Chimaera - Ian Irvine


Little Ullii, the mildest and meekest person in the world, tested the blade of the pilfered dagger concealed in her coat. She was going to revenge herself on the man who had been her first friend and only lover, and the father of her dead baby. She was hunting Nish, and when she found him she planned to cut out his heart, for that was just what he’d done to her.

‘Seeker? To me!’

Ullii started and looked around guiltily. She loathed Chief Scrutator Ghorr almost as much as she hated Nish, but she feared Ghorr as only the truly helpless could. He was a brute, a monster, and she was in his thrall. She scurried to his side to betray the rest of her friends.

The Council of Scrutators had attacked the ancient fortress of Fiz Gorgo before dawn with overwhelming force and complete surprise, taking most of their victims in their beds. With Ullii to pinpoint them, mancers as powerful as Yggur and as subtle as Malien had been captured within minutes, along with dozens of lesser victims. Now only a few remained, but among them were the two that Ghorr wanted most desperately.

His victory was almost complete and Ghorr was going to finish the rebellion here and now. The trials would be swift, the executions swifter. By the end of the day no one, from the least scullery maid at Fiz Gorgo to Lord Yggur himself, would be left alive. And every detail of the trial and the bloody executions was to be recorded devotedly by the war artists, recorders and tale-tellers. The whole world had to know that there was no escape for traitors, not even those hiding in distant territories under enemy occupation. Every citizen of Santhenar, down to the smallest child, must hear the tale of the rebels’ brutal end, and take the lesson.

But Ullii plotted a different fate for Nish; Nish who had slain Myllii, the beloved twin brother for whom she’d searched since she was four. He had claimed it was an accident but Ullii knew better. She had to take retribution with her own hands. Without it, neither Myllii nor her son Yllii could ever find peace in their graves. She was going to carve out Nish’s treacherous heart and feed it to the carrion birds that were already circling above the walls of Fiz Gorgo in expectation of the feast.

Ullii crept down the corridor beside the chief scrutator. Her eyes were masked against the torches of his troops, for Ullii was so sensitive that bright light burned her eyes. Fortunately she did not need to see. Her mental lattice, her unique and, to others, incomprehensible way of viewing the world, told her where she was even in darkness.

Her ears were covered to keep out the clangour of battle and bloodshed, the roars of the soldiers, the screams of their victims, the thud of weapons against armour, flesh and bone. Ullii could not see Nish in her lattice because, lacking any talent for the Secret Art, he did not appear there. But her most sensitive sense was not veiled in any way. She was tracking Nish by his scent. Nowhere he could go, nothing he could do could prevent her from finding him among the myriad of other smells and stenches that threaded the frigid air of Fiz Gorgo.

Fortunately Ghorr was not aware of that talent and, in the afterglow of a victory more complete than he had ever dared hope for, he seemed to have forgotten about Nish. He was not in the same league as the great mancers Gilhaelith, Malien and Yggur. Nish was insignificant compared to the unexpected discovery of Tiaan and the priceless flying construct, not to mention the powerful and enigmatic amplimet, a crystal that drew power from the field without human intervention. Ghorr’s personal guard had already secured all of them and the chief scrutator could not help gloating over it.

He heaved her back by the arm. ‘Stay behind, Seeker. Don’t endanger yourself. We’ve yet to find the arch-fiend, Xervish Flydd, and he could slay you with a single glance.’

Ullii knew that wasn’t true, and moreover Flydd had treated her far more kindly than the chief scrutator ever did. However, she stopped at once; Ghorr took pleasure in inflicting pain, particularly on the weak and powerless.

‘Well?’ he said, pulling off her earmuffs to roar in her ear, though she could hear him clearly through them, and he knew it. ‘Where is the renegade, Seeker?’

Before she could answer, a soldier