The Emperor's Soul (Hugo Award Winner - Best Novella)
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When Shai is caught replacing the Moon Scepter with her nearly flawless forgery, she must bargain for her life. An assassin has left the Emperor Ashravan without consciousness, a circumstance concealed only by the death of his wife. If the emperor does not emerge after his hundred-day mourning period, the rule of the Heritage Faction will be forfeit and the empire will fall into chaos.
Shai is given an impossible task: to create—to Forge—a new soul for the emperor in less than one hundred days. But her soul-Forgery is considered an abomination by her captors. She is confined to a tiny, dirty chamber, guarded by a man who hates her, spied upon by politicians, and trapped behind a door sealed in her own blood. Shai's only possible ally is the emperor's most loyal counselor, Gaotona, who struggles to understand her true talent.
Time is running out for Shai. Forging, while deducing the motivations of her captors, she needs a perfect plan to escape...
“I’ll take these and stamp them onto a metal plate, then link that to the stamp you will place on Ashravan each day. He’ll need to keep the plate close at all times.” “He’ll need to carry a metal plate with him,” Frava said drily, “and he will need to be stamped each day? This will make it difficult for the man to live a normal life, don’t you think?” “Being emperor makes it difficult for any man to live a normal life, I suspect. You will make it work. It’s customary for the plate to be
side. Shai jumped away, shouting for help. She was still playing the part, but it did not require acting. Her heart thumped, panic rising, as she rounded the bed in a scramble, putting it between herself and Zu. He smiled broadly, then jumped for her, leaping onto the bed. It promptly collapsed. During the night, while crawling under the bed to get her notes, she had Forged the wood of the frame to have deep flaws, attacked by insects, making it fragile. She’d cut the mattress underneath in
limestone, just in case a prisoner gave up on Forgery and tried to chip their way free. You built the wall, but secured it with a plate of ralkalest at the back to cut off escape.” Frava snapped her mouth shut. “The problem with ralkalest,” Shai said, “is that it’s not a very strong metal. Oh, the grate at the top of my cell was solid enough, and I couldn’t have gotten through that. But a thin plate? Really. Have you heard of anthracite?” Frava frowned. “It is a rock that burns,” Gaotona
insulting her art? He made her sound like . . . like one of those assembly line Forgers, churning out vase after vase! She calmed herself with difficulty, then plastered on a smile. Her aunt Sol had once told Shai to smile at the worst insults and snap at the minor ones. That way, no man would know your heart. “So how am I to be kept in line?” she asked. “We have established that I am among the most vile wretches to slither through the halls of this palace. You cannot bind me and you cannot
hate. As she formulated her plans, she decided one thing: getting free would probably require manipulating this man in some way. Day Twelve Day Twelve Shai pressed her stamp down on the tabletop. As always, the stamp sank slightly into the material. A soulstamp left a seal you could feel, regardless of the material. She twisted the stamp a half turn—this did not blur the ink, though she did not know why. One of her mentors had taught that it was because by this point the seal was