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Reins of Destiny by Janny Wurts

This story is available exclusively on the author’s website:…

“The fate of a land and the history of a people are not always determined by the confident hands of the great.”

And so, a stablemaster is drawn into a web of conspiracy, when a king’s messenger arrives, demanding horses. What the stablemaster learns, the messenger’s seeking of redemption, and the actions of the stablemaster in trying to preserve a royal line, will play a pivotal role in the fight against the Mistwraith, the great sinister foggy being that has assailed the skies, and blotted out daylight in the world of Athera.

The poignant short story of 25 pages, “Reins of Destiny”, set in the world of Janny Wurts’ seminal series, the “Wars of Light and Shadow”, takes us back to year 5018 of the Third Age, and introduces us to Kayjon sen’Davvis. Kayjon is a townborn man, and master of horse, just outside the city of Telmandir.

Telmandir, located in the principality of Lithmere, is the former capital of the High Kings of Havinsh. Telmandir is also a place with magical implications, as it was once a place where the mythical Paravians – the ancient semi-mortal races who once dominated Athera.

Kayjon has earned a reputation as a man of utter impartiality and fair-handedness, and also as a peerless horsemaster, perhaps the greatest master of all things equine in the land. He’s stayed as a casual and detached, even lazy observer of the growing revolt, removed from the impending uprising.

“If some voices claimed the High King and the Sorcerers were milking the towns that upheld the realm, Kavyon never took sides. He yawned through the rebellious talk and shrill fears, even as the Fellowship Sorceres summoned the cream of five kingdoms to bolster their warding defense. Clear nights, when their uncanny bolts of raised power streaked the southern horizon, Kayjon sipped his usual tankard of beer.”

One day, Kayjon’s rest and leisure is interrupted by the appearance of a clanborn messenger from the king, who bears a royal writ, demanding eleven horses. Kayjon agrees to obey the writ, but insists on accompanying the messenger with the horses, though the messenger disapproves.

For, Kayjon suspects that a revolution has attempted to unseat the High King, and the writ he has received is fraudulent.

Even though this story is only a quarter of a 100 pages in length, it comes with all the trademark magnificence of a Janny Wurts work. This grandeur begins with outstanding character work.

The unnamed clanborn messenger, and the townborn Kayjon are the two protagonists of this story, and they are contrasted very well. They are from opposing sides of what evolves into a long-standing and bitter rivalry, born largely of misunderstanding, elitism, and prejudice, that escalates throughout the following centuries between clanborn and townborn.

Throughout the main “Wars of Light and Shadow” series, and the other short stories associated with Athera, Wurts elaborates on the origins of this feud of two very different perspectives, and how it continues to burn, costing the lives of hundreds of thousands through the many years.

The alienation of clanborn and townborn, protracted and seemingly without end, brought on by the deprivation the humans of Athera have experienced due to being robbed of the grace of the Paravians, looks hopeless.

Yet seeing the relationship between Kavjon and the clansman herald grow from the typical disdain, mistrust and suspicion, to one of greater comprehension, is encouraging for the future of the mortal races of Athera, uniting together one day under a common cause, free of rash judgement, bigotry, and lack of true discernment.

That is perhaps the main theme of the story: how even the most diametrically opposed factions can come together, and change the course of history, putting aside old arguments, for the greater good. Wurts always gives the readers optimism to hold onto, along with the bleakness and tragedy portrayed in her works, and “Reins of Destiny” is no different.

And, of course, we are treated to Wurts’ usual transcendent prose in this short story.

“Fixed as a post astride the retired charger, he rode with straight back and soft hands. While the anguished mare twisted and screamed, he played her along with experienced gentleness. Then the damp darkness closed in like a shroud, and the loom of the barns fell behind. The lamps dwindled, veiled under sea mist that spat chilly rain. The band of young horses were a moving patchwork of shadow until the brightening dawn lit the dew spangled downs leaden silver.”  

A brilliant, though very brief story that provides greater appreciation of several key aspects that are highly relevant to the “Wars of Light and Shadow”, including the significance of the kingdom of Havish – which is germane to the Arithon / Lysaer issue – the reasons behind the townfolk being indignant over Paravian charter law that the clanfolk cleave to, and the desperate need of the Paravians to come back to the world, and restore balance, “Reins of Destiny” is recommended to be read after “Fugitive Prince”, book four of the main series.

But the brevity of this story belies its richness, and beauty. Like every book I’ve read so far associated with the “Wars of Light and Shadow”, “Reins of Destiny” is amazing.

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