A shadow is looming over the great hot southern land of Ashdod. It is the shadow of threshold, the pyramid that the Magi of Agi are building to propel them into Infinity. But something is waiting in Infinity. Waiting for the final glass to be laid, waiting for the capstone to be cemented in blood, waiting to use threshold to step from Infinity into Ashdod! thousands of slaves have been drafted into the construction of threshold. Among them is tirzah, a young glassworker. tirzah has a secret gift - and one that may kill her. She can communicate with glass, and what the glass of threshold screams at tirzah every time she touches it drives her to despair. Boaz, the Master Magus, is watching tirzah. He knows she's hiding something and he'll do whatever it takes to discover it. But what secret does Boaz hide? And why is the Song of the Frogs the only way to Save Ashdod?A shadow is looming over the great hot southern land of Ashdod. It is the shadow of threshold, the pyramid that the Magi of Agi are building to propel them into Infinity. But something is waiting in Infinity. Waiting for the final glass to be laid, waiting for the capstone to be cemented in blood, waiting to use threshold to step from Infinity into Ashdod! thousands of slaves have been drafted into the construction of threshold. Among them is tirzah, a young glassworker. tirzah has a secret gift - and one that may kill her. She can communicate with glass, and what the glass of threshold screams at tirzah every time she touches it drives her to despair. Boaz, the Master Magus, is watching tirzah. He knows she's hiding something and he'll do whatever it takes to discover it. But what secret does Boaz hide? And why is the Song of the Frogs the only way to Save Ashdod?
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About the Author
Sara Douglass was born in Penola, a small farming settlement in the south of Australia, in 1957. She spent her early years chasing (and being chased by) sheep and collecting snakes before her parents transported her to the city of Adelaideand the more genteel surroundings of Methodist Ladies College. Having graduated, Sara then became a nurse on her parents' urging (it was both feminine and genteel) and spent seventeen years planning and then effecting her escape.
That escape came in the form of a Ph.D. in early modern English history. Sara and nursing finally parted company after a lengthy time of bare tolerance, and she took up a position as senior lecturer in medieval European history at the Bendigo campus of the Victorian University of La Trobe. Finding the departmental politics of academic life as intolerable as the emotional rigours of nursing, Sara needed to find another escape.
This took the form of one of Sara's childhood loves - books and writing. Spending some years practising writing novels, HarperCollins Australia picked up one of Sara's novels, BattleAxe (published in North America as The Wayfarer Redemption), the first in the Tencendor series, and chose it as the lead book in their new fantasy line with immediate success. Since 1995 Sara has become Australia's leading fantasy author and one of its top novelists. Her books are now sold around the world.
Read an Excerpt
By Sara Douglas
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 1997 Sara Douglass Enterprises Pty., Ltd.
All rights reserved.
VILAND is a cold, brutal place, yet I grew there and loved it as much as it would allow. Cruel seas batter rocky harbors through winters that last a good nine months of the year, months when all crowd about fires amid the cheerful belchings of onion and ale fumes, and tell endless stories of adventure at the end of the harpoon. In the brief flowering of summer, the Vilanders hurriedly eke out their living from the whales that throng the icy coastal waters, selling the great fish's meat, oil, hide, and bones to any who care to pay for it. Not many, some years. Yet in those years when the whale sold well, my father gained enough in commissions to keep us through the leaner seasons.
But there wasn't much to spare, as we came to discover to our sorrow.
Despite the ice and the ever-threatening poverty, my father and I were happy, content. Until the day my father's thoughtlessness and poorly buried heartache matured into the sour fruit that destroyed us both.
Mam had died young, before I was two. Rather than hire a nursemaid, my father took me into his workshop, and my earliest memories are of the fascinating world encompassed by the shadowed spaces beneath my father's worktable. Here I played blithely all day amid the shavings of glass and globs of discarded enamel, scraping the bright shards into piles and sifting them through hands too small and fat to be of practical use to my father. The table protected me from the worst of the furnace heat and from most of the problems of the outside world, and when the workday was over my father lifted me into his strong arms and carried me back to our cold, motherless home.
Always I yearned for the morning, and the warmth of the workshop.
When I was five, and too curious to fit comfortably beneath the table, my father decided to teach me his craft. Along with the techniques of mixing, firing, and working the glass, I had to learn the common trading tongue of nations, as well as several other languages. All craft workers needed to converse with those merchants who might bring them the one commission to keep starvation at bay for another month or two.
I was young and quick-witted, and I learned the languages and the craft easily. By the age of ten, my hands were slim and capable enough to take on some of the fine work my father increasingly found too difficult, and my tongue was sufficiently agile to chatter to the occasional merchant from Geshardi or Alaric who passed by the workshop. I did not mind spending my days at the worktable, learning a trade, when I could have been imbibing the raucous street games of my contemporaries. My father and the glass formed the boundaries of the only world I needed, and if my father was more often silent than talkative, then I found all the conversation and company I desired in the shifting colors of the glass.
The glass told me many things.
When I was eighteen my father often left me working on the final engraving of a goblet or, more and more frequently, the finishing work for cage lace, while he wandered the streets in search of old friends with whom to pass an hour or two. At least, that's what I thought until the bailiffs came. I did not know that my father's long festering grief for my mother had found outlet in the quest for luck at fate. But luck deserted him as completely as my mother had. My thoughtless, loving father lost our freedom on the spin of a coin and the sorry futility of a fighting cock with a broken wing.
I was at the table in the workshop when they came.
The vase I had in my hands was the result of four weeks' tireless work and it was at last approaching its final beauty. My father had fashioned the mold, mixed the glass, and added the deft flurries of base metals and gold that produced the exquisite marbled walls that were the mark of the master craftsman. Then he had sat over the kiln as the fires patiently birthed his creation. It was his finest effort for six months, and he could hardly bear to pass it over to me to cage.
But caging would produce a work guaranteed to feed us for the next year, and his hands could no longer be trusted with the delicate touch.
It was one of our best works. I had caged to create one of the Vilanders' favorite myths — Gorenfer escaping the maddened jungles of Bustian-Halle.
The workroom door burst in and I spun around on my stool, the vase in my hands.
My father stumbled in, followed by five men I knew by sight and reputation. Instantly, intuitively, I understood the reason for this ungracious entrance.
One of the debt collectors shouted my name, his face red and sweaty, his hand outstretched and demanding.
Shocked, and frightened beyond any fear I'd experienced before, I dropped the vase — its death cry adding to the terror about me.
That vase could have saved us, it could have paid my father's debts, but I let it shatter on the floor.
After that I could blame my father for nothing. If he had temporarily impoverished us, then he had also created the beauty that would have saved us.
But I dropped it ... and condemned us to slavery.
Neither my father's entreaties, nor my tears, could move these five hard-souled men. There were debts, and they must be paid. Now. Nothing in our poor house (save the once beautiful vase scattered in useless shards at my feet) could be sold to pay recompense — except us.
We were handed directly to the local slaver who dusted us down, inspected us from head to toe, and stood back, considering.
I had learned my father's craft well. For that reason the slaver kept us together, even though, at nineteen and fair enough, I would have fetched a reasonable price hawked to some tired bureaucrat or lordling bored with his wife. So I was saved from the bed of some paunch-bellied magnate, and my father kept his tools and the last living reminder of his wife. After our initial tears and protests, we resigned ourselves to our fate. It was regrettable but not unknown; over past years I had seen three other craftsmen sell themselves and their families to escape starvation. We would still practice our craft, if to the dictates of a master rather than to the satisfactions of free choice.
And we would still be together.
We did not stay in Viland long. The slaver, Skarp-Hedin, decided we'd fetch the best price in the strange, hot realms to the south.
"They have fine sand a-plenty for you to melt," he said, "and the nobility to buy what you craft of it. You'll fetch five times what you will here in this sorry land."
My father bowed his head, but I stared indignantly at the slaver. "But Viland is our — "
"You have no home!" the man shouted. "And no country, save that of the marketplace!"
Within the day we were bundled into the belly of a whaler for cheap transport south. For six weeks we rolled and pitched in that loathsome cavern, my father clutching his tools, I retching over whatever stale food the crew provided us. We were chained, he and I, although where anyone thought we would escape to in the glassy gray waters of the northern seas I do not know, and the chains ate at our ankles until they festered and screamed. The pain drowned out the soft whisperings of the metal links.
Finally, gratefully, the whaler docked. My father and I sat in the hold, trying to ignore the bright pain of our ankles, listening to the muted sounds of a bustling port. Over the past ten days the weather had warmed until the interior of the hold sweltered day and night. The whale meat stank with putrefaction, and I wondered to what possible use it could now be put. After an hour the crew swarmed into the hold to begin the disagreeable task of forking the meat into cargo nets to be off-loaded. On the fourth load one of them remembered we were confined somewhere in the dim hold as well; he soon caused us to be netted along with the rotting meat, and we were unceremoniously swung ashore.
Outside, the intense sunlight seared my eyes. I cried out in pain, and my father tried to comfort me, but his mumblings did nothing to ease my terror. I felt the net swing high in the air, and I almost vomited, clutching at the rough rope, trying to gain any handhold that might help save me should the net break. Beside me I heard the bag of tools rattle as my father clutched it closer to his chest.
The next instant there was a sickening jolt as the net landed on the wharf. I lost my grip, and my father and I slid down the pile of sweating whale meat to land in a tangle of chains and rope and greasy, rotting fish flesh on the splintery boards of the pier.
"Kus! Is this what you have brought me, you god-cursed whale-man? Look at them!" The man spoke in the common trading tongue of nations.
He was bending down, a robe of shimmering green weave drifting free and cool about him. His hand grasped the net and shook it free as men hurried to unhook the loading chains. Then he caught my upper arm and hauled me to my feet.
I stumbled, my ankle chains snagging amid the rope and fish.
The man breathed in sharply, then he helped my father to his feet.
"Strike these chains from their ankles. Now!" And men hurried to do his bidding.
I wept as those hateful metal bars and links fell free.
Our rescuer was a man of middle age, dark-haired and ebony-eyed, with swarthy skin stretched tight over a strong-boned face. His robe was of good linen, loose-fitting and hanging unbelted to his sandaled feet. He looked clean and cool and very sure of himself. I had been none of those things for a long time.
He inspected my hands carefully, then those of my father.
"Well, at least your hands are undamaged, and that is all that counts." He caught my chin with his fingers. "And you have a pleasing face under that grime and stinking oil." Now his fingers lifted one of the lank strands of my hair. "Blond, I'll wager, to go with your blue eyes."
His voice was softer now, thoughtful, and I could see him sifting the possibilities in his mind. "Skarp-Hedin sent word that you work glass. Is that true?"
"I have been a master craftsman for over twenty years," my father said, "and my daughter has more talent than I." He hesitated. "None can mix the colors as I, nor carve the molds or blow the glass. And my daughter cages as though blessed by the gods."
The man's eyes were very sharp now, and they swung back my way. "You are too young," he said.
"I have been working at my father's side since I was five," I replied. How much longer would he keep us standing in this frightful sun? "And caging since I was ten."
"Well," he said, "you have come from Skarp-Hedin, and I have never received anything but the best from him previously. I will trust him on this as well. See that cart?" He inclined his head to the side. "Then get in."
He turned and left us to clamber in.
As his driver slapped the mules into action, the man told us his name was Hadone, and he worked in occasional partnership with the Vilander slaver who'd sent us south. They would share the proceeds of our sale, but Hadone had no intention of presenting us to the market in our current state. From the wharf, we drove to quarters deep in the town — Adab, Hadone informed me as I peered over the rim of the cart, too unnerved to sit upright.
"And this is the realm of En-Dor." Again he ran his eyes over my face and hair as he twisted about on the seat next to the driver. "Although glassworkers sell well here, I wonder if I might get yet a better price for you in Ashdod."
My father noticed Hadone's tone and the direction of his eyes. "Skarp-Hedin said we'd be sold together. That's how we work. A team."
"Of course," Hadone said, swinging back to face the street before him. "That's how I intend to sell you. As a team."
My father and I exchanged a glance, then turned our eyes back to the strange sights around us.
The dirt-packed streets were crowded with men and women dressed much as Hadone was — in brightly colored robes that swung loose to their feet. Many had lengths of fine white cloth wrapped about their heads, the tasseled ends drifting lazily about their shoulders.
We were surrounded by blocks of mud-brick shops and houses, plastered either in white or pale pink, with flat roofs and canvas awnings that hung out into the street and shaded those passing by.
Among all the people wound donkeys bearing loads on their backs or pulling carts like ours. An occasional rider on a finely boned horse, always gray, pushed through the crowds; both horse and rider were invariably richly draped with silks and ropes of jewels.
About all hung the dust of thousands of scuffling feet, and a rich, heady odor of spices and fragrance that did nothing to soothe my stomach.
It was so strange, so unlike what I'd known in Viland, and every minute the sun beat down with increasing fierceness. I crept as close to the walls of the cart as I could, trying to escape both the sun and the strangeness. Opposite me, my father huddled miserably about his sack of tools.
"We'll be there soon," Hadone said, and I closed my eyes and hid my face in my arms, almost undone by the kindness in his voice.
Within minutes we'd turned into a shaded side alley, and then into a cool courtyard. I heard Hadone jump down from the cart, and I sat up, looking about. The spacious courtyard was bounded on two sides by what looked like Hadone's residence, and on the other two sides by stables, storehouses, and a slavery large enough for several dozen inmates. The buildings were all clean and in good repair, and the courtyard itself was paved and swept clean of any dung or dust.
Hadone's man — I never knew his name — helped us down from the cart, then Hadone handed us over to a man and a woman who escorted myself and my father to the separate men's and women's slave quarters.
I watched my father being led away with some nervousness, for I was loath to be parted from him, but I let the woman, Omarni, guide me to a cool room. There she bathed me, tended the festering sores about my ankles, and persuaded me to eat some fruits and drink some milk.
Despite my fears, I slept better that night than I had in weeks, and my sleep was dreamless.
For eight days we were left in peace while our sores closed over, our ankles thickened with scar tissue, and our faces plumped out from their gauntness. But on the evening of the ninth day Hadone sent for me.
His man escorted me to Hadone's residence, where he stood looking me up and down, and fingering my now clean and shining hair. "In a week or so I will take you and your father to market," he said, "and for the remaining nights you will spend an hour or two in my quarters. You will be sold for your talents at glassmaking, not for your virginity."
And so he proceeded to divest me of it.
He was vigorous and painful but not intentionally unkind and, to be frank, I had known that sooner or later rape would be an inevitability of my enslavement. Well, I should not have dropped that vase. For all pain, there comes pain repaid.
When it was done he sent me back to the slavery, and Omarni gave me a cup of a steaming thick herbal to drink.
"It will save your belly from swelling with child," she said practically, and I realized she must have served this brew to a score of slaves before me.
It was bitter, and it made my stomach churn, but I drank it gratefully. The last thing I wanted was to walk into a lifetime of servitude encumbered with the squalling brat of a slaver.
A week later we were taken to market — I with a little more experience and a few more skills than I'd had when I landed amid the pile of stinking whale meat on the wharf.
Who would buy us? Would he be a kind man, or a harsh taskmaster? And, I wondered further, would he be a satisfied husband, or a man seeking diversion amid the trapped delights of his slavery?
Neither, as it turned out.
The market was crowded with vendors selling fruits, cloths, plate, and lives. One corner was devoted exclusively to the trade in human flesh, and there Hadone directed us and three other men he intended to sell this day. We were guarded, but only lightly. None of us had anywhere to run.
The guards took the three men directly to the open slave lines, where prospective buyers could prod the merchandise and inspect their teeth, but Hadone took my father and me to a stall at the back of the lines.
Excerpted from Threshold by Sara Douglas. Copyright © 1997 Sara Douglass Enterprises Pty., Ltd.. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Threshold was the first book I read by Sara Douglas and it was rather good if strange. I think it would have done better as a trilogy the first ending with the escape from Threshold and the second with leaving the Abyss. It involved a lot of sex and I would have liked it if she had gone more into the training of the Cantomancer and expanded on their time in the Abyss. It moves really fast through everything leaving you with a bit of wonder of details but the story is good. I'm definately going to read it again.
This would have been a really good book without the overwhelming wussiness of the main character. Tirzah screams, faints, flails about and interferes mironically in battle throughout the entire course of the book, but becomes truly intolerable at the end. Her cowardice is really remarkable, and all the time the author wants us to admire her courage. Hilariius.
This one book epic from douglass was so good i drew out reading the last chapters for weeks because i didnt want the story to be over. Glad to see it somewhat gets picked up again in later books!
I was searching for "something" to read and saw Threshold in the bargain books...bought it on a whim. I really enjoyed reading this story. A little of everything is included, love, magic and frogs (what a treat). Sara Douglass moved me several times, some laughter and a few tears welled as well. It's just a good story and it flowed quite well. Tirzah, the lead character, did perturb me a great deal, too much wailing around there for awhile. Although, not to spoil and reveal the ending to anyone, I was well satisfied... Very good fiction.
I would say it is one of the best books I have ever read, it even had my favorite animal in it (frogs). I just loved the entire thing, and the forms and mathematics didn't trouble me one bit. About everything in the book was original, you didn't find any of the cliches that you normally find in a lot of today's 'books'. The elemantal magic highly fascinated me, and some of their rituals were different, like farwelling somebody into the Place Beyond. After about the first one hundred pages you are attached to the characters and I was really distraught when ever one of them got hurt. At one time you may think Boaz is bi-polar, but wait until you find out his history and it will all make sense. The other reviewer was right it does include a lot of sex, and I'm thankfull that it didn't really go into detail, so I wouldn't recommend it to youger ages (i. e. under 14). I wish you actually got to see Nzame as what he really was instead of who he was acting or talking through. A must read go out and buy this book RIGHT NOW!!!!!!!!!!!