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Authors: Glen Cook

Sung in Blood

BOOK: Sung in Blood
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Sung In Blood

Glen Cook

Edited by Laurie Mann

Cover art by David Cherry


ISBN: 0-915368-44-7

Boxed ISBN: 0-915368-95-1

Published: February 1990 by NESFA Press

ePub edition v1.0 by Dead^Man Jan, 2011


Glen Cook creates a society full of intrigue and danger in Sung in Blood. Protector Jerhke has kept Shasesserre peaceful for hundreds of years. After his brutal murder, his son Rider tries to discover his father's murderer. Rider is helped in his search by his companions, as they battle against the agents of the mysterious KraljOdehnal. But the murderous dwarf turns out to be an introduction to greater terror, as they match wits with ShaiKhe, the powerful sorcerer who wants to rule Shasesserre.


Death stalked the night. It haunted the shadowed alleys of Shasesserre.

Those it passed near hurried away, driven by the knives of fear.

Death wore the guise of a squat, gnarly man in a vile yellow mask, the mask of a
a carrier of the weeping sickness.

Death was a liar, a wearer of false faces.

The gnarly man zigzagged the darkest ways, hurrying toward the city's heart—the Plaza of Jehrke Victorious. Across his back he carried a rag-wrapped bundle. He reached the edge of the great square. Beyond, the Rock and its crown, Citadel Nibroc, reared their humped and spikey silhouettes against the stars.

It was a rare and cloud-clear night there at the crossroads 'twixt land and sea.

Between plaza's edge and Citadel stood a five-hundred-foot temporary needle of timbers, kept upright by scores of guylines. The masked man paused to see if he was observed, then ran to its foot. He swarmed upward with the tireless energy of a machine. When he reached the crowning platform, from which rope divers would plunge during tomorrow's celebrations, be was barely panting.

The gnarly man shed his burden. For a moment he stared at the nearest spire of the Citadel, then began ripping rags off his bundle. Starlight glinted off steel and polished wood. He began assembling some mysterious engine.

A moist breeze off the
Golden Crescent
lifted his yellow mask. It betrayed an evil, gap-toothed murderer's grin.


Jehrke entered his laboratory almost furtively. His lamp illuminated a face gaunt with worry, with fear.

The Protector afraid? Impossible. For three centuries his wizardry had nurtured and shielded Shasesserre in a world that hungered to rape its wealth and plunder its power. He had brushed aside a thousand perils. He had survived a thousand threats. His might and skill were legend.

But how does he come, that I do not smell him in every shadow?" His web of sorcery lay everywhere upon the city. No magician great or feeble, white or dark, could evade his notice. "The breath of him stinks. And what better time to strike?"

Jehrke moved about, lighting lamps. They revealed a laboratory that would have amazed his most advanced colleagues. "Through what dark crack does he design to thrust his wickedness?"

Shasesserre remained Queen of the Orient, Crossroad of the World, because for three centuries no shadow had leaked past Jehrke's vigilance. There was a saying: "Good or bad, Kings and Queens come and go. Jehrke is forever."

It was a time of a good King, and the Protector, and all at the heart of the world prospered.

But wolves howled beyond the border, dark and jealous. Their master kept them whipped to a frenzy.

Jehrke looked out the window on the night, on the constellation that was the city that never sleeps. The hairs on his neck bristled. A chill made him shudder.

He turned gaunt face and hollow eyes toward a map of Shasesserre's domains. "Can there be a rent in the fabric of the web? Has he found some way to steal close unremarked?" He scowled at the chart. It told him nothing he had not known for centuries.

Suddenly, he whirled to face the window. He knew he felt death's cold breath and clammy touch.


Cursing, the gnarly man hammered a wooden frame member with his fist. It snapped into place. He glanced at the newly lighted window. The man passed the light.

The gnarly fellow cursed again and furiously pumped a crank on the side of his engine. Wood creaked. Steel scraped, a large coil spring wound tighter and tighter.

"He must die. The Master has condemned him. He must die tonight."

Finished cranking, he gazed through a metal tube attached to his device. He adjusted its position. Satisfied, he tripped a wooden lever. The engine creaked as the coil spring drove gears and pulleys and hauled back the string of the massive crossbow that was the machine's heartpiece.

A short arrow, or long quarrel, dropped from a hopper into the channel of the crossbow.

Three hundred yards away the doomed man faced a map, back to the window, centered within its rectangle. The gnarly man tripped another lever and dove for the ladder down. Behind him the death engine thunked and began to rewind.

A terrible cry ripped the fabric of the night. It shook the foundations of the Rock. A bleak and horrible wind bowled through the Plaza of Jehrke Victorious. The gnarly assassin clung to the ladder four hundred eighty feet above cobblestones and shrieked entreaties to heathen gods.

The wind departed as suddenly as it came. The killer resumed his scramble toward the ground.

Above, the death machine creaked and thunked methodically.


The first bolt shattered the window and hit Jehrke an inch above the heart. It flung him back against the map. Nine of its eighteen inches buried themselves in the wall.

Direct physical assault! Never had he considered the chance of an attack so unsubtle.

Agony tore his flesh. Almost, his control slipped as he screamed a death-curse that sent his web into insane paroxysms. He gestured with his left hand. Pale fire crawled about the laboratory. He gestured with his right. Shadows flew out into the storm, toward the diving tower, only possible point for launching the attack.

The next bolt arrived. The Protector jerked, then sagged. Soon another missile thumped home. Then another; and another, in regular, deadly rhythm.




There were five people in the room with the pincushioned Protector. None were ordinary, but the eye tended to a grim-faced fellow in imperial Ride-Master of Cavalry uniform. He was tall, well-muscled, with arcticly cold blue eyes. He paced like a captive panther, restless grace in a cage. He was the last to arrive.

"We tried to find you as soon as Chaz told us, Rider," said a moonfaced imp of a fellow. He
an imp. He tried hard to look human, but yellow fangs lapped his fat lower lips and his eyes were all oily ruby pupil. Puffs of sulphurous smoke occasionally escaped his wide nostrils. "But you was on patrol, Captain."

The imp's name was Su-Cha. He was the Ride-Master's familiar, kept in this world as one of his several associates.

The other three present were human men, but odd in their ways.

Chaz was a giant barbarian from the far north. In most ways he was faithful to stereotype. He enjoyed busting things up. Near Chaz stood a nut-brown, rail-thin, beetle-faced easterner whose hobby was Grafting odd machines. His name was Omar and a lot more, but his friends called him Spud. The third man looked like a derelict, with wild white hair and beard, and clothing little better than rags. He had to be reminded to change. He used the name Greystone. He spent his attention on studying and thinking, not his appearance.

"Where's Preacher? Where's Soup?" the man with the frosty eyes asked, about members of the group not present.

"Looking for you," said Su-Cha. "Unless they got distracted by some floozy."

Rider—for so he was called by his friends—faced the corpse of the man who had been his father, for the first time squarely. "He knew it would come. But he didn't expect it this soon, nor this way."

"Three hundred years," Chaz intoned. "Hard to believe, Rider. Even that way he looks too young."

The younger Jehrke's eyes grew colder. "The torch has been passed, ready or not."

"We're ready, Rider," Su-Cha said. "Let's get at it."

Rider ignored the imp. "Chaz. You're sure nobody has gotten in here? That only we and the assassins know?"

"I was with him. He just wanted to check something, he said. I waited outside. I started to wonder how come he was taking so long. Then he yelled. When I broke in he was like that."

Rider went to the window, glared at the tower in the Plaza. Though festivities were not to start for hours, spectators had begun to assemble. "They came from the diving platform. You went to find Su-Cha. How long were you gone?"

"Two minutes."

"Then there was no time for an intruder to destroy any message my father left."

"Message? We would've found one if ... "

Rider raised a hand. He cocked his head. "You hear anything?" he asked Su-Cha, indicating the door.

The imp shook his head but glided that way. He was accustomed to Rider's finely tuned senses. The dead wizard had raised his son to stretch every human capacity. At the door the imp vaporized. He reassumed corporeality moments later. "Nobody. But there may have been someone. The sand you scattered was disturbed." Among other attributes Su-Cha had a perfect memory for the most minuscule details.

Rider merely nodded. He assembled various items from the laboratory, performed a slight magic. Then he dusted a handful of orange powder upon a blank piece of wall.

Chaz gasped. "Parts of words."

"My father's final message. I've long suspected it was there, awaiting his death to activate it." He stepped up to the wall, passed a palm over the message. The powder fluoresced.


Son. Your hour is come. I have prepared you as well as I could. Protect Shasesserre from the wolves without and worms within. Always there will be enemies of tranquility and prosperity. You will be occupied continuously. Their wickedness knows no proportion. In the bathhouse on the Saverne side, in the place I once showed you, yon will find the names of those who must be watched.

"He updated that list frequently," Rider said. "I didn't know he kept it there, though."

BOOK: Sung in Blood
11.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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