In this electrifying finale to Kate Elliott’s Novels of the Jaran, the fight against the alien Chapalii empire comes to an exhilarating end.
Charles Soerensen is the human who dared to take on the powerful Chapalii empire. When his plot for a revolt failed, instead of being punished he received a high-ranking title and authority over a whole system of planets—but this did nothing to change his revolutionary inclinations. In this final book, the story of Tess, Ilya, and Charles comes to its stunning conclusion as new generations get involved in the intrigue, Earth’s exiled jaran people resurface, and the Chapalii overlords make one last, unexpected move.
The Law of Becoming is the final volume of the Novels of the Jaran, which begin with Jaran, An Earthly Crown, and His Conquering Sword.
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).
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The Law of Becoming
The Novels of the Jaran Volume 4
By Kate Elliott
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1994 Katrina Elliott
All rights reserved.
With the Jaran
Sonia had a new loom. She had strung the warp, taut vertical lines of coarse thread that striped the distant horizon and the lightening expanse of the sky. Seen through the warp, the rolling hills and endless grass of the southern plains did not look fractured but rather like a promise of the weaving to come. As she did with every new weaving, Sonia had sited the loom so that the weaver and the unadorned warp faced east, to catch the rising of Mother Sun.
Tess Soerensen watched as the sun rose, splintering its glory into the yarn. The grass turned gold. A wandering river, twisting and turning through the land like a child's careless loops, flooded with gold briefly before shading to a humbler tone of murky blue. In the distance, a solitary rider approached camp at a gallop, eerie for the sight as yet untouched with sound. The quiet that permeated these vast plains was in itself a kind of sound, a note of expectation combined with a deep abiding peace. Although, Tess reflected, perhaps what people heard as peace was only nature's monumental indifference to the tides of history that rose and fell on its shores.
Sonia poured a cupful of milk onto the ground and threw a handful of earth into the air, where the wind caught it for an instant before it sprayed in a hundred hissing droplets into the grass. Then she took her shuttle out of its case and knelt to begin the weaving. Tess sat beside her, helping when necessary.
"In the long ago time," Sonia began, telling a story to help pass the time as she threaded the weft through the warp, beating it down, "a pregnant woman began to weave a blanket for her unborn child. And as she wove, she pulled down threads of moonlight and sunlight, threads of the wind and threads of river water and of earth, and patterned the blanket as her child's life, as she wanted her child's life to become. But soon enough she was no longer content just to weave the new child's life but began to weave the lives of all of her children and of her husband and her sisters and mother and father and aunts and uncles and at last of her entire tribe. And because such a blanket can never be finished, the child could not be born."
Tess listened distractedly. In the end, after many trials, the weaver's ancient grandmother had to unravel the weaving for her, and thus was the child delivered, to live its own life.
Tess felt like that weaver. With a net of invisible threads, she wove the destiny of the jaran. Her loom had no substance, except perhaps for the implant embedded in her cranium that allowed her access to a vast network of information and structural ramparts on which and out of which she could build the matrix—weave the pattern—that had become her task. Her warp, strong and straight, was the tribes of the jaran. Across it she wove the strands of human space, of the Chapalii Empire, of the rebellion against the Empire that Tess's brother even now laid the groundwork for, of the infinite twists and turns any event might take as it became part of the texture.
But she could never be sure that what she was doing was right.
"You're quiet," said Sonia.
"Unquiet," retorted Tess, "in my heart."
Sonia smiled without faltering as she wove. "My sister, you think too much. You must accept the task the gods have given you to do, and then do it."
They had had this conversation a hundred times before over the twelve years they had known one another. No doubt they would repeat it a thousand times more in the years to come. But Sonia knew only part of the truth.
The threads of starlight Tess used in the weave were invisible to the jaran. She kept them that way. She had devised a complicated web that concealed and revealed the true nature of her life, her origins, her purpose here, in alternating strands, so that no one strand was so weak, foundering on half-truths, that it might break and thus collapse the entire fragile edifice.
Strand One (revealed): Tess Soerensen was the sister of Charles Soerensen, formerly Prince of Jeds, a flourishing city-state far to the southwest of the plains, and now a fugitive in his mother's country of "Erthe," far across the seas. Having given up his princely seat, Charles had gone to fight against the Empire that had conquered and subjugated Erthe, hoping in time to free his mother's land from the Chapalii yoke.
Strand Two (concealed): Earth was not a country far across the seas, but a planet orbiting a distant star, up in the heavens. Far from giving up any pretense to power, Charles had indeed passed the princedom of Jeds into Tess's hands, but only to resume with full force the dukedom granted him by the same conquering Chapalii.
Strand Three (revealed): The Chapalii were not human. They were zayinu, the ancient ones.
Strand Four (concealed): The Chapalii were aliens. Their interstellar Empire had swallowed Earth and her sister planets a hundred years before, bringing a period of peace and stability and a number of technological advances to the mostly human population of the amalgam of planets known as the League. But Earth and the League were subject states. They were not free.
Strand Five (revealed): Charles Soerensen meant to lead a rebellion against the Chapalii Empire, and so Tess (as Prince of Jeds) had allied herself with Ilyakoria Bakhtiian, the leader of the united jaran tribes.
Strand Six (concealed): The jaran, Jeds, the lands the jaran had already conquered, all lay on an interdicted planet called Rhui, in the Delta Pavonis system. Charles needed the mostly untapped resources of Rhui for his rebellion. To this end, he and Tess had agreed to do what they could to aid the jaran in uniting as much of the western continent of Rhui under one authority—jaran authority—as possible, so that when they needed the resources of Rhui a decade or a century from now, these resources could be swiftly commandeered.
Strand Seven (revealed): Tess was married to Ilya Bakhtiian.
Strand Eight (concealed): Well, she really was married to him. That had happened before the rest of the plan sprang to life. But she had concealed her true origins from him. He didn't know she came from another planet. He didn't even know that he lived on a planet, much less that there were other planets with other life or that the universe existed on any but an abstract, philosophical scale even as it rested within the hands of the gods themselves.
By what right did she keep from him, from Sonia, from all of them, knowledge of the stars? She could list the rationales easily enough, one, two, three:
If she hadn't come here, accidentally, in the first place, they would never have known or suspected anyway; their technology was medieval and their mindset, however flexible, however laudable in many ways, was primitive.
If Ilya, the greatest leader his people had ever known, knew the truth and how inconsequential it made the vision that had driven him, even before Tess had arrived, to unite the jaran and begin his conquest of khaja—of settled—lands, it would destroy him; it would cut out his heart.
And anyway, now that she and Charles and the rest of the cabal were set on this plan, they had to proceed in complete secrecy; they could not afford to arouse Chapalii interest in any fashion; and so, since Rhui was interdicted, it must stay that way, and there must be no awkward questions asked or betraying traffic to and from the planet other than that initiated years before when Charles had first established a foothold here as a kind of sanctuary from his duties as the first human duke, the first and only human to be granted a rank within the labyrinthine imperial Chapalii hierarchy.
But she still wondered. Should she tell them the truth? And if so, when? And if not, how long could she stay with them, truly? Because in the end she would have to return to Earth.
Tess smiled, turning to greet her son. Yuri's enthusiastic hug almost bowled her over. She laughed and steadied herself with one hand on the grass. With an impish grin, Yuri untangled himself from her and regarded Sonia gravely.
"I beg your pardon, Aunt Sonia," he said, but Sonia merely smiled in answer and kept weaving. Yuri squatted down to watch her shuttle, and Tess just studied him, this wonderful boy whom she loved with an unsettlingly fierce passion, he and his older sister. Yuri was a sturdy five-year-old, still growing out of his baby fat. He had the world's most equable temperament, quite unlike either of his parents, and a penchant for silliness. Sitting so still, though, his gentle child's profile showed him serious and intent.
"Where is Natalia?" asked Tess.
"I don't know," he replied with a younger child's blithe irresponsibility. "What pattern are you weaving, Aunt Sonia?"
"The Moon's Horns," she answered.
He grunted, content, and slipped onto his knees in order to watch her more closely. The rising sun shone gold lights through his brown hair. He fit there, beside Sonia, with uncanny ease. At five, he had greater patience for weaving than Tess had, but she was used to patterns taking shape more swiftly, nets and structures that she could build and dismantle at whim. She was trying to learn patience, but she hadn't mastered it yet.
Instead, Tess rose, touched Sonia on the shoulder and gave Yuri a kiss, and walked down the hill toward camp. The wind fled in waves along the grass, great ripples darkening the ground for a moment as they spread and, at last, faded into the distance. Far off, she saw the amorphous mass of the horse herd and farther still, a glint of white marked the edge of the grazing line of sheep.
A hundred sounds drifted on the breeze, plaiting her footsteps into a greater whole. Tess hummed to herself. She smelled meat cooking. A hawk screamed above, and she tilted her head back to watch it soar on the cold blue bell of the sky. Already it was warm. By afternoon the camp would be well sunk into summer stupor; that was why everyone was so active now, in the cool of the morning. The bright spiral of the tents wound out before her, losing shape as she neared the bottom of the rise and the camp rose up and took shape as an inviting maze before her.
A whoop startled her out of her thoughts. She held her ground against the charge of three horsemen. Girls, to be more exact, on what were supposed to be quiet old sleeper horses. Her daughter grinned at her as she galloped by, chasing her reckless cousin. Tess winced. She could not get used to that child riding that way at such an age. She wasn't even eight yet.
At a more sedate pace, riding a kind of distant herd on the trio, came another rider. He pulled up beside Tess and swung down in order to give her a kiss.
"Your daughter is wild," she said accusingly.
"She is not!" Ilya laughed. "She is merely determined. Lara is the wild one, as you well know. Natalia and Sofia are just trying to keep up with her."
"Lara is wild because her father spoils her," said Tess, determined to have a pleasant argument with her husband.
"Just as I spoil Natalia?" asked Ilya. Then he grinned, knowing full well what she was about. He caught her face between his hands and stared soulfully down at her. "No more than I spoil you, my heart."
Tess rolled her eyes. "You're impossible to argue with when you're in this kind of a mood." But she kissed him anyway and then greeted his stallion, Kriye, who nosed at her sleeve, affronted by her lack of attention to him. He was an incredibly vain horse, as he, of course, had every right to be, and smart enough to know what he deserved.
They walked along, following in the general direction the girls had taken.
"I saw a rider coming in," Tess said. "What news?"
"He rode from Yaroslav Sakhalin's army," said Ilya. "Sakhalin has received submission from the prince of Hereti-Manas, but he has reports that the prince of the neighboring land of Gelasti is raising an army, perhaps with Mircassian soldiers among them."
"Does the Mircassian king intend to support Gelasti?" Then she shrugged. "Well, why not? He hopes they will act as a buffer. If you are forced to waste your strength on Gelasti and the neighboring principalities, then it will go harder once the main force of Mircassia's army takes the field against you."
"It isn't that simple," began Ilya. She gave him a look. "But I feel sure," he added hastily, "that you have more to say."
"No. Not right now. I want to speak again with the merchant from Greater Manas who arrived here last month. The better we understand the relationships between the princely houses of the Yos princedoms, the better we will be able to exploit what seems to me are any number of internecine quarrels within their ranks."
"Spoken like your brother," said Ilya softly.
"No doubt," replied Tess dryly. She felt a stab of guilt. She much preferred war in the abstract, discussing it, directing it, from out here on the plains, never having to see her words put into action. "Did Vasha send a letter?"
Ilya's shoulders tensed. "Just a few lines, that said nothing."
"And?" she asked, hearing the silence he did not want to fill.
"No mention of him by Sakhalin at all, but appended to Vasha's letter was a lengthy diatribe from Katerina on how badly he's getting along." He paused. Tess waited him out. Finally, on a let out breath, he finished. "I shouldn't have let him go."
"You should have. Ilya, he had to leave, to go out on his own. You can't keep him in camp. He has to grow up, to become his own man. Otherwise—"
"Otherwise?" Ilya demanded. This was not the argument Tess had wanted, but she braced herself to carry on with it anyway. "He will never be accepted as my heir in any case, Tess, so what does it matter?"
"He must be accepted as himself. Whatever else comes, will come. We can't know what that will be."
"He doesn't get along well with other people."
"You have been protecting him, Ilya. He has to learn to fend for himself."
"He can't fend for himself. He's too young. He's hotheaded and he plays the prince's son too often."
"He's a good boy, Ilya. You know that, damn it. I admit he has too high a sense of his own consequence at times, but he's willing to learn. But for God's sake, he's nineteen now. He'll never become a man unless you are willing to let go of him."
"But what if he—?"
"You have to let him make his own mistakes!"
Ilya relapsed into a stubborn silence. Irritated, Tess eyed him, feeling equally stubborn. After a bit, she began to enjoy the sight of him fulminating. He did it so splendidly.
His lips quirked. "I don't want to argue with you," he said in a stifling tone.
"You don't want to, but you like to," she retorted instantly. "Well, my love, Vasha is riding with Sakhalin's army now. He's out of your hands for the time being." She forcefully restrained herself from adding: And it's just as well.
"I'd better go see what's happened to those girls," said Ilya, choosing evasive action.
But an instant later, two riders came pounding back to meet them. A flushed Natalia, flanked by an even redder Sofia, pulled up before them.
"Lara's broken her arm!" Natalia announced in a satisfied voice. "She tried to jump old Flatrump over the hide that Grandfather Niko has staked out, and he balked and threw her. Serves her right."
"How charitable of you, Talia," said Tess. "I did not, of course, see you following after her at the same ungodly pace."
"I didn't try to jump!" protested Natalia. "Mother! I'm not stupid." She patted her bay on the neck. "She's too stiff to jump."
"Who balked?" asked Ilya. "Niko?"
Natalia giggled. "No. But he's scolding her right now."
"And setting her arm at the same time, I hope." Tess sighed. "Talia, let me tell her mother. Please."
Natalia bit down so hard on a grin that her cheeks puckered in. Even Sofia, a preternaturally solemn child, smiled. "It's too late. Her father saw it all."
"What did he say?" asked Tess, dreading the worst. Sofia giggled and clapped a hand over her mouth. Natalia preened for a moment, well aware that she held important information like a great treasure. She had her father's black hair and dark coloring, and spirited eyes. She wasn't really wild, but it terrified Tess that she didn't seem scared of anything. "He said that he'll have to get her a real horse, one that won't balk."
Excerpted from The Law of Becoming by Kate Elliott. Copyright © 1994 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
I would give this book more than five stars were it possible.
This book by Kate Elliott was a great book i loved the way she put the story into text!!! I think that Kate should keep writing about the Jaran these sequels should never end!!!! You would never be able to put the books down!!!PLEASE KATE KEEP WRITTING ABOUT THE JARAN!!!!!
I was totally engrossed with it, cant wait for the sequel. Does anyone know when it is out ?