(hardcover, February 2011)
DAW Books, Inc., New York
Cover art © 2010 Donato
Over a millennium ago, Mornhavon the Black, heir to the Arcosian Empire, crossed the great sea hoping to replenish his depleted country by conquering the rich lands of Sacoridia. But Mornhavon underestimated the defenders of this far away land, and after years of siege, Mornhavon and his armies were vanquished—but not before their general had descended into madness and resorted to desperate, dark magics that rendered his twisted spirit immortal. Finally, Mornhavon had been captured and imprisoned in Blackveil Forest, and Blackveil’s perimeter had been enclosed and protected by the magical D’Yer Wall.
For the thousand years since the end of that Long War, Blackveil Forest has been a dangerous place—corrupted by the spirit of this eternally malicious entity, its flora and fauna twisted in monstrous ways. But in the many centuries since the war’s end, knowledge of the working of magic has slowly disappeared from Sacoridia, due to the fear and prejudice of a people traumatized by the memory of the terrifying sorceries of Mornhavon’s invading army. Even the protective magic that created and maintained the D’Yer Wall has been lost.
But this once-impermeable barrier has now been breached, allowing Blackveil’s malignant influence to begin to seep into the lands beyond the wall, threatening all of Sacoridia once again.
Karigan G’ladheon is a Green Rider—a seasoned member of the elite messenger corps of King Zachary of Sacoridia. Though Karigan was recruited to the Riders seemingly by chance, she has achieved more than any Rider since the corps was founded during the Long War, and has even been made a Knight of the Realm—the first to be so honored in over two hundred years. Karigan wears the magical brooch of the First Rider, an artifact that enables her to “fade,” sometimes to the point of traversing the barriers of time and space. Because of this extraordinary ability, she was able to enter Blackveil and transport the spirit of Mornhavon into the future, buying precious time for her country. Time for the Riders to scour the land searching for lost magical documents, and for members of Clan D’Yer to study the wall, hoping to uncover the secrets of their ancestors.
But Sacoridians are not the only people interested in the fate of Blackveil. For eons before the Long War, the peninsula where the tainted forest now stands belonged to the Eletians, an immortal race. With Mornhavon temporarily absent, they plan to send a delegation of half a dozen into the forest to see what has become of their long-lost city, Argenthyne. But King Zachary senses the secretive Eletians are not being completely honest with him, and insists that an equal number of
Sacoridians accompany them. Karigan, because of her previous experience in Blackveil, is an obvious choice for this perilous expedition.
Though Mornhavon is gone, the forest is still a treacherous and unnatural place filled with monstrous creatures and deadly traps. Plus, no one knows how far in the future Mornhavon has been sent—a hundred years? Ten years? A few years? Maybe even less? And unbeknownst to the contingent of Eletians and Sacoridians, another small group has entered the forest—a contingent of Arcosian descendents who have kept Mornhavon’s dark magic alive in secret for centuries, and who now plan to avenge their long ago defeat by bringing Sacoridia to its knees.
The vision in the mirror changed, darkened. It was like peering into the blackness of night, her reflection gone. Then slowly, her eyes adjusted as if she really were in the thick of night, and she began to perceive subtle changes – shapes and shading.
The texture of bark stained by rot. A burl protruding from a tree like a fist and her vision narrowed on it. The burl resembled a face, a face seeping red ocher. What was this? Where was it?
The scene expanded revealing an entire grove of like trees, some with burls knotting their girths, some not, all afflicted with rot, gloom held captive beneath immense, spreading limbs, a mist ghosting among the trunks.
It could only be Blackveil, haunting her before she even set foot within its treacherous bounds.