The night angel trilogy, p.146
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       The Night Angel Trilogy, p.146
 

           Brent Weeks

  A man serving the shadows also saw things that no king could see. A man serving in ignobility saw wrongs that were hidden from those in power. No one bothered to hide anything from Durzo Blint—except their fear of him.

  The oath of a Night Angel wasn’t enough to make a destiny, but it was a start. What am I for?

  Whatever else he didn’t know, Kylar knew he longed for justice. By serving in darkness with eyes that saw through the darkness, by being welcomed into the shadows, he could give justice to those who’d escaped justice. Those overlooked, too unimportant for mercy would find better than they’d hoped for. Those who should be stopped would be stopped. The faces of the Night Angels were already Kylar’s faces. I will do justice and love mercy.

  “I’ll say it,” Kylar said.

  Durzo grimaced, but beckoned him closer and laid a hand on Kylar’s forehead. Kylar recited the vow from memory—Durzo smirking at him, as if asking, how well did I teach you? But as Kylar finished, Durzo’s hand grew strangely warm, his face somber. He said, “Ch’torathi sigwye h’e banath so sikamon to vathari. Vennadosh chi tomethigara. Horgathal mu tolethara. Veni, soli, fali, deachi. Vol lessara dei.” Durzo withdrew his hand, his deep eyes limpid and, for perhaps the first time Kylar had ever seen, at peace.

  “What was that?” Kylar asked. Whatever else the words had done, Kylar felt power suffusing him, more gently than when Sister Ariel had given him power, but also more solidly.

  “That was my blessing.” Durzo smirked, acknowledging he was a bastard for blessing Kylar in a language he didn’t understand. With the way he’d trained Kylar’s memory, he surely knew Kylar would remember the words until he was able to track down the outlandish language they’d been spoken in. But it wasn’t in Durzo to just tell him. “Now get the hell out of here,” Durzo said. “I’ve got trees to climb.”

  83

  Logan and Lantano Garuwashi stood with their retainers on top of a still-pristine tower that guarded the mouth of the pass, surveying what would be the battlefield to the north. The great dome of Black Barrow and the dark stain of devastation around it were miles away on the opposite side of the Guvari River. Logan saw wonders to every side. Before Jorsin Alkestes had buried Trayethell beneath Black Barrow, it had been one of the great cities of the world in a world where wonders were common. To the east was Lake Ruel, which had been dammed in ages lost. The dam still stood, feeding the Guvari River not through the sluice gates on its front, which had been closed for centuries, but over the top of the dam itself. A series of locks, long since broken, had once made it possible for cargo ships to reach the city from the ocean. Half a dozen bridges or more had once spanned the river, but all had fallen except two, the wider Ox Bridge and Black Bridge near the dam.

  The tower in which they stood guarded the entrance to Ox Bridge. It commanded views of the pass behind them, the terraced slopes of Mount Terzhin to the southwest, and everything except whatever lurked on the far side of Black Barrow. Looking at the terraced hillside and the empty expanse at its base that they called the great market, Logan had a revelation. He’d always thought Black Barrow had enclosed the city of Trayethell. It hadn’t. Jorsin had only enclosed the city’s heart. Trayethell had spanned leagues. If what Logan was looking on was correct, the city had been bigger and more populous than any city now in the world.

  “We’ll have to move our men over Ox Bridge tonight,” Garuwashi said. “It’ll take maybe four hours for thirty thousand to cross. The camp followers will have to cross in the dark.”

  “Cross?” Logan said. “Do you see Wanhope’s army? We have twenty-six thousand men, half of whom have never seen battle. Wanhope has twenty thousand, ten thousand more highlanders, and two thousand meisters—each of whom is worth a dozen men. You want us to fight with our backs against a river? No. We guard the bridges and put our men in the great market in case Wanhope tries to ford the river there. We’ll see how well his men fight waist-deep in water. If necessary, we can retreat slowly into the passes.”

  “You’re planning for defeat?” Lantano Garuwashi asked, incredulous. “This is lunacy. We cross the bridge, and we destroy it behind us. Desperate men fight best. If you leave them an out, they’ll flee, especially your battle virgins. Give them no choice but to win or die, and they will fight almost like sa’ceurai.”

  “They outnumber us, and we have four magi. Four!”

  “Numbers mean nothing. Each sa’ceurai is as a hundred men. We came here for victory.” Behind them, several of Garuwashi’s men voiced muffled agreement.

  “I’ll give you victory,” Logan said.

  “You’ll give us nothing.”

  “That’s not what I meant. Tonight under the cover of darkness, I’m sending ten thousand men west down the river. My Feyuri scouts say there’s a crossing a few miles down. Ten miles downriver is Reigukhas. It’s not a big city, but all Wanhope’s supplies flow through there, and it’s very defensible. We send our magi with my ten thousand, and they can take Reigukhas before dawn. If we can starve Wanhope’s army, it will be his men who melt away in the night.”

  “They’ll see our men heading west, unless you mean to march ten thousand without any light.”

  “The torches will only be visible for the first half a mile, then there’s a forest between them and the Khalidorans. It’ll look like men moving around among our campfires.”

  Garuwashi was quiet for a long time. Finally, he spat. “So be it, Cenarian. But I’m sending a thousand of my sa’ceurai with your men to take the city. None shall have glory greater than the sa’ceurai.”

  Thus it begins.

  84

  Dorian was meeting with his generals in the afternoon when he felt the first twinges of madness rising.

  “Enough,” he said, interrupting General Naga’s report. “Here’s what I want. Make sure our defensive positions are impregnable. I don’t want them to even try us. Let them see our strength. In the meantime, I need better intelligence on Moburu’s numbers. We know he has two thousand krul. How many men does he have? And where the hell is—” A vision flashed before Dorian’s eyes of Khali herself, rising from the ground, perfect, whole, beautiful, embodied and smiling victoriously. The room had disappeared, and only she remained, potent, a black ocean of krul rising around her.

  “And where the hell is Neph Dada?” he heard a voice say. Though he couldn’t see the speaker, he knew it must be Jenine. “His Holiness demands you find out. He’ll expect your report this evening. For now, begone.”

  Dorian blinked and the vision was gone. General Naga turned back as he reached the flap of the tent. He seemed reassured to find Dorian meeting his eye. “The queen speaks with my voice,” Dorian said. “Is that a problem, general?”

  “Of course not, Your Holiness. I will report when we get word.” He bowed deeply, and left.

  When the last of them was gone, Dorian let out a long breath. Jenine took his hand and he sat. “I need to use it,” Dorian said.

  “Every time you do, it’s harder to stop,” Jenine said.

  She was right, but with so many armies in close proximity, Dorian needed to use his gift to make sure he didn’t trigger a cataclysm. He’d done everything he knew to do militarily to discourage the Cenarians from attacking, but with Neph’s men and Moburu’s nearby, there were too many factors at play for him to not try to see the futures down the roads before him.

  He’d studied his gift with a Healer’s eyes, and he thought he understood why prophecy seemed easier to begin and harder to stop now. The vir had broken open new channels everywhere throughout his Talent, and it had penetrated his prophetic gift, too. All his magic, and now all his prophecies, passed through the tentacles of vir rather than their natural channels. Because the vir was thicker, everything passed more freely. It was quite possible that the vir, tainted itself, was tainting Dorian’s gift with bizarre visions like those he’d had of the Strangers and his wife pregnant with twins, but there was no help for it now. He would stop using the vir and only use the Talen
t—after this.

  “I love you,” he said.

  “I love you too,” she answered. She had a quill and parchment to write down anything he said, in case he couldn’t remember it afterward.

  Then he dove in. He tried to hold onto enough of himself to speak what he saw, but the current was too strong. He saw a Titan rise from Black Barrow, and then he pulled downstream fifteen years to Torras Bend. There was Feir, standing at a smithy, ordering his young apprentice to gather wood. Then Dorian was a hundred years downstream, in Trayethell, somehow magically rebuilt, celebrating something, a vast parade working through the street. Dorian fought it, tried to throw himself back to a time where his visions would help him. He found himself standing in the guts of Khaliras, deciding whether to take Jenine out through the sewage chutes or try to fight their way out, everything would turn from this one choice—no, that was the past, dammit.

  “Rodnia? Nidora?” He heard the voice calling for him, but it was too distant, and he hadn’t found anything yet. There was a whisper as it called again, and then it was lost.

  Jenine drew the curtain that separated Dorian’s throne, where he was quietly mumbling, from the rest of his tent. “Dorian!” she whispered one more time, but the king didn’t stir. She shut the curtain and said, “Come in, General Naga.” The man had been knocking for more than a minute.

  “Your Highness,” he said, coming in and looking conspicuously at the drawn curtain. “My apologies, but we’ve just had a report from a spy. His Holiness must hear it.”

  “His Holiness is not to be disturbed right now.”

  “I’m afraid this requires immediate action.”

  Jenine lifted her brows as if the general were perilously close to being rude. “Then deliver your report.”

  General Naga hesitated, open-mouthed, as he struggled with the idea of reporting to a woman, much less a woman young enough to be his daughter, then wisely closed his mouth. When he opened it again, it was to say, “Your Highness, our spy reports that the Cenarians and Ceurans are planning to attack our supply lines at the city of Reigukhas. They plan to have ten thousand men sneak away tonight under cover of darkness. The Cenarian king said—”

  “The Cenarian king?” Jenine interrupted.

  For an instant, General Naga seemed stricken. “Sorry, I meant, the Ceuran king said that we would think any torches we saw tonight were merely men moving between their campfires. In truth, such movement would only be visible to us for a short section. The Cenarian queen—your pardons, Highness, I obviously am having a slight problem adjusting to so many queens—the Cenarian queen concurred.” He swallowed nervously.

  “Do you trust this spy?” Jenine asked. She didn’t know whether she more wanted Dorian to wake up instantly and make the decision for her, or if she feared that he might wake up with a scream as he had the last few times.

  “Absolutely, Your Highness.”

  “If we wait until we see the movement of torches tonight, will our men be able to get to Reigukhas in time to defend it?” Jenine asked.

  “It will be a near thing.”

  “Then send fifteen thousand men now. If we don’t see the torches moving tonight, we can send riders to get them to turn back.”

  “Fifteen thousand? From a defensive position, five should be more than adequate to defend Reigukhas, and would still preserve our superiority of numbers here.”

  He was probably right, and Jenine would have conceded to his experience if this had been a war, but it wasn’t a war. Those were her people on the other side, too. Fifteen thousand men would be such an overwhelming defensive force that the Cenarians would call off an attack on the town as hopeless. Jenine was saving lives on both sides, and tomorrow, they’d be able to send emissaries to the Cenarians before blood was spilled. “Fifteen thousand, general. That is, unless you’re still having a problem adjusting to this queen.”

  General Naga barely hesitated before he bobbed his head and withdrew. For an odd moment, Jenine thought he looked relieved.

  As night fell, Logan and Garuwashi met once more at the top of the tower, this time alone, though each had bodyguards stationed out of earshot on the stairs. They watched the line of sa’ceurai, every one bearing a torch, heading down river. Then the kings turned, scanning the thousands of campfires dotting the plain around Black Barrow. The Khalidoran army and the highlanders stayed outside the circle around Black Barrow that was carpeted with those oddly non-decomposing bodies. They called it the Dead Demesne.

  “Do you think it worked?” Logan asked.

  “Wanhope’s a wytch, not a warrior,” Garuwashi said. “I think he’ll believe everything his spy told him we said earlier.”

  In truth, Logan had sent ten thousand men west, but only until they were blocked from the Khalidorans’ sight by the forest. Then the men were told to extinguish their torches and make their way back to camp. Logan was sure no small amount of grumbling was going on right now: the men had no idea why they’d been sent marching in circles, and he couldn’t tell them in case more spies lurked in their ranks. Meanwhile, Garuwashi’s thousand were continuing west. They would ford the river and come back on the opposite side as stealthily as possible. Dressed in muddied garb, they would crawl through the Dead Demesne. When the sun rose, they would lie in the shadows and huddle next to the corpses as if dead themselves. They would circle the long way around Black Barrow. Garuwashi figured it would take them two nights to get into place, but then, either on his signal or when they saw the opportunity, the men would don their armor, rise from among the dead, and attack the command tents. If Momma K’s spies were right, Jenine was there. If not, they still might kill some of Wanhope’s generals or even the Godking himself.

  It was likely a suicide mission, but there had been no lack of volunteers. But the only Cenarians going were a hundred of Agon’s Dogs, former sneak thieves and burglars and his wytch hunters with their Ymmuri bows.

  Of course, as Agon and Garuwashi kept telling Logan, timing was everything. Those thousand men were among the armies’ best. If Wanhope did split his forces and tomorrow went as planned, Logan and Garuwashi might be close to victory. Those extra thousand veterans could turn a Khalidoran retreat into a rout.

  “The Feyuri scouts say that the Ceuran force following us is led by the Regent himself,” Garuwashi said quietly. “I will be obliged to kill myself when he discovers I have no sword. My men will be invited to join me in suicide or return to Ceura immediately.”

  “How far back is he?” Logan asked, his throat constricting. Now he understood why Garuwashi had been so adamant that the thousand who snuck through the Dead Demesne be sa’ceurai. It was a service to Logan. Separated from command, they wouldn’t know that their leader had been disgraced, so they would keep fighting.

  “They will arrive tomorrow night.”

  “We can stop them in the passes,” Logan said. “There are narrow—”

  “He has twenty thousand sa’ceurai. My men would wonder why we were fighting the Regent, who only wants to see the Blade of Heaven. Even without him, they will expect me to lead them into battle. This is my last night.”

  They turned as a man cleared his throat at the stairs. The man was nearly as big as Logan, not quite as tall, but wide as an ox. He carried some flab, but it was only a thin layer over rock hard muscle. “Maybe not, my lord,” Feir said, dipping his head. “I don’t suppose either of you has a big ruby?”

  They looked at each other, and Logan saw a thin, desperate hope in Lantano Garuwashi’s eyes. He knew then that this man would kill himself in a heartbeat if he needed to, but there was nothing in Lantano Garuwashi that desired death.

  “No?” Feir asked. “Damn. Well, I hope we can find someone who’s good with illusions.” The big man stepped forward and unwrapped a bundle to produce a sword. “My lord, I present you with Ceur’caelestos.”

  85

  Vi and three hundred of the fittest war magae made it through the eastern fork of the pass an hour before dawn. Sadly, fittest wasn
’t the same as most Talented. The journey had taken longer than anyone had expected. Ushering eight thousand women—most of them middle-aged and every single one more than willing to share her opinion—through the mountains had been a nightmare. Most of the rest would arrive sometime during the day, but a sizable number wouldn’t arrive until the next day, or the day after that. Even with bodies that appeared decades younger than their years, eighty- and ninety-year-olds were simply not going to hurry. Vi thought that if she never saw another woman in her life, she’d count herself lucky.

  After some bickering with sentries that had ended when Vi lifted both men off the ground with her Talent and shook them, Vi was brought directly to King Gyre. He was among his men, reassuring them with his presence, and as Vi approached, he was cinching the leathers of a young horseman’s pauldrons. Vi cleared her throat and Logan turned.

  Vi had heard of Logan Gyre, of course, but seeing him was altogether different. He was perhaps the tallest man she’d ever seen, and perfectly proportioned. In his white enameled plate armor, gilded with a gyrfalcon with wingtips breaking a circle, he was the perfect picture of an energetic young king at war. He was muscular, his carriage erect, and though he walked with the knowledge that eyes were on him, he didn’t seem to revel in it. There was also something odd about his right forearm. It seemed brighter than the other, somehow. “My lady,” he said, nodding. “Is there something I can do for you?”

  She stopped staring. “I’m Vi Sovari of the Chantry. I bring three hundred magae, and seven thousand more by tomorrow. We have come to help you.”

 
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