She is mistress of the darkness in the caverns underneath the hills, the maze of tunnels known as the labyrinth, where only she is allowed (and, in some bits, other women and her eunuchs), where no light is allowed even for her, and where her dark gods, the Nameless Ones, brood.
Some prisoners are brought to her. It is for her to decide how they die, as a sacrifice. She decrees that they be starved to death.
And then she discovers a thief is in the labyrinth, seeking the treasure that is hidden there. She traps him underground and then she realises that she doesn't want him to die. Then she realises that her second in command, a dark and bitter priestess, is waiting for any excuse to get rid of her.
Spectacularly dark and creepy and beautifully written. Some of my favourite lines include:
- "wink and glitter beneath the mountains like a speck of mica in a shelf of rock." (p 240)
- "They stood there full of meaning, and yet there was no saying what they meant." (p 240)
- "The Earth is beautiful, and bright, and kindly, but that is not all. The Earth is also terrible, and dark, and cruel. The rabbit shrieks dying in the green meadows. The mountains clench their great hands full of hidden fire. There are sharks in the sea, and there is cruelty in men's eyes." (p 347)
- "One must not submit to them, one must resist, keep one's spirits always strong and certain." (p 355)
- "Hospitality ... kindness to a stranger, that's a very large thing. Thanks are enough, of course." (p 380)
- "Freedom is a heavy load, a great and strange burden for the spirit to undertake. It is not easy. It is not a gift given, but a choice made, and the choice may be a hard one. The road goes upward towards the light; but the laden traveller may never reach the end of it." (p 388)
January 2017, 275 pages
The saga continues with