The history of Sha'azharet'th, Elder Lord of Ard'dr, Master of Ta'arim, cursed by the gods to labor in the flesh for a thousand years.
In Book One, young Sha'azharet'th, grandson of the Emperor of Ard'dr, chooses the ancient Way of Power over court politics. But as soon as he gains his new magical abilities, they become the focus of the fear and greed of his decadent kinsmen who involve him in their battles to preserve the empire. Weary of war, Sha'azharet'th obeys the will of the First Gods until they demand a sacrifice that he simply cannot give...
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Several hundred men had come in, and the stream was beginning to thin, when suddenly a stir and rustle ran over the assembly, like a breeze through a forest. The lord who was at that moment speaking with Sha'azharet'th turned to glance toward the door, and the boy peered curiously past him. He saw a very old man just entering the hall. In striking contrast to the rest of that company, he was clad all in white and silver--the token of the Elders!
Although his hair was as white as the rest of his costume, the Elder Lord crossed the floor as lithely as a youth, from which Sha'azharet'th deduced that he must be Ra'athon'non. There were only two Elders left alive in all of Ard'dr, and although he had never met either of them, he had been told that the other, Tem'miris'sit, was lame.
Ra'athon'non approached him; the other man moved hastily to the side. Somehow the boy left off gaping and remembered to bend a knee in obeisance, and to murmur the correct salutation: "Honor to thee, Elder Lord."
"And to thee, Sha'azharet'th," the other responded formally, extending his left hand. His long, bony fingers were unadorned except for the dull black Ring of Power, symbol of his covenant with the First Gods. In ancient times, many Lords of the Dragon had made that awesome pledge, and received the favor of the Gods. But for the last two generations, every pledge had failed, and these days no one even thought of trying. Almost no one, that is.
As Sha'azharet'th touched the Elder Lord's fingertips, and rose slowly to his feet, his head swam with the vision of himself in the silver and white--himself, wielding that awesome sorcerous power which was named ark'khorm! The picture was so overwhelmingly clear that he thought surely the old man must see it in his face, read it in his startled eyes. He felt flushed, and yet icy cold, all at the same time. He scarcely heard the words of conventional commendation which Ra'athon'non addressed to him. He stammered some reply; then the Elder Lord turned away, taking his seat with the rest, a lonely spot of white in the sea of red and black.
A few moments later the emperor As'sarin'non, called the Golden, arrived with his court. They did not use the main doors, but came in through a special entrance built in the section reserved for them. Even with the court added, the hall seemed almost empty. Of course, not everyone had come today, but it was said that even the full Council filled no more than a third of the seats. The pure blood of Ard'dr was increasingly rare these days.
By the time the emperor was seated, Sha'azharet'th had recovered himself sufficiently to make another obeisance and respond courteously to his grandfather's greeting. Then a crystal tone chimed, quieting the hum and buzz of conversation.
As'sarin'non spoke to the Council: "Lords of Ard'dr, we welcome here today a new member of our company. I myself vouch for his lineage--his mother was my daughter Yl'nytha, and his father is Prince Eth'harit'th of Chin. Who speaks for his education?"
Halfway down the hall, a man stood up. Sha'azharet'th turned and saw that it was Ath'hamon'nar, his principal tutor. "I affirm that Sha'azharet'th has received proper instruction in history, tongues, spells, military arts, and all other appropriate branches of knowledge. I might add that he has distinguished himself in nearly all of these areas, but nowhere more than in the lore and practice of sorcery."
"Well-born, well-taught," the emperor observed. "Does any one here speak against the candidate?"
None spoke. They never did, so Sha'azharet'th had been assured, but he could not forego a small breath of relief, just the same.
"Then let him be seated. Lord Sha'azharet'th, be welcome in the Council of Ard'dr."
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