Dave Gross: Lord of Stormweather

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Dave Gross Lord of Stormweather
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    Lord of Stormweather
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Dave Gross

Lord of Stormweather



11 Alturiak, 1373 DR

Tamlin soars through the thunderous clouds. Lightning sears his naked skin as the storm-god Talos scratches at the flea that dares crawl in his beard.

He spreads his arms to catch the wind, heedless of the torment of his body. Above the clouds there is something he must see, a revelation of arcane wisdom.

The gale beats him down, and he tumbles through the cold mist. His arms find no hold in the empty air. To fly, he needs magic, but he does not have the words to call it. He opens his mouth to shout a half-remembered phrase from youthful fantasy.

But the words have no power, and the storm sucks the breath from his lungs, hollowing him but for the leaden fear that rolls in his stomach, weighing him, bearing him down, down, and down…

Tamlin awoke in darkness, reeling from his vision. He was numb, astonished.

Tamlin Uskevren had not experienced a flying dream since he was ten years old. At twenty-eight, he'd all but forgotten there was anything but oblivion in slumber.

That wasn't quite true, he realized. While a thousand forgotten dreams blazed like stars in his memory, he knew a host of vague illusions had taken their place over the years. Those mornings he woke befogged with imagined rumblings in linen closets with the comeliest of serving wenches-those were forgeries of his idle, conscious mind. They weren't true dreams.

They were nothing like flying.

Before he had time to ponder the meaning of their return, his tender body demanded his full attention. His head throbbed, dull and toxic from a night of… he couldn't remember exactly what. Wavering visions of dancing girls merged with a violent struggle in a black alley, and both gave way to the remembrance of soaring through moonlit clouds. Clenching his teeth, he rejected all of these thoughts as the reality of his present circumstances came into focus.

Rather than the comforting eiderdown quilt of his bed, Tamlin felt cold, damp limestone against his cheek.

He turned his head slightly, but that was enough to summon an overwhelming wave of nausea. A thin, hot stream of bile surged up to burn his throat before leaking out of his cracked lips. He felt it run down his chin to join a clammy mass of vomit clumped beneath his cheek. The stink revolted him, but he had not the strength to lift his head away from it.

Tamlin had been hung over many times before, but never so miserably. His normally silken voice was as rough as charcoal and weaker than a moth's fart when he called out, "Great… hopping… Ilmater…"

The martyr god was forever the subject of Tamlin's exclamations, but thus far the deity had never deigned to answer his profanity.

"Es?" he croaked. "Escevar?"

No one answered, but he wasn't surprised. Neither his henchman nor his bodyguard were nearby. He was alone. A sudden weight of despair pulled on his heart, and he feared he might never see them again. He remembered Escevar shouting for help just before… the rest was still a confusing vortex of memories.

He knew somehow that he'd lolled insensate for days, but how many?

Dripping water counted long seconds nearby, and the only other sound was a faint scrabbling near his feet. When he pushed himself up on one elbow, pain gripped his spine and squeezed hot tears from his gummy eyes. Blinking, he strained to perceive the faintest blur of yellow light emanating from the crack beneath a door. Except for the silhouettes of a few vertical bars, he could make out no other features of the room.

"Hello!" he called. He cleared his throat. "A spot of help, if you don't mind. Much appreciated, I assure you."

No one answered. Briefly he thought he sensed a presence, someone standing silently nearby.

"Hello?" he ventured meekly.

Still there was no answer. He tried to shake off the feeling of being watched by praying aloud once more.

"Blessed Beshaba, how have I offended thee?"

The goddess of ill fortune had rarely cast her gaze on Thamalon Uskevren II, but she had her place in the temple gallery of Stormweather Towers.

"Tymora, I beg you. Talk some sense into her."

The goddess of luck wasn't known for her power to persuade her twin sister, but she smiled on brash fools from time to time. Tamlin hoped he'd been sufficiently brash lately-the fool part he'd long since mastered.


Whatever rustled at his toes had finally bitten through his doeskin boots. He kicked, and intense pain shot through his spine, but he was rewarded by an indignant squeal.

"Great god of rats and mice!" Tamlin yelped. "Whatever your name, lay off."

His sight had returned just well enough that he could make out the vague shape of a large rat perched just beyond the reach of his pointed boots. Careful of his back, Tamlin pushed himself into a sitting position, swallowed hard to suppress another bout of nausea, and peered into the gloom.

Between him and the light under the door was a wall of bars. He reached out to feel them and discovered cold iron. Beyond that barrier, he saw a cracked stone floor. An elaborate design sketched in chalk curved between the bars and the door. Its perfect arc implied a circle around his cage, and its white lines glowed faintly brighter as he stared at them.

Tamlin knew at once that it was a magic circle.

Despite a summer's tutelage with a wizard, Tamlin had never shown an aptitude for the Art. After three months, he couldn't so much as ignite a candle with a lump of sulfur and coal, so gradually his passion for things arcane dwindled into a quaint but thereby acceptable superstitious streak.

His lack of talent was disappointing, but where skill was lacking, wealth could often suffice. Tamlin's collection of magical charms was the most extensive among his cohorts, some of whom teasingly called him "the sorcerer" behind his back.

He didn't mind the jest, at least not from those whose favor he desired, but he preferred the nickname "Deuce," a reminder to all that he was Thamalon Uskevren the Second, heir to one of the most powerful merchant Houses of Selgaunt's Old Chauncel.

So long as Thamalon the elder lived, he was known beyond his most intimate circles simply as Tamlin. In truth, and none too secretly, he preferred to remain "Deuce" and "the younger" for as long as possible. As the heir to Stormweather Towers, he enjoyed all the benefits of wealth and power with precious few of the responsibilities.

Not that any of those benefits was helpful at the moment.

Tamlin tried standing but found that his cage was only five feet high, forcing him to stoop like a hunchback in one of his brother's ridiculous plays. Rather than endure that indignity, he sat down once more, careful to avoid the mess he'd made.

His fingers took an inventory of his attire. He still wore the woolen hose and fashionably high boots, but the slender dagger was missing from his hip. No surprise, that. His cloak was gone, but he retained both the quilted doublet and his fine silk blouse, though he planned to burn them both once he found clean garments. It was one thing to blanch at some revolting beggar in the gutter, but to offend himself with such a stink-it was beyond endurance!

His new hat was gone, as were his jewels, which was a pity, for most of his charms went with them. At last he touched his collar and found a pair of pins his captors had overlooked. One enhanced virility while muting fertility-a popular item among those who could better afford charms than bastards-and the other was a ward against pickpockets. The witch who sold them to him had thrice sworn to their efficacy, though he supposed he couldn't complain. Neither was purported to foil kidnappings.

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