Since the Age of Shadows ended, the people of Ranadon have lived under the merciless heat of two suns and the tyranny of Antonov, the Lion of Senet. Consumed by his lust for power and his unshakable belief in the capricious, almighty Goddess, Antonov's rule is absolute. Only one man has the intelligence and will to break that hold...a man who could be King.
Suddenly widowed, Morna Provin, Duchess of Elcast, has lost her only protector. With her son banished for an unspeakable crime, she faces a horrifying fate at the hands of the Lion of Senet as retribution for her relationship with the heretic Johan Thorn. But it is only part of a cunning scheme to lure her son, Dirk Provin, back into the fold so Antonov can consolidate his power once and for all.
With his mother's life at stake, Dirk Provin must emerge from hiding in the Baenlands and return to Elcast--setting in motion a rebellion that will expose long-buried secrets and ignite festering hatreds. For a ruler's fears and a madman's prophecy will start Dirk on a quest for truth that will spark a fierce battle between two very different men: one who believes only what his five senses tell him, the other obsessed by his faith in the divine. It is a clash that will bring to light a revelation that may shatter them all.
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April 26, 2004
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Excerpt from Eye of the Labyrinth by Jennifer Fallon
The worst thing about funerals was the smiles, Morna Provin thought. The wary, tremulous, uncertain smiles that never reached the eyes. The hesitant, insincere, I-don't-know-what-to-say-to-you smiles that everyone wore when attempting to express their sympathy, while inside they recoiled from this blatant reminder of their own mortality.
Morna walked behind the carriage bearing Wallin's body down toward Elcast harbor feeling numb. The first sun was high in the red-tinted sky. Perspiration stained her black silk gown in dark, unsightly patches under her arms and across her back.
Why do we wear black in this heat? she wondered idly. Or clothes with so many layers?
What half-witted fool invented the petticoat?
The Duchess of Elcast wore a dark veil over her face, which provided her with some small measure of privacy, but she knew every eye was on her. Did the onlookers think her dignified in her dry-eyed composure--or cold and unfeeling? She had not allowed herself to cry or even grieve yet; had not allowed herself to contemplate the future. Morna simply refused to think about it.
Rees Provin, her eldest son and the new Duke of Elcast, walked in front of her. Beside him was his bride of three months, Faralan. Rees had assumed his duties as duke with a competence that made her feel proud--and more than a little obsolete. He had organized the funeral, seen to it that his father's bequests were distributed in accordance with his wishes, done everything that needed to be done, efficiently and gracefully, without once asking for her advice or counsel.
Of Morna's missing youngest son, Dirk, there was no sign; no news for the past two years. Morna grieved the loss of her second son more than she could describe. To lose a child was a pain no parent should bear, she thought. To lose the son she had borne to Johan Thorn had been exquisitely painful, a fact that undoubtedly gave the Lion of Senet and the High Priestess no end of amusement.
There had been no word of Dirk for so long. There were rumors, of course. Rumors that he had fled to Sidoria or Galina; rumors that he was in the Baenlands. The only thing she knew for certain was that Dirk had supposedly raped a Shadowdancer, killed Johan Thorn and then fled Avacas a wanted man.
She could not imagine what had driven him to do such terrible things. Antonov had written to her after it happened, positively gloating as he described the events that had forced Dirk to flee.
What did you do to him, Anton? What evil did you infect my son with that he would turn from the intelligent, thoughtful boy I loved into a murderer and rapist in a few short months? She had thought about trying to get a message to Dirk, but she had no idea where to find him. Even if she did, the risk was too great. Dirk would come home one day, she was certain.
Morna ran her eyes over the crowds that lined the streets, half-hoping to see him. She had delayed the funeral for as long as she could, in the hopes that word would reach Dirk, wherever he was. He would not be able to appear openly, she knew, but surely he would not miss this day. Dirk had loved Wallin like a father. For most of his life, he was the only father Dirk had known. Dear, patient, understanding, forgiving Wallin. It was Wallin who had tried to comfort her when she learned about what happened in Avacas. It was Wallin who reminded her that things were not always as they seemed.
And now he was gone, struck down by the very thing that made him what he was--his heart. One minute he was sitting at the High Table, sharing a joke with Rees; the next he could not breathe. He had died in her arms on the floor of the Great Hall of Elcast Keep, and taken a part of her with him when he left.
Morna Provin had not merely lost a husband. Wallin's death meant she no longer enjoyed the protection he provided. She had lived these past twenty years because Wallin had begged for her life, and now he was no longer here to shield her. She glanced over her shoulder as the funeral procession wound down the steep road toward the town. Tovin Rill walked behind them with his youngest son, Lanon. His expression was grave. The Senetian governor had done nothing but express his sympathy so far, but Morna knew she was living on borrowed time. Her fate was inevitable and, in some ways, she thought, not undeserved.
If she felt anything, it was a deep sense of disappointment, mostly in herself.
She had promised to do so much. But in the end I was no better than you, Johan, she admitted silently. For all my noise about freeing Dhevyn, about carrying on the fight, what did I end up doing? Exactly what you did, my love. I hunkered down somewhere safe and let the world pass me by, fooling myself into believing that I was just waiting for the right time, the right circumstances, before I acted.