Marie Brennan is a former anthropologist and folklorist who shamelessly leans on her academic fields for inspiration. She recently misapplied her professors' hard work to The Game of 100 Candles and the short novel Driftwood, and together with Alyc Helms as M.A. Carrick, she is the author of the Rook and Rose epic fantasy trilogy, beginning with The Mask of Mirrors. The first book of her Hugo Award-nominated Victorian adventure series The Memoirs of Lady Trent, A Natural History of Dragons, was a finalist for the World Fantasy Award. Her other works include the Doppelganger duology, the urban fantasy Wilders series, the Onyx Court historical fantasies, the Varekai novellas, several poems, and over eighty short stories, as well as the New Worlds series of worldbuilding guides. For more information and social media, including her Patreon, visit

The Doppelganger Omnibus by Marie Brennan

For centuries, the witches of Starfall have served the people of the fourteen domains while keeping their own secrets close. No one outside their ranks knows their power comes from a ritual that divides each newborn daughter in two: the witch, infused with magic, and the doppelganger, a soulless shell that is soon destroyed.

Not all of the doppelgangers are dead, though, and their battle to survive will plunge Starfall into crisis. So long as her doppelganger lives, a witch cannot control her magic. But there are secrets even the witches do not know, and the doppelgangers hold power of their own . . .

This omnibus includes the novel duology Warrior and Witch, as well as the prequel novella Dancing the Warrior.



  • "Brennan's writing was impeccable, her fight scenes were some of the best I've read in quite a long time."

    – Amanda-Lee, StoryWings
  • "Marie Brennan is a master storyteller, able to take a well known concept and twist it to give us something truly unique. Warrior is a near cinematic experience, full of enough sword and sorcery to fulfill anyone's needs and providing plenty of jaw-dropping surprises to keep you on the edge of your seat throughout its entirety. A wonderful example of epic fantasy and one I highly recommend for true fans of the genre. "

    – Ashley, Goodreads
  • "From the first page you will be hooked on the story and the ever evolving plot to end an ages old ritual."

    – Dwight, Goodreads



aChapter One

Commission [Mirage]

Rain pattered steadily through the leaves of the wood and dripped to the ground below. Two figures slipped between the trees, all but invisible in the darkness, silent under the cover of the rain. The one in the lead moved well, but the one trailing him moved better, ghostlike and undetectable, and he never knew she was there.

Three men waited for him, crouching in a tight clump under an old elm and shivering in the rain. He came up to them and spoke in a low voice. "She's alone. And looks like she'll be bedding down soon enough. If we wait, she should be easy to take."

Hidden in the trees just a short distance away, the woman who had been following him smiled thinly.

"I still don't like this," one of the other men hissed. "What if she's got spells set up or something?"

The woman's jaw hardened, and the amusement faded from her face.

"She ain't a witch," someone else said, with the tone of a man who's said it several times already. "You saw her in the alehouse. She damn near cut that fellow's throat when he called her one. And Tre would have said if she'd been singing when he looked in on her."

"She wasn't," the spy confirmed. "Just talking to her horse, like anybody does. And besides, witches don't carry swords, or play cards in alehouses. She's just a Cousin."

"We're wasting time," the last of the men said. "Heth, you go first. You make friends with the horse so it don't warn her. Then Nessel can knock her out. Tre and I'll be ready in case something goes wrong."

"Some help that'll be if she is a witch," the fearful one said. "How else did she manage to get five Primes in one hand?"

The leader spat into the bushes. "She probably cheated. Don't have to be a witch to cheat at cards. Look, there's four of us and one of her. We'll be fine."

Ten of you wouldn't be enough, the woman thought, and her smile returned. Not against a Hunter. Not against me.

Mirage didn't object to being accused of cheating at cards, especially not when it was true. She did object to being called a witch — or a Cousin, for that matter. And she objected to being driven out to sleep in a rain-drenched wood, when she'd been hoping for a warm, dry inn. Now these idiotic thugs were planning on jumping her?

They deserved what they were going to get.

She slipped away from the men and returned to her campsite. Surveying it, she calculated the directions Heth and Nessel were likely to come from, then arranged her bedding so it would look as though she were in it. The illusion was weaker from the other direction, but with the fire in the way, any scouts on the other side shouldn't be able to see anything amiss.

Then she retired to the shadows and waited.

The men took their time in coming, but Mirage was patient. Just as her fire was beginning to burn low, she heard noise; not all of the men were as good at moving through the forest as Tre. Scanning the woods, she saw the spy nearby, already in place. She hadn't heard him get there. Not bad.

Quiet whispers, too muted for her to pick out. Then one man eased up next to her horse.

Ordinarily that would have been a mistake. Mist was trained to take the hand off any stranger who touched her. But Mirage had given her a command before leaving, and so the mare stood stock-still, not reacting to the man trying to quiet the noises she wasn't making.

Mirage smiled, and continued to wait.

Now it was Nessel's turn. The leader, who had slid around to the far side of the fire, gestured for him to move. Nessel came forward on exaggerated tiptoe, club in his hands. Then, with a howl, he brought the weapon crashing down on her bedding.

Tre went down without a sound half a second later. Fixed on the scene in front of him, he never noticed Mirage coming up behind him.

"She's not here!" Nessel yelled in panic.

Mist, responding to Mirage's whistle, kicked Heth in the chest and laid him out flat. Mirage stepped into the firelight next to the horse. "Yes, I am," she said, and smiled again.

Nessel, a credit to his courage if not to his brain, charged her with another yell. Mirage didn't even bother to draw a blade; she sidestepped his wild swipe and kicked him twice, once in the chest and once in the head. He went down like a log. Mirage, pausing only to give Heth a judicious tap with her boot, leapt over the fire in pursuit of the last man.

He fled as soon as she appeared, but it wasn't enough of a head start. Mirage kept to an easy pace until her eyes adjusted once more; then she put on a burst of speed and overtook him. A flying tackle brought him down. She came up before he did and stomped on his knee, ending any further chance of flight.

Then she knelt, relieving him of the dagger he was trying to draw, and pinned him to the ground. "What did you think you were doing?" she growled, holding the dagger ready.

He was trying not to cry from the pain of his injured knee. "Gold," he gasped. "Only that. We weren't going to kill you. I swear!"

"I believe you," Mirage said. "And for that, you live. Provided you learn one little lesson."

He nodded fearfully.

"I," Mirage said, "am not a witch. Nor am I a Cousin. I have nothing to do with them. Can you remember that?" He nodded again. "Good. And be sure to tell your friends." She stood and tucked his dagger into her belt. "I don't like people making that kind of mistake."

Then, with a swift kick to his head, she knocked him out.


Eclipse scowled as he shouldered his way through the crowds swarming through the streets of Chervie. The newer parts of the city, outside the walls built during the city's heyday as an Old Kingdom capital, were more open in their plan, but here in the central parts even carts couldn't make it down half the lanes. That had never been a problem for him before, but then he'd never been in Chervie this close to the Midsummer Festival. It seemed that every resident of the city had packed back inside the Old Kingdom walls, along with all twelve of their country cousins. The sheer press of people made him twitchy and irritable. It was a relief to step into the alehouse he was seeking; the interior was full, but it was nothing compared to the streets outside.

He scanned the patrons, dressed up for festival in beadwork and lace, and soon spotted a familiar and distinctive head. She found him at the same instant, and even across the room he could see her light up. He sidled his way between the tables and came up to her, grinning. "Sitting with your back to a door, Seniade? What would our teachers say?"

"They'd say I should have picked a different alehouse. Two doors on opposite walls, and hardly a seat to be found in the whole room. I decided to watch one and take my chances with the other."

He snagged a stool out from under a patron who had just stood to leave and settled himself onto it. "Well, I'll watch your back and you watch mine. Not all of us have your reflexes, Sen."

She quirked one eyebrow at him. "You know, you're the only one who still calls me that. Even the rest of our year-mates call me Mirage."

"And you still call me Kerestel. Old habits die hard, I guess. Or else we're slow learners."

Mirage grinned. "Can you believe this crowd? I'd forgotten how seriously they take Midsummer in Liak. I knew Chervie would be full, but this is ridiculous — and the festival hasn't even really started yet! It's a shock, after the quiet of the road."

"From what I hear, your trip wasn't what I'd call quiet," Eclipse said pointedly.

Mirage raised her eyebrow again.

"I came here by way of Enden. An alehouse maid there treated me to — well, several things, but two stories in particular. One about how a soldier playing cards was almost knifed in their common room, and another about how four village lads showed up the next morning, bruised, bloody, and stripped of everything but their skins."

"They were lucky to keep those. I figured they owed me their coin for trying to steal mine, and as for the other . . . ." She shrugged. "I wouldn't have actually stabbed him."

"Your fuse has gotten shorter, I see. Or did he have an extra deck up his sleeve?"

"No," Mirage said, looking down. "In fact, I won the hand."

Eclipse leaned forward. "Void it. That again?"

"Yeah." She sighed. Eclipse noted frustrated fury in her eyes when she lifted her head, but it was soon muted. "Same with the four fools. Except they thought I was a Cousin."

"So they're idiots. Not all witches have red hair. And just because you do doesn't make you one of them, or one of their servants."

"Tell that to the idiots who panic when I lay down five Primes."

His eyes widened. "You did that? No wonder they were suspicious."

"It didn't take magic," Mirage said, and grinned wickedly. "Just agile fingers."

Eclipse swore a blistering oath that earned him a dark look from a prim-mouthed merchant woman at the next table. "Void it, Sen, you're going to get yourself killed! Cheating at cards is not going to improve your reputation!"

She shrugged. "I was bored."

"Bored?" He stared at her in disbelief. "Of all the people I know, you're the last one I would expect to court trouble just because you're bored."

Mirage gestured dismissively and looked away.

He caught hold of her arm, worried. "No, don't you brush me off. What's wrong?"

She pulled her wrist free of his grip and sighed. "Nothing. I'm just . . . bored."

"Haven't you had any jobs lately?"

"Plenty. So many, in fact, that I'm taking a rest; Mist and I have been on the road for months. Three hires, all back-to-back. Courier run clear across the land from Insebrar to Abern, for starters, and then they had word that a town farther out in the mountains was having trouble from bandits — ended up being some men they'd turned out of their town for thievery. Then they said a village even farther out needed a bloody mountain cat hunted down."

Eclipse smiled, hoping to lighten her mood. "Looks like they took the term 'Hunter' in the wrong sense."

Mirage snorted. "The saddest thing is, that bloody cat was the most interesting part of the whole series. It was a damn sight more intelligent than those so-called 'bandits.'"

"So that's why you're bored."

"Kerestel, I haven't felt challenged since . . . since I got that commission two years ago. Remember, when I was set to Hunt Kobach?"

"The one who tried to take the rule of Liak from Narevoi?"

"I went through seven domains after him. Finally caught him in Haira, not too long after I left you. That was tough, Kerestel. It made me work, made me actually use the skills I've learned. Since then, though . . . nothing. Routine. Boredom."

Eclipse eyed her and tried to gauge her exact mood. He had the answer to her problems tucked in his belt-pouch, but right now, with her recent difficulties, might not be the time to bring it up. It might help, or it might be more trouble than it was worth.

And speaking of trouble . . . .

Distracted as he was by his thoughts, he hadn't even seen the woman come in the door. Eclipse opened his mouth to warn Mirage, but it was too late.

"Well, if it isn't the witch-brat," the newcomer said, stalking up to them. She always stalked; he didn't think he'd ever seen her in a good mood.

Mirage's eyes sparked. She turned in her chair and leaned back with an air of pure, unadulterated arrogance. "Ah, Ice. So good to see you your usual frigid self."

Ice's own blue eyes smoldered with a low fury which belied her name. Smoldering was her usual state; eye color was the only conceivable reason she'd ended up being called "Ice." Then she lifted her gaze to meet Eclipse's, and suddenly her expression held a different sort of fire. "Well met, Eclipse."

"Keep your claws off him, Ice," Mirage said, her voice flat. "I just ate lunch, and I wouldn't want to lose it watching you try your tricks on him."

"Taken already, is he?" Ice asked with a malicious smile.

Eclipse stiffened. He considered Mirage a sister; most Hunters of the same school and year did. What Ice was implying was little short of incest. But Mirage, to judge by her own faint smile, had things well in hand. "No, dear. I'm not so desperate that I have to seduce my own year-mate — although from what I've heard about Lion, it seems your luck isn't so good."

Eclipse stifled a laugh. He hadn't heard that particular rumour. Mirage might be making it up, but Ice's expression suggested she wasn't. Now it was his turn to add fuel to the fire. "Come, ladies, this is no talk for the week before Midsummer. This is a festival! We should be celebrating! Ice, please, join us in a drink. I'm told this place has an excellent stock of silverwine."

He thought he heard a snarl. Silverwine — not a wine at all, but an appallingly strong vodka — was brewed in the Miest Valley, and was the drink of choice for Hunters from Silverfire, Mirage and Eclipse's school of training.

"Now, Eclipse," Mirage said reprovingly before Ice could get any words past her clenched teeth. "This may be a festival, but you know Hunters should try to keep clear heads. Silverwine is hard on those not used to it; we wouldn't want to lead Ice into trouble."

The inarticulate noises Ice was making were quite entertaining. She was such fun to goad; for some reason Hunters from Thornblood all seemed to have short fuses.

"I can drink anything you can," Ice snarled finally. Red mottled her face and neck.

Mirage smiled a touch too sweetly. "I'm sure you can, my dear." Ice could probably drink Mirage under the table; Thornbloods prided themselves on the amount of alcohol they could down. But Ice was too infuriated to think clearly. "I'm afraid, however, that I have important matters to attend to — ones that won't permit me to get drunk with an old friend."

"What 'important' matters?" Ice spat. "You spend your time catching wife-beaters and rescuing kittens from trees."

Eclipse hesitated. He and Mirage had played in these verbal duels before; it was his turn to attack. And he had a very good response to Ice's insult. The problem was, if he brought it out now, he might hurt Mirage more than Ice.

Recovering from his pause, Eclipse made his decision. He slipped one hand into his belt pouch and removed a tiny scroll. Keeping his fingers over the seal, he waved it to get Ice's attention.

Both of the other Hunters froze, looking at it. Eclipse nodded, smiling. "A two-person commission," he said, addressing the Thornblood. "Mirage and I will be handling it together."

The fury on Ice's face was profoundly satisfying. Official commissions were rare enough that receiving one was an honor; as far as he knew, she hadn't been offered one yet, in seven years out of Thornblood. This would be his first as well, but the second for Mirage.

Across the table, Mirage's expression was incredulous. Eclipse was pleased by the delight in her eyes; this was, he well knew, the answer to her complaints of boredom and inactivity. Commissions were always difficult, always a challenge.

He just hoped she wouldn't kill him when she found out who had ordered the job.

Ice was still apoplectic. "Who's it from?" she growled at last.

He pulled the scroll away when she tried to reach for it. "Uh-uh," he admonished her, waving one finger in her face. "Authorized Hunters only. I'm afraid you'll have to wait with everyone else to find out what we're up to." He tucked the scroll back into his pouch. Once he got Mirage alone, he'd tell her more.

Mirage had smoothed her expression by the time Ice looked at her. She smiled at the Thornblood. "Don't worry, Ice," she said. "I'm sure you'll get your turn — some day."

That, coming from a Hunter two years her junior, was too much for the Thornblood. Growling, Ice turned and stormed out of the alehouse.

As soon as she was gone, Mirage leaned forward. "When were you planning on telling me about this?"

Eclipse shrugged uncomfortably. "I was about to say something when she showed up. I'm sorry; I didn't mean to trap you into it."

"Trap me? As if I'd turn a commission down?"

He stood to hide his discomfort. "Come on. Let's go someplace more private to talk."


Midsummer tradition in Chervie meant that no one cooked and ate at home if they could afford not to, which meant that everybody with two coins to rub together was eating somewhere in the city's public quarters. Prices skyrocketed, and space at tables, along counters, and under awnings became harder to come by than fresh fruit in winter. Mirage had to pay through the nose for a small, private dining room in a place called the Garden of Bells. It was more like a private closet than a whole room, but the Garden's architecture was copied from an eastern style; the fretwork walls would be very cold in Chervie's northern winters, but on this summer day it was pleasantly cool. Plus, there was nowhere for an eavesdropper to hide.

Normally she wouldn't have dreamed of paying the cost, but she was starving, the Garden had good food, and the commission was sure to pay enough that she could indulge a bit. "So, what will we be doing?" she asked her year-mate once the maid bringing in the roast pheasant and fruit had departed.

Eclipse looked uneasy.

Mirage put her fork down and gave him a sharp look. "What is it?"

By way of response, he pulled the scroll out again and rolled it across the table to her. Mirage picked it up and froze.

The seal was pressed into black wax flecked with silver — a color only one group of people used. And the sigil itself, a triskele knot intersecting a circle, would be instantly recognizable to even the most illiterate of peasants.

It was the symbol of the witches.

Mirage set the scroll down carefully and looked across at Eclipse. "This is from Starfall."

"Yes," he admitted.

Mirage stood and walked to the fretwork wall, putting her hands against it. Behind her she could hear him shift uncomfortably.

"You don't have to," he said at last. "No matter what we said to Ice. Everyone knows you stay away from witches; everyone would understand if you turned it down. Everyone who matters, anyway."

More silence. Mirage closed her eyes. "What do they want?"

"I don't know," he said. "I haven't opened it yet."

"How did you get it?"

"Jaguar. A Void Hand witch brought the scroll to him; he chose me to take it on."

Jaguar's not stupid, Mirage thought. He knew Eclipse would pick me as his second.

What's his motive?

"A Void witch," she said, turning away from the wall at last. "Then it's an internal issue."

Eclipse nodded. "Which might explain why they're hiring Hunters. They may not trust their own people to be impartial."

Mirage returned to the table and picked up the scroll. A commission from the witches. I wanted a new challenge, but not from them.

"If you're uncomfortable . . . ." Eclipse began again.

Mirage broke the seal with one thumb and unrolled the scroll. Now she was committed; it was a hanging offense for such a message to be read by an unauthorized person. So absorbed was she in fighting down her irrational surge of uneasiness, she almost did not notice Eclipse rising to read over her shoulder.

The message was short, and brutally to the point.

"No wonder they wanted the insurance of two Hunters," Eclipse breathed into her ear. "Although what the Key of the Fire Heart Path was doing out where she could be assassinated escapes me."

"Damn them to Void," Mirage growled, flinging the scroll across the room. Surge of uneasiness, my ass. It had been a spell settling into place. "They've enchanted us against speaking of it."

"Do you blame them?" Eclipse asked.

"No." She sighed and pressed her hands against her eyes.

Her fellow Hunter crossed the floor and picked up the scroll once more. "Blank."

No more than I expected.

"This could mean trouble," he said reluctantly.

"Trouble" didn't come close to describing the possible outcome, and they both knew it. The commission, before it had faded, had commanded them not only to Hunt the assassin, but also to seek out whoever had been behind the task. And only someone very powerful could afford to pay for the death of such a high-ranking witch.

"If we call Hunt on a Lord or Lady . . . ."

Mirage would have preferred him to leave it unspoken. "They may not ask for that. The witches may prefer to take care of payback themselves."

"From your lips to the Warrior's heart," Eclipse murmured.

Grim silence followed his prayer, before Mirage rose to her feet. "Well. We're instructed to present ourselves in Corberth before the full moon. We've just enough time to make it. Unless you want to be late?"

"Not on your life," Eclipse said.