Before contact with the Trade Pact…
Before the powerful Clan came to live in secret on Human worlds…
When they were only the Om’ray, one of three races on the planet Cersi.
Return to the universe of A Thousand Words for Stranger
And meet Aryl Sarc, who will change everything.
Author’s Note: New to the Clan Chronicles? I suggest you start here, with this book. The events in Stratification #1-3 take place before the Trade Pact trilogy featuring Sira di Sarc and Jason Morgan.
“Czerneda’s world-building flair and fascinating characters set this intricate story well above most SF series prequels.”Publishers Weekly
Excerpt from Reap the Wild Wind
The M’hir Wind began out of sight, out of mind. It stirred first where baked sand met restless surf. It became fitful and petulant as it passed over the barrens, moving dunes and scouring stone. Sometimes it sighed and curled back on itself, as if absentminded. But it never stilled.
It only grew.
By the time the land raised its wall, the M’hir was a steady howl, wide as the horizon and heavy with power. Dust and sand marked its leading edge; thunder and lightning heralded its approach. It rushed into the mountain range, screaming through canyons until rock cracked from the sound. But the land would not be denied, forcing the M’hir up and up until the wind became chill and sullen and pregnant with cloud.
Rain came to the slopes; violent, driven rain that carved gullies and tumbled boulders. It washed everything from its path until, spent, it sprawled across the desert as thousands of dark, twisting rivulets that were sucked into the parched earth. Life ignited. For days and days to come, this place would bloom and crawl and flutter, turning the M’hir’s grudging gift into color and motion.
The M’hir itself roared up the mountains, what remained of its moisture released in blizzards of white. It ripped clouds as it crested the summits, then plunged.
Stripped of its moisture, heated as its air compressed, the M’hir Wind raced down the far side of the mountain range, faster and faster, its searing breath about to fall on new lands.
No longer out of sight, or out of mind, to those who waited; the first dry hot gusts of the M’hir signaled summer’s end and the harvest.
If you were brave enough to climb.
Old, these mountains. Old and beaten and scoured, until they were more a tangle of sharp ridges than peaks. The ridges plunged like greedy fingers into the swamplands owned by the Tikitik. Those swamplands, themselves an immense grove braided with open water and reedbed, extended from the mountains to the horizon; beyond, should any care, lay the sere plains and parallel mounds of the Oud. For Cersi was a world meticulously divided and ruled.
As it had always been. This was one of three points on which all who dwelled here agreed.
Next was Passage. The Om’ray, third of the races of Cersi, owned no part of this world. Once a lifetime, an Om’ray was entitled to trespass wherever he must over the lands of the others, to reach a mate or die in the attempt. It was an accommodation of instinct which pleased no one, beyond continuing the world as it was.
For that was the final point of agreement: what was and had been must stay the same. Cersi was in balance and at peace. Change was forbidden, for all sakes.
Old, these mountains.
And every summer here ended with the M’hir.
Aryl Sarc stared at the hand near her face. It was hers, the knuckles white with strain beneath smudges of dirt. She eased her grip slightly, looked ahead for the next. She’d never been this high before. Didn’t matter. Couldn’t matter. She took a deep breath.
“I’m going to fall, you know.”
Exhaling the breath in a snort, Aryl twisted to scowl at her brother. Costa Sarc, or rather Costa sud Teerac, might be bigger, stronger, and Joined–thus officially adult and her senior–but he clutched the stalk below her as if to embed himself in its bark. “I’ll fall,” he gasped. “Any–Oh no! I’m slipping!” This a howl, as one arm thrashed wildly through the air.
Real fear? He was close enough. She lifted one brow and let her awareness of him become focused, easily breaching the barrier between the acceptable here-I-am of Costa and the private how-I-feel. It was rude and childish.
So, it turned out, was her brother. “Not funny, Costa,” she snapped, pulling free of his delighted amusement.
The flash of a wide, unrepentant grin. “Sure it was. Ease up, Aryl. I thought this was to be fun.”
“Only if you don’t get us caught,” she scolded. A full tenth of the day climbing and they were just at the third spool–the height of five clansmen, short ones at that–from the wide bridge suspended below. Below that support, it was a drop of twenty or more to the dark water glinting its menace between root buttresses and trunks. Young Om’ray were encouraged to drop scraps from such safe height. The resulting boil of activity made this a good object lesson, for the Lay Swamp was home to many things; what didn’t have leaves, had teeth. Om’ray learned not to fall.
Rarely, anyway. Aryl pointed down. “Next time you feel the need to slip, dear brother, aim for the bridge. I’m sure Leri would love to help heal a broken leg for her beloved Chosen.” She lowered her voice to a fair imitation of Haxel Vendan, Yena’s First Scout. “’Mark my words, young Om’ray. If you miss,’” she growled menacingly, “’you’ll be eaten before you drown.’”
Costa chuckled. “Leaving you to explain to the family.”
“I’ll do anything if it makes you hurry, Costa! We don’t have time to waste. The M’hir’s coming.”
At this, his grin faded. He stared up at her, beginning to frown. “You keep saying that as if it’s true, Aryl. The Watchers haven’t called. You’re no–”
“They will soon,” she interrupted, unwilling to discuss the source of her impatience. Costa’s strange little sister kept such feelings to herself. This inner anticipation–half excitement, half dread–was never easy to interpret when it arrived. But she’d learned it meant change.
Change, today, could only be the M’hir.