The night angel trilogy, p.108
The Night Angel Trilogy, p.108Brent Weeks
“Where are you taking me?” Vi asked. And do I have any choice? Her body relaxed to Alathea’s Waking and her fingers dipped casually to check her daggers on their way to brush the dirt from her pants—except the daggers were gone.
The stalker regarded her coolly. Clearly she hadn’t checked casually enough. “To Chantry.”
He turned and knelt beside the corpse, muttering under his breath in a language Vi didn’t recognize. He spat on the man three times, cursing him not with foul words as Vi cursed, but actually commending the man’s soul to some Ymmuri hell.
“You wish to go?” Dehvi asked, offering her the daggers.
“Yes,” Vi said, taking them gingerly. “Please.”
“Then come. The demon hunts. Is best to leave.”
When Dorian had first been studying to become a Hoth’salar, a Brother of Healing, he’d invented a little weave to mimic the symptoms of influenza by killing the life that inhabited the stomach, with devastating results that cleared up within a day or two. Several times, to Solon’s and Feir’s vast amusement, Dorian had used it for other than scholarly reasons. Now “influenza” swept through the eunuchs, and Halfman was pressed into double shifts and unfamiliar tasks. He’d even made himself sick first to eliminate suspicion.
Today, two of the most trusted eunuchs were sick. Halfman climbed the stairs to the Tygre Tower, an unheated basalt obscenity that looked on the verge of toppling in a high wind. He moved past thousands of the great marsupial cats. They looked like wolves with exaggerated maws, sword-like canines, and orange and black stripes. Everywhere one looked, the tygres looked back. There were tapestries, etchings, tiny statues, ancient mangy stuffed specimens, necklaces of teeth, paintings of tygres tearing apart children. The styles were a hodgepodge, unimportant. All that had mattered to Bertold Ursuul was that they featured sword-tooth tygres.
Dorian reached the top of the tower breathless, shivering from the cold, sorry that the food he’d carried had long lost its warmth, and apprehensive about who would be up here. If she were one of the Talented wives or concubines, she might smell the magic on him. The depth of the women’s ensnarement was such that any who found a traitor would report him immediately.
Dorian knocked on the door. When it opened, his breath whooshed out.
She had long dark hair, large dark eyes, a slender but shapely figure under a shapeless dress. No cosmetics heightened her eyes and none rouged her lips. She wore no jewelry. She smiled and his heart stopped. He’d never met her, but he knew that smile. He had seen that dimple on the left side, a little deeper than the one on the right. She was the one.
“My lady,” Dorian said.
She smiled. She was a small young woman with sad, kind eyes. So young!
“You can speak,” she said, and her voice was light and pure and strong, the kind of voice that begged to sing. “They’ve only sent deaf-mutes before. What’s your name?”
“It is death for me to speak, milady, and yet…. How afraid of them are you?” Halfman asked. Giving his real name was the ultimate commitment. He wanted to throw it down at her feet and abandon himself to her whim, but that was madness on a par with the madness he’d escaped by throwing away his gift of prophecy.
Jenine paused, biting her lip. Her lips were full, pink despite the coolness of this high tower. Dorian—for Halfman would never have dared—couldn’t help but imagine kissing those soft, full lips. He blinked, forcing things carnal from his mind, impressed that this young woman was actually devoting thought to his question. In Khalidor, fear was wisdom.
“I’m always afraid here,” she said. “I don’t believe I will betray you, but if they torture me?” She scowled. “That isn’t much to give, is it? I will keep your confidence to the last extremity I can endure. It is a poor and lame vow, but I have been stripped of riches outside and in.” She smiled then, the same beautiful, sad smile.
And he loved her. May the God who saved him have mercy, he couldn’t believe it was happening so fast. He’d never believed in instant love. Such a thing could surely be only infatuation or lust, and he couldn’t deny that he felt both. But at seeing her, he had an odd feeling of meeting an old friend. His Modaini friend Antoninus Wervel said such things happened when those who had known each other in past lives met. Dorian didn’t believe that. Perhaps, instead, it was his visions. At Screaming Winds, he’d been in trances for weeks. Though his memory had been mostly scoured of those images, he knew he’d lived lifetimes with this woman in those visions. Perhaps that had primed him for love. For he believed that this was real love, that here was the woman to whom he would yield body and mind and soul and future and hopes, unflinching. He would marry her, or no one. She would bear his son, or no one would.
It was either that—or the insanity Dorian had feared for so long had finally caught up with him.
“They call me Halfman,” he said. “But I am Dorian Ursuul, first acknowledged son and heir to Garoth Ursuul, and long since stricken from the Citadel’s records for my betrayal of the Godking and his ways.”
“I don’t understand,” she said. Her forehead wrinkled. He’d seen that wrinkle, in his visions, when it had become a worry line, permanent on her brow. He had to stop himself from reaching a hand up to smooth it away. It would be too familiar. By the God, he thought he’d left all the confusions of being a prophet behind! “Why are you here?”
“For you, Jeni.”
She stiffened. “You may call me Your Highness, or—as you have evidently come at great risk—you may call me Jenine.”
“Yes, of course, Your Highness.” Dorian’s head swirled. Here he was, a prince himself, being granted permission to address a young girl by her full name. That grated. And it disappointed. Love at first sight was bad enough, but finding out that it wasn’t mutual… well, he would have thought her a flighty girl if she’d thrown herself at him, wouldn’t he?
“I think you’d better explain yourself,” she said.
Stupid, Dorian. Stupid. She’s far from home. She’s seen her land laid waste by your people. She’s isolated. She’s scared—and you’re not exactly at your best for romance, are you?
Ah hell, she thinks I’m a eunuch! There was a nice dilemma. How does one interject into a polite conversation, “By the way, in case you’re ever interested, I do have a penis.”?
“I know it seems implausible, Your Highness,” he said. “But I’ve come to res… help you escape.”
She put her hands on her hips—damn she was cute!—and said, “Oh, I see. You’re a prince. I’m a princess trapped in a tall tower. You’re here to rescue me. How droll. You can go tell Garoth I got teary-eyed and breathless—and then you can go to hell!”
Dorian rubbed his forehead. If only the snippets he remembered of his visions had given him good ways to deal with Jeni’s—Jenine’s—anger.
“All I need to know, Your Highness, is if you want to leave and risk death or if you’d rather stay in your comfortable tower until my father—who’s old enough to be your grandfather—comes to take your dignity, your maidenhead, and your sanity. You’re a little old for my father’s preferences, but since you’re a princess, I’m sure he’d give you a chance. If you produce a Talented son, you’ll be allowed to live. You will watch him grow up only from a distance, so that your ‘womanly weakness’ doesn’t cripple him. When he’s thirteen years old, the two of you will be reunited and allowed to spend the next two months together. Then my father will surprise both of you by visiting personally and asking what you’ve taught his seed in the time he’s given you. It doesn’t matter. What matters is it will be the first time your son will have had a god’s undivided attention. At the end of the interview, your son will be asked to kill you. It’s a test few fail.”
Her big eyes had gotten huge. “You didn’t fail it, did you?”
“The north is a brutal mistress, Your Highness. No one leaves her without scars,” Dorian said. “I’ve got a plan, but it won’t be ready for five days, and everything
He could count the heartbeats while she thought. She surveyed her prison with clenched teeth. She pulled her high collar aside and Dorian saw a scar so wide he knew she must have been healed with magic almost immediately. A cut throat like that would have left her dead in a minute or two. “Back home in Cenaria, I was secretly in love. Logan was a good man, a true friend to my brother, intelligent, and half the women in the city were after him because he was so handsome—the other half were after him because he was heir to a duchy. Logan Gyre would have been a good match for me and for our families, but there was bad blood between our fathers, so I never dared hope my dream might come true. Then an assassin murdered my brother, and my father was left without an heir. He thought that if he made Logan his heir, it would forestall attempts on his own life. So Logan and I married. Two hours later, Khalidorans murdered my entire family to eliminate the heirs to the throne. But a wytch named Neph Dada thought I was too pretty to throw away, so he cut my throat in front of my husband and Healed me afterward. Logan they killed later, after subjecting him to gods know what tortures. These people have taken everything I love.” She turned, and her eyes were molten steel. “I’ll be ready.”
Dorian picked up her bread knife. With his Talent, he elongated it and gave it two edges, while she watched. “There’s an aetheling named Tavi,” he said. “He’s fearless while the Godking’s still in Cenaria. He may come to… dishonor you. If he does… my advice is to only use this if you have the perfect opportunity. Otherwise, don’t throw away your life.”
The look in her eyes told him if Tavi came, Jenine would try to kill him. Failing that, she’d turn the knife on herself. And yet Dorian gave her the knife, knowing she deserved the choice.
“Now,” he said, “perhaps we can speak of lighter things. Sorry that your food is cold. The hike up the damsel-in-distress’s tower is a long one.”
She smiled at that, a little, shy smile that reminded him of her age, and made him feel like a degenerate old predator. She fingered the dagger he’d shaped for her. “You really are a wytch, aren’t you?”
“Not now. That magic is evil. I left it long ago and trained with the magi.”
“Could you use your magic to bring me warm food?” Her eyes sparkled with mischief and as they laughed together, he fell in love with her all over again.
“If I could manage a disguise that convinced Yorbas Zurgah I’m a eunuch, I think I can warm your food. Here.” And he warmed her gruel right then, hoping his I-do-have-a-penis was subtle enough.
She cocked an eyebrow at him. “Here I was thinking that if I’d been in an enchanted sleep and my prince needed to awaken me I’d have been out of luck.”
“Uh, in the books I’ve read, he wakes her with a kiss,” Dorian said.
“You’ve been reading the wrong books.”
Dorian coughed and blushed, and Jenine giggled wickedly.
They spoke for hours. For the next four days, Dorian warmed the princess’s meals, and the princess warmed to him. She was still devastated by the loss of her family and her kingdom and her husband, but his presence gave her hope. He saw the beautiful, sunny girl she had been emerge, and he saw evidence of the decisive, shrewd, charismatic woman she would become.
Dorian’s respect and love and desire for her grew. They were the happiest days of his life.
Kylar’s new right arm was still tingling. It looked just like the hand and forearm he’d lost a week ago except that it bore no scars and was the pallid shade of skin that had never seen the sun. The Wolf had thoughtfully given him a swordsman’s calluses, but the rest of his skin was highly sensitive. The slightest breath of wind sent waves of sensation. The skin was hairless, but the nails were grown in and perfectly trimmed. The little finger that Kylar had broken as guild rat and that would never fully straighten before was now flawless.
The Wolf takes pride in his work. It’s better than the hand I lost.
Kylar found his destrier waiting in the woods where he’d left it. Tribe carried him like he weighed nothing and it ate leagues for breakfast, but though he hated to admit it, the destrier intimidated him. Kylar was no horseman, and they both knew it. This morning, Tribe didn’t give any trouble as Kylar approached him carefully, absorbing the ka’kari back into his skin before he came within sight. As usual, Kylar had only worn underclothes beneath the ka’kari skin. The ka’kari could go over his clothes, but then the Night Angel looked lumpy—not exactly fear-inspiring. Tribe stared at him, making Kylar feel strangely self-conscious.
“Ah, son of a—” Kylar said. His underclothes had a huge hole right over the crotch. No wonder it was breezy. “Why do you do that?”
Tribe stared at him like he was crazy.
~Do what?~ the ka’kari asked.
“Eat my clothes!”
~I am the Devourer.~
“You could leave my clothes alone. And my swords.”
~Some people like short swords.~
“People like swords with edges!”
“Stop devouring my stuff. Understood?”
~No. Especially not when you ignore my puns.~
“It wasn’t a request.”
~I understand. I won’t obey.~
Kylar was stricken silent. He grabbed worsted trousers, tunic, and his spare underclothes from the saddlebags and started to dress. He was stuck with this ka’kari for how long? Oh, right. Forever.
~You really don’t understand this? You?~ the ka’kari asked. ~You, a man of flesh and blood and spirit, could not remain a mild-mannered herbalist for two months. But you expect me, a blend of metals and magic artificially infused with some small measure of intelligence and personality, to change my nature? As for the dull swords, I wasn’t the one who sold Retribution, was I?~
Kylar hadn’t thought of that. Retribution’s blade stayed perfect, despite having been covered with the ka’kari for years. And he’d sold it for nothing.
No, he’d sold it to show Elene how much she meant to him. The thought of her made him ache all over again. Now he’d fulfilled his vow to the Wolf. Now, finally, he could find Elene and make things right.
Or at least more right. He reached up and touched the seamless earring in his left ear that chained him to Vi Sovari, who now was only miles away, heading east and north toward Forglin’s Pass. Why was Vi going to the Chantry? Kylar pushed it out of his mind. That bitch was the last thing he wanted to think about.
Kylar suddenly grinned. “A small measure of intelligence and personality, huh?”
The ka’kari swore at him. Kylar laughed.
“Besides,” Kylar said quietly, “I have changed.”
“I believe you,” a man said behind him.
In an instant, Kylar’s sword was out. He spun, slashing. The man was tall like a hero of legend, his armor enameled white plate, with a polished mail coif that flowed around his shoulders in a cascade of steel. His helmet was tucked under his arm, and his face was gaunt, blue eyes bright. Kylar stopped the blade mere inches from Logan Gyre’s neck.
Logan smiled. Kylar faltered. Abruptly, he sheathed his sword and dropped to a knee. “Your Majesty,” he said.
“Stand up and hug me, you little puke.”
Kylar hugged him and saw Logan’s bodyguards, half a dozen of Agon’s scruffy Dogs led by a beautiful woman with—of all things—a shiny garter on her arm. They were all staring at him suspiciously. Kylar upbraided himself for letting no less than eight people get so close before he noticed them. He was slipping. But then Kylar let his self-recriminations go as he felt his friend’s embrace. Logan’s months in the Hole had left too many sharp planes on his face and body for him to be handsome again yet, and feeling his slimness as he hugged Kylar was alarming, but there was an aura of rallying strength about him. Logan still had the same broad shoulders, the same noble
Logan laughed, releasing him. “You look good too. Except—” he turned Kylar’s pale new arm over in his hand “—have you been sunning with one glove on?” He waved a hand absently. The bodyguards withdrew.
“I hacked the old arm off,” Kylar said. “Had to get a new one.”
Logan chuckled. “Another story you’re not going to tell me?”
“You wouldn’t believe me if I did,” Kylar said.
“I just did.”
“What is it with you and the lies?” Logan asked, incredulous, like Kylar was a kid with frosting and crumbs on his face claiming he’d never even seen a cake.
Kylar went cold. When he spoke again, his voice was as harsh and remote as Durzo Blint’s. “You want to know why I lied to you for ten years.”
“You were spying on me. I thought you were my friend.”
“You pampered little fuck. When you were worrying about being embarrassed by the nude statue in the entry of your mansion, I was sleeping in sewers—literally—because that’s the only way a guild rat can stay warm enough on a freezing night to stay alive. When you were worrying about acne, I was worrying about the rapist who ran my guild and wanted to kill me. So yes, I apprenticed to a wetboy to get out. Yes, I lied to you. Yes, if you’d ever done anything wrong, I’d have told the Sa’kagé. I didn’t like it, but I did it. But let me ask you this, you self-righteous bastard: when you were in the Hole and it was kill or be killed, what did you do? I lived in a Hole my whole fucking life. And you tell me who’s more responsible for what Cenaria has become: my father, who was too weak to raise a child, or yours, who was too weak to become king?”
Logan’s face drained. With his gauntness, it made his face look like a gray skull with burning eyes. His voice was flat. “To take the throne, my father would’ve had to murder the children of the woman he loved.”
The Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks / Fantasy have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes