The Desecrator

The Desecrator

illustration by john stanko

I’m guessing you knew the desecrator would be there, and just didn’t tell me because, well, for your own reasons.

Sorry, sorry. In order, then. From the beginning?

You were the one who said sarcasm was—Yes, m’lady.

It was several days ago that you sent me—Barlen’s balls. All right.

It was early in the morning of the third day of the month of the Phoenix in the 230th year of the Reign of Her Glorious Majesty Zerika the Fourth that you sent me to meet the desecrator. Well, sorry! You sent me to the place where I ended up meeting the desecrator. Is that better? I don’t know what you know. That’s kind of funny when you—okay, I’ll just say that I left Dzur Mountain on the third day of the month of the Phoenix in the 230th year, all right?

I had to walk a long way, and there was still snow on the ground; deep snow at the top. It was cold. No, that is not a complaint, it is a detail. You said I was to include details of what I was feeling and—thank you.

As I walked, I thought about the mission you’d given me and how I would carry it . . .

Okay, I won’t lie. I thought about how cold I was, and how annoying it was to have to walk. My sword was light on my back, but the cross guard kept smacking the back of my head when I climbed down off rocks. I tried to adjust it, but couldn’t find a position that worked.

Eventually I made it down the mountain and found the cottage of a Teckla family. They groveled and all that. I identified myself properly, as Lord Telnan, House of the Dzur, and said I would be spending the night. They didn’t have a problem with it. They had a lot of kids—I could never quite count them—who were all too loud. The mother didn’t even seem to notice the noise. Every time she’d slap a spoonful of pulped tubers on a plate, she’d make some remark, like “grow those bones,” or “this will make your hair curly,” or “you need more muscles.” She was one of those laughing, happy peasants that you hear about but never actually meet. Now I’ve met one. It wasn’t as big a thrill as you might think. I got some sleep on a lumpy bed while they slept on the floor next to the hearth, and I paid them half an imperial for their trouble, and I didn’t kill any of them.

Do I really need to give you every day? It isn’t like anything happened.

All right, all right.

Your rules were: no teleporting, no magic, no Imperial conveyances until I reached Adrilankha, so I got a ride on an oxcart from another peasant, a young one. He wasn’t interested in conversation; just grunting in response to whatever I said. But he was willing to take a few coins in exchange for letting me stay in his cottage that night. He lived alone.

The next day I walked as far as the inn in Yalata, and slept in a real bed.

My next ride was on a wagon drawn by a pair of oxen. This was from a merchant, a Jhegaala. When he finished groveling and shaking, he got talkative: he chattered about exchange rates, and margins, whatever they are, and quantity discounts, and how changes in the weather and major events can affect sales. It was annoying, but he’d given me a ride, so it would have been rude to disembowel him. He brought me all the way to the city.

You never indicated there was any hurry, so I spent three days in Adrilankha, enjoying civilization. When I sobered up and recovered enough to feel like I could teleport, I used the location you gave me and arrived in Lansord an hour after dawn.

Have you ever been to Lansord, Sethra? There’s not much to it: a speaker’s house, two silos, a store. There’s no physicker closer than Bringan, ten miles to the east. I saw two old men and an old woman, none of whom gave me so much as a glance.

The ground rises steadily as you look west, to the foothills of the Kanefthali Mountains. Mount Durilai is closest; as you start west it rises over your head; I’d have liked to climb it. Maybe I’ll go back someday and do that. Sometime when there’s less snow.

I found the path where you said I would—a rock forming a tunnel, two flat, slanted, man-sized boulders inside it like teeth, with a wide man path to the right, and a narrow animal path to the left. I went left and followed it for a day. I slept outside. I don’t care for that.

The next morning I ate bread and cheese, and washed up a bit in a stream. It was very cold.

It was around mid-morning when I found the cave, hidden by a profusion of calia. I pushed the bushes aside and went through, giving myself the first wounds of the day. There, see the back of my hand? And here, on my cheek.

The cave was dark. I did a light spell; just a dim one. The place was just wide enough for my arms, and I couldn’t see the back. I brightened the spell a bit, and still couldn’t see the back. I checked my sword and my dagger, and started in, the spell illuminating twenty feet ahead.

The cave went pretty deep into the mountain. If I’d thought to set a trace-point I could tell you exactly how far, which I’m sure would make you happy. But I was walking for more than two hours, and the thing just continued. As you said, from time to time there were side passages, more as I went deeper. But it was never hard to determine the main line and stay on it. I figured out that, in spite of how rough and jagged and uneven the walls, floor, and ceiling were, it had been deliberately dug out. But it was old. Really, really old. Maybe as old as—um, as really old things.

Then it ended, just like that; and that’s where the desecrator was waiting.

Okay, well, I shouldn’t say he was waiting. He’d obviously been doing something, and he looked up when he saw my light or heard my footsteps.

He had his own light spell—brighter, but a smaller area. The combinations of the two spells made it look like he was emitting a glow. He was about my height, and wore all black. No question of his House: the dark complexion, the narrow eyes, the nose, all said Hawk.

He said, “Who are you?”

I very, very badly wanted to say Zungaron Lavode, but I was good. I said, “Telnan of Ranler. And you?”

“What are you doing here?”

“An honor to meet you, my lord What-are-you-doing-here.”

“Hmmm? Oh, no, that isn’t my name. I was asking.”

I had no idea how to reply to that, so I just waited. So did he. Eventually he cleared his throat and said, “What did you say you’re doing here?”

“I didn’t. I asked you your name.”

“You did?”


“Oh. Daymar.”

“How do you do? What are you doing here?”

“Me?” he said.

I almost said, “No, the other guy,” but I knew you wanted me back this year, so I said, “Yes.”

“I’m a desecrator.”

“Oh. What are you desecrating?”

“This is an abandoned Serioli dwelling that goes back to the Second Cycle. I’ve found the remains of prayer spinners, smith tools, pottery, weapons, and I just discovered this.”

He held out what seemed to be a piece of shapeless dull metal about half the size of his palm.

“What’s that?” I said.

“Um.” He put it away, took out a small notebook, consulted it, and said, “Unidentified metal object SI-089161-44B-79.”

“That’s what I thought it was,” I said.

“What are you doing here?”

“I’m on a mission from Sethra Lavode.”

“You do like to jest, don’t you?”

“I suppose I do. I’m here looking for something I lost.”


“I’ll know it when I see it.”

“This is my site, Telnan.”

“On whose authority?”

“Pamlar University.”

“Ah. Yes. Well. I don’t believe they have any actual, you know, official authority.”

“Oh.” He considered. “We could fight.”

“I’m good with that,” I said.

He tilted his head and looked at me as if I were an odd relic he had found at his site. It occurred to me then that his weaponless state might mean he didn’t need weapons. This, I started thinking, could be fun.

I reached behind my neck for my sword, wrapped my hand around the hilt, and wondered why I had lost interest in drawing it. I stood there for a moment. Daymar still had that same look on his face.

“That,” I said, “isn’t fair.”

“Sorry,” he said.

I tried again to want to draw my weapon, and I couldn’t. I thought about an amulet that I needed to start wearing, just as soon as I could figure out how to craft it. Which reminds me, Sethra; can you tell me how to—

All right.

“Another idea,” he said, “would be for you to tell me what you’re after.”

“If you have such control over my mind, why don’t you make me tell you?”

“Causing someone to do something against his will is considerably more difficult than sapping his will to do something. Also, it wouldn’t be polite.”


He nodded.

I hesitated, started to speak, then wondered if he was making me do it after all.

“I’m not,” he said.

Was he reading my mind?

“Only surface thoughts. You’re well protected. Oh, very nice. Now I’m not getting those. Where did you learn to do that?”

“From Sethra.”

After a moment he said, “You weren’t jesting, then.”


“I see.” He frowned. “You’re her apprentice?”

“Not exactly. She’s teaching me some things.”


“Her own reasons.”

“You never asked her why she’s teaching you?”

“Yes, in fact, I did.”

“What did she say?”

“To further her plot to destroy the Empire.”

“Oh.” He considered. “Now you’re jesting, right?”

“No, but I’m pretty sure she was.”

Steven Halter
1. stevenhalter
What a great treat for a Wednesday morning! Cool to see how Telnan became aquainted with Nightslayer. Fun!
Kristoff Bergenholm
3. Magentawolf
Decent story... but I have to say that the narration method gave me a headache there.
4. K.Trout
On the contrary - the narration method gave me a much better insight into Telnan's personality than I was able to glean from his first appearance. He's much more real for me now.

Very enjoyable story. I'm always happy to see something new from Brust's Dragaera tales, and this was an unexpected and welcome surprise.
5. Martin Wohlert
Great little story Steven!
6. Slick Riptide
I laughed at the translation of "archaeologist" into "desecrator".

It was interesting trying to figure out who the narrator was, once it became increasingly clear that it must not be Vlad.

Apparently, bonding with your Great Weapon is an experience that varies greatly from person to person. I think Vlad got the easier version. heh.

As always, there are questions raised and left to the imagination - Who would Telnan immediately have in mind who could use a good killing (morganti, at that) but who was not strictly guilty (though by implication, not strictly innocent, either).

It's hard to imagine Telnan as someone who has killing in his soul to the point that a sword of "pure evil" would agree to be borne by him, but I suppose that's part of the point. Being a Dzur means that you're always up for a good slaughter, the bigger, the better.
7. Slick Riptide
Oh, Steve, if you read this - Was this a case, like some stories here, where you were shown the art and then wrote a story based on it?

I noticed that, lack of a noble's point aside, "Telnan" needs a shave. heh
john mullen
8. johntheirishmongol
Good way to make my day! A new story by Brust is always welcome, and one about a great sword makes it even better.
ed t
9. edt
great story. i too liked the narration method.
thanks for sharing with us.
10. dracolemur
Oh, perfect--I just finished re-reading Issola a few days ago. Now I evidently need to go re-read Dzur. I was worried that Telnan was going to kill Daymar, then I remembered that he has an appearance later, and spoiler spoiler thing.

And, yes... the illustration is very good, but it's obviously not a Dragearan. I've always wondered what they look like, since the book covers have either Taltos, some critter, or other obviously-not-accurately-Dragearan. I always, *always* picture Morrolan with a little black goatee, despite knowing that Dragearans can't grow facial hair. Of course, I also wonder what Jenoine look like... and chreothas, and whether jhereg have two legs or four (I have combed the books and never seen a reference to "hind" or "forelegs" so I still don't know), and where *did* Verra come from anyway... so many questions!
JP Craig
12. jpcraig
Thanks very much for the story. It's been a while since I've visited the world of Vlad Taltos. Nice way to end a hard work day.
Thomas Bounds
13. Boundzy
Nice story. Daymar has always been one of my favorite characters.
14. Ethelred
Thank You SKZB, Patrick and of course Tor.
Funny and very good. Nice to see Daymar from another point of view as well. And that is one nasty sword.

15. MicheleR

Daymar is such an interesting character. Glad to see more of him from a perspective other than Vlad's (not that I don't love Vlad...I do)
Julian Augustus
16. Alisonwonderland
Since this story is about how Telnan got his Great Weapon, why is the story named after Daymar (the desecrator), who is only the third and, on the surface, least important character in the story? Am I missing some hidden meaning here? Incidentally, I find this bloodthirsty Telnan very different from the more simple-minded fellow he appeared to be in Dzur.
Vicki Rosenzweig
17. vicki

And with no insult intended to Vlad, it's nice to hear some other voices from that world.
Julian Augustus
18. Alisonwonderland
Okay, so now we know how Aliera, Vlad and Telnan got their Great Weapons. It would make another great story to tell how Sethra also got hers, no? Something to think about, Steve?
19. Rich in Madison
Interesting story. It took a little while to figure out the narration, but once it clicked in my head I was hooked. I've never read Brust before, but after reading this I went and ordered Jhereg.
20. Aidan1451
21. Wookie
I liked the begining,really got me hooked
Stefan Raets
22. Stefan
"Maybe as old as—um, as really old things."

Ahaha. I could almost hear the implied *gulp* as he bit back what he was about to say.
23. Laraine
Excellent! Thanks for a great read.
24. Caryn
Wonderful story, great voice. Thank you!
25. Geckomayhem
Nice read. Didn't realise until I read the comments that this is apparently based in an already established world. Are all the stories short stories, then, or is this taken from a series, a full length novel or a novella? Either way, this one is well written. I liked the narrative style for some reason.
26. Quebett
I agree, very nice read. I also didn't realize it was part of an already established world. How do I get the ebook of the actual stories?
27. JRB1013
Love what he was going to tell Sethra!
28. Ron W
Very nice! Thanks Steve. (Now write us a few more please) Hey, if you wrote a story in which Kragar was the main character would anyone notice? OK, I guess you've heard that one before.
29. jaqalope
2nd that. How bout a story about Kragar in which we don't know it's about him. Reader gets the story and mayhem from various witnesses view, but never sees my favorite Jhereg.
30. CD Lewis
It's fun to see Sethra joking (or _not_ joking!) about a plot to destroy the Empire. I'll have to re-read Dzur now, with this background in mind.

I look forward to it :-)

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