Authors: Tracy Hickman
DAW Books Presents
The Annals of Drakis:
SONG OF THE DRAGON (Book One)
CITADELS OF THE LOST (Book Two)
BLOOD OF THE EMPEROR (Book Three)
THE ANNALS OF DRAKIS: Book Three
DAW BOOKS, INC.
DONALD A. WOLLHEIM, FOUNDER
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
ELIZABETH R. WOLLHEIM
SHEILA E. GILBERT
Copyright © 2012 by Tracy and Laura Hickman.
All Rights Reserved.
Jacket art by Michael Komarck.
Jacket designed by G-Force Designs.
DAW Book Collectors No. 1591.
DAW Books are distributed by Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Book designed by Elizabeth Glover.
All characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.
The scanning, uploading and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal, and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage the electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.
First Printing, July 2012
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
CPT Justin Cuff
and the service men and women of
B Battery, 2-17 Field Artillery, 2-2 SBCT
With our gratitude forever.
HEY WERE COMING out of the east.
The dust of their line of march was made a brilliant orange-red by the rising sun on the horizon behind it.
It’s an army,
and it’s coming right at me.
Governor-general Qistan Sha-Barethin, elven commander, stood on the wall of Port Glorious above Emperor’s Gate sweating profusely beneath his armor. Perspiring was something that elves did only in intense heat or under extreme duress. This day accounted for both and so the gray-faced war-mage gazed out over the gently rolling landscape and reached up with increasing frequency to mop his brow with the hem of his cloak of office. It was a disgraceful act of disrespect for the symbol of his office but Qistan was as far from the Imperial Courts of Rhonas as it was possible to be and still be considered within the boundaries of the Empire. It was one of the places where the Imperial Grace sent his sons who were better off forgotten. Qistan’s previous offenses had earned him the longest road home possible. It was a road which he was certain now he would not have the opportunity to take.
Qistan offered up a quick prayer in his mind to the god Anjei—the god of all seeing and hearing—in the hopes that the god might pass along knowledge of his plight to someone—anyone—who might give him some aid. He turned around, looking over the port city and realizing that it simply was not important enough for the Emperor to care
what happened to it. The seaside village known as Port Glorious came nowhere near living up to its name. There was his own Governor’s House, which, despite being the largest structure in over a hundred leagues, proved to be the most modest of residences by elven standards. It was also the only building in the port town that followed the traditional elven design of a subatria foundation and the floating avatria above it. Clinging to the outer wall of the subatria were the hovels and ramshackle shops of the inner city, which appeared as though children had poured out toy buildings within the confines of the city wall and then dragged a narrow stick among them to create the alleys that passed for roads. The city wall itself was of elven construction and enclosed the city on three sides before projecting out into the waters of the bay and ending at a pair of towers surrounded by battlements. Proxis could mount the battlements to defend the city from an attack by sea while his own full Cohort of warriors—nearly seven hundred strong—could defend the city proper from atop the walls.
defend the city, Qistan thought grimly, if so many things weren’t going wrong.
From the wall of the inner city and his perch above the Emperor’s Gate, he searched the horizon. The wide expanse of Mistral Bay lay to the south, its waters lapping up gently along the long curve of the shoreline that ran eastward before turning south down the peninsula to the port town of Markrethold some twenty-five leagues away. There had been no word or ships from Markrethold in nearly a week and no communication with Glachold and the Willow Reaches for a week longer still. The elven supply ships out of Shellsea were also overdue and Qistan was beginning to feel truly isolated in his port.
If that were all, he still would not be standing here sweating. Ships were often late and messages from Markrethold and Glachold were tenuous at best. There were two things that truly concerned him.
The first was that the Aether Well was acting peculiarly. The Well had failed altogether two weeks ago. The avatria of his Governor’s House had settled onto the subatria and threatened to fall over altogether. The Aether had returned to the Well, fortunately, but the Aether output was greatly reduced. It was barely sufficient to keep the avatria above the foundations and left precious little more for defense of the port. The few slaves that were in Port Glorious fell out of their Devotions
and most of them had to be put down. Qistan had yet to determine what might be causing such a terrible drain of Aether.