Heir of Autumnby Giles Carwyn, Todd Fahnestock
Children of the Seasons rule the city-state of Ohndarien, a bastion of freedom and justice in a brutal world. But their brightest star, Brophy, the Heir of Autumn, has been falsely accused of murder, and the utopia falls to treachery and deceit. Exiled to an enemy kingdom, Brophy's only hope for survival lies in the deadly gladiatorial game of Nine… See more details below
Children of the Seasons rule the city-state of Ohndarien, a bastion of freedom and justice in a brutal world. But their brightest star, Brophy, the Heir of Autumn, has been falsely accused of murder, and the utopia falls to treachery and deceit. Exiled to an enemy kingdom, Brophy's only hope for survival lies in the deadly gladiatorial game of Nine Squares—and in the uncertain favors of a beautiful queen. And Ohndarien's struggle for peace and liberty falls under deeper shadow when evil powers, lost for centuries, wake in the wilderness, and an ancient terror walks the world again.
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Heir of Autumn
By Giles Carwyn
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Giles Carwyn
All right reserved.
Shara's father called her a whore the day she left home. After ten years, that was what she remembered most about her parents. She could still hear the hate in her father's voice as he passed his final judgment, could see him scowling in that chicken-scratched yard while her mother stood by, head bowed, saying nothing in Shara's defense.
Shara would soon be worth her weight in jewels, but somewhere deep inside she was still a hog butcher's daughter. Despite a decade of training, the smell of pig still drifted into her mind whenever she was scared, whenever she felt lost and out of place.
For the thousandth time, Shara let go of those too-familiar thoughts. They would not serve her, not tonight. She opened her eyes and looked out the window. The sun was setting behind the Windmill Wall on the far side of Ohndarien. The dying light made the Free City's harbor and canals shimmer like liquid gold.
Shara sat on a teak window seat, leaning on silken pillows. She kept her breathing slow as her fingers brushed the tip of her nipple. Her other hand was nestled warm between her thighs. She could feel the energy expanding beyond the edges of her body. Her skin, her white cotton robe, the pillows, the dying light were all becoming one. But that word, "whore," kept her from dissolving completely.
She painted the scene in the air outside her window. Her mind's eye conjured a three-dimensional portrait of her parents. She saw her father's face, swollen fat through the jowls and pinched tight around the eyes. She saw her mother, shoulders habitually curled forward, a strand of her wispy brown hair fluttering in the breeze.
Shara let the accusation build within her. "Whore," she breathed, blowing the word back at her parents, scattering their images like pipe smoke. They swirled away, and she was free of them.
"If I am a whore," she said to herself, "what a magnificent whore I will be."
She shuddered as the last of her resistance fell away. The power hung about her like a haze and she lost herself in it. Reveled in it.
Standing up, she dropped her robe. The woven cotton whispered off her shoulders and down her arms. As it brushed her skin, she gasped and felt her control lurch again. She was on fire. The spell would be powerful, if she could hold the reins.
She walked to the door and ran her sensitive fingers across the dark oak. Beyond her chambers, the school was quiet. The servants were gone for the night. Her fellow students were sleeping in their rooms. Victeris was alone in his tower. She had a brief urge to test her strength against the Zelani Master, but she let that go also. With a smile, she breathed her hubris into the spell along with everything else.
A thrill ran through her, and she nodded.
Shara opened the door and stepped naked into the hallway. Her bare feet smacked softly on the cool stones. Through the open colonnades, she could see the gardens in the courtyard below. Reaching out with her mind, she brushed the water in the fountain. It felt cool and moist in the hot night, but her thoughts made no ripples on its surface.
At the end of the hall, she turned and headed down the stairs. Her hair slid across her bare shoulders, and she closed her eyes. If this is what the Fourth Gate felt like, she couldn't imagine the Fifth.
Lost in her trance, she almost walked straight into Sybald. The old man cleared his throat to catch her attention. Shara fought to maintain control as her cheeks reddened and her ears burned. The old man looked her up and down disapprovingly. Sybald was Victeris's manservant. The acerbic man was as rigid in his thinking as he was crooked in his body. Like the other students, Shara had feared and hated him while growing up. Now, within a hair's breadth of her full power, she couldn't imagine being terrified by such a tiny little man. He was so old he must have been born ancient.
"What are you doing out of bed?" Sybald asked, holding his candle closer to her face.
"I'm going to the Night Market. Perhaps I'll see a show," she told him. Her voice sounded hurried and nervous, but she stood defiant, chin out, shoulders back, breasts pushed forward. She continued blushing but did not move.
Sybald's wrinkles deepened in his confusion. "Out? At night? What's this nonsense?"
Shara exulted. He didn't see! He didn't know.
Her triumph turned smug. With a wicked smile, she laid a hand on the old man's arm. "But I'm no longer a student, am I?" she said, feeling her power swirl around them.
Sybald nodded as if half-asleep. "No, I guess you're not."
"Would you please open the front gate for me?"
She might be pushing the limits of her influence, but she was on fire. Nothing could stop her.
The old man headed down the stairs. She followed his shuffling steps through the arched doors and across the rose marble walkways to the front gate. As he fumbled for his keys, she looked down at her naked body. Her smooth skin glowed in the darkness. Smiling, she turned back to Sybald as he opened the heavy iron gate.
"Leave that unlocked, would you?"
"Of course," he mumbled, and shuffled back inside.
Shara slipped through the gate, barely able to contain a grin at the power she had, the influence. She couldn't wait for the life she would lead in the next few years. Tonight was her final lesson. After this, she would be ready to pass through the Fifth Gate, into true power and influence. She would escape from under the thumb of any father, husband, or cruel-eyed Zelani-Master and owe fealty to no one. The whole world would open to her. She would walk with kings, whisper in their ears, and change the course of nations.
Excerpted from Heir of Autumn by Giles Carwyn Copyright © 2006 by Giles Carwyn. Excerpted by permission.
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