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Lawrence Watt-Evans

Tales of Ethshar

Introduction

Ethshar?

Some readers already recognize the name, and can skip this introduction, but if you aren’t one of them, perhaps a brief explanation is in order.

“Ethshar” is what we call an invented world that’s been the setting for almost a dozen novels so far. Its inhabitants don’t call it that; they call it “the World.” For readers, though, that’s not specific enough. The dominant nation on the World is the Hegemony of the Three Ethshars, while the largest, richest city, where most of the stories are set, is Ethshar of the Spices, so “Ethshar” is close enough. The name itself comes from words meaning “safe harbor.”

You don’t need to have read any of the novels to enjoy the stories herein; each one should stand alone. Here’s a little background, though:

The World of Ethshar is rich in magic — several varieties of magic, in fact, each with its own rules, its own strengths, and its own weaknesses. In these stories you’ll find wizardry, sorcery, theurgy, and warlockry, but there are others, as well.

About half the inhabited World is the Hegemony of Ethshar, ruled by the overlords of its three great cities: Ethshar of the Rocks, Ethshar of the Sands, and Ethshar of the Spices. To the north of the Hegemony lie the Tintallions, the Baronies of Sardiron, and anarchic lands like Srigmor; to the east are the Small Kingdoms, more than a hundred tiny squabbling states. To the south and west is only ocean, right to the edge of the World — yes, the World is flat and has edges. It has two moons, one pink, the other orange. The greater moon follows a thirty-day cycle much like our own moon’s, while the lesser moon goes through all its phases in about a day and a half.

The people of Ethshar measure time from the year the gods first taught human beings to talk — or at least, so legend says. Much knowledge of their history was lost in the course of the Great War, a centuries-long struggle between Old Ethshar and the Northern Empire that ended, in the last decade of the fiftieth century of human speech, with the utter destruction of the Northerners.

The stories in this collection are all set at various times in the three hundred years following the Great War. Ethshar stories are generally not tales of great heroes battling evil, but of ordinary people trying to deal with an extraordinary world.

The novels, in order of publication (which is not the order of their events), are these:

The Misenchanted Sword

With A Single Spell

The Unwilling Warlord

The Blood of a Dragon

Taking Flight

The Spell of the Black Dagger

Night of Madness

Ithanalin’s Restoration

The Spriggan Mirror

The Vondish Ambassador

The Unwelcome Warlock

I have hopes of writing several more. Meanwhile, I hope you’ll enjoy these little stories!

About “The Bloodstone”

In The Misenchanted Sword, the very first published Ethshar story, I referred to “the bloodstone spell” that allowed the soldiers of the Holy Kingdom of Ethshar to survive for extended periods without food. I was well aware that such a spell deserved more than a passing mention, and eventually I wrote this story about it.

The Bloodstone

Darranacy wrinkled her nose in disgust at the smell from Mama Kilina’s cookpot. “What is that?” she asked.

“Cabbage, mostly,” Mama Kilina replied, poking at a whitish lump. “Cabbage someone pickier than me thought was too far gone to eat.”

“Whoever it was that threw it out wouldn’t get any argument from me!” Darranacy retorted, turning away.

Kilina looked up at her. “Oh, and I suppose you’d eat it if it were fresh? Some of us don’t have your advantages, my girl! We take what we can get!”

Darranacy smiled smugly. “One of us doesn’t have to.”

Kilina glared at her for a moment, then went back to her stew. “Laugh while you can, girl,” she said. “Someday the spell will break, and when it does you’ll be in the same boat as the rest of us.”

“Or maybe someday you’ll wish it was broken,” a voice said from behind, startling Darranacy so that she jumped. She turned and found a smiling young man dressed in tattered red velvet.

“Korun!” she said. “Don’t sneak up on me like that!”

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