Tatheaby Anne Perry
Exiled from her palace by a bloody coup, an empress travels the dangerous wilds of her kingdom in search of enlightenment—and righteous vengeance
The empress Tathea is awakened by the sounds of insurrection. The army, the aristocracy, and the royal guard have all turned against her husband, and stained the palace with his blood. Were she an/b>… See more details below
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Exiled from her palace by a bloody coup, an empress travels the dangerous wilds of her kingdom in search of enlightenment—and righteous vengeance
The empress Tathea is awakened by the sounds of insurrection. The army, the aristocracy, and the royal guard have all turned against her husband, and stained the palace with his blood. Were she an ordinary ruler, she might follow him to the grave, but Tathea is a child of the wild lands. She comes from the desert, so to the desert she flees.
Across the kingdom she travels, searching for shelter, friendship, and an explanation for the tragedy that destroyed her old life. As she fights to stay alive, she finds a book whose message might tip the scales in the battle between good and evil, changing the world forever. If her life is to have meaning, Tathea will have to spread the word.
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By Anne Perry
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1999 Anne Perry
All rights reserved.
The scream tore the night apart. Ta-Thea sat upright, the sweat cold on her skin. Moonlight poured through the long windows onto the marble floor. The screaming came again, then a man shouting and a clash of metal. But it was impossible, here in the palace!
Habi would be terrified, he was only four. She scrambled out of bed and ran to the door of his room. She put her hand on the latch and pushed, but there was a weight against it on the other side. She could hear more shouting somewhere in the main rooms, coming closer.
She threw herself against the door. She could not hear him crying. He must still be asleep, but he would waken any minute. The door yielded about a foot. She squeezed through, bruising herself, then nearly fell. Blocking the door was the body of the nurse, her neck and chest dark with blood.
Ta-Thea felt a wave of shock overtake her, suffocating her breath in the desert night and making her heart pound so that for a moment she could hear nothing else.
"Habi!" She lunged towards the small bed. He was lying there curled sideways, still asleep. She bent over and touched him. "Habi," she whispered. She felt the warmth of his shoulder, then something wet and sticky. His whole chest was covered with it. She stared without believing. It was black in the moonlight, but half her mind told her it would be scarlet if the torches were lit. "Habi?" Her voice choked.
She was still bent over him, frozen and refusing to believe, when the outer door burst open, and light from the torches beyond fell across her. She turned slowly, too numb to be afraid.
It was Kol-Shamisha, captain of the Household Guard. His robes were torn and stained, and there was blood on his sword.
She stared at him.
He closed the door and came towards her. "Majesty! You must come now! You cannot help them. They are all dead—even the Isarch."
"Come?" she said foolishly. "Where to? I can't leave!" She was still holding Habi as if he were alive. She did not lift him, some deep horror inside knowing his throat was severed.
"The desert," Kol-Shamisha answered, his voice hoarse. "The whole city is in revolt. The palace is taken, but there may be people in the oases who will protect you. But you must come now."
"I can't!" How could she leave? There were things to do—she could not leave Habi ... for some stranger to wash, to mourn, and to bury. Only she could do that ...
Kol-Shamisha moved swiftly closer and gripped her arms.
"No!" She tried to push him away.
He pulled her and she fought. Beyond the door the sound of shouting and the clash of swords grew louder. She heard the slap of sandals on stone.
He hit her hard, a single blow, and the darkness closed over her.
When she regained her senses, Ta-Thea was in the palace stable yard and Kol-Shamisha was shaking her. For a moment she did not remember, then it came back like a torrent of sickness. She struggled to sit up, and he lifted her in his arms. She thought with amazement how gentle he was, as if he were cradling a child.
"We must ride, Majesty." His voice was low and urgent. "There are horses ready, one loyal groom, and the gatekeeper will let us out. We still have to get through the city. You must put on the groom's clothes. And bind your trousers for riding."
She did as she was told, her fingers fumbling to undo the muslin of her embroidered tunic and change it for the rough cotton. Some part of her brain understood. Urgency and fear drove her even while a part of her still knew she could not leave.
"Why?" she asked, looking over his shoulder towards the towering walls of the palace against the moonlit sky and its blaze of stars.
"I don't know," he answered. "We had no suspicion, but it's the whole Guard, much of the aristocracy, and the army."
"Everyone?" She was bewildered. How could it be that thousands of people she saw every day could have been feeling such a hatred concealed behind their smiling faces, their ordinary words, that they could rise and commit murder in the night? How could she not have seen it in their eyes, caught a thread of it in their voices? And Mon-Allat, her husband the Isarch ... he saw ministers and generals every day, how could he have been so blind?
"Hurry!" Kol-Shamisha urged, pulling her towards the waiting horses. The noise of fighting was growing closer. There was little time. She climbed up into the saddle as one of the great gates swung open just wide enough for them to pass and closed again behind them. She heard a great clang as the gatekeeper jammed the chains. It would buy them an hour, perhaps.
They rode close together through the wide streets of the city, its buildings tall and dark on either side of them. In the daylight one would have been able to see the squared pillars and the low relief carvings of battle and triumphant scenes on the rose and yellow sandstone walls. Now they were merely familiar masses against the sky.
They did not speak. Both knew that if they did not reach the western desert gate before news of the uprising closed it, they would be prisoners in Thoth-Moara, to be hunted down through the alleys, cornered, and their throats cut, like the others.
It seemed miles, street after street, their horses' hooves loud on the stones, shattering the silence in the squares with their pools and quiet gardens. They passed covered markets and theaters and a hundred different kinds of business and trade houses. Shinabar was the oldest civilization in the world, the greatest empire. Even the rising power of Camassia did not yet equal it.
Ta-Thea saw the desert gate ahead of them at last. Kol-Shamisha put out his hand to take her horse's rein and slow her. Then he went ahead to speak to the gatekeeper. After a moment he reached into his tabard and passed something through the bars. The small door inset in the main gate swung open. She spurred her horse forward, suddenly filled with panic that the door would close and trap her.
Outside, the ribbon of road unwound across the moonlit desert as far as the eye could see, barely discernible from the blue sands that stretched to the horizon, their pale expanse broken only by the occasional black shadow from a ridge or escarpment.
"Ride!" Kol-Shamisha ordered, urging his own animal into a gallop, his long tabard flying as he gathered speed. She obeyed with thudding heart. The wind was cool on her skin, smelling of sand and stone and the vast emptiness of the night.
She did not know how long they rode, or how far. Thoth-Moara receded behind them and was lost as they followed the dips and hollows of the old trade route west. There was no hint of dawn. The wheel of stars was still bright above, but the moon was lower, the shadows longer when at last they saw the first oasis, black against the sand.
Kol-Shamisha slowed his pace. "We'll change horses here." He put his hand into the pocket of his tabard and pulled out a small leather pouch. He passed it across to her.
"What is it?" she asked.
"All I could salvage," he replied. "Take it. You'll need it."
"The Isarch's jewels," he answered. "Something anonymous from the Treasury would have been better, but there was no time. It was one of the first places they seized."
"You ... you took ..." She stopped. Her marriage to Mon-Allat had been political, an alliance of two great families. He had had a mistress. But he was still her husband, and they were bound by shared duty, honor, and friendship. "You took them from his body?"
His face was unreadable, half turned away from her, watching and listening. "Your family is dead," he said, his voice harsh as the wind across the rocks. "These belong to you. Come." He urged his horse forward again.
She followed because there was nothing else she could do. Mon-Allat would have wanted her to have the jewels. She did not doubt that, whatever he felt for his mistress. She had not asked if Arimaspis had been with him and if she were dead too.
They entered the shadow of the oasis and threaded their way through the palms towards the pool of water at its center. The surface of the water gleamed like polished steel in the moonlight. Four figures stood at the water's edge, and behind them a string of a dozen horses.
Ta-Thea stopped. Kol-Shamisha approached the men and spoke for several minutes. He handed something to them. Then one of the men brought forward two horses. They were beautiful, slender-legged creatures, bred for speed and intelligence. Kol-Shamisha, a desert man before he had joined the Guard, had the love of them in his blood. He needed only a moment to know the worth of an animal. He nodded and led two of them towards Ta-Thea. She dismounted, waiting.
He was halfway across the strip of sand when shadows detached themselves from the trees and moved forward swiftly, soundlessly, and fell on the horse traders, daggers flashing bright.
Kol-Shamisha whirled round, one hand to his sword, the other slapping one of the horses so it moved towards Ta-Thea.
"Run!" he shouted. "Run!" And the next moment the attackers were on him.
The horse loomed over Ta-Thea. She snatched at the rein and scrambled up into the saddle. Her first instinct was to turn and attack, but she had no weapon. Kol-Shamisha had told her to run. He was offering his life so she could survive.
She turned and spurred the horse away, feeling its strength beneath her, and its fear. They would pursue her, but perhaps they would be wounded, delayed long enough—for what? Where was she going?
She must rally resistance in one of the other cities. It was inconceivable that all Shinabar could have fallen. There were a hundred other cities, a thousand towns, and villages and oases beyond counting. She urged the horse still faster.
She had no idea how long she rode. Not once did she turn and look back towards the oasis. The constellations turned in the heavens, low and bright. The cold, clean smell of the sand filled her lungs and its sharp grit stung her skin as the tears stung her eyes. It was still dark. The moon was low but no pale wing of light marked the east.
The ground was rising a little. There was an escarpment of rock ahead of her. She slowed her horse to a walk and at the crest of the rise stopped altogether. She would be easily seen here. But then her dark figure would be seen against the moonlit ocean of sand anywhere. She made herself turn and look.
The road was as empty as the sky above. But there were a score of ridges like this one, with hollows where ancient rivers had scoured the rock. Even the great wind-driven billows of sand could momentarily hide a group of horsemen.
She turned and rode down the other side of the ridge towards an oasis dark in the hollow about four miles ahead. She was exhausted. Every muscle ached, but far greater was the void inside her, the blind, consuming loss. No physical terror or pain could dim the sight of Habi's body on the white sheets and remove the smell of his blood in her nose and throat.
At last it was dawn. It came suddenly, as it always did in the desert: a pale light high up, then a radiance across the sky. In minutes the sun would tip above the horizon and the bleached colors of the night would vanish in blue and silver. Within half an hour the sand would be warm. In an hour it would burn.
She saw the figure when she was still a hundred yards from the trees, a woman alone beside a rough grave. She was motionless as the rising sun lit her, seeming unmindful of the sand whispering across her feet in the dawn wind. There was grief in her bent head and an agony of loss in her shoulders and the leaning of her body. It was as if Ta-Thea could see herself, so perfectly did the woman mirror her own desolation.
She dismounted, leading her horse, and walked to stand beside her. There were no words to touch such bereavement. An answering silence was all that was possible.
The minutes passed. The sun rose above the horizon and poured a splendor of light across the desert floor.
At last the woman raised her face. She was not young. There was wisdom and experience in her eyes and an unanswerable sorrow.
"You must have loved him very much," Ta-Thea said softly.
"No," the woman replied. "No. I wish I could say that I had, but I did not." A smile like a ghost crossed her mouth and vanished. "Heaven forgive me, I did not even like him."
Ta-Thea was confounded. "Then why ...?"
The woman stared across the grave at the endless desert beyond. "I came because no one else did," she said, her voice very low. "He was shallow, grubby, and unkind, but no one should be buried without somebody to know his passing and to care."
Ta-Thea stared at the woman's face, uncomprehending. "But why do you grieve so much if you did not love him?" Surely only love could hurt this much. The pain of her own love for those she had lost was almost too much to bear, and there was no one else left who would mourn.
There were hollows under the woman's eyes, lines around her mouth. "Because he had life," she answered. "He had a chance to be brave and to seek the truth, to honor and defend it. He had time in which he could have faced fear and overcome it; to know himself without deceit, excuse, or self-pity; to bear pain without bitterness. He had days in which to laugh, to see beauty, to fill his heart with gratitude. He could have been kind and brave and generous." Her voice was very soft, and she spoke slowly, as if even the words hurt. "Above all, there were people he could have loved and learned to forgive. He is gone, and who is there in the world that is poorer?" She looked at the grave, the dry surface already smoothing over in the wind. "Now all his chances are finished. Of course I weep for him!"
For a moment Ta-Thea glimpsed an untrodden region of the soul which dwarfed all she knew. The woman pitied the dead man not for anything that had happened to him, great or small, but for what he was, and even more profoundly for what he was not.
"Then what was the purpose of his life?" she said aloud. "Or anyone's?"
"I don't know." The woman turned to face her again. "I wish I understood, but I do not. I can only care. Perhaps if I care enough ..." She left the rest unsaid.
Ta-Thea stretched out her hand and touched the woman's arm, as if she would be closer to her. They stood together for several minutes, heads bent, looking beyond the grave at the restless grains of sand forever moving in the sun. Then at last they turned to walk towards the edge of the oasis, where the grass was rustling in the wind, already warm.
Ta-Thea took her horse's rein and led it to the shade. She must care for it before thinking of herself; every Shinabari, empress or slave, knew that. The knowledge ran through two thousand years of history.
She unsaddled the horse, rubbed its sweating body with a handful of grass, and was leading it back and forth to cool when she saw riders top the escarpment in the distance. They were her pursuers. She knew it as surely as if she had seen their faces. There was nowhere to run, and her horse was exhausted.
Now she too was going to die. The woman's words burned in her mind. The ultimate tragedy was not to die, but to have had life and let it slip through your hands, day by day, unused, until in the end it was gone, and you had learned nothing, given nothing, left no portion of grace or love in any soul. What would she leave behind greater than she had found or been given by fate? Whom had she loved, beyond the child of her own flesh, which any woman loves? What had she ever forgiven greater than the small things which came easily? What truth did she ever know with a white-hot passion of the soul, let alone defend?
The woman emerged from a mud brick house at the edge of the trees and began to walk towards Ta-Thea. In her hands were a flask of water and some food.
Ta-Thea ran towards her, waving her arms towards the riders now clear against the shimmering sand, about three miles away and moving swiftly. "Get back inside!" she called. "Quickly! It is only me those men are after."
"Who are they?" the woman asked.
"I don't know, but they killed my companion and are pursuing me. Don't give your life for nothing. You can't save me."
The woman remained motionless. "Why do they want to kill you?"
"There has been a rebellion in Thoth-Moara. The Isarch is murdered, and all his family except me."
"Go inside," the woman commanded. "There is water in the jar. Wash, braid your hair back, and put on my clothes which are there. Do not speak whatever happens! Do it!"
"You will be killed with me!" Ta-Thea protested.
The woman's eyes blazed curiously blue for a Shinabari. "Then so be it! Do not make my choices for me. Now do as I tell you."
Obediently Ta-Thea went into the small mud brick house and immediately saw the jar of water. She stripped off her groom's clothes and her own shift under it and washed the dust from her body. She did it mechanically, without thinking. She had no strength left to struggle, and perhaps no desire.
Excerpted from Tathea by Anne Perry. Copyright © 1999 Anne Perry. 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.
Meet the Author
Anne Perry (b. 1938) is a bestselling author of historical detective fiction, most notably the Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series and the William Monk series, both set in Victorian England. Perry’s novels have appeared on bestseller lists around the world and she has over twenty-five million books in print worldwide. She lives in Scotland.
- Portmahomack, Ross-shire, U.K
- Date of Birth:
- October 28, 1938
- Place of Birth:
- Blackheath, London England
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If you are a fantasy/sci fi reader I very much doubt this book is for you. I was uncomfortably reminded of the Taliban and fanatical Christian fundamentalists as I read this poorly written and unimaginative religious allegory. Perry is not a world builder. The different cultures she creates are flat and uninteresting. She treats some of the peoples of her world as if they were tribes of naive children just waiting for her heroines fabulous new religion, quick to forget their own. Others are nations of self centered idolators doomed to hell because they want to keep their own faith. Her heroine has the arrogance of a self righteous, ethnocentric missionary. The story itself meanders and repeats itself. The book seems to be simply an opportunity for Perry to push her own religious beliefs on the unsuspecting reader of fantasy books. Much of what is written in the fantsy genre deals with the creation of new religions and cultures,the best reflecting our own in some way but not extolling as a virtue what is the worst about the extremists in our world. And the main character, with her uncompromising, unattractive, and fanatical religious views, I have met more often as the villain in fantasy books as opposed to the hero. Avoid this book at all costs if you a lover of real sci-fi/fantasy.
If you like to read fantasy novels you will be disappointed with this one. If you want to know Anne Perry's religious beliefs cloaked under the veneer of 'another world', then this might be for you. I absolutely agree with the Library Journal's assessment. The story-line and character development is sacrificed for expounding "repetitive philosophies" (as Publisher's Weekly states). I believe that the marketing for this book is deceptive - it does not belong in the fantasy venue at all. Not recommended.
Tathea by Anne Perry was not what I expected. The character descriptions were good and the descriptions of the environment was great. The environmental descriptions helped keep the story interesting and help explain the characters reactions to each other. The story is interesting and well written.
Not Fantasy genre....more a let me show you the path of enlightemnet kind of story.Let's start with off with what this book isn't shall we. It is not by any stretch of mind a fantasy. Tossing on a robe and giving characters foreign sounding names and having the main character travel from kingdom to kingdom does not a fantasy novel make. Once again I am surprised by the fact that Perry is using her books to voice personal opinions and beliefs.Retrospective with age? Hmm using the vessel of her popularity to speak to others perhaps. Which she could have pulled off successfully if the story had been good. It was like having to read a book of algebra whilst stuck on a desert island. No offense to anyone who would find that stimulating. Where was Perrys usual panache and smooth charm? This is a book about religious beliefs and it is most certainly leaning heavily towards the old Mormonism. I have to admit to being disappointed. I would enjoy seeing Perry try her hand at the fantasy genre but it seems as if a lot of her books in the last few years have become more about getting her agenda out there instead of creating a great read. I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley.
Having read Anne Perry's mysteries for years, I looked forward to reading her first foray into fantasy. I was stunned and thrilled from the very beginning of the novel, ignoring food and sleep because I could not put it down. This book literally made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, so real and immediate were the characters and situations. There is much wisdom in Tathea for those open enough to receive it. I look forward to reading Come Armageddon, the conclusion to Tathea's story as she enters into final battle with the evil one. I urge everyone to read this book. I have purchased six copies of the hardback to give as gifts to my closest friends.
Tathea is a well written book about sprituality and the human spirit, but it did not keep me enthralled because of the constant religious references and philisophical arguments.The arguments between Tathea and the other characters in the book are tedious and very pretty.They left one feeling as if they were stuck in a philosophy of religion lecture. Tathea is very unbelievable as a character because of her perfect goodness and incredible luck. It is, although, very refreshing to see a intellegent female character in a book, Tathea's wit is almost worth reading this. Anne Perry is a wonderful writer of mystery novels but this is one series I encourage science fiction fans to pass up, it is a little too close to the reality we live in for me and in my opinion should be in the spiritual section in the bookstore.
I was pleasantly surprised to find this book in our small local library. Once I started to read, it was very difficult to put it down. I was able to read it in less than a week, during finals. It is a beautiful fantasy that takes place on another world created after our earth. Anne Perry uses her exceptional writing skills to make the book come alive, to help us feel the hatred of Satan and the love of God. The first 125 pages are a spiritual journey, almost a vision, that Tathea takes on. It is an allegory filled with symbolism of what will come later. The beginning makes much more sense if one imagines what is being alluded to each situation. After she is given a golden Book filled with the words of God, Tathea shares it with the world. The rest accurately portrays human nature so that one feels as if they know the characters. At the end of the novel is the text of the Book. It filled me with such awe, such love as I read it, and helped me better understand God's plan. I applaude Anne Perry for taking the stand to write this, one of the most beautiful books I have ever read, exempting the scriptures. Many people think that the definately Christian, yet very different philosophy found in the book was created by Anne Perry. However, it actually reflects the doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which she is a member. I encourage, even plead with, everyone to read this awe-inspiring, spiritual novel. It will make you a better person; if everyone in the world read it and believed what it says the world would be at peace. I feel certain that our Heavenly Father smiles upon this book.
I'm a non-fiction fan. In my opinion, all the knowledge and wisdom that can be found in a good how-to book or from reading a real-life situation was the best reading possible. I looked at fiction as an escape that I couldn't really afford. There was just too much else that was actually worth reading. But something about Anne Perry's 'Tathea' intrigued me. Even though it was billed as a 'fantasy,' it also was described as an exploration of good and evil and the search for truth. So I bought the book, read it, and enjoyed it. The philosophical side of the book is where 'Tathea' excels. Tathea's conversations and revelations among friends, enemies, fellow seekers, unbelievers, demons and angels are the core of the book. These gems are surrounded by an intriguing story and an unusual premise that kept me reading. The beginning third of 'Tathea' is her spiritual journey, filled with symbolism and allusions that lay the foundation for the rest of the book. The second two-thirds of the book follow Tathea on her physical journey of learning, sharing and blessing. One thing I found wanting was the characterizations. I knew the title character well, but the characters of the supporting cast weren't explored as deeply as I found myself wanting them to be. 'Tathea' is more than an escape. It is fiction with meaning. It is not for the reader who wants an easy, shallow story. But if you enjoy being challenged cerebrally and spiritually, I highly recommend it.
I really enjoyed this book, its a really deep philosophical book.
This is a wonderful book linking fantasy to religion. Tathea is a beautifully designed character full of determination and purpose. Her journey to discover then teach the truth is exciting and inspiring without a boring moment. Perry did an excelent job with TATHEA, providing an entertaining story that will have readers wanting more!