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For four hundred years the descendants of Emperor Nathan carried out his decree to search for Empress Suzanne, taken from his side by dark magic. Though her location was unknown, a powerful spell kept both Nathan and Suzanne preserved through the centuries until she would be found, the enchantment broken, and the two legendary founders of Kar-Neloth reunited. When ...
For four hundred years the descendants of Emperor Nathan carried out his decree to search for Empress Suzanne, taken from his side by dark magic. Though her location was unknown, a powerful spell kept both Nathan and Suzanne preserved through the centuries until she would be found, the enchantment broken, and the two legendary founders of Kar-Neloth reunited. When Prince Randoll returns to Silver Lake with the news that he has discovered Suzanne with the aid of a Greyhair wizard, King Jeremy faces the daunting task of awakening the sleeping emperor and trying to rally the ancient empire around long-disappointed hopes . . . and then bring Suzanne back to Silver Lake.
Jeremy furrowed his brow. “My fear is not for their reunion, but for the condition of the empire. How will Kar-Neloth receive the news? King Philip of Sliin will no doubt claim fraud and possibly become hostile. Who can guess how Yuroshik will respond? Pash will mock us, I’m sure. And what of Grapland? It will be too easy for them to convince Hommit to withdraw their border guards. Without doubt they will launch their fleets and march their armies at the first word of the Tomb’s opening!”
Anne considered Jeremy’s words. It was fearsome, indeed, to think of waking Nathan in such a day.
Once a cherished hope becomes reality, what does it take, and what does it cost, to embrace it? Discover the world of Kar-Neloth and the impassioned hearts of its people and rulers as they struggle to bring their empress home again.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY: Born in England, Michael C. Beard had the great fortune of living in Europe several years as one of three children of a U.S. Air Force family. He has wonderful memories of beautiful mountains, rivers, and old castles, and he believes those experiences are partially responsible for his love of fantasy worlds and history.
Michael has two graduate degrees in ancient languages and linguistics and has taught theoretical linguistics. He has worked on the corporate side of the writing world and has spent several years in the technology field. He has two daughters, Elaine and Pamela, and lives with his wife, Luna, in Tucson, Arizona.
Half a dozen horses thundered into Castle Silver Lake, their muffled echoes vibrating through the castle’s lower halls. It was the third time since midnight that knights dashed across the drawbridge in a rush of some urgency that the king vaguely hoped would not reach his door. He turned on his side and burrowed deeper into the bed for a last grasp at peaceful silence. Although moist night air subdued the report of hastening soldiers, King Jeremy was not sleeping well, and this latest bit of low, rhythmic beating was sufficient to bring him fully awake. Sighing deeply he rose, pulled warm robes over his cold flesh and stepped to an open window.
A full hundred feet below, Jeremy watched and listened as the drawbridge rose once more to its fittings. The worn planking was lit with an eerie yellow glow, the effect of torches burning against low-lying patches of fog. He pulled on his boots and descended toward the west council room. Along the way, Jeremy stole through the kitchen, sipped cool wine and warmed his hands over a glowing stove. He sighed deeply and poked the embers inside the stove’s belly. He could hear excited talk from the direction of the great hall and wondered what crisis had finally shattered the tension that had been building for weeks.
In times like these Jeremy kept a heavy hand over the kingdom, a discipline well into its second month before the activities of this night. He was known to be a strong king, though fair and loved of his people. Recent days, however, had set him more on edge than usual. His years on Silver Lake’s throne had taught him when to anticipate the need for a “rigid crown,” as he called it, and that time weighed on him heavily. He assembled his royal dignity and entered the hall’s company of knights mingling together in the frosty air.
Pages scurried around the room like bees in spring, embarrassed over the castle’s gloomy condition. Some lit torches and lamps; a few huddled beside an enormous stone hearth and quietly quarreled among themselves as they attempted to rekindle blackened logs. At the king’s appearance all activity ceased. Pages bowed; knights snapped to attention and saluted solemnly.
Jaamis, the king’s steward, approached and knelt. “My lord,” he said. “I have most unexpected news. Couriers from Calissia just arrived to report that a . . . a ship entered the Gulf of Drummel yesterday, heading for Calissia Bay.”
Jeremy focused a disappointed gaze at his steward. “A ship?”
Jaamis fought to maintain his composure but finally resigned to blurting out his astonishment. “It is Prince Randoll’s ship.”
King Jeremy’s pulse quickened. “Randoll’s ship? Who identified it?”
Jaamis turned and motioned to a rider who was trying to get close to the hearth’s newly lit fire as it flared across the stacked kindling. His cloaks dripped as frozen mud and debris melted in the warming hall. He was surrounded by soldiers, likewise soiled from the road, who had escorted him into the castle.
The rider approached and knelt. Jeremy acknowledged him.
“Your Majesty,” the man said. His voice quivered, both with the cold and with the message he brought. “Forgive my appearance, but I bring urgent news from Harbor Master Benjamin of Calissia Port.”
“Rise and speak freely,” Jeremy advised. “What is your name?”
The cold, wet rider relaxed slightly as he stood. Asking the courier’s name proved to him that all he had heard of King Jeremy’s cordiality was true. One of the hall’s servants took the rider’s outer cloak and hung it by the fire.
“Raasin, Your Majesty.”
“I trust your news is worthy of interrupting what little sleep I get, Raasin,” Jeremy said.
The courier wasn’t sure if his king’s tone was a warning or light-hearted humor. He decided to proceed on the assumption that he was to be economical with his report.
“Your Majesty,” he began with another bow, “Harbor Master Benjamin of Calissia Port sends word that Prince Randoll’s ship, Empire’s Hope, entered the gulf at dawn yesterday. The Kantho sentries spotted her colors and set signal fires in a coded array. Empire’s Hope answered with the correct flags and cannons. The volleys and flags between our sentries and Hope report that all is well and the prince is in command.”
Jeremy thanked Raasin and dismissed him and his escorts to the castle’s warm barracks. It took strong command of his emotions to hear the courier’s report without betraying his shock, but long years of upholding the throne of Kar-Neloth made his controlled response automatic.
When the hall finally cleared, Jeremy sat at the head of a massive table, dazed. Randoll had been gone for eight years, and Jeremy long ago resigned to the grief of his brother’s death. News of his return brought a sober mood over the king, an exciting mixture of remembered sorrows and reborn joy . . . and anger. Recent days and nights had been spent in long conferences concerning his kingdom’s comings and goings, but he had not received one word of approaching ships. None of the islands reported sighting the massive Empire’s Hope. No patrols received word of ships entering the empire’s waters. How could a warship of Hope’s tonnage simply appear off the eastern tip of Calissia’s “boot”-a narrow peninsula that stretched far into the Thalassa Sea to form a huge, sheltered channel for the Gulf of Drummel?
But it was Randoll! Questions of security dissolved as Jeremy recalled how Randoll, his younger brother and Admiral of Kar-Neloth’s Navy, sailed from Calissia in search of Empress Suzanne. News of his quest was steady for two years, then ceased altogether. Jeremy assumed that Randoll met the same fate as most other searches, an uncertain passage into an unknown grave.
Memories crowded Jeremy’s furrowed brow. He vividly recalled how, when he and Randoll were not yet ten years old, his father spoke to them about Silver Lake’s commission to search for the empress Suzanne and return her to her imperial throne.
Posted March 13, 2002
If you enjoyed The Lord of the Rings and other high-quality fantasy fiction, read this! Much like in the case of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, Michael C. Beard's fantasy world is complete with a fully developed worldview, history, origins, mythology, and unforgettable characters. The book breaks new ground in the world of fantasy: a great deal of it happens at sea and in cities, the focus is on people and the faith and love that guide and strengthen them (there are no dwarfs, elves, orcs), and the use of magic isn't overdone--so much so that one might think that this fantasy, for once, is REAL!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.