Excerpt Reveal: Lyorn by Steven Brust
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Excerpt Reveal: Lyorn by Steven Brust

Excerpt Reveal: Lyorn by Steven Brust

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lyorn by steven brust

All The World’s A Happy Stage. Until the knives come out… Lyorn is the next adventure in Steven Brust’s bestselling Vlad Taltos series

Another Opening…Another Cataclysm?

Vlad Taltos is on the run. Again. This time from one of the most powerful forces in his world, the Left Hand, who are intent on ending his very lucrative career. Permanently.

He finds a hidey-hole in a theatre where the players are putting on a show that was banned centuries ago…and is trying to be shut down by the House that once literally killed to keep it from being played.

Vlad will take on a number of roles to save his own skin. And the skins of those he loves.

And along the way, he might find a part that was tailor-made for him.

One that he might not want…but was always his destiny.

Please enjoy this free excerpt of Lyorn by Steven Brust, on sale 4/9/24


Prologue

“Do it smaller,” my grandfather had told me over and over. “If your parry causes your opponent’s blade to miss you by more than half an inch, it means you’ve pushed too hard and your riposte will be too slow. In a fight, anything can happen, so end it as quickly as you can, and that means not giving him free chances at you. Do it smaller.”

I love how often my grandfather’s fencing advice applies to things that have nothing to do with fencing.

But let me start at the beginning, in that little klava hole, talking to Sara, who’d made the mistake of saying, “So, Vlad, what have you been up to?”

She listened without a word until I’d run down, then she said, “I may be able to help.”

That was it. Not “That’s amazing, Vlad!” or “I can’t believe you did that!” or “You could have been killed!” Also, no “So, you got out of the trouble with the Jhereg, but now the Left Hand wants to kill you?” Nothing like that. Just “I may be able to help.” I hadn’t told her the whole thing because I thought she could help, I just wanted to talk about it, so I was both pleased and surprised by her reply.

“Go on,” I said.

“You need to hide from the Left Hand so they can’t get rich by killing you, now that you went and, that is, now that you no longer have your sorcery protections.”

“Right.”“But you want to be here, in the City.”

“Exactly.”

“So you need a place with protections from sorcerous detection.”

“Right.”

“But you can’t exactly move in to the Imperial Wing of the Palace.”

“Yeah.”

“So you’re thinking of some individual who is already worried enough about surveillance to keep such protections up all the time.”

I nodded. “I know a few, but either the protections aren’t strong enough to stand up to the Left Hand, or they’re too obvious, like my old office.”

“And putting up a new one defeats the purpose; it’s like a sign saying, ‘Here I am.’”

“Precisely.”

“When did you last sleep, Vlad?”

“Night before last.”

“So a place to sleep where you can actually relax is getting urgent.”

“Yeah.”

“Yes,” she said. “I can help.”

“I’m listening.”

“That’s the trouble. If I understand you right, you might not be the only one.”

“Um. True.”

My familiar interrupted into my head. “Boss? Does this mean Daymar?”

“Maybe not.”

“So,” I told Sara. “I need to make sure I’m not found or listened to long enough to get where we’re going.”

She nodded. “Can you do it?”

“I think so. Or, rather, I think I can arrange it.”

“I’ll wait to tell you the rest, then.”

So, yeah, if you happen to have the most powerful sorceress in the history of the world as a friend, there are times when you go, sure, I can ask her for a favor.

“Vlad. What is it?”

“Greetings, Sethra. I want to ask you for a favor. Is this a bad time?”

“No, it’s fine. What can I do for you?”

“Can you make me psychically undetectable long enough for me to get to a safe place? Say, an hour or so?”

She was quiet, then, “From here?”

“Yeah.”

 “You want to walk somewhere, and be sure no one knows you’re going there. And you want me to do it from here, while you’re there.”

“Yeah. Me and one other. I mean, I don’t mind if you come here first, but—”

“No, I want to try it from here. I’ve never done that before. Give me a minute to think about this. I should be able to come up with something.”

Sara was looking an inquiry at me. I held up a finger.

We were, by the way, in a little klava joint in the Hook, which is where I ended up after a night of walking through the city, not wanting to stop for fear of being sorcerously evaporated or something. It had nine tables, mostly deuces with a couple of four-tops, and woodwork that needed painting, and the only light was what came through two paper-covered windows in the front. It did, however, have a rear exit. I was tired, but too keyed up to be sleepy. It was late morning, and the place was empty except for us and the staff. I kept them supplied with clinky things and they kept me supplied with klava so everyone was happy.

I love klava so much. The worst part of dying is the idea of an afterlife without klava.

Okay, maybe not the worst.

Presently, I felt the delicate probe of a familiar presence insinuating itself into my mind, and Sethra spoke into my head again.

“Yes,” she said. “I can do it. Now?”

“Now?” I said to Sara.

She nodded.

“Yes,” I told Sethra.

Then I felt something like a warm blanket settle over my mind, if that makes any sense. Sara looked mildly startled.

“Thank you, Sethra.”

“My pleasure; it’s a rare treat to do something I’ve never done before. You’ll have to tell me the story sometime.” 

“Sometime.”

“We can talk now,” I told Sara. “And move without being detected.”

She stood up, picked up her instrument case, slung it over her shoulder, and led me out, preceded by Loiosh and Rocza, who like to be sure about such things. Sara had to hold the door for them as they flew out. Once we started walking, Loiosh returned to my shoulder while Rocza continued circling overhead, for all appearances just another of the jhereg who flew around the city hoping to scavenge someone’s leftovers.

Sara immediately turned south, toward the ocean-sea, and took us downhill.

Before I could ask, Sara said, “So, you’ll never guess who gets completely paranoid about secrecy.”

“Who?”

“Theater companies.”

“Really?”

She nodded. “They’re absolutely convinced their competitors are going to steal their set ideas, their blocking, their interpretations.”

“So, they’re nuts?”

She shrugged. “It’s happened a few times, so there’s at least some reason for it.”

“Okay. So, they have good security?”

“Every theater in the City has spells to prevent sorcery, and powerful spells to prevent clairvoyance and any other sort of detection until the show opens, and most of them don’t bother to take the spells down after that.”

“Huh. Okay, you’re right. I wouldn’t have expected that. What about psychic communication? Will I be out of touch?”

“As a rule, they leave a channel open for that so the director can supply a line an actor forgets. I’m not sure how that works, but you can reach the Orb, it just won’t let you pull in any power for sorcery.”

Psychic contact, for most people at least, involves sorcery, at least a little. So there was a mystery there, and maybe indicated a way the Left Hand could find me. Still, it sounded like the best I was going to get. “So,” I said, “your idea is for me to hide in a theater?”

She nodded. “Most of them have places backstage where people can sleep, and many of them have extensive basements. Some of them, like the one we’re going to, are effectively a block of flats with a theater above them.”

“How do I convince them to let me stay?”

“I know some theater people. A lot of musicians do theater work.”

For the first time, I had a sinking feeling. “Musicals?”

“Sometimes.”

“All right,” I said.

By this time, we were climbing again, and I guessed were heading toward North Hill. We didn’t speak for a while, and, yes, we got to North Hill, and turned onto Fallow Street.

The theater was called the Crying Clown, and there was a big handbill outside of it. I stopped and read it.

Opening on the 14th of Tsalmoth,
A New Production of Linesca’s
SONG OF THE PRESSES
Expanded to Three Days! with Six New Songs
Crafted by our Own LADY SINDRA!
Featuring MONTORRI as Keraasak
and MARSKO as Lethra Savode!

I looked at Sara. “Lethra Savode?” I repeated.

“Liability,” she said.

“Um. Okay. In any case, there’s one good thing you can say about a three-day musical.”

“It isn’t a four-day musical?”

“’Xactly.”

She smiled a little. “I like musicals.”

“Really?”

“The singing is usually very good, and the lightness lets it come up under your guard.”

“Huh. Okay. I haven’t seen that many. There was childhood trauma involved. And it opens in six days?”

“Yes, the big push to get the word out probably started a week ago, and dress rehearsals will most likely begin in a couple of days.”

We went around to a side door. Sara pulled the clapper, a peeper opened, closed, and the door opened. An old man, a Chreotha, ignored me and asked Sara, “Substitute?”

“No,” she said. “I’m a friend of Kota. Can I see him?”

The old Chreotha grunted and stepped aside.

Sara led us through a labyrinth of corridors broken by open areas that looked like workshops, and eventually up a stair, then through more hallways, until we emerged into the main hall. We went down a last hallway toward what I later learned was called “side seven,” that is, the way to get to the stage without passing through the audience. She paused long enough to make sure no one was in the middle of a line or something, and stepped onto the stage. There were several musicians, many of them with instruments I couldn’t name, sitting and looking attentive in the lowered area immediately to our left. We took two steps and jumped down into it.

“Hey Sara,” said one of them. He looked like he was probably a Jhegaala, and hadn’t brushed his hair since the Interregnum. He was holding a violin.

“Kota,” she said. “Good to see you.”

“Who’s the Easterner?” he said.

“A friend.”

Kota seemed surprised but only nodded.

“Can you introduce me to the director?” she said.

“Sure. What’s it about? I mean, if you feel like telling me.”

She looked at me and I shrugged. “In general, sure. If it works, they’ll all know eventually.”

“My friend here is in a spot of trouble,” she told Kota. “I’d like to see if he could use this place to stay out of the way.”

“Huh,” he said. “All right. Can you wait for the end of rehearsal? We have half an hour until lunch.”

We agreed that was no problem, and Sara led me toward a far corner in the side-four section where we’d be out of the way. As we navigated the aisles, I said, “What is Song of the Presses?”

“It’s about the suppression of another play, Last Man Printing, in the Fourteenth Cycle, which was about—”

“Wait,” I said. “They’re putting on a play about putting on a play?”

She nodded.

“Huh,” I said. “That seems kind of—”

I was cut off by a woman sitting right around the middle of the theater, maybe just a bit forward, calling, “Run it from the dramaturge. Keraasak, your line. ‘Ah, but you see.’”

A guy, I presume Keraasak, addressed the woman near him in a stage voice. “Ah, but you see, we are not like other companies. We have our own dramaturge.”

“You have your own dramaturge?”

“We have our own dramaturge!”

The musicians I’d noticed earlier started playing, and I became frightened. A guy entered from the same place we had, turned to show himself to all six sides, and said, “I am their own dramaturge!”

Then, as I was afraid would happen, he started singing.

I am the very model of a Fourteenth Cycle dramaturge
I can tell an epic from a canticle or from a dirge.
In Landza and in Ekrasen I’ve studied all the references
And if you give me time I will expound upon my preferences.
I can tell you of the change in rhyme and meter from a younger age
And why it is you’ll always find six sides on every proper stage.
I’ve knowledge of the pay-scales of full actors and apprentices
Along with all the fines for being late upon their entrances.
I know about the costuming of the Eleventh Phoenix Reign
And why the makeup artists nearly always ended up insane.
In short where all the branches of the thespianic arts converge
I am the very model of a Fourteenth Cycle dramaturge.

I’m familiar with the history Lord Neering used about Northport,
And how to dodge the censors when presenting it before the Court.
Producers, they all seek me for my lore of esoterica
And how to turn fine art into the gold returns numerica.
I know which plays will always recompense you monetarily
And which will fail and leave the comp’ny bankrupt most unfairily.
I know why complex stagings can be hoist with their own petards
And why there’s no production of that silly work The Phoenix Guards.

Then I can say what handbills will attract the most nobility
And know how rigging wire can replace lack of agility.
In short where all the branches of the thespianic arts converge
I am the very model of a Fourteenth Cycle dramaturge.

In fact, when I know what is meant by Prop and by Enunciate
And when I know the difference between Punctual and Punctuate
When such affairs as openings and callbacks I’m no stranger to
When I know what the usher and the lighting color-changer do
When I have learned what progress has been made in modern set design
When I know more of blocking than an abstinent might know of wine
In short, when I know values of reserved and of the common seats
You’ll say a better dramaturge has never counted gate receipts.

Though actors run and cower when they hear that I am on the set
And no one has admitted my advice has ever helped him yet,
Still where all the branches of the thespianic arts converge
I am the very model of a Fourteenth Cycle dramaturge.

“Okay,” said the woman who was obviously the director. “Good, but come down left another couple of steps at the beginning of the second verse, so when you get to the second chorus, you can cross and—”

She went on for a while, but I stopped paying attention. Instead, I turned to Sara, who was looking at me. “Well?” she said.

“I have no words,” I said.

She laughed. “If you can withhold your artistic judgments, we might be able to hide you here for as long as you need to settle things.”

I nodded. “I’ll be strong,” I said.

“You always are,” she said.

“And thank you,” I added.

Copyright © 2024 from Steven Brust

Pre-order Lyorn Here:

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