By Avram Davidson

He was once a grasp in arts magical, yet no longer but Incantor et Magus.

Now Vergil Magus, the strong sorcerer-poet, returns within the long-awaited prequel to Avram Davidson’s best-selling novel of myth and magic, The Phoenix and the Mirror. right here, Vergil’s remarkable adventures start as he trips into the hideous middle of evil and darkness….

Enter the very wealthy urban of Averno and find a position of untold riches and untamed lusts, of orgies and drunken revelries, of insanity and human corruption. here's a decaying city of wizards and warlocks, the place outdated crones spin webs of cruelty and deceit, and hell lurks in a labyrinth of underworld caves. Vergil has come to Averno to discover the key of its everlasting fires, the very heart of its wealth and prominence. yet as he explores the internal sancta of this historic and heartless inferno, he reveals, too, the fiery mattress of Poppaea, the gorgeous spouse of the city’s so much influential Magnates. With this forbidden excitement comes forbidden wisdom, and Vergil is drawn right into a internet of intrigue that threatens to show the bad strength of Averno opposed to him.

For centuries, the lords of town have thrived at the bloody sacrifice in their personal humans. Now they're made up our minds so as to add yet another identify to the scrolls of Averno’s dead...and to solid Vergil, now an outlaw, into the burning pits of the loss of life empire.

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There’s a tender lady, oh, possibly 11, twelve, or so, within the new wharf a part of city, whom I been depending on for your time, you spot, sir. and that i see she’s a superb woman and as fresh as they depart her be, the place she used to be prior to with a few family members, no longer a slave, no, only a servant-drudge. So I spoke a observe right here and there and that i placed a couple of items of silver right into a few arms and that i received her in with a greater kinfolk the place she will do greater than scrub and hold — the place she will research the methods of an exceptional kin condo and an excellent relations housewoman: procuring, spinning and weaving, cooking strong nutrition as she has received, handling servants, and to learn and write and continue money owed, and all things like I needn’t enumerate. And shortly, grasp Vergil, I shall undertake her and dower her. after which, with out no haste, sir, then I’ll pass carefully inquiring round within the workshops of the great crafts, of the simplest of the crafts, sir, of promising younger males who’ve approximately entire their journeyman time: after which i'll choose the easiest of them as don’t have kin to set them up good in alternate after which I’ll marry the 2 of them off, if this is the case be they’ll have one another, for I don’t think in forcing the sort of fit in the event that they won’t. With the dowry, then, the younger guy, my son-in-law as he’ll be, he’ll manage to open a superb store and we’ll all be a-living right here jointly during this strong residence which you’re a-building for me, and that i shall have kids then, you spot, and grandchildren, and that i shan’t be on my own not more, then, nor in my old age …” Quiet cheerful anticipation for a second, then, swiftly: “If such be my destiny, absit omen. ” He spat 3 times and 3 times he rapped upon a flinch of trees. “Absit omen,” Vergil repeated. It used to be a foul factor to boast or vaunt, it should allure the envy of others . . . other folks . . . others who and which have been now not humans; it was once a danger, yet, being a possibility which it used to be inevitable ultimately at one time and one other someone might take, there has been a therapy supplied: one invoked the security of the spirits of the bushes, which resided, residually, at the least, in any piece of wooden; one spat, for spittle used to be deemed powerful surrogate for effective semen. “Avert the omen . . . sure. Such be your destiny. it really is written on your palm, the traces defined in madder. convinced, it is going to be a very good residence that we're development for you. so that you don't visit Averno, then, on your dye-work? ” excitement during this prophecy, confirmant of his personal leader hopes, made the freedman nearly speechless for a second, and he was once sluggish to take the final query into his brain. It was once with a surprising circulation, virtually a convulsive one, that he reacted to it in a second; and his face twisted. “That black pit? That stinking gap? No, grasp! Oh, I’ve been, extra usually than I’ve desired to, for each time I’ve been there I haven’t desired to, yet company occasionally obliged me — why else? — for as for them sizzling baths supposedly strong for the well-being, why, relatively sicken at domestic than cross there for a treatment! despite the fact that, beg the master’s pardon, when it truly is actual that they do dye-work and iron-work and actually all such paintings as comprises heats and fires, that's what retains ‘em all alive and makes ‘em wealthy (besides from thievery and homicide or worse) — why, no sir!

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