International bestselling editor and writer with over 35 million books in print, Kristine Kathryn Rusch writes in many genres, from science fiction to mystery, from western to romance. She has written under a pile of pen names, but most of her work appears as Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Her novels have made bestseller lists around the world and her short fiction has appeared in eighteen best of the year collections. She has won more than twenty-five awards for her fiction, including the Hugo, Le Prix Imaginales, the Asimov's Readers Choice award, and the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine Readers Choice Award.

Publications from The Chicago Tribune to Booklist have included her Kris Nelscott mystery novels in their top-ten-best mystery novels of the year. The Nelscott books have received nominations for almost every award in the mystery field, including the best novel Edgar Award, and the Shamus Award.

She also edits. Beginning with work at the innovative publishing company, Pulphouse, followed by her award-winning tenure at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, she took fifteen years off before returning to editing with the original anthology series Fiction River, published by WMG Publishing. She acts as series editor with her husband, writer Dean Wesley Smith, and edits at least two anthologies in the series per year on her own.

To keep up with everything she does, go to and sign up for her newsletter. To track her many pen names and series, see their individual websites (,,,,

The Reflection on Mount Vitaki by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Groundbreaking, intriguing, and captivating, New York Times bestselling author Kristine Kathryn Rusch's The Reflection on Mount Vitaki sets the stage to launch her acclaimed Fey series into exciting new territory.

When Kyra Row Kirilli feels the pull of the mysterious reflection on the mountain across the Forbidden Valley, she knows she must embark on an impossible journey—one no one ever survives. Introducing undiscovered lands and deftly blending fantasy and steampunk elements, Kristine Kathryn Rusch's first foray into the Qavnerian Protectorate saga adds rich new backstory to the groundbreaking Fey series.

Set long before The Sacrifice, this novella introduces compelling new characters and intriguing new locations to the rich world of the Fey and demonstrates Rusch's power as the greatest storyteller of our time.


The book that inspired this entire bundle. The Reflection on Mount Vitaki is a prequel to a brand new trilogy inside my Fey world. The first book in that series will appear this month. I hope this entices you to take a look at it. – Kristine Kathryn Rusch



  • "A very good, very large fantasy...nicely done and with a particularly satisfying and unexpected resolution."

    – Science Fiction Chronicle on The Sacrifice
  • "Rusch's greatest strength…is her ability to close down a story and leave the reader feeling that the author could not possibly have wrung any more satisfaction out of the piece."

    – The Kansas City Star
  • "Kristine Kathryn Rusch integrates the fantastic elements so rigorously into her story that it is often hard to remember she is not merely recording the here and now."

    – Science Fiction Weekly




Professor Kyra Row Kirilli stood on the plateau outside the adobe house she had called home for the past fifteen years and shielded her eyes with her right hand. She had stared at the sheer wall of Mount Vitaki ever since she moved here as a Practical Intern, glad to be part of anything inside the Forbidden Valley.

That sheer wall had called to her from the moment she arrived. She had looked up at it, the setting sun reflecting off its smooth bluish-black surface, and had thought she saw something alive in the flare of light.

She hadn't, of course. She knew that now. But then, she had said something to her professor—Wellington Hammershield—the man who had hired her, and he had glared at her with something like shock.

One does not use one's imagination up here, he had said in that overly pompous way of his. Imagination interferes with facts. You'd do well to remember that.

She had never forgotten it, although she no longer agreed with it. Hammershield was old school; to suggest that imagination had a role in archeology was heresy to him.

In the years since, professors who specialized in studies of the mind—particularly the mind as it pertained to the arts—realized the importance of imagination. It was the impetus for learning, the beginning of the search for truth.

Which was why that mountain face across from her still held her captive.

And in the morning, she and her team would rappel down that sheer face to see what they could find.

Decades of work and study in the Razbitay Mountain Range had led her to this moment. Mount Vitaki was unlike any other mountain in the range.

None of the other mountains were as tall. They rose at predictable grade. Their summits were round. At lower elevations, the summits were covered in dirt and desert plants. The mountains that had peaks at the higher elevations were covered in snow much of the year.

Mount Vitaki looked like a needle rising into the air. Its peak was more of a point, not that she had seen it much. The peak was almost always covered in clouds. In all the years she had lived and worked here, the peak had been visible only a few times. She never knew what made it visible, but she imagined that a strong violent wind had pushed the clouds away for a minute or two.

When that happened, she saw the tip of the needle. The moments were brief—too quick to capture with her camera. The exposures, which took at least five minutes, were too slow. By the time the camera completed its recording of a scene, the sky had changed, the clouds returned, and Mount Vitaki's peak had disappeared into a fluffy white ring of moisture and fog.

She had sketched the peak several times, and had some of her Practical Interns do the same. That was the reason she brought artists with her to the Forbidden Valley. Artists were able to capture on canvas or on paper what the slow-moving cameras could not.

In some ways, the images created by the artists (using their imaginations, she always wanted to tell Hammershield who was now long-dead) were more accurate than anything the camera reported.

She let out a breath. She always knew she was nervous about something new here when she mentally argued with Hammershield. He had given her a start in the studies of the forgotten elements of the ancient world, but he had also filled her with neurosis that had yet to leave.

He would have laughed at that, saying that a professor's job was to imbue his students with both learning and a lifetime of questions.

He had done that much, at least.

She wasn't sure if she did the same for the Practical Interns she brought with her every year from Serebro Academy. Sure, she gave them a good course of study for her annual four months at the academy. But once they got here, they were glorified servants who did as she told them to do.

Many of them left and never returned. Some didn't even finish out their assigned plan to make them active archeologists.

Her husband, Magnus, believed that the number of students who left was not a problem. He often told her that teaching them what they didn't want to be was as important as teaching them what they did want to be.

That sounded like a platitude to her, but the academy seemed to agree. They didn't mind that she graduated fewer of her Practical Interns than any other professor in the department.

Sometimes she thought her Practical Interns quit because she did not understand people who so easily gave up on their dreams. But then, she had known from childhood that she wanted to learn all about the ancient cultures that had come from the Forbidden Valley.

Before she had Hammershield as her primary professor, she had said that discovering all there was to know about the Forbidden Valley was her calling. Afterwards, she simply told people she had always wanted to study here.

But in her heart, the word calling remained. She couldn't even remember when she first learned about the valley. It had always been a part of her.

Her mother claimed she had learned about it at the Mazurka Museum. For decades, the museum prominently displayed a diorama of the Forbidden Valley.

She visited that diorama often in childhood, and later, as an adult studying the Forbidden Valley, she had visited the diorama on a break. That was when she realized that the diorama's depiction of the valley was 100 percent accurate, but its depiction of Mount Vitaki was three-quarters of a guess.

No one had ever scaled that mountain, although hundreds had tried. No one had ever been able to figure out why its eastern face was so smooth. The legends were silent, the myths non-existent.

At least about that part of Mount Vitaki. The locals had a million different stories about the mountain, none of which seemed credible to her. She didn't focus on the myths and legends like some of her colleagues, but she did look at the similarities in the stories, to find some kind of truth about this part of the Dorovich continent.

Thus far, she hadn't found a lot of truth, except about the Forbidden Valley itself. More than one culture considered the valley "forbidden" but the reasons all seemed lost to the mists of time.

Over the decades, Hammershield's students had discovered a lot of evidence that the reasons weren't lost as much as destroyed. And while that had frustrated him to the very end of his days, it had intrigued Kyra.

Something about this valley was important enough to keep it pristine, but dangerous enough to prevent anyone from actively exploring it—until the last 100 years or so, when Qavner finally extended its power over the Forbidden Valley, as part of the Qavnerian Protectorate.

The existence of the Protectorate made it easy for academics like Kyra to work and study in the valley. Travel was still difficult and communication was often a logistical nightmare, so she coped with both by informing the academy about what she was doing after she had done it.

No one there had any idea that she was bringing a team to explore the mountain. And certainly no one knew that she had paid for a demiglider to land on the peak.

Rappelling down the side scared her less than the trip to the top of Mount Vitaki on the demiglider.

Demigliders were still a new and dangerous technology. Very few people even knew how to operate a demiglider, let alone operate one in the strange wind currents around a mountain.

But she didn't want her team to climb the mountain. She wasn't even sure climbing the sheer sides of the mountain was possible. Over the generations, several others had tried it, and all of them had failed.

So demiglider it was. If she wanted to find out what caused the reflection, she would have to travel down to it, not climb up to it.

She had participated in dangerous climbs before, but none of them like this one.

The pilot she had hired, Zed, claimed there was a small plateau on the top. He had landed there, he said, more than once.

She worried that he had landed somewhere else, maybe even on a different mountain. She had heard that demigliders were notoriously unreliable, that they were extremely difficult to navigate. She had even heard that some pilots lost a sense of where they were once they were in the air.

She doubted she would be able to sleep tonight. If there was no plateau, all of her planning was for naught. She also fretted about the dangers of flying toward that mountain, and discovering it was not as expected.

Magnus seemed calmer about this than she was. He reminded her that if there was no plateau, the demiglider would not land. He had also reminded her that he had helped her pick the date and time of this mission, and that the numbers made it auspicious.

She trusted his numbers. Magnus had two specialties—alchemy and numerology. He understood alchemical theory better than most, but he had a gift for numerology. When he said that numbers were auspicious, he was always right.

He was convinced this mission would change both of their lives.

She let that conviction get her to this moment. She had planned every detail with Magnus's numbers in mind. She had even double-checked the birth dates and other relevant numbers with the team she had chosen. Magnus had declared that all of them would be changed by this mission.

She had even decided against using two of her regular climbing companions because their numbers did not work with hers, at least on that date and at that particular time.

She had even checked the dates for her son, who was with his grandparents for the entire summer. According to Magnus, if she rappelled the mountain tomorrow, the future of the entire Kirilli family would be different than it had been before.

That part worried her. Her death would change everyone's lives as well. But Magnus had said the date was auspicious, not dangerous. And it would be auspicious for her.

Dying was not auspicious for her.

The other reason she had chosen the day was because it had the longest window. Magnus had been very clear as she planned this mission: some of the trips she looked at would have to happen within the space of an hour. That was simply not long enough for the team to rappel down the mountain's face, and then get back up.

Tomorrow looked good all day long. Not that she would need an entire day. She needed the morning, and maybe part of the afternoon. She hoped that she wouldn't need the afternoon, though. This was a preliminary exploration, so that she would know what was ahead.

As such, she didn't want her people too tired. And she didn't want the pilot to wait too long for them. He assured her that he could handle an hours-long wait and still remain mentally clear, but she wasn't certain that was true.

She certainly didn't want to test it, particularly with something as dangerous as a demiglider.

The sun was thin this afternoon, which she did not like. The air was clear, as it usually was, and smelled faintly of dust. No rain on the breeze, which was a good thing.

But she wanted a full-on sunny day. She wanted a chance to see the reflection tonight, just before she left.

She wanted confirmation that she was doing the right thing.

Behind her, the glass door slammed. She winced. It didn't matter how many times she'd asked Magnus not to slam the glass door, he always did. Or rather, he let it close on its own, which was the same thing as slamming it.

His feet crunched softly on the dirt as he approached her. She bit back a thread of irritation. He knew that sunset was her moment with the mountain. He usually didn't encroach on it.

But she supposed, she needed to be a bit more compassionate. He had supported her all along through this project, and he didn't get to go to the mountain. He had to watch from here tomorrow. Watch, wait, and hope that everything went perfectly well.

He reached her side. The air suddenly smelled of peppermint.

He was clutching two mugs of tea.

"Thought you could use this," he said, and thrust one of the mugs at her.

She smiled at him. He found peppermint tea soothing. She just liked how it tasted. But she had never disabused him of his notion that peppermint tea soothed her as much as it soothed him.

"Thank you," she said, and wrapped both hands around the mug. It was warm, but not hot, even though the tea was steaming. The mug felt good against her skin, warming her all over.

She hadn't realized the breeze had a chill. She had been a little cold.

She glanced sideways at her husband of ten years. They had met as they were Advanced Students, even though they were in separate departments. They had overlapped in a Magic of Science seminar and Magnus had shared notes with her.

She had had trouble understanding how anyone could believe in magic. Science answered all questions, albeit slowly at times. Magnus tried to show her the ways that the inexplicable touched their lives.

He had had some success, which was why she used his numerological findings to help her make decisions. But if anyone had asked her whether or not numerology was magic, she would have said that no one had yet determined the science behind the way that it all worked.

Magnus always smiled slightly when she said that. His opinion differed. But they both respected each other's positions, especially since the positions ended in the exact same place: Neither of them knew exactly how Magnus's numerological predictions worked, but they both knew that the predictions did work.

He was staring warily at the mountain. His face had filled out since their student days, and his skin had become elastic. He was softer now, a little doughy. He looked like the professor he had become. There were laugh lines alongside his dark eyes, and a little silver in his black hair.

She always wanted to touch his ears, which were delicate, and ended in a slight point. At least their son had inherited those ears, instead of hers, which she kept covered. Hers looked like gigantic triangles affixed to the sides of her head. They were one of her few features that she actively loathed.

The sun had finally reached the edge of the mountain range. She gripped the mug hard, then made her hands relax. She didn't want to break it, and get tea all over herself.

"Any moment now," she said to him.

Magnus nodded, his mouth a thin line. He had never seen the reflection, but he had never stopped trying. He had taken its existence on faith all of these years, although she had a hunch that about five years ago he had been about to give up, when one of her Practical Interns truly saw the reflection as well.

Several of her Practical Interns had lied about seeing it, and she had always caught them in the lie. But that student, Evgenia Svirid, had just arrived in the Razbitay Mountains. She had joined the annual first day feast, and walked out of the glass doors at sunset, raising a hand in startlement.

"What the heck is that?" she had asked as she turned away.

That was the mistake all of the other Practical Interns had made. The first sighting of the reflection was often painful and blinding.

Even now, after years, Kyra sometimes had to look down or put out a hand to block the worst of the rays.

Now, Kyra looked away from Magnus and back at the mountain. She thought she saw a glimmer, like a bit of glass catching the sun, but nothing more.

Her heart sank. Today of all days, she needed to see the reflection. She needed a reminder that what she was doing was right.

Then light flared—blue and red and gold and green, alternating like as if someone was turning a crystal in their hands. The light was so intense it brought tears to her eyes.

"Do you see it?" she asked, hoping that this time, with the reflection so very bright, that Magnus would finally catch the glimmer.

"No." The word was flat. She would have thought it devoid of emotion, except that she knew him almost better than she knew herself. He was disappointed.

She had two emotional reactions at the same time: she was disappointed that he couldn't see this, but elated that she could.

It was almost as if the mountain had given her a gift, almost as if the mountain was beckoning to her, almost as if the mountain wanted her to discover its secrets.

She never told anyone that she felt like that. It was too close to Magnus's "magic is everywhere" malarky. Magic wasn't everywhere. Magic didn't exist.

This was some kind of science, a reflection, maybe of something major, something so large that she and her team would see it when they hit that point on the mountain where the reflection originated.

The sun dipped behind the mountain range, coloring the handful of wispy clouds around the tops of the other mountains red and gold. But the reflection hadn't faded as the sun did.

Instead, the reflection turned a bright whitish gold. The light enveloped her and held her. She had no idea how Magnus could not see this. It felt like she was bathed in light.

Then the glow faded. Her breath caught.

The mountain had blessed her.

She turned toward Magnus, and he tilted his head toward her, his eyes sad.

"You saw it," he said.

"It was incredible," she said.

"I'm glad," he said and took a sip of his tea. Slurped it really, maybe because he knew that annoyed her.

Then he raised the mug toward her in an obvious toast.

"To tomorrow," he said.

She raised her mug and clinked his. "To tomorrow, and all the changes it will bring."

"May they be good ones," he said, sounding wistful.

She felt that thread of irritation again. He had said that they would be good. He had said the numbers promised that.

"Yes," she said, not letting the irritation out. "May they all be for the very best."