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The Final Sacrificeby Patricia Bray
Synopses & Reviews
Lady Ysobel slowly waved her fan, but there was no relief from the stifling heat of the crowded theater. Around her the other patrons fluttered their own fans, filling the theater with a low rustling, as if a flock of birds had taken up residence. Certainly they were as colorful as any bird, though birds, at least, did not have to worry about sweating through costly silks.
Ysobel had chosen to wear a split robe of embroidered dark green linen over a high-necked cotton tunic--a fashion popular in her homeland, and far more conservative than the revealing, tightly fitted silks favored by the women of the Ikarian court. Her escort, Captain Burrell, wore his dress uniform--an unsubtle reminder that he was as much bodyguard as companion. The two stood out among the other patrons, as she had intended.
Proconsul Zuberi's not here, Burrell murmured, gesturing as if to draw her attention to the action on the stage.
She smiled as if he had said something particularly witty. Unwell? Or secure enough in the emperor's favor that he need not dance attendance upon him?
Or perhaps he is the only sensible one among them and has retired to enjoy the cooler breezes of the countryside.
It was possible, but not likely. Not as long as the emperor remained in the capital.
She glanced over at the imperial box, where Emperor Lucius sat in splendid isolation, flanked only by his servants and bodyguards. There had been much gossip in the court over whom Lucius would choose to share his box this evening, but no one had expected him to attend alone.
Then again, the emperor had repeatedly shown himself to be unpredictable. Which made him all the more dangerous.
It was Ysobel's job to understand him. To anticipate his next move and be ready to counter it. The truce she had negotiated with Lucius on behalf of her country was merely that--a temporary cessation of hostilities, while both countries retired to lick their wounds.
But if she could not guess whom Lucius would take to the theater, then how could she predict when he would cast off the chains of peace and once more attack the Seddonian Federation?
Years ago, under the reign of Empress Nerissa, Ysobel had woven a network of spies that spanned the imperial city, from the dockyards to within the very walls of the imperial palace. But most of her contacts had been killed after the aborted rebellion, and those who remained were unwilling to risk their lives--no matter what threats or inducements she offered.
She attended each session of court, and a bevy of social occasions, gathering what gossip she could. But it was not enough.
Lucius was impossible to predict. One day he was a virtuous emperor, listening to endless petitions from his subjects. On another he would hide himself within his chambers, canceling all his official appointments. Sometimes, rumor placed him in the great library at the collegium of the Learned Brethren, while others swore that he traveled incognito to the hippodrome outside the city walls, taking part in mock races observed only by the grooms.
A year ago, he had ascended to the imperial throne under an extraordinary set of circumstances. The first of the old blood to sit on the throne in over one hundred years, many had expected that he would swiftly move to restore his followers to power. But instead he
Trapped by dark sorcery in the body of an emperor, scholar-monk Josan struggles to make peace with the mind of his host, but as Ikaria is threatened with destruction by long-standing rivalries and their uneasy truce begins to unravel, they must undertake a perilous quest to distant Xandropol in search of the forbidden magic that may be the only cure for them. Original.
Paricia Bray inherited her love of books from her parents, both of whom were fine storytellers in the Irish tradition. She has always enjoyed spinning tales, and turned to writing as a chance to share her stories with a wider audience. Patricia holds a master's degree in Information Technology, and combines her writing with a full-time career as an I/T Project Manager.
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