Emperor and Clown

( 6 )

Overview

With Inos married to the wrong man and Rap dying in a dungeon, obviously the cause is hopeless. Only Aunt Kade refuses to admit defeat . . . 

Duncan wraps up the adventures of Rap, the heroic stable boy whose quest is to save his queen in this grand finale to the A Man of His Word series. Having failed to rescue Queen Inos from Azak, Rap awaits his fate at the hands of Azak's torturers. Inos follows her destiny and her husband on a journey whose outcome even ...

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Emperor and Clown

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Overview

With Inos married to the wrong man and Rap dying in a dungeon, obviously the cause is hopeless. Only Aunt Kade refuses to admit defeat . . . 

Duncan wraps up the adventures of Rap, the heroic stable boy whose quest is to save his queen in this grand finale to the A Man of His Word series. Having failed to rescue Queen Inos from Azak, Rap awaits his fate at the hands of Azak's torturers. Inos follows her destiny and her husband on a journey whose outcome even the gods could not have foretold. Original.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781497640375
  • Publisher: Open Road Integrated Media LLC
  • Publication date: 5/20/2014
  • Series: A Man of His Word Series , #4
  • Pages: 474
  • Sales rank: 853,337
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Dave Duncan, born in Scotland in 1933, is a Canadian citizen. He received his diploma from Dundee High School and got his college education at the University of Saint Andrews. He moved to Canada in 1955, where he still lives with his wife. He has three grown children and four grandchildren. He spent thirty years as a petroleum geologist. He has had dozens of fantasy and science fiction novels published, among them A Rose-Red CityMagic Casement, and The Reaver Road, as well as a highly praised historical novel, Daughter of Troy, published, for commercial reasons, under the pseudonym Sarah B. Franklin. He also published the Longdirk series of novels, Demon SwordDemon Knight, and Demon Rider, under the name Ken Hood.

In the fall of 2007, Duncan’s 2006 novel, Children of Chaos, published by Tor Books, was nominated for both the Prix Aurora Award and the Endeavour Award. In May 2013, Duncan, a 1989 founding member of SFCanada, was honored by election as a lifetime member by his fellow writers, editors, and academics. His website is www.daveduncan.com. 

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Read an Excerpt

Emperor and Clown

A Man Of His Word: Book Four


By Dave Duncan

OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA

Copyright © 1991 Dave Duncan
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4976-0636-4



CHAPTER 1

Naught availeth


1

Of all the cities of Pandemia, only Hub had no legend or history of its founding. Hub was a legend in its own right, and history was its creation.

Hub had always been. It was the capital of the Impire, the mother of superlatives, the City of the Gods. It sprawled along the shores of Cenmere like a marble cancer.

Alone among all the dwelling places of mankind, only Hub had never known sack or rape or the ravages of war. Forever it had lurked in peace behind the swords of its legions and the sorcery of the Four. Hub was graced by the spoils of a thousand campaigns and nourished on taxes extracted from half the world. Slaves in forgotten millions had died to build it, priceless artworks had crumbled and weathered away in its halls and gardens to make space for more.

It was the best and worst parts of a hundred cities, melted into one. Its finest avenues were wide enough to march a century abreast; its darkest alleys were slits where half a legion could have vanished without trace.

Hub was grandeur. Hub was squalor. Hub gathered all the beauty of the world and offered every vice. Its wealth and population were uncountable. Year in and year out, by ship and wagon, food poured into Hub to feed its teeming mouths, yet the humble starved. Hub exported war and laws and little else but bodies — especially those in summer, when the fevers raged. The rich imported their wine from distant lands, but their servants drank from the same wells as the poor, and they infected their masters.

All roads led to Hub, the imps boasted, and in Hub the greatest ways led to the center, the five hills, the five palaces. The abodes of the wardens, the Red, the White, the Gold, the Blue — beautiful but sinister, these were secret places, masked and buttressed by sorcery, and few went willingly to those. In their midst, highest and greatest, shone the Opal Palace of the imperor, seat of government and all mundane power.

To the Opal Palace came glory and tribute and petitions and ambassadors.

And to the Opal Palace came also, each in its own time, all the problems of the world.

At the center of Pandemia, Shandie thought, is the Impire. At the center of the Impire is Hub. At the center of Hub is the Opal Palace — although that isn't quite true, because it's too near the lake to be really in the center — and at the center of the Opal Palace is Emine's Rotunda, and at the center of the rotunda is me.

Am I, he amended hastily.

And that wasn't quite true, either, because the exact center of the great round hall was the throne, and he was standing one step down from the throne, on Grandfather's right.

He must not move. Not a finger. Not a toe. This was a very formal occasion.

And Moms had warned him: Ythbane was running out of patience with Shandie's continual fidgeting at state functions. Princes must know how to behave with dignity, Ythbane said, not twitch and shuffle and pick their noses on the steps of the throne. If he couldn't learn how to stand for a couple of hours, at least he would be stopped from sitting down for the rest of the day. Not that Shandie had ever picked his nose on the steps of the throne. He didn't think he really fidgeted enough that any of the audience could see. He didn't think he'd earned his last few beatings, but Ythbane had thought so, and Moms always agreed with anything the consul said. And Grandfather didn't even know who Shandie was now.

Grandfather was on his throne, so he was the center of the rotunda, and the palace, and the city, and the Impire, and the world. From the sound of his breathing, he was asleep again. Moms was on his far side, also on the first step; but she had a chair to sit on.

Dad had stood here once, he remembered. Where he was. Moms didn't talk about Dad now, not ever.

Keeping perfectly still would be much easier if you could sit down to do it. Shandie's knees were shaking. His left arm was a torment of fire ants from staying bent, holding up his toga. If his arm fell off, would that be counted as moving?

Ythbane would probably beat him anyway.

He was still sore from last time.

Grandfather snorted and snuffled in his sleep. Lucky Grandfather!

One day I will sit on that throne, and be Imperor Emshandar V.

Then I will kill Ythbane.

That was a wonderful thought.

What else should an imperor do? First, have Ythbane's backside beaten — right there, on the floor of the rotunda, where the fat delegate was still kneeling, reciting his nonsense. In front of the court and the senators. Shandie caught himself about to smile, and didn't.

Then be merciful and cut off his head.

Second, abolish these stupid, stupid togas!

Why should formal occasions require formal court dress, togas and sandals? No one wore them any other time. What was wrong with hose and doublet and shoes? Or even tights, which were the latest craze. Ordinary people never had to wear these ridiculous, scratchy, uncomfortable bed sheets. Sane, ordinary people hadn't worn things like these for thousands of years. Oh, my poor arm!

Abolish togas, that was certain.

And abolish all these dreadful formal ceremonies!

Why bother with them? Grandfather certainly didn't want them — he'd been weeping when they'd brought him in. The birthday homages had just started, too. They would be going on for weeks. What sort of a way was that to celebrate a birthday, even a seventy-fifth?

A birthday was one day. That's what the word meant. Birthday!

Shandie's tenth birthday was just a month away, and he was going to have a one-day birthday. Mostly awful ceremonial, too, but a party with some other boys if he was good, Moms said.

The toga was hot and heavy. Sunlight blazed down from the windows in the high dome, casting his shadow at his feet — but he mustn't look down.

The fat delegate from wherever-it-was came to a stuttering end at last, obviously as relieved as Shandie. He bent forward to place his offering beside the other offerings, then crawled back a pace and touched his face to the floor. Everyone looked up at Grandfather, and Shandie froze. Even his eyes. Don't blink while Ythbane is watching!

Grandfather was supposed to say something then, but all Shandie heard was another half snore.

As a consul, Ythbane stood at the head of the line of toga-clad ministers, nearest to the imperor. Shandie could feel those hateful eyes washing over him, looking for signs of fidgeting, but he stared rigidly across at the empty White Throne and did not breathe. Little tremors crawled over his scalp. If his hair stood on end, would Ythbane call that fidgeting?

Ythbane said loudly, "His Imperial Majesty welcomes the greetings from his loyal city of Shaldokan."

The fat delegate looked confused, but then realized he could begin his withdrawal. He had trouble managing his toga while crawling backward at the same time. Probably he'd never worn one of the stupid things before in his life. Now he was rising and bowing, and so on ...

The chief herald ponderously consulted his list. "The honored delegate from the loyal city of Shalmik," he proclaimed. This one was a woman, one of only two women today. She was very ugly, but these were northern cities, so maybe she had some goblin blood in her. Goblins had been talked of a lot just lately, although Shandie had almost never heard them mentioned until a few weeks ago. In the spring, a horde of the little green vermin had ambushed and massacred four cohorts of Grandfather's legionaries while they were on diplomatic business — and tortured the prisoners to death! Marshal Ithy had promised Shandie he would punish them severely.

Twenty-four cities had delivered their birthday presents. That left four more to come after the woman. Then there would be some sort of petition — the Nordland ambassador was waiting in the background. A jotunn, of course. He was old, but he still looked strong enough to take on a century single-handed. Maybe his hair had always been that pale color. He would have those creepy jotunn blue eyes, too. Ugly, bleached monsters, Moms said. Imps were the only really handsome people.

Emine's Rotunda was very big. Shandie wondered how many people it would hold, but if he asked Court Teacher he would just make Shandie work it out on his abacus. Circles were tricky — was it times twenty-two, divide by seven, or the other way?

There were at least a hundred senators on the bank of seats around the north side, distinguishable from their guests and other notables by the purple hems on their togas. They certainly weren't keeping still. They were talking and reading and some of them were dozing, like Grandfather was.

The southerly seats held lesser people, even commoners, and they were being quieter, but he mustn't look around to see how many there were.

Emine II (q.v.), imperor of the First Dynasty, and legendary founder of the Protocol (q.v.), which brought the powers of sorcery under control by establishing the Council of Four Wardens (q.v.), occult guardians of the Impire ... Without Court Teacher telling him to, Shandie had memorized a whole page about Emine and recited it for Moms, and she had been pleased and given him a candycake. She had made him repeat it for Ythbane that evening, and even Ythbane had praised him and almost smiled.

They were always pleased when he did bookish things well. They wouldn't let him do military things — things with horses and swords, although those were what he really wanted, because when he grew up he was going to be a warrior imperor, like Agraine. He wasn't allowed to do boyish things with other boys hardly at all now. And ceremonial things he hated and usually got beaten after, for fidgeting at. The price of being the heir. Moms said, but it was all Ythbane's idea.

The woman delegate on her knees had forgotten her words. She stopped, turning ashen pale. Shandie felt sorry for her, wondering if the city fathers would order her beaten when she went home to wherever-it-was. The silence dragged on. No one helped, or could help. The line of ministers remained motionless, staring over her at the opposing line, which was made up of heralds and secretaries. Farther away, the large group of delegates-who-had-done-their-speech looked hugely relieved that this wasn't their problem. The small group of delegates-who-haven't-done-it-yet looked terrified.

The woman began all over again from first genuflection, gabbling the words in a shrill voice. The senators in their comfortable chairs were paying no attention.

Those spectator benches went all the way around, except where the four aisles were, of course, but they still left lots of room in the middle. And in the center of that big round floor were the two round steps with Grandfather's throne on top. Today was a north day; northern cities paying homage, the Opal Throne facing north. Halfway between Shandie and the senators, the White Throne stood on a single step. That place belonged to the warden of the north, but it was empty. Shandie had never seen a warden. Not many people had. And nobody ever wanted even to talk about them, even Grandfather, but he at least wasn't scared of them. He was imperor, so he could summon the wardens.

One day I will be imperor and use Emine's buckler to summon the wardens.

Even before Grandfather got old, he had not been frightened of the witch and the warlocks. They couldn't touch him, he'd said; that was in the Protocol.

No one could use magic on Shandie, either, because he was family. Not that being heir apparent was much comfort when he was bent over Ythbane's writing table with his pants down. Any magic would be better than that.

The poor woman came to an end at last; eyes turned toward the throne; Shandie stopped breathing again. The pins and needles in his left arm were making his eyes water. If he wriggled his fingers just a little, very slowly, surely no one would notice and tell Ythbane he'd been fidgeting?

Ythbane spoke for Grandfather again; the woman scrabbled away; another delegate came forward to kneel.

Tomorrow would be East's turn — eastern cities bringing greetings, Grandfather seated facing east, toward the Gold Throne. Moms and Shandie, too. The senators would have the eastern seats, facing west. He wondered how the senators chose who came on which day, because that wasn't the whole Senate sitting there.

Not long to go now.

It was awfully hard to keep his knees from shaking, and they did hurt. He tried to imagine the witch of the north suddenly appearing over there on her White Throne, although it wasn't really white, being carved out of ivory. Bright Water was a goblin, and hundreds of years old. He'd heard people muttering that maybe she'd set the goblins on the Pondague legionaries, but he knew that only East would use magic on Grandfather's army. What was the word? He'd seen it in his history book. Pre-roga-tive! Prerogative (q.v.), whatever (q.v.) meant. Bright Water's prerogative was Nordland raiders, but it was silly of the Protocol to put a goblin woman in charge of jotunn sailors. South's was dragons and West's was weather.

If Bright Water ever did appear on her throne, then likely all the warlocks would appear, as well, each on his own throne — Olybino and Zinixo and Lith'rian. An imp, a dwarf, and an elf. That was silly, too. The Protocol should have made all the wardens imps, to protect the Impire properly.

One day, when Shandie got to be Emshandar V, then he would get to read the Protocol (q.v.). Only imperors and wardens ever did.

No sorcerer would ever come to a brain-melting boring meeting like this, though.

They were done! Now another herald was unrolling a scroll. Ythbane nodded.

"His Excellency, Ambassador from the Nordland Confederacy ..."

Ambassador Krushjor came striding forward like a great white bear, followed by a half-dozen other jotnar, all shockingly half naked in helmet, breeches, and boots and nothing else — dumb barbarians showing off their hairy chests and hey-look-at-that muscles! Ambassadors were the only people excused formal court dress. They were allowed ethnic costume. It did look silly, though.

Oh, Holy Balance! Shandie realized that he could use some of those muscles himself right then. His left arm was sagging under the weight of the train draped over it. He tried to raise it and couldn't. It wouldn't obey him. It was dead.

But Ythbane couldn't have noticed yet. He was eyeing the jotunn ambassador, and having to lean his head back to do it. The consul was not big for an imp, and the older man was an average-size jotunn. Some of the younger jotnar in the back were even bigger, with bushy gold beards. And muscles! Bet they could hold up a toga for weeks if they ever had to. Moms called the jotnar "murdering monsters."

The senators had fallen silent, as if this were going to be more interesting than ... Gods! There, up in the back row — how could he not have noticed sooner? Just in time, Shandie remembered not to move. It was Aunt Oro, right in there with the senators! He hadn't seen her in months. She'd been away at Leesoft. His heart jumped, then sank — he wanted to run to her, or at least smile and wave, but of course he mustn't move. He thought maybe he'd twitched a little on seeing her, but Ythbane was still watching the jotunn, so it wouldn't matter.

She'd understand that he must put duty first, and mustn't fidget on formal occasions.

Fancy Aunt Oro in with the senators! But of course she had senatorial rank. Much higher rank, really, because she was Princess Imperial Orosea. She even outranked Moms, who was only Princess Uomaya. So Aunt Oro could sit anywhere she wanted, but he'd have expected her to have a chair on the steps of the throne, like Moms. He wondered when she'd returned to court. He hadn't heard a whisper, and he was pretty good at picking up gossip, because he spent a lot of time around grown-ups and they tended to forget he was there.

Surely she wouldn't go back to Leesoft without coming to see him? He wouldn't mind a hug from Aunt Oro. It wouldn't be unmanly to let her hug him just once — it wasn't as if everyone did. Or anyone, really. Of course it would be unmanly to mention the beatings. All boys got beaten, and princes were special and had to be specially beaten. So Ythbane had said last time, making a joke — he'd added a couple of strokes, saying Shandie was being impudent by not laughing.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Emperor and Clown by Dave Duncan. Copyright © 1991 Dave Duncan. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Contents

Dave Duncan's A Man of His Word series,
Maps,
Epigraph,
ONE Naught availeth,
TWO Darkling way,
THREE Best-laid scheme,
FOUR Several ways,
FIVE Trysting day,
SIX Pilgrim soul,
SEVEN Whispered word,
EIGHT Fortune's fool,
NINE Sacred flame,
TEN Bold lover,
ELEVEN Alteration find,
EPILOGUE Irksome words,

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 7 of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 13, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I love these books!

    This is the final book in my favorite series. It brings all the divergent plotlines back together, and everything makes sense by the end. The development of Rap's understanding of honor and honesty is fully completed. There are unexpected twists right up until the end. This printing is not so great (lots of typos), but the story is fantastic!

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    Posted January 5, 2010

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