Authors: Ben Galley
“This book is a work of fiction, but some works of fiction contain perhaps more truth than first intended, and therein lies the magic.”
Copyright © Ben Galley 2013
The right of Ben Galley to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be used, edited, transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), or reproduced in any manner without permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews or articles. It may not be lent, resold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the Publisher’s permission.
Permission can be obtained through www.bengalley.com.
All characters in this book are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
eBook Edition – Kindle
Cover Design by Mikael Westman
Original Illustration by Ben Galley
Professional Dreaming by Ben Galley
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Ben Galley is a young indie author and purveyor of lies. Harbouring a near-fanatical love of writing and fantasy, Ben has been scribbling tall tales ever since he was first trusted with a pencil. When he’s not busy day-dreaming on park benches or hunting down dragons, he runs the self-publishing advice site Shelf Help, zealously aiding other authors achieve their dream of publishing.
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After four long years I think it’s only fitting. After all the darkness and shadow, the fire and flames, the blood, the guts, and the ever-evasive glory. After all the snow and sand and steel. After all the countless wounds of both mind and body, I think he deserves it.
Farden, Emaneska’s favourite mage. This book is dedicated to you.
By Ben Galley
In another age, at the most northern tip of the Scattered Kingdoms, where the ice wrestled the black rock of jagged mountains…
Names were ripped from the scroll and tossed into the air. Names were strange things in large quantities. So many could slide by, unremarkable and foreign. Meaningless, until suddenly one would jolt the monotonous roll-call into life and pluck at a particular ear in a particular way. A head would snap forward. A hand would shoot up. Suddenly the name grew flesh and clothes, colours, eyes, and the package was assembled by the beckoning of a silk-gloved finger. These names, hoarsely barked in the sweet cold of the morning mists, assumed the form of a muscular man, or a tall man, even a woman. Yes, he had spied a few women amongst the crowds. Names were funny things indeed, when you’re waiting for yours to be called amongst thousands. Especially when there are only nine to be called.
Korrin was his, and it was a name he wasn’t particularly proud of. Who would be? It w
as a farmer’s name. The very pronunciation of it sounded like the coughing of his father’s mudpigs. Korrin. The legacy of some uncle or brother, worm-food before his time. A guilty nudge from old toothless grandmother to father, a suggestion with a forked tail of duty, and there it was. Korrin. How could that ever be a soldier’s name? A lord’s name? His father had doomed him with a wobble of tongue and lip.
‘Estina Flar?’ came another bark.
There, another hand flew up into the air. A woman again. Korrin tried to sneak a glance through the packed and sweaty ranks. All he caught was a flash of scarlet hair.
‘Fogrindle, son of Dalinast?’
Now there was a name. A man nearby shook his head. Positively rural. Korrin let out a little of the breath he’d been holding. Maybe his name wasn’t to be the worst after all. He saw the man and sagged a little. A beast of a man, all beard and tiny head.
‘Fogrindle! Son of Dalinast!’
No hand yet. Another coward. At least Korrin had stayed.
The black silk glove reached for a quill and scraped a name from existence with a stroke of scratchy ink. The fingertip moved to the next.
‘Rosiff Ro-Harg Thold?’
This one answered. Five. Korrin counted with the crowd. Each number mouthed in silence by a thousand cracked, tired, mud-painted lips.
‘Lopia…’ Trouble with this one. A southern man probably. Korrin had been told in whispered mumbles that a dozen or so of the dark-skinned had come all the way from the deserts for this.
Southerner indeed. A Parash by the looks of his intricate beard. And still no name to tickle his own ear. The crowd was getting tense now; not a soul moved.
Korrin’s father had always said that no matter how the kings tried to bind a man beneath them, nothing could shackle his name. The man could be broken with the tooth of a whip, the blood-slick curve of a club, but his name was a gemlike thing, worn around the neck on a chain too thin and strong for any blade to find and slice.
‘Gaspid, son of Furssimion!’
But names were weapons too, in their own ghostly right. Korrin knew this. A name could be a flag-wrapped halberd drenched in ichor, a warlord’s name to be whispered in fear among waiting ranks. A name could be sullied and dipped in shame by deeds. A fallen hero perhaps, whose name could never be forgotten thanks to song and tune, could be driven into the ground like a stake at dusk by whispers. Others, like Korrin’s, were thorns worming their way slowly in.
‘Balimuel, son of Gorvid!
Another hand shot up, a giant hand, with huge sausage-like fingers waggling in relief. The man that held them was a veritable giant, almost twice as tall as any other in that endless crowd.
One left. Korrin shrugged and began to look for a gap to escape into. His father had been right; even though it stung to admit. A waste of time Korrin! You’re a farmer’s son, a farmer’s boy, not a warrior. You’ve got your own life to live. Stop dreaming! His father’s words echoed in his ears. They had flown from the doorway and pelted him in the back as he had left.
His name had picked him up as a child and placed him on the back foot. It had turned him around and pointed him at the farm rather than his grandfather’s swords. Korrin looked up at the sky, imagining the last name falling to earth as a pebble, striking some lucky person in the forehead. Korrin lifted his dusty hand up to search the sky. A pale saucer of sun, curious behind the mists, looked back at him. A lone rabbithawk hovered by a nearby flagpole. The flag hung limp in the still air. It dangled from its hook like a thief from a noose, waiting to be resurrected by a fortuitous breeze. A storm maybe. It would soon have its chance. Summer was slowly sinking into the earth.
Korrin reached for the handle of his haversack, feeling his tired, strained muscles ache. Wasted. Farm-bred. He knew his name had not been a soldier’s name. It was a farmer’s name, like all the other children in his village. It was time to leave, he told himself. Go home. His father would be pleased. His old grandfather not so much. Strange, how men can differ in just one generation.
‘Korrin, son of Ust!’
To The Lost (Rumours)
1563 years later
9 years after the Battle of Krauslung
“What wants to stay hidden, oft gets found, and what wants to stay found, oft finds itself lost, and forgotten.”
ine,’ grunted a cracked voice, a tired voice, hoarse with the scars of copious late nights and alcohols of questionable purity. A rough hand ventured out across the wooden bar-top and then slowly retreated, leaving a silver coin in its wake, its edges notched like an old sword blade that had seen too many wars. It glistened in the dim light of the smoky tavern’s torches, where the sweat of the hand lingered on its metal face.
‘You sure, friend?’ replied the landlord, standing at the end of the bar. The glass in his hand squeaked against the cloth he rubbed it with. His face was lopsided but kindly. He had kind eyes too, of a soft, glazed green like the rows of bottles that lined the greasy bar behind him. A little beard sprouted from his chin, which made up for the lack of hair on his bald, freckled head. His skin was the darker hue of his country and its men, and his forehead was adorned with the creases of frequent frowning. Not surprising, given the calibre of the tavern’s usual patrons. Patrons like the man sitting alone at the centre of the bar, the owner of the cracked and tired voice.