Unquiet Land, page 1
Ace Books by Sharon Shinn
THE SHAPE OF DESIRE
STILL LIFE WITH SHAPE-SHIFTER
THE TURNING SEASON
MYSTIC AND RIDER
THE THIRTEENTH HOUSE
DARK MOON DEFENDER
READER AND RAELYNX
FORTUNE AND FATE
THE ALLELUIA FILES
WRAPT IN CRYSTAL
THE SHAPE-CHANGER’S WIFE
HEART OF GOLD
SUMMERS AT CASTLE AUBURN
Viking / Firebird Books by Sharon Shinn
THE SAFE-KEEPER’S SECRET
THE TRUTH-TELLER’S TALE
THE DREAM-MAKER’S MAGIC
GENERAL WINSTON’S DAUGHTER
Published by Berkley
An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014
Copyright © 2016 by Sharon Shinn
Penguin Random House supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin Random House to continue to publish books for every reader.
ACE is a registered trademark and the A colophon is a trademark of Penguin Random House LLC.
Ebook ISBN: 9780698176416
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Shinn, Sharon, author.
Title: Unquiet land / by Sharon Shinn.
Description: New York, NY : Ace Books, 
Identifiers: LCCN 2015049930 | ISBN 9780425277034 (hardcover)
Subjects: | GSAFD: Fantasy fiction.
Classification: LCC PS3569.H499 U57 2016 | DDC 813/.54—dc23
LC record available at http://lccn.loc.gov/2015049930
First Edition: November 2016
Cover illustration © Jonathan Barkat
Cover photography: mountains © naturemania/Shutterstock; ivy © photo5963_shutter/Shutterstock
Cover design by Judith Lagerman
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
I figure you deserve a dedication once every twenty years or so.
Expect the next one when you turn one hundred.
BOOKS BY SHARON SHINN
WHO’S WHO IN WELCE
WELCHIN AFFILIATIONS AND RANDOM BLESSINGS
QUINTILES & CHANGEDAYS
WHO’S WHO IN WELCE
PRIMES & POLITICIANS
DARIEN SERLAST, Corene’s father and the regent
ZOE LALINDAR, the coru prime and Darien’s wife
CELIA, Darien and Zoe’s daughter
TARO FROTHEN, the torz prime
VIRRIE FROTHEN, Taro’s wife
LEAH FROTHEN, Taro’s niece
MALLY, Leah and Rhan’s daughter, formerly the decoy princess
NELSON ARDELAY, the sweela prime
BECCAN ARDELAY, Nelson’s wife
RHAN AND KURTIS ARDELAY, Nelson and Beccan’s sons
NAVARR ARDELAY (NOW DECEASED), Nelson’s brother and father to Zoe and Josetta
KAYLE DOCHENZA, the elay prime
MIRTI SERLAST, the hunti prime and Darien’s aunt
KING VERNON (NOW DECEASED)
QUEEN ELIDON, Vernon’s first wife
QUEEN SETERRE, Vernon’s second wife
QUEEN ALYS, Vernon’s third wife
QUEEN ROMELLE, Vernon’s fourth wife
PRINCESS JOSETTA, Seterre’s daughter
RAFE ADOVA, Josetta’s betrothed
PRINCESS CORENE, Alys and Darien’s daughter
NATALIE, Romelle’s oldest daughter
ODELIA, Romelle’s youngest daughter and previously heir to the throne
FRIENDS & VISITORS
ANNOVA, Zoe’s closest friend
YORI, a driver for Darien Serlast
JAKER AND BARLOW, itinerant merchants
CHANDRAN, a merchant from Cozique
THE CROWN PRINCE OF THE KARKADES
SEKA MARDIS, an attendant to the prince of the Karkades
WELCHIN AFFILIATIONS AND RANDOM BLESSINGS
QUINTILES & CHANGEDAYS
The calendar of Welce is divided into five quintiles. A quintile consists of eight “weeks,” each nine days long. Most shops and other businesses are closed on the firstdays of each nineday.
The first quintile of the year, Quinnelay, stretches from early to deep winter. It is followed by Quinncoru, which encompasses late winter to mid-spring; Quinnahunti, late spring to mid-summer; Quinnatorz, late summer to fall; and Quinnasweela, fall to early winter.
The quintiles are separated by changedays, generally celebrated as holidays. Quinnelay changeday is the first day of every new year. Since there are five changedays and five seventy-two-day quintiles, the Welchin year is 365 days long.
5 quint-coppers make one copper (5 cents 25 cents)
8 coppers make one quint-silver ($2)
5 quint-silvers make one silver ($10)
8 silvers make one quint-gold ($80)
5 quint-golds make one gold ($400)
It was Quinnasweela changeday, and the whole world was on fire. Leah strolled through the Plaza of Women just as night came on and watched in silent appreciation as candles and oil lamps were set in every window of every building in Chialto. The city had been largely converted to gaslight during the past five years, but on this autumn holiday, those pale imitations of fire had been turned off in favor of the real thing.
Leah hadn’t realized she’d be back in Chialto in time for the holiday. Well, really, she hadn’t given much thought to changedays in the past five years, since she’d been living in the country of Malinqua, where the turn of the seasons had never been cause for celebration. If you’d asked her a quintile ago—say, on Quinnatorz changeday—she’d have said she was never returning to the country of Welce. Yet here she was, wandering through the Plaza, mingling with the crowds, buying a cup of spiced apple wine from a streetside vendor, and feeling a rare moment of contentment.
She had to admit she loved being back at the Plaza of Women. Situated on the edge of the formal shop district, it was a big, paved space that would have been flat and open except that it was crowded with booths and stalls. Even on ordinary days, those booths held an endless variety of merchandise, from fresh flowers to used clothing to alcohol of dubious origin. Tonight, there were ten times as many stalls, each crammed to bursting with cheap trinkets, bundles of cloth, samples of flavorful food, and candles in every shape, scent, and color.
And other oddments.
Leah had decided to head back to her apartment for the night when she came across a large, rickety booth tucked off the main path. It was shaded by a wide sheet of blue fabric, which hung perilously close to the torches illuminating the unexpected merchandise for sale: dozens of exotic fish, each swimming in its own clear glass bowl.
She’d never seen anything like them before—triangle-shaped creatures with narrow, pointed faces and frills of diaphanous fins completely encircling the widest portion of their bodies. They came in vivid colors, glittering green, rippling gold, dusky blue, rich purple, but all of them had eyes so dark they appeared to be an unblinking black. They were like living jewels suspended in crystal water.
The booth was crowded with other customers moving with amazement from one glass bowl to another. Three slim, dark young men—looking enough like each other to be brothers—ran between tables, answering questions and begging the onlookers not to dangle their fingers in the water.
“They’ll bite,” one of the brothers warned a young girl whose hand was suspended over a bowl. “Hard enough to draw blood.”
The girl hastily dropped her arm. The woman with her, most likely her mother, asked, “What do you feed them?”
“Anything, really, but they prefer meat. They’ll eat each other if you put two together.”
Leah moved from bowl to bowl, bending down to marvel at each occupant. “I’ve never seen anything like them,” she said when one of the brothers was close enough to hear. “Where do they come from?”
“Cozique, these days,” he answered. “That’s where the breeders live, anyway. But the first pairs were caught in Yorramol and shipped back to the southern seas.”
“Yorramol!” a few of the other customers murmured. Yorramol was practically a mythical place, so distant that almost no one in this part of the world had ever sailed there. Leah figured the chances were about even that these fish had actually originated in that faraway spot. More likely they could be found in the seas off Berringey or Dhonsho, where they were so thick in the water that you could scoop them out by hand. Unless you were afraid of being bitten.
“I don’t understand. Are they good for eating? They’re so small,” complained a man who was looking around the booth with some bewilderment.
“Of course you don’t eat them!” exclaimed one of the other onlookers, a middle-aged woman in fashionable clothing. “They’re for looking at! They’re just for having a pretty thing in your life. Like a painting, but alive. Like a flower.”
The man’s expression suggested he didn’t bother much with art or botany, either. Practical and unimaginative; hunti, at a guess, or torz. “I just don’t get the point,” he said in a grumpy voice.
“Then the reifarjin is not for you,” the vendor said.
The man made a disgruntled noise and stalked off, no doubt to seek out something more sensible, like a handsaw or a milking bucket. A small girl danced around the fashionable woman, tugging at her wrist.
“I want one,” the girl begged. “Please, can I have one? Can I?”
“I don’t think your mother would like it,” the woman answered.
“We can leave it at your house and I’ll just come visit.”
“Oh, so I’m the one who has to feed it and give it fresh water every day?”
“Maybe it wouldn’t be very hungry,” the girl said hopefully.
Leah smiled, listening to them, and stepped to the last table. There were only three bowls here; soon she would have seen everything on offer in the booth and she could go home. It was ridiculous that she had spent so much time here anyway. She didn’t want a fish, whether or not it had a lovely name like reifarjin. Like the petulant man, she was not in the market for a purely decorative acquisition. She had spent too many years caring only for herself; she wasn’t sure she should be trusted with the responsibility of keeping something else alive.
The fish in the first two bowls were both small, copper-colored, and lethargic. Leah wondered if they were sick, or maybe only half grown. That was something else she should ask one of the brothers: How long did reifarjin live? Were they so delicate that one would barely survive the trip back to her lodgings, or so hardy that she’d be stuck with it for the next decade? If she was silly enough to buy one. Which, of course, she wouldn’t be. There could hardly be a more coru purchase than a fish, and Leah had never had much affinity for the element of water. She was a torz woman, tied to eart
Well—except for the past five years. Past six.
She shook her head and bent down to get a closer look at the reifarjin in the final bowl. It was slightly larger than the others and gorgeously colored, with streaks of brilliant raspberry fading into cobalt blue. It sported a double row of the feathery fins, one in each color, fluttering so rapidly in the still water that they seemed to form one vibrant shade of heliotrope. Most of the other reifarjin had seemed unaware of their human audience, but this one knew she was there, Leah thought. As soon as she ducked down to examine it, it sidled closer to the glass, watching her mistrustfully from one large eye while its circlet of fins quivered in agitation or resentment. When she lifted a hand and traced her finger from the top to the bottom of the bowl, the fish lifted its gaze to track her movement.
I want you, she thought, so powerfully and so unexpectedly that it was almost as if someone else had whispered the words in her ear.
One of the brothers materialized at her side. “What do you think?” he asked.
“Why does this one look different from the others?” Leah said.
He shrugged. “Don’t really know. Maybe one in fifty is a blended color like that. They behave the same as the others. Eat the same food. They just look different.”
“Do they cost more?” she wanted to know.
He eyed her, sensing a sale. “Sometimes.”
Leah straightened up, took a step away. “Well—”
“But not this one,” the vendor said hastily. “Regular price.”
He eyed her again, trying to gauge her monetary status from her appearance. She didn’t think her clothing gave much away. She was wearing a plain green tunic and matching pants, both out of season; she’d pulled her dark brown hair back into a messy knot and hadn’t bothered with cosmetics. She’d lost weight while she was in Malinqua, so she looked a little underfed for her stocky body, and the wariness she’d developed in the past five years could sometimes be read as worry. It was extremely unlikely he would peg her for what she really was: a prodigal daughter of the Five Families who had finally made her way home.
SHARON SHINN SERIES:
Other author's books:
- Jeweled FireJenna StarbornReader and RaelynxTroubled WatersThe Thirteenth HouseAngel-SeekerArchangelNocturne
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