Sea Dragon Heirby Storm Constantine
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For generations, the Palindrake family of Caradore have been cut off from their spiritual source, Foy the Sea Dragon Queen, since their ancestor Valraven I and his family were conquered and subjugated by the Emperor Cassilin of Magrast, follower of Madragore, the pitiless god of fire. The Palindrakes' connection to the powers of the sea was lost, remembered only in songs and legends, and the name of each male heir: Valraven. Now, most men of the Caradorean families are sent away to war, to fight for the current emperor, Leonid, who is known only as a family friend to the Palindrakes - their sorry history is mostly forgotten by those who now live in the pale castle beside the thrashing ocean.
But the sea dragons live on in the hearts of the Caradorean people, especially the women, and when Pharinet Palindrake's twin brother Valraven is sent to Magrast to join the emperor's army, events are set in motion that will revive magics long forgotten, as well as enmities, passions and fears.
The sea dragon Foy is not a gentle entity, and once roused, her terrifying daughters are unleashed upon the world. How can a people estranged from these powerful spiritual influences reclaim their dominion over the elements, while illicit obsessions wreak havoc between the ruling families, bringing death and ruin to ancient houses? Will it be down to a daughter of fire, the princess Varencienne, brought as a wife to Caradore, to help her newfound people retrieve what is theirs and bring the sea dragon heir, Valraven, back to the might of the ocean and its strange, unearthly denizens?
The dragon queen and her daughters demand a high price, and only the strongest may pay it.
'Sea Dragon Heir' is the first volume in Storm Constantine's 'The Chronicles of Magravandias', a gripping epic fantasy series of intrigue, forbidden passion and magic.
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- 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.75(d)
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Two hundred years later:
When Pharinet was only seven years old, she dreamed of the dragons. They danced in the sky for her, like moving pictures from a book, their wings of shell and bone fanned out against the piercing stars. She stood on the beach below them, jumping up and down, clapping her hands. They danced for her alone.
When she awoke, it was still dark, and she could hear the restless sea fretting at the shore below the castle. The dream had filled her up with strange sensations that felt like excitement, the sort of feeling she had when she was about to go out visiting her friends with her brother, Valraven. She still wanted to jump up and down.
Although she never mentioned the dream to anyone, she thought about it often, until it eventually became buried beneath layers of other dreams and experiences. In later years, she would realise that the dragon dream had marked the moment when she'd discovered there was more to life than what the senses beheld, and what others told her. Life was a secret, or a labyrinth of secrets. She had entered the outer chamber. Her father had still been alive then.
Pharinet's mother had died as she'd struggled to expel her daughter into the world. The girl child had followed the arrival of her twin brother, Valraven V, by scant minutes; setting the precedent for the haste in which she strove to keep up with him in later life. Pharinet knew her mother only from portraits, which her grieving father had hung about the castle. In every room, dead Leriniestill held sway; gazing down her patrician nose, smiling privately upon her children. In some ways, the pictures were rather sinister. Pharinet wondered what her mother had really been like. She was astute enough to recognise the gloss of her father's feelings over the portraits, since every one of them had been commissioned after her mother's death. When she asked Valraven what he thought, he seemed uncomfortable and would only mutter a stupid answer. Everna, her older sister, told her that was what boys were like. They couldn't talk about personal things, so Pharinet shouldn't be surprised or affronted. Everna was only too ready to relate stories of their mother. She had been nine when Lerinie had died, and despite the fact she had adored her mother, seemed not to resent the twins for their part in her demise. She had become their surrogate darn, and enjoyed the role. Memories were perhaps sweeter than reality. As far as Pharinet could gather, Lerinie seemed to have had little time for her elder daughter. She had been a busy woman, forever gadding about Caradore visiting the estates of other noble families. Everna suggested that Lerinie had had a purpose for her, which she'd been keeping on hold until an appropriate time, such as the onset of womanhood. Unfortunately, her unexpected death had prevented her from revealing what this purpose might have been. No one had thought mere child-birth could have killed Lerinie. She'd been so strong.
Resigned and loyal, Everna had picked up the bloodied mantle of motherhood and wrapped it around her own small frame. Perhaps it had been that which had made her grow. By ten, she was tall enough to peer over the heads of several of the castle guards.
Valraven Senior was sometimes away from home for months at a stretch, because he was held in high esteem by the emperor and was therefore required to spend time at court in Magrast, the capital city, or else direct campaigns for conquest and containment further afield. Everna told the twins that since their mother's death, the emperor, Leonid II, had allowed their father to spend more time at home. The emperor himself had visited Caradore on several occasions, each time claiming over dinner that the sea air did him good. He looked upon his visits as holidays, even though he brought with him a milling entourage of clerks, generals and attendants, and spent most of the time closeted in Valraven Senior's private office discussing politics and war.
Pharinet and her twin thought the emperor rather a ridiculous figure. He was neither tall nor fat, but seemed altogether too large to fit comfortably into any environment. His voice was not coarse or even particularly loud, but it carried far. His laughter was free and spontaneous, but somehow inappropriate. He was eager and bouncy, like an overfriendly lion cub; tawny and golden and laced with hidden claws. They supposed he'd look more at home in the great city Magrast, where everything was grand and organized. Caradore was sprawling and relaxed, and the emperor seemed like an irritant within its shell, getting bigger and bigger as his visit progressed, perhaps in the same way that a pearl forms in an oyster from a grain of sand. He singled the younger Palindrake children out for attention and, as they wriggled uncomfortably beneath his compelling gaze, told them about his own sons. The scions of the empire were paragons of male virtue, accomplished in every desired skill. The emperor never brought any of them with him to Caradore, however, and if there was a Madam Emperor, she might as well have not existed.
Sometimes, in her bed at night, Pharinet would think about how the greatest man in all the world sat drinking and chatting with her father somewhere below. The Palindrakes were the most privileged of families. She knew that her great-great-grandfather's sister had been married to an ancestor of the emperor'shis great-great-grandfatherand that the two families were therefore related. The emperor did not feel like a relative, though, despite his attempts at avuncular charm. If his sons were her distant cousins, why hadn't she met them?
"The man we see is not the man that is," Everna said, during one of his visits. "He is like a god in Magrast, yet here, he can be a boy, perhaps the child he never was. We should not be deceived by appearances. In the capital, he would probably barely acknowledge us."
Everyone in the castle knew that the emperor came to Caradore to escape the city. Perhaps, if he'd not had this refuge, he'd have gone mad. It must be difficult for one man to keep taut all the reins that controlled the empire.
Everna said that after their mother had died, the emperor had come straight away to Caradore, perhaps abandoning important business in Magrast. He cared for their father, and despite his elevated status, took charge of the household in the wake of grief, organizing an unusually grand funeral for Lerinie and making sure that the business of the estate ran smoothly.
After Lerinie died, Valraven Senior should have taken another wife. Everna told Pharinet that he must have more male heirs in case anything should happen to Valraven Junior. There had been two other boy children between the birth of Everna and the twins, but both had died. Pharinet was appalled by the idea her brother was not immortal, and did not want to think what life might be like without him. Still, whether their father had the intention to remarry or not, he did not outlive his crushing grief. When the twins were ten, he was involved in a riding accident and died from his injuries. Afterwards, Pharinet had seen the grey stallion responsible; rolling his eyes and stamping in his stall. Later, the men of the castle had built a fire on the beach, and everyone had gone down there in the evening. One of the women from the kitchen had slit the throat of the horse and the blood had run down the sand to the sea.
No one questioned that Everna was now mistress of Caradore; Valraven's guardian and spiritual guide. She was only nineteen, but dressed and behaved like a much older woman.
Pharinet could not feel sorry for her father. She sensed his life had not been happy; grief had bowed his shoulders and greyed his hair. Dead wife, dead sons. It had pained her young heart to see him moving slowly around the castle alone, lost in his private thoughts. When he'd looked upon his surviving children, his eyes had been full of sadness. They'd never heard him laugh, yet he'd been kindly, if remote. He must have loved their mother so much. Now, his spirit was free. As the people of Caradore danced a slow, wistful pavanne upon the wide shore, Pharinet had felt a lightness inside her. It must be hope or freedom.
After their father's death, the emperor did not visit Caradore again, although he would send gifts to the children to mark various religious festivals. Sometimes, Pharinet wondered how he was coping without his sanctuary. Had they all made him feel so unwelcome that he no longer felt he could visit? She could not say she liked the man particularly, but deep in her heart felt sorry for him, realizing at the same time, this solicitude might be misplaced. She discussed it with her sister, and Everna sent a letter to the emperor's steward, tactfully worded, but implying they hoped His Mightiness would still look upon their home as his. They received a formal reply, thanking them for their invitation, but making no mention of a visit, although there was a paragraph concerning Valraven Junior's future training in the army. The letter was altogether disappointing, if not slightly threatening.
Throughout her childhood, Pharinet's best female friend was Ellony, the eldest daughter of the Leckery family, who lived a two-hour ride away at the family domain of Norgance. Montimer Leckery, Ellony's father, was hardly ever at home, because the emperor needed him in the army. Montimer was a great general, weighed down with medals. So, Norgance, like Caradore, was a household devoid of a patriarch. This situation prevailed in most of the noble houses of Caradore.
Valraven was always the one closest to Pharinet's heart, but she soon learned that there were some things only a female companion could provide or understand. While Valraven played boisterous games on the high moors above Norgance with Ellony's elder brother, Khaster, the girls sat nearby, the wind in their hair, wrapped in their own feminine pastimes. Usually, this involved planning out their future lives. They would act out fantasies of love, without fully understanding what this might entail. Are we in love with each other's brothers? they wondered, their sly young eyes peering through curtains of hair. The boys, ignorant of the intent inspection, slashed the heather with sticks to drive out snakes and lizards.
One day, when the girls were eleven, Ellony announced, "I shall marry Valraven." Pharinet stared at Khaster, to decide if she could echo this sentiment. They had climbed to one of the cloud forests high above Norgance, the boys carrying a picnic pannier between them. Much to Ellony's annoyance, her mother, Saska, had forced them to take Ellony's younger sister, Niska, with them.
Now, the cakes and watered wine had been devoured and the boys were climbing trees. Ellony, Pharinet and Niska sat on the springy grass, making chains of flowers: red for blood and white for the sky. Sunlight came down in coins through the branches, making heat patches on their arms and hair. Khaster had jumped out of a tree and was looking up at Valraven who was still clambering. Leaves showered down and dusty twigs. Squirrels fled in outrage through the high canopy. Khaster was certainly handsome, Pharinet decided. His heavy brown hair fell over his face all the time. She liked the way he brushed it back, wrinkling up his nose and frowning.
"You will marry Khaster," Ellony said, clearly thinking her friend had had more than enough time to respond.
Pharinet smiled. "Yes, I shall wear a russet gown, decorated with sea pansies, and I shall twine coral in my hair."
Ellony sighed, caught up in the image. "On my wedding day, I shall ride in a carriage drawn by eight white horses and their hooves will be gilded."
Pharinet was familiar with the picture book from which this image derived. One of her earliest tutors had shown it to her. It depicted a gleeful princess riding towards her prince. Why couldn't she share the dream? In her heart, the dark red of her wedding dress was the deep bloodied shade of mourning, heavy with lilies of the grave, and her hair was spiked with bleached bones. It must be Everna putting these thoughts into her head. She liked to talk about death, and seemed to find it more romantic than love.
"I shall marry a man who comes out of the sea," said Niska, broken petals spilling from her fingers.
Ellony made a scornful noise. "Shut up. You're too young to think about such things. Why would anyone want to marry you? You're like a slimy fish."
Niska shrugged resignedly. It was true she was strangely pale and her almost colorless hair floated on the air like seaweed in water. Pharinet felt she ought to defend the girl. "Perhaps she's right, Elly. Niska looks like a mermaid." She patted Niska's unyielding shoulder. "Maybe you'll find someone on the shore one day, a wounded merman needing help. He may be handsome."
"We don't live next to the sea like you do," Ellony said. "That's the sort of thing that would happen to you." She pulled a face at her sister.
Niska neither smiled nor frowned. She concentrated only on the blooms in her lap. Her placid nature seemed sometimes to verge on the abnormal.
For a couple of years after this, the girls' fantasies veered more towards heroes of legend. They decided that one day, they would come across slumbering, ensorcelled knights in a cave deep in the forest. Their maidenly kisses would bring heat back to the marble flesh. They would be whisked away on stallions of thunder, up to castles in the clouds, where ranks of blind witches with coppery hair would sing eternally of their husbands' exploits.
Pharinet also liked to indulge these fantasies when she was alone. Sometimes, in a sea cave on the beach of Caradore, she'd imagine her faceless hero kissing her. She would feel his hands upon her back and the tickle of his hair on her face. The feelings these daydreams aroused were strange and powerful. They made her want to laugh and run.
Valraven found her once, giggling to herself and splashing her feet in a pool. Sunlight slanting through the cave mouth made watery patterns on the damp, black walls. "Pharry, what's the matter with you?"
She froze, embarrassed, conscious of her skirts hitched up to her thighs, the heat in her flesh.
Valraven was framed in the entrance, the sea pounding behind him, his hair flapping in wet tendrils around his shoulders. "What have you been doing? I've been looking for you." Although his eyes were in shadow, she sensed he took in her wanton appearance and wondered about it.
She could not tell him what she'd been thinking. Not only were her thoughts private, she felt they might hurt him in some way.
"Race you!" she cried and launched herself past him out of the cave. He seemed at once to forget how he'd found her and charged up the beach behind her, overtook her and ran backwards, punching the air. His delight in beating her was so simple and pure, so male as Everna would have said. Pharinet could have outrun him any time. She loved him so much it was like a stomach pain. Who needed heroes when she had Valraven? But he was her brother, and no one married their brother. Could she surrender him to Ellony? The idea was not entirely pleasant. She thought of the future, when Ellony would sit across a table from him at breakfast time, accompany him on visits to friends and ride with him on eager horses across the wild cliffs. Where would Pharinet fit into this picture? There did not seem a space for her. Those are my things, she thought. Ellony can't have them.
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Meet the Author
Storm Constantine has written over twenty books, both fiction and non-fiction and well over fifty short stories. Her novels span several genres, from literary fantasy, to science fiction, to dark fantasy. She is most well known for her Wraeththu trilogy (omnibus edition published by Tor), and is currently at work on a new set of novels set in the world of Wraeththu, beginning with The Wraiths of Will and Pleasure (Tor, 2003). Wraeththu are magical and sensual hermaphroditic beings, who when their story first began, almost twenty years ago, broke startling new ground in the often staid fantasy/sf genres.
Her influences include myth, magic and ancient history and the foibles of human nature. She uses writing and fiction to bridge the gap between mundane reality and the unseen realms of imagination and magic. She strives to awaken perception of these inner realms and the unexplored territory of the human psyche.
Aside from writing, Storm runs the Lady of the Flame Iseum, a group affiliated to the Fellowship of Isis, and is known to conduct group members on tours of ancient sites in the English landscape, in her husband's beat up old army Land Rover. She is also a Reiki Master/Teacher, has recently set up her own publishing company, Immanion Press, to publish esoteric books, and teaches creative writing when she gets the time.
Neil Gaiman, author of the Sandman series, once said: 'Storm Constantine is a mythmaking, Gothic queen, whose lush tales are compulsive reading. Her stories are poetic, involving, delightful, and depraved. I wouldn't swap her for a dozen Anne Rices!'
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First, this is FAR from X rated in today's standards, however the incest while mutually acceptable by both parties in the story may perturb some readers. The mythos story is the best part of this book. Would have been better with more focus on the brother's story. The women simply became boring and lost complexity. The ending, however, seems to end on a point that could make the story more intriguing. I'd rate 3.5 stars.
The character development and interaction is not your typical Tolkein-esque, DnD adventure party. The plot is unique and daring and certainly not "G" rated. If you want magic and intrigue and a deep, vivid, and atmospheric style of writing, this and any of Ms. Constantines works will not dissappoint
When I first bought this book I didnt really think much of it. Then once I started reading it I could not put it down. This novel is one of the best fantasy novels. Its powerful,moving and magical.Once I got to the end I wanted more of it. I reccommend this books to every fantasy lover out there. I cannot wait until the sequal comes.
I FOUND THIS BOOK VERY HEART WRENCHING. I COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN THE LOVE, HATE, INTRIGUE. I CAN NOT WAIT FOR THE SECOND BOOK, I HAVE TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS. I REALLY RECOMMEND THAT YOU READ THIS BOOK. STORM CONSTANTINE IS A VERY WONDERFUL WRITER.
I got half way through this book regretting I ever picked it up. First off NO CHILDREN SHOULD EVER READ THIS BOOK! This is one of the raunchiest pieces of writing I've ever read. Every other chapter has a highly detailed sex scene in it, which wouldn't be so bad except its usually between a brother and sister! This author should be writing for play boy or hustler. The book is complete trash. There's NO action or adventure whats so ever. Your literally just waiting to read who has sex with whom next. Theres Incest, Homosexuality, Orgies, take your pick theres somthing kinky for all the pervs out there. In my opinion the author might want to see a shrink for some impure thoughts she has upstairs, or maybe a priest! Seriously though I dont mind a good sex scene in a book once in a while but these were just disgusting and it was all the book consisted of. The characters were all immoral and unlikeable and nothing happens in the book except for sex. If your a lonely house wife who wants some twisted erotica read away, anyone else though looking for something a little more like Fantasy/Action/Adventure, keep looking.
SEA DRAGON HEIR Storm Constantine Tor, Feb 2000, $24.95, 384 pp. ISBN: 0312873069 Desiring power, the king of fire, Cassilin of Malagash, conquers the Palindrakes, whose power belongs to the sea. Cassilin¿s archmage takes the Palindrake heir and forces the lad Valraven to swear allegiance to their god Madragore. Her husband dead and her son held hostage, the Lady of Palindrake knows it will take several lifetimes before they throw off the yoke of Madragore¿s denizens, but she vows the power of the sea will surface one day as an unending tidal wave sweeps away the taint of Cassilin. Two centuries later, twins are born to the Palindrakes. The male is forced to adhere to his ancestor¿s vow of fealty to the followers of Madragore. However, the female Pharinet does not have an obligation to Madragore. She begins to learn the magical secrets of the Sisterhood of Dragons who serve Dragon Queen Foy. As the twins begin to return power to the sea dragons, the land turns to darkness even while freedom comes closer and closer for the people of Palindrake. SEA DRAGON HEIR shows why Storm Constantine is one of the most acclaimed authors of epic fantasy novels. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action and magic even as the characters are fully developed. This realm feels genuine because the cast feels real even when magic is used and gods and dragons appear. With novels like the Wraeththu trilogy and this story, genre fans will want more works especially the sequels to this tale, from the talented Ms. Constantine who makes the unbelievable so believable. Harriet Klausner