The Tower And The Emeraldby Moyra Caldecott
With Idoc in possession of the body of Prince Caradawc, her betrothed,
Viviane, a beautiful Celtic princess, unwittingly unravels the spell that binds the spirit of the evil Idoc within a circle of tall stones. Once released, the sorcerer-priest uses his powers to deliver vengeance upon those responsible for his original enslavement - including the Princess Viviane.
With Idoc in possession of the body of Prince Caradawc, her betrothed, Viviane can no longer judge safely between friend and foe, between this life and previous incarnations. Yet to rescue Caradawc from his nightmare, she must risk everything to reach the dreaded dark tower where Idoc waits. And, to ensure victory over evil, she must seek out Lucifer's Emerald.
She journeys through dreams and nightmare, beauty and horror, good and evil to save her lover and destroy the sorcerer-priest.
This is a quest for spiritual grace which is beautifully depicted and includes all the timeless ingredients of legend.
- Mushroom Publishing
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.59(d)
Read an Excerpt
Chapter 1 —An old spell undone
The hunting party of Prince Caradawc, son of Goreu, drew together at the sound of the calling horn. What had gone wrong? Princess Viviane, far to the rear, her mind only half on the hunt, heard the thin horn-silver sound like bird call through the thick green of the forest. It was not the sound of victory, the long low note of the kill, it was a brief agitated trill.
'The hounds must have lost the scent,' she thought. What would the Lord Goreu say from his great furred chair, looking at his slender son. 'Are you fit for a woman if you can't provide her meat?' Caradawc would flush, always a shade too timid when outfaced by his mighty father, and she would have to endure the old man's arm about her, the smell of his breath on her face, and the innuendoes that if young men were not ready for their responsibilities, older men would have to take them on. She dreaded being alone with her future father-in-law, Goreu the Great, Goreu the Mighty Lecher. How beautiful his son was in comparison: hair nut-brown touched with sun-gold: eyes sea-blue and clear as the sky, and in form – the finest of any young man she had ever seen. She thought she loved him, though in fact she knew nothing of him but his beauty.
The horn called again and she followed it, her white mare stepping unhurriedly through the bracken, the rider stooping gracefully under the overhanging branches of oak, ash and thorn. Sparkles of sunlight flickered like emeralds in the crown of the forest, half dazzling her. She felt warm, relaxed, happy. Her own home was far away but for the first time since she left it she felt no homesickness. This would be her new home,this forest of shimmering gold and green.
She heard voices calling her and increased her pace. She came upon the others gathered in a clearing, Caradawc standing on his stirrups to look back along the way they had ridden, his face anxious. It lightened at once when he saw her, but he said nothing. She joined the circle around him quietly and waited with the rest for what he would say.
The hounds were behaving strangely. It was as though when they had lost the scent, they also lost interest in the hunt. Many of them lay sleeping – only Cuall, Caradawc's favourite, was still alert and he sat on his haunches, his ears cocked, his eyes searching the undergrowth surrounding them. From time to time he gave a low growl or a faint but unmistakable whine. Viviane, too, could sense something, but she could not define it. She shivered slightly though she was not cold, and drew instinctively closer to Caradawc. He explained that they would rest awhile and then fan out to try to start up some more game.
'The dogs are tired,' he added calmly, but she noticed a puzzled frown. He had never known them behave in quite this way. He sprang down from his chestnut and reached up his arms to her – and she slid from her silver-white mare into his arms. He held her lightly – like a stranger. When would he take her as his woman with confidence and strength? Her body stirred to his, but always there was this barrier, this hesitation on his part . . . this uncertainty. Was it the giant shadow of his father that inhibited him . . . the knowledge that his father's way with women was wrong yet he himself had not yet found a way of his own?
He let her go almost at once and moved away. The servants served barley bread and ale and the hunters sat on fallen logs and lichen-covered rocks, hungry and glad of the rest. A stream as clear and cold as melted ice fell over mossy boulders and she stooped to drink, parting the fern fronds. It seemed to her that as she did so she heard fine voices and faint music, but when she lifted her head she could hear nothing but the sound of water falling over the rocks and the murmur of her friends as they talked quietly of the day's adventures.
Caradawc sat alone, hitting the toe of his boot with a switch of young beech, deep in thought, a stiff leather mug of ale forgotten beside him.
Suddenly she heard a sound over to the left of the clearing, and she stood up to see more clearly. Surely . . . surely it was a hart? He stood in shadow, but she could see his eyes – and they were looking into her own. She turned at once to her companions but none of them seemed to have noticed, though the hart had moved again with a sharp crackle of twigs. She could now see him distinctly, a red gleam to his velvet flanks, his tall antlers branching proudly. Surely the dogs would sense him? But they were all asleep – even Cuall, at his master's side, lying as still as death.
She moved very slowly and carefully towards Hunydd, her mare, thinking to signal to the others as soon as she could catch their attention. She did not dare to take her eyes off the hart lest he should disappear. She whispered Caradawc's name, but he did not look up. There was no doubt that the hart was aware of her. His eyes never left her own and his whole body was poised for flight.
When she reached the mare she hesitated, and a sly thought came to her. How beautiful it would be to bring him down herself: to show Caradawc – no, Goreu – that she was no simpering maiden to be put upon, but a strong and independent woman who could provide for herself if need be. She would bring the carcase to the betrothal feast as gift to her beloved – as proof that she would bring worthy blood into the family.
Silently she mounted Hunydd, the lovely creature responding at once to her mistress's firm but gentle guidance. Carefully she checked the arrows in her quiver, and the bow of red yew resting on her saddle. Around her, as though frozen, the scene remained the same, her companions talking and eating, the dogs sleeping, the prince staring at his boot, his thoughts far, far away . . .
But the hart waited no longer. He turned his handsome head and slipped away into the shadows. Hunydd and Viviane followed. Always in sight, but just out of range, the creature moved so gracefully that hardly a twig snapped, barely a branch was pushed aside. She knew he could have moved more swiftly, but it seemed as though he was playing with her. Time and again he looked back as if to be sure she was following. Each time their eyes met she fancied she detected challenge and mockery. She forgot the hunting party; she forgot Caradawc. There was only one thing in her life and that was to bring down this arrogant animal.
At last he paused within range, and she lifted her bow and let fly the slender feathered arrows, one after the other. But each fell short, or to the left or right. She could not believe it! She was justly proud of her skill with the bow and the target seemed an easy one. How could she have missed? The hart stared at her calmly, unafraid.
She urged Hunydd to go faster, but the hart sensed the change of pace and fled even more fleetly from her. The forest became thicker, darker, wilder. Branches nearly knocked her from the saddle, gouged a shallow cut along the flank of the mare. Normally Viviane would have stopped at this injury, but now she could think of nothing but the creature ahead of her, and how much she wanted . . . no, how much she needed to bring it down. More than once it paused within range, and more than once an arrow that left her bow true turned falsely aside before it reached its mark.
It was Hunydd who first sensed enchantment – and refused to go further no matter how hard her mistress drove her on.
Impatiently Viviane slid from her back and pursued the creature on foot, caring nothing that the forest was full of wild boars, and that the hart itself was fiercely antlered.
The forest grew darker and so thick that the young woman could scarcely force her way through. Brambles scratched her bare ankles and arms, and tore at her hunting tunic. The thick coil of copper-red hair, once so neatly piled that it resembled a crown, was now loosened by a passing branch and tumbled round her shoulders and down her back. She pushed it from her face, scarcely aware of what was happening to her. The animal was out of sight but she was following the sound of it. All that she could think of was that she must see it again . . . that she must face it . . . that she must look into its eyes . . .
Suddenly she was alone in a terrible silence. She stood still, like an animal herself, her head tilted, listening, her nostrils sniffing the air. But her prey had vanished as mysteriously as it had come.
For a long while she stood there, catching her breath, trembling with the strain of the pursuit, at first not even considering her plight, so far from her companions, so deep inside the forest. But gradually as she rested, she became more aware of her predicament. She put an ear to the ground, hoping to catch the vibrations of the other horses, or perhaps of her faithful Hunydd coming to look for her. But there was no sound – except occasionally the soft rustle of a leaf falling from a tree.
Copyright © 1985, 2000, Moyra Caldecott
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews