Authors: David Gemmell
“This poignant heroic fantasy explores familiar Gemmell themes: heroism and sacrifice.… As the plot of
unfolds and a tragic ending looms, the tension rises to almost unbearable levels.”
—The British Fantasy Society
“I love David Gemmell’s work. He’s one of the best out there today, and one of the reasons that fantasy is alive and well.”
—R. A. S
“David Gemmell infuses his narrative with gritty realism. His characters are earthy, vibrant, heroic, and engaging, the conflict heart-wrenching in its echoes of historical fact.”
“Gemmell not only knows how to tell a story, he knows how to tell a story you want to hear. He does high adventure as it ought to be done.”
“Gemmell’s great reading; the action never lets up; he’s several rungs above the good—right into the fabulous!”
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
The Epic of the Rigante
SWORD IN THE STORM
LORD OF THE SILVER BOW
A Del Rey® Book
Published by The Random House Publishing Group
Copyright © 2001 by David Gemmell
copyright © 2002 by David 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. Originally published in Great Britain by Bantam Press, a division of Transworld Publishers, in 2001.
Del Rey is a registered trademark and the Del Rey colophon is a trademark of Random House, Inc.
is dedicated with love to the memory of Bill Woodford, a big, flawed, tough, and kindly man. During World War II he fought with distinction at El Alamein, Anzio, Salerno, and Monte Cassino, and was mentioned in Despatches twice for gallant conduct. In 1954 he married a woman he adored and raised her son as his own. As I said in the dedication to
back in 1984, without him Druss the Legend would never have walked the walls of Dros Delnoch. He was the heart of many of the heroes I have created over the years—none more so than Jaim Grymauch, whose story is told within these pages.
Many people helped to make
the joy it was to create. To my test readers Jan Dunlop, Tony Evans, Alan Fisher, Stella Graham, and Steve Hutt, many thanks. I am also grateful to editors Steve Saffel of Del Rey and Selina Walker of Transworld for their valuable input, to Erik Lowenkron and Nancy Webbe for copyediting the United States and British manuscripts, and to Colette Russen, Kathleen O’Shea, and David Stevenson
HE SUN WAS
setting, and Lanovar sat slumped against the stone, the last of the sunlight bathing him in gold. There was a little heat in the dying winter sun, and the brightness felt good against his closed lids. Lanovar sighed and opened his eyes. The huge figure of Jaim Grymauch stood close by, gazing down at him.
“Let me carry you to the Wyrd, Lan,” he said. “She’ll cast an ancient spell and heal you.”
“In a while, my friend. I’ll just rest here and gather my strength.”
Grymauch swore and turned away. Loosening the strap at his shoulder, he swung the massive broadsword clear of his back. The black hilt was almost a foot long, crowned with an iron globe pommel. The curved quillons were beautifully crafted to represent the flared wings of a hunting falcon. Drawing the fifty-two-inch blade from the scabbard, Grymauch examined the sword in the fading light. There were still bloodstains on the blade, and he wiped them away with the hem of his black cloak. Beside him Lanovar lifted clear the wedge of blood-soaked cloth he had been holding to the wound in his side. The bleeding had slowed, and the pain was almost gone. He glanced up at Grymauch.
“That monstrosity should be in the Druagh museum,” said Lanovar. “It is an anachronism.”
“I don’t know what that means,” muttered Grymauch.
“It means out of its time, my friend. That blade was created to rip through plate armor. No one wears plate anymore.”
Grymauch sighed. Returning the blade to its scabbard, he sat down beside his friend. “Out of its time, eh?” he said. “It is like us, then, Lan. We should have been born in the days of the
Blood was leaking slowly from the cloth plugging the exit wound in Lanovar’s lower back, a dark stain spreading across the outlawed blue and green cloak of the Rigante. “I need to plug the wound again,” said Grymauch.
Lanovar made no complaint as the clansman pulled him forward, and he felt nothing as Grymauch pressed a fresh wad of cloth into the wound. Lanovar’s mind wandered briefly.
He saw again the standing stone and the tall black-clad man waiting there. Regrets were pointless now, but he should have trusted his instincts. He had known deep in his heart that the Moidart could not be trusted. As their gaze had met, he had seen the hatred in the man’s dark eyes. But the prize had been too great, and Lanovar had allowed the dazzle of its promise to blind him to the truth.
The Moidart had promised that the turbulent years would end: no more pointless bloodshed, no more senseless feuds, no more murdered soldiers and clansmen. This night, at the ancient stone, he and the Moidart would clasp hands and put an end to the savagery. For his part the Moidart had also agreed to petition the king and have Clan Rigante reinstated to the roll of honor.
Lanovar’s black warhound, Raven, had growled deeply as they walked into the clearing. “Be silent, boy,” whispered Lanovar. “This is an end to battle—not the beginning of it.” He approached the Moidart, extending his hand. “It is good that we can meet in this way,” said Lanovar. “This feud has bled the highlands for too long.”
“Aye, it ends tonight,” agreed the Moidart, stepping back into the shadow of the stone.
For a fraction of a heartbeat Lanovar stood still, his hand still extended. Then he heard movement from the undergrowth to the left and right and saw armed men rise up from hiding. Six
soldiers carrying muskets emerged and surrounded the Rigante leader. Several others moved into sight, sabers in their hands. Raven bunched his muscles to charge, but Lanovar stopped him with a word of command. The Rigante leader stood very still. As agreed, he had brought no weapon to the meeting.
He glanced back at the Moidart. The nobleman was smiling now, though no humor showed in his dark, hooded eyes. Instead there was hatred, deep and all-consuming.
“So your word counts for nothing,” Lanovar said softly. “Safe conduct, you said.”
“It will be safe conduct, you Rigante scum,” said the Moidart. “Safe conduct to my castle. Safe conduct to the deepest dungeon within it. Then safe conduct up every step of the gallows.”
At that moment a bellowing war cry pierced the air. A massive figure rushed into sight, a huge broadsword raised high. His lower face was masked by a black scarf, and his dark clothes bore no clan markings. Lanovar’s spirits soared.
It was Grymauch!
The surprised soldiers swung toward the charging warrior. Several shots were fired, but not one ball struck him. The massive broadsword swung down, slicing a soldier from shoulder to belly before exiting in a bloody spray. In the panic that followed the clansman’s charge Lanovar leapt to his left, grabbed a musket by the barrel, and dragged it from the hands of a startled soldier. As the man rushed in to retrieve the weapon, Lanovar crashed the butt into his face, knocking him from his feet. A second musketeer ran in. The warhound Raven gave a savage growl and then leapt, his great jaws closing on the man’s throat. Lanovar raised the musket to his shoulder and sought out the Moidart. The nobleman had ducked back into the undergrowth. More shots rang out. Smoke from the guns drifted like mist in the clearing, and the air stank of sulfur. Grymauch, slashing the great blade left and right, hurled himself at the musketeers. A swordsman ran
in behind the clansman. Raising the captured musket, Lanovar fired quickly. The shot struck the hilt of the swordsman’s upraised weapon and ricocheted back through the hapless man’s right eye. Across the clearing three more musketeers came into view. Raven, his jaws drenched with blood, tore into them. One went down screaming. The others shot into the snarling hound. Raven slumped to the ground.
Lanovar threw aside the musket and ran toward Grymauch. The musketeers, their weapons empty, were backing away from the ferocious clansman. The swordsmen were dead or had fled into the woods. Lanovar moved alongside the blood-spattered warrior.
“We leave! Now!” he shouted.
As they swung away, the Moidart stepped from behind a tree. Grymauch saw him—and the long-barreled pistol in his hand. Vainly he tried to move across Lanovar, shielding him. But the shot tore through Grymauch’s black cloak, ripping into the outlaw leader’s side and out through his back. “That is for Rayena!” shouted the Moidart.
Lanovar’s legs gave way instantly. Grymauch reached down, hauled him upright, and draped the paralyzed man across his shoulder. Then he ran into the thicket beyond the trail. At first the pain had been incredible, but then Lanovar had passed out. When he awoke, he was here on the mountainside and the pain was all but gone.
“How are you feeling?” asked Grymauch.
“Not so braw,” admitted Lanovar. Grymauch had plugged the wound again and had settled him back against a rock face. Lanovar began to slide sideways. He tried to move his right arm to stop himself. The limb twitched but did not respond. Grymauch caught him and held him close for a moment. “Just wedge me against the rock,” whispered Lanovar. Grymauch did as he was bidden.
“Are you warm enough? You look cold, Lan. I’ll light a fire.”
“And bring them down upon us? I think not.” Reaching
down, he pressed his left hand against the flesh of his left thigh. “I cannot feel my leg.”
“I told you, man. Did I not tell you?” stormed Grymauch. “The man is a serpent. There is no honor in him.”
“Aye, you told me.” Lanovar began to tremble. Grymauch moved in close, pulling off his own black cloak and wrapping it around the shoulders of his friend. He looked into Lanovar’s curiously colored eyes, one green and one gold.