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Authors: Russell Kirkpatrick

Tags: #Fantasy, #General, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fiction

Dark Heart

BOOK: Dark Heart
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Dark Heart
Broken Man [2]
Russell Kirkpatrick
Orbit (2007)
Rating:
****
Tags:
Fantasy, General, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Fiction
Summary

When the gods want to kill you, where can you hide? Noetos has an artefact that everyone wants. Now reunited with his children, he flees up the coast, pursued by powerful forces intent on his destruction at any cost. Meanwhile, Lenares becomes leader of the Cosmographers after her mistress Mahudia is killed. Lenares has a particular affinity with numbers and she senses something very wrong in the world. Trained to read the presence of the gods in the landscape, she can find no evidence of the Father ... but how is it even possible that he could be dead? And Stella discovers that Husk's plans are far more complex than any of them can imagine ...

About the Author

Russell Kirkpatrick's love of literature and a chance encounter with fantasy novels as a teenager opened up a vast number of possibilities to him. The idea that he could marry storytelling and mapmaking (his other passion) into one project grabbed him and wouldn't let go. He lives in New Zealand with his wife and two children. Find out more about Russell Kirkpatrick at www.russellkirkpatrick.com.

To Alex, with love

Table of Contents

PROLOGUE

MAGIC HOWLS LIKE A GALE through Husk’s mind. Power, irresistible as a river in flood, batters at his besieged sense of self, threatening to overwhelm him. Iron-hard fingers tear at the connections to his treasured spikes, the spikes linking him to the three people essential to his plan. Glowing blue gobbets spin off, shards of power lodging themselves in forgotten corners of his ruined body, searing skin, organs, bones. Magic, for so long his lifeblood, might well destroy him.

Husk cannot believe there is this much magic in the world. And this is remarkable because he is a magician himself.

He has been exposed to powerful magic before, power few have seen. He remembers the day, seventy years ago now, when he was betrayed. Brought, bound with magic, into the Undying Man’s presence to answer for his treachery. In the abyssal hours that followed he learned why the Undying Man had been named ‘Destroyer’. So much magic, so expertly wielded, a thousand tiny knives separating skin from flesh, bits of him flaking into the darkness, every nerve ending exposed, the cold stone floor awash with his blood. More than enough to kill him. Drowning in pain, drowning in blood, drowning in the magic, his own considerable skill overwhelmed by that of his master.

Yet amidst the torture the Destroyer inadvertently gave him a gift. Not immortality, not exactly. A binding was laid on him, designed to preserve his ruined body as a husk, encapsulating his pain forever. Making him a creature able only to comprehend suffering. A cruelty beyond even Husk’s darkest visions. But the spell was too powerful. Husk has harnessed the magic of the spell, has pierced the cocoon surrounding him and learned to draw life from those around him. Has taken the name of what he became and wears it proudly as a badge of honour. He has survived in the Destroyer’s dungeon, masking his condition from the Lord of Andratan, building his strength.

Setting his great plan of revenge in motion.

He will have his betrayer, yes. The one he himself wooed from the Most High’s cause; she who began as a simple Falthan village girl and whom he elevated to become the Destroyer’s consort. Stella Pellwen. She who then turned on him and convinced the Undying Man of his disloyalty. She who knelt in the cave and watched as the Destroyer broke him. The last thing he saw, before the bright blue knives came for his eyes, was her shoulders shaking as she laughed.

He will take her as the final act of his revenge, right there in the Tower of Farsight, in front of the Undying Man’s remains. Will take her, his rotted, repellent body on hers, then will drain her immortal blood. Slowly. He will make her agony last forever. He knows how, after all; and continues to pay a bitter price for the knowledge. She will be his ever-dying queen.

Not madness, Husk tells himself, to plan such a thing. It is necessary to balance what has been done to him.

This is the vision sustaining him, its dark promise giving him the tenacity to maintain contact with his three scattered spikes.

Though not so scattered now. Something is happening. A profligate expenditure of magic creates a hole in the world through which a god’s hand reaches, snatching his Amaqi captain, spike and all, along with the Emperor—so vital to his plans—and the pet Omeran. And the cosmographer girl. Snatches them right out of the world, weakening Husk’s connection to the captain to breaking point, and dumps them back in it a moment later, somewhere much closer. He cannot begin to search for them, to try to re-establish his hold on the captain, until the magic roaring through the world calms down.

At least he knows where his angel Arathé is. She has spent nearly two weeks at sea, brought north to Raceme by friends of her foolish father, and is now safe within the city’s strong walls. Raceme has never fallen to an enemy; he of all people knows this, having once invested it himself at the behest of the Undying Man. However, Raceme has never before faced the combined assault of the Neherian fleet and a magical storm. Perhaps she is not so safe, then. But, at present, beyond his help.

His priest is the safest of the three. Trust that one to look after his own worthless skin. The priest serves only to lure Stella westward, though it is beginning to appear as though she needs very little luring.
Curse her!
Because of what is happening to his other two spikes, Husk watches for any hint of a magical disturbance around Conal the priest. Apart from a strange flash at one point as the party passed through the desert, he has seen nothing assailing them; nothing like the great magical loci interfering with Captain Duon and Arathé.

So. One lost, one threatened, one safe. His plan has never been guaranteed to succeed. In the face of interference from the gods, it may well fail. Nevertheless, Husk does not give up hope. His revenge can only be delayed, not denied. After all, Stella is immortal. So, it seems, is he. How, then, can she escape him?

BOOK: Dark Heart
9.43Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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