Bearing an Hourglass (Incarnations of Immortality #2)

Bearing an Hourglass (Incarnations of Immortality #2)

by Piers Anthony

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When life seemed pointless to Norton, he accepted the position as the Incarnation of Time, even though it meant living backward from present to past. The other seemingly all-powerful incantations of Immortality—Death, Fate, War, and Nature—made him welcome. Even Satan greeted him with gifts. But he soon discovered that the gifts were cunning traps and he had become enmeshed in a complex scheme of the Evil One to destroy all that was good....

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781436141079
Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC
Publication date: 06/27/2008
Series: Incarnations of Immortality Series , #2
Product dimensions: 5.45(w) x 0.62(h) x 7.53(d)

About the Author

Piers Anthony, sometimes called Pier Xanthony, is the pseudonym of a Mundane character who was born in England in 1934, came to America in 1940, was naturalized in 1958, and moved to Xanth in 1977. His first story was published in 1963, and his first novel, Chthon, in 1967. His first Xanth novel, A Spell for Chameleon, won the August Derleth Fantasy Award as the best novel for 1977, and his fantasy novels began placing on the New York Times bestseller list with Ogre, Ogre. He shifted from writing in pencil to writing on the computer, and Golem in the Gears was his first novel created on the machine; naturally, the computer found its way into Xanth.

Read an Excerpt

Norton threw down his knapsack and scooped up a double handful of water. He drank, delighting in the chill that struck his teeth and stiffened his palate. It was easy to forget that this was an artificial spring, magically cooled; it seemed natural.
He had hiked twenty miles through the cultivated wilderness of the city park and was ready to camp for the night. He had food for one more meal; in the morning he would have to restock. That could be awkward, for he was out of credit. Well, he would worry about that tomorrow.
He gathered dry sticks and leaves, careful not to disturb any living plants, and structured his collection for a small fire in a dirt hollow. He found some desiccated moss and set it within his pyramid. Then he muttered an incendiary-spell, and the flame burst into existence.
He fetched three rocks, set them against the expanding fire, and unfolded his little fry-pan. He unpacked his Spanish rice mix and poured it in the pan, shaking the mix to keep the rice turning as the heat increased. When it browned, he added handfuls of water, evoking a strenuous protest of steam, until satisfied. Then he rested the pan on the stones and left it to sizzle nicely alone.
“Can you spare a bite?”
Norton looked up, surprised. Ordinarily he was alert for other creatures, especially people, even when concentrating on his cooking, for he was attuned to the sounds of nature. But this one seemed to have appeared from nowhere. “This is what I have,” he replied. “I’ll share it.” Actually, that meant he would be hungry on a half-ration, but he never liked saying no.
“The man stepped closer, his feet making no noise. He was evidently in his mid-to-late twenties, about a decade younger than Norton, and in unusually fit condition. He was well dressed in upper-class city style, but had the calloused palms of a highly physical man. Wealthy, but no effete recluse. “You’re an independent sort,” he remarked.
It took one to know one! “Wanderlust, mostly,” Norton clarified. “Somehow I always want to see the other side of the mountain. Any mountain.”
“Even when you know the mountain is artificial?” The man’s eyes flicked meaningfully about the landscape.
Norton laughed easily. “I’m just that kind of a fool!”
The man pursed his lips. “Fool? I don’t think so.” He shrugged. “Ever think about settling down with a good woman?”
This fellow got right down to basics! “All the time. But seldom for more than a week or two.”
“Maybe you never encountered one who was good enough for a year or two.”
“Maybe,” Norton agreed without embarrassment. “I prefer to think of it as a distinction of philosophy. I am a traveling man; most women are stay-at-homes. If I ever found one who wanted to share my travels—” He paused, struck by a new thought. “In that sense, they are leaving me as much as I am leaving them. They prefer their location to my company, much as cats do. I move, they remain—but we know each other’s natures at the start. So no expectations are violated.”
“Man does, woman is,” the man agreed.
Norton sniffed his rice. “This is about done; it’s spelled for quick cooking. Have you a dish? I can make one of wood—” He touched his sturdy hunting knife.
“I won’t need one.” The man smiled as Norton glanced askance. “I don’t eat, actually. I was just verifying your hospitality. You were ready to go hungry to share.”
“No man can live long without eating, and I can see you’re no ascetic. I’ll carve you a dish—”
“My name is Gawain. I’m a ghost.”
“Norton, here,” Norton said, noticing how the man accented the first syllable: GOW-an. “I’m a jack of any trade, expert at none, except maybe taletelling.” Then he did a double take. “Pardon?”
“A ghost,” Gawain repeated. “Here, I’ll demonstrate.” He extended his strong hand.
Norton clasped it, expecting a crunching grip—and encountered air. He brought his hand back and touched Gawain’s arm. There was nothing; his hand passed through suit and arm without resistance, disappearing into the man’s body. “You certainly are!” he agreed ruefully. “No wonder I didn’t hear you approaching! You look so solid—”
“Do I?” Gawain asked, becoming translucent.
“I never met a real, live—uh—”
Gawain laughed. “Real, at any rate.” He firmed up to solid semblance again, having made his point. “Norton, I like you. You’re independent, self-sufficient, unconceited, generous, and open. I know I’d have enjoyed your company when I was alive. I think I have a favor to ask of you.”
“I’ll do any man a favor—any woman, too!—but I don’t think there’s very much I can do for a ghost. I presume you’re not much interested in physical things.”
“Interested, but not able,” the ghost said. “Sit down, eat your supper. And listen, if you will, to my story. Then the nature of the favor will be apparent.”
“Always glad for company, real or imaginary,” Norton said, sitting down on a conveniently placed rock.
“I’m no hallucination,” the ghost assured him. “I’m a genuine person who happens to be dead.”
And while Norton ate, the specter made his presentation. “I was born into a wealthy and noble family,” Gawain said. “I was named after Sir Gawain of the ancient Round Table of King Arthur’s Court; Sir Gawain is a distant ancestor, and great things were expected of me from the outset. Before I could walk I could handle a knife; I shredded my mattress and crawled out to stalk the household puk—”
“Puk—a small household dragon. Ours was only half a yard long. I gave it an awful scare; it had been napping in a sunbeam. My folks had to put me in a steel playpen after that. At age two I fashioned a rope out of my blanket and scaled the summit of the playpen wall and went after the cat. I vivisected her after she scratched me for cutting off her tail. So they brought in a werecat who changed into the most forbidding old shrew when I bothered her. She certainly had my number; when I toasted her feline tail with a hotfoot, she wered human and toasted my tail with a belt. I developed quite an aggravation for magical animals.”
“I can imagine,” Norton said politely. He himself was always kind to animals, especially wild ones, though he would defend himself if attacked. There were things about Gawain he was not fully comfortable with.
“I was sent to gladiator school,” the ghost continued. “I wanted to go, and for some reason my family preferred to have me out of the house. I graduated second in my class. I would have been first, but the leading student had enchanted armor, even at night, so I couldn’t dispatch him. Canny character! After that, I bought a fine outfit of my own, proof against any blade or bullet or magic bolt. Then I set out to make my fortune.
“There are not many dragons around, compared to mundane animals, and most of them are protected species. Actually, I respect dragons; they are a phenomenal challenge. It’s too bad that it took so long for man really to master magic; only in the last fifty years or so has it become a formidable force. I suppose it was suppressed by the Renaissance, when people felt there had to be rational explanations for everything. As a result of that ignorance, dragons and other fantastic creatures had a much harder time of it than they had during the medieval age in Europe. Some masqueraded as mundane animals—unicorns cutting off their horns to pass for horses, griffins shearing their wings and donning lion-head masks, that sort of thing—and some were kept hidden on private estates by conservationists who cared more for nature than for logic. A number developed protective illusion so they looked a good deal more mundane than they were, and Satan salvaged a few, though most of His creatures are demonic. But now at last the supernatural is back in fashion, and fantastic creatures are becoming unextinct.
But some creatures do get obstreperous. Most bleeding-heart liberal, modern governments have bent the other way so far they’ve gone off the deep end and outlawed poisoning or shooting or using magic to kill these monsters. So the bad dragons have to be dispatched the old-fashioned way, by sword.”
“Why not just move the bad ones to reservations?” Norton asked, appalled at the notion of slaying dragons. He was one of the bleeding hearts the ghost described; he knew dragons were ornery and dangerous, but so were alligators and tigers. All of them had their right to exist as species, and the loss of any species was an incalculable loss to the world. Many highly significant aspects of magic had been derived from once-suppressed creatures, such as potency-spells from unicorn horns and invulnerable scale armor from dragon hides. But he realized it would be pointless to argue such cases with this fortune-hunting warrior.

Table of Contents

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Bearing an Hourglass 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 57 reviews.
songcatchers More than 1 year ago
Bearing an Hourglass is the second book in the Piers Anthony Incarnations of Immortality series. Norton, the main character, takes on the office of Time. Once he bears the hourglass and assumes office, his life moves backward from everyone else. The concept is a little hard to grasp at first but before too long I was able to follow and understand how it all worked. Norton's task as Time in this book is to make sure Luna (from the first book) is elected into the Senate because she will sometime in the future need to foil Satan's plot to take over world power. The Father of Lies tries to distract Norton with trips to other planetary systems, dragons, fair maidens, BEM's (bug eyed monsters), an evil sorceress and even an eviler sorceress. Will Norton succeed in hindering Satan's evil plans? Will he ever get over the loss of his true love Orlene? And what is reality anyway? Bearing an Hourglass is more of a fun book and the subject matter not as deep as in the first book, On a Pale Horse. This is a light mix of science fiction and fantasy with a very enjoyable result.
JamenM More than 1 year ago
This second book of the series lacks the same page turning quality I felt the first book, On A Pale Horse had. It is still a good book, and worth the read, but I felt it got bogged down toward the middle with the seemingly incompetence of the main character and his constant lack of awareness of basic concepts of his office. However, I have enjoyed the series as a whole, and nothing is complete without the influence of Time. Worth the buy, and looking forward to book 3 of 7!
Guest More than 1 year ago
A good book, two thumbs up. Even if it's confusing at times, the storyline would really make you think logically on how things came, or will come, to be. One of the best books in the series, though I liked the third one better for the confrontation with Satan, and On a Pale Horse for the storyline
Guest More than 1 year ago
It was a really good book but it got a little confusing if you ask me but i still loved it ecspeally the relationship bewteen chrones and clothe
Guest More than 1 year ago
Bearing an Hourglass is a science fiction book written by Piers Anthony. The book is the second of a series of five books and is labeled ¿a novel in its self¿ by fans and critics and also by me. What ¿a novel in its self¿ means that you don¿t have to read the first book in the series to understand or like the book at all, I did just that unwittingly and enjoyed it so much I continued the story with the other books. The plot is complex but simply for it is headed by Satan (the character in the book, that is) and one you get to know Satan and his ¿devilish¿ tricks you will get the idea very well. The characters themselves are very in-depth and if you continue the series you will be looking for them and feel almost as if they were old friends. Anyway back to the plot, the main character ends up being the incarnation of time (having nothing to do with any middle-eastern religions) and lands in the most interesting predicament, he lives life backwards and to top it off, he must balk Satan¿s plans to defeat God in the battle they wage.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book, I believe, has got to be the second best. Most of the people that I have talked to about this book found it confusing, and unnerving. THAT'S WHAT I LOVED ABOUT IT. The author has done one of his greatest jobs in this book. This was the only book that took me reading it from cover-to-cover three times to fully understand every aspect of it, from the backwards life, to the extra-planetary adventures. As the First book, he still has the best ability to mesh reality as we know it with the Futuristic-Fantasy Land that we all wish we could live in.
JechtShot on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Bearing an Hourglass is the second book in Piers Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality series. In this novel, we follow the path of Norton, a nature loving wanderer, who by a series of events takes on the role of Chronos, the incarnation of time. In this often confusing role, Norton lives backwards as others move forward to enable him to know future events and perform his duties. The hourglass is his primary implement, allowing him to phase in to "normal" time to interact with others as well as progress forward and backward through time and space.This novel was a bit weaker than On a Pale Horse, as the majority of the novel is spent in alternate realities crafted by Satan to distract Chronos from his duties. Though confusing and fraught with paradox, this is a decent addition to the Incarnation series.
jphillips3334 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In this second novel of the Incarnations of Immortality series, Anthony gives us another interesting and fun (although sometimes confusing) story. His first book dealt with the office of Death, but instead of continuing that storyline, he writes about Time. Each book deals with a separate "Incarnation" and how a mortal gets appointed in that particular office. Time aka Chronos serves his office in a unique way. As everyone goes forward in time, he goes backward. This way he's able to control and manipulate time by knowing what everyone's future holds. Like the other books, we see how our "hero" Norton struggles with his official duties while being manipulated by the devil himself in the grand struggle between good and evil.
Gkarlives on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Like the first story, I really enjoyed this one. The most fun is watching the main characters blunder through learning their respective jobs, which of course are anything but normal.
bookwormteri on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
So far, this is my least favorite of the series. The Hourglass seemed really complicated to control and I got lost somewhere in the explanation of controlling the hourglass. Love the series, but my least fav.
Scoshie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
#2 of the Incarnations of Immortality. Just as good as the first one.Some time in the future (as evidenced by technology in use that is much more advanced than in the first story), Norton¿a man of about forty¿is living a life of nomadic wandering when a ghost named Gawain asks him to father a child to his widow, Orlene, with whom Norton eventually falls in love. Gawain then asks Gaea, the Incarnation of Nature, to make the child in his own likeness so his bloodline would continue. Unfortunately, the child ends up dead due to a disease that runs in Gawain's family. Orlene then commits suicide. This is when Norton summons Gawain again and is given the office of time and the the problems start.
Karlstar on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The second book of the series continues the story from the point of view of Time. This one is still good, but starts to run into some of the obvious problems, how can the powers contest each other, when they are all all-powerful, within their own sphere, particularly Time? This works because they are replaced from time to time (sorry) by mortals who aren't quite familiar with their powers yet, which Evil is trying to use to mess up the whole process. Still fascinating.
HippieLunatic on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
While I was completely in love with _On a Pale Horse_ I was very much in meh with _Bearing an Hourglass_. Chronos was not as strong as a character, and I cared little about his plot. I know that he was necessary to defeat Satan's ploy this time around, and likely will be again, but I didn't feel drawn to him. I didn't really care if he succeeded.The character of Sning was by far the most interesting, even though he can only squeeze his responses to Chronos. A character who can only answer in ones, twos and threes - he was the most interesting of the characters. What does that say?The writing is just as enjoyable in terms of the prose, and there were moments of brilliance in the planning of the story, but for the most part, I was unintrigued. Anthony's exploration of the other Incarnations still have a pull for me, so I will continue with the series, but I am not nearly as gung-ho about them.
dragonasbreath on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
To me, this was the most boring of teh set. But this is also the one Anthony has the least freedom of material to work with - there are no major themes, just a man whose broken heart led him to pick up an hourglass and start living his life backwards.There are the usual problems adjusting to having become an Incarnation and it is a good read, just the slowest of the 7 to me. (Excuse it's 8)
willowcove on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This series is definitely very YA. They are easy reads but enjoyable. A very unique concept.
arouse77 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
second in the "incarnations of immortality" series. concerning Time, i always found this particular installation to be the most confusing and least engrossing of the series. must be read to complete the collection, but not a book i enjoyed much on its own merits.
MoonLuna89 More than 1 year ago
I love these books!
AVoraciousReadr More than 1 year ago
Time, nothing but Time 4.5 *Book source ~ Home library One day when Norton is out camping he meets a ghost, Gawain. Gawain is from a noble family with a long lineage, but he died slaying a dragon (well, he thought it was a dragon) before he could marry and father an heir. So his parents arranged a ghost marriage for him and he’s wandering the Earth looking for a suitable man to get his wife pregnant. It is this meeting that changes Norton’s life in a really big way though he doesn’t know it yet. Book 2 in one of my favorite series is actually my least favorite book because of the Time thing. When Norton becomes Chronos he starts living his life backwards. This is the part where I get lost and no matter how many different times it’s explained by various people throughout the book, I still don’t get it or precisely how the hourglass works. I didn’t get it the other times I read it and I had hoped, now that I’m older, I might understand it, but nope. Ah, well. Except for that fact, I did enjoy the story. I love Norton/Chronos. He’s a great character and so well-detailed he feels like a real person. Sning is my next favorite character. I’d love to have a ring like him!  When Satan’s plan is foiled by Death in Book 1, he tries his shenanigans with the new Chronos. Chronos shouldn’t have been so gullible, but who isn't a bit unsure in a new job? And being Chronos was way more than just any ol’ job. Whew! Anyway, despite the whole Time and paradox thing I once again enjoyed Norton’s story very much. 
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You dont ave to read all the books, nor in order. But in order but to follow the series, reading from first to last helps keep it all in perspective.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the second book of the incarnations of immortality and relates to the office of time/Chronos It is a bit complicated as Chronos lives backwards and it may have been a bit outdrawn since he was not as competent as he couldve been. I still enjoyed this book and you get the hang of it after you keep reading it. It wasnt as smooth flowing as the first, Death On A Pale Horse I have read this series before but taking another read to better understand the novel in genersl and the characters and their roles they play in future book(s)
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