L.E. Modesitt, Jr.'s The Towers of the Sunset continues his bestselling fantasy series the Saga of Recluce, which is one the most popular in contemporary epic fantasy.
Rather than accepting a marriage arranged by his mother, the powerful military matriarch of Westwind, Creslin chooses exile, setting out to find his own identity and developing his magical talents through conflict with the enigmatic white wizards of Candar.
What Creslin doesn't know he stands in the way of their plot to subjugate the world.
Saga of Recluce
#1 The Magic of Recluce / #2 The Towers of Sunset / #3 The Order War / #4 The Magic Engineer / #5 The Death of Chaos / #6 Fall of Angels / #7 The Chaos Balance / #8 The White Order / #9 Colors of Chaos / #10 Magi’i of Cyador / #11 Scion of Cyador / #12 Wellspring of Chaos / #13 Ordermaster / #14 Natural Order Mage / #15 Mage-Guard of Hamor / #16 Arms-Commander / #17 Cyador’s Heirs / #18 Heritage of Cyador /#19 The Mongrel Mage / #20 Outcasts of Order / #21 The Mage-Fire War (forthcoming)
Story Collection: Recluce Tales
Other Series by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
The Imager Portfolio
The Corean Chronicles
The Spellsong Cycle
The Ghost Books
The Ecolitan Matter
About the Author
L. E. MODESITT, JR. is the bestselling author of more than seventy novels encompassing two science fiction series, the Ghost Books and the Ecolitan Matter, and four fantasy series, the Imager Portfolio, the Saga of Recluce, the Spellsong Cycle and the Corean Chronicles. He lives in Cedar City, Utah.
Read an Excerpt
The Towers Of the Sunset
By L. E. Modesitt Jr., David G. Hartwell
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 1992 L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
All rights reserved.
Can you see how the pieces fit together? Not just the visible ones, like the towers of the sunset, but those unseen, like the heart of a man or the soul of a wizard.
Not that you will believe. Patterns work that way, for each individual is captured by her patterns, even as she must reconcile them.
The lady named Megaera, if indeed merely that, sees all the patterns, yet for all she sees and says, for all the truth in the Legend, logic and the towers fail. Logic indeed is a frail structure to hold a reality that must encompass both order and chaos, especially when Black supports order and White is the sign of chaos.
Even logic must fall to understanding, to those who can laugh at their chains and shatter chaos and upend order, even more so than the so-called gods and those who call upon them. Or the Furies that followed the fallen angels of Heaven.
Has there been a god in Candar? Did the angels in truth fall upon the Roof of the World? How true is the Legend? The patterns supply no answers, but any story must start somewhere, even if its beginning seems like the ending of another tale, or the middle of a third epic. And patterns never tell the entire story, the order-masters and the chaos-masters notwithstanding.
As for the towers of the sunset ...
Though the musician has seen them — the towers of the sunset — rearing above the needle peaks of the west, who has dwelt there?
Another look and they are no more, just towering cumuli-nimbi, strafing the foothills with the lashes of the gods. In the gold light of morning, the rivulets of ice would verify the anger of ...?
What does a house tell of its builder? A sword of its owner? Or of those who stop to admire the lines of each?
The musician smiles briefly. That is all he can do. That, and bring to music what his eyes have seen, for he will sing to the Marshall of Westwind, ruler of the Roof of the World, about the towers of the sunset.
Who else looks at the towers of the sunset? Who built them? The angels of Heaven? The musician knows no answers except those of his music, and of his heart, which lies colder than the strings of the guitar he bears with him.
Suffice it to say that the castle is called Westwind ... founded by a long-dead captain: Ryba, from the swift ships of Heaven.
Her many-time daughter's son — but that is the story to come.CHAPTER 2
"Remove Westwind's control of the Westhorns, and Sarronnyn and Suthya will fall like overripe apples."
"If I recall correctly, that kind of thinking cost the prefect of Gallos most of his army."
"Light! We're not talking about arms." The skeletal man in white jabs a finger skyward, the mouth in his young face smiling. "We are talking about love."
"What does love have to do with removing Westwind?"
"I have sent Werlynn to Westwind. Do you not like the sound of that? Werlynn to Westwind?"
"But ... how? Werlynn never comes here; his music ruins the work of the White brethren. What —"
"That's the beauty of it. One little charm ... to ensure that he will bring the Marshall a son ... first. And the charm was even order-based."
"You've never liked Werlynn, have you? Ever since —"
"That's not the question. The question is the Marshall. Just think — think — she is a woman. She won't kill her firstborn, male or not, Legend or not."
"You seem certain of that. But she has no children, nor even a consort."
"Werlynn will see to that."
"Even if he does, that's a long time from now."
"We have time. The road is still not through the Easthorns."
The other man shakes his head, but does not speak further.CHAPTER 3
The guitarist strums an ordered cadence, almost a march, so precise are the notes, so clear are the tones. He does not sing.
A single look, underlined with a brief flare of light from the middle stone seat, the one upholstered with the black cushion, stops the guitarist. He nods toward the woman. "Your pardon, grace." His voice is as musical as the strings he plays, evoking a sense of dusky summer that has yet to come to Westwind, even in the centuries since its construction.
"Perhaps you should consider a trip to Hydolar, or even to Fairhaven."
"Perhaps I should, if that is your wish." His eyes darken as he looks toward the boy.
In turn, the silver-haired toddler hanging on to the stone arm of the chair bearing the green cushion glances from the silver-haired guitarist to the black-haired woman, and back again.
"Play another song of summer," she orders.
"As you wish."
As the notes cascade from the strings of the guitar, an unseen fire lifts the chill from the stone walls of the room, and even the guitarist's breath no longer smokes in the dim afternoon of the Westhorns' endless winter.
The toddler sees the notes as they climb from the strings into the air, lets go of the stone support and clutches at a single fragment as it passes beyond his grasp.
Neither the woman nor the guitarist remark upon his sudden drop to the gray granite beside the chair he has released. Nor do they notice the glimmer of gold he clutches within his pink fingers and how he turns to seek the light it bears.
Nor do they see the wetness in his eyes when the gold dissipates from within his grasp even as he watches.
His jaw set, the chubby-legged child struggles upright until he stands next to the chair that is his, his hands reaching out once more toward the order behind the sounds he sees and hears.
But the song of summer has come to an end, with tears unshed in the eyes of the guitarist.
Beyond the gray granite walls, the wind howls and ... again ... the snow falls.CHAPTER 4
"I have to wear this?" Against the warm light that floods from the open double-casement window through the thin, close-woven silksheen of the flimsy dark trousers, the young man can see the outline of the man who stands holding the garment at the foot of the bed. "Galen, you can't be serious."
The older, round-faced man shrugs helplessly. "The Marshall ordered ..."
The youngster takes the trousers and tosses them onto the bed next to an equally thin white silksheen shirt. His image — that of a slight, silver-haired youth in a light-gray flannel shirt and green leather vest and trousers — is framed in the full-length, gilt-edged mirror that hangs against the blond wood paneling. His eyes are a steady gray-green. The silver hair and fine features overshadow the wiry muscles beneath the flannel and the weapons calluses upon the strong, squarish hands.
"Why did she even bother to bring me? I'm no consort to be paraded around."
Galen straightens out the clothes so they lie neatly upon the green-and-white-brocaded bedcover. "The Marshall thought that you should learn about Sarronnyn firsthand. And like it or not, you are a consort."
"Ha. She has more in mind than that. Llyse will be the one who must deal with Sarronnyn."
Galen shrugs again, almost helplessly, and his shoulder-length white curls bob. "Your grace, I can but follow the Marshall's orders."
The oak door connecting the spacious single room with the suite provided to the Marshall by the Tyrant swings open. A tall woman, slender and deadly as a rapier despite the flowing green silks that cover her figure, steps into the room. A single guard, her short-cut brown hair shot with gray, followers the Marshall, a pace behind.
The youth looks from the silksheen clothes to the Marshall and back to the clothes upon the brocaded spread.
The woman smiles faintly, but her eyes do not mirror her lips. "Creslin, if I am wearing silksheen, then you certainly can. The garments are a gift from the Tyrant, and spurning them will only make the negotiations that much more difficult. Unlike you, I prefer to save my resistance for those times when the issue matters."
Her blue eyes are as hard as the dark stones of Westwind. The contrast between their adamancy and the green silks that flow around the lithe muscles — muscles she has developed and maintained over nearly four decades of training and warfare — reminds Creslin of the snow leopards that skulk the edges of the Roof of the World.
He inclines his head as he removes his green-leather sleeveless vest and lays it on the bed. "I will be ready in a moment."
"Thank you." She steps back through the entry to her suite but does not close the heavy oak door behind her.
Creslin tosses his flannel shirt next to the vest, then strips off the leather trousers.
"Where did you get that?" asks Galen, pointing to a thin line of red down the consort's left arm.
"Blade exercises. Where else?"
"Your grace, does the Marshall —"
"She knows, but she can't object to my wanting to be able to take care of myself." Creslin frowns as he holds up the dark green silk trousers, then begins to ease his well-muscled legs into them. "I keep telling her that if I'm too emotional I must need the training even more. She just shakes her head, but so far she hasn't actually forbidden it. Once in a while I have to smile, but most of the time I can appeal to reason. I mean, how would it look if the son of the most feared warrior in the Westhorns doesn't even know which edge of the blade is which?"
Galen shivers, although the room is not cold.
Creslin pulls on the shirt and arranges it as he looks in the mirror.
"Your grace ..." ventures Galen.
"Yes, Galen? Which fold did I do wrong?" Galen's hands deftly readjust the collar, then add the silver-framed emerald collar pin provided by the Marshall.
"Do I have to wear that, too? I feel like property."
Galen says nothing.
"All right, I am property, courtesy of the damned Legend."
"Your grace ..." mumbles Galen, his hands not quite going to his mouth.
"Are you ready, Creslin?" The voice comes from beyond the door.
"Yes, your grace. As soon as I retrieve my blade."
"Galen, would not any eastern male wear a blade?"
There is no response, and a faint smile crosses Creslin's lips as he buckles the soft leather of the formal sword-belt into place. The blade, the short sword of the guards of Westwind, remains securely sheathed therein.
Creslin steps through the connecting door. The guard follows him with her eyes, but he ignores her as he joins his mother the Marshall.
They walk out through the carved doorway of the guest-wing entrance. Creslin moves to the Marshall's left, a half-pace back, knowing that is as far as he can push.
"Creslin," begins the Marshall in the hard-edged soft voice that is not meant to carry, "do you understand your role here?"
"Yes, your grace. I am to be charming and receptive and not to volunteer anything but trivia. I may sing, if the occasion arises, but only a single song, and an ... inoffensive one. I am not to touch steel unless I am in mortal danger, which is rather unlikely. And I am not to comment upon the negotiations."
"You did listen." Her voice is wry.
"I always listen, your grace."
"I know. You just don't always obey."
"I am a dutiful son and consort."
"See that it stays that way."
During their exchange of words, their steps have carried them down the hall and into a wider hallway leading to the dining room of the Tyrant's palace. A herald, scarcely more than a boy, has appeared to escort them into the Tyrant's presence.
As they turn into an even broader corridor, wide-glassed windows on the left show a garden with a hedge of short, green-leaved bushes cut into a maze centering on a pond with a central fountain. From around the fountain's statue — an unclothed man well-endowed in all parts — shoot jets of water that arch upward before cascading into the pond.
The wall to the right of the two from Westwind is of pale pink granite, smoothed and polished. Gold-fringed tapestries depicting life in ancient Sarronnyn hang against the stone, a space perhaps equal to three paces between each scene.
Creslin, having studied the hangings earlier in the afternoon, ignores them, instead fixing his eyes on the doorway ahead, where a pair of armed women guard the entrance to the dining room.
The Marshall waits as the herald steps into the hall. Creslin waits with her, still a half-pace back.
"The Marshall of Westwind!" announces the young herald. "Accompanied by the consort-assign."
The Marshall nods and they step inside, following the herald toward the long table upon the dais.
"... handsome lad."
"... a blade yet ... but can he use it?"
"... like to see his work with the other blade."
"... too feminine. Looks like he trained as a guard."
Creslin purses his lips, trying not to hear the whispered comments of the court as he trails the herald and the Marshall. Some of the comments are all too familiar. Two places are vacant at the high table: one next to the Tyrant and one at the end, between two women.
"Your grace ..." A serving boy pulls out a chair for Creslin.
Creslin nods to the graying woman at his right, then to the girl at his left. The girl's unruly and shoulder-length mahogany curls flow from a silver hair band, and she is the only woman at the table with long hair.
"Your grace," begins the older woman.
With regret, because he understands the seating, Creslin turns to her. "Yes?" His voice is nearly musical, much as he rues it at times such as these.
"What might we call you?"
"Creslin, but no names are really necessary among friends." His stomach turns at the lie, and he wonders if he will ever be able to twist the truth, as he has been taught, without paying his own personal price. His eyes flicker to the center of the table, where the man to the left of the Tyrant has raised his knife.
The others turn to the sectioned pearapples on the yellow china plates before them, and Creslin lifts his knife to pare the sections into even smaller slices.
"Do all men in Westwind wear blades?" asks the older woman.
"Your grace," he defers, "Westwind is upon the Roof of the World, and all those who leave her walls must beware of the elements and the beasts that brave them. The Marshall would leave no soul unprotected, but was generous enough to grant my request to be able to protect myself."
"You appear rather ... athletic."
Creslin smiles, and his stomach turns yet again. "Appearances may be deceiving, your grace."
"You may call me Frewya." Her smile is only slightly less overpowering than her breath. "Would you tell us about Westwind?"
Creslin nods but first finishes a small section of pearapple and wipes his lips with the linen napkin before speaking. "I doubt that I am the most-qualified individual to describe Westwind, but I will do my best." He turns to the red-haired girl. "I would not exclude you, your grace —"
"If you would tell us about Westwind ..." Her voice contains a hint of laughter as she pauses in raising her goblet. She wears a heavy, dull, iron bracelet, almost as wide as a wrist gauntlet and set with a single black stone.
Creslin senses that the bracelet is not exactly what it seems to be before he quickly returns his glance to her face. Her hidden laughter has pleased him, and he bestows a smile upon her before turning back to Frewya.
"Westwind sits upon the Roof of the World, anchored in gray granite to the mountains themselves, walled against the weather, and armored against all assailants ..." Creslin did not compose the words he employs, but calls them from his memory of words written by another silver-haired man, kept in a small volume addressed to him.
"... and during the storms, the great hall, with its furnaces and chimneys, holds all warm against the winter and worse. Outside the walls of Westwind and beyond the walled road that leads to the trade routes, near-unbroken whiteness sweeps from below the south tower and up toward the still-shimmering needle of Freyja.
"Freyja" Creslin explains more conversationally, "is the sole peak to catch the light of the sun at dawn and at dusk.
"Beyond the Roof of the World are the depths, the cliffs that drop more than a thousand cubits into ice and rock. Beyond and below them lies the darkness of the high forest — massive spruces and firs that march both north and south toward the barrier peaks of the Westhorns." Creslin stops and smiles, then shrugs. "You see, I can offer you only images."
"You offer them well," responds Frewya.
The red-haired girl, or woman — for Creslin has perceived that she is somewhat older than he is — nods.
In the interim, his plate has been removed and replaced with a second and larger one, also of yellow porcelain, on which rests a slice of browned meat covered with a white sauce. To the side are cooked green leaves.
Creslin slices a presentably small section of meat. He ignores the spicy and bitter taste, although he calls the slightest of breezes to carry away the perspiration that threatens to bead on his forehead.
"How do you like the burkha?" The question comes from the redhead.
"It's a bit spicier than what is served at Westwind," he admits.
The woman laughs. "You're the first outsider I've seen who didn't totally burst into sweat with the first bite."
Creslin smiles vaguely, wondering whether to feel insulted or complimented. "I take it that's a compliment."
"Yes." But before she can say more, she turns to the man on her left in response to a question from him.
Excerpted from The Towers Of the Sunset by L. E. Modesitt Jr., David G. Hartwell. Copyright © 1992 L. E. Modesitt, Jr.. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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