9780765313294

The Golden Rose

by
  • ISBN13:

    9780765313294

  • ISBN10:

    0765313294

  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2008-03-04
  • Publisher: Tor Books
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Summary

Kathleen Bryan returns with the sequel to The Serpent and the Rose. Beautiful Averil is now the Duchess of Quitaine, but to keep her people safe, she made a vow to the traitor King of Lys. After a year, she would come to his Court in Lutece, and choose a husband from the men he offers her. Averil must produce an heir ' not only to Quitaine, but also to all of Lys; for she is the only daughter of the King's sister, and he has no wife or child of his own. But Averil's heart is in the keeping of a powerful young Knight of the Rose, Gerient, a man she can never marry. The two share a bond of magecraft as well as love, for between them lies the power to raise the Wild Magic of the world, the only force that can defeat the King's quest to release the Serpent God of Chaos from his mystic prison. And when Averil learns that the King is building a fleet to attack the Ladies of the Isle, to destroy them as he destroyed the Orders of the Knights of the Rose in Lys, she rebels against her sworn duty, and flees to Gerient's side. Together they will raise their powers to protect both the Isle and the remnants of the Rose.

Author Biography

Kathleen Bryan lives in Vail, Arizona.

Table of Contents

THE GOLDEN ROSE (Chapter 1)

"IT'S TIME."

Gereint raised his head. He had been kneeling all night on the stone floor, half dreaming and half praying, but there was no sleep in him. He felt light, empty, exalted.

Slowly his eyes focused and his mind came back from far and magical places. The chapel was full of shadows and whispers. Its jeweled windows were dark, its banks of candles burning low as the night wore its way toward dawn.

The man who had spoken moved into what light there was. His face was somber but his dark eyes were smiling. "They're waiting for you," he said.

"Already?" Gereint bit his tongue. His self-control was still imperfect, though he had labored long and hard to master it. "I don't think I'm ready. Maybe I should wait. Maybe--"

"You are ready," said Riquier. "Come with me."

Gereint was bound to obey. Riquier was a Squire and his teacher, and far outranked him.

He rose stiffly, resisting the urge to crouch and stoop. No matter what he did, he would loom over most men of his nation.

Riquier led him out of the chapel and through the cloister into the court of the testing, where he would either become a Novice of the Rose or die trying. He did not share his teacher's confidence, but it was too late to turn back. The only way out of this was through the test.

They were waiting: all of the order that had escaped alive from the kingdom of Lys, and a good number of the Knights and Squires and Novices of the Rose on this island of Prydain. Gereint slowed and almost stumbled. He had not expected so many.

Riquier tugged him onward until he stood in the center of the circle. The sky was just beginning to brighten with dawn, but the courtyard was full of light: clear and shadowless, born of magic and the combined will of the Knights. They were all gathered to watch their most troublesome Postulant attempt to become an initiate of the order.

Gereint drew himself up. Maybe they wanted him to fail. If they did, he would put on a brave show.

Riquier nodded as if he could read Gereint's thoughts. "Remember," he said: "from the mind to the heart and the heart to the hand--that is the secret of all that we are."

He left Gereint in the middle of the sandy circle. Novices came out in his place, bringing the weapon with which Gereint would be tested: a two-handed greatsword. They had practice armor, too, and a light helmet, both of which fit him surprisingly well.

Gereint rolled his shoulders under the padded leather, trying to work out the tension. He had been hoping, like a fool, for a different test.

Books, now--he had been studying diligently all year long, and could recite whole pages in three languages, almost four. Or magic. He could control it now, mostly. He had mastered all of the simple spells; he could make an almost clear rod of glass, though shaping it was still giving him trouble, and binding magic into it was more than any Postulant was trusted to do.

Weapons were his worst weakness. If they had brought out pitchfork and mattock or asked him to plow a straight furrow, he would have done well enough; but they were not farmers here. They were Knights. And he, a farmer's son, had the temerity to want to be one of them.

Of course he could only rise to Novice through a bout of armed combat. If he had been asked to test a candidate with his particular weaknesses, he would have done the same. A Knight who could not fight was a dishonor to the order.

His fingers closed around the hilt of the sword. He weighed it in his hands, drawing deep breaths and trying not to think too hard. Thinking was deadly. A good swordsman simply had to be.

The man who came out to face him was a stranger. He wore leather armor like Gereint's, and he was a big man, tall and broad. He was even bigger than Gereint.

All of Gereint's practice had been with smaller men. It was almost a relief to meet his match for size and strength--and, he was sure, by far his superior in skill. It would be no humiliation to lose this match.

He took his stance and raised the long, heavy blade, saluting with a flourish. His opponent grinned and returned the salute.

Gereint frowned. Something about the man was odd. His edges seemed to shimmer; Gereint could see through him to the sand of the circle and the ranks of Knights in the stands. But when Gereint peered closer, the man was as solid as he should be, and the strangeness was no more than the first light of morning on his polished armor.

Gereint drew a long breath. His fear had melted away. He would do the best he could; that was all anyone could ask.

He waited for the other man to move. He was light on his feet for once, and the sword was well balanced. He opened himself to whatever might come.

The other waited, too, making it a test of patience. Gereint resisted the urge to break and lunge. That was a trap. If they stood here from sunrise to midnight, so they would.

The long sword flicked, almost too fast to see. Gereint's blade was there, blocking it. The force of the blow rattled his teeth. He beat it back and struck--not too hard: just enough to drop the man back a step.

Gereint returned to guard position and waited again. That was unexpected: his opponent reeled against an attack that did not come.

Again the grin flashed, and a dip of the chin: a swift salute.

Then the attack came in earnest: a whirling wall of steel. Gereint's lungs burned; his shoulders went swiftly beyond pain. He could feel where the next blow would be, could be there to parry and strike again; but his body was merely mortal.

Was it?

There was earth underfoot. The sun was coming up. Earth and fire were his elements: they gave him strength.

Pain faded away. Exhaustion shrank to a memory. This was a dance and he was the dancer.

The blows came faster, faster, faster. No matter how strong he was, the other was stronger.

One of them had to end it. There was a pattern to the dance, circles within circles--the great strength and weakness of the Knights of the Rose.

Gereint broke the circles. He sighted along the sword's blade, direct to the body behind the wall of steel. He struck the big man down and set his foot on the broad chest.

The other's sword flew wide. Gereint's swordpoint came to rest on the hollow of the throat.

"Cut off my head," the big man said.

Gereint's teeth clicked together.

"Do it," said his erstwhile opponent.

Five hundred king's men had died in the heat of Gereint's magic. The guilt of that would haunt him until he died. But he had never killed a man with his hands. To do it now, in front of the massed ranks of the Rose...

A Knight was sworn to obedience. That was his first vow and his last.

"Cut off my head," the man said again.

Tides of magic eddied around them. The sand was searing hot--a burning glass. The air was singing.

The sword sang descant, sweeping up and round and down. Gereint braced for the shock of steel cleaving bone, but the blade passed through that seemingly solid neck as if it had been air, and lodged in the sand.

Where Gereint's opponent had been was a shape of molten glass. It twisted and shimmered; the heat of it blistered his feet and legs. The sword's blade melted and flowed and dissipated into air.

Gereint let the hilt fall. Instinct screamed at him to fling himself away. He bent instead and with his gloved hands lifted the work of living magic that had worn the shape of a man.

There was heat in it still. He blew coolness on it, drawn from the depths of earth and shaped from a cloud that had come to chase the sun. The molten thing turned solid in his hands, a branched shape like a wind-worn tree, but glassy-smooth and pale as ice.

Magic sang in it. Without thinking, Gereint damped the power. The clear high note faded into silence.

Gently he set the tree of glass back on the sand. As he straightened, he realized that the silence was complete. No one seemed to breathe.

They were staring at him with such intensity that he began to wonder if he should run for it while he still could. He had killed--something. Not a man. But there would be a price to pay.

At long last, just before he would have turned and bolted, someone moved. It was the Knight Mauritius, by whose command Gereint was in this place on this day. He leaned toward a somewhat older man who happened to be the father general of the Knights in Prydain and said, "There. Did I not tell you?"

"You did indeed," said Father Owein. He leaned back in his chair with an air of carefully cultivated ease. "Have your way, then."

Mauritius bowed. "My thanks, messire," he said.

Gereint hesitated, torn between bafflement and curiosity. By the time he thought to move, the path to escape was blocked. The Novices who had armed him were coming back, with more behind them carrying buckets and basins and a silver cauldron inlaid with a dizzying pattern of crystal and enamel, and the Squire Riquier carrying a long bundle wrapped in dark wool.

They stripped him in front of everyone, down to the skin, and let him stand naked and resisting the urge to blush and crouch and cover as much of himself as he could, while they filled the cauldron with steaming water. When they urged him into it, he found it hot enough but hardly boiling. They scrubbed him until he stung all over, rubbed him with fistfuls of herbs that foamed and tingled and gave off a sharp pleasant scent, then half-drowned him with bucketsful of cold water.

When they were done with him, he was cleaner than he had ever been in his life. They dressed him in fresh new linen and finely woven hose and a cotte the color of the sky at dusk, embroidered over the heart with a golden rose.

He snapped out of his half-trance of astonishment and joy and tried to push the cotte away. "That's not the right one," he said. "It's supposed to be green. I'm not supposed to--"

"You are," said Riquier. His face was expressionless, but Gereint could tell he was laughing. His own cotte was the same deep blue, though the rose had four blood-red thorns rather than one.

"I'm supposed to be a Novice," Gereint said stubbornly. "You're dressing me like a Squire."

"Yes," said Riquier. "Stop wriggling and let them finish."

"But I can't be--"

Riquier unfolded the remains of his bundle, shaking out a deep blue mantle with a golden clasp, and a long sword in a blue sheath bound with gold. He knelt to belt the sword around Gereint's middle, which stopped the babbling though not the flood of protest.

When he rose, Gereint's mouth was clamped shut. Riquier's lips curved ever so slightly. He swept a bow to the assembly and said in a clear and carrying voice, "Messires, I bring you the Squire Gereint, who has proved through the test of mind and heart, heart and hand, that he has the arts and powers proper to his rank."

"But I don't," Gereint started to say--but Riquier's hand gripped his wrist, grinding the bones together. The sudden pain drove the words out of his head.

By the time he found them again, the court had erupted in a torrent of shouts and cheers. He did his best to look worthy of it--no matter what he might be thinking. They had given him a great and unprecedented honor.

He would be happy when the panic stopped. He had been prepared to lose and either die or be sent away. He had been ready to be a Novice, with a Novice's duties and instruction. No one had said a word of making him a Squire. That should have been years away, if it was going to happen at all.

A wave of deep blue overwhelmed him: all the Squires in the chapter house, slapping him on the back and roaring with delight. They lifted him up, sword and mantle and tree of glass and all, and carried him off to celebrate this unexpected elevation.

THE GOLDEN ROSE Copyright © 2008 by Judith Tarr

Excerpts

THE GOLDEN ROSE (Chapter 1)

"IT'S TIME."

Gereint raised his head. He had been kneeling all night on the stone floor, half dreaming and half praying, but there was no sleep in him. He felt light, empty, exalted.

Slowly his eyes focused and his mind came back from far and magical places. The chapel was full of shadows and whispers. Its jeweled windows were dark, its banks of candles burning low as the night wore its way toward dawn.

The man who had spoken moved into what light there was. His face was somber but his dark eyes were smiling. "They're waiting for you," he said.

"Already?" Gereint bit his tongue. His self-control was still imperfect, though he had labored long and hard to master it. "I don't think I'm ready. Maybe I should wait. Maybe--"

"You are ready," said Riquier. "Come with me."

Gereint was bound to obey. Riquier was a Squire and his teacher, and far outranked him.

He rose stiffly, resisting the urge to crouch and stoop. No matter what he did, he would loom over most men of his nation.

Riquier led him out of the chapel and through the cloister into the court of the testing, where he would either become a Novice of the Rose or die trying. He did not share his teacher's confidence, but it was too late to turn back. The only way out of this was through the test.

They were waiting: all of the order that had escaped alive from the kingdom of Lys, and a good number of the Knights and Squires and Novices of the Rose on this island of Prydain. Gereint slowed and almost stumbled. He had not expected so many.

Riquier tugged him onward until he stood in the center of the circle. The sky was just beginning to brighten with dawn, but the courtyard was full of light: clear and shadowless, born of magic and the combined will of the Knights. They were all gathered to watch their most troublesome Postulant attempt to become an initiate of the order.

Gereint drew himself up. Maybe they wanted him to fail. If they did, he would put on a brave show.

Riquier nodded as if he could read Gereint's thoughts. "Remember," he said: "from the mind to the heart and the heart to the hand--that is the secret of all that we are."

He left Gereint in the middle of the sandy circle. Novices came out in his place, bringing the weapon with which Gereint would be tested: a two-handed greatsword. They had practice armor, too, and a light helmet, both of which fit him surprisingly well.

Gereint rolled his shoulders under the padded leather, trying to work out the tension. He had been hoping, like a fool, for a different test.

Books, now--he had been studying diligently all year long, and could recite whole pages in three languages, almost four. Or magic. He could control it now, mostly. He had mastered all of the simple spells; he could make an almost clear rod of glass, though shaping it was still giving him trouble, and binding magic into it was more than any Postulant was trusted to do.

Weapons were his worst weakness. If they had brought out pitchfork and mattock or asked him to plow a straight furrow, he would have done well enough; but they were not farmers here. They were Knights. And he, a farmer's son, had the temerity to want to be one of them.

Of course he could only rise to Novice through a bout of armed combat. If he had been asked to test a candidate with his particular weaknesses, he would have done the same. A Knight who could not fight was a dishonor to the order.

His fingers closed around the hilt of the sword. He weighed it in his hands, drawing deep breaths and trying not to think too hard. Thinking was deadly. A good swordsman simply had to be.

The man who came out to face him was a stranger. He wore leather armor like Gereint's, and he was a big man, tall and broad. He was even bigger than Gereint.

All of Gereint's practice had been with smaller men. It was almost a relief to meet his match for size and strength--and, he was sure, by far his superior in skill. It would be no humiliation to lose this match.

He took his stance and raised the long, heavy blade, saluting with a flourish. His opponent grinned and returned the salute.

Gereint frowned. Something about the man was odd. His edges seemed to shimmer; Gereint could see through him to the sand of the circle and the ranks of Knights in the stands. But when Gereint peered closer, the man was as solid as he should be, and the strangeness was no more than the first light of morning on his polished armor.

Gereint drew a long breath. His fear had melted away. He would do the best he could; that was all anyone could ask.

He waited for the other man to move. He was light on his feet for once, and the sword was well balanced. He opened himself to whatever might come.

The other waited, too, making it a test of patience. Gereint resisted the urge to break and lunge. That was a trap. If they stood here from sunrise to midnight, so they would.

The long sword flicked, almost too fast to see. Gereint's blade was there, blocking it. The force of the blow rattled his teeth. He beat it back and struck--not too hard: just enough to drop the man back a step.

Gereint returned to guard position and waited again. That was unexpected: his opponent reeled against an attack that did not come.

Again the grin flashed, and a dip of the chin: a swift salute.

Then the attack came in earnest: a whirling wall of steel. Gereint's lungs burned; his shoulders went swiftly beyond pain. He could feel where the next blow would be, could be there to parry and strike again; but his body was merely mortal.

Was it?

There was earth underfoot. The sun was coming up. Earth and fire were his elements: they gave him strength.

Pain faded away. Exhaustion shrank to a memory. This was a dance and he was the dancer.

The blows came faster, faster, faster. No matter how strong he was, the other was stronger.

One of them had to end it. There was a pattern to the dance, circles within circles--the great strength and weakness of the Knights of the Rose.

Gereint broke the circles. He sighted along the sword's blade, direct to the body behind the wall of steel. He struck the big man down and set his foot on the broad chest.

The other's sword flew wide. Gereint's swordpoint came to rest on the hollow of the throat.

"Cut off my head," the big man said.

Gereint's teeth clicked together.

"Do it," said his erstwhile opponent.

Five hundred king's men had died in the heat of Gereint's magic. The guilt of that would haunt him until he died. But he had never killed a man with his hands. To do it now, in front of the massed ranks of the Rose...

A Knight was sworn to obedience. That was his first vow and his last.

"Cut off my head," the man said again.

Tides of magic eddied around them. The sand was searing hot--a burning glass. The air was singing.

The sword sang descant, sweeping up and round and down. Gereint braced for the shock of steel cleaving bone, but the blade passed through that seemingly solid neck as if it had been air, and lodged in the sand.

Where Gereint's opponent had been was a shape of molten glass. It twisted and shimmered; the heat of it blistered his feet and legs. The sword's blade melted and flowed and dissipated into air.

Gereint let the hilt fall. Instinct screamed at him to fling himself away. He bent instead and with his gloved hands lifted the work of living magic that had worn the shape of a man.

There was heat in it still. He blew coolness on it, drawn from the depths of earth and shaped from a cloud that had come to chase the sun. The molten thing turned solid in his hands, a branched shape like a wind-worn tree, but glassy-smooth and pale as ice.

Magic sang in it. Without thinking, Gereint damped the power. The clear high note faded into silence.

Gently he set the tree of glass back on the sand. As he straightened, he realized that the silence was complete. No one seemed to breathe.

They were staring at him with such intensity that he began to wonder if he should run for it while he still could. He had killed--something. Not a man. But there would be a price to pay.

At long last, just before he would have turned and bolted, someone moved. It was the Knight Mauritius, by whose command Gereint was in this place on this day. He leaned toward a somewhat older man who happened to be the father general of the Knights in Prydain and said, "There. Did I not tell you?"

"You did indeed," said Father Owein. He leaned back in his chair with an air of carefully cultivated ease. "Have your way, then."

Mauritius bowed. "My thanks, messire," he said.

Gereint hesitated, torn between bafflement and curiosity. By the time he thought to move, the path to escape was blocked. The Novices who had armed him were coming back, with more behind them carrying buckets and basins and a silver cauldron inlaid with a dizzying pattern of crystal and enamel, and the Squire Riquier carrying a long bundle wrapped in dark wool.

They stripped him in front of everyone, down to the skin, and let him stand naked and resisting the urge to blush and crouch and cover as much of himself as he could, while they filled the cauldron with steaming water. When they urged him into it, he found it hot enough but hardly boiling. They scrubbed him until he stung all over, rubbed him with fistfuls of herbs that foamed and tingled and gave off a sharp pleasant scent, then half-drowned him with bucketsful of cold water.

When they were done with him, he was cleaner than he had ever been in his life. They dressed him in fresh new linen and finely woven hose and a cotte the color of the sky at dusk, embroidered over the heart with a golden rose.

He snapped out of his half-trance of astonishment and joy and tried to push the cotte away. "That's not the right one," he said. "It's supposed to be green. I'm not supposed to--"

"You are," said Riquier. His face was expressionless, but Gereint could tell he was laughing. His own cotte was the same deep blue, though the rose had four blood-red thorns rather than one.

"I'm supposed to be a Novice," Gereint said stubbornly. "You're dressing me like a Squire."

"Yes," said Riquier. "Stop wriggling and let them finish."

"But I can't be--"

Riquier unfolded the remains of his bundle, shaking out a deep blue mantle with a golden clasp, and a long sword in a blue sheath bound with gold. He knelt to belt the sword around Gereint's middle, which stopped the babbling though not the flood of protest.

When he rose, Gereint's mouth was clamped shut. Riquier's lips curved ever so slightly. He swept a bow to the assembly and said in a clear and carrying voice, "Messires, I bring you the Squire Gereint, who has proved through the test of mind and heart, heart and hand, that he has the arts and powers proper to his rank."

"But I don't," Gereint started to say--but Riquier's hand gripped his wrist, grinding the bones together. The sudden pain drove the words out of his head.

By the time he found them again, the court had erupted in a torrent of shouts and cheers. He did his best to look worthy of it--no matter what he might be thinking. They had given him a great and unprecedented honor.

He would be happy when the panic stopped. He had been prepared to lose and either die or be sent away. He had been ready to be a Novice, with a Novice's duties and instruction. No one had said a word of making him a Squire. That should have been years away, if it was going to happen at all.

A wave of deep blue overwhelmed him: all the Squires in the chapter house, slapping him on the back and roaring with delight. They lifted him up, sword and mantle and tree of glass and all, and carried him off to celebrate this unexpected elevation.

THE GOLDEN ROSE Copyright © 2008 by Judith Tarr

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