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Authors: Glen Cook

The Tower of Fear

BOOK: The Tower of Fear
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Contents

Title Page

Copyright Notice

The Witch entered…

The Players in the Many-Faced Game

Prolog

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Epilog One: Immediate Events

Epilog Two: A Longer View

Tor Books by Glen Cook

Copyright

The Witch entered the temple as the men met. She gasped, unable to believe even now that she saw it. How had the man gotten through the citadel’s defenses? What man could have earned such great power?

Clouds of light and shadow contended. Larger than life, figures turned in an almost formal, elegant dance around the slice and dart of flashing mystic blades.

The shadow was overpowering the light slowly, consuming it, but she did not see that in her fear for the man she loved. She saw only that an enemy was trying to kill him and that enemy was a great enough wizard to have penetrated the citadel’s impenetrable defenses. She screamed, all reason fled before the prospect of loss. “Nakar!”

Startled, the shadow turned her way.

The light struck its blow.

… and so begins a tale of doom and wizardry that brings us all, in the end, to

 

The Tower of Fear

THE PLAYERS IN THE MANY-FACED GAME

Qushmarrah—The conquered city where events take place

THE QUSHMARRAHANS—

Called
veydeen
by the Dartar tribesmen, the literal meaning of the word being stone-sitters. Applicable to any city dwellers

Aaron Habid—A carpenter and war veteran

Laella—Aaron’s wife

Arif—Aaron’s older son

Stafa—Aaron’s younger son

Raheb Sayed—Aaron’s mother-in-law

Tamisa (“Mish”)—Aaron’s sister-in-law

Taidiki—Aaron’s brother-in-law, now dead

Billygoat—Aaron’s friend and co-worker, who caulks the seams in ships

 

Naszif bar bel-Abek—a metalworker and war veteran

Reyha—Naszif’s wife, Laella’s best friend

Zouki—Naszif’s son

 

Nakar the Abomination—a sorcerer, now dead, who ruled Qushmarrah in the name of the god Gorloch

The Witch—Nakar’s wife

Torgo—a eunuch serving the Witch

Azel—a professional killer, talented and deadly. A man of many faces

Muma—innkeeper and associate of Azel

Ishabel bel-Shaduk—professional criminal and child-taker

 

The General—Leader of the Living, the Qushmarrahan resistance to the Herodian occupation; khadifa (colonel or chieftain) in the quarter called the Shu

General Hanno bel-Karba—the Qushmarrahan national hero

Colonel Sisu bel-Sidek—the General’s adjutant and heir, khadifa of the waterfront

Meryel—woman shipping magnate, supporter of the Living, and bel-Sidek’s lover

Colonel Salom Edgit—khadifa of the Tro quarter, caught between greed and honor

Colonel “King” Dabdahd—khadifa of the Astan quarter, a bootlicker

Colonel Ortbal Sagdet—khadifa of the Hahr quarter, more gangster than patriot

Colonel Carza—khadifa of the Minisia quarter, a fanatic

Colonel Zenobel—khadifa of the Shen quarter, a fanatic

Hadribel—second-in-command in the Shu quarter

THE DARTARS

Desert nomads, mercenaries acting as auxiliaries to Herod’s occupation forces

Yoseh—a young warrior just in from the desert

Nogah—Yoseh’s older brother, leader of his band

Medjhah—Yoseh’s older brother

Mahdah—member of Yoseh’s band, a cousin

Kosuth—member of Yoseh’s band, a cousin

Juba—member of Yoseh’s band, an adoptive cousin

Faruk—member of Yoseh’s band, a cousin

Melchesheydek—Yoseh’s father, something of a rogue

 

Fa’tad al-Akla—called the Eagle, commander of the Dartar mercenaries

Joab—captain of Yoseh’s company and an old friend of Fa’tad

Mo’atabar—sergeant of Yoseh’s company, related to Joab

THE HERODIANS

Called
ferrenghi
by the Dartar tribesmen, the literal meaning of the word being outsider, stranger, enemy. In contemporary usage specifically someone whose allegiance lies with the imperial city, Herod.

General Lentello Cado—conqueror of Qushmarrah, now military governor and commander of occupying forces

Taliga—General Cado’s brother-in-law and batman

Colonel Bruda—Herodian intelligence chief in Qushmarrah

Marteo Sullo—civil governor of Qushmarrah

Annalaya—a witch brought to Qushmarrah by Sullo

Cullo—Aaron Habid’s supervisor at work

Ala-eh-din Beyh—a wizard, antecedents unknown, whose successful attack upon Nakar the Abomination made possible the Herodian conquest of Qushmarrah

OTHERS

Chorhkni, Suldan of Aquira—permanent threat on the eastern boundary of the Herodian empire

THE GODS

Gorloch—an ancient, ferocious deity long abandoned by most Qushmarrahans

Nakar—an angel in Gorloch’s pantheon, associated with death, from whom the sorcerer Nakar adopted his name

Azel—a messenger demon associated with the angel Nakar

 

Aram the Flame—a gentle, compassionate deity whose cult supplanted that of Gorloch

 

God—the Herodian deity, ferocious, jealous, contradictory. Extension of his cult is the excuse for Herodian conquests

Prolog

The smoke was oppressive. It crept south into the Shu from the Shen, where sorcery had birthed fires when the invaders breached the Gate of Winter. It brought chaos. Within it combatants recognized neither friend, foe, nor fleeing civilian. Men struck now and wept later. Animals careened around in panic. The heavy overcast turned back the light of day and worsened seeing.

Qushmarrahan, Dartar, and Herodian alike prayed for rain. Rain might quench the fires and cool the killing insanity.

Qushmarrah was lost but its men fought on. While Nakar lived they dared not surrender.

The surrounding horizons were clear. It seemed the city was circumvallated by walls of light. The clouds grew rapidly darker nearer the heart of the city. Above the acropolis, over the citadel of Nakar the Abomination, those were black as the breath of Hell. The citadel’s tower pierced their low bellies.

Lightning shattered darkness. Thunder crushed the uproar in the streets. A hundred thousand smoke-teared eyes looked toward the sorcerer’s stronghold. Clouds above began to swirl, to stream inward, forming a whirlpool in the sky, a celestial maelstrom.

An end-of-the-world flash and crash rattled the city to its foundations.

The rains came. They fell in torrents like none before witnessed by man.

*   *   *

The sorcerer sat on his dark throne, amused. He would wait a while longer before he crushed the invaders. They would perish in agony, every one, Herodian and Dartar traitor …

Something moved in the shadows at the far end of that last temple of Gorloch. He sprang up, robes flying, eyes wide. He did not recognize the man but knew what he must be. “You!”

“Yes, High Priest.” There was soft mockery in the voice. The man wore peasant garb. He was too tall to be Herodian, too dark to be Qushmarrahan. The breath of the desert informed his voice but he was no Dartar. “Another has come.”

Nakar relaxed. They came and they came but he devoured them all. “I should have suspected.” He chuckled. “Cado has been unnaturally lucky.”

“Not my doing, wizard. Cado’s genius, your failings, and human frailty.”

The sorcerer sneered. “The fire is come. It will scour away the weakness of Aram. Herod’s triumph will turn in her hands, like an adder. Gorloch will stand forth in his glory again. Come. I grow impatient. I will destroy them after I finish you.” He laughed. “Come, little dog of the desert. Let it be done between me and yours. You are the last.”

“No.” The man’s slow advance did not falter. “There is another training already. Always there will be another somewhere, hidden from your eye, till you are driven from the world and torment it no more.” A dagger flashed in his hand. It radiated power.

Fear touched the sorcerer for an instant. Then the rage came. He
would
sweep them out of the path of destiny. “Gorloch, attend me!” He hurled himself toward his challenger. They met before the great idol, beside the altar where thousands had screamed their last that Gorloch might be pleased and his apostle Nakar might live forever.

*   *   *

The Witch entered the temple as the men met. She gasped, unable to believe even now that she saw it. How had the man gotten through the citadel’s defenses? What man could have earned such great power?

Clouds of light and shadow contended. Larger than life, figures turned in an almost formal, elegant dance around the slice and dart of flashing mystic blades.

The shadow was overpowering the light slowly, consuming it, but she did not see that in her fear for the man she loved. She saw only that an enemy was trying to kill him and that enemy was a great enough wizard to have penetrated the citadel’s impenetrable defenses. She screamed, all reason fled before the prospect of loss. “Nakar!”

Startled, the shadow turned her way.

The light struck its blow.

Nakar’s bellow shook the fortress. He lurched into his enemy, clawing at his attacker’s throat. Their struggle flung them against the altar.

The Witch wailed. She had killed him with her interruption. While they yet fought, before death claimed its prize, she wove her greatest spell ever, binding them in timelessness. Someday she would bring back the man she loved, when she found the way.

She finished. In pain, as she collapsed, she cried, “AZEL!” The summons rolled through the citadel but there was no answer. Nakar had sent his right hand far away, to work his will in another land. There would be no help.

It was too late. For now.

*   *   *

The avalanche of rain faded as fast as it had come. The clouds blew away from Qushmarrah like the souls of men newly dead. Throughout the city men began to lay down their arms. Nakar was gone.

*   *   *

In the Shu the stillness yielded to the cry of a newborn. And a moment later its cries were joined by those of another entrant into the lists of life.

The war ended. The wheel turned. A new story began.

1

The boys came up Char Street in a mouthy pack. The hazy turquoise of the bay backed them. There were twenty of them, ranging from three to eight years old. The pretend they were playing reflected their parents’ private rejection of history. They were soldiers returning victorious from Dakes-Souetta.

Their rowdiness caught the old woman’s ear. She looked up from her mending. A scowl deepened the wrinkles webbing her dark leather face. She thought their parents ought to whip some sense into them.

One of the boys kicked something the size of a melon. Another raced forward, snatched it up out of the dust, shook it overhead, and shouted.

BOOK: The Tower of Fear
13.38Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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