Authors: David Gemmell
“Gemmell manages to take a familiar, generic scenario and infuse it with meaning.”
“I am truly amazed at David Gemmell’s ability to focus his writer’s eye. His images are crisp and complete, a history lesson woven within the detailed tapestry of the highest adventure. Gemmell’s characters are no less complete, real men and women with qualities good and bad, placed in trying times and rising to heroism or falling victim to their own weaknesses.”
—R. A. S
New York Times
The Demon Awakens
“Gemmell is very talented; his characters are vivid and very convincingly realistic.”
Author of the Wizard in Rhyme novels
By David Gemmell
Published by Ballantine Books
LION OF MACEDON
ECHOES OF THE GREAT SONG
KNIGHTS OF DARK RENOWN
THE HAWK ETERNAL
THE DRENAI SAGA
THE KING BEYOND THE GATE
QUEST FOR LOST HEROES
IN THE REALM OF THE WOLF
THE FIRST CHRONICLES OF DRUSS THE LEGEND
THE LEGEND OF DEATHWALKER
HERO IN THE SHADOWS
THE SWORDS OF NIGHT AND DAY
THE STONES OF POWER CYCLE
LAST SWORD OF POWER
WOLF IN SHADOW
THE LAST GUARDIAN
SWORD IN THE STORM
LORD OF THE SILVER BOW
SHIELD OF THUNDER
FALL OF KINGS
A Del Rey
Published by The Random House Publishing Group
Copyright © 1992 by David A. Gemmell
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Del Rey Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
Del Rey is a registered trademark and the Del Rey colophon is a trademark of Random House, Inc.
Originally published in Great Britain in 1992 by Random House UK Ltd., under the title
This novel is dedicated with great affection to Jennifer Taylor and her children, Simon and Emily, for sharing the joy of the American adventure, and to Ross Lempriere, who walked the dark woods once more in search of the elusive Waylander.
My thanks to my editor, Oliver Johnson, to Justine Willett, and to proofreaders Jean Maund and Stella Graham, to test readers Tom Taylor and Edith Graham, and to Mary Sanderson, Alan Fisher, Stan Nicholls, and Peter Austin.
HE MAN CALLED
Angel sat quietly in the corner of the tavern, his huge gnarled hands cupped around a goblet of mulled wine and his scarred features hidden by a black hood. Despite the four open windows, the air in the sixty-foot room was stale, and Angel could smell the smoke from the oil-filled lanterns merging with the combined odors of sweating men, cooked food, and sour ale.
Lifting his goblet, Angel touched his lips to the rim, taking just a sip of the wine and rolling it around his mouth. The Spiked Owl was full that night, the drinking area crowded and the dining hall packed. But no one approached Angel as he nursed his drink. The hooded man did not like company, and such privacy as a man could enjoy in a tavern was accorded to the scarred gladiator.
Just before midnight an argument began among a group of laborers. Angel’s flint-colored eyes focused on the group, scanning their faces. There were five men, and they were arguing over a spilled drink. Angel could see the rush of blood to their faces and knew that despite the raised voices, none of them was in the mood to fight. When a battle was close the blood ran from the face, leaving it white and ghostly. Then his gaze flickered to a young man at the edge of the group. This one was dangerous! The man’s face was pale, his mouth was set in a thin line, and his right hand was hidden within the folds of his tunic.
Angel looked back toward Balka, the tavern owner. The burly former wrestler stood behind the serving shelf, watching the men. Angel relaxed. Balka had seen the danger and was ready.
The commotion began to die down, but the pale young man
said something to one of the others, and fists suddenly flew. A knife flashed in the lantern light, and a man shouted in pain.
Balka, a short wooden club in his right hand, vaulted the serving shelf and leapt at the white-faced knife wielder, first cracking the club against the man’s wrist, forcing him to drop the blade, then hammering a blow to the temple. The man dropped to the sawdust-covered floor as if poleaxed.
“That’s it, my lads!” roared Balka. “The night is done.”
“Oh, one more drink, Balka?” pleaded a regular.
“Tomorrow,” snapped the tavern keeper. “Come on, lads. Let’s clear away the mess.”
The drinkers downed the last of their ale and wine, and several took hold of the unconscious knifeman, dragging him into the street. The man’s victim had been stabbed in the shoulder; the wound was deep, and his arm was numb. Balka gave him a large tot of brandy before sending him on his way to find a surgeon.
At last the tavern owner shut the door, dropping the lock bar into place. His barmen and serving girls began gathering tankards, goblets, and plates and righting tables and chairs that had been knocked over in the brief fight. Balka slipped his club into the wide pocket of his leather apron and strolled to where Angel sat.
“Another quiet evening,” he muttered, pulling up a chair opposite the gladiator. “Janic!” he called. “Bring me a jug.”
The young cellar boy emptied a bottle of the finest Lentrian red into a clay jug, sought out a clean pewter goblet, and carried both to the table. Balka looked up at the boy and winked. “Good lad, Janic,” he said. Janic smiled, cast a nervous glance at Angel, and backed away. Balka sighed and leaned back in his chair.
“Why don’t you just pour it from the bottle?” asked Angel, his gray eyes staring unblinking at the tavern keeper.
Balka chuckled. “It tastes better from clay.”
“Horse dung!” Angel reached across the table, lifting the jug and holding it below his misshapen nose. “It’s Lentrian red … at least fifteen years old.”
“Twenty,” said Balka, grinning.
“You don’t like people knowing you’re rich enough to drink
it,” observed Angel. “It would tarnish the image. Man of the people.”
“Rich? I’m just a poor tavern keeper.”
“And I’m a Ventrian veil dancer.”
Balka nodded and filled his goblet. “To you, my friend,” he said, draining the drink in a single swallow, wine overflowing onto his forked gray beard. Angel smiled and pushed back his hood, running his hand across his thinning red hair. “May the gods shower you with luck,” said Balka, pouring a second drink and downing it as swiftly as the first.
“I could do with some.”
“No hunting parties?”
“A few, but no one wants to spend money these days.”
“Times are hard,” agreed Balka. “The Vagrian Wars bled the treasury dry, and now that Karnak’s upset the Gothir and the Ventrians, I think we can expect fresh battles. A pox on the man!”
“He was right to throw out their ambassadors,” said Angel, eyes narrowing. “We’re not a vassal people. We’re the Drenai, and we shouldn’t bend the knee to lesser races.”
“Lesser races?” Balka raised an eyebrow. “This may surprise you, Angel, but I understand that non-Drenai people also boast two arms, two legs, and a head. Curious, I know.”