Beyond the Shadows, p.1Brent Weeks
Kylar had never started a war.
Approaching the Lae’knaught camp required none of the stealth he’d used to approach the Ceurans. Invisible, he simply walked past the sentries in their black tabards emblazoned with a golden sun: the pure light of reason beating back the darkness of superstition. Kylar grinned. The Lae’knaught were going to love the Night Angel.
Without provoking anyone, Cenaria had been invaded from the east by the Lae’knaught, from the north by Khalidor, and now from the south by Ceura. It was about time some of those hungry swords met each other.
Kylar ran, pulling his illusions around him, becoming the Night Angel. As if through smoke, there were glimpses of gleaming iridescent black metal skin, the crescents of exaggerated muscles, a face like Judgment, with brows pronounced and frowning, and glossy black eyes without pupils that leaked blue flames. He ran past a knot of gaunt Cenarian recruits, wide-eyed, their weapons in hand but forgotten. There were no crimes in their eyes. These men had joined because they had no other way to feed themselves.
The next group had participated in a hundred burnings and worse. A smoking black blade slid from Kylar’s left hand.
“I judge you!” the Night Angel shouted. “I find you wanting!”
Praise for The Way of Shadows
“What a terrific story! I was mesmerized from start to finish. Unforgettable characters, a plot that kept me guessing, nonstop action and the kind of in-depth storytelling that makes me admire a writer’s work.”—Terry Brooks
“Kylar is a wonderful character—sympathetic and despicable, cowardly and courageous, honorable and unscrupulous . . . a breathtaking debut!”
—Dave Duncan, author of The Alchemist’s Code
BOOKS BY BRENT WEEKS
THE NIGHT ANGEL TRILOGY
The Way of Shadows
Beyond the Shadows
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2008 by Brent Weeks
Excerpt from Orcs copyright © 2004 by Stan Nicholls
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a data base or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
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First eBook Edition: February 2010
Meet the Author
A Preview of ORCS
for all the usual reasons,
For my dad,
for your excellence and your integrity,
and for raising kids who whisper, “Peep!”
Logan Gyre was sitting in the mud and blood of the battlefield of Pavvil’s Grove when Terah Graesin came to him. It was barely an hour since they’d routed the Khalidorans, when the monstrous ferali forged to devour Cenaria’s army had turned instead on its Khalidoran masters. Logan had issued the orders that seemed most pressing, then dismissed everyone to join the revelries that were sweeping the Cenarian camp.
Terah Graesin came to him alone. He was sitting on a low rock, heedless of the mud. His fine clothes were so spattered with blood and worse they were a total loss anyway. Terah’s dress, by contrast, was clean except for the lower fringe. She wore high shoes, but even those couldn’t keep her entirely free of the thick mud. She stopped before him. He didn’t stand.
She pretended not to notice. He pretended not to notice that her bodyguards—unbloodied from battle—were hidden in the trees less than a hundred paces away. Terah Graesin could have only one reason to come to him: she was wondering if she was still the queen.
If Logan hadn’t been so bone-weary, he would have been amused. Terah had come to him alone as a show of vulnerability or fearlessness. “You were a hero today,” Terah said. “You stopped the Godking’s beast. They’re saying you killed him.”
Logan shook his head. He’d stabbed the ferali, and then the Godking had left it, but other men had given it more grievous wounds than he had. Something else had stopped the Godking, not Logan.
“You commanded it to destroy our enemies, and it did. You saved Cenaria.”
Logan shrugged. It already seemed long ago.
“I guess the question is,” Terah Graesin said, “did you save Cenaria for yourself, or for all of us?”
Logan spat at her feet. “Don’t give me that horseshit, Terah. You think y
Terah’s back stiffened, her chin lifted, and one hand twitched, but then she stopped.
It was the hand twitch that captured Logan’s attention. If she had raised her hand, was that the sign for her men to attack? Logan looked past her into the woods at the edge of the field, but the first thing he saw wasn’t her men. He saw his own. Agon’s Dogs—including two of the astoundingly talented archers Agon had armed with Ymmuri bows and made wytch hunters—had stealthily circled behind Terah’s bodyguards. Both wytch hunters had arrows nocked, but not drawn. Both men had obviously taken care to stand where Logan could see them clearly, because none of the other Dogs were clearly visible.
One archer was alternately looking at Logan and at a target in the woods. Logan followed his eyes and saw Terah’s hidden archer, aiming at Logan, waiting for Terah’s signal. The other wytch hunter was staring at Terah Graesin’s back. They were waiting for Logan’s signal. Logan should have known his streetwise followers wouldn’t leave him alone when Terah Graesin was near.
He looked at Terah. She was slim, pretty, with imperious green eyes that reminded Logan of his mother’s. Terah thought Logan didn’t know about her men in the woods. She thought Logan didn’t know that she had the stronger hand. “You swore fealty to me this morning under less than ideal circumstances,” Terah said. “Do you intend to keep your troth, or do you intend to make yourself king?”
She couldn’t ask the question straight, could she? It just wasn’t in her, not even when she thought she had total control over Logan. She would not make a good queen.
Logan thought he’d already made his decision, but he hesitated. He remembered how it felt to be powerless in the Hole, how it felt to be powerless when Jenine, his just-wed wife, had been murdered. He remembered how disconcertingly wonderful it felt to tell Kylar to kill Gorkhy and see it done. He wondered if he would feel the same pleasure at seeing Terah Graesin die. With one nod toward those wytch hunters, he would find out. He would never feel powerless again.
His father had told him, “An oath is the measure of the man who gives it.” Logan had seen what happened when he did what he knew was right, no matter how foolish it looked at the time. That was what rallied the Holers around him. That was what had saved his life when he was feverish and barely conscious. That was what had made Lilly—the woman the Khalidorans crafted into the ferali—turn on the Khalidorans. Ultimately, Logan’s doing what was right had saved all of Cenaria. But his father Regnus Gyre had lived by his oaths, through a miserable marriage and miserable service to a petty, wicked king. He gritted his teeth all day and slept well every night. Logan didn’t know if he was as much of a man as his father. He couldn’t do it.
So he hesitated. If she raised her hand to order her men to attack, she would be breaking the covenant between lord and vassal. If she broke it, he would be free.
“Our soldiers proclaimed me king.” Logan said in a neutral tone. Lose your temper, Terah. Order the attack. Order your own death.
Terah’s eyes lit, but her voice was steady and her hand didn’t move. “Men say many things in the heat of battle. I am prepared to forgive this indiscretion.”
Is this what Kylar saved me for?
No. But this is the man I am. I am my father’s son.
Logan stood slowly so as not to alarm either side’s archers, then, slowly, he knelt and touched Terah Graesin’s feet in submission.
Late that night, a band of Khalidorans attacked the Cenarian camp, killing dozens of drunken revelers before fleeing into the darkness. In the morning, Terah Graesin sent Logan Gyre and a thousand of his men to hunt them down.
The sentry was a seasoned sa’ceurai, a sword lord who’d killed sixteen men and bound their forelocks into his fiery red hair. His eyes probed the darkness restlessly where the forest and the oak grove met, and when he turned, he shielded his eyes from his comrades’ low fires to protect his night vision. Despite the cool wind that swept the camp and set the great oaks groaning, he wore no helmet that would muffle his hearing. But he had no chance of stopping the wetboy.
Former wetboy, Kylar thought, balancing one-handed on a broad oak limb. If he were still a killer for hire, he’d murder the sentry and be done with it. Kylar was something different now, the Night Angel—immortal, invisible, and nearly invincible—and he only served death to those who deserved it.
These swordsmen from the land whose very name meant “the sword,” Ceura, were the best soldiers Kylar had ever seen. They had set up camp with efficiency that spoke of years of campaigning. They cleared brush that might conceal the approach of enemies, banked their small fires to reduce their visibility, and arranged their tents to protect their horses and their leaders. Each fire warmed ten men, each of whom clearly knew his responsibilities. They moved like ants in the forest, and once they finished their duties, each man would only wander as far as an adjacent fire. They gambled, but they didn’t drink, and they kept their voices low. The only snag in all the Ceurans’ efficiency seemed to come from their armor. With Ceuran bamboo-and-lacquer armor, a man could dress himself. But donning the Khalidoran armor they had stolen a week ago at Pavvil’s Grove required assistance. Scale mail mixed with chain and even plate, and the Ceurans couldn’t decide if they needed to sleep armored or if men should be assigned to each other as squires.
When each squad was allowed to decide for itself how to fix the problem and didn’t waste time asking up the chain of command, Kylar knew his friend Logan Gyre was doomed. War Leader Lantano Garuwashi paired the Ceuran love of order with individual responsibility. It was emblematic of why Garuwashi had never lost a battle. It was why he had to die.
So Kylar moved through the trees like the breath of a vengeful god, only rustling the branches in time with the evening wind. The oaks grew in straight, widely spaced rows broken where younger trees had muscled between their elders’ shoulders and grown ancient themselves. Kylar climbed out as far on a limb as he could and spied Lantano Garuwashi through the swaying branches, dimly illuminated in the light of his fire, touching the sword in his lap with the delight of recent acquisition. If Kylar could get to the next oak, he could climb down mere paces from his deader.
Can I still call my target a “deader,” even though I’m not a wetboy anymore? Thinking of Garuwashi as a “target” was impossible. Kylar could still hear his master Durzo Blint’s voice, “Assassins,” he sneered, “have targets, because assassins sometimes miss.”
Kylar gauged the distance to the next limb that could bear his weight. Eight paces. It was no great leap. The daunting part was landing on a tree limb and arresting his momentum silently with only one arm. If Kylar didn’t leap, he’d have to sneak between two fires where men were still passing intermittently, and the ground was strewn with dead leaves. He’d jump, he decided, when the next good breeze came.
“There’s an odd light in your eyes,” Lantano Garuwashi said. He was big for a Ceuran, tall and lean and as heavily muscled as a tiger. Stripes of his own hair, burning the same color as the flickering fire, were visible through the sixty locks of all colors he’d claimed from opponents he’d killed.
“I’ve always loved fire. I want to remember it as I die.”
Kylar shifted to get a look at the speaker. It was Feir Cousat, a blond mountain of a man as wide as he was tall. Kylar had met him once. Feir was not only a capable hand with a sword, he was a mage. Kylar was lucky the man’s back was to him.
A week ago, after the Khalidoran Godking Garoth Ursuul killed him, Kylar had made a bargain with the yellow-eyed being called the Wolf. In his weird lair in the lands between life and death, the Wolf promised to restore Kylar’s right arm and bring him back to life quickly if Kylar stole Lantano Garuwashi’s sword. What had seemed simple—who can stop an invisible man from stealing?—was getting more complicated by the second. Who can stop an invisi
“So you really believe the Dark Hunter lives in those woods?” Garuwashi asked.
“Draw the blade a little, War Leader,” Feir said. Garuwashi bared the sword a hand’s breadth. Light poured from a blade that looked like a crystal filled with fire. “The blade burns to warn of danger or magic. The Dark Hunter is both.”
So am I, Kylar thought.
“It’s close?” Garuwashi asked. He rose to a crouch like a tiger ready to pounce.
“I told you luring the Cenarian army here might be our deaths, not theirs,” Feir said. He stared back into the fire.
For the past week, since the battle of Pavvil’s Grove, Garuwashi had led Logan and his men east. Because the Ceurans had disguised themselves in dead Khalidorans’ armor, Logan thought he was chasing the remnants of the defeated Khalidoran army. Kylar still had no idea why Lantano Garuwashi had led Logan here.
But then, he had no idea why the black metal ball called a ka’kari had chosen to serve him, or why it brought him back from death, or why he saw the taint on men’s souls that demanded death, or, for that matter, why the sun rose, or how it hung in the sky without falling.
“You said we were safe as long as we didn’t go into the Hunter’s wood,” Garuwashi said.
“I said ‘probably’ safe,” Feir said. “The Hunter senses and hates magic. That sword definitely counts.”
Garuwashi waved a hand, dismissing the danger. “We didn’t go into the Hunter’s wood—and if the Cenarians want to fight us, they must,” Garuwashi said.
As Kylar finally understood the plan, he could hardly breathe. The woods north, south, and west of the grove were thick and overgrown. The only way for Logan to use his numerical superiority would be to come through the east, where the giant sequoys of the Dark Hunter’s Wood gave an army plenty of space to maneuver. But it was said a creature from ages past killed anything that entered that wood. Learned men scoffed at such superstition, but Kylar had met the peasants of Torras Bend. If they were superstitious, they were a people with only one superstition. Logan would march right into the trap.
The wind kicked up again, setting the branches groaning. Kylar snarled silently, and leapt. With his Talent he made the distance easily. But he’d jumped too hard, too far, and he slipped off the far side of the branch. Little black talons jabbed through his clothing along the sides of his knees, along his left forearm, and even from his ribs. For a moment, the talons were liquid metal, not so much tearing his clothes as absorbing them at each tiny point, and then they solidified and Kylar jerked to a stop.
Beyond the Shadows by Brent Weeks / Fantasy have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes