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The Dragon Revenant

by Katharine Kerr

  • ISBN: 9780553289091
  • ISBN10: 0553289098

The Dragon Revenant

by Katharine Kerr

  • List Price: $7.99
  • Binding: Paperback
  • Publisher: Bantam Books
  • Publish date: 03/01/1991
  • ISBN: 9780553289091
  • ISBN10: 0553289098
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Description: Prologue Eldidd, 1064 Even though dark clouds hung close to earth all day in what might have been either a heavy fog or an outright drizzle, out in the sacred grove beyond the city walls of Aberwyn the ancient oaks glowed with a light of their own, the autumnal splendor of their scarlet and gold leaves. A few sparks of that flame had fluttered down to lie in the muddy grave like golden offerings to match the grave goods already in place, jars and ewers of mead and oil, loaves of bread, a fine sword in a gilded scabbard, pottery statues of the gwerbret''s favorite horses, all set around the wickerwork chariot. Although Deverry men had stopped fighting from chariots some thousand years earlier, their memory persisted as a thing belonging to heroes, and great men were buried in them, but lying down, unlike their ancestors, who were sometimes propped up in a parody of action that seemed indecent to Deverrian minds. Lovyan, Tieryn Dun Gwerbyn, regent to the gwerbretrhyn of Aberwyn, stood at the edge of the grave and watched the shaven-headed priests of Bel clambering around in the mud as they laid the body of Rhys Maelwaedd, her eldest son, down for his last rest. By then the rituals were long over, and most of the huge crowd of mourners gone, but she lingered, unable to cry or keen, weary to the very heart, as they arranged his fine plaid, the silver, blue, and green of Aberwyn, around him. Once they began to fill in the grave, she would leave, she decided. She had watched wet earth fall on the faces of other men she had loved, her husband, her second son Aedry, the third son dead in childbirth that they''d never even named; she had no need to watch it again. Beside her Nevyn laid a comforting hand on her shoulder. A tall man, with a shock of white hair and piercing blue eyes, he had skin as wrinkled as one of the fallen leaves and hands spotted all over from age, but he stood as straight and walked as vigorously as a young warrior. Although everyone who knew him considered his energy a marvel, Lovyan was one of the few who knew the truth, that he owed it to the dweomer of light, because he was one of the greatest sorcerers who had ever lived in Deverry. Just lately he had come into her service as a councillor, but in truth, she assumed, she was the one who was serving his particular ends. It mattered not to her, because not only did she trust him, but their particular goals were, at the moment at least, the same. "It''s cold out here, Your Grace," he said, his voice soft with sympathy. "I''m well aware of that, my thanks. We''ll be leaving soon." The priests were fastening the enormous golden ring brooch to the plaid and clasping it closed around the dead gwerbret''s neck. She looked away and saw two men pushing a slab of stone, balanced on a handcart, toward the grave. The epitaph was already carved, an englyn of praise for the ruler of Aberwyn, lost to a hunting accident, but of course it never mentioned the true cause of his death: evil dweomer. She shuddered, remembering the day when they''d ridden out together to fly their hawks. They''d been calmly trotting down the river road when Rhys''s horse had gone mad, bucking and rearing, finally falling to crush its rider. Even at the time the accident had seemed inexplicab later she had learned that dark dweomermen had caused the horse''s madness and thus had murdered Rhys as surely as if they''d used a sword. Why? That, no one knew. The priests climbed out of the grave and signaled to the diggers, leaning on their shovels nearby. Lovyan blew a kiss at her dead son. "Sleep well, little one," she whispered, then turned away. "Come along, all of you. We''d best get back to the dun." Nevyn took her arm, and the small crowd of pages and serving women fell in behind her as they made their silent way to the edge of the grove, where her escort was waiting. Twenty-five men of Rhys''s warband and fifteen of her own stood at respectful attention beside their horses. As she approached, her captain, Cullyn of Cerrmor, led over her horse, a beautiful golden mare with a silvery mane and tail, and held it for her as she mounted and adjusted her long dresses and cloak over the sidesaddle. "My thanks, captain." She took the reins from him, then turned in the saddle to make sure that the rest of her retinue were ready to ride. "Well and good, then. Let''s get back home." At the captain''s signal the men mounted, and the procession set off, Lovyan and Nevyn at the head, her women and pages just behind, and bringing up the rear, the warbands. As they rode up to the high city walls, the men on duty at the gates snapped to smart attention, but Lovyan barely saw them, so wrapped in numb grief was she. It''s all been too much, she thought to herself, simply too much to bear. Yet in her heart she knew that she could indeed bear it, that she would somehow find from somewhere the strength to see her through the difficult months ahead. Many noblewomen, it seemed, lived lives that allowed them the luxury of hysterics; they could wallow in fits of weeping, or shut themselves up dramatically in their chambers and get sympathy from half the kingdom with no one being the worse for it; she, however, had always had to stifle her griefs and rise above her weaknesses. At times, such as that moment in the chilly drizzle, she resented it, but even in her resentment she knew that she''d been given the better bargain by the gods. As the procession wound through the rain-slick cobbled streets of Aberwyn, the townsfolk came out of house and shop to pay their respects quite spontaneously to the tieryn, who had been well-liked here when she''d been the wife of the then-gwerbret, Tingyr, before their son Rhys inherited the rhan. Their heads bared to the drizzle, the men bowed and the women curtsied, and here and there someone called out, "Our hearts ache for you, Your Grace," or "Our sorrows go with you." Lovyan''s heart ached more for them. Soon, unless she and Nevyn were successful in averting it, war would ravage Aberwyn''s prosperous streets, and these people would have more to sorrow over than her mourning. The rank of gwerbret was an odd one in the Deverry scheme of things. Although by Lovyan''s time the office passed down from father to son, originally back in the Dawntime, gwerbrets had been elected magistrates, called "vergobretes" in the old tongue. A remnant of this custom still survived in the Council of Electors, who met to choose a new gwerbret whenever one died without an heir. Since the rank brought with it many an honor as well as a fortune in taxes and property, every great clan and a few optimistic lesser ones as well vied among themselves to be chosen whenever the line of secession broke, and more often than not, the contest turned from a thing of bribes and politicking into open war. Once the Council got to fighting among themselves, the bloodshed could go on for years, because not even the King could intervene to stop it. Any king who marched in defiance of the laws would find himself with long years of resentment and rebellion on his hands. The most His Highness could do was use his honorary seat on the Council to urge peace if he were so minded or to politick along with everyone else for the candidate he favored. The latter was the more usual occurrence. Since Rhys had died childless, the members of the Council were already jockeying for position at the starting line of this possible horse race. Lovyan knew full well that they were beginning to form half-secret alliances and to accept gifts and flatteries that were very nearly bribes. She was furious, in a weary sort of way, for, though Rhys had no sons, he did leave a legal heir, one marked with the approval of the King himself, Rhodry, Rhys''s younger brother and her last-born son. If only Rhodry were home safe in Aberwyn, there would be no need for Council meetings disguised as social visits, but he had been sent into exile some years before by a fit of his brother''s jealousy and no better cause. Now, with the King''s own decree of recall published and all Aberwyn waiting for him as heir, he had disappeared, as well and thoroughly gone as a morning mist by a hot noontide. When the King had made his proclamation of recall, some days before, His Highness had set the term as a year and a day--just a year and a day for them to find the heir and bring him home. Less than that now, she thought; an eightnight''s almost gone. Although she was certain that Nevyn knew his whereabouts, the old man was refusing to tell her. Every time she asked, he put her off, saying that someone was on their way to bring Rhodry back home and no more. She knew perfectly well that her son was in some grave danger. By trying to spare her feelings, Nevyn was making her anxiety worse, or so she assumed, thinking that her troubled mind would no doubt make up worse dangers than her lad was actually in. She suspected that some of those who coveted Aberwyn had kidnapped him, and she lived in terror that they would kill him before Nevyn''s mysterious aid could rescue him. If, however, she had known the truth, she would have seen the wisdom in Nevyn''s silence.
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