Megan Whalen Turner

American children's writer

Megan Whalen Turner (born November 21, 1965) is an American fantasy fiction author.

Megan Whalen Turner in 2019



Aunt Charlotte and the NGA Portraits

  • I had to ask, "Is it a true story, Aunt Charlotte?"
    Aunt Charlotte looked at me without saying anything for a while. Then she said, "I've told you my story. What you believe is up to you, Marguerite."
    • Marguerite and Aunt Charlotte

Instead of Three Wishes

  • They looked like business cards. Instead of a printed name, a filigreed gold line wrapped itself in a design in the middle of each white rectangle.:"What are they?" Selene asked.
    "Wishes," said the elf prince. "You've got three. Just make a wish and burn a card. It doesn't"-- he looked her over with contempt --"require a college education."
    "Thanks, but no, thanks," said Selene, handing the cards back. She'd read about people who were offered three wishes my malevolent spirits. No matter what they wished, something terrible happened. She looked carefully at the man. Behind the nice suit and tie, he was just as she thought a malevolent spirit might appear.
    "What do you mean, 'Thanks, but no, thanks'? They are perfectly good wishes, I assure you. They're not cheap 'wish for Popsicles' wishes, young woman. They are very high quality. Here." He pushed them towards her. "Wish for anything. Go ahead."
    "I wish for peace on earth," Selene said, and sneaked a look over her shoulder. Her bus was coming up the street, but still two blocks away.
    "That's not a thing!" snarled the elf prince. "That's an idea, that's a concept. I didn't say wish for a concept. I said a thing. A material object. Go on."
    Selene stood her ground. "I'd rather not."
    • Selene and Mechemel
  • "The jam is from my mother's pantry."
    "Oh, does your mother live far from here?"
    "Not far," he responded, "as the crow flies."
    • Mechemel and Selene


  • "The factory doesn't like to hear too much talk about things it doesn't believe in. Contrary to what you may have heard, the factory has never found a single problem caused by ghosts. So if you meet any ectoplasmic spirits up there in the high crane, I suggest you be polite and they'll probably be polite right back. You're up there alone for fourteen hours a day, and you might find it's nice to have someone to talk to."
    • The Foreman
  • "And we never get any older. Richie and Alex will always be ten. My sister and Todd will always be newlyweds. Angela will always be two. And I will always be the only one with no one my age to talk to."
    "You have me to talk to," pointed out John.
    Edwina smiled. "You aren't afraid to talk to ghosts?"
    "Not at all." John realized the truth as he said it.
    • Edwina and John
  • "Mother said she couldn't guess what was worse, to be a two-year-old with a cold forever or to live with a two-year-old with a cold forever."
    • Edwina
  • "I can steal anything."
    "So you claimed. It was a wager to that effect that landed you in prison." He picked a pen nib off the desk behind him and turned it in his hands for a moment. "It is too bad for you that intelligence does not always attend gifts such as yours, and fortunate for me that it is not your intelligence I am interested in, but your skill. If you are as good as you say you are."
    I repeated myself. "I can steal anything."
    "Except yourself out of the king's prison?" the magus asked, lifting one eyebrow this time.
    I shrugged. I could do that, too, but it would take time.
    • Eugenides and the magus of Sounis
  • "...Everything about you reveals your low birth. You'd never be comfortable at the court."
    "I'd be famous."
    "Oh, you're already that, Gen," he said pityingly.
    • The magus of Sounis and Eugenides
  • "You can always give me some of Ambiades's food."
    The magus gave me an ugly look. "You'll get your share and nothing else. No one's going hungry so that you can eat."
    :"I don't see why not," I said as I lay down on the grass for a nap. It had dried in the sumer sun to crakling stalks that poked me in the arms and neck. "I'm a lot more important than anyone else here," I told the blue sky above me.
    • Eugenides and the magus of Sounis
  • Ambiades, I realized, was the kind of person who liked to put people in a hierarchy, and he wanted me to understand that I was at the bottom of his. He was supposed to treat me politely in spite of my subservient position, and I was supposed to be grateful.
    For my part, I wanted Ambiades to understand that I considered myself a hierarchy of one. I might bow to the superior force of the magus and Pol, but wasn't going to bow to him. Neither of us moved.
    • Eugenides
  • Neither the king's reward nor Pol could stop me, but I wanted to be a kingmaker myself. I wanted to be the first one to steal Hamiathes's Gift in hundreds and hundreds of years. I wanted to be famous. Only I couldn't steal the damned thing if I didn't know where if was, and only the magus could find it for me. I would stay with him until he led me to the stone, but I promised myself that someday I would stick a sharp knife into his arrogance and give it a good twist.
    • Eugenides
  • "Surely I am a better mistress to serve?"
    "You are more beautiful, Your Majesty." The queen smiled again before I finished. "But she is more kind."
    So much for discretion. The smile disappeared. You could have heard a pin drop onto the stone floor as her alabaster cheeks flushed red. No one could ever accuse the queen of Attolia of being kind.
    • Eugenides, to the queen of Attolia
  • With my good hand I reached under the braid at the base of my neck to free the thong that was tied there. It was the shorter of the two that Pol had given me on the banks of the Aracthus. One-handed, I couldn't easily get the knot undone, and several strands of my own dark hair came with the thong when I pulled it free.
    I glanced back briefly at the magus and was delighted to see his mouth open in astonishment.
    "Gen," he said under his breath, "you viper."
    Above the queen's extended palm I held Hamiathes's Gift. It had hung hidden in my hair since I'd braided it there after first fighting in the Sea of Olives.
    • Eugenides and the magus of Sounis
  • "Gen-" Sophos started to ask another question, but I interrupted him.
    "No," I said, "not Gen. Eugenides from now on. I never, never, want to hear Gen again in my life."
    The magus laughed while I shook my head.
    "You haven't spent any time in the king's prison," I said. "And you haven't had to drink your way through every disreputable wineship in the city of Sounis. I cannot tell you how sick I have been of cheap wine and of being dirty. Of talking with my mouth half closed and chewing with it open. Of having bugs in my hair and being surrounded by people who think Archimedes was the man at the circus last year who could balance four olives on his nose."
    The magus looked around the books piled in my study. "I remember that Archimedes. I think it was five olives," he said with a straight face.
    "I don't care if it was twelve," I said.
    • Sophos, Eugenides, and the magus of Sounis
  • "I don't know how he would have gotten out of the prison on his own," said the magus. "It seems a foolhardy plan to have relied on my intervention."
  • I am a master of foolhardy plans, I thought. I have so much practice I consider them professional risks. Sooner or later they would have needed the cell and the chains for someone more important, the minister of the exchequer, for instance, and I would have been moved to another cell. Sooner or later I would have had my chance to escape, if I hadn't died of disease first.
  • "He couldn't have found the whereabouts of the stone from the papers in my study," the magus went on. "I was careful to destroy any records. But he could have followed us and stolen the Gift once it was located."
  • The minister of war snorted. "Not if he had to follow you on a horse," he said.
  • The queen laughed, and I flushed in the privacy of my bedroom. I do hate horses. That was the first sign that I wasn't going to be the soldier my father hoped for.
  • The magus might have heard me thinking. "He does have other skills to be proud of," he said. For instance, I thought, stealing Hamiathes's Gift not once but twice. Who else in history had done that? But the magus referred to the fight with the Queen's Guard at the base of the mountain. That wasn't a skill I appreciated much. If I'd been as inept with a sword as I was in a saddle, my father might not have driven me so hard to be a soldier and to let the title of King's Thief lapse forever. It had been meaningless for so many generations, and he'd felt strongly that it should disappear for good.
  • The magus described the fighting with the guard in detail and made me look very good indeed.
  • The minister of war snorted. The magus didn't recognize this as high praise, and he said stiffly, "I've been told that his father wanted him to be a soldier. I'd be happy to inform his father that he has a son to be proud of."
  • I stifled a snort of my own in the silence that followed. The magus must have still been tired. He must have once known, but forgotten, that the minister of war had married the daughter of the previous King's Thief. He was talking to my father. The magus might have remembered this, might have recognized me from the first time he'd seen me in Sounis, but we had never been introduced. When he'd come with Sounis's marriage proposals, I had been sulking in my rooms.
  • While the magus, realizing his error, was trying to word an apology, my father came to look in at me. "I thought I heard you laughing up your sleeve," he said.
    • Eugenides
  • "If you want to keep something safe from thieves, hide it carefully and keep a close watch over it."
    • Eugenides
  • "Be cautious," said the other. "Do not offend the gods."
    • Moira, to Attolia
  • "The second night you repeated the same words over and over. I think the fever had set in by then. Do you remember what you said?
    She knew every one of them. His voice, broken and stumbling, had filled her dreams until she had wept in her sleep, crying tears for him that she'd never been able to cry for her father or for herself. "Oxe Harbrea Sacrus Vax Dragga..." she began.
    Eugenides's chin lifted as he recognized the opening words.
    "It's the invocation of the Great Goddess at her spring festival," he said calmly, "calling her to the aid of those that need her. Those words are archaic."
  • Attolia and Eugenides, about Oxe Harbrea Sacrus Vax Dragga Onus Savonus Sophos At Ere
  • "We invoke the Great Goddess in our hour of need for her wisdom and her mercy," Teleus said in the demotic.
    "Ere translates as love, a rather ruthless love, not mercy, Teleus. The Great Goddess of Eddis not known for her mercy."
  • "I'll be your minister--"
    "Of the exchequer? You'd rob me blind."
    "I would never steal from you," he'd said hotly.
    "Oh? Where is my tourmaline necklace? Where are my missing earrings?"
    "That necklace was hideous. It was the only way to keep you from wearing it."
    "My earrings?"
    "What earrings?"
    • Eugenides and Eddis
  • "How could you come once a week to talk about the weather and not mention a war?"
    Eddis sighed. "Will you sit down and stop shouting?"
    "I'll stop shouting. I won't sit down. I might need to throw more inkpots."
    • Eugenides and Eddis
  • "It matters, because I can't do anything more for this country, and it matters," he yelled as he threw the papers back to his desk, "because I only have one hand and it isn't even the right one!"
    • Eugenides
  • "I can't steal things without two hands," Eugenides said bitterly. "That's why she cut one off."
    The queen of Attolia was only ever "she." The name Attolia rarely passed his lips, as if Eugenides couldn't bear the taste of the word in his mouth.
    "There are a lot of things that a person with two hands couldn't steal," Eddis said.
    "Surely if it's impossible to steal them with two hands, it's no more impossible to steal them with one. Steal peace, Eugenides. Steal me some time."
    • Eugenides and Eddis
  • "Eugenides," he said. He had recognized the voice.
    "What have you done?"
    "Not much yet," answered the Thief from the darkness. "I remain fairly limited in my physical activities." He held up his right arm, and the magus started before realizing that the hand he saw had to be a wooden one, concealed by a glove.
    Another booming explosion filled the air, and the magus turned back to the window but could see only a glare reflecting on the whitewashed walls of the buildings below.
    "I had to send someone else to light the fuses," Eugenides said behind him.
    "Fuses?" asked the magus, with a sick feeling.
    "In the powder magazines of your warships," Eugenides explained.
    "Powder magazines?"
    "You sound like the chorus in a play," said Eugenides.
    "And the play is a tragedy, I suppose?"
    "A farce," Eugenides suggested, and the magus winced.
    • Magus of Sounis and Eugenides
  • "You said I should do something." Eugenides smiled in the dark, twisting the knife of his revenge a little deeper into the magus.
    "I did?"
    "As you were leaving, after your extremely edifying visit in the spring. You said ‘You could still do something.’ Your exact words."
    "I meant talk your queen into surrendering, not destroy our navy in its own harbor!" the magus shouted.
    • Eugenides and the Magus of Sounis
  • "I didn't come to Sounis to blow up His Majesty's warships. I told you someone else had to do that."
    "What did you come for if not to murder my king?"
    "I came to steal his magus."
    "You can't," said the magus in question.
    "I can steal anything," Eugenides corrected him. "Even with one hand." He took a step forward into the moonlight and waggled his fingers. The smile on his face made the magus feel worse, not better.
    • Eugenides and the magus
  • "Think of it as stealing not you but the king's faith in you."
    "And what happens to me without the king's faith?"
    "If you're smart, you leave Sounis," said Eugenides. "Quickly."
    • Eugenides and the magus
  • The moon disappeared behind a cloud. Eugenides was only a dark form against the darker water behind him. "Before you make a decision," he said, "I want you to know that I love you."
    • Eugenides to Attolia
  • He could tell her he loved her. He ached to shout it out loud for the gods and everyone to hear. Little good it would do. Better to trust in the moon's promises than in the word of the Thief of Eddis. He was famous in three countries for his lies.
    • Eugenides, on the queen of Attolia
  • The Thief leaned close to the queen to speak almost in her ear. "From shadow queen to puppet queen in one rule," he whispered. "That's very impressive. When he rules your country, and tells you he loves you, I hope you believe him."
    He anticipated her blow and leaned back. Her hand only brushed his cheek in an entirely unsatisfying manner. "At least that's one lie I didn't tell you," Eugenides said.
    • Eugenides and the queen of Attolia
  • "And now we wait," she said, not bothering to hide her smile of delighted anticipation as her guards conveyed the messenger out of the door.
    "Wait for what?" the Mede asked.
    "Hmm?" Attolia focused herself on the present. "Good heavens, I don't know," she said. "Eddis produces such lovely threats when her Thief is concerned."
    • The queen of Attolia and Nahuseresh
  • "Nahuseresh, if there is one thing a woman understands, it is the nature of gifts. They are bribes when threats do not avail." The queen shook her head. "The problem with bribes, Nahuseresh, is that after your money is gone, threats still do not avail."
    • The queen of Attolia to Nahuseresh
  • "They are mice, Nahuseresh, hiding in their mouseholes, hoping their own familiar cat will come home to drive you away. At least when I hang people from castle walls, it is because they are traitors, not because they drive hard bargains. You seem willing to hang anyone who is displeasing to you. How kind of you to show my barons that if I am a hard ruler to cross, you are a worse one to serve. I must thank you for that as well as your emperor's gold. They will be most mousy and well behaved for months."
    • The queen of Attolia
  • "Treachery," said the Mede.
    "Diplomacy," said Attolia, "in my own name," as the rest of her guard rose up from the grass behind their captain.
    • The queen of Attolia and Nahuseresh
  • "You don't understand your weakness, if you think the greater nations will protect you. We will see how much longer you rule your backwater, Your Majesty. You will soon enough discover the limits of your resources."
    "Will I? I think you underestimate me still, Nahuseresh. While we are being forthright with each other, I admit I find it tedious."
    • The queen of Attolia and Nahuseresh
  • Eddis looked at her minister, curious. "Your head?" she asked.
    Attolia explained. "He had to be forcibly dissuaded from strangling his son."
    "So have we all from time to time," Eddis said seriously.
    • Eddis and Attolia, on the minister of war and Eugenides
  • "He looks--" Attolia hunted for the word. "Defenseless" came to mind, but it wasn't the one she wanted, nor was "young," though he looked even younger when he was asleep.
    "Quite guileless," she said at last.
    "Oh, yes," said Eddis. "I'm always willing to forgive him anything - until he wakes up."
    • Attolia and Eddis on Eugenides.
  • "If it is an affliction, it is as you said: The gods know me so well they can predict my behavior. They don't control it. They could know I would love her, but they don't make me. I've watched her for years, you know. All those times when you didn't know where I went, mostly it was to Attolia."
    • Eugenides to Eddis, on Attolia
  • "...She's like a prisoner inside stone walls, and every day the walls get a little thicker, the doorways a little narrower."
    "And?" Eddis prompted.
    "Well," said Eugenides, "it's a challenge."
    • Eugenides and Eddis on Attolia
  • "Least said, soonest mended isn't the advice for every occasion, Your Majesty, isn't the advice for every occasion."
    • Phresine to Attolia
  • "He lies to you?" Attolia asked.
    "Constantly," said Eddis. "He lies to himself. If Eugenides talked in his sleep, he'd lie then, too."
    Attolia looked stunned. "And you can't tell?"
    Eddis thought for a moment. "I sometimes believe his lies are truth, but I have never mistaken his truth for a lie. If he needs me to believe him, he has his own way of showing his veracity."
    • Attolia and Eddis on Eugenides
  • "You must choose now. Between the two of us we can reach a treaty without a wedding. You don't have to marry him, but if you choose to marry him, you have to believe him."
    Attolia turned, and Eddis thought that behind her mask the queen might be afraid, and so she finished lightly. "You have to believe him, because he's going to have you entire palace up in arms and your court in chaos and every member of it from the barons to the boot cleaners coming to you for his blood, and you are going to have to deal with it."
    Attolia smiled. "You make him sound like more trouble than he's worth."
    "No," said Eddis thoughtfully. "Never more than he is worth."
    • Eddis and Attolia on Eugenides
  • "Nothing mortals make lasts; nothing the gods make endures forever."
    • An unnamed goddess
  • Unable to guess the answer, she asked, "Who am I, that you should love me?"
    "You are My Queen," said Eugenides. She sat perfectly still, looking at him without moving as his words dropped like water into dry earth.
    "Do you believe me?" he asked.
    "Yes," she answered.
    "Do you love me?"
    "I love you."
    And she believed him.
    • Attolia and Eugenides
  • The queen turned back to face him. "I could hang you," she said.
    Eugenides looked up at her. "You missed your chance for that," he said.
  • "Your Majesty," he asked innocently, "is it true that your cousins once held you down in a water cache?"
    Ornon, in the act of putting down his wine cup, paused.
    "Is it also true that they wouldn't let you out until you agreed to repeat insults about your own family?"
  • The dandified Attolian who had spoke, a patron, but not a baron by any means, glanced at the queen to see if she approved, but she was looking the other way. The king shrugged his shoulders slightly and said, "I could send you to ask them."
    The man laughed. "It would be a long trip, Your Majesty. I would so much rather hear the answer from you."
    "Oh, the trip would be much quicker than you think," said the king pleasantly. "Most of my male cousins are dead."
    The silence that had begun at the head table had spread to the edges of the hall. The Attolian's smile grew uncertain.
    The king didn't smile back. Those who understood shifted uncomfortably in their seats.
  • "The court is watching," she pointed out.
    "I thought you wanted me more exposed to the public eye?" he teased.
    "I reverse myself," she said coldly, "and argue for a little circumspection." She tugged at his hand, but he didn't release her. She gave up, unwilling to be seen trying to pull away.
    "You don't think I can do it."
    She didn't think he could.
    "I don't care what they think."
    She knew that. It worried her.
    "No," said the queen, but she wavered.
    He sensed it and smiled. "Am I king?" he asked, irrepressibly.
    It was the one argument she was in no position to deny. She wanted him to be king, and he was resisting it with all his will.
    • Attolia and Eugenides
  • "Why were these the only dances you knew?"
    "Because no one would dance with me. Thieves are never popular."
    I know why, thought Attolia, but aloud she asked, "Why are you familiar with the square dances?"
    The music quickened.
    "My mother taught me. We danced them on the rooftops of the Megaron. According to legend, the Thief and any partner the Thief chooses will be safe."
    "You are king now," she pointed out.
    "Ah, but they say that if the king dances, the entire court can safely dance with him."
    "Spare me," said Attolia, "and my court, from dancing on the roof."
    "It probably only works in Eddis."
    • Attolia and Eugenides
  • As Attolia spun, she felt a tug at her hair and, turning back, felt another. Then she felt her carefully arranged hair slipping down her neck. Eugenides, minding the pattern with his feet and spinning the queen with one hand, had been pulling out her hairpins one by one when her back was turned. The rest of the pins loosened, and her hair dropped free. It swung out as she spun and the last of the pins bounced and slid across the marble floor.
    The queen was several inches taller than Eugenides, and he leaned back to counter her spin. To those watching, it didn't seem possible that he could succeed, but with one hand, and no visible effort, he defied the laws of the natural world. Phresine, the queen's senior attendant, watched them from behind the throne as her queen danced like a flame in the wind, and the mercurial king like the weight at the center of the earth. Faster and faster they moved, never faltering, until the music shrilled at an impossible tempo and the pattern gave way to a long spin, each dancer reaching in with one hand and out with the other, holding tight lest they fall away from the other, until the music stopped abruptly and the dance ended.
  • The king paused. "Your master of spies is a liar, and this time he is lying," the king said slowly, "to you." Attolia frowned, then almost imperceptibly shook her head.
    "Have him arrested," said the king. After another pause he added unequivocally, "Now."
    If he succeeds in having me killed, you could be the next Captain of the Guard. What, then, if the king destroyed Relius? Who would replace him?
    Costis hardly breathed. The king hadn't ordered the arrest himself, though he could have, but he had directed the queen to do so, in public. Now they would see if the queen could protect her own or not.
  • For a moment Costis could see, not so much what was hidden but that there were things hidden that the king did not choose to reveal. Things that were not for Costis to see. There was no understanding him, but Costis knew he would march into hell for this fathomless king, as he would for his queen. So long, he worried, as they didn't order him in opposite directions at the same time. What he would do when that happened, Costis couldn't guess.
  • The king lifted a hand to her cheek and kissed her. It was not a kiss between strangers, not even a kiss between a bride and groom. It was a kiss between a man and his wife, and when it was over, the king closed his eyes and rested his forehead against the hollow of the queen's shoulder, like a man seeking respite, like a man reaching home at the end of the day.
  • "Yet you prefer his mercy to my justice." She meant from the king. She knew where the message had come from.
    • Attolia to Teleus
  • As the queen raged at him, he responded, first calmly, then with his own heat. "Is there no one that you will see punished?" the queen shouted. "Are you fond of Teleus now that you preserve his life at all costs?"
    "I only asked you to reconsider."
    "There is nothing to reconsider!"
    "You know why I need him."
    "Not anymore," the queen declared with finality.
    The king ignored the finality. "Now more than ever," he insisted.
    "He has failed-"
    "That was not entirely his fault!"
    "Then you will unmake my decisions?" Attolia dared him to try.
    "You said that I could," Eugenides flatly replied.
    Pushed too far, the queen lashed out. The king made no effort to avoid the blow. His head snapped around and his forehead struck the doorjamb. He staggered and caught himself. By the time he opened his eyes, she was at the door and then she was gone.
  • "Who knows but that you will get up to find that the world has inverted itself yet again?" He looked around the room at the other attendants as if in warning, but spoke to Philologos. "Remember, the love of kings and queens is beyond the compass of us lesser mortals."
    If anyone noticed, no one commented that he had called the Thief of Eddis a king.
    • Hilarion
  • He looked up from the where he had been carefully smoothing the embroidered cover, and seeing his face, Costis felt the shock like a physical blow. If Attolia could look like a queen, Eugenides was like a god revealed, transformed into something wholly unfamiliar, surrounded by the cloth-of-gold bedcover like a deity on an altar, passionless and calculating.
  • He had seen a temple fall once, in an earthquake. Small gaps had appeared between the stones, and these had grown until each separate stone tottered in opposition to the ones below. First the columns supporting the porches and then the walls had tumbled down. So, piece by piece, did the king hammer out the enormity of the disaster Sejanus had precipitated on his house.
  • "I wouldn't destroy an entire house to destroy one man. But I would destroy a man to destroy a house."
    • Eugenides to Sejanus
  • The king, the master of the fates of men, before their eyes was reduced to a man, very young himself, and in love.
  • "A story?" Phresine was surprised. "What makes you think I can tell stories?"
    "Insight," said the king. "Go on."
  • "He didn't marry you to become king. He became king because he wanted to marry you."
    • Relius, to Attolia on Eugenides
  • Grown more confident of the queen's humor, Relius said, "I had not pictured you for a fishwife."
    "Lo, the transforming power of love."
    • Relius and the queen of Attolia
  • "Will you serve me and my god?"
    "I will, Your Majesty."
    "Then come out," said the king, helping him, "knowing that you'll never die of a fall unless the god himself drops you."
    • Eugenides and Costis
  • "I think he was delighted to see you safe," said the magus, "and grieved that the next time you meet, it must be as king and king and not as friends."
  • He was confident, I think, of the success over both Eddis and Attolia right up until the world heard that the Thief of Eddis had stolen the queen of Attolia and meant to marry her.
  • "I'd suggested eating it before we left the market. I'd also suggested eating it on the road. I was not so comfortable with my new authority that I could say, "We eat the chicken now!" but the magus had seen that I was considering it."
    • Sophos
  • Everything, it seemed, depended on gold. The magus and I had fallen easily back into our old habits. He lectured constantly, and I asked questions to my heart's delight. Where he had once been my master and I his apprentice, I had become king and he my sole advisor. Where we had once focused on natural history and philosophy, we now concentrated on administration, taxation, and the prosecution of war.
    He had begun his lessons by quoting the duke of Melfi: "To make war you need three things: one, money; two, money; and three, money." He went on to tell me the things I should have known already, that I would have known if I had been a more promising heir to the throne and not exclusively interested in poetry.
  • "You eat more than Gen did after prison", he said.
    "I have more sympathy with him all the time. Are you going to finish that drumstick?" I asked.
    "I am. Stop staring at it."
    • Magus of Sounis and Sophos
  • The magus and I had talked for many long hours about this marriage of Eugenides and the queen of Attolia. The magus insisted it was Eugenides's choice and his desire as well, but it was impossible to know whose influence would prevail and if Gen would grow more like his wife, or his wife like her king.
  • Then, as you well know, Eugenides looked me in the eye as if I were a complete stranger and said, "The simplest way to end a war is to admit you have lost it."
    The silence after that was not polite.
    • Sophos
  • "Would I be wrong," Sounis asked one evening as he walked with Eddis, "to think that I talk to you, you talk to Gen, and Gen talks to Attolia, who talks to the magus, who talks to me?"
    Eddis laughed. "Not always. Sometimes, as in this case, someone approaches my Eddisian ambassador Ornon, here in Attolia, and he talks to me, I talk to you, you talk to Attolia, Attolia talks to Gen, and he talks to me."
    "I see you appear in that progression twice."
    "Oh, more than that, because after Gen talks to me, the process reverses. He goes back to Attolia, who talks to you, who go to the magus, who repeats the information to me, who gives it to Ornon, who takes it back to whoever started this particular political ball rolling in the first place."
    • Sophos and Eddis
  • Eddis nodded. "Gen leaves the reins in Attolia's hands. Which is not what either I or Attolia recommended, but wisely he ignored us both."
    Smiling, Eddis said, "He hasn't the temperament. He gets angry. She only ever gets angry at him."
    Sounis, having seen the Thief of Eddis lose his temper, could see her point.
    • Eddis and Sophos
  • "Sophos, you sleep with a knife under your pillow? I'm hurt."
    "I'm sorry," said Sounis, blinking, afraid that he had made contact with his wild swing.
    "I was joking. Wake up the rest of the way, would you?"
    "Gen, it's the middle of the night."
    "I know," said the king of Attolia.
  • "Don't you trust my palace security?"
    "Yes, of course," Sounis said, trying to think of some other reason besides mistrust to sleep with a knife. He heard Eugenides laugh.
    "My queen and I sleep with a matched set under our pillows, as well as handguns in pockets on the bedposts. Don't be embarrassed."
    :"Gen, what are you doing in my bedroom in the middle of the night?" Sounis asked.
    "Going out of my mind," said Eugenides promptly. "At least I am on the verge of going out of my mind."
  • "You bastard," said Sounis wearily. "I don't know why I don't stab you here in this alley so I can be the annux over Sounis and Attolia." They were twisting through the narrowest of passages, with Eugenides still in the lead, turning on what seemed to be a whim from one walkway to the next.
    "Well, the stabbing would be unkind," said Eugenides, "but you can have the annux part with my goodwill."
    "Not Attolia's."
    "True," said the king. "Better not stab me."
  • "I know exactly when. I was hiding in a takima bush in the Queen's Garden, watching the older son of the Baron Erondites tell Attolia that he loved her. He was trying to propose a marriage and she thought he was talking about a poem he was writing. I was laughing like a very quiet fiend, trying not to make the branches around me shake, and then, between one heartbeat and the next, and to my complete surprise, it wasn't funny anymore." He rubbed his chest, as if a remembered pain. "I wanted to kill him. Once she was gone, I very nearly jumped out of the bush onto his head. Poor Dite."
    Poor Eugenides, thought Sounis, to fall in love with a woman he had already made into an enemy.
  • "When you stop fussing," Gen had said, slipping to his knees beside her couch, "I will sleep with two knives under my pillow."
    Attolia had looked down at him and said sharply, "Don't be ridiculous."
    Only when Eugenides laughed had Sounis realized her implication: If she ever turned against Eugenides, a second knife wouldn't save him.
  • "I seem to remember once sharing my oatmeal with you," Sounis remarked.
    "I seem to remember stealing your oatmeal," said the former Thief of Eddis, "but it didn't have sand in it."
    "Sand?" said Sounis, taken aback.
    "Sand, and if my queen notices, she will have someone flayed."
    • Sophos and Eugenides
  • Inside the case was a dueling pistol, a king's weapon, wheel-locked, chased in gold. Eddis had seen it earlier that day. When Sounis lifted it out and tipped his head over the locking mechanism, she knew he was reading the letters inscribed there: Onea realia. "The queen made me."
  • "You have heard the queen's advice. My gift is below. Would you wait to see it until you have decided what you will do with hers?"
    • Eugenides to Sophos
  • "Do you warn him not to offend the gods?"
    "There was no need," said Attolis, smiling, "He couldn't offend the gods with a pointed stick."
    • Eddis and Eugenides
  • In the shocked aftermath, I said, "We'll give them a second chance."
    With my right hand, I reached to the other pocket. I had known as soon as I lifted the false bottom of the gun case and looked underneath what it meant. I had tried without ceasing to find some alternative to Attolia's ruthless advice, and I had failed. Gen's fit reassured me that I had not failed for lack of trying. He had seen no other solution himself.
    I lifted out the matching gun and read the archaic inscription. Realisa onum. Not "The queen made me," but "I make the king."
  • Staring at me over the barrel of my gun, Akretenesh said, "Did you not just days ago lecture me about the sacred truce?"
    With my finger still through the trigger guard of the spent pistol, I lifted my left palm upward to the sky to see if lightning struck me down.
    When none did, I smiled again. "We will have to assume the gods are on my side."
    "I am an ambassador," Akretenesh warned me, anger bringing his confidence back. "You cannot shoot."
    "I don't mean to," I reassured him, still smiling. I adopted his soothing tones. "Indeed, you are the only man I won't shoot. But if I aimed at anyone else, it might give others a dangerously mistaken sense of their own safety." I raised my voice a trifle, thought it wasn't really necessary. "We will have another vote, Xorcheus."
    They elected me Sounis. It was unanimous.
    • Sophos
  • "Ten thousand!" I shouted at the walls, back in the room with the wooden shutters, now open so that anyone could hear me, on the porch or probably across the compound. "That arrogant bastard landed ten thousand men at Tas-Elisa. In my port! Mine!" When I was a child and playmates snatched my toys out of my hands, I tended to smile weakly and give in. Years later I was acting the way I should have as a child. Probably not the most mature behavior for a king, but I was still cursing as I swung around to find a delegation of barons in the doorway behind me. My father, Baron Comeneus, and the Baron Xorcheus among them.
    They thought it was how a king behaved.
  • Eschewing ceremony, Eugenides said, "You shot their ambassador?"
    "You gave me the gun," protested Sounis.
    "I didn't mean for you to shoot an ambassador with it!" Eugenides told him.
    "Oh, how our carefully laid plans go astray," murmured the magus.
    "You shut up!" said Gen, laughing.
  • "In my experience, the more you know of the gods, the more you know what you cannot understand."
    • Eddis
  • If a man who claims to see the future is a fool,
    how much more so, the man who believes he can control it?
    We think we steer the ship of fate,
    but all of us are guided by unseen stars.
    • Enoclitus (Epigraph)
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