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Authors: Steven Savile

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The Defiler

BOOK: The Defiler
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Sláine the Defiler

 

Celtic warrior and son of the Sessair tribe, Sláine Mac Roth, learns the secret murderous scheme of the evil Slough Feg to destroy his tribe. Desperate to thwart these plans and save his people, Sláine must journey to the dangerous Otherworld of the Sidhe on a quest to retrieve a series of powerful magical items including the Cauldron of Rebirth, a gift fit for a High King. Will Sláine and his trusted companion Ukko the dwarf be able to survive the perils of the Otherworld and return victorious to stop Slough Feg before it's too late? Only then can Sláine claim his place at the forefront of his people, redeemed.

SLÁINE

 

#1: SLÁINE THE EXILE - Steven Savile

 

#2: SLÁINE THE DEFILER - Steven Savile

 

 

JUDGE DREDD FROM 2000 AD

 

#1: DREDD VS DEATH

Gordon Rennie

 

#2: BAD MOON RISING

David Bishop

 

#3: BLACK ATLANTIC

Simon Jowett & Peter J Evans

 

#4: ECLIPSE

James Swallow

 

#5: KINGDOM OF THE BLIND

David Bishop

 

#6: THE FINAL CUT

Matthew Smith

 

#7: SWINE FEVER

Andrew Cartmel

 

#8: WHITEOUT

James Swallow

 

#9: PSYKOGEDDON

Dave Stone

 

JUDGE ANDERSON

 

#1: FEAR THE DARKNESS - Mitchel Scanlon

 

#2: RED SHADOWS - Mitchel Scanlon

 

#3: SINS OF THE FATHER - Mitchel Scanlon

 

 

MORE 2000 AD ACTION

 

THE ABC WARRIORS

#1: THE MEDUSA WAR - Pat Mills & Alan Mitchell

 

#2: RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINES - Mike Wild

 

DURHAM RED

#1: THE UNQUIET GRAVE - Peter J Evans

 

ROGUE TROOPER

#1: CRUCIBLE - Gordon Rennie

 

STRONTIUM DOG

#1: BAD TIMING - Rebecca Levene

 

FIENDS OF THE EASTERN FRONT - David Bishop

#1: OPERATION VAMPYR

#2: THE BLOOD RED ARMY

#3: TWILIGHT OF THE DEAD

 

For David Gemmell

Who showed us that there is room in the world for heroes

 

 

Sláine created by
Pat Mills & Angela Kincaid
.

 

 

 

A 2000 AD Publication

 

www.abaddonbooks.com

 

www.2000adonline.com

 

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Cover illustration by Max Bertolini.

Copyright © 2007 Rebellion A/S. All rights reserved.

All 2000 AD characters and logos © and TM Rebellion A/S. "Sláine" is a registered trademark in the United States and other jurisdictions.

"2000 AD" is a registered trademark in certain jurisdictions. All rights reserved. Used under licence.

 

ISBN(.epub): 978-1-84997-078-5

ISBN(.mobi): 978-1-84997-119-5

 

A CIP record for this book is available from the British Library.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publishers.

This is a work of fiction.All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.

 

 

 

Sláine the Defiler

 

The Lay of Sláine Mac Roth

 

Book Two

 

 

Steven Savile

 

ONE

 

"That, my ugly little friend, is the sweet smell of freedom," Sláine said. Breathing deeply, he let out a contented sigh as he threw his arms wide to embrace the countless fragrances of the Earth Mother.

"Gah! Sláine, my warped friend, only in your bumpkin-like brain does freedom stink of cow turds." Ukko muttered as he made a show of covering his nose with a dirty hand.

"There's nothing wrong with a big steaming pile of dung," Sláine said, "it is Danu at her most natural."

The dwarf shook his head in despair. "If natural means fragrant I won't argue with you, big man."

"I would have thought you, of all people, would love that smell, Ukko," Sláine sniffed. "If my nose doesn't deceive me I'd say it is pure bull dung, not cow turd."

"Oh, please stop talking to me. Pretty please," Ukko wheedled, falling to his knees, hands clasped together in mocking prayer. "I am begging you, Sláine. My head is going to explode. There are too many jokes in there right now. I swear keep talking and it is going to go boom, brains everywhere. You wouldn't want that would you? Oh, no, then where would you be, eh?"

Sláine stopped a moment, appearing to mull it over. "Well, I would still be here, but you on the other hand..." He let his words trail off as he spread his hands wide as though to say he had no idea where Ukko would be but maybe that wouldn't be such a bad thing.

Ukko sniffed. "You are a bad man, Sláine Mac Roth. A bad, bad man." Ukko jumped up to his feet and stomped away, kicking at one of the stones that pocked the old road. It skittered away into the briar hedge disturbing a crow. The bird cawed aggressively as it circled above their heads. Ukko flapped his hands, waving it away.

Ten paces down the road, Ukko turned to look back at him. "Just hurry up would you? The sooner we get to civilisation the sooner I can take my exploding head out on some fat-thighed lovely."

"And you think
I
am a bad man?" Sláine rolled his eyes and followed Ukko.

It was good to be on the open road again, out of the oppressive Forest of Dardun, even if it meant they were a little closer to Murias and the inevitable confrontation that going home promised. After the animals had retreated from Danu's cave the sense of isolation and loss had been almost overpowering. Sláine had remained in the cave's mouth for hours, unmoving as he stared at the denuded branches and the dirt. He couldn't explain the sudden isolation he felt to Ukko. The dwarf wouldn't have understood, or even cared. He left the cave humbled. He left the wood determined.

Dardun loomed like some vile spectre behind them. The great forest was immense, scores of miles deep and wide, twisted roots bulging out of the earth where they had leeched every ounce of nutrient out of the soil and begun to spread in the desperate search for succour. It had taken the pair of them weeks to navigate the perils of Dardun. And Sláine was in no doubt that it was perilous - a forest, a normal, healthy forest was a living thing but with the animals scattered Dardun was no living forest. It had been stripped back to its skeletal frame, revealing its diseased core.

Sláine hurried to catch up with the dwarf.

When he reached him, Ukko was hunched over a small white shrine dedicated to Danu. There was a tiny font in front of the white stone statue and the runt was scooping water greedily into his mouth. He looked up, drooling.

"Aren't you going to drink?"

Sláine shook his head. "Drink from a bird bath? You do know what that white stuff is, don't you?"

"The sweet taste of dung, of course. You take all the fun out of life, Sláine, I hope you know that."

Sláine stretched, working the kinks out of his muscles.

The elongated shadows cast by withered branches reached down the road as though the forest itself was trying to claw them back into its cankerous heart. The road unwinding before the pair of them was not that much more inviting, truth be told. The taint of the Sourlands had crept north during his prolonged exile, reaching out beyond Dardun into what had once been lush fields and farmland. Five years, six, seven, the way the world had changed in that short time those few years might as well have been a lifetime. In the world he had grown up in Cullen of the Wide Mouth had been the biggest evil he could imagine. Cullen. The memory of their innocent loathings made him want to laugh now.

Evil had come into his world.

True evil, bearing skull swords and stinking of sloughed skin. The man Sláine had become had been forged on the steel of those self same swords. He wasn't the boy he had been when Grudnew cast him out, feckless and reckless. He was a survivor. A warrior.

Ukko wiped the water from his mouth. "Come on then, let's see if we can't find a warm bed for the night."

"Finally some sense comes out of those flapping lips."

They trudged on, the makeshift road taking them through a cornfield. The heads were blackened and blighted where they had wasted. He reached out and snapped off one. It was riddled with bloated white maggots. He cast it aside. Deeper into the field there were some golden sheaves of corn, but they were precious few and far between. It struck him as peculiar that with so much sickness around good food had been allowed to spoil.

In all likelihood the villagers were sick themselves, or dead and riddled with maggots like their corn stalks.

"I will heal you," he promised the Earth Mother. Above him, the crow heckled. Sláine railed on it, shouting up at the sky: "Do not doubt me, creature of the Morrigan. This place will be healed. Golden heads of corn will grow, not wilt."

"Oh, they will grow, no doubt," Ukko said. "But will there be anyone left to harvest them? That's a more pertinent question. Given that these have been left to rot, it doesn't take a genius to guess that the farmers were otherwise indisposed. Dead and dying, most likely. That's the new world, Sláine. Honest men rot in the mud, fertilising their crops." Ukko stopped talking as a smear on the horizon caught his eye. "Look," he pointed at the dark smudges where they smeared the sky.

"Smoke," Sláine said.

"Do you think they're burning the chaff?"

"No. And where there's smoke..."

"There's probably a dozen skull swords setting blaze to the place," Ukko finished for him.

"We should-"

"Yes we should, but even if we start running now, we won't hit whatever's burning for a good two hours or more, by which time the skull swords will be long gone."

"But-"

"I know, you're completely right," Ukko cut in smoothly, "a great hero
would
charge in blindly without a care for his safety, swinging his axe like a demon possessed, without the faintest hope of arriving in time to save a single wretched soul, but doing it anyway. I agree whole-heartedly. That's what a great lummox - I mean hero - would do. But the reality is that while the hour gained between running and walking might theoretically make all the difference, they don't leave survivors, do they? The skull swords take them as slaves and anyone left behind is dog meat. So we'd be busting our guts to reach a few villagers who are already dead. We'll bury them, swear some kind of insane pledge about avenging them and liberating the land before breakfast... The thing is we could just as easily do all that
and
walk there, arriving fresh and invigorated instead of exhausted and ready to collapse. So how about we use our heads this once, eh? Go on, Sláine, be reasonable." Ukko was talking to himself; Sláine set off running down the road. "Nice!" Ukko called from behind him, scurrying to catch up. "I
hate
bloody heroes. Give me one good reason why the world needs a flippin' hero?"

Sláine looked back at him. "To fight evil," he said earnestly, no hint of a smile on his rugged features.

Ukko looked up at the heavens in despair. "I could have met up with a coward, but oh, no. I get the idiot hero. You really do believe that nonsense, don't you? You make my brain bleed, Sláine Mac Roth. I hope you are proud of yourself."

Sláine ignored him and carried on running towards the smoke.

Ukko had no choice but to keep chasing him.

 

As much as Sláine was loathe to admit it, Ukko was right. The chance of there being survivors was non-existent. Slough Feg's butchers were brutally efficient in their culling of the countryside. That didn't stop him from running - it hadn't stopped him when Murias burned. Indeed, it only served to spur him on. Had he been a few minutes quicker that day his mother, Macha, might still be alive. Today, he ran faster.

"Wait... for... me..." Ukko gasped between laboured breaths. Sláine looked back to see the ugly little dwarf on his knees, retching into the withered stalks of corn.

"Meet you at the village," Sláine called back.

"I hate you."

Sláine focussed on the plumes of black smoke, pumping his arms and lengthening his stride until it ate the miles. His chest burned. Fire spread from his calves into his knees. He ran on, ignoring it, never letting his gaze drop from the smoke in the sky.

 

The village had been sacked - though it was little more than a cluster of wattle-and-daub huts. The hungry fire had consumed everything, leaving behind ash and black-charred earth.

He walked through the smoking ruins.

There were no survivors.

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