The prologue to The Mask of God evolved over several years of
writing the series. Each version taught me a little more about
the characters and the world. I thought fans might enjoy reading
the various versions to see how the story evolved into the final
This version was the very first, written in 1989 when I
first started working on this series (not knowing at the time
that it was going to be a series). The focus was on the
relationship between the brothers, which from the beginning I
knew was going to be the driving force for the books. The
working title of the book at that time was "The King's Brother,"
and it was sparked by a scene from the climactic battle near the
end. So I had to write a whole book to get to that scene, and it
began here, with one brother saving another on a cliff. Note
that Traven's name originally was something much more complex,
and was changed by editorial request.
This version was really interesting to me. I was struggling
to find a way to portray the very important backstory involving
the Hadí war. From it I learned a great deal about Sarah Linden
and her rebels who overthrew the very nasty theocracy that had
conquered Ariel and cut it off from the greater galaxy and the
Earth Alliance beyond Ariel's sun, Falal. I also learned that
the Hadí really, really weren't nice people. The original cover
artist, Bill Warren, used some of this imagery to build the
world portrayed on his cover, which I really liked, including
the broken stone and artillery scars on the Citadel.
And finally we come to the current version, which was
written after I decided to bring the gods of Ariel onstage, so
to speak. In earlier drafts of the books they were referred to a
lot, cursed a lot, and drove a great deal of the action, but
were seldom actually seen or heard from directly. In the
revisions I found it way
more interesting to bring them onto the page as living
characters with their own motivations that the reader gets to
see and assess firsthand rather than through the eyes of a POV
character. Mortal and immortal motivations are so at odds
throughout the book that I just had to get inside the
gods' heads! And thus we see from the beginning that Fate really
isn't the unmitigated bitch that mortals think she is.
Herewith is the final version of the prologue to The Mask
of God. This is where the story begins.
Fate could put the future off no longer.
Silent as smoke, she swept unseen through
the desert dusk, trailing echoes of incipient peril. Towering
rocks loomed above her, smoldering in every color of the sunset
just sinking to ash in the west. She slid around them, sometimes
through them, stirring a dusty chill. Finally she whispered into
being atop a hilltop cloven long ago by some tantrum of nature.
In the fading pearl dusk, orange robes gathered themselves from
nothing, enfolding a thing only shaped like a woman.
“You’re late,” Seev said, a petulant hiss
out of the dusk.
Long-fingered hands took shape at the ends
of orange sleeves, plucking voluminous folds into order. “I did
not have to come at all, brother.” Fate’s voice was no warmer
than the wind.
Seev sculpted himself from the sand, a
hulking, faceless thing in robes the color of fresh blood. “It’s
time. You promised me.”
“Ah? Are you taking to yourself my
prerogatives now, foretelling when and how mortals should die?”
Seev paused, a slight, fatal hesitation.
Fate drew back her hood and smiled. The god of death shrank
visibly under it.
“I thought not.” Fate’s chill ivory face
matched her laugh. “You are greedy, brother. Have the grace to
“You promised me an Aravoni. When the
youngest was born, even you said House Aravon was over-blessed
with sons. You said one would come to me beforetime.”
“You have already claimed an Aravoni. Can
you not be content with the father?”
“His death is long forgotten. It’s of no
profit to me. You promised!”
Fate turned away. “I remember.”
“Then choose.” Seev lifted his head, his
hood falling together over the empty air where his face should
be. “Or is it that you cannot? House Aravon has ever been your
favorite. For too long, say I.”
“Because they scorn your best traps and
laugh in your face when you finally win.” Fate laughed as sand
swirled up around her with an angry hiss. Her smile faded when
the sand rained back in a spray like blood across the
bluish-purple stone at her feet. Blue for House Aravon. Blood
for a death she owed. Even the gods could not dodge such debts.
Not on Ariel, anyway.
She sighed, rattling the spindly branches
of the hayak bushes down the hill. Seev raised his head, sensing
victory. “Shall I choose for you?”
“Ghoul.” Her contempt sent him shrinking to
the far edge of the broken hill. “I know which one you would
choose. No. He is mine. Of the other two—”
She spread long, pale fingers, erasing the
dusk and the hillside. Three young men laughed at her out of the
night. Behind her, Seev stirred. His eagerness to set a royal
house mourning disgusted her; to spite him she tarried, studying
these three upon whom hung so much. The smiling eldest with eyes
the midnight blue of his house. The second, tawny as a trafe,
wide-shouldered and solid. The youngest crowned in hair like
molten silver tinged with gold. Eldest to youngest, there could
be no doubt they were brothers, and brothers of that rarest kind
in Sevakand: three who had no quarrel with each other.
Fate sighed again, so softly it—almost—went
unnoticed by Seev. Regretfully she closed her fist. One of the
faces shivered and vanished.
“You may have that one.”
A shiver of anticipation rippled Seev’s red
robe. “Begone,” Fate told him coldly. He vanished with a fading,
“Forgive me,” Fate whispered to a man who
would never hear her. Only the night saw her tears.