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Where the Moon Has Been
Where the Moon Has Been
Where the Moon Has Been
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Where the Moon Has Been

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A beautiful young Healer flees two deadly shapeshifting sorcerers. One is smitten with her. The other wants her dead.

Tekoah yearns for a peaceful life, but instead is hurtled into danger when she attracts the attention of two rival wizards. Zant's sole aim—eternal power. But Tekoah's Healing Clan stands in his way, so he targets them in his deadly plan for domination.

Moody Braith is younger, but his intelligence and strength already surpass any sorcerer ever spawned. His one vulnerability: a hopeless passion for Tekoah, who wants nothing to do with him.

Tapping into the power of the Moon Goddess, Tekoah unleashes her own magic. But as an apocalyptic clash between the wizards becomes inevitable, she must make a choice.

 Save herself or help her clan...


 Book 1 in Judith Lepore's epic fantasy serues, The Magic of Miraven, Where the Moon Has Been is a haunting epic fantasy tale of obsession and revenge-- amid a violent struggle between dark magic and light. Fans of Guy Gavriel Kay and Naomi Novik will love this book.

Tanggal rilis7 Sep 2021
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    Where the Moon Has Been - Judith Lepore


    This, the seventeen hundredth turning of the Age of Sorcerers, was destined to be the last, according to the ancient, crumbling scrolls of Anniste lore few bothered to study any longer. 

    The Night of the Dead came to the North on a balmy spring evening. Had anyone glanced upward, they would have seen a wraith drifting slowly over the rooftops, almost pearly in her luminescence. She stopped, hovering for a moment above a miserable hut and its adjacent hulking forge on the outskirts of the village of Stern.

    The wraith made a soft, keening sound, like an animal mother makes when she has lost her young. Then the silvery glow floated away, far to the South. Many miles, she floated over the stark Taboran Mountains that separated North Miraven from the South. She stopped beside a small but well-kept cottage on the outskirts of the City of Meed.

    No lights burned in the cottage, but inside, the inhabitants rustled a little—uneasy, without knowing why. A tall young woman rose and went to the window. She halted at a terrified gesture made by her elderly companion.

    From the wraith now came a different sound, no longer a mother’s lament but a strong, commanding voice that lifted to the very heavens.

    I am Neela, Guardian of the Anniste healers. And they shall not be hunted down like prey, not while the power of the Goddess Anna still holds sway. The voice echoed through the still, fragrant air, past the heavy burgeoning scent of southern flowers and ripening olives.

    The wraith spoke again in a tone of unmistakable summons, although she uttered one word only: Reika! The old woman sank to her knees, hands covering her face. As the younger turned to face her, the elder stifled a moan. Then all fell silent once more.



    When Tekoah had first learned her letters, or perhaps even before that, she began to shape poetry, small spare verses. Pictures, smooth as shiny corn kernels, slipped through her mind, capturing moments—joyous or painful—that she feared to lose. Sketches; rough becoming smooth; blurred, becoming sharp and clear. In a strange way, her poetry became her friend as the years of her childhood passed; a companion that kept her from despair.

    And yet she could not shape her deepest wound into words, because she must then acknowledge its existence. She could not shape it, weave it, think it, or remember it. In this blind pain, her poetry companion deserted her. 

    She felt no wounds at all as she walked home from the village of Stern at the end of a late-summer market day. The sun warmed her back. Shouldering her way through the crowded square, she used her large basket like a shield in front of her—a wise precaution, for the livestock were unpredictable, and the lads playing stick-stones in the streets even more so.

    Tekoah was revising a poem as she walked. She ran the lines through her mind over and over, not yet satisfied.

    The lilacs weeping drops of dew 

    Could sparkle yet in sunlight

    But violets, dry-eyed, wept alone

    Their petals scattered underfoot.

    What eyes? Tekoah brandished her basket at a belligerent-looking ram that stood in her path. Flowers have no eyes. Hmm. Violets, silent, wept alone; silent violets wept alone.

    She sidestepped a black sow bolting, wild-eyed, for liberty, and she barely noticed when its owner plunged through the crowd after his charge. She frowned at the boisterous shouts of laughter that arose at the farmer’s plight.

    Only three miles of sunlit freedom stood between Stern and the blacksmith’s forge that was her home. Three miles in which to mould word-wings for herself, and take the brief, dizzying flights that somehow made her more resigned to her life when she landed.

    So, she brushed aside the distractions: laughter, shrieks, and barnyard smells; the sweaty reek of the northern country folk of Stern. She ignored all these assaults to the senses. Her mouth was set with determination. She had wound her plaits of gold-brown hair around her head like a helmet, and though her blue eyes gazed outward, their attention was fixed within.

    But as Tekoah walked, a creeping dread descended upon her, which drove even the obstinate violets from her mind. At first, she thought it was connected to a sound, but panic and confusion gripped her, for she had never heard—or not heard—anything like it.

    Silence. Utter and complete. In the centre of the village, at the height of a market day. And with it came a terrible stillness in the surrounding air, as if time had stopped in the space between one heartbeat and the next. Tekoah’s basket dropped at her feet from fingers gone numb with shock. 

    Everyone in the square had frozen in place.

    Not only the owner of the sow, still crouched to leap on his fugitive, but the pig herself had become still; so had the muttering, cackling women in the stalls. And pigeons, ducks, and geese; mercurial, inquisitive goats; doomed calves separated from their dams who never seemed to cease their mournful calls: all were quiet, hushed. Waiting.

    And the children—those stick-stone urchins who never ceased moving—had halted where they stood. Apart or in clusters, statues, all of them; bright eyes stared straight ahead in their dirt-smudged faces, and not a single blink came from their sooty lashes.

    A wind had been blowing a moment earlier, rattling the thatched roofs of the cottages and shops, swishing through the narrow alleys, tugging at Tekoah’s skirt. Even that had ceased. Stillness was an ominous cloud that had moved across the sun, on a late summer market day in the village of Stern. 

    How could silence be heard? How could stillness move?

    Terror coursed through her, a nameless shadow struggling to take shape; a darker version of poetry, her lifelong friend.

    And, like a flash, even before she turned to look over her shoulder and found that she could not do so—could not move so much as a muscle in her little finger—Tekoah knew who it was. Who it must be. 

    In that dawning, which was like a sudden explosion of sparks from a hearth fire, she saw him. 

    The sorcerer Braith.

    Her face had been frozen in profile, so she could see but a distorted fragment of his hair, his face, his cloak. Scarlet and black engulfed her mind. The surge of her blood roared in her ears. It could not quite drown the awful silence.

    Tekoah would be seventeen turnings of age in an annaspan. Enough turnings in which to grieve like a weeping violet for vanished mothers, for brothers who had left to join the Queen’s army without saying goodbye, for a life in which she had never felt truly alive. Yet this was her first glimpse of Braith, although he had spent his youth in her village.

    She had heard much of him, of course, in whispers over the wavering light of tallow candles, and in her father’s nighttime ravings. Braith was the youngest sorcerer of Miraven. Three sorcerers now lived, although this in itself was an aberration; only two had ever been spawned in a generation.

    This difference alone was enough to make people mutter and shake their heads with foreboding. A third seemed a dire omen, indeed.

    Everyone, even children, knew that no good ever came from any sorcerer, despite what they liked people to think. Not that anyone would dare speak those words to one of those shape-shifting tricksters. It was just something that was known, like black clouds bringing thunderstorms.

    Braith was only thirty turnings of age, and his youth added to the elements of fear and wonder surrounding him. Sorcerers rarely came into their power until they were already well past middle age—did that mean he would become more powerful than the others? Speculations had spread like wildfire.

    It was a wellspring of both pride and discomfort for the villagers that Braith had been spawned in the village of Stern. The pride was because of the sudden fame in which Stern now basked, almost rivalling that of the royal city of Rhantor.

    After the last turning, when knowledge of the new sorcerer had spread, folk had travelled to Stern from all over the country in droves, just to see the birthplace of the only sorcerer born in their lifetimes. They stood in throngs before Chalvern the apothecary’s shop, because, as a boy, Braith had been his apprentice—at least until the day that venerable old man had marched onto his tiny balcony and tipped the contents of his chamber pot upon them.

    The discomfort stemmed from the persistent rumour that the village priest and treasurer had driven Braith from Stern fifteen years ago, repelled by his strange and secretive ways. And, woe betide them, ignorant of the power lying dormant within him. 

    Had they known, they would never have dared to shun Braith. The abstract and capricious approval of the Sun God Rhan was no shield against the genuine menace of a slighted sorcerer.

    High Priest Grindhor, paunchy and jovial, denied this rumour, as did the cadaverous-looking Melnich, who was the Village Treasurer. They insisted that they had known—sensed, somehow—Braith’s latent power. When he had left Stern, they protested, it had been with their benediction. Skeptics, meaning almost everyone in Stern, laughed their scorn and disbelief.

    No one would say a word against Braith now. No one save Veld the blacksmith, Tekoah’s father. But everyone ignored Veld, he being a drunkard of ill-repute who had taken to ranting fits and hallucinations, and was judged by most villagers as mad as a skunk-bitten dog.

    Tekoah had been a toddler fifteen years ago, and oblivious to these events. But Veld was her father; she believed everything he said. It was part of the fabric of her being.

    There was an old saying among the women of the Anniste: embrace one possibility, and all others vanish in a cloud of uncertainty. That was how it was with Veld and Tekoah. He represented a possibility, and it became the stable sun around which her heart and soul revolved. And so, she believed that Braith had cursed her father and was endeavouring to destroy him.

    This possibility was not so hard to believe, after all. Tekoah saw her father was unhappy, and knew that her mother Neela had disappeared, leaving a gaping hole in the heart of the family. All this misery had to lead back to the relentless cat-and-mouse game Braith played with Veld’s mind. A sorcerer’s malevolent amusement—the slow destruction of Veld.

    Not to believe it, even for a moment, was to contemplate the yawning ravine in her mind where nothing made any sense at all. 

    In Tekoah’s bitter quarrels with Weslan, her elder brother, it made no difference when he pointed out how Veld’s sense of reason and logic had deteriorated in direct proportion to the amount of corn lightning he drank. Tekoah retorted that this was further proof of the sorcerer’s vindictive subtlety—making it look as if it was Veld’s own doing, so no one would pity him.

    Can you not see his delusion? If you ever left this cursed place for longer than an hour, and talked to people in the actual world, you could not fail to see! What motive could Braith have for persecuting Father? Why would a sorcerer deign to notice a drunken peasant, even if they were born in the same place? He left long ago, and as far as I know, they never crossed paths when he dwelt here. Ask Chalvern! I am certain he will tell you the same.

    Exasperated, Weslan would rail until Tekoah put her hands over her ears and defied him silently. With their blue eyes blazing and faces flushed, they looked so alike it was startling. But their quarrels could not separate them for long. 

    They needed each other.

    Until Weslan left. Suddenly, without saying goodbye.

    She had heard from him just once afterward—a travelling peddler had brought a message that her brother had joined a band of mercenary soldiers. In his letter, he pledged to make his fortune and return for Tekoah and their twin brothers. And Mother, of course. 

    Don’t hold your breath. Neela’s voice was curt as she dropped the smudged scroll into the fire—quickly, for Veld’s footsteps hammered toward them from outside. She had said nothing more, and her words over the ensuing weeks had grown fewer and fewer, drying up like a thirsty well in a drought.

    And then Mother had left as well. Without saying goodbye.

    Even now, trying to remember that time never failed to give Tekoah a terrible headache. All part of the sorcerer’s curse, her father reminded her, looking bleary-eyed and defeated. Turning everyone against him—except for his beloved daughter.

    And so, this past turning, Tekoah had nurtured her hatred of Braith like a small but steady flame. She had never seen him, but in the glow cast by the smouldering fire of her rage she held the image of a sinister, hook-nosed man, looking older than his thirty turnings. 

    What would his Source be? A bat, perhaps—high, narrow shoulders, hunched up toward his ears. Jet-black hair combed straight back, a startling widow’s peak, his high forehead gleaming and oily like the raiding devils that swooped across the border from Berlot. Yellow teeth; skinny, no doubt; spindly legs. Malevolent, deep-set eyes gleaming in a rodent’s face.

    She had seen this image each time she heard her father’s high, terrified screaming in the night. 

    And now, on a midsummer’s day, as sudden as the storms that raged down from the Taboran Mountains, there he was. And although the spell had caught her facing sideways to Braith, still Tekoah strained to see more of him, to determine if her imaginings had been accurate.

    For there was nothing else to do, caught in this enchanted web of immobility. Stare, then die.

    He was by the ancient stone well at the centre of the village square, seated on a huge black horse. A Taboran stallion, Tekoah thought, looking at the steed with the trained eye of a Northerner.

    Braith wore black and crimson, his bearing no less fastidious than one of the foppish and disdainful nobles she saw when they stopped to replace a shoe at the forge. But Braith did not look like one of them. He was bareheaded, and his longish dark hair rippled in the hot wind.

    Tekoah’s eyes watered in the bright sunlight as she focused on his hands. Are those crimson leather gloves? It is so hot. How can he bear it? 

    Braith sat on his restless mount with practised ease, adjusting to its movements until they almost seemed to be one creature—wild, restless, and very dangerous. He looked like a demigod from the legends the village women worked into tapestries on cold winter afternoons.

    All this Tekoah observed in a series of sidelong glimpses from the corner of her right eye. When she tried to blink, she found she could not, and mysterious figures from the temple tapestries danced before her face: transparent, insubstantial, like the wraiths said to walk abroad on the Night of the Dead. Her mind, she realized, had begun to wander along the grey borders of delirium, and she had to force it back to reality.

    But the unexpected sight of Grindhor, High Priest of Rhan, was no vision borne of delirium. He was leaving the temple, pigeon blood still spattered on his robe. Beside him sauntered Melnich the Treasurer, the priest’s long thin shadow. They strode straight toward the market square, laughing. Then they walked into the silence.

    Grindhor gaped at the frozen tableau, and then his eyes went immediately toward the well, as if drawn by some secret shame. A spasm of horror crossed his face. He dropped to his knees right there in the square, his white robe billowing about him, its crisp folds settling incongruously into the refuse of market day. His heavy jowls were quivering. 

    The silence was so complete that Tekoah heard that quiver. She almost felt like laughing. Grindhor, so majestic, such a self-professed lightning rod for the wrath of Rhan, kneeling in the muck. It was not possible.

    Melnich kneeled also, his face ashen and his turkey-wattle throat bobbing convulsively. The elders remained in this attitude of supplication for what seemed like an eternity but must only have been a few seconds.

    Tekoah had never gazed long at either man before. Now each line and valley on their faces was etched into her brain forever. In her peripheral vision, she looked again at Braith, and thought he smiled.

    My lord Braith, began Grindhor, his voice cracking after the first word into a trembling squeak. He sounded like a feeble mouse in a trap. Beside him, Melnich sucked his knuckles like a babe and sobbed.

    Before the priest could continue, Braith raised a hand—it looked like a nonchalant wave—and Grindhor was no longer there. He simply was not.

    Mouth dry, Tekoah stared at the small pile of greyish dust where he had been. Melnich uttered a choked scream and stumbled to his feet as if to flee. Then he, too, was transformed into dust, forever gone beyond pleading.

    The wind returned, a sudden gust that blew away the little piles of dust. It stirred her hair, and Tekoah almost wept with joy, for it was the touch of life. She tried to move, and still could not. But the wind was in her hair. She was alive. 

    And then Braith rose in his saddle and scanned the square full of frozen villagers with death in his eyes.

    So, it was not to last, then, this reprieve. The wind did not mean life, after all; it would merely scatter her ashes as it had done the two men’s. Despairing thoughts assailed her: will Braith’s revenge encompass everyone? Of course, he probably killed Father first. Oh Rhan, what will happen to the twins? Even if they are left alive, what will they do without me? 

    A desperate cry came into her mind: Mother! Where are you? Where did you go?

    At the height of her terror, just when it seemed to be choking her, a sudden calm descended. Tekoah felt as though she was floating slightly above her body, and her fear dissolved. She strained her sidelong gaze at the sorcerer, wanting to see the face of her death, knowing she was no more than a leaf, a feather, hurled into the vast whirlpool of his vengeance. He had nursed his hatred longer than she.

    Is this what life is, then? she wondered bitterly. Who can hate the most? Not so hard to let go, after all.

    With a sudden shock that made her scalp prickle, she realized that Braith’s eyes were settled upon her. At the same time, she discovered that she could now turn her head. She tried to raise her hand to her face, but still could not stir anything below her neck. And so, raising her eyes, she gazed upon Braith’s face for the first time.

    He looked astonishingly different from the hunched, oily image of her fantasies. She found herself staring into green-gold eyes set beneath thick black brows. They were hypnotic, those eyes; unblinking, like a bird of prey. His cheekbones were high, his skin was the smooth porcelain of a child, but his red mouth betrayed an arrogance at odds with his youthful face.

    I did not think he would be so young. Tekoah’s heart pounded as though it would burst through her skin at any moment.

    Braith leaned forward in his saddle. Tekoah was flooded with such terror that she would have fallen if she was able to move her limbs. A light breeze moved over her, and she staggered, almost fell. Then, gasping, she righted herself. She could now move her body. She was free.

    Tekoah turned in small semi-circles left and right, taking in the motionless villagers. In their stillness, they all seemed noble and beautiful, as never before. 

    And doomed. So utterly doomed—like the insects in clear amber on the shelves in Chalvern’s shop—that it brought tears to her eyes.

    She stared at these living statues. It dawned upon her that only the two of them existed in this moment, alone, in this world of Braith’s making. She and he. 

    A searing intensity was directed toward her, like a white-hot beam of light, and she knew Braith was looking at her. This drew her gaze back to him in helpless fascination. And then he smiled, red lips curving upward, white teeth flashing.

    At that moment, he entered her mind the way another man might have opened an unlocked door. The shock of the violation was almost unbearable. Tekoah clapped her hands over her ears. Felt him, probing. 

    "Do not weep, little violet." Five words, spoken in a whisper.

    He slipped from the stallion and whispered in its ear. The gleaming black horse shivered and snorted and trotted off, picking his way between the breathing statues. Once clear of the market square, it gathered i