Avaryan Resplendent, Volume I
by Judith Tarr
Drums beat, pulse-beat. Slow, slow, then swifter, rising up and up to a rattle of panic-terror.
The boy ran.
Sometimes as he ran he was himself: wind in his face, breath in his lungs, fire in his blood. Pain, sudden and sharp, as a branch caught his hair and tore it at the roots; or a stone turned underfoot and pierced the unprotected skin; or a thorn sank claw in his side.
Sometimes he was wholly outside of himself. A bird, maybe, in the dark of the trees, looking down at the pale naked thing running from it knew not what, leaving its panic-trail of flesh and blood and acrid human scent.
The law said, Run. The drums said, Run. Therefore he ran.
The mind paused. Saw wood, twilight dimness, sweat-streaming bloody self running from nothing at all, and said, Why?
It mastered the feet, slowed them, willed them to a standstill. The heart was harder, and the breath in starved lungs; those, it left to heal themselves. It brought its scattered selves together and bound them with its name.
He opened his eyes. The wood was gone, had never been, except in his mind, and in the rattle of the drums. They were silent now. He stood on stone, in walls of stone. Rough tunic rasped on skin as whole as skin could be, no mark that was not long since won, no scar that had not healed.
Cold metal touched his nape. He did not flinch, even inwardly.
“Strong,” said the voice behind him, that had known his name. “And self-willed.”
“Blood of the Lion,” said the man who stood in front of him. The man had no face. None of them did, of all who stood about him: clad in black from crown to toe, not even a glitter of eyes through the swathing of veils. Korusan, whose face was bare for any to see, made of it a mask and schooled his eyes to stillness.
They would always betray him, those eyes, unless he mastered them. He was named for them: Koru-Asan, Goldeneyes. Yellow eyes. Eyes of the Lion.
“Proud,” said the one behind, the one who held the knife. “Haughty, if truth be told. And why? His blood is none of ours.”
“It has its own distinction.” Dry, that, from one who stood in the circle.
“And its own destruction.” Cold and soft. Korusan stiffened at it. Infinitesimally; but here of all places, now of all times, there could be no concealment. “He will be dead before he is a man; and if he lives to get a son, what will that son be, as weakened as the blood has grown? Dead in infancy, or witless, or mad—if any are born at all of seed so sore enfeebled. Such is the Brood of the Lion.”
“He will live long enough,” said the dry voice. “He will do what he is born to do.”
“Will he live so long?” the cold one inquired.
Run, said the law. And Korusan had run. Keep silent, it said. And he had kept silent. Running had won him nothing but pain. He said, “I will live as long as I must.”
“You will be dead at twenty,” said the cold one, the cruel one. “You fancy yourself strong enough now; and with magic and physic and training, so you are. But those have their limits. I see the darkness in you. Already it sinks claws in your bones.”
“All men die,” said Korusan steadily. “It is a gift, maybe, that I know what I shall die of, and when.”
Arrows of the Sun is part of the Indie Fantasy Bundle, a great way to get a bunch of great books. It ends in a few days, though, so don’t delay.
Judith Tarr’s first novel, The Isle of Glass, appeared in 1985. Her YA time-travel science fiction/fantasy/historical novel, Living in Threes, appeared as an ebook in 2012, and is now in print. Her new novel, a space opera, will be published by Book View Cafe in 2015. In between, she’s written historicals and historical fantasies and epic fantasies. She has won the Crawford Award, and been a finalist for the World Fantasy Award and the Locus Award. She lives in Arizona with an assortment of cats, two dogs, and a herd of Lipizzan horses.