loading...
Home > Elantris (Elantris #1)

Elantris (Elantris #1)
Author: Brandon Sanderson

PROLOGUE

ELANTRIS was beautiful, once. It was called the city of the gods: a place of power. radiance, and magic. Visitors say that the very stones glowed with an inner light, and that the city contained wondrous arcane marvels. At night, Elantris shone like a great silvery fire, visible even from a great distance.

Yet, as magnificent as Elantris was, its inhabitants were more so. Their hair a brilliant white, their skin an almost metallic silver. the Elantrians seemed to shine like the city itself. Legends claim that they were immortal, or at least nearly so. Their bodies healed quickly, and they were blessed with great strength, insight, and speed. They could perform magics with a bare wave of the hand: men visited Elantris from all across Opelon to receive Elantrian healings, food. or wisdom. They were divinities.

And anyone could become one.

The Shaod, it was called. The Transformation. It struck randomly—usually at night, during the mysterious hours when life slowed to rest. The Shaod could take beggar, craftsman, nobleman, or warrior. When it came, the fortunate person's life ended and began anew; he would discard his old, mundane existence, and move to Elantris. Elantris, where he could live in bliss, rule in wisdom, and be worshipped for eternity.

Eternity ended ten years ago.

CHAPTER 1

PRINCE Raoden of Arelon awoke early that morning, completely unaware that he had been damned for all eternity. Still drowsy, Raoden sat up, blinking in the soft morning light. Just outside his open balcony windows he could see the enormous city of Elantris in the distance, its stark walls casting a deep shadow over the smaller city of Kae, where Raoden lived. Elantris's walls were incredibly high, but Raoden could see the tops of black towers rising behind them, their broken spires a clue to the fallen majesty hidden within.

The abandoned city seemed darker than usual. Raoden stared at it for a moment, then glanced away. The huge Elantrian walls were impossible to ignore, but people of Kae tried very hard to do just that. It was painful to remember the city's beauty, to wonder how ten years ago the blessing of the Shaod had become a curse instead....

Raoden shook his head, climbing out of bed. It was unusually warm for such an early hour; he didn't feel even a bit chilly as he threw on his robe, then pulled the servant's cord beside his bed, indicating that he wanted breakfast.

That was another odd thing. He was hungry—very hungry. Almost ravenous. He had never liked large breakfasts, but this morning he found himself waiting impatiently for his meal to arrive. Finally, he decided to send someone to see what was taking so long.

Ien?" he called in the unlit chambers.

There was no response. Raoden frowned slightly at the Seon's absence. Where could Ien be?

Raoden stood, and as he did, his eyes fell on Elantris again. Resting in the great city's shadow, Kae seemed like an insignificant village by comparison. Elantris. An enormous, ebony block—not really a city anymore, just the corpse of one. Raoden shivered slightly.

A knock came at his door.

"Finally." Raoden said, walking over to pull open the door. Old Elao stood outside with a tray of fruit and warm bread.

The tray dropped to the ground with a crash, slipping from the stunned maid's fingers even as Raoden reached out to accept it. Raoden froze, the tray's metallic ring echoing through the silent morning hallway.

"Merciful Domi!" Elao whispered, her eyes horrified and her hand trembling as she reached up to grab the Korathi pendant at her neck.

Raoden reached out, but the maid took a quivering step away. stumbling on a small melon in her haste to escape.

"What?" Raoden asked. Then he saw his hand. What had been hidden in the shadows of his darkened room was now illuminated by the hallway's flickering lantern.

Raoden turned, throwing furniture out of his way as he stumbled to the taIl mirror at the side of his chambers. The dawn's light had grown just strong enough for him to see the reflection that stared back at him. A stranger's reflection.

His blue eyes were the same, though they were wide with terror. His hair, however, had changed from sandy brown to limp gray. The skin was the worst. The mirrored face was covered with sickly black patches, like dark bruises. The splotches could mean only one thing.

The Shaod had come upon him.

¤ ¤ ¤

THE Elantris city gate boomed shut behind him with a shocking sound of finality. Raoden slumped against it, thoughts numbed by the day's events.

It was as if his memories belonged to another person. His father, King Iadon, hadn't met Raoden's gaze as he ordered the priests to prepare his son and throw him into Elantris. It had been done swiftly and quietly: Iadon couldn't afford to let it be known that the crown prince was an Elantrian. Ten years ago, the Shaod would have made Raoden a god. Now, instead of making people into silver-skinned deities. it changed them into sickly monstrosities.

Raoden shook his head in disbelief. The Shaod was a thing that happened to other people—distant people. People who deserved to be cursed. Not the crown prince of Arelon. Not Raoden.

The city of Elantris stretched out before him. Its high walls were lined with guardhouses and soldiers—men intended not to keep enemies out of the city, but to keep its inhabitants from escaping. Since the Reod, every person taken by the Shaod had been thrown into Elantris to rot: the fallen city had become an expansive tomb for those whose bodies had forgotten how to die.

Raoden could remember standing on those walls, looking down on Elantris's dread inhabitants, just as the guards now looked down on him. The city had seemed far away then, even though he had been standing just outside of it. He had wondered. philosophically, what it wouId be like to walk those blackened streets.

Now he was going to find out.

Raoden pushed against the gate for a moment. as if to force his body through, to cleanse his flesh of its taint. He lowered his head, releasing a quiet moan. He felt like curling into a ball on the grimy stones and waiting until he woke from this dream. Except. he knew he would never awaken. The priests said that this nightmare would never end.

But, somewhere, something within urged him forward. He knew he had to keep moving—for if he stopped, he feared he'd simply give up. The Shaod had taken his body. He couldn't let it take his mind as well.

So, using his pride like a shield against despair, dejection, and-most important—self-pity, Raoden raised his head to stare damnation in the eyes.

¤ ¤ ¤

BEFORE, when Raoden had stood on the walls of Elantris to look down—both literally and figuratively-on its inhabitants, he had seen the filth that covered the city. Now he stood in it.

Every surface—from the walls of the buildings to the numerous cracks in the cobblestones—was coated with a patina of grime. The slick, oily substance had an equalizing effect on Elantris's colors, blending them all into a single, depressing hue—a color that mixed the pessimism of black with the polluted greens and browns of sewage.

Before, Raoden had been able to see a few of the city's inhabitants. Now he could hear them as well. A dozen or so Elantrians lay scattered across the courtyard's fetid cobblestones. Many sat uncaringly, or unknowingly, in pools of dark water, the remains of the night's rainstorm. And they were moaning. Most of them were quiet about it, mumbling to themselves or whimpering with some unseen pain. One woman at the far end of the courtyard, however, screamed with a sound of raw anguish. She fell silent after a moment, her breath or her strength giving out.

Most of them wore what looked like rags—dark, loose-fitting garments that were as soiled as the streets. Looking closely, however, Raoden recognized the clothing. He glanced down at his own white burial cloths. They were long and flowing, like ribbons sewn together into a loose robe. The linen on his arms and legs was already stained with grime from brushing up against the city gate and stone pillars. Raoden suspected they would soon be indistinguishable from the other Elantrians' garb.

This is what I will become, Raoden thought. It has already begun. In a few weeks I will be nothing more than a dejected body, a corpse whimpering in the corner.

A slight motion on the other side of the courtyard brought Raoden out of his self-pity. Some Elantrians were crouching in a shadowed doorway across from him. He couldn't make out much from their silhouetted forms. but they seemed to be waiting for something. He could feel their eyes on him.

Raoden raised an arm to shade his eyes. and only then did he remember the small thatch basket in his hands. It held the ritual Korathi sacrifice sent with the dead into the next life—or, in this case. into Elantris. The basket contained a loaf of bread, a few thin vegetables, a handful of grain, and a small flask of wine. Normal death sacrifices were far more extensive, but even a victim of the Shaod had to be given something.

Raoden glanced back at the figures in the doorway, his mind flashing to rumors he'd heard on the outside—stories of Elantrian brutality. The shadowed figures had yet to move, but their study of him was unnerving.

Taking a deep breath, Raoden took a step to the side, moving along the city wall toward the east side of the courtyard. The forms still seemed to be watching him, but they didn't follow. In a moment, he could no longer see through the doorway, and a second later he had safely passed into one of the side streets.

Raoden released his breath, feeling that he had escaped something, though he didn't know what. After a few moments, he was certain that no one followed, and he began to feel foolish for his alarm. So far, he had yet to see anything that corroborated the rumors about Elantris. Raoden shook his head and continued moving.

The stench was almost overwhelming. The omnipresent sludge had a musty, rotten scent, like that of dying fungus. Raoden was so bothered by the smell that he nearly stepped directly on the gnarled form of an old man huddled next to a building's wall. The man moaned piteously, reaching up with a thin arm. Raoden looked down, and felt a sudden chill. The "old man' was no more than sixteen years old. The creature's soot-covered skin was dark and spotted, but his face was that of a child, not a man. Raoden took an involuntary step backward.

The boy, as if realizing that his chance would soon pass, stretched his arm forward with the sudden strength of desperation. "Food?" he mumbled through a mouth only half full of teeth. "Please?"

Then the arm fell. its endurance expended, and the body slumped back against the cold stone wall. His eyes, however, continued to watch Raoden. Sorrowful, pained eyes. Raoden had seen beggars before in the Outer Cities, and he had probably been fooled by charlatans a number of times. This boy, however, was not faking.

Raoden reached up and pulled the loaf of bread from his sacrificial offerings, then handed it to the boy. The look of disbelief that ran across the boy's face was somehow more disturbing than the despair it had replaced. This creature had given up hope long ago; he probably begged out of habit rather than expectation.

Raoden left the boy behind, turning to continue down the small street. He had hoped that the city would grow less gruesome as he left the main courtyard—thinking, perhaps, that the dirt was a result of the area's relatively frequent use. He had been wrong; the alley was covered with just as much filth as the courtyard, if not more.

A muffled thump sounded from behind. Raoden turned with surprise. A group of dark forms stood near the mouth of the side street, huddled around an object on the ground. The beggar. Raoden watched with a shiver as five men devoured his loaf of bread. fighting among themselves and ignoring the boy's despairing cries. Eventually, one of the newcomers—obviously annoyed—brought a makeshift club down on the boy's head with a crunch that resounded through the small alley.

Hot Series
» Unfinished Hero series
» Colorado Mountain series
» Chaos series
» The Sinclairs series
» The Young Elites series
» Billionaires and Bridesmaids series
» Just One Day series
» Sinners on Tour series
» Manwhore series
» This Man series
» One Night series
» Fixed series
Most Popular
» A Thousand Letters
» Wasted Words
» My Not So Perfect Life
» Caraval (Caraval #1)
» The Sun Is Also a Star
» Everything, Everything
» Devil in Spring (The Ravenels #3)
» Marrying Winterborne (The Ravenels #2)
» Cold-Hearted Rake (The Ravenels #1)
» Norse Mythology