1 Hyalt, Lanachrona Light fell upon the priest
. That single ray of illumination, shaped by the ancient master-carved lens in the ceiling of the long and narrow chapel hewn out of the red rock cliffs, bathed the celebrant. His green tunic and trousers, trimmed in purple, shimmered. So did the alabaster makeup that covered his face. The blue-silver threads in the black short-haired wig picked up the light, creating a halo around his face. The black boots, with inset lifts, reflected light as if they too were burnished mirrors.
A long chord echoed through the temple, but the priest did not speak until all was silent.
"When our forebears turned their backs on the True Duarchy, then the One Who Is turned away and let the Cataclysm fall upon Corus…" The celebrant's voice seemed to come from everywhere, yet nowhere.
More than a hundred worshippers stood with bowed heads, heads covered with black scarves of mourning. Only a handful dared to look from lowered heads toward the front of the temple.
"The Cataclysm did not have to happen. The misery and suffering did not have to come to pass. And why did it come to be? How could so many be so blind?"
The only response to his questions was silence.
"The Duarchy of Corus bestowed peace and prosperity upon all the world, for generation upon generation. Never was there so fair a realm, so just a world. Never were so blessed the peoples of a world. Never had so many benefited so much. And then, in an instant, it all vanished…"
In the next-to-last line of worshippers stood a dark-haired figure in gray. He was a head taller than those around him, and his face paler. The weave of the wool of his traveling cloak was somewhat finer. His head was bent slightly less than the heads of others, and his eyes never left the celebrant. The faintest hint of an amused smile appeared from time to time at the corners of his thin lips.
"…as the Mantra of Mourning declares…Ice flowed from the skies. The air that had been so fair, and perfumed, became as thin and as acrid as vinegar. Streams dried in their beds, rivers in their courses, never to flow again…All that had been beautiful and great perished and was lost. And for what reason?"
After a momentary silence, the priest answered, "Because people were selfish and thought only of themselves. They turned their backs on the True Duarchy, and when they did so, they turned their backs on the One Who Is…for the Duarchy was indeed His creation…
"…in this world of transitory glory, when warlord succeeds warlord, and battle follows battle, and evil follows evil, we must persevere. We must have faith in the One Who Is. We must follow the path of righteousness to restore the old truths. For only by the instrument of the True Duarchy shall we be redeemed. Only by restoring the true creation of the One Who Is shall we once more see peace and prosperity, faith and faithfulness…"
The traveler in gray nodded, appreciatively, and continued to listen.
"…even today, the troubles continue. The hills to the north and west have become so dry in your lifetimes that they support nothing but twisted trees and spiky thorn, and yet the unbelievers do not see. Even here in Hyalt, where it is obvious, they do not see…
"…when the only deity is gold, when the only rule is power, when the only law is that laid down by the longest blade, by the deadliest rifle, no man can be safe, and none can find security. There are no arts, no fine buildings, no wondrous words, nothing but gold and blood…"
The traveler continued to listen, until at last came a hymn and the concluding refrain:
* * *
"…for the beauty of the skies and sea,
the full return of perfect harm
The popular creator of Recluce and of the Spellsong world of Liedwahr has built a whole new fantasy world on Corus. With each new volume of the Corean Chronicles we learn more about the magical underpinnings of this fascinating realm as we follow the continuing adventures of his reluctant hero, Alucius. In Legacies he became the first Iron Valley militiaman to escape sorcerous enslavement in Madrien. In Darknesses, he found a way to defeat a would-be conqueror who revived the fearsome creatures and potent weaponry of the legendary past. Now he returns to face the greatest challenges yet to both his courage and his magical Talent.
Alucius is happy back on his nightsheep stead with his beloved wife Wendra, who is expecting their first child. But the country is beset by enemies on all sides. Although the Lord Protector of Lanachrona keeps his promise not to order Alucius back to active duty, Alucius finds his request for help no easier to ignore.
Newly promoted to higher rank, and given command of a combined force of the Northern and Southern Guards, Alucius must first quell a strange religiously-inspired rebellion and then find a way to destroy the powerful weapons of ancient design again being used by the forces of Madrien. Unlike the Lord Protector, Alucius can see that a third, covert, threat must be behind the other two. He will have to confront an alien evil that seeks to enslave the whole world of Corus in the guise of bringing back a lost golden age. Only the timely assistance of the mysterious ancient Soarers and the addition of Wendra's Talent to his own give him any hope of success. Scepters is a stirring climax to the first Corean trilogy.