The second of the Khaavren Romances. Chronicles the events leading up to Adron's Disaster. As such, the novel carries with it the burden of an inevitable conclusion, which drives the story quickly through its many twists and turns.
- See also Meta:Five Hundred Years After.
As the novel begins, the emperor Tortaalik confronts some realities about the current financial troubles of his domain, by discussing the matter with his Prime Minister Jurabin. Unable to wrap his head completely around the muddle, being far more concerned with matters of dress and his appearance, he bends the ear of Khaavren.
Our hero, now older and more contemplative, wonders what his role will be in the current troubles, but then finds himself attacked in the doorway of his own home. Khaavren escapes, but the attack is only one of many. Gyorg, G'aereth, and an attendant of finace, Smaller, are all murdered, and it is clear that there is a conspiracy afoot.
In short time, Pel, Sethra Lavode, Aliera e'Kieron, Aerich, and Tazendra, are all arrived at Dragaera City to aid in the investigations or in attempting to discover the roots of the murders. Unfortunately, the arrival of Aliera and her father Adron e'Kieron, only add fuel to an already explosive situation.
Behind the scenes, the shadowy figure of Greycat pulls the strings of a group of co-conspirators, including several Orca, and Jhereg. His most valuable tool appears to be the person known as Grita, who claims to be able to spark a riot among the commonplace of the city.
Khaavren's life is saved by the timely intervention of his friends, but Grita's promised riot threatens to consume the city shortly thereafter.
The city, now in full panic, the court, now in shambles due to the actions of Aliera and her father, and the empire as a whole, are now in serious danger of collapse. To make matters worse, Greycat has managed to find a naive, but truly skilled, young Jhereg named Mario to attempt to murder Tortaalik.
The first attempt, though it would be difficult to actually claim it was a true attempt, is foiled by the timely action of Sethra Lavode. The fallout of the assassin's escape however, force Adron's hand - he will attempt to take the throne by the use of pre-empire sorcery.
- Adron e'Kieron
- Aliera e'Kieron
- Khaavren finishes a letter
- Tazendra and Sethra examine Gyorg's chambers
- Regicide, and the ensuing chase
- Regicide, again
- The Disaster
- Mario saves Khaavren
- Pel saves Adron e'Kieron, with great subtlety, of course
(All copyrights Steven Brust, quotes for review and enjoyment only)
Khaavren resumes writing his letter to Aerich
... You may be amused to know that I have just killed a man who clapped at my door. He ascertained my identity, and then attempted to discharge a flashstone at me - perhaps writing letters is not as harmless an activity as I would have thought. Wherefore, prudence as well as the lateness of the hour, dictates that I stop now, in addition to which I have just realized that I am bleeding, and I ought to do something about this, because replacing stained clothing is, as you may remember, difficult on a guardsman's income....
Adron comes before Tortaalik:
Instead, His Majesty burst out with, "And what, Eastmanswatch, of the reports I am hearing that you have dabbled in the socrcery of the ancients, that which was declared illegal at the beginning of the Empire?"
This charge seemed to catch His Highness by surprise, for his brows rose and his eyes widened. But he recovered himself quickly and said, "Sire, anyone who knows me at all could assure Your Majesty that such reports can only be lies."
"Indeed?" said His Majesty, haughtily.
"Yes, Sire. As everyone knows, I never dabble."
Sethra and Aliera have just had another argument
"For my part," (Sethra) said, "I am convinced they were prepared by a Jhereg."
Khaavren frowned. "You are convinced of this?"
"Yes, I am."
"But then, why did you -"
"Irritate the Lady, Aliera? Because I enjoyed it." She accompanied thes word with a smile that made the hair on the back of Khaavren's neck wake up and stretch.
Mario considers the offer
Dunaan said, "Do you need time to consider this proposal which I have the honor of making to you?"
"A few moments only," said Mario. "A few moments that I will spend boiling these rednuts in this liquer before spooning them onto the cold fruit, and eating them before the temperatures even out. I suggest, My Lord, you busy yourself in the same way, and, before the bowl of nuts has exhausted itself, well, I believe I will have an answer for you."
"Very well, I will do it."
Mario is attempting to escape and stumbles into the rooms of Aliera
Aliera said, "You are a Jhereg."
Mario said, "You are the most beautiful woman who has ever lived, or ever will live, in the Empire or anywhere else."
"Well," said Aliera.
"I am," remarked Mario, "confronted by a difficult decision."
"Life seems to be full of them," agreed Aliera. "What is yours?"
"Whether to continue running for my life, or to stay here and look at you."
"Do you know, Captain," he said softly, "that it is assumed by those learned in history that Emperors of my House will become, toward the end of their Reign, weak-willed, or addled, or silly, or power-mad, or that we will neglect the Empire, giving over our responsibilities in a quest for pleasures of the moment?"
"I have heard that said, Sire."
Tortaalik nodded. "So have I. All my life. And from the moment I took the the Orb, I vowed that none of these things would happen to me. I have tried to keep my desires in check, and to find trustworthy retainers for all positions of importance, and to keep a close watch on my temper. And yet, Captain, at times like this I feel that I am overwhelmed by my destiny; it is as if there were hidden forces that try to pull me into the abyss."
"Sire, only the fates know the final outcome of the battle, but surely there is glory in knowing one has not surrendered, and surely there is comfort in knowing one is not alone."
Tazendra and Sethra go to see Gyorg's chambers
The first thing that Sethra did upon opening the door was to stop on the threshold and slowly exhale.
Tazendra said carefully, "Had you thought it would already be emptied of his possessions?"
"No," said Sethra in an unnaturally harsh voice. "I thought I would not mind so much."
Tazendra cleared her throat, "My Lady, would you like to tell me about him?"
"No," said Sethra. "Come, you tell me about him."
Tazendra opened her mouth, closed it, and said, "My lady comprehension is not..."
"There has never been a stupid sorceror who has lived past his five hundreth year. Come in."
Adron's last words
"Don't tell them that I meant well."
The Phoenix Guards
The Paths of the Dead