The night angel trilogy, p.103
Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font       Night Mode Off   Night Mode

       The Night Angel Trilogy, p.103

           Brent Weeks
 

  Logan spat at her feet. “Don’t give me that horseshit, Terah. You think you’re going to manipulate me? You’ve got nothing to offer, nothing to threaten. You’ve got a question for me? Have a little respect and just fucking ask.”

  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 Drake 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.

  2

  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 invisible man? A mage who can see invisible men.

  “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.

  After he pulled himself back onto the branch, the claws melted back into his skin. Kylar was left trembling, and not just because of how close he’d come to falling. What am I becoming? With every death reaped and every death suffered, he was growing stronger. It scared the hell out of him. What does it cost? There’s got to be a price.

  Gritting his teeth, Kylar climbed headfirst down the tree, letting the claws rise and sink from his skin, stabbing little holes in his clothes and in the tree bark. When he reached the ground, the black ka’kari bled from every pore to cover him like a second skin. It masked his face and body and clothes and sword, and began devouring light. Invisible, Kylar advanced.

  “I dreamed of living in a small town like that Torras Bend,” Feir said, his back as broad as an ox before Kylar. “Build a smithy on the river, design a water wheel to drive the bellows until my sons are old enough to help. A prophet told me it could happen.”

  “Enough of your dreams,” Garuwashi cut him off, standing. “My main army should be almost through the mountains. You and I are going.”

  Main army? The last piece clicked. This was why the sa’ceurai had dressed as Khalidorans. Garuwashi had drawn the best of Cenaria’s army far to the east while his main army was massing in the west. With the Khalidorans defeated at Pavvil’s Grove, Cenaria’s peasant levies were probably already hurrying back to their farms. In days, a couple hundred Cenarian castle guards were going to face the entire Ceuran army.

  “Going? Tonight?” Feir asked, surprised.

  “Now.” Garuwashi smirked right at Kylar. Kylar froze, but he saw no flash of recognition in those green eyes. Instead, he saw something worse.

  There were eighty-two kills in Garuwashi’s eyes. Eighty-two! And not one of them a murder. Killing Lantano Garuwashi wouldn’t be justice; it would be murder. Kylar cursed aloud.

  Lantano Garuwashi jumped to his feet, the scabbard flying from a sword that looked like a bar of flame, his body already in a fighting stance. The mountain that was Feir was only a little slower. He was on his feet, turning with naked steel in his hand faster than Kylar would have believed from a man so big. His eyes went wide as he saw Kylar.

  Kylar screamed in frustration and let blue flame whoosh over the ka’kari-skin and the great frowning mask he wore. He heard a footstep as one of Garuwashi’s bodyguards attacked from behind. Kylar’s Talent surged and he back-flipped, planting his feet on the man’s shoulders and pushing off. The sa’ceurai smashed into the ground and Kylar flipped through the air, blue flames whipping and crackling from his body.

  Before he caught the branch, he dropped the flames and went invisible. He flipped from branch to branch one-handed, with no attempt at stealth. If he didn’t do something—tonight—Logan and all his men would die.

  “Was that the Hunter?” Garuwashi asked.

  “Worse,” Feir said, pale. “That was the Night Angel, perhaps the only man in the world you need fear.”

  Lantano Garuwashi’s eyes lit with a fire that told Feir he heard the words “man you need fear” as “worthy adversary.”

  “Which way did he go?” Garuwashi asked.

  3

  As Elene rode up to the little inn in Torras Bend, utterly exhausted, a gorgeous young woman with long red hair in a ponytail and an earring sparkling in her left ear, was mounting a roan stallion. The stable hand ogled her as she rode north.

  Elene was almost on top of the stable hand before the man turned. He blinked at her stupidly. “Hey, your friend just left,” he said, pointing to the disappearing redhead.

  “What are you talking about?” Elene was so tired she could hardly think. She’d walked for two days before one of the horses had found her. And she’d never found out what had happened to the other captives or the Khalidorans or the Ymmuri who’d saved her.

  “You could still catch her,” the stable hand said.

  Elene had seen the young woman well enough to know that they’d never met. She shook her head. She had to pick up supplies in Torras Bend before she headed to Cenaria. Besides, it was almost dark, and after her days on the trail with her Khalidoran captors, Elene needed a night in bed and desperately needed a chance to wash up. “I don’t think so,” she said.

  She went inside, rented a room from the distracted innkeeper’s wife with some of the generous amount of silver she’d found in her horse’s saddlebags, washed herself and her filthy clothing, and immediately fell asleep.

  Before dawn, she pulled on her still-damp dress distastefully and went downstairs.

  The innkeeper, a slight young man, was carrying in a crate full of washed flagons from outside and setting them upside-down to dry before he finally went to bed for the night. He nodded at Elene in a friendly manner, barely glancing up. “The wife will have breakfast ready in half an hour. And if—oh hell.” He looked at her again, obviously seeing her for the first time. “Maira didn’t tell me….” He rubbed his hands on his apron in what was obviously a habitual gesture, because his hands weren’t wet, and stalked over to a table piled high with knickknacks, notes, and account books.

  He pulled out a note, and handed it to her apologetically. “I didn’t see you last night, or I’d have given it to you straight away.” Elene’s name and description were written on the outside of the note. She unfolded it and a smaller, crumpled note fe
ll out. The smaller note was in Kylar’s hand. It was dated the day he’d left her in Caernarvon. Her throat tightened.

  “Elene,” she read, “I’m sorry. I tried. I swear I tried. Some things are worth more than my happiness. Some things only I can do. Sell these to Master Bourary and move the family to a better part of town. I will always love you.”

  Kylar still loved her. He loved her. She’d always believed it, but it was different to see it in his own messy writing. The tears flowed freely. She didn’t even care about the disconcerted innkeeper, opening and shutting his mouth, unsure what to do with a woman crying in his inn.

  Elene had refused to change and it had cost her everything, but the God was giving her a second chance. She’d show Kylar just how strong, deep, and wide a woman’s love could be. It wasn’t going to be easy, but he was the man she loved. He was the one. She loved him, and it was as simple as that.

  It was several minutes before she read the other note, this one written in an unfamiliar woman’s hand.

  “My name’s Vi,” the note said, “I’m the wetboy who killed Jarl and kidnapped Uly. Kylar left you to save Logan and kill the Godking. The man you love saved Cenaria. I hope you’re proud of him. If you go to Cenaria, I’ve given Momma K access to my accounts for you. Take whatever you want. Otherwise, Uly will be at the Chantry, as will I, and I think Kylar will go there soon. There’s… more, but I can’t bear to write it. I had to do something terrible so we could win. No words can erase what I’ve done to you. I’m so terribly sorry. I wish that I could make it right, but I can’t. When you come, you can exact whatever vengeance you wish, even to my life. Vi Sovari”

  The hairs on the back of Elene’s neck were standing up. What kind of a person would claim to be such an enemy and such a friend? Where were Elene’s wedding earrings? “There’s more”? What did that mean? Vi had done something terrible?

 
Turn Navi Off
Turn Navi On
Scroll Up
Scroll
Add comment

Add comment