Authors: Sara Douglass
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Genre: High/Epic Fantasy
Author: Sara Douglass
Series: Book Two of The Axis Trilogy
Extra Series Info: The series has 3 books in total; There is another sequel trilogy, called the
Book Two of THE AXIS TRILOGY
Written by Sara Douglass
The Prophecy of the Destroyer
A day will come when born will be
Two babes whose blood will tie them.
That born to Wing and Horn will hate
The one they call the-StarMan.
Destroyer rises in the north
And drives his Ghostmen south;
Defenceless lie both flesh and field
Before Gorgrael's ice.
To meet this threat you must release
The StarMan from his lies,
Revive Tencendor, fast and sure
Forget the ancient war,
For if Plough, Wing and Horn can't find
The bridge to understanding,
Then will Gorgrael earn his name
And bring Destruction hither.
StarMan, listen, heed me well,
Your power will destroy you
If you should wield it in the fray
'Ere these prophecies are met:
The Sentinels will walk abroad
'Til power corrupt their hearts;
A child will turn her head and cry
Revealing ancient arts;
A wife will hold in joy at night
The slayer of her husband;
Age-old souk, long in cribs,
Will sing o'er mortal land;
The remade dead, fat with child
Will birth abomination;
A darker power will prove to be
The father of salvation.
Then waters will release bright eyes
To form the Rainbow Sceptre.
StarMan, listen, for I know
That you can wield the sceptre
To bring Gorgrael to his knees
And break the ice asunder.
But even with the power in hand
Your pathway is not sure:
A Traitor from within your camp
Will seek and plot to harm you;
Let not your Lover's pain distract
For this will mean your death;
Destroyer's might lies in his hate
Yet you must never follow;
Forgiveness is the thing assured
To save Tencendor's soul.
Prologue: The Ruins of Gorkenfort
Gorgrael stood in the deserted bedchamber of Gorkenfort Keep, his breath frosting about his tusks in the frigid atmosphere. His bright silver eyes narrowed as he absorbed the lingering memories and emotions of the room. Bending, he scraped a hand across the bed, catching and tearing the bed linen with his hooked claws. Hate and desire, pain and satisfaction lingered here. He snatched a handful of the material to his nostrils, crushing it between his powerful claws.
She had been here, had slept here, had laughed and cried here. Gorgrael abruptly arched his body back, his muscles rigid, and shrieked his anger, frustration and desire. He hated and wanted this woman almost as much as he hated and wanted Axis.
Outside the Keep's walls the Skraelings stilled and fell silent as they heard their master's voice echo about the frozen wastes. As suddenly as he had given vent to his anger and desire Gorgrael stopped, straightening and relaxing his body. He dropped the fragment of sheet to the floor, and glanced around the ruined chamber. This had been her chamber, hers and that pitiful fool's, Borneheld. He was of no account; Gorgrael would brush him aside at the first possible opportunity. But the woman...she was the key.
Gorgrael knew the Prophecy almost as well as its maker. He knew that now Axis had escaped to his - their — father he would prove a far more formidable opponent. Enough to counter Gorgrael's command of the Dark Music? Gorgrael was not sure. Axis was certainly now too strong to be vulnerable to his SkraeBolds. But as the third verse of the Prophecy gave Axis the key to destroy Gorgrael, so it gave Gorgrael the key to destroy Axis. The Prophet had been kind.
The key was the Lover mentioned in the Prophecy. If Gorgrael could destroy her, he would destroy Axis. Axis was vulnerable to nothing but love, and eventually love could prove his destruction.
Gorgrael shrieked again, but this time in glee. It would take time, but eventually he would have her. The traitor was in place. All he needed was the opportunity.
Faraday. Gorgrael had gleaned much from this room. She was the one to whom Timozel had bound himself, she had given Axis the power of the emerald fire that had decimated Gorgrael's Skraeling force. For that alone she deserved to die. For the fact that Axis loved her Faraday would die slowly. For her alliance with the Mother and with the Trees she would die alone and friendless. Gorgrael dug his claws deep into the mattress and shredded it with a single twist of his powerful arm. This is what he would do to Faraday's body. After she had begged for her life, pleaded for mercy, screamed as she submitted herself to his will. He would shred her!
Gorgrael's eyes drifted towards the shattered window. Most of the hamlets and towns of Ichtar lay in ruins. Hsingard, the one-time seat of the Duke of Ichtar, was useless rubble. Tens of thousands of Ichtar's inhabitants had died.
The Skraelings had fed well. But not all had gone according to plan, and satisfaction was still a way off. Axis had escaped, and in doing so had badly damaged Gorgrael's force.
If Gorgrael had enough Skraelings to occupy Ichtar then he did not have a strong enough force left to harry either Axis or Borneheld. The Duke of Ichtar had managed to flee south with almost five thousand men (and her) and even now approached Jervois Landing. There he would no doubt make his stand by the running waters.
Neither Gorgrael nor his creatures liked running water. It made music from beauty and peace, not darkness. It tinkled. Gorgrael screamed in frustration and completed his destruction of the bed. He was severely disappointed in his SkraeBolds. Borneheld's escape had been assisted by their inability to focus the Skraelings' attention on attacking the Duke's column as it fled south. While it was true that many Skraelings trembled at the SkraeBolds' screams and threats of retribution, many others did not. Long had the Skraelings hungered to drive into the pleasant southern lands, long had they resented their icy northern wastes.
Now, as the defeat of Gorkenfort opened Ichtar to them, they spread across the province in largely unrestrained and undisciplined glee, a misty, whispery mob that destroyed without thought. The SkraeBolds had found it impossible to rally enough Skraelings to make any serious attempt on Borneheld's fleeing force, and had to confine themselves to harrying the flanks and rearguard of his column.
Not only were the Skraelings proving harder to control and the SkraeBolds less efFectual than he had hoped, Gorgrael also had to admit that his forces had been so weakened by the fury Axis had unleashed on them above Gorkenfort that it would take him months to rebuild an army strong enough and disciplined enough to push further south than Hsingard. And as the SkraeBolds trembled and wept at the thought of reporting their failures to Gorgrael, so Gorgrael himself began to construct the arguments he would need to convince his mentor that it had been the right time to strike Gorkenfort, it had been the right time to begin his drive into Achar. The Dark Man had cautioned him to wait a year or two more, to wait until his army had been built into a more formidable force and his magic was deeper and darker. But Gorgrael had been tired of waiting. While the Dark Man had taught him all he knew, had taught him the use of the Dark Music and crafted him into the power he was today, Gorgrael feared him as much as he loved him.
His claws twitching nervously, Gorgrael began rehearsing his explanations.
Jervois Landing Arrivals
Ho'Demi sat his shaggy horse and contemplated the impenetrable fog before him. His scouts had reported that the Duke of Ichtar and what remained of his command from Gorkenfort drew close. For all Ho'Demi knew they were but ten paces away.
Ho'Demi shivered. He did not like these southern lands with their damp mists. He yearned for the northern wastes of the Ravensbund with its endless leagues of grinding ice. He yearned to be once more hunting the great icebears with the men and women of his tribe — not these Ghostmen whose very whispers defiled the wind.
However, the northern wastes were denied Ho'Demi and his people. For as far back as tribal memory stretched the Skraeling wraiths had existed. Until the past year they had been neither numerous nor brave, and as long as his people hunted in packs, the Skraelings had not attacked. But now, massed by the unseen yet powerful hand of Gorgrael the Destroyer, the Skraelings had driven them from the Ravensbund, down through Gorken Pass, past Gorkenfort and town - where the Duke of Ichtar had stopped the invasion of Gorgrael's Ghostmen - and into these southern lands. Ho'Demi had finally stopped his people's flight here at Jervois Landing. It was here that Borneheld, having somehow escaped the Skraelings, intended to make his stand.
Ho'Demi and his people had always intended to help the Southerners against Gorgrael and his Skraelings; it was part of their heritage. But when he had offered his warriors at Gorkenfort, Borneheld had laughed and said he had no need for Ravensbund assistance. He, Duke of Ichtar, commanded a real army.
Well, now the Duke and his real army might not be so slow to accept the help of the Ravensbund warriors.
Ho'Demi had led as many of his people out of the Ravensbund as he could.
But the Ravensbund tribes lay scattered across the vast territory of the northern wastes and Ho'Demi had not been able to get word to the majority of the tribes to flee into the southern lands. Only twenty thousand had pitched their sealskin tents about Jervois Landing, a mere twentieth of the Ravensbund population.
Ho'Demi shuddered to think of what had happened to those left behind. He hoped they had found a place to hide among the crevices of the ice packs, there to await the day when Gorgrael was defeated by the StarMan. He hoped they had the courage for a long wait.
The Ravensbundmen were a proud and ancient people who had adapted their culture and society to a life spent almost entirely within the ice-bound regions of northern Achar. Few had any contact with the world beyond the River Andakilsa. The King of Achar (whosoever he currently was) might fondly believe that he ruled Ravensbund as he ruled the rest of Achar, but as far as the Ravensbundmen knew or cared, the Achar King had as much control over them as he did over the Forbidden. Ho'Demi was their Chief, and his was the law they obeyed.
But now, for the sake of the Prophecy and because it was the only thing left for him to do, Ho'Demi would put himself under the command of Borneheld.
Ravensbundmen had been aware of the Prophecy of the Destroyer for thousands of years, and Ho'Demi knew that, divided, no-one could defeat Gorgrael.
Someone had to begin the alliance that would create Tencendor and crush the Destroyer. As the Skraeling threat grew infinitely worse, he had quickly realised this was a sign that the Prophecy had awoken and now walked. Of all the peoples of this land, perhaps the Ravensbundmen were more loyal to the name of the StarMan than most. When he called, then they would rally.
In groups of never less than a thousand, the Ravensbund people had passed by Gorkenfort, many weeks before Axis had arrived. As yet they did not know where the StarMan was; they did not know who he was. Until they found him, until they could declare their loyalty and their spears for him, Ho'Demi had decided they would fight with Borneheld. If he would have them.
Borneheld knew what the bells were the instant their gentle sound reached him through the fog, and he hunched even further beneath his voluminous cloak.
It had been two weeks since they had fled Gorkenfort. As soon as Axis had drawn the Skraelings northwards away from the fort, Borneheld had ordered the gates opened and led his column out through the ruins of Gorkentown. The march south towards Jervois Landing was a desperate trek through icy conditions which hourly weakened his men's resistance to death. Many had died from the freezing cold or from the physical effort of the march. In the past week even more had died as the Skraelings made nibbling attacks on the rear and flanks of Borneheld's retreating column. Others deserted. Even those two old brothers who Axis had dragged north with him from the Silent Woman Keep and who had babbled incessantly about musty prophecies had disappeared one night.