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In the second book of Kate Elliott’s Novels of the Jaran, Tess Soerensen is pulled between two powerful men—her brother and her husband—and their competing revolutions
On the planet Rhui, the nomadic tribes of the jaran are uniting the settled cities of their homeland one by one. Their charismatic leader, Ilya Bakhtiian, has his loyal wife by his side, but there is something about her he doesn’t know: Tess Soerensen is a human. And not just any human—back home, her brother, Charles, led an unsuccessful revolt against the all-powerful Chapalii empire. Even though Charles was later made a duke in the Chapalii system, his revolutionary bent has not faded, and he is traveling to Rhui to locate Tess and uncover precious information about a past insurgency. Charles’s insistence that Tess join him is as strong as Ilya’s reluctance to part with his beloved wife—and neither considers that Tess may have her own plans for the future. As three fiercely independent spirits struggle for a solution, the fates of both the human race and the jaran hang in the balance. An Earthly Crown is the second volume of the Novels of the Jaran, which also include Jaran, His Conquering Sword, and The Law of Becoming.
About the Author
She likes to play sports more than she likes to watch them; right now, her sport of choice is outrigger canoe paddling. Her spouse has a much more interesting job than she does, with the added benefit that they had to move to Hawaii for his work; thus the outrigger canoes. They also have a schnauzer (a.k.a. the Schnazghul).
Read an Excerpt
An Earthly Crown
A Novel of the Jaran
By Kate Elliott
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1993 Katrina Elliott
All rights reserved.
"Look here my boys, see what a world of ground
Lies westward from the midst of Cancer's line,
Unto the rising of this earthly globe,
Whereas the sun declining from our sight, Begins the day with our antipodes ...
And from th'Antartique Pole, eastward behold
As much more land, which never was descried,
Wherein are rocks of pearl, that shine as bright
As all the lamps that beautify the sky,
And shall I die and this unconquered?"
In the hush of audience and air alike, Diana moved quietly around to the back of the second balcony to watch the final minutes of the Company's final performance on Earth. Tamburlaine the Great. Who, from a Scythian Shepheard by his rare and wonderful Conquests became a most puissant and mighty Monarch, And (for his tyranny, and terror in War) was termed, The Scourge of God. Divided into two Tragical Discourses. Somehow, the two plays seemed ironically appropriate for a repertory company that was about to leave the civilized worlds and spend a year on the last planet in known space where humans still lived in ignorance of their space-faring brothers and sisters.
Next week the entire Company, together with Charles Soerensen and his party, would board a spaceliner that would take them to the Delta Pavonis system and the Interdicted world, Rhui. Owen and Ginny had founded the Bharentous Repertory Company in order to give themselves room to experiment with the theater they loved. This would be their greatest experiment fulfilled: bringing theater to unlettered savages who had not the slightest sheen of civilization to pollute their first experience of drama.
Amyras knelt before his dying father Tamburlaine. "Heavens witness me, with what a broken heart And damned spirit I ascend this seat ..."
Diana sighed. Hal always overplayed this part, doubtless as revenge against his parents. But it didn't matter. Gwyn played Tamburlaine so very finely that she never tired of watching him. She leaned her arms along the wood railing that set off the back row of seats from the balcony aisle and watched as Zenocrate's transparent hearse was rolled in. Tamburlaine's final speech: she let herself fall into it.
"Now eyes, enjoy thy latest benefit ...For Tamburlaine, the Scourge of God must die." He died. Tears wet Diana's cheeks. Another set of arms slid onto the railing and, startled, she glanced to that side.
The man standing there smiled at her. He looked familiar and, in any case, she recognized the kind of smile he was giving her. Men enough, and a few women, came to the Green Room to court a pretty, golden-haired ingénue.
Hal said Amyras's final lines. The play ended. The audience rose, applauding enthusiastically, as the players came forward to make their bows.
"Shouldn't you be up there?" asked the man casually.
"You're Marco Burckhardt!" exclaimed Diana. "I thought you looked familiar."
"Wit as well as beauty." Marco placed his right hand over his heart and bowed to her. "I hope my reputation has not preceded my name."
Diana laughed. " 'Come, Sir, you're our envoy—lead the way, and we'll precede.' And it's appropriate, too, you know. You've been on Rhui. You're coming with us, aren't you?"
"With Charles," he agreed. He looked out over the house, over to one of the boxes where a sandy-haired man of middle height stood applauding with his companions and the rest of the audience. As if he were just any other playgoer. Which, of course, he emphatically was not.
Marco swung his gaze back to Diana, and he smiled, deliberately, invitingly. "But now that I have met you, golden fair, I need no other inducement to travel so far."
Diana felt a little breathless. In his own way, Marco Burckhardt was a legend. "Is it true that you've explored most of the planet? Rhui, that is. All alone, and without any aids whatsoever? Not even a palm slate or a fletchette rifle or any modern weaponry? And by only the primitive transportation they have on planet? That you've almost been killed?"
Marco chuckled. "I do carry an emergency transmitter, but I've never used it. And this scar—" He took her hand and lifted it to touch, like a caress, the pale line that wrapped halfway around his neck. "You have soft skin," he murmured.
Diana traced the smooth line of the scar, the sun-roughened skin on either side, and then lowered her hand back to the railing. "Is that the only one?" she asked, a little disappointed. Beyond, on the stage, Gwyn and Anahita—Tamburlaine and Zenocrate—came forward to take their final bows. A few in the audience were already filtering out of their seats. Charles Soerensen and his companions had not moved, which surprised her, since most VIPs left immediately and by a side entrance otherwise reserved for cast and crew.
"Not the only one," said Marco, "but I can't show you the others in such a public place."
Diana smiled. "I'm almost convinced, but not quite. Is that the closest you've ever come to death?"
Marco looked away from her, not into the distance, precisely, but at the stage, at Gwyn, in his armor and holding spear and sword, the Scythian shepherd turned conqueror. "No. I could run faster than the people chasing me, that time. The time I came closest to death, there was neither room nor opportunity to run. Did the Company deliberately choose this play as their final performance?"
"What do you mean?" Gwyn and Anahita retreated into the wings, and the audience broke off their applause and burst into a stream of talk and movement. A few young men had rushed down to the stage, to try to bully or plead their way into the back, to court Anahita and Quinn and Oriana—and herself, of course—and a few to court Hyacinth. In his box, Charles Soerensen was entertaining visitors, as if he had the knack of turning any space into a sort of political Green Room. Conversation flowed over and around Diana and Marco, broken into snippets and phrases and abrupt scenes.
"—there just aren't many actors who can make the change from the vids to the theater successfully, though I'll admit you're right about Gwyn Jones. He was superb. But take their Zenocrate. Just a little overdone all around. I suppose they took her on for the publicity—"
"—did you see Charles Soerensen? No, there, you fool. You didn't know he'd be at the performance tonight? It was all over the net—"
"—and Rico was in a rare fury, too, when he discovered the two of them kissing backstage. Imagine, he'd been boasting for the last year that he'd bed her, but nothing came of it. And then it turns out that his sister has been sleeping with her all along."
Diana laughed, and then clapped a hand over her mouth, stifling it. Marco raised one eyebrow and shifted his shoulder so that the two young men—dressed in the gaudy gold-threaded robes that were the most recent fashion at the universities—could not see her past his body.
"It's all right," she murmured. "They won't recognize me without my stage makeup."
"—and what do you suppose Soerensen is up to now, eh? He got the Chapalii merchant house, and what a coup that was, too. Just like laughing in the faces of those damned chameleons. And now he's going off to that primitive world—what is it? Rhui, yes, that's it. Something's going on, I tell you. A man like Soerensen has deep plans. I'd wager my own children that we'll see some kind of action soon against the Empire."
"Is it true?" asked Diana, watching Marco as he tracked this last speaker with his gaze out the balcony exit.
"Is what true?"
"That Soerensen's sister is alive, and on Rhui."
His attention snapped back to her. "Where did you hear that?"
"Oh, we all know it. In the Company. Even after the Protocol Office made the official announcement of her death, Soerensen never confirmed it or denied it. And he never adopted a new heir. Isn't that his right, by Chapalii law? And anyway, why else would Soerensen let us travel to Rhui? He took so much trouble to restrict the planet from all outside contact to begin with. And why would he come along with us? Really, you must give us some credit for intelligence."
"Infinite credit, fair one. It sits beside your infinite beauty."
"Can beauty be infinite?"
"Only in Keats. What else have you heard?"
"About the sister? Nothing. About Rhui—well, we're going to a city called Jeds, first. Soerensen styles himself Prince there, so we'll be under his protection. Not that any of the natives will know where we're really from. After some time there, then there's a chance we'll be going out into the bush, into the really primitive areas. Owen says that we might be traveling with nomads. Doesn't that sound romantic?"
Marco looked amused. "You aren't scared, going off like this to be thrown in among savages? With no modern weaponry to protect yourself?"
"Certainly not. This is the most exciting thing I've ever done. I've never had a moment's danger in my life. I auditioned for the Company because I loved the risks Owen and Ginny were taking with theater, and with the traditions of theater. And this! Well, I suppose Jeds will be much like any city, only dirtier and primitive. But taking the theater out to these barbarian nomads—that's going to be a real adventure!" She felt flushed, and she knew she was declaiming. But what did it matter? Non-actors always seemed to expect her to talk that way offstage as well as on, and it was true how she felt, and she felt it so deeply.
Marco watched her, looking, perhaps, a little wistful. "I wish I'd known you when Charles and I started all this," he said softly. "I think you would have come with me, the first of us to set foot on Rhui."
She stared, entranced by the green of his eyes. "I would have," she said, sure that at this moment it was true. Though she knew he must be as old as her biological father, he did not look ten years older than her, an attractive man made handsome as much by the suppressed air of wildness about him as by any pretensions to beauty. A man who knew adventure, who knew real danger, who had felt death close at hand and looked it in the face. Her own life had been so—safe.
"Goddess, you're young," he said, and broke the spell.
Diana blushed, but she chuckled. "That's put me in my place." She laid a hand on the railing, a self-conscious pose, and looked down from this great height onto the stage. "Oh. That's what you meant, isn't it? About choosing these plays for our farewell performance. Tamburlaine was a nomad. Do you suppose the nomads we're going to travel with have a Tamburlaine among them?"
She said it lightly, but Marco's lips pressed together, and his gaze shifted from her down to the distant figure that was Charles Soerensen. Soerensen was speaking easily with several people that even from this height Diana recognized, the Director of the Royal Academy, the prime minister of the Eurasian States, a respected vid journalist, the assistant stage manager, an usher—he was a university student majoring in xenobotany—who had once made a pass at her, and one of the clerks from the box office who had brought her two children to meet The Great Man. A sudden swirl of movement in the box steadied and stilled to reveal one of the tall, thin alien Chapalii. The creature bowed to Soerensen, offering him the delicate crystal wand in which the Chapalii conveyed important messages from one noble to another.
"I must go," said Marco. "May I escort you down?" He offered her his elbow, and Diana placed her fingers on his sleeve. The contact overwhelmed her, and she could suddenly think of nothing to say. Walking this close to him, down the carpeted stairwell that led to the lobby, she could not imagine why he should be interested in her at all, except, of course, that she was young, pretty, and blonde. This man had explored a wild and dangerous world, alone most of the time, and he was the confidant and right hand of the most important human alive.
"Shall I introduce you?" Marco asked suddenly, and too late Diana realized she was being steered to the box from which Charles Soerensen had watched the play.
How could she refuse? She calmed her suddenly erratic breathing by force of habit and let him lead her there.
A cluster of people walked toward them down the corridor. A moment later they were swept into the retinue.
"There you are, Marco," said Soerensen. He held the crystal wand in his left hand. It shimmered and glinted under the hall lights.
"Charles, I've brought one of the actors to meet you. This is Diana Brooke-Holt, of the repertory company."
"Ah." Soerensen stopped. "M. Brooke-Holt. I'm honored to meet you." He looked ordinary enough, but his stare was intense: Diana felt as if she were being recorded, measured, and filed away against future need.
However much she wanted to collapse into a gibbering heap, she knew how to present a collected exterior. She extended her right hand, and he shook it. "The honor is mine," she said, careful to give the words no earth-shattering sentiment, only simple politeness.
"You played Zabina, did you not?" he asked.
"She comes to a rather bloody end."
Diana chuckled. "Yes, she does, poor thing. But I suppose that I've always felt more sorry for Zenocrate."
He looked suddenly and acutely interested. "Why is that?"
"Because once Tamburlaine had marked her out as his, she didn't really have much choice but to fall in love with him, did she? Not that he coerced her as much as—" She shrugged, and was abruptly aware that both Soerensen and Marco regarded her intently, as if she were revealing some long-sought-after secret to them. She faltered, realizing that the entire retinue had stopped to listen, some with polite interest, some with no interest at all, but none with the piercing attention of the two men. With an effort, she gathered together the shredding fabric of her self-confidence and drew herself up. "A man like that would be hard to resist," she finished, with dramatic flourish.
"Bravo," said Marco, sotto voce.
Soerensen smiled. "But I particularly enjoyed your performance as Grusha in the Brecht play. I look forward to seeing what Owen and Ginny come up with for their next experiment. If you'll excuse me." He nodded, collected the attention of his retinue with unconscious ease, and went on his way.
Marco lingered. "I must go," he said again, although he made no move to follow the others.
"I must, too," she replied. "Really."
"I'll see you on the ship, perhaps."
"Oh, we'll be rehearsing the whole way out. Owen and Ginny are rather dragons about that, when they're developing new material."
"Then in Jeds."
She smiled and finally disengaged her fingers from his elbow. "If there's time."
"In Jeds? Believe me, you'll have plenty of time in Jeds."
"For what? Sight-seeing, I suppose. I'm bringing a journal with me, real paper, bound, and pen and ink, to write down what I see."
"Pen and ink?"
"Rhui is an interdicted world. What isn't there already, we aren't to bring."
"Golden fair, you astonish me." He took her hand in his and bent to kiss it, his lips lingering longer on her skin than was, perhaps, warranted by the briefness of their acquaintance.
Diana withdrew her hand from his grasp and blew him a kiss as she retreated through one of the double doors that led into the house. " 'And if thou lovest me, think no more of it.' "
Marco laughed, delighted. "Do all actors quote?" he called after her.
But she let the door swing and click shut behind her without answering him.
"Di! There you are." From the stage, Yomi called out to her. "Double time, girl. No loitering. Where've you been?"
Diana walked swiftly down the aisle and up the steps onto the stage.
"Ah hah!" said Yomi, coming to meet her. "Isn't that Marco Burckhardt standing up there in the VIP box? Watch your step, Di. He's a notorious womanizer, that one is. So they say. Don't dive into water if you can't swim."
"I can swim," retorted Diana, affronted.
"Certainly, my dear. Come on. The meeting's ready to start. Anahita is howling about the lighting for the curtain call. And she was furious that Gwyn got called out alone. As for Hal—"
Diana followed Yomi out stage right. She risked one final look back, to see Marco standing in the box that Soerensen and his party had inhabited. He leaned with his hands on the railing, watching her go.
Excerpted from An Earthly Crown by Kate Elliott. Copyright © 1993 Katrina Elliott. 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.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Great book very colorful could not put it down...I never liked science fiction untill i read one of Kate Elliott's books i fell in love with them....
This series is just so good--I can't even describe here what people are missing by not reading the whole series. This series was the main impetus behind my earning a graduate degree in creative writing (and teaching writing).