Read an Excerpt
Scion of Cyador
By L. E. Modesitt Jr., David G. Hartwell
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2000 L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
All rights reserved.
If Cyador be the paradox of Candar, and supporting that paradox be indeed the duty of each of the Magi'i of the Quarter, then how must each magus approach that duty so as to support the way to the Steps of Paradise?
One scholar magus might say, "Support the Emperor of Light, for he is the one who must balance the Mirror Lancers and the Magi'i against each other, and against the growing might of the merchanter clans, who know but the greed for gold and the pleasures of the moment."
A magus who tends the chaos-towers might declare, "Take care that the chaos-towers endure while they may, for without the towers, Cyador is no more than any other land set upon our world."
Still another might claim, "Set forth rules for the Magi'i that they may lead all by their example and purity of devotion to chaos and the people who revere it."
For all that the Magi'i descended from those of the Rational Stars, the ways in which the duty of a magus could be set forth are myriad, and like unto chaos itself, often resembling itself, yet never the same and always changing. Each magus, from the most to the least devoted, will have a vision of that duty. Some will hold that by increasing their personal mastery of chaos, they will serve Cyador, the Magi'i, and chaos in the best fashion possible. Others will declare that mastery of chaos must always serve others first, for the magus who places himself before duty will always be corrupted into believing that what is good for him is good for all.
Yet neither be right, for a magus who serves only others will fly from one master to another, for each who asks of him becomes a master. A magus who elevates his mastery above all, would make all others his servant. Thus, a magus must be neither master nor servant, but one who walks the narrow path between. A magus without dedication to chaos will have no soul, and one who worships it blindly, no sense.
That dilemma sets forth the true paradox of the Magi'i, that we must master chaos without being mastered by it ...
Paradox of Empire
Bern'elth, Magus First
Cyad, 157 A.F.
Lorn opens the door to the small upper-floor balcony, checking to see that the spring weather remains warm in the late afternoon. With a nod, he closes the door and turns to take in the main room of Ryalth's quarters — the low ebony table, the straight-backed black oak armchair that is Ryalth's favorite, the settee opposite it, and on the other side of the room, the green ceramic brick privacy screen that protects the main door from the inside. To his right is the alcove that contains the circular eating table and two armless chairs. To his left is the narrow archway to the bedchamber, and beyond that, the small bathing chamber.
He smiles as he looks at the portrait of Ryalth as a young girl. In it, she wears a high-necked green tunic, and a thin golden chain. The floor of the main room displays ancient blue wool carpet with a border of interlocked ropes, surrounding a woven image of a blue-hulled trading ship under full sail, the ill-fated ship once owned by Ryalth's merchanter father, and the one on which her parents had perished.
"Are you ready?" calls the redheaded lady who is his consort, as well as the head of the newly ascendant trading house — Ryalor House. Lorn sometimes still has trouble believing that she has incorporated his name into that of the trading concern she has established, even if he had helped her in the years before they were consorted.
"Yes. I was checking to see that it was still warm out." He crosses the room and steps into the bedchamber. There, he adjusts his sabre and the collar emblems on the new Mirror Lancer uniform that Ryalth had arranged to have waiting for him when he had returned from his previous duty station. His efforts in battling the Accursed Forest had destroyed all but one of his Mirror Lancer uniforms, and that one he had worn on the firewagon trip back to Cyad.
"It's very pleasant." He smiles at her as he steps away from the narrow mirror set on a stand against the bedchamber wall. "Still ... I almost wish that we were not going to my parents' for dinner again. I don't have that many days left before I have to leave for Biehl."
"They were charming the night before last." Ryalth eases past Lorn and before the mirror, touching her short red hair with the silver-backed and tortoiseshell comb. "And they don't keep us late. They do understand."
"That was because it was only them and Jerial. Vernt and his consort-to-be, and Ciesrt and Myryan will be there tonight." He steps forward and puts his arms around her waist, then kisses the back of her neck. "You smell so good."
"I'm glad you think so." For a moment, she leans her cheek against his. "You don't mind being here? In my quarters?"
"They're our quarters, and you are my consort, and I like being here with you."
"My rooms are so ... modest, compared to your parents' dwelling."
"Nothing is modest when you're there."
"Not flattery. Truth," he insists.
"Truth is in the mind of the speaker," she counters. "The mirror reflects what is, and the image is of modest quarters."
Lorn laughs. "Are you ready?"
"It is not going to rain, is it, O magely one?"
"No ... I checked, remember? It will be warm this evening. And I'm not that much of a magus."
"More than you admit."
Lorn does not answer, but hugs her and kisses her neck again.
"I like walking with you, knowing you can wear your uniform."
"Some may still think you my mistress," Lorn teases.
"Not if I wear the blue-and-green cloak."
Lorn laughs. "You can wear green, if you wish, now that we are consorted. Could not I wear blue, without subterfuge?"
"You could, but I like the cream-and-green better."
Lorn recalls a question he has failed to ask. "And how would the honored Bluoyal, the Merchanter Advisor, feel about a lancer wearing blue?"
"You didn't worry about that for years." She smiles. "Why now?"
"Because no one knew who we were." Lorn pauses. "What of Bluoyal? When Eileyt speaks of him, his mouth puckers, as with a sour fruit. Eileyt is usually so careful. Since he is the senior enumerator of Ryalor House, that is good. But he didn't conceal his distaste of Bluoyal to me, not at all."
"You are my consort," Ryalth points out.
"What of Bluoyal?" Lorn asks again.
"Bluoyal ... I try to avoid him."
"Is he like Shevelt?" Lorn's eyes harden as he recalls the Yuryan Clan heir he had removed years earlier because of the man's attempts to use his position to force himself on Ryalth.
"No." She shakes her head. "No. Bluoyal is effective at telling the Emperor the problems the merchanters face, but he wishes all to pay him great homage for that effectiveness. He also was one of those who brokered the means for Liataphi's daughter to consort with Veljan."
"Oh ... so, in a way, Veljan owes his position to Bluoyal and the Magi'i?"
"With some, that pearapple was hard to swallow."
"He has not bothered you?"
Ryalth smiles. "Save for collecting our — Ryalor's — scorth, no."
"A twentieth part of your revenues?"
She shakes her head. "It is called that, but it is but one part in fifty of the revenues after expenses." She drapes a light cotton cloak over her shoulders, blue with a green-and-cream border. "Best we go. I would not have your parents looking askance at me for delaying their son."
"They would blame me," Lorn points out. "Not you."
Ryalth shakes her head as she walks from the bedchamber and toward the privacy screen and the outer door. "They yet have that black angel — cursed Magi'i sense that all is their responsibility, and yours, as you are of the elthage blood. I can't even be responsible for delaying you."
Lorn opens his mouth, then closes it as he sees the sparkle in her eyes. "I'll hold you responsible ... but just when you are." He opens the door for her.
"I hope so."
Once they have descended the stairs, they walk uphill along the Thirteenth Way, and then westward on the Road of Perpetual Light, in toward the center of Cyad for the three very long blocks before they reach the dwelling where Lorn was raised.
"We'll be first," Lorn says.
"Because your brother will wish to exert his superior position by later arrival, as will Myryan's consort?"
"I think Ciesrt just will wish he weren't coming, but he doesn't wish to offend father."
"Not Myryan?" Ryalth lifts her eyebrows.
"Ciesrt believes consorts are appurtenances."
"I am glad you do not believe such."
"You would scarce let me," he counters.
They laugh in the mild spring air, ignoring the carriages and wagons that pass along the Road of Perpetual Light. Lorn's eyes take in the Palace of Eternal Light to the west, and all the other white granite and sunstone structures that rise in the marvel that is Cyad, the shining city, the city beside which all others pale. The words of one of the verses from the silver-covered book come to mind, the book from Ryalth's heritage she had entrusted to him so many years before.
The city, Cyad, lost light like a star, The dream, Cyad, guiding near and far.
He smiles to himself. Cyad is indeed a special city. Then he turns his eyes to the dwelling ahead.
Jerial meets Lorn and Ryalth at the door to Lorn's parents' dwelling. The healer wears a green tunic so dark it is almost black, and her black hair is cut short. "You always look so good, Ryalth." She studies her brother. "Did I tell you I like her?"
"I believe you have. Several times."
"You might as well go on up." Jerial shuts the door and steps around the inside privacy screen. "Mother and I thought we would eat on the upper portico tonight. It is warm, and the breeze is gentle."
"We're the first?" Lorn asks.
"Except for Father and Mother."
Lorn and Ryalth climb the three flights to the fourth and topmost level of the dwelling in which Lorn was raised.
Lorn's mother is waiting at the uppermost landing. "You look wonderful, Ryalth. I like the cloak."
"Thank you." The redhead inclines her head.
"I did persuade Myryan and Ciesrt to come tonight." Nyryah raises her eyebrows. "Ciesrt wanted to know if Vernt would be here. He was pleased to know that Vernt is bringing his consort-to-be. That's Mycela. I do not believe you have met her."
"I have not had that pleasure. In fact," Lorn adds dryly, "I had not had the pleasure of knowing he intended to take a consort until the other night when you told me."
"He has been seeing her since the turn of fall." Nyryah turns, and the three walk toward the southwest corner of the upper level, toward the roofed but open-air area flanked with columns that adjoins the warmweather dining area.
They have barely taken their first steps when the door to the study opens behind them, and the whitehaired Kien emerges. He walks toward them with the barest hint of a shuffle. "Greetings, Lorn, Ryalth. It's been such a long time since I've seen you two."
Ryalth laughs gently.
"You'll have them here every moment, dear, if you aren't careful," cautions Nyryah.
"Not even a old magus like me could manage that," counters Kien. "Lorn will be gone again to his station in Biehl in less than an eightday."
The four walk slowly toward the portico dining area.
"The harbor always looks so beautiful from here," Ryalth observes. "You have such a wonderful view."
"We are fortunate," answers Nyryah. "At times, I sit here in the late afternoon and watch the clouds and the ships."
"Lorn!" Vernt appears behind them, accompanied by a blonde young woman who is laughing at something.
Lorn and Ryalth turn and step toward the two recent arrivals.
"Lorn, Ryalth, this is Mycela." Vernt smiles at the blonde. "This is my elder brother Lorn and his consort Ryalth. As you can see, Mycela, Lorn is an overcaptain in the Mirror Lancers, one of the youngest, I would venture, and Ryalth is the head of Ryalor House, one of the newly prominent trading houses in Cyad." Vernt smiles happily.
"How nice to meet you both." Mycela's smile is not quite simpering.
Lorn and Ryalth bow ever so slightly to the white-clad younger woman.
"Mycela is the daughter of Lector Abram'elth," Vernt explains.
Jerial slips by Vernt. "Ciesrt and Myryan are on their way up. She stopped to get something from her old room."
"You recall my sister Jerial," Vernt says.
"You wear green," Mycela says, wide-eyed, as she bows to Jerial.
"I am a senior healer, and without consort," Jerial says with a shrug. "The green is more appropriate."
"You do have such an unusual family, Vernt." Mycela giggles slightly. "They do so many things."
"Lorn!" calls Myryan as she appears behind Vernt, who steps back for Ciesrt and Myryan.
Ciesrt inclines his head to Vernt. "I am most glad to see you here." He bows slightly to Vernt's consort-to-be. "Greetings, Mycela."
Mycela giggles momentarily. "Greetings, Ciesrt."
"Perhaps we could sit down, now that Ciesrt and Myryan are here." Nyryah gestures to the dining table on the covered upper balcony, set as always, and as Lorn can recall from his childhood, so that all but Nyryah can look downhill and south directly at the harbor — and to the west and slightly uphill at the Palace of Eternal Light. Twilight lingers, and the sky remains the purple maroon that is beginning to fade, but the lamps set in brackets on the columns have already been lit. In the harbor, the white stone piers glimmer above the darkness of the water and before the Great Western Ocean farther to the south. The Palace remains an edifice of shimmering white, and light beams from its windows, from the innumerable lamps within its high-ceilinged corridors and halls.
Lorn and Ryalth are to be seated across from each other at the southern end of the table, with Nyryah at the end between them, and Jerial to Lorn's left and Ciesrt to Ryalth's right. Vernt and Mycela flank Kien, while Myryan sits between Jerial and Vernt. Lorn nods at Ryalth. "If you don't mind ... could we change places?"
A faint smile crosses Jerial's face, but vanishes near-instantly, as the two consorts trade seats. A blank expression appears on Mycela's face.
As soon as Lorn takes the seat that had been Ryalth's, silence settles on the table, and all look to the north end.
"In the blessing and warmth of chaos, in the prosperity which it engenders, let us give thanks for what we receive." From the north end of the table, the white-haired Kien speaks clearly, then lifts his head and smiles. "It is so good of all of you to be here tonight."
The dining table around which the nine sit is covered with a pale green linen cloth, and set with glistening white porcelain plates. Quyal — the cook — appears with a large platter that holds fowl breasts covered in a thick cream sauce, and sets it before Kien. Kysia — the head of his parents' household, whose wages had been supplemented for years by Ryalth, secretly at first — follows a covered dish from which steam rises, and with a silver tray holding thin slices of dark sun-nut bread.
Lorn takes a sip of the wine — Alafraan — and glances at Ryalth, murmuring, "You had this sent here."
She smiles. "It was the least I could do, after all your parents have done."
"It was most thoughtful," Nyryah adds.
Lorn's lips curl into a rueful smile.
"You are not here long, are you, Lorn?" asks Ciesrt.
"No. I'm between duty assignments, and I'll be leaving on oneday."
"Where will you be going?" Ciesrt follows up.
"To head the port detachment in Biehl."
"You'll be the one in charge?" asks Mycela. "The head officer?"
"That's what my transfer orders say." Lorn smiles and passes the nut bread to his mother, after taking a slice for himself. "The port detachments protect trade and ensure that the tariffs are collected fairly."
"I imagine it will provide a respite after fighting the barbarians and the Accursed Forest," suggests Kien. "And it is somewhat closer to Cyad."
"What of the Accursed Forest?" asks Vernt. His brow furrows. "What exactly do lancer patrols do there?"
"We ride along the walls to see that no wild creatures escape. We also maintain order and guard the Mirror Engineers while they repair any walls that the Accursed Forest has damaged."
"The Forest damages walls?" asks the wide-eyed Mycela.
"Some of the trees that fall across the ward-walls are more than twenty cubits thick and nearly as hard as stone. They occasionally damage the wall and the wards that contain the Forest creatures." Lorn glances at Ciesrt. "I understand that the Forest project is coming along."
"I believe so, but that is not something that I do." Ciesrt shrugs. "There are rumors, but your father would know far better than I."
Vernt and Lorn glance at the oldest magus.
Kien smiles wryly. "I, too, must plead silence, except to say that there is a project, and if it works as it may, Cyad will need far fewer lancers to patrol the Accursed Forest."
After a moment of silence, Ciesrt looks across the table at Ryalth. "Myryan has said that you are head of a trading house."
"Ryalor House," Ryalth confirms.
"And you are truly the head of it?" Ciesrt asks. "Did you come to that because your parents had no sons?"
"Actually, Ciesrt," Lorn says smoothly, "she created it and built it from a clanless trading room into one that rivals many full houses. She is most skilled, and I was quite fortunate to prevail upon her to be my consort."
Excerpted from Scion of Cyador by L. E. Modesitt Jr., David G. Hartwell. Copyright © 2000 L. E. Modesitt, Jr.. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
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.