The Matter of Manred Continues…
With the day of her arranged wedding fast approaching, will the Lady Eithne agree to marry King Eowain? What sinister forces have gathered to oppose the happy day? And what interest do the mysterious drymyn-priests and their dark, forgetful Gods have in such a mundane matter as love?
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Who is the Lady Eithne?
Since the day she was born, the Lady Eithne of Dolgallu has lived under a magical prohibition: she may not marry before the omens are deemed favorable.
Now, after a harrowing journey to the most sacred place in the Five Kingdoms, the mysterious priests and priestesses of the powerful Drymyn Order have pronounced the omens favorable, and her wedding to King Eowain of Droma has been arranged.
But Eithne has the right to accept—or reject—her suitor.
She did not set this geas upon herself, didn’t ask for the special attention of the Gods to her love-life. Yet the time for her decision has come.
Eowain has proven himself loyal, brave, kind—all the things any woman might ask from a man.
But there’s the way of it: “This is the man, you must marry him.” Is she not a free woman? Was she not guaranteed the right of choice?
Eithne is frustrated by the expectation that she will simply acquiesce to her fate, that she must accept that the Gods wove some secret pattern for her life and she can do nothing to stop it.
So how can she prove she has the freedom to choose if she doesn’t choose, “No”? How can she know for herself that her will is truly her own if she consents?
Read an Excerpt!
Eithne cursed at the door and gave it another futile kick, then went to the earthen decanter on the chest and sniffed at it, poured a dram into the cup and eyed it with suspicion—but no need. It was only cool, clear water.
Gods but a spot of ôl would be welcome, she thought, then filled the cup and drank.
The room around her lacked any personality. The stone walls, floor, and ceiling were dank and everything smelled of mildew. It might have been some time since the room had last been used, and the previous tenants had left little to define them. An hourglass full of sand, a hairbrush, and a small hand-mirror of polished brass stood upon the second chest.
Idly, she overturned the glass to set the sands running and drained her cup. How long do they think they can keep me cooped like a hen?
Eithne picked at the cold meats, the early spring berries, and felt guilty.
Lying to a drymyn wasn’t as bad as striking one, but that didn’t make it right.
She had to admit to herself that old Alva meant well. Eithne was warm, fed, watered, safe for the first time in—Gods, when was the last time I felt safe?—yet she couldn’t help but feel trapped. The room was close and narrow, the walls made of stone, the air mildewed, and a single candle was all she had for light. She didn’t even know what hour of the day it was. Was it noon? Evening? She’d come to the temple near dawn, but she’d been underground ever since. The hourglass, its upper bulb nearly empty, signified nothing.
She beat her fists against her knees as she sat down on one of the beds. The way they discount and undermine me? I don’t need their protection, no more than I needed Eowain to risk his damn fool neck for me. I know how to fight.
Her father’d seen to that, taught her sword-play and spear-work until she was as good as any man in their village.
The unrelenting torrent carried Eithne under the black stone wall.
Eithne’s face broke the foaming surface of the lustral spring waters for a moment. She gasped for breath. The current rushed through the center of the outer hall and plunged down from the hill on its stony course into the valley below.
She tumbled with the cataract over the precipice. Her leg and arm banged against one wall of the stone channel, her back buffeted against rough bricks. Foaming spume filled her nostrils, stung at her eyes.
Then water closed once more over her head.
Her feet hit the soft muddy bottom. She flexed her knees and pushed off, up, toward the surface and the air. The sodden blue robes and linen gown dragged at her.
She broke surface and gasped.
The sun lingered behind mountainous walls around the Vale. Dawn? Dusk?
The sodden robes pulled her down. The pool was deep enough to drown her.
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