- Author: M. Carrick;
Book online «The Mask of Mirrors M. Carrick; (classic novels to read txt) 📖». Author M. Carrick;
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2021 by Bryn Neuenschwander and Alyc Helms
Excerpt from Rook & Rose: Book Two copyright © 2021 by Bryn Neuenschwander and Alyc Helms
Excerpt from The Ranger of Marzanna copyright © 2020 by Jon Skovron
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Cover illustration by Nekro
Cover copyright © 2021 by Hachette Book Group, Inc.
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First Edition: January 2021
Simultaneously published in Great Britain by Orbit
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Carrick, M. A., author.
Title: The mask of mirrors / M.A. Carrick.
Description: First edition. | New York, NY : Orbit, 2021. | Series: Rook rose ; book 1
Identifiers: LCCN 2020011541 | ISBN 9780316539678 (trade paperback) | ISBN 9780316539661
Subjects: GSAFD: Fantasy fiction.
Classification: LCC PS3603.A77443 M37 2020 | DDC 813/.6—dc23
LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2020011541
ISBNs: 978-0-316-53967-8 (trade paperback), 978-0-316-53969-2 (ebook)
Chapter 1: The Mask of Mirrors
Chapter 2: The Face of Gold
Chapter 3: The Hidden Eye
Chapter 4: The Kindly Spinner
Chapter 5: The Face of Ages
Chapter 6: Saffron and Salt
Chapter 7: Seven As One
Chapter 8: Pouncing Cat
Chapter 9: Jump at the Sun
Chapter 10: Pearl’s Promise
Chapter 11: A Spiraling Fire
Chapter 12: Drowning Breath
Chapter 13: A Brother Lost
Chapter 14: The Mask of Bones
Chapter 15: The Face of Glass
Chapter 16: Three Hands Join
Chapter 17: The Peacock’s Web
Chapter 18: Aža’s Call
Chapter 19: Labyrinth’s Heart
Chapter 20: The Mask of Chaos
Chapter 21: The Mask of Ashes
Chapter 22: Two Roads Cross
Chapter 23: Storm Against Stone
Chapter 24: The Face of Balance
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The lodging house had many kinds of quiet. There was the quiet of sleep, children packed shoulder to shoulder on the threadbare carpets of the various rooms, with only an occasional snore or rustle to break the silence. There was the quiet of daytime, when the house was all but deserted; then they were not children but Fingers, sent out to pluck as many birds as they could, not coming home until they had purses and fans and handkerchiefs and more to show for their efforts.
Then there was the quiet of fear.
Everyone knew what had happened. Ondrakja had made sure of that: In case they’d somehow missed the screams, she’d dragged Sedge’s body past them all, bloody and broken, with Simlin forcing an empty-eyed Ren along in Ondrakja’s wake. When they came back a little while later, Ondrakja’s stained hands were empty, and she stood in the mildewed front hall of the lodging house, with the rest of the Fingers watching from the doorways and the splintered railings of the stairs.
“Next time,” Ondrakja said to Ren in that low, pleasant voice they all knew to dread, “I’ll hit you somewhere softer.” And her gaze went, with unerring malice, to Tess.
Simlin let go of Ren, Ondrakja went upstairs, and after that the lodging house was silent. Even the floorboards didn’t creak, because the Fingers found places to huddle and stayed there.
Sedge wasn’t the first. They said Ondrakja picked someone at random every so often, just to keep the rest in line. She was the leader of their knot; it was her right to cut someone out of it.
But everyone knew this time wasn’t random. Ren had fucked up, and Sedge had paid the price.
Because Ren was too valuable to waste.
Three days like that. Three days of terror-quiet, of no one being sure if Ondrakja’s temper had settled, of Ren and Tess clinging to each other while the others stayed clear.
On the third day, Ren got told to bring Ondrakja her tea.
She carried it up the stairs with careful hands and a grace most of the Fingers couldn’t touch. Her steps were so smooth that when she knelt and offered the cup to Ondrakja, its inner walls were still dry, the tea as calm and unrippled as a mirror.
Ondrakja didn’t take the cup right away. Her hand slid over the charm of knotted cord around Ren’s wrist, then along her head, lacquered nails combing through the thick, dark hair like she was petting a cat. “Little Renyi,” she murmured. “You’re a clever one… but not clever enough. That is why you need me.”
“Yes, Ondrakja,” Ren whispered.
The room was empty, except for the two of them. No Fingers crouching on the carpet to play audience to Ondrakja’s performance. Just Ren, and the stained floorboards in the corner where Sedge had died.
“Haven’t I tried to teach you?” Ondrakja said. “I see such promise in you, in your pretty face. You’re better than the others; you could be as good as me, someday. But only if you listen and obey—and stop trying to hide things from me.”
Her fingernails dug in. Ren lifted her chin and met Ondrakja’s gaze with dry eyes. “I understand.