By Ian Irvine

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Hightspall is dying. Every year the winters worsen, and the realm’s protective magic disappeared with the traitor-king, Lyf, two thousand years ago.

Now Lyf is back, bent on wiping Hightspall off the map and rebuilding his ancient land anew. Lyf also killed Tali’s mother and now he is hunting Tali, for the master pearl she bears inside her holds the key to saving the realm — or destroying it.

Can Tali find Lyf before he tears Hightspall apart? And if she does, can she put aside her quest for vengeance to save her country? Or will Lyf cut the pearl from her and use its magic to plunge her world into perpetual darkness?


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Table of Contents

A Preview of Ice Forged


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Arkyz Leatherhead: A gigantic, murderous bandit.

Astatin: A witch-woman and healer in Garramide.

Benn: Glynnie's little brother, aged ten.

Blathy: Leatherhead's mistress – a bold, vengeful gambler.

Chancellor, the: The leader of Hightspall, a small, twisted, cunning man.

Crebb: A black-bearded thug.

Dibly, Madam: An aged healer.

Errek First-King: The legendary inventor of king-magery, recreated in spirit form by Lyf.

Gauntling, the: A humanoid, winged shifter.

Glynnie: A young maidservant from Palace Ricinus, Benn's big sister.

Grandys, Axil: A brutal, treacherous man, the first of the Five Heroes and the legendary founder of Hightspall.

Holm: An old, mysterious man, very clever with his hands. Also known as Kroni.

Lirriam: One of the Five Heroes, a cold, buxom temptress.

Lizue: A beautiful prisoner in Fortress Rutherin.

Lyf, King Lyf: The last king of Cythe, recently reincarnated from his ghostly wrythen, and now the king of the Cythonians.

Maloch: Rix's enchanted sword, which originally belonged to Axil Grandys.

Nuddell: One of Leatherhead's gang, later Rix's loyal sergeant.

Porfry: The Keeper of the Records at Garramide; a fanatical Herovian.

Radl: A tall, beautiful Pale slave in Cython. Tali's enemy since childhood.

Rannilt: A slave girl, aged ten, who has an enigmatic gift for magery. She escaped from Cython with Tali.

Rezire: The curator at Tirnan Twil.

Rixium (Rix): Formerly heir to the vast estates of House Ricinus. Also known as Deadhand.

Rochlis: Lyf's greatest general. A man with a conscience.

Rufuss: One of the Five Heroes, a tall, gaunt man whose only pleasure is denial.

Sullen Man, the: A cold-eyed prisoner in Fortress Rutherin.

Swelt: The castellan of Garramide, a greedy, corpulent man.

Syrten: One of the Five Heroes, a massive, golem-like man.

Tali: A Pale slave, the first to ever escape from Cython.

Tobry: Rix's closest friend, who became a caitsthe to save his friends.

Wil: A blind Cythonian, addicted to sniffing alkoyl. Also known as Mad Wil, Wil the Sump.

Yestin: A local lord who helps Rix in the raid on Jadgery.

Yulia: One of the Five Heroes, a slender, sad-eyed, moral woman.


In the underground city of Cython, a simple youth called WIL reads the forbidden but incomplete iron book, The Consolation of Vengeance. It burns his eyes out, but he also has a foreseeing about the one, a slave girl of the Pale who will grow up to challenge the Cythonians' legendary leader, King LYF. Wil should have told the matriarchs where to find the one, so they could have her killed, but he lies, and other girls are killed in her place.

Lyf, the creator of the iron book, was murdered two thousand years ago but still exists as a bodiless wrythen bent on two things: restoring his dispossessed people to the land above, and taking revenge on the Hightspallers who killed him and drove his people out.

TALI, an eight-year-old slave girl in Cython, is led, along with her mother IUSIA, on a secret escape route by TINYHEAD, a Cythonian. But Tinyhead betrays them, and in a gloomy cellar Iusia is caught by a masked man and woman. Though Tali has a gift for magery, she is unable to summon it in her mother's defence – using magery in Cython means instant death and she has been taught to suppress it.

While the terrified child watches from hiding, Iusia's captors hack something out of her head, killing her, then take her blood. After they have gone, Tali sees a richly dressed boy hiding on the other side of the cellar. He flees and she returns to her slave's existence, swearing to bring the killers to justice when she grows up.

In a cavern deep in the mountains, Lyf's wrythen is trying to bring his two-thousand-year-old plan to completion. To do so he has to recover his king-magery, the mighty healing force that was lost when he was murdered by the legendary Five Heroes at the behest of their leader, AXIL GRANDYS. But first, Lyf needs all five ebony pearls, powerful magical artefacts that only form in the heads of rare, female Pale slaves.

Lacking a body, Lyf cannot take the pearls himself, and long ago he forced the sorcerer DEROE to get each new pearl for him, possessing Deroe to make sure he complied. To escape the agony of possession, Deroe employed LORD and LADY RICINUS to take the second, third and fourth pearls for him, hoping thereby to drive Lyf out and kill him. For this service, Deroe made House Ricinus fabulously wealthy.

Now Lyf forms a long-term plan to get the fifth pearl – the master pearl – by compelling the Ricinus's son and heir, RIXIUM (RIX), via the great heatstone in Rix's room, to take the master pearl once the host slave girl comes of age.

Tali turns eighteen, discovers that three more of her direct female ancestors were also murdered at a young age, and knows that the killers will soon be hunting her. She has to escape Cython but does not know how – the Pale have been enslaved for a thousand years and in that time none have ever escaped. At the same time she begins to have terrible headaches, as though something is grinding against the inside of her skull. The master pearl is waking (though she does not know they exist).

The pain accentuates Tali's rebellious streak, but her attack on a vicious guard results in the execution of her only friend, MIA, by their overseer, BANJ. Stricken with guilt, Tali swears that one day she will save her enslaved people. Then she realises that Tinyhead is hunting her.

Tali also discovers that the Cythonians, who are masters of alchymie and have invented many alchymical weapons, are preparing to go to war on Hightspall, the land above, where Tali's ancestors came from. Tali feels sure that Hightspall is unprepared; she has to warn her country.

With the aid of a ten-year-old slave girl, RANNILT, who has an unfathomable gift for magery, and MIMOY, a foul-mouthed old woman who turns out to be Tali's ancestor, she escapes, beating Tinyhead and killing Banj with an uncontrollable burst of magery. For that crime, if the Cythonians catch her, she will suffer the most terrible death they can devise. Mimoy dies, but Tali and Rannilt get away and Tali sets off across Hightspall to try and find clues to the killers' identities.

In Palace Ricinus, Rix is about to come of age. Soon he will inherit one of the greatest fortunes in Hightspall. He's a trained warrior as well as a gifted artist, though some of his paintings are disturbingly divinatory. But Rix is troubled by nightmares about doom and destruction, the fall of his house, and his role in a future, terrible murder. He is supposed to be completing his father's portrait for Lord Ricinus's Honouring, which Rix's social-climbing mother, Lady Ricinus, plans to use to raise House Ricinus to the First Circle, the highest families of all.

Rix can't bear the hypocrisy, for his father is a disgusting drunk and his mother a cold, merciless woman without a good word for anyone. The Honouring will be a travesty and he has to get away. With his reckless and impoverished friend TOBRY, Rix goes off to the mountains, hunting, in the middle of the night. He takes MALOCH, a battered old sword that bears a protective enchantment, though on the way Maloch seems to be leading him.

Rix and Tobry are attacked by a caitsthe, a huge shifter cat, and only a brilliant attack by Rix drives the injured beast off. They pursue it into a deep cavern, but are forced to flee from Lyf's malevolent wrythen. Tobry is knocked out by a rock fall; Rix, after an almighty battle, kills the caitsthe but is immediately attacked by the wrythen, which is trying to possess Tobry. On driving it off, Rix discovers that the wrythen is afraid of Maloch, which it recognises as the sword Axil Grandys used to hack Lyf's feet off before he was murdered two thousand years ago.

Rix carries Tobry to safety. On the way home they realise that preparations they saw in the wrythen's caverns presage war, and head across the thermal wasteland of the Seethings to check on the Rat Hole, a shaft up to the surface used by the Cythonians.

Rix and Tobry encounter Tali and Rannilt in the Seethings. Tobry is immediately smitten by Tali, but Rix and Tali clash and, when he recognises her as a Pale, he rides off in a fury – in Hightspall the Pale are regarded as traitors for serving the enemy. Tobry apologises and goes after him. Once they're gone, Tali has a blinding revelation – Rix is the boy she saw in the murder cellar! He's her best clue to the killers' identities, and she has to go after him, though how can she ever trust him?

Tali's escape causes the Cythonians to bring forward their plans for war. They attack Hightspall, using devastating chymical weaponry and causing great destruction. Hordes of shifters go on the rampage; the great volcanoes known as the Vomits erupt violently; and from across the sea the ice sheets are closing in. It feels as though the land is rising up to cast the Hightspallers out.

After a series of captures, escapes and recaptures, Rix and Tobry rescue Tali from her Cythonian hunters, though even now Tali isn't sure she can trust Rix. She tells him about her mother's murder but he doesn't react – it's as if he doesn't remember, though she knows he was there.

Rix returns to the palace, in the capital city of Caulderon, to complete his father's portrait, a painting he loathes. Lady Ricinus is furious that he has neglected his responsibilities. The portrait must be completed by the Honouring – the future of House Ricinus depends on it – and she confines Rix to his rooms until it's completed.

Rix's nightmares and premonitions of doom return, stronger than ever. He works on the portrait as long as he can bear it, and also begins another painting that comes from his subconscious – a haunting cellar, a woman laid on a bench, two people standing by her and a wide-eyed child in the background. He can't paint their faces, nor work out why the scene fills him with such horror, for in a childhood illness he lost all memory of the murder he witnessed.

Tobry brings Tali and Rannilt to Caulderon and hides them, knowing that Lady Ricinus would never allow a despised Pale in the palace. Tali is also being hunted by the CHANCELLOR, the supreme ruler of Hightspall, since her knowledge of Cython will be invaluable to the war. Tali sneaks into the palace anyway; she has to pursue the clues to her mother's murder.

The Cythonians besiege Caulderon. Rix, more and more disturbed at what he's painting, goes to see his old nurse, LUZIA, to ask her about his childhood, but finds her murdered, presumably to stop her talking to him. Rix is shattered. And Rannilt, whom Tobry had left with Luzia, is missing.

Tali gets into Rix's rooms and sees the painting, which she recognises instantly as the murder scene. How can Rix not know? He goes on with it, working unconsciously, and to his horror Tali's face appears on the prone woman. It's his nightmare made real; is Tali the woman he's doomed to kill? He fights the compulsion with all he has.

The wrythen is pleased. His plans are finally back on track; soon he will tighten the compulsion on Rix and force him to cut the master pearl from Tali. Then he will dispose of Deroe and, with all five pearls, recover king-magery and exact his vengeance.

The war is going badly for Hightspall; the Cythonians are winning everywhere. The chancellor orders Palace Ricinus searched for Tali, and gives Lady Ricinus an ultimatum – find Tali, or House Ricinus will be crushed. She knows he'll do it, too, because the chancellor has always despised House Ricinus. Lady Ricinus plots the worst treason of all – to have him killed.

Rix and Tali discover the plot, separately, and Rix is torn by an impossible conflict. If he does not betray his mother, he too will be guilty of treason. But if he does betray her, how could he live with himself?

Rix redoes the cellar painting and to his horror, this time he sees what the two unidentified people by the bench are doing – gouging an ebony pearl from the dying woman's head. Then Tali confronts Rix, screaming at him, "That's my mother. You were there! How can you not know? And now Lyf wants you to do it to me."

The chancellor is an unpleasant, vengeful man but Tali can't stand by and see him killed. She tells him about the treason, though he does not say what he plans to do about it. He also holds Rannilt and has been interrogating her for her knowledge of Cython.

The following day Rix, tormented by his own conflict, also visits the chancellor, who forces the truth out of him. He throws Rix out, saying that he could never trust a man who would betray his own mother.

Rix, now utterly dishonoured, feels that he has only one way out. He completes his father's portrait then, in a drunken frenzy, repaints the cellar picture from scratch. But this time he paints the faces of the killers – Lord and Lady Ricinus. House Ricinus, and everything Rix has, comes from the depraved, murderous trade in ebony pearls. He staggers up to the roof to cast himself off to his death, but slips, knocks himself out and only recovers as the Honouring is beginning. He'd promised to be there, and he plans to do this last duty before he dies.

Tali, in disguise, goes to the Honouring Ball with Tobry, and begins to feel that she loves him, though she tries to deny it. At the Honouring, Lady Ricinus's triumph is complete – the forged documents she presents are verified and House Ricinus is accepted into the First Circle. Then Rix unveils his portrait of Lord Ricinus, but to his horror someone has switched paintings, and he actually reveals the painting of the murder cellar, clearly showing both the killers' faces and the ebony pearl. The chancellor smiles; he's about to have his revenge.

Lady Ricinus is defiant, blaming everyone else, even her own son, but Lord Ricinus can't take any more. He confesses everything, revealing that Rix was taken down to witness the murder as a boy, to make him complicit in the family business. And they took Iusia's blood because it has healing powers.

House Ricinus is condemned, its assets confiscated, the servants cast out and the disembowelled lord and lady hung from the front gates. Rix survives because he's not yet of age, but is universally condemned for betraying his parents.

GLYNNIE, a young maidservant, begs refuge for herself and her little brother, BENN, and Rix takes them in. That night the three Vomits erupt at once, a sign of the fall of nations. Rix is plagued by murderous nightmares, sent by Lyf, and plans to take his own life in the morning. A colossal eruption causes a tidal wave in Lake Fumerous which washes the city walls away. Caulderon is defenceless and now the enemy attack.

Rix prepares to ride out and die. Tali begs Tobry to stop him, saying that she loves Rix, though this is a lie – she actually loves Tobry. Tobry, in despair, stops Rix.

Tali knows Lyf is coming, and Deroe too; he has been lured to the cellar by Lyf in pursuit of the master pearl. Tali plans to seize the three pearls from Deroe, but he turns the tables on her and prepares to cut out her master pearl for himself.

Lyf wakes the compulsion, using the heatstone, and forces Rix to go to the cellar to kill Tali. Rix fights the compulsion but cannot defeat it. Tobry realises what is happening and smashes the heatstone, which lets off a tremendous blast of force that knocks everyone down and frees Rix from the compulsion.

A horde of shifters attack, led by a caitsthe. The only way the allies can be saved is for Tobry to face his worst nightmare – to become a caitsthe himself. In despair at losing Tali, he does so and manages to hold the attack off.

During a battle in the cellar, Lyf's faithful servant, Tinyhead, goes for Rix, but Wil, now hopelessly addled from sniffing the alchymical solvent alkoyl to assuage his guilt, strangles Tinyhead and flees with Lyf's iron book.

Tali recovers and seizes the three pearls from Deroe, but Lyf breaks through and holds the lives of Rix, Tobry, Glynnie and Benn in his hands. Tali can still execute Lyf and gain justice for her mother, but only at the cost of her friends' lives. She can't do it. Lyf kills Deroe, seizes the three pearls to add to his own and calls his armies to attack the city.

They storm Caulderon and soon the city is doomed; Tali, Rix, Tobry, Rannilt, Glynnie and Benn are trapped in the palace. They are at the top of Rix's tower when the chancellor appears and orders Tobry killed, because he's a shifter. Tali realises that her own healing blood might be able to turn him back, and it seems to work. But the vengeful chancellor, who has always hated Tobry, has him cast off the tower to his death. He orders Rix's right hand severed with Maloch, then takes Tali and Rannilt prisoner for their healing blood, and flees Caulderon.




"Lord Rixium?" Her voice was desperate. "You gotta get up now. The enemy are coming. Coming fast."

Rix's right wrist throbbed abominably, and so did the back of his head. He groaned, rolled over and cracked his ear on a stone edge. His cheek and chest were numb, as if he'd been lying on ice.

"What…?" he mumbled. "Where…?" His eyes were gummed shut and he didn't want to open them. Didn't want to see.

"Chancellor's stolen Tali and Rannilt away, to milk their healing blood."

He recognised her voice now. A maidservant, Glynnie.

"And Lord Tobry's been chucked off the tower, head-first. Splat!" said a boy's voice from behind Rix.

"Benn!" Glynnie said sharply.

Rix winced. Did he have to be so matter-of-fact about it? "Tobe was my oldest friend."

"I'm sorry, Lord," said Glynnie.

"How long was I out?"

"Only five minutes, but you're first on their death list, Lord. If we don't go now, we're gonna die."

"Don't call me Lord, Glynnie."


"My parents were executed for high treason," he said softly. "House Ricinus has fallen, the palace lies in ruins and I betrayed my own mother. I am utterly dishonoured. Don't call me Lord!"

"R-Rixium?" She tugged at his arm, the good one.

"That's what my murdering mother called me. Call me Rix."

Glynnie rubbed his eyelids with her fingertips. The sticky secretions parted to reveal a slender servant girl, about seventeen years old. Tangled masses of flame-coloured hair, dark green eyes and a scatter of freckles on her nose. Rix had not yet turned twenty yet he felt a lifetime older. Foul and corrupt.

"Get up," she said.

"Give me a minute."

They were on the top of his tower, at the rear of what remained of Palace Ricinus. From where Rix lay he could not see over the surrounding wall – and did not want to. Did not want to see the ruin a hundred-foot fall had done his dearest friend.

A freezing wind carried the stink of burned deer meat, the forgotten skewers Glynnie had been cooking over the embers of Rix's artist's easel. He would never paint again. Beside the fire stood a wide-eyed boy of ten, her little brother. A metal drinking cup sat on the stone floor. Some distance away lay a bloody sword. And a small puddle of blood, already frozen over.

And a right hand, severed at the wrist.

Rix's right hand.

Something collapsed with a thundering crash not far away, and the tower shook.

"What was that?" said Rix.

Glynnie ran to the wall, went up on tiptoes and looked over. "Enemy's blasting down the palace towers."

"What about Caulderon?"

Her small head turned this way and that, surveying the great city. What was left of it.

"There's smoke and flame everywhere. Rix, they're coming. Tell me what to do."

"Take your brother and run for your life. Don't look back."

"We've nowhere to go, Lord."

"Go anywhere. It's all the same now."

"Not for us. We served House Ricinus; we're condemned with our house."

"As am I," said Rix.

"We swore to serve you. We're not running away."

"Lyf hates Herovians, especially me. He plans to put me to death. But he doesn't know you exist."

"I'm not leaving you, Lord – Rix."

Rix did not have the strength to argue. "What about Benn? If the Cythonians find him with me, they'll kill him too."

"Not runnin' either," said Benn. "We can't break our sworn word, Lord."

Unlike me, Rix thought bitterly. The servants outreach the master. "Ah, my head aches."

"That mongrel captain knocked you out," said Glynnie. "And the chancellor – he –" Her small jaw tightened. "He's a useless, evil old windbag. He's lost Caulderon and he's going to lose the war. No one can save us now."

"You can, Lord," said Benn, his eyes shining. "You can lead Hightspall to victory, I know it."

"Hush, Benn," said Glynnie. "Poor Rix has enough troubles as it is."

But he could see the light in her eyes as well, her absolute belief in him. It was an impossible burden for a condemned man and he had to strike it down. Hightspall was lost; nothing could be done about it.

"Benn," he said softly, speaking to them both. "I can't lead anyone. The chancellor has destroyed my name and all Hightspall despises me—"

"Not all, Rix," said Glynnie. "Not us. We know you can—"

"No!" he roared, trying to get up but crashing painfully onto his knees. "I don't even believe in myself. No army would follow me."

Benn's face crumpled. "But, Lord—"

"Shh, Benn," said Glynnie hastily. "Let me help you up, Lord."

She was stronger than she looked, but Rix was a huge man and it was a struggle for her to raise him to his feet. The moment he stood upright it felt as though his head was going to crack open. Through a haze of pain and dizziness he heard someone shouting orders.

"Search the rear towers next." The man had a heavy Cythonian accent.

"Where are we going, Rix?" said Glynnie.

He swayed, his wrist throbbing. She steadied him.

"Don't know." He looked around. "I need Maloch. It's enchanted to protect me."

That was ironic. A command spell cast on Rix when he was a boy of ten had left him with a deep-seated fear of magery, and recent events had proven his fear to be justified.

"Didn't do a very good job," she sniffed. "Benn, get Rix's sword. And… and bring his hand."

"His hand?" Benn said in a squeaky voice. "But – it's all bloody… and dead…"

"I'm not leaving it for the crows to peck. Fetch the cup, too."

Benn handed the ancient, wire-handled sword to Rix, who sheathed it left-handed. The roof door stood open. Glynnie helped him through it and onto the steep stair that wound down his tower. Rix swayed, threw out his right arm to steady himself and his bloody stump cracked against the wall.

"Aaarrgh!" he bellowed.

"Sorry, Lord," whispered Glynnie. "I'll be more careful."

"Stop apologising. It's not your damn fault." Rix pulled away from her. "I've got to stand on my own feet. It's only a hand. Plenty of people have survived worse."

"Yes, Lord."

But few men had lost more than Rix. He'd been heir to the biggest fortune in the land, and now he had nothing. His family had been one of the noblest – on the surface, anyway. For a few moments, House Ricinus had even been a member of the First Circle, the founding families of Hightspall. Then the chancellor had torn it all down.

Rix's parents had been hung from the front gates of the palace, then ritually disembowelled for high treason and murder, and everything they owned had been confiscated. Now, not even the most debased beggar or street girl was lower than the sole surviving member of House Ricinus.

He had also been physically perfect – tall, handsome, immensely strong, yet dexterous and fleet – and accomplished. Not just a brilliant swordsman, but a masterful artist – the best of the new generation, the chancellor had said in happier times. Now Rix was maimed, tainted, useless. And soon to die, which was only right for a man so dishonourable that he had betrayed his own mother. As soon as Glynnie and Benn got away, he planned to take the only way out left to him – hurl himself at the enemy, sword in hand, and end it all.

He reached the bottom of the tower stair, ignored Glynnie's silent offer of help and lurched into his ruined studio. When Tobry had smashed the great heatstone in Rix's chambers the other day, and it burst asunder, it had brought down several of the palace walls. There were cracks in the walls, part of the ceiling had fallen and the scattered paints, brushes and canvases were coated in grey dust. He crunched across chunks of plaster, stolidly looking ahead.

"Where we going, Lord?" Glynnie repeated.

"How the hell would I know?"

Not far away, sledgehammers thudded against stone and axes rang on timber. The Cythonians were breaking in and they would come straight here.

"We're trapped," said Glynnie, her jaw trembling. She stretched an arm around Benn and hugged him to her. "They're going to kill us, Lord."

"Go out the window—"

Rix looked down. From here the drop was nearly thirty feet. If they weren't killed outright, they'd break their legs, and in a city at war that meant the same thing. He cursed, for it left him with no choice. Glynnie and Benn were his people, all he had left, and as their former lord he had a duty to protect them. A duty that outweighed his longing for oblivion. He would devote his strength to getting them out of Caulderon, and to safety. And then…

He headed down the steps into his once-magnificent, six-sided salon, now filled with rubble, dust and smashed, charred furniture. The crashing was louder here. The enemy would soon break through. The only hope of escape, and that a feeble one, was to go underground.

"Get warm clothing for yourself and Benn," he said to Glynnie. "And your money. Hurry!"

"Got no money," said Glynnie, trembling with every hammer and axe blow. "We got nothing, Lord."

"Tobry—" Rix choked. How was he going to do without him? "Tobry brought in spare clothes for Tali. She's nearly your size. Take them."

Glynnie stood there, trembling. "Where, Lord?"


On Sale
Mar 12, 2013
Page Count
656 pages

Ian Irvine

About the Author

Ian Irvine, an Australian marine scientist, has also written 32 novels and an anthology of shorter stories. His novels include the Three Worlds fantasy sequence (The View from the Mirror, The Well of Echoes and Song of the Tears), which has been published in many countries and translations and has sold over sold over a million copies, a trilogy of eco-thrillers in a world of catastrophic climate change, Human Rites, now in its third edition, and 13 novels for younger readers. His latest book is The Fatal Gate, Book 2 of The Gates of Good and Evil, the sequel to The View from the Mirror.

Learn more about this author