The Way of Light (Magravandias Series #3) [NOOK Book]

Overview



The Third Book of The Magravandias Chronicles

The sudden death of the Emperor Leonid has plunged the empire of Magravandias into chaos. To preserve order, Valraven Palindrake, Dragon Lord of Caradore, reluctantly pledges his support to the young Crown Prince, Gastern.

Concerned for the fate of her adopted country, Varencienne Palindrake, Valraven's wife and Leonid's ...
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The Way of Light (Magravandias Series #3)

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Overview



The Third Book of The Magravandias Chronicles

The sudden death of the Emperor Leonid has plunged the empire of Magravandias into chaos. To preserve order, Valraven Palindrake, Dragon Lord of Caradore, reluctantly pledges his support to the young Crown Prince, Gastern.

Concerned for the fate of her adopted country, Varencienne Palindrake, Valraven's wife and Leonid's daughter, embarks on a perilous journey to Magrast to confer with her mother, the Empress Tatrini. But en route, she is captured by the dark magus Taropat and his student Shan, who hope to use her as a pawn in their own intricate game to revive three lost implements of power: the Dragon's Eye, the Dragon's Breath, and the Dragon's Claw.

As Magravandias descends toward a holocaust of bloodshed and warfare, a dark cabal of Firemages schemes in secret to engineer the coronation of their own chosen successor. And in Caradore, the twin children of Valraven Palindrake summon ancient magics to open the Way of Light and place a True King on the throne.

At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Full of vivid and complex storytelling, this richly imagined, humane novel concludes the saga of the Magravandian Empire that began with Sea Dragon Heir and The Crown of Silence. The old emperor's death gives shadowy religious and political cabals a chance to maneuver for power. At the same time, personal cravings and sexual desires agitate members of the empire's powerful families, while the rival dragon-gods who represent elements of nature contend through their human avatars. Valraven (aka Lord Palindrake), head of the family once allied with the sea dragons, must first decide whether he wants to become the True King; then he must prove that he is worthy. Valraven's wife, Varencienne, also finds her role changing in unpredictable ways. Readers uneasy about entering such an intricate tale so late, however, shouldn't hesitate. For one thing, the author has a gift for creating compelling characters, whose motives are far from straightforward. Situations that seem initially to be sword-and-sorcery cliches turn out to be anything but, as Valraven and company discover more layers of meaning in events and have to reinterpret their own actions. Magic here is neither simple nor safe but an effort to tinker with powers too big for human control. As Constantine makes abundantly clear, even people who wish to walk the path of light must wade through darkness, especially as they try to escape narrow preconceptions. For all its strife, this is an affirmative book. Agent, Robert Kirby. (Jan. 10) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Full of vivid and complex storytelling, this richly imagined, humane novel concludes the saga of the Magravandian Empire that began with Sea Dragon Heir and The Crown of Silence. The old emperor's death gives shadowy religious and political cabals a chance to maneuver for power. At the same time, personal cravings and sexual desires agitate members of the empire's powerful families, while the rival dragon-gods who represent elements of nature contend through their human avatars. Valraven (aka Lord Palindrake), head of the family once allied with the sea dragons, must first decide whether he wants to become the True King; then he must prove that he is worthy. Valraven's wife, Varencienne, also finds her role changing in unpredictable ways. Readers uneasy about entering such an intricate tale so late, however, shouldn't hesitate. For one thing, the author has a gift for creating compelling characters, whose motives are far from straightforward. Situations that seem initially to be sword-and-sorcery cliches turn out to be anything but, as Valraven and company discover more layers of meaning in events and have to reinterpret their own actions. Magic here is neither simple nor safe but an effort to tinker with powers too big for human control. As Constantine makes abundantly clear, even people who wish to walk the path of light must wade through darkness, especially as they try to escape narrow preconceptions. For all its strife, this is an affirmative book. Agent, Robert Kirby. (Jan. 10) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
With the unexpected death of the Emperor Leonid, the Magravandian Empire descends into chaos and mayhem as warring factions seek control. Against this backdrop, the conquered heirs of Caradore struggle to survive and to wrest their ancient heritage from those who would lay claim to the power of the sea dragons. Constantine's conclusion to her trilogy (Sea Dragon Heir, The Crown of Silence) provides a satisfying wrap-up to a story of forbidden love, broken loyalties, and magic. Her sensual prose should appeal to fans of Tanith Lee and Terry Goodkind. A good addition, along with its series predecessors, to most fantasy collections. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Solid end to Constantine's Chronicles of the Magravandian Empire. The British author's many iconic publicity photos on the Web show a leaning toward dreamladen Pre-Raphaelite costumery for her writing. In Sea Dragon Heir (2000), she told of the fall of Caradore, realm of the sea-dragon Foy, and the rise of the fire god Magradore. Centuries later, the ruling Palindrakes of Caradore, led by Valraven and his incestuous twin sister Pharinet, serve Leonid II. Pharinet, however, joins the Sisterhood of the Dragon and raises Foy from the ocean depths. The Crown of Silence (2001), the breadbasket of the trilogy, always a difficult area in which to maintain suspense before the wrap-up, brought onstage 14-year-old Shan, whose village is destroyed and he left beaten and a victim of homosexual rape. Shan is adopted by the ancient magus Taropat, also known as Khaster Leckery, the vengeful half-human brother-in-law of Valraven Palindrake. Taropat teaches Shan both magic and worldly cunning and shapes him for recovery of the Crown of Silence and then the overthrow the hated Magravand king. Now, in The Way of Light, the tormented Valraven grows ever more deeply complex, as do all characters, who seem to think and weigh matters on their own, below the flow of Constantine's rich dialogue. Recovery of the Crown of Silence remains the goal, with many on the quest, including Shan, and Khaster's brother Merlan, and Almorante, the mystically educated son of Tatrini of the Malagashes. Says Tatrini about this holy artifact recovered from Lake Pancanara: "[It] has remained inaccessible for centuries, [and,] recovered from the most mystical site in our country at this time of flux, will possess magicalproperties . . . We must have it . . . Our family is emperor. Our blood is empire." Even Valraven and Pharinet hope to save Caradore with the Crown, and it's the Dragon Daughters who at last fill Valraven with the brilliant green radiance of Foy. Trance-inducing.
From the Publisher

“A story redolent of myth, magic, and political intrigue.”—Booklist

“Storm Constantine is a myth-making 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!”—Neil Gaiman

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781429972383
  • Publisher: Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC
  • Publication date: 1/4/2003
  • Series: Magravandias Series , #3
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 496
  • Sales rank: 908,530
  • File size: 2 MB

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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Read an Excerpt


I


THE PRISONER OF CAWMONEL


Rain whipped down like furious tears upon a landscape of bleak curving moors, where spines of rock humped out of the earth, resembling through the deluge enormous petrified reptiles. Winter. Darkness. Arthritic trees bent away from the wind. Along the wide flat road a horse came: galloping, galloping. The rider's coat flew out sodden behind him. His hair was a drenched rag. The horse's nostrils flared wide, as if it struggled to gasp the last of its breath. Its neck worked madly, the legs a blur, throwing up a glutinous spray of mud. And ahead, the great cyclopean edifice reared like a giant's curse against the darkness: too dense a black, too severe.
There were lights in the fortress, dim pale gleams barely seen through the rain. The windows were narrow, high up and there were few of them. The only entrance was via a moat, and a looming portcullis, held up on gargantuan chains, from which hoary beards of lichen hung down. The rider brought his exhausted mount to a halt before it. The animal pranced and reared, slipped. Its limbs shuddered.
"Aye!" called the rider. "Guardsmen, open the gates!"
He was not sure his voice could be heard through the tumult, but he felt eyes upon him. They would not recognize him, not yet. A face appeared at a window, which was pushed out against the elements.
"Who hails?"
"General Palindrake, Dragon Lord of the Splendifers. Give me entrance. I have the emperor's seal."
There was a pause, as if a host of watchers clustered at the narrow pane, looking down. What would Lord Valraven Palindrake want here in this wilderness?
There was no spoken response, but presently, the chains began to scream and slowly the portcullis descended. Below it, spears of rain stabbed the black water of the moat. A stench of bogs arose from it, perhaps tainted by waste from the fortress.
Valraven rode over the soaked boards of the bridge. His horse's head hung low now, for his hands were slack upon the reins. He passed beneath the entrance arch and was then enfolded by the rectangle of the fortress. Rain came down into the yard beyond, but somehow less fiercely. Men rushed about, wearing waterproof capes and enveloping hats. Some ran forward. Valraven dismounted and handed his mount into their care.
A captain hurried down the steps on the inside of the wall, from the guardhouse above the gate. His coat was dry, indicating he had only recently put it on. He looked flustered and his formal bow was jerky. "Lord Palindrake, you were not expected."
"No," said Valraven. "Take me inside."
"At once," said the captain. "Welcome to Cawmonel, my lord."
They crossed the yard and entered the main building opposite. Cawmonel Castle had once been the seat of a now extinct Magravandian ducal family. It had become something else. Not a prison, exactly, because there were no dank cells, no dungeons that were used. It was termed a secure house. Luxurious perhaps, in comparison to the Skiterings, the imperial jail in Magrast, but a prison nonetheless. Troublesome people were put there. People who had done nothing wrong, particularly, but who might do. People who, for various reasons (among them royal connections), could not be thrown into the Skiterings. Cawmonel was not that far from civilization: Magrast was only a few hours' ride away. Yet standing in that courtyard, Valraven felt as if he'd left the world he knew behind and had come to a barbaric corner of the country. Perhaps this was because there were no towns nearby, and the only other inhabitants of the landscape were tough little sheep and the small, dark people who tended them.
Inside the black walls, a semblance of noble life remained. There were tapestries upon the walls, dark red rugs underfoot. A fire burned in the hallway, in a hearth that stretched fifteen feet up the wall. Heat blasted out of it. Valraven took off his coat and handed it to the servant who had materialized at his side. His long black hair stuck to his face, his shoulders.
The captain bowed again. "I'm Sanchis, my lord, overseer of this establishment. How may I help you?"
What he really wanted to ask was: what in Madragore's name are you doing here? But that would have been impolite.
"I am here to interview one of your guests," said Valraven.
The captain looked puzzled, but nodded. "Of course." A pause. "Might I ask who?"
"Tayven Hirantel," said Valraven. "He is here, isn't he?"
Sanchis appeared embarrassed now. No one was supposed to know Hirantel was there, not even the Dragon Lord. Eventually, he said, "Yes. Would you care for a hot meal, or a bath, before you interview him?"
"Take me to him at once. You can have your people bring food to me there."
"Very well, my lord. This way."
Sanchis led Valraven up the wide stone stairway, and along a maze of corridors. The walls were raw black stone and looked as if they should have been studded with reeking torches, but instead, oil lamps flickered mildly against the stone. There were many closed doors, once family bedrooms perhaps, but now ornate cells. Valraven had no idea who else might be secreted behind them. People often disappeared from court.
Sanchis jogged up another flight of stairs and turned into a passage at the top. Here, a pair of guards was stationed before a heavy wooden door. They spotted Sanchis and stood hurriedly to attention, staring straight ahead. "Unlock the door," Sanchis said to them. The guards glanced at Valraven curiously, then one of them took a key from a jangling bunch at his belt and applied it to the lock. The door creaked open, just a small way. The guard held his arm across it, as if some maddened beast inside might try to make a run for it.
"You may leave me now," said Valraven "I would like a dinner of roasted fowl, with vegetables. A flagon of wine, and some cake."
Sanchis looked uncertain, perhaps thinking Valraven was mocking him. He ducked his head. "It will be attended to, my lord."
"Excuse me," Valraven said politely to the guards, who stood to the side. He walked between them and pushed the door wide.
There was a flurry of movement as a gang of pages fled from the threshold. Valraven stepped over it. The room beyond was large, sumptuous, if rather archaic in its decor. It was lit by the glow of a fire and two mellow oil lamps. A man in his late twenties stood stooped beside a table, as if frozen in the act of rising from his seat. He was dressed in loose-fitting tunic and trousers of soft gray wool--plain but not homely. His long pale hair was confined at his neck, tendrils of it falling free to frame his face. That face had beguiled princes and kings. It was older now and had lost the soft prettiness of youth, but Tayven Hirantel was still beautiful, his eyes almond shaped and dark, his cheekbones high. He had the look of a cornered animal. "Good evening, Tayven," Valraven said. "I trust you are well."
Tayven said nothing, perhaps silenced by shock.
Valraven closed the door behind him. He glanced at the wide-eyed young servants, crouched like kittens, half terrified, half fascinated, against the furniture. "Shoo!" he said to them and they ran.
Tayven straightened up. "Are you here to kill me?" he asked.
Valraven sauntered forward. "Why would you think that?"
"Who sent you?"
"Does someone have to send me here?"
Tayven frowned. "No, but…"
"No one sent me," Valraven said. "I'm here of my own volition. The empress has taken great pains to conceal you, but my intelligence network is second to none. I'm here to learn why you are here."
Tayven sat down. "I'm a prisoner, that's all there is to it. I presume my family has paid dearly to keep me alive."
"I don't think so. No one is supposed to know you are here. How did you get here?"
"Under armed guard."
"You'll have to be more specific. Who took you into custody? Where did it happen?"
Tayven did not answer. Valraven could tell he was wondering how much he should say and how truthful he should be.
Valraven sat down at the table opposite him. "Very well. I will make an offering first. Merlan Leckery sent word to me from Mewt that you had failed to keep an appointment with him and Lord Maycarpe. When, after a few days, they realized you had really gone missing, Maycarpe started asking questions backed by coin."
Tayven uttered a caustic laugh. "Is that so? I'd believed Maycarpe was involved in it."
"That's doubtful," Valraven said. "Maycarpe and Merlan managed to discover you'd been taken against your will by unidentified men. More than that was impossible to learn. All avenues of inquiry dried up, but somewhere along the way, the name of the Empress Tatrini was whispered. Merlan wasn't sure about this connection, but asked me to help look for you. It has taken me valuable time to do so, and has cost me dear. Mouths were tightly shut, almost beyond price. Eventually, my inquiries become enough of an irritant for Tatrini to tell me personally of your whereabouts. She gave me a feasible reason for your arrest. Unfortunately, because of the clandestine nature of your work in Cos some years ago for Prince Almorante, you are still under suspicion of the attempted assassination of Prince Bayard. Tatrini could give me no good reason for the secrecy, though, or why she hasn't sent you to trial. I guessed she believed she could benefit from having you in her clutches and she virtually confirmed as much, without actually saying so. You must know something of use to her. Emperor Leonid is dying, and this is a sensitive time in Magrast. No one knows what will happen when he goes."
"His sons will fight for the crown," Tayven said. "That is what will happen and everyone knows it."
"Where do your allegiances lie nowadays?"
Tayven pulled a sour face. "With none of them. When I was younger, I was naive enough to go along with Almorante's schemes. After I was left for dead in Cos, I abandoned my Magravandian heritage. Leonid is not my emperor, nor will any of his sons ever be."
"Then what does Tatrini want with you?" Valraven put his head to one side. "You are here for a reason, Tayven. Never think otherwise."
Tayven gestured with one hand. "Perhaps they think I am still part of the game. But I'm not."
"Aren't you?"
Tayven glanced at Valraven furtively, an expression he quickly smothered.
Yes, Valraven thought, wonder now just how much Merlan has told me.
"You obviously think I'm still a player," Tayven said, "Otherwise you wouldn't be here. I don't believe you looked for me simply to oblige Merlan Leckery."
"Why not? Lord Maycarpe, as Magravandian governor in Mewt, is a man of great status. Merlan is his esteemed assistant. Perhaps they have good reason to fear you being a captive of the empress. You have powerful friends, Tayven, like it or not. I know you've been an agent of Maycarpe's for some years now. He found you in Cos when Almorante's people failed. I think he must have offered you the chance of revenge against those of the royal family for whom you bear grudges. Am I right?"
"Maycarpe is always careful with words. He would never promise such a thing. How could he, anyway? He will ally with whichever prince wins the crown. As will you."
Valraven laughed. "Tayven, you do me an injustice. I am sworn to Prince Gastern, the rightful inheritor."
"Then you are a fool, Lord Palindrake." Tayven got up, shoving his chair aside. He went to the fire, held out his hands to it. "There will be no winners, only survivors. I opted out of the game, but they've dragged me back. Why? I'm not that important. I was Almorante's spy, sent to warm the beds of those who might let interesting words drop from lust-slack lips. That was many years ago."
"And since, you have been close to the exiled Cossic king and his sister, Princess Helayna. The Malagashes would dearly like to get their paws on Helayna."
"Why would they bother? She barely has any troops since her brother accepted Tatrini's bait and went as her lapdog to reclaim his throne in Tarnax. Reclaim! What a joke. He is Tatrini's creature now. Cos is hers."
Valraven stroked his chin thoughtfully. "If this infighting you predicted occurs, Helayna might have more room for maneuver. Her support would still be valued by any of the young Malagash wolves. Should King Ashalan get a reasonable chance to fight for Cos's independence, I'm sure he'd still be prepared to try for it. He's not that tamed, Tayven. He's merely waiting, as are many."
"Not me."
"But you are in Maycarpe's employ. That's hardly not being involved."
Valraven could tell Tayven felt as if he were being backed into a corner. How much would it take to get him to talk? "What was the nature of your employment? What intelligence did you supply to Darris Maycarpe?"
"I was in Cos, part of the resistance, close to Ashalan and Helayna. Maycarpe wanted to keep abreast of what was going on."
"He hardly needed you for that. Ashalan was desperate for allies. He knew Maycarpe was a slippery fish, but he'd have still welcomed the alliance. I think you were rather more than a go-between. You did other work, didn't you? I think it involved talents other than those of a courtesan. Almorante knew of those talents, didn't he?"
"You have a fertile imagination," Tayven said, his back still turned. "I had my skills, which I learned from Almorante in Magrast and had to turn to good use to keep myself alive. Maycarpe paid well."
"You didn't need his money. You were sheltered by the Cossics, clearly held dear by Ashalan and Helayna. You can't fool me."
A knock came at the door and servants entered, bearing a meal on trays for the Dragon Lord. Valraven was silent as the servants puffed a sail of ice white cloth over the table and laid out the cutlery, arranging it carefully to please him. He was impressed the meal had arrived so quickly. The best restaurants in Magrast were not as prompt. Covered dishes were opened with reverence to reveal their treasures. Valraven's mouth watered as the savory scent of succulent roast fowl slathered in clove and ginger sauce wafted to his nose. Once the servants had bowed and departed, Valraven applied himself to his meal. "They keep you fed well," he said, in between mouthfuls. "I must dine here more often."
Tayven was watching him from beside the fire. "I would rather eat frugally, in possession of my freedom. What do you want from me?"
Valraven took a sip of deep red wine, holding it in his mouth, enjoying the bouquet. Sanchis had a good kitchen, no doubt of that. How fortunate to arrive in time for dinner. He swallowed. "I want the truth from you."
"There are many truths."
Valraven put down his goblet, turned it slowly upon the tablecloth. "Indeed, indeed. The one I'm interested in is what you really did for Darris Maycarpe, because I am convinced the reason why Tatrini brought you here lies in that truth. I tried to help you once before, Tayven. Merlan told you of that, didn't he? But I was too late. Circumstances differ now, and I am a different man, thanks partly to Merlan Leckery. I know he'll have made you aware of what happened to me in Caradore some years ago. See sense. You have only to gain from trusting me a little. We spoke briefly in Cos, remember? I have never doubted your importance."
Tayven said nothing for some time. Valraven ignored him and continued to eat. He let the silence drag on, sensed the gradual change in its mood. As he was wiping his mouth with a napkin, his plate wiped clean of sauce, Tayven came to sit opposite him again.
"The only currency I have is information," he said. "What exactly will I gain from speaking to you? Can I leave here with you?"
Valraven put down his napkin. "Unwise," he said. "You must be patient."
"Then what?"
Valraven pulled a plate bearing a thick slab of yellow cake toward him. Its vanilla scent reached toward him provocatively. How much Tayven had been like good food: a delight to the senses. People had wanted to gorge on him and they had. But the flavors, eventually, had become bitter. "Tatrini won't kill you. She'd have already done so if that was her plan. Has she spoken to you, or sent anyone else to do so?"
"No," Tayven replied. "I've seen no one, and have been given no reason for my imprisonment. I don't think the people here know anything." He glanced around the room. "I suspect that is the case with most of the guests in this place."
"Have you any suspicions as to the empress's true reason for bringing you here?"
The crackling of the fire was the only sound. Tayven stared at the table, his arms folded, pressed tightly against his chest. "I have been here for four weeks, three days. I believe that Tatrini will play me, in whatever manner she deems fit, once Leonid dies. She could use me to discredit Almorante, bring up the alleged assassination attempt on Prince Bayard again. She might even use me against Bayard, or Maycarpe. I don't know. I think I'm hanging on a fine thread, and my security is precarious at best. I don't want to be part of this. It doesn't concern me anymore."
Valraven reached out and took Tayven's chin in his hand, lifted his face. "Is it possible Tatrini knows what you did for Maycarpe?"
Tayven jerked away. "I have no idea. He may have told her himself for all I know."
"It would help you considerably if you'd confide in me."
"I have no proof of that. Tatrini might have sent you here. I'm not that stupid."
Valraven raised an eyebrow.
Tayven rested his chin on a bunched fist. "Very well. You might not like the answer, but Maycarpe employed me to find Khaster Leckery, Merlan's brother. He did not die in Cos as everyone believes."
Valraven kept his expression bland, but his mouth was dry as he spoke. "What interest did Maycarpe have in Khaster?"
"I cannot tell you that," Tayven said.
"Were you successful?" Valraven inquired.
Tayven stared at him for a few moments. "Yes," he said at last.
"Where is Khaster?"
"In Cos. Like me, he has cut himself off from the past. We have no contact, in case you were wondering."
"So, if he didn't die in battle as Bayard claims, what happened to him? Was he with you in Cos, with Ashalan?"
"No. He fled to Breeland and became a hermit. What more is there to say?"
"Quite a lot, I imagine. You found him in Breeland? Yet now he's in Cos? No longer a hermit then?"
"I found him in Breeland, yes. And I imagine he went to Cos to hide himself again. He is not the man you once knew. He hates you, Lord Palindrake, with every fiber of strength he possesses."
An idea was forming in Valraven's mind. Khaster, his own brother-in-law, hated him. To someone who wanted to curb the Dragon Lord's actions, an enemy of that intensity might be of use. Was this Tatrini's game? Khaster had fled his life, but Valraven knew him too well, despite what Tayven implied Khaster had become. Khaster would still yearn only to return home to Caradore. That would be the bait Tatrini would offer, Valraven was sure of it. That, and his own destruction, along with that of his sister, Pharinet, Khaster's wife, who'd been estranged from him long before his reported death. Valraven wondered whether he should warn Pharinet about this. "Do you think Tatrini could be in contact with Khaster?"
Tayven laughed loudly. "What? I hardly think so. Khaster detests the Malagashes more than I do."
"More than he hates me?"
Tayven was still grinning. "In about equal measure, I think. Don't worry. He won't ally with the empress to attack you. I told you, he's like me. He wants no part of the game. He certainly refused to play it Maycarpe's way. He's no use to any of the players, believe me."
It appeared feasible, yet Valraven detected an urgency beneath Tayven's practiced tone. It suggested Khaster was more useful to some people than Tayven was prepared to say. Tayven and Khaster had been lovers once. How much of what Valraven had heard tonight was true?
"So what will you give me?" Tayven said. "What are your plans for the future?"
"I have no doubt there will be unpleasant consequences to Leonid's death," Valraven replied evenly. "I support Prince Gastern, because of all of Leonid's sons, he is the least sly, self-serving or debauched. I cannot take you with me now, because I need to see how the land lies back in Magrast. You are safe for the moment, probably in the safest place there is. You must wait. I give you my word I will do what I can to aid you when the sword falls. But you have to realize I may find myself in conflict with the empress. You must be aware that she does not favor Gastern, but wants her beloved Bayard on the throne." Valraven could not speak of his private contingency plans. If all went bad, and Gastern fell, he intended to return to Caradore, taking as many of his men who were loyal as possible. He would try to hold Caradore against whichever of the princes won the crown. He had asked Tayven to trust him, but he could not bring himself to do likewise in return. "I will send some of my best men for you if things look tight," he said.
"That's not assurance enough," Tayven said. "You know it's not."
"It's all I can give you."
"Then you've lied to me, Lord Palindrake. I've gained nothing from our conversation." He sighed heavily through his nose, and when he spoke his words were slow, laden with hidden meaning. "You have no idea how much that disappoints me, no idea at all."
Valraven guessed then that Tayven had more to say. "Have you been testing me in some way?"
Tayven fixed him with a wide-eyed gaze. "I cannot speak," he said. "Not yet. If I were close to you--always--it would be of benefit to you, as then you would be near when the time was right. But I cannot speak yet."
"You're making no sense," Valraven said, making an effort to stem the irritation in his voice. "It's not enough to sway me. It sounds as if you're merely trying to fool me into getting you out of here."
Tayven blinked, considering, debating with himself. "It is said there is a true king, a divine king, waiting to shine upon the world," he said. "And he is not of the Malagash dynasty. You know my talents, Lord Palindrake. I have the far sight, the wyrding way. I know things that others do not."
Valraven held his breath for a moment. Here it was. He must play the moment right. He'd suspected this, of course. The instability that was sure to follow Leonid's death meant that factions other than the royal sons might fancy their chances at seizing control. Was Maycarpe part of a coup conspiracy? Could the Mewtish governor possibly view Tayven as a potential king, a beautiful figurehead for a clandestine movement of mages? He did not believe for one moment that Tayven had received some kind of divine message about the future. This was all a game, and its board was very much in the here and now.
Tayven obviously mistook Valraven's silence for disapproval. "I've shocked you," he said. "But can you honestly say you hadn't considered the matter yourself? Empires have risen and fallen throughout history. The Malagashes are weak now, because they are divided. They are corrupt. Gastern isn't a fine upright young prince, he's a neurotic ascetic, who'd be as bad an emperor as rakehellion Bayard. It is time for a change, don't you think? There--how is that for shocking?"
Valraven wasn't shocked at all. "I think only of my family's safety," he answered, somewhat stiffly, "and do what is best for them. I support Prince Gastern as the rightful heir."
"Rightful heir to what, though?" Tayven's voice took on a sly note. "The empire that wrested your family's power from them? Remember what Caradore once was."
Valraven smiled. "Ah, Tayven, we are not in bed together and I am not swooning in your embrace, ready to spill all. I see through your wiles." He stood up and bowed his head in mock respect. "I appreciate your candid words, and will do as I promised."
"Now you will run away from me, because I have touched a nerve," Tayven said. "You asked me to trust you. Why should I do that if you won't trust me in return?"
"Tell me who you believe the true king to be, then, and also who else shares your politics."
"I told you--I can't speak yet," Tayven replied. "And I certainly cannot confide in you until you trust me."
"We live in a cruel world," Valraven said, "and trust is a commodity that comes dear, because it is so rare."
"You know enough now to have me hanged," Tayven said. "I've trusted you more than a little."
"I am quite sure you could have been hanged five times over for other reasons," Valraven said. "You've told me nothing I hadn't guessed."
"Even about Khaster? You haven't asked me much about him. I thought it would interest you more. He is your brother-in-law, after all, and was once your closest friend. Will the Lady Pharinet be pleased to discover he still lives, do you suppose?"
Valraven realized these provocative words were because Tayven wanted to keep him there, but he'd heard enough for now. It wouldn't do any harm to leave Tayven hungry and curious. Cawmonel was only a few hours' ride from Magrast. Valraven could return there anytime. He would stay for the night, because the weather was so bad, but decided not to let Tayven know that. "I have urgent business in the city," he said. "I must leave now."
"You're easily offended," Tayven said.
"Not at all. Good night to you." He could feel Tayven's eyes on his back all the way to the door.

Copyright © 2002 by Storm Constantine
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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    powerful Chronicles of Magravandias fantasy tale

    The Emperor Leonid's death causes a succession crisis that sends the Magravandias Empire on the verge of civil war as conflicting elements squabble over the throne. The Firemages have their own puppet they want to succeed Leonid. Others believe opening the WAY OF LIGHT will point to the truth. Desperate to avoid genocide, Dragon Lord Valraven Palindrake reluctantly supports Prince Gastern to ascend to the crown. His decision delays a war, but the rivalry remains hot and any stumble will turn the empire into a sea of red. <P> Valraven's sea-wife Varencienne, worrying about the future of her adopted people, begins an odyssey to confer with her mother, Empress Tatrini, but fails to reach her destination. Instead dark magus, enemies of her husband, take her prisoner. These malevolent beings¿ plans do not care about body counts only the success of their endeavor. Valraven must find a way to save his spouse and his world even if he must go through the dark to obtain THE WAY OF THE LIGHT. <P> The final novel in Storm Constantine¿s powerful Chronicles of Magravandias fantasy trilogy, THE WAY OF THE LIGHT, is a thrilling tale. The story line stays true to its predecessors (SEA DRAGON HEIR and THE CROWN OF SILENCE) while allowing the key cast to grow as major events have impacted them. The vividly described story line is loaded with action that enables the reader to feel the empire is genuine, but it is the strong personality-driven cast that makes this tale and the other two books worth reading by epic fantasy fans. <P>Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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