In the Empire of Shadow is the second volume of the Worlds of Shadow trilogy, a story of people from our world caught up in the conflict between two other universes -- the Galactic Empire, in a universe where the laws of physics resemble those of 1930s pulp SF, and the Realm of Shadow, a reality where magic works.
That would imply that the series is science-fantasy, blending two genres -- but actually, it's more like horror, because in none of the three worlds do the good guys always win. Rescues don't arrive at the last minute. Heroes are scarce. When real-world rules of behavior apply, spaceships and sorcery are scary stuff.
In this second volume, Pel Brown and company are sent into Shadow's world to confront the mysterious being that rules there. All they really want is to go home -- but the route home lies through Shadow's fortress.
- First published as a Del Rey Books trade paperback, March 1995, ISBN 0-345-37246-8
- First paperback publication by Del Rey Books, September 1995, ISBN 0-345-39786-X
- Wildside edition November 2004, ISBN 978-0809589173
- Copyright 1995 by Lawrence Watt Evans
- Del Rey cover art by Peter Peebles
- Wildside cover art by Dalmazio Frau
In the Empire of Shadow
Excerpt from Chapter One
by Lawrence Watt-Evans
The spaceship shone vivid purple in the unfiltered light, brighter than any jewel, bright as a skateboarder's gear. Its nose and tailfins were golden; the forward fins were patterned in gold, white, and purple. At first glance, it should have been as gaudy and absurd as a cartoon.
But out there in space, with the glow of Base One's sun cutting sharp-edged division between light and shadow, with the utter black of deep space and the hard, unblinking blaze of a myriad stars behind it, it didn't look silly at all. It looked impressive, more real than reality itself.
Pel Brown supposed that this was what all those comic-book artists and movie special-effects crews had been trying for, and, limited by the media they used, had been unable to achieve. It took the reality of airlessness, freefall, and starlight to create such an intense image.
The bright colors were what did it; the bland greys and whites of NASA's shuttle or most of the movie spaceships just didn't have the same power.
Pel had never expected to see a real spaceship -- not like this, anyway. After all, he was just a freelance marketing consultant from Germantown, Maryland, and until recently the only spaceships he'd ever known existed were the ones built by NASA or the old Soviet space program.
Three months ago he had had no idea that parallel universes were real, and not just science fiction. Three months ago he hadn't met the velvet-clad thug who called himself Raven, or any of Raven's motley companions. He hadn't asked his lawyer to bail a bunch of stranded spacemen out of jail. He hadn't stepped through a portal in his basement wall into Raven's world, a universe where magic worked, and something called Shadow was the absolute ruler of the world. He hadn't escaped from Shadow's monsters only to wind up in a third universe, the one the spacemen came from, where the Galactic Empire ruled three thousand inhabited planets. He hadn't spent weeks as a slave working in a mine on a planet called Zeta Leo III.
And three months ago he had had a wife and daughter, and now they were gone, and he had been told that they were both dead, murdered by space pirates.
Space pirates! God, that sounded like something out of the old pulp magazines, or a low-budget movie -- only they'd been all too real, and altogether serious. They'd captured Pel, along with Raven and the others, and sold them into slavery.
And they hadn't gone in for gaudy colors. The ship out there was not their style at all. The colors marked it as part of the Imperial fleet.
This particular combination of colors wasn't quite the standard set; gold and white were unusual. The purple meant the ship was the property of the Galactic Empire, of course; Pel wondered what the gold represented. He guessed that it probably meant the ship carried some high official.
There were plenty of high officials at Base One already, in Pel's opinion; he had been harassed by a few of them. A good many of the Galactic Empire's big shots had been interested in seeing the people from another universe.
Pel watched, vaguely annoyed, as the ship slid smoothly into the huge airlock a quarter-mile farther down Base One's surface.
That surface was an uneasy blend of raw meteoritic stone and riveted metal -- the Imperial military had hollowed out the orbiting rock, and then built outward, as well. Pel's window looked out from a bulge of asteroidal stone onto a broad vista of sheet steel, pocked and patched as a result of collisions with celestial debris, but untainted by any trace of rust.
Then the infinite depths of space and the long metal walls of the station dimmed to near-invisibility and his own face leapt out at him from the glass; someone had turned on the light in the room behind him.
He blinked, and continued to stare at the glass, at his own features superimposed on the universe, almost blocking it all from sight. His nose, recently broken by the overseers at the mine where he'd worked as slave labor, did not look quite right, and the bruises elsewhere had left dark traces that looked like shadows, but it was still the same face he had always had.
He was in the wrong universe, but he was still in his own body. Reality hadn't gotten that strange.
"Mr. Brown?" an unfamiliar voice inquired.
# # #
The clerk looked at the clipboard, then at Amy. "Miss Jewell?" he asked.
Amy dropped the magazine on the table, losing her place. The tentacular monster in the cover picture grinned lewdly up at her, ignoring the screaming girl in its coils.
Losing her place was no great inconvenience; the stories were all pretty bad anyway. Men's adventure stories weren't any better-written here than back home on Earth, and in general were even more offensively sexist. Not to mention that the line between adventure and science fiction had been hopelessly blurred by the existence of interstellar travel and huge areas of unexplored galaxy -- odd, to realize that stories of heroes fighting monsters from other planets didn't qualify as science fiction here.
The stories still sucked, though. She was very tired of evil mutant masterminds and big blond heroes.
Reading this tripe was better than nothing, but not by much. It generally took her mind off feeling lousy, but nothing more than that. When her bruises healed completely and she got back home to her three acres in Goshen, Maryland, that would probably help a lot more.
Of course, there was presumably still a stranded spaceship in her back yard. The Empire's first attempt to contact Earth, to arrange an alliance against Shadow, had ended when I.S.S. Ruthless plummeted out of the sky and crash-landed there.
They'd planned on appearing twenty miles from the White House, one the crewmen told Amy later -- they didn't want to just drop right into the middle of the capital.
Twenty miles or so northwest of the White House had put them right over Amy's yard, and the moment the ship popped out of the space-warp that let it into Earth's universe the crew had made the unexpected discovery that anti-gravity, the basis for much of the Empire's machinery, didn't work in Earth's universe, and there was therefore nothing holding the ship up.
It had crashed, and it was probably still there, and it was never going to fly again. The laws of physics were apparently very different in each of the three known realities.
They were different enough that something called "magic" worked in the world Shadow and Raven came from, something that had let Amy and the crew of Ruthless step through a basement wall into that world.
And when they'd fled into the Galactic Empire, the monsters that followed them had died for lack of that "magic," just as Ruthless had fallen for lack of anti-gravity. The three universes were different, all right.
Some things didn't change, though -- people could still be rotten, in any universe. Like her ex-husband Stan. Like that son of a bitch Walter, who had bought her from the pirates and kept her as a slave until the Empire rescued her and brought her to Base One.
At least the Empire made an attempt at being civilized.
Even if, she thought with a final glance at that godawful collection of violent, sexist, racist, imperialist adventure stories, they weren't all that good at it.
She forgot the magazine and looked up at the clerk.
"Ah... Miss Jewell? Or is it Mrs.?"
"It's Ms.," Amy said, perversely. Her stomach was slightly upset, as it often was lately -- the food here was at least as bad as the fiction -- and she was in no mood to cooperate with the Empire in its petty oppressions.
"Mrs.?" the clerk asked again.
"Ms. It's a word we use back on Earth."
"Oh. Yes, of course." The clerk noted something, then looked up again and said, "Could you come with me, Miss Jewell?"
"Why? And where?"
The clerk did not answer; instead he said, in a surprisingly definite voice, "I was told to bring you at once."
Amy sighed, and decided not to argue any more.
Where the Story Came From
How I came to write this novel is be on the page about the Worlds of Shadow series as a whole; the series was always considered a single story split into three volumes.
This volume in particular, though, was intended to take lots of fantasy clichés and deal with them in a more realistic manner than the standard fantasy novel. (I do not except my own work.)
Long journeys on foot, medieval villages, dark lords, all of that I tried to re-imagine.
That's it; here's your list of handy exits: