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The Gate of Fire

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The Gate of Fire

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Author: Thomas Harlan
Publisher: Tor, 2000
Series: The Oath of Empire: Book 2
Book Type: Novel
Genre: Fantasy
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The Gate of Fire continues Tom Harlan's remarkable fantasy epic, following the increasingly dangerous conflicts both military and sorcerous. The sorcerer Dahak plots from his hidden citadel to regain the Peacock Throne. Prince Maxian, having raised both Julius Ceasar and Alexander the Great from the dead, now considers how to use them to free Rome from the curse of the Oath. Thyatis has fled with the widowed Queen of Persia to a hidden island; Dwyrin's thaumaturgic unit is shattered as Zoe discovers the destruction of Palmyra and, as its new queen, vows revenge against Rome. And in Mecca, Ahmet's friend and Palmyra's lieutenant Mohammed receives a vision, and a command, and the power to strive against the forces of darkness.


the shrine at delphi, achaea,
710 ab urbe condita (31 B.C.)

The sun beat down, hot, on the narrow courtyard between the house of the Oracle and the columns of the Place of Waiting. The woman stumbled a little on the steps of the house--the stones were deeply grooved from the passage of tens of thousands, and the footing was tricky in her elegant shoes. Guardsmen caught her arms and held her up. She smiled, though her face was bleak, and rewarded them with a light touch on their bronzed shoulders. After the smoky darkness of the Oracle's residence, the brilliant sun and the shining, colorfully painted walls of the temple complex stabbed at her eyes. She drew a veil of dark red silk over her face and walked, slowly, toward the end of the courtyard that faced the south.

There, a line of graceful columns framed a long view of the mountainside plunging down to a gleaming blue limb of the sea. Far below, the water sparkled like a coat of silvered iron. The air seemed tremendously clear to her as she leaned against one of the columns, her hand resting on the dark orchre surface. Paint crumbled away under her touch, leaving a tiny smear of pigment on her fingertip. She felt worn and old; tired--attenuated--by the long struggle. Unseen by her guards, or the servants that had crept out from the House of Waiting to join her, tears seeped from the edges of her kohl-rimmed eyes. She blinked and looked to the west, down the long tongue of water that led to the Middle Sea.

At the edge of vision, smoke rose curling and dark, the breath of wood, tar and canvas.

The release of our dreams, she thought, Apollo and Ra have called them back to the heavens.

The tears cut narrow tracks through the artfully applied paints and powders that subtly accented her strong beauty. She stood away from the pillar and turned toward the captain of her guardsmen.

"Rufus, we must..." She paused, seeing the servants part. A small figure waddled through the crowd of women, each tiny hand held by a smiling maid. Her heart caught, seeing the wide eyes and beatific, innocent face. The guard captain stepped back, his black eyes flitting over the crowd. One scarred hand rested lightly on the copper pommel of his short sword. The Queen knelt, forgetting to keep the veil across her face.

"Oh, beautiful boy..." She held out her arms and her son climbed into them. She stood, swinging him to rest on her hip.
One dream remains on earth, she thought, and the lines on her face smoothed and an iron spark returned to her eyes.

I will have victory yet.

Copyright © 2000 by Thomas Harlan


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