7653-2126-8

  I. Title.

  PS3563.O264I44 2009

  813'.54—dc22

  2009019454

  First Edition: October 2009

  Printed in the United States of America

  0 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

  For David and Carol Ann Nyman

  CHARACTERS

  CIVIC PATROL

  Artois

  Commander of Patrollers

  Cydarth

  Subcommander of Patrollers

  Harraf

  Captain, Third District

  Warydt

  Lieutenant, Third District

  Mardoyt

  Lieutenant, Headquarters

  HIGH HOLDERS

  Ryel D’Alte

  Irenya D’Ryel [Wife]

  Johanyr D’Imager [Disinherited Son]

  Dulyk D’Ryel [Son and Heir]

  Iryela D’Ryel [Daughter]

  Alynat D’Ryel [Nephew]

  Suyrien D’Alte [Chief Councilor]

  Kandryl D’Suyrien-Alte [Younger son]

  IMAGERS

  Poincaryt

  Maitre D’Esprit [Head of Collegium]

  Dichartyn

  Maitre D’Esprit [Head of Collegium Security]

  Dhelyn

  Maitre D’Structure [Head of Westisle Collegium]

  Dyana

  Maitre D’Structure

  Jhulian

  Maitre D’Structure [Justice]

  Rholyn

  Maitre D’Structure [Advocate/Councilor from the Collegium]

  Schorzat

  Maitre D’Structure [Head of Field Operations]

  Ferlyn

  Maitre D’Aspect

  Chassendri

  Maitre D’Aspect

  Ghaend

  Maitre D’Aspect

  Draffyd

  Maitre D’Aspect [Doctor]

  Heisbyl

  Maitre D’Aspect

  Quaelyn

  Maitre D’Aspect [Master of Patterns]

  Rhennthyl

  Maitre D’Aspect [Collegium Liaison to Civic Patrol]

  Isola

  Chorister

  EXECUTIVE COUNCIL OF SOLIDAR

  Suyrien D’Alte

  Caartyl D’Artisan

  Glendyl D’Factorius

  FACTORS

  Chenkyr D’Factorius [Rhennthyl’s Father]

  Rousel D’Factorius [Rhennthyl’s Brother]

  Remaya D’Rousel [Rousel’s Wife]

  Veblynt D’Factorius [Paper Factor]

  Ferdinand D’Factorius [Stone/Brick Factor]

  Honor is all too often an excuse to abuse power.

  Belief does not make an image, but can destroy one.

  The philosophers assume that the rules of the world do not change;

  that is a false truth.

  What is unseen cannot be separated from what one images.

  Do not trust those who will not follow their own tenets.

  Guilt cannot be imaged, but it can destroy an imager.

  The thought is the deed.

  Imager’s

  Challenge

  On Vendrei, the twentieth of Erntyn, just before the bells rang out the seventh glass of the morning, I hurried across the quadrangle of the Collegium to the administration building to meet with Master Dichartyn—imager Maitre D’Esprit, the director of all security operations for the imagers of Solidar, the second-most senior imager of the Collegium Imago, and my immediate superior. The faint mist that had hovered above the grass earlier had lifted, and the morning was cooler than usual, perhaps foreshadowing the end of harvest and the coming chill of fall. Both moons were high in the morning sky, with Artiema full and Erion waning, although they were easy to miss in the white sunlight angling over L’Excelsis, sunlight that tended to turn the granite buildings of Imagisle a whitish gray.

  As I reached the open door to Master Dichartyn’s first-floor study, the first bell rang out from the tower of Anomen Imagisle.

  “Come in, Rhennthyl.”

  I entered the small room with its single desk and bookcase, and but two chairs. Master Dichartyn stood beside the narrow window with its
louvered leaded glass panes cranked full open. He turned and nodded for me to close the door. His dark brown hair was shot with gray, more than even a few months before, it seemed to me, but the circles under his eyes did not seem quite so dark, and his narrow face was not quite so haggard. A faint smile rested on his lips.

  I closed the door, but did not sit.

  “How are you feeling, Rhenn?”

  “Most of the soreness in my ribs is gone, and Master Draffyd feels that I’m ready. He did suggest that I wear the rib brace for another two weeks as a precautionary measure.”

  “Given your . . . tendencies, that’s doubtless wise.” He gestured toward the writing desk, on which rested a silver pin—the four-pointed star of the Collegium, encircled by a thin band of silver. “You’ve seen those, haven’t you?”

  “Only on Master Poincaryt, sir. I wondered if he wore it because he was the head of the Collegium.”

  Master Dichartyn shook his head. “You know we don’t wear images of rank . . . not precisely. The pin merely signifies that you are a master imager, but not what class of master. We’ve found that it reduces misunderstandings for those imagers who have to work outside the Collegium. You wouldn’t be wearing it except for your assignment as Collegium liaison to the Civic Patrol of L’Excelsis.” He paused. “Go on. Put it on.”

  I picked up the pin and fastened it onto my gray waistcoat—the same cut and style as worn by all imagers—at the same spot where Master Poincaryt had worn his, just below the point of the left collar of my pale gray shirt.

  “Good. That’s where it belongs. Now . . . take it off. You only wear it while you’re away from the Collegium and on duty with the Patrol—or going to or returning from such duty.”

  “Yes, sir.”

  “You’ll report to Commander Artois at eighth glass on Lundi. After that, I imagine you’ll have to be there at seventh glass. Do you know where the Patrol headquarters are?”

  “They’re a block or so up Fedre from East River Road, aren’t they?”

  “That’s right. Now . . .” Master Dichartyn fingered his clean-shaven chin, not that any imager was bearded, as he often did when he was considering how to word something precisely. “Commander Artois is a solid, sometimes brilliant man. He doesn’t like the Collegium, but he does like imagers like you—too brave for your own good. He knows that you’ve taken out the Ferran and three other assassins.” Master Dichartyn smiled wryly. “He also doesn’t like facts being kept from him, but he’s not terribly fond of surmises or other ideas that aren’t backed with solid evidence. This could present a certain problem for you.”

  I could see that, because I often felt how things might go long before I could prove it. While I was usually right, I certainly wasn’t infallible, and that could prove difficult.

  “Oh . . . you might be interested to know that while you were recovering, the First Minister of Ferrum recalled their delegation to Ferrial for consultations and a proper period of mourning for the death of Envoy Vhillar.”

  “Did Master Poincaryt have to suggest anything?” I wanted to know if the head of the Collegium had been required to use the threat of revealing that Vhillar had been a renegade imager.

  “Apparently not.” There was a glint in Master Dichartyn’s eyes before he added, “The letter of sympathy for the unfortunate accident did mention that Master Poincaryt also sent his regrets for the loss of such an able envoy with talents that were far beyond his portfolio. That was sufficient, it appears.”

  I nodded.

  “From time to time, you will continue to meet with Maitre Dyana, Rhennthyl. Your skills in indirection may be adequate for the civic patrollers, but they leave something to be desired for someone who will need to deal with High Holders in the future.”

  That was a veiled reminder and reprimand all in one. “Yes, sir.”

  “Now . . . so far as your new duties go . . . you’ve studied the procedures manual of the Civic Patrol closely, but remember that events on the street seldom accommodate themselves to written procedures. I’m certain that you’ve considered this, but wherever possible, let the patrollers have the credit for what happens. If matters go badly, and it is your fault, take the blame. Take all of it. Do you understand?”

  “Yes, sir.” What that meant was that matters had better not go badly where I was involved.

  “Do you have any questions?”

  “No, sir.” I didn’t know enough about my new duties to have questions, and as in so many events of the past year, I had the feeling that by the time I knew enough to ask questions, it would be too late.

  “Unless you run into extreme difficulties, I’ll see you here next Jeudi evening at half past five.”

  “Next Jeudi at half past five.”

  He nodded, and I inclined my head in return, then opened the door to the small study, a chamber most modest for the second-most powerful imager in Solidar, and perhaps in the entire world of Terahnar.

  As I walked across the quadrangle to return to my quarters and to continue my studies of the procedures manual of the Civic Patrol, I couldn’t help but wonder over the circumstances that had brought me from a journeyman portraiturist to an imager Maitre D’Aspect. While I certainly hadn’t planned on being an imager, I knew that being an imager was far more palatable to my father than being an artist had been. As an imager, even as a low-level master, I had status, even a hint of power, and that was something my father the wool factor could appreciate, and now that I had a beautiful and acceptable young woman in Seliora interested in me, my mother was hopeful that, despite her Pharsi background, a marriage would be in the offing.

  There were a few problems with being an imager that they did tend to gloss over, such as my having been wounded twice in the past year, and others that I hadn’t mentioned in any detail to them, such as my unresolved difficulties with High Holder Ryel, who was absolutely certain, sooner or later, to try to destroy me in some fashion or another, or the fact that Seliora’s family, while certainly wealthy, still possessed certain connections that were highly useful, but not necessarily totally legal.

  Although Samedi was the first day of the weekend for most people in L’Excelsis, for me the weekend didn’t begin until almost noon—at the earliest. I still had to rise just before dawn and hurry down to the exercise chambers. Because of the bruises and other injuries I’d suffered in dealing with the Ferran spy and his assassins after the Council’s Harvest Ball, I couldn’t do a number of the exercises, and my running was far slower than it had been. After the four-mille run, I just stood there on the west side of the quadrangle, catching my breath, panting, and sweating. My ribs ached, but not so badly as they had almost three weeks earlier.

  Clovyl stepped over to me. “Not too bad for a cripple.” Even though he was an imager tertius, he was in charge of conditioning and training for all imagers in the covert branch of the Collegium, and he knew exactly how much to press me. “You’re improving.”

  Not too bad at all, considering I’d only been able to run for the past week or so, but then, I’d been in good shape before the explosion that had thrown me into the stone wall surrounding the Council Chateau, and my shields had taken the brunt of the impact, although Master Draffyd had pointed out that was also why I’d been bruised all over, because they had distributed the impact as much as cushioning it.

  “We’ll wait another few weeks before you get more training in hand-to-hand combat,” he added. “Master Dichartyn thinks you’ll need it sooner or later.”

  I just nodded. My suspicions were that Master Dichartyn felt I needed it more to keep me humble than for any other reason . . . but he’d been right most of the time. I just had to remember what Seliora’s Pharsi grandmother had said—that while Master Dichartyn and the Collegium were not my enemies, neither were they my friends. The Collegium looked out for the best interests of imagers as a whole, not for individual imagers, and individuals often paid the price. That was why Claustyn—one of the friendliest imagers I’d known—had died in Caene
n, the only reminder a stone plaque bearing his name on the memorial wall adjoining the dining hall. I didn’t even know how or why he’d died.

  “I’ll let you know,” Clovyl added before turning away and addressing Dartazn. “You’re slowing down there.”

  “Late night last night, sir.” Dartazn smiled apologetically.

  I couldn’t help grinning as I walked back toward my quarters in the building that housed single imagers tertius and a few single junior masters like me.

  After showering and shaving, I dressed and headed for the dining hall. Once there, I still felt strange taking a seat at the masters’ table, the smaller table at one end of the hall, set perpendicular to the two long tables, one for imagers primus, and the other for imagers secondus and tertius. My lack of ease came from the fact that I’d only been a master for a little over two weeks, and I was by far the youngest at the table. Ferlyn was the only master who was close to my age—the only officially revealed master, at least, because some of the field and covert operatives, such as Baratyn, who headed security at the Council Chateau, held the hidden rank and pay of Maitre D’Aspect. I sat next to Ferlyn, and we were joined by Isola who, although technically a tertius, was granted master privileges as the chorister of the Nameless at the Anomen D’Imagisle.

  “Good morning, Rhenn, Ferlyn.”

  “Good morning,” I replied. Isola was always cheerful, and while we were generally expected to attend services on Solayi evening, for me that had been no real problem, because her homilies were usually so good that it didn’t bother me that I wasn’t even sure whether I believed in the Nameless.

  “Did either of you see Veritum this morning?” asked Ferlyn.

  “I’m part of Clovyl’s morning torture group. I usually don’t get a chance to pick up the newsheets until after breakfast. What’s happened now?”

 
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