Book Title: Empire’s Heir
Series: Empire’s Legacy, Book VI
Author: Marian L Thorpe
Publication Date: 30th August 2021
Publisher: Arboretum Press
Page Length: 438 Pages
@Archaeolibrary, @maryanneyarde, @marianlthorpe,
Some games are played for mortal stakes. Gwenna, heir to Ésparias, is summoned by the Empress of Casil to compete for the hand of her son. Offered power and influence far beyond what her own small land can give her, Gwenna’s strategy seems clear – except she loves someone else. Nineteen years earlier, the Empress outplayed Cillian in diplomacy and intrigue. Alone, his only living daughter has little chance to counter the Empress's experience and skill. Aging and torn by grief and worry, Cillian insists on accompanying Gwenna to Casil. Risking a charge of treason, faced with a choice he does not want to make, Cillian must convince Gwenna her future is more important than his – while Gwenna plans her moves to keep her father safe. Both are playing a dangerous game. Which one will concede – or sacrifice?
© 2021 Marian L Thorpe
A family meal, with the main character Gwenna, her partner Lynthe and Gwenna’s brother Colm, dining with their first cousin Faolyn and his mother Talyn. Faolyn is Princip of Ésparias, but Gwenna, not his son Constyn, is his heir, by the decree of the Empress of the East, Eudekia.
We took our seats for the meal: fish in a coriander crust, with cucumber and lettuce, and afterwards cheesecake. Faolyn had a Casilani—or Casilani trained—cook.
“This is only a simple meal in Casil,” he said. “You will be delighted by the food, I should think.”
“I’ve been told it’s excellent,” I replied. He should know; he’d spent longer there than any of us, most of seven years, although Casyn, as both his grandfather and Princip, had insisted he returned home for several summers. Casil was considered too hot in the summer months, and anyone who could escaped it for villas on breezy islands or in the mountains. Faolyn was not the only heir to a province who went home to be seen, and to bring Casil’s thinking to their unsophisticated lands. Casyn, my father had told me, had had other motives, ensuring Faolyn did not forget his family and his traditions in the face of Casil’s blandishments.
“Was that only Casyn’s idea?” I’d asked. He’d smiled, nothing more, but it was at the Ti’ach the summer Faolyn was sixteen that he’d been introduced to Ruar’s sister Siusàn, the formal betrothal happening before Faolyn returned to Casil. Another strand in the web woven into place.
Honeyed walnuts were brought, with a sweeter wine, and fresh fingerbowls placed before us. “Well?” Talyn asked. “The meal is done. Who was your letter from, Faolyn?”
“The Empress.” He picked up a walnut. “You are being greatly honoured, Gwenna, Lynthe. She is sending a ship for you, a ‘well-appointed ship’, she writes, to ensure you have all possible comforts on the voyage to Casil.”
“Does that mean we might actually have a cabin?” Lynthe asked. Like me, she’d travelled up and down from the Eastern Fort to Wall’s End on ships. Comfort wasn’t something I associated with them.
“Perhaps,” I said. “But I doubt it’s our ease the Empress has in mind, but rather my father’s, since I know he’s written to her to tell her he’s accompanying us. Wouldn’t you agree, Faolyn?”
“You are completely right,” he said. “I am to tell Cillian every need of his will be met. Whatever that means. She is remarkably solicitous of him, I must say.”
“They are friends, if nearly two decades of letters is proof of anything.”
“I would prefer not to go,” Colm said suddenly. “Can’t I stay here as a medical cadet?”
“We would have no objection,” Talyn said, before I could find a response, “but it’s your parents’ decision, not ours. Do you not want to see Casil, especially with your father?”
“Yes, but . . . ” He fiddled with his knife. “Not just now.”
“But this will be the only chance there is,” I said. “Athàir is fifty-three, Colm, and you know travel is difficult for him. He won’t make this voyage again.”
Could I have said anything worse? The implication in my words, the suggestion of mortality, was not what Colm needed to hear. Talyn shot me a look. My hands had come up to cover my mouth, involuntarily, a reaction to my own stupidity.
“Should he be going, then?” Colm’s voice was tight and a little high. “Is this dangerous for him?”
“No,” Talyn said firmly. “Cillian will be uncomfortable, perhaps in more pain than usual without the baths, but there is no danger to his life. All Gwenna meant is, inevitably, your father will be less willing to tolerate discomfort. I am completely happy not to be going, and I’m the same age, more or less, as Cillian.”
My brother nodded, but I wasn’t sure he was convinced. Talyn turned the talk to what the new baby might be called, with Lynthe suggesting some ludicrous combinations of family names, raising, after a few minutes, a smile from Colm.
“Gwenna, you will have to remember these,” Siusàn said, “when it is your turn to name a child.”
“If she does.” Lynthe sounded doubtful. “I’m not planning to.”
“But Gwenna hasn’t that choice,” Siusàn responded. “She is the heir, and she must herself continue the line. It will be her child who is Princip, some day.”
It would be, wouldn’t it? I hadn’t given it much thought. Oh, I knew a child of mine would inherit the title, but as I had no expectation of ever truly being Principe, except for perhaps a few years in my old age, none of it seemed real at all.
“Maybe I’ll displease the Empress,” I said lightly, “and she’ll make Constyn the heir instead.” Did only I see the tiny movement around Faolyn’s eyes, the quickly-masked satisfaction at the thought?