In the early days of the Roman Empire, the noble Etruscan civilization in Italy is waning, Vesi, a young Etruscan noblewoman, is violated by a renegade supernatural being. Outcast then from Etruria, Vesi bears Horatrim, a child who carries inexplicable knowledge and grows to manhood in only six years. But a savage Roman attack leaves Vesi unresponsive and Horatrim homeless and vulnerable, and he travels to Rome where his talents confound powerful businessman Propertius, who arranges to adopt Horatrim as a son, changing his name to Horatius.
And all the while his demon father is seeking him to kill him, for Horatius is a conduit through which the demon might be found and destroyed.
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|Publisher:||Tom Doherty Associates|
|File size:||389 KB|
About the Author
Since 1980 Morgan Llywelyn has created an entire body of work chronicling the Celts and Ireland, from the earliest times to the present day. Her critically acclaimed novels, both of history and of mythology, have been translated into many languages. She is an Irish citizen and lives in Dublin.
Since 1980, Morgan Llywelyn has created an entire body of work chronicling the Celts and Ireland, from the earliest times to the present day. Her critically acclaimed novels, both of history and of mythology, have been translated into many languages. Her books include 1916 and Bard: The Odyssey of the Irish. She is an Irish citizen and lives in Dublin.
MICHAEL SCOTT is one of Ireland's most prolific authors. His young adult bestseller THE ALCHEMYST, published in May 2007, spent sixteen weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.
Read an Excerpt
Beloved of the Gods
By Morgan Llywelyn, Michael Scott, David G. Hartwell
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2000 Morgan Llywelyn & Michael Scott
All rights reserved.
Silent, deadly, and immense, they came whispering out of the bright sky with talons extended. By their unnatural size and behavior he recognized the great white owls for what they were: minions of the dark goddess.
Their golden eyes burned with ferocity. Their silver claws sank into his scalp and the shoulders of his naked body, ripping his flesh. He bit down hard on the inside of his cheek until he tasted blood to keep himself from crying out. If she was watching from the Otherworld, he refused to grant her that satisfaction.
At some distance beyond the trees, he detected a faint but unmistakable glow that could only mean one thing: he must be approaching an area of Sacred Space.
He stumbled as the ground beneath his feet turned to a gelatinous morass, sucking him down, then solidified almost instantly to trap his feet and ankles. With the palm of his hand he struck the earth, spending a valuable portion of his remaining energy to break the surface tension and release himself.
As he pulled his legs free, he felt the draught of wings brush his face. He promptly threw himself back down and cradled his head with his arms. The trio of hunters swept in low above him, the susurration of their wings all the more menacing for its softness.
At the last instant he surged to his feet. With flailing fists he struck one of the birds in the chest, bringing it down in an explosion of feathers. Before it could hit the ground he snatched up the creature and held it to his face. The distinctive, musty odor flooded his mouth and throat as he sank his teeth into the owl's neck. Trying not to gag on the cloud of plumage, he clamped down hard and inhaled deeply.
The owl screeched and writhed.
He took another, even deeper breath, forcibly drawing into his lungs a thin vapor torn from the very core of his victim. He was ravenous for the creature's hia, the living spirit it contained.
As he inhaled its essence, the energy that animated the owl began to replenish his waning strength. But one breath was not enough, he must have more. The pursuit had been so long; he was so weary. ...
Sensing his intent, the owl redoubled its struggles. Its legs extended abnormally until they could reach around his torso and tear the flesh from his back in order to lay bare the spine, to seize and crush the vertebrae with its mighty talons. But he did not give it the chance. Opening his jaws, he twisted the bird's head to one side and snapped its neck with his bare hands.
Swiftly he sucked the last of the hia from the dying body, even as the creature shriveled and decomposed in his hands. Then with a cry of disgust he flung the liquefying object from him.
Drawing on his new strength he ran on, pushing his way through closely spaced ranks of sentinel trees. He had escaped the Otherworld, tearing through the fabric that separated it from the Earthworld only to find the earth itself conspiring against him. Could the dark goddess extend her reach so far?
As if in answer, branches twisted into skeletal limbs that clutched at him, holding him back. A coiling root emerged from the soil, catching his foot and sending him crashing to the ground. As he fell he was already wrapping his arms around his body and beginning to roll. If he gave up now the forest would claim him as its victim before his pursuers could.
At least he would have the small satisfaction of cheating her minions.
Lurching to his feet, he risked a glance backward. Thus he stood clearly revealed to his pursuers; a slender, swarthy man of somewhat less than average height, with a hooked nose and sensual lips. His eyes were almond shaped, his flesh fine-grained. But that flesh looked old, worn, almost as if it had long ago turned to parchment. And his eyes, rimmed around with scars, were very tired.
The remaining owls ghosted toward him on silent wings, banking sharply to clear the trees. Their pale plumage glimmered as they passed through patches of shade. To a casual observer they might have seemed beautiful.
But no normal owl would hunt during the day.
Fighting back fear — but not regret; no, never regret — he staggered on.
Sacred Space lay ahead. Once there he would be safe from their attack because no matter what form they took, these creatures were animated by hia. A hia might be the ghost of someone who had died, or the life force waiting to occupy a person as yet unborn. It could belong to an animal or a tree or a flower, for no life was possible without spirit. Nor were hia exclusive to the Earthworld; quite the contrary. In the Otherworld there were many spirits who would never manifest themselves in tangible bodies. But all hia had one limitation. Without invitation or very special powers they could not enter space consecrated to the gods.
No such restriction applied to the Ais, of course. If the goddess who was now his enemy chose, she could come after him herself, even into Sacred Space. He had no doubt that she was angry enough.
Why had she sent the owls instead?
He must recover and decide what to do next. He had to find sanctuary, if only for a little while.
As he burst from the forest, his thoughts were so firmly fixed on this goal that he reached the riverbank before he knew it. The muddy verge was treacherous. At his first step it slid away beneath his feet and plunged him headfirst into the Tiber. The icy shock drove the breath from his lungs and stole the warmth of hia energy from his body, leaving him weak again.
A powerful current battered him, dragging him away from the bank. Small round mouths lined with vicious teeth gaped just beneath the surface as ribbonlike eels fixed on his flesh. Pain seared up his legs. Frantically he fought to keep his balance while he pulled off the sucking eels. If he went under he would never resurface.
A whisper on the air warned him just in time. Turning from one battle to another, he struck the owl in midair and sent it spiraling down to the water. As it fell, the creature made a desperate effort to recapture its long-lost human shape. Swirling, melting, it presented a blurred image of a woman with the talons and snowy plumage of an owl and panicky golden eyes set in a human face. Embodied in this hybrid form the hia had neither the advantages of the owl nor the human.
With a terrific splash it fell into the river, the unforgiving waters swallowing its scream.
The eels were distracted from their original prey by the floundering of this new victim. Flowing away from him, they attacked the owl-thing before it could recover. They circled the dazed form, entwined themselves around its limbs, and dragged the hapless creature beneath the surface, where larger, darker creatures lurked.
Splashing wearily out of the river, he dragged himself up the bank on the far side. His breath was coming in sobs. The flesh of his legs was red from the cold and redder still from the blood pouring from scores of ragged wounds. The owls had torn his body and the eels had shredded his lower limbs. As he staggered on, drops of blood spattered the soil.
Deep in the earth something shifted, as his blood excited ancient memories. The banks of the sentient rivers throbbed with somnolent life, which normally required great amounts of blood and passion to rouse it to full consciousness. But this blood was different; vibrant with spiritual energy and fragrant with the scent of the Otherworld.
A shudder ran through the ground like the first tremor of a quake.
When he had dragged himself to the top of the rise he saw Sacred Space just ahead. He narrowed his eyes to call upon the weary remnants of his Otherworld sight for a better look. The sanctuary's glow was blurred, its holy radiance not fully developed. Consecration of the templum was not complete then. But that did not matter. He would be safe enough there for as long as he needed.
He had only moments left. He could feel the ground beneath his feet moving and shifting, rippling in long, slow waves. The air began to tremble as before a storm. Who knew what ancient madness lurked in the earth in this place?
Caution dictated that he advance warily; there were undoubtedly traps in the lush landscape ahead of him. But there was no time for caution. Summoning the last of his energy, he broke into a shambling run toward the templum while behind him the earth began to rise in a great, curling wave. A few steps, just a few more ...
He had almost reached safety when the last of the owls struck him. It swooped out of the sky to sink triumphant talons deep into his flesh.
His cry of pain was swallowed as he pitched forward and fell headlong to the ground.CHAPTER 2
Beyond the bend of the river, Vesi strolled in the sunshine. She loved being out under the bright blue sky. Let others shelter themselves in houses, in cities. Above all things she enjoyed unfettered freedom.
Suddenly she detected a change in the atmosphere. An unexpected chill, though the day was warm; a brief bitterness on the wind, overriding the perfume of ripening grapes. Vesi shivered in spite of herself, then laughed off the sensation. She would not let anything spoil her mood on this radiant late summer day.
Tossing back hair the color of a moonless midnight, the girl closed her eyes. Wide-set eyes, dark and bright as onyx. Her sheer peplos was dyed with saffron, complementing her olive complexion. A crimson scarf was draped across her shoulders. Strings of tiny silver bells were laced around her throat and wrists, making music with her slightest movement.
The bells tinkled as she breathed deeply, savoring the sweetness of the air. Without visual distraction her other senses came to the fore. She measured the weight of the wind on her shoulders, as light as a lover's caress, and turned her face to welcome its breath. Warm again. The momentary cold had been just an aberration. Thankfully, the girl abandoned herself to the delights of the season.
With a delicate sniff she identified the smells of summer one by one. Dew-drenched grass, sun-warmed earth, flowers in the meadow, droppings of sheep and scat of fox, the odor of a young bullock grazing not far away, and an old wolf bitch tardily coming into season. Underlying these was the verdant scent of trees at the edge of the forest and the fecund mud of the nearby river.
A hundred fragrances assailed Vesi's nostrils, each telling their story of life.
There was just one smell she did not recognize.
A faint but acrid tang still lay like a stain on the air. She curled her lip in distaste. How monstrous that something ugly should mar the otherwise perfect day! She would ignore it and surely it would go away.
Tilting her head, the young woman redirected her concentration to the natural music surrounding her. She could recognize sixty species of bird by their song, differentiating between those that were native to Etruria and those that merely visited the lush meadows on their way to the northern Darklands or south to the realm of Aegypt, the fabled Black Land.
One by one, Vesi sorted through various sounds until she found one she could not identify ... a distant, labored gasping, occasionally punctuated with a groan.
An injured wild boar perhaps. But no, this was no animal. Vesi knew all the animal voices. Perhaps she was hearing a member of one of the primitive tribes her people had dispossessed in claiming this land long ago.
Her forebears styled themselves the Rasne, the Silver People, although others referred to them simply as the Etruscans. In a time recalled only by storytellers they had moved into the territory between the rivers Magra and Rubicon. Eventually their control was total in an area bordered by the Arno on the north and the Apennines and Tiber to the east and south, extending as far as Latium. Force of arms and superior intellect made the land theirs. None had been able to stand against them, neither the indigenous inhabitants nor the subhuman beasts who infested the mountain wildernesses.
Not all the vanquished had left the land. Those who remained, in the high mountains and primeval forests, were in the process of creating legends. Tales of the Silver People.
Opening her eyes, Vesi blinked against the bright sunlight, then shaded her face with both hands and gazed toward the south.
The bitter smell and gasping breath both seemed to emanate from the site of the incomplete spura, the Rasne city being built beyond the bend of the river. But the place was uninhabited at the moment. Although the ground had been cleared and the purtani, the priests, had blessed the boundaries, the final sacrifices had yet to be made. Vesi knew that none of the Rasne would break the taboo and enter unhallowed Sacred Space without being accompanied by a purtan.
Yet someone was there.
As she stood, puzzled, the wind changed, carrying to her the unmistakable odor of fresh blood.
Drawing her long-bladed knife from its tooled leather sheath, Vesi glided silently forward. Since earliest childhood she had loved to play at hunting, like a boy — to the despair of her mother, who wanted her daughter to be feminine and delicate. Rasne women were works of art.
But Vesi had no desire to be a work of art. Such a static image bored her. Life was to be lived. She thrilled to the prospect of adventures. Now her callused bare feet slid through the long grass, testing every step before trusting her weight. One could never be too cautious. A patch of quicksand might be anywhere. Spurae were sometimes sited to take advantage of such natural defenses.
She drew another questing breath. The blood-smell was stronger now, identifiably human but disgustingly tainted with something foul.
Another groan sounded. There was no mistaking the voice of a man in pain. Abandoning caution, the girl started forward just as a rising wind whipped her hair into her eyes. It might have been an omen; the Rasne believed the gods spoke to them in such signs and portents. The girl paused long enough to take a gleaming silver fillet from the leather purse she wore at her waist She settled the band firmly on her brow to hold her hair in place.
Then she began to run.
Since none of her people would have ventured on their own into the unfinished spura, she assumed the groaning man must belong to one of the native tribes. Or, more dangerously, be a hawk-faced Roman from Latium, an advance scout for an army hoping to extend Rome's territory. Such raiders had become a constant threat. Once the Etruscans had feared no one, dominating not only Etruria but much of Latium. With increasing prosperity their aggressive impulses had diminished however. The Rasne had become tired of war, tired of the casual butchery, the stink of the dead and the dying. They had taken their martial arts and turned them inward, using them to create rather than destroy, to build rather than pull down.
And now the jackals were gathering.
Vesi hefted the knife in her hand, her thumb caressing the hilt with its encrusted carnelians. But she did not hesitate. At the back of her mind was some romantic, childish notion of taking an injured Roman warrior prisoner at knife point and leading him home in triumph. No Rasne woman had ever done such a thing before.
She sprinted up a hill, then dropped flat at the crest so she would not be silhouetted against the sky. From this vantage point she could look down upon the spura spread out below like some child's toy.
The area had been cleared, foundations dug, drains installed, streets laid out. Each house, shop, and public building was already allocated a site that would contribute to the symmetry of the whole. Squares and rectangles were pegged with fluttering strips of pale cloth. Stone footings would be placed to support walls of sunbaked brick covered with tinted plaster. Courtyards and roofs would be tiled; murals would be painted on every available surface. Terra-cotta piping was stacked to one side, waiting to serve the fountains that would sparkle throughout the city.
The choicest site of all was reserved for the great templum at the center of the spura. Plinths would be placed at intervals along the approaching avenue; statues of the Ais would stand there, gazing down with blind eyes upon their people. But before this could happen, the entire area must be consecrated with blood and flesh and smoke. Then a city wall would be raised to protect Sacred Space and construction could begin in earnest.
Excerpted from Etruscans by Morgan Llywelyn, Michael Scott, David G. Hartwell. Copyright © 2000 Morgan Llywelyn & Michael Scott. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A book following a half-demon Etruscan, exiled with his mother. He is Horatrim, and he grows faster, jumps higher, and has more ancestors than you! (But ah, that heart of gold...) Trust me, it deserves the sarcasm. I swear, one of Horatrim's quotes is "Friends and family are the true treasures." Ahh, warms my silly little heart. The sheer banality of parts of this was daunting. And I didn't like the diction, and the characters all spoke in the exact same patterns, which was also the pattern of the narrating voice. (The frequency of the word "however" (always at the end of the sentence, always missing its comma) would have been amusing, if it wasn't so screamingly irritating.) But, it did give some fairly interesting information on the Etruscan civilization. Not enough to satisfy me, and definitely not enough to fully make up for the lack of actual writing skill. And I usually like Llywellyn, too. 3/10
Etruscans is a great result of the collaboration between Llywelyn and Scott. Vesi is raped by a demon. When her child Horatrim is born, he attains manhood in only 6 years! When Vesi is kidnapped and eventually possessed, Horatrim has to cross the river Styx and venture into the depths of the Netherworld to find her. But Horatrim's demon father is hunting for Horatrim. A demon's spawn is too dangerous to the demon to be allowed to live. This novel takes the reader from the Earthworld to the Otherworld to the Netherworld. We encounter humans, demons and gods. We see spirits beneficial, benign and also malicious. The authors do a fantastic job of making the environments tangible. Whether it's the streets and palaces of Rome or the plains of the Netherworld, I was able to clearly visualize the environs. Etruscans is a fantasy not soon forgotten!