The night angel trilogy, p.154
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       The Night Angel Trilogy, p.154

           Brent Weeks
 

  Through the euphony, Kylar noticed something else, suffusing the whole. It was hope. And that voice, if voice it could be called, was all Elene. Her hope—even as she was dying—drew forth hope from each of them. And with that revelation, Kylar saw that Curoch wasn’t a simple tool of magic. It wasn’t an amplifier of Talent. Curoch amplified the whole man.

  Elene’s beacon of hope, Durzo’s titanic determination, Dorian’s penitence and astounding focus, Ariel’s intelligence, Logan’s courage, Vi’s longing for a new beginning, Kylar’s love of justice, the bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood, sacrifice, hatred of evil, feelings martial and impulses nurturing. Through it all, the glue that made the magic was love, and love sounded each instrument from its top to its bottom notes—and each man and each woman performed beautifully, heroically, some capable of only a few notes, some with huge range but little depth, and some of them true masters, but each giving all.

  The Hall of Winds itself reacted to the perfection of magic building inside its walls. Tapestries of colored light danced through the walls, magic made visible even to the non-Talented, and wove together as the magic wove together. Radiance bathed them, and the magic growing inside was echoed to the world. The warriors outside, battling incredible odds, felt a sudden assurance, as if they were children fighting a bully and the bully had just caught sight of their father coming.

  As the music climbed, directed by Dorian, Kylar could see the score laid out before them. His vision widened and he saw not just his own part—climbing, climbing—another voice was needed. One beyond any of the people in the Hall. Their Talents built to a crescendo, and every one blazed like the sun. There was so much magic in Kylar’s blood and in the air it was almost intolerable. He was standing in a furnace. Everything Kylar had was sinking into Curoch, and still the magic Dorian was attempting demanded more.

  A distant whistling sounded, high over the roar of battle.

  Kylar’s eyes flicked open. He looked at Dorian.

  The mage shifted his grip on Curoch, leaving the hilt free, shifting their holds so that the hilt pointed toward heaven.

  The man was more audacious than Kylar could believe. Even with all these mages working together, they didn’t have the power needed to end this. So Dorian had set a trap to join their will to the one beast that had the power to impose that will on the world. Kylar was aghast. He couldn’t even understand everything Dorian was trying to do. Dorian grinned at him, and Kylar wasn’t sure if what he saw in the man’s eyes was sane or mad. Through the southern door, Kylar could see all the way to the pass to Torras Bend, and as he watched, a streak of fire appeared.

  It crossed the river, not bothering with a bridge, and plunged through the lines of krul without slowing. It moved too fast to see. Kylar could only judge its progress by the cloud of dust and smoke and blood that trailed it; the shockwave rippling through bodies crashing back to the earth long after it was gone. In seconds, it had gone from the distant pass to the old line where Black Barrow had stood. Kylar realized why Dorian had opened the doors: if he hadn’t, the damn thing would have blasted right through the walls.

  The whistling and the magic crescendoed as one. Through Curoch, for a split second, Kylar felt the Hunter as it seized the offered hilt of Jorsin Alkestes’ mighty blade to snatch it away from them. And Kylar knew him.

  A crack of thunder leveled everyone in the room. Magic obliterated everything.

  98

  When Kylar became aware, he was standing on the roof of the Hall of Winds. The Wolf stood next to him, and the world had the indistinct sheen Kylar had come to associate with the Antechamber of the Mystery. “So I’m dead,” he said. He had no passion left in him.

  “No,” the Wolf said. “I can come into your dreams, it just takes a lot of magic. I have some to spare now.”

  “You’re Ezra.”

  He inclined his head.

  “Then what’s the Hunter? I felt you in it.”

  “It’s my hubris.”

  Kylar glanced at him. This was not an explanation.

  “I tried to undermine the Dark Lord’s own work by twisting the twisted back on the twister.”

  “The Dark Lord? You mean that metaphorically, right?” Kylar asked.

  He chuckled. “You are still Kylar, aren’t you? But not to worry, the Hands of Hell are still bound for another fifteen or twenty years. Until then, the Hunter and I will battle for control every day. I can only be here while it sleeps.”

  “What?”

  “Do you see this, Kylar?” The Wolf—it was still hard to think of him as Ezra—gestured to the city. Kylar gave it a cursory glance.

  “This is how it was when you lived here?” It was beautiful, but Kylar didn’t care.

  “This is real. This is what you and your friends have done.”

  Kylar looked with new eyes, stunned. The city was completely restored, and it was a marvel. The streets were straight, perfectly paved. The houses were immaculate, from the largest manse to the tightly packed row houses in the artisans’ quarter. Fountains pumped sparkling clean water in squares throughout the city. Hanging gardens flowed over white marble walls. The dome of the Hall of Winds was covered with beaten gold. Nearby, the castle shone white and red. The fields below the city were carpeted with the green shoots of growing crops. The docks on the lake and the locks on the river were restored. The dam was closed and the water level rising. Every sign of war and death was gone.

  “The krul’s very bodies were turned into vegetation,” Ezra said. “It’s a better trick than anything Jorsin or I ever managed.”

  Flowers were budding everywhere, at every corner, bordering every field, rows of beautiful red flowers bursting from bulbs. Kylar had never seen their like, or known any flower to bloom so early in spring.

  “How did Elene trap Khali?” Kylar asked. “I’m certain that she isn’t Talented.” Kylar paused. “Wasn’t, I guess.”

  “There’s more to magic than the Talent, Kylar. You’ve seen that yourself. When have you been most powerful? When you’ve acted in harmony with the deepest parts of your own spirit. Elene trapped Khali through love. It was a love that said I love you too much to let you do more evil—not for the sake of your victims only, but for your own sake. If it had been a rejection, Khali could have escaped and become disembodied once more. It was only Elene’s love that made your justice possible. If I hadn’t seen it, I wouldn’t have thought such a thing could be done. Obviously, Khali didn’t either.”

  Kylar had felt rejected when Elene had left him without telling him where she was going or that she was pregnant. This cast her in a different light. It hadn’t been a rejection. She had simply seen that he wasn’t mature enough or selfless enough to let her do what she needed to do. Elene had taken Khali not out of a rejection of Kylar, but out of a profound acceptance for who he was not only as a man, but as the Night Angel. Her only purpose in trapping Khali was so that Kylar could kill her. Elene had believed Kylar would do the right thing in the end so much that she had bet her very soul on it. For if he’d faltered, unable to give Elene up, Khali would have taken her over completely.

  “What happens now?” Kylar asked, tears coursing down his cheeks.

  “Your friend Logan will be crowned High King of Ceura, Cenaria, Khalidor, and Lodricar. He’ll establish his capital here and rename it Elenea—not for you, but because he is a man who believes in honoring sacrifice. Within a few years, it will be one of the great cities of the world again. I suspect he will reign well.” Ezra shook his head. “Feir Cousat will go to Torras Bend and set up a forge and start a family as he’s always wanted. He’ll take care of Dorian.

  “Dorian was the architect of all this magic, but he’s now completely mad. I don’t know if it was the vir infecting his prophetic talent, or him ripping the vir completely out of himself, or the death of the vir that caused the madness. I don’t suppose it much matters. But that he rooted out his own vir did save him. Indeed, he is probably the only Vürdmeister in Midcyru who didn’t
die along with the vir. Godking Wanhope will be declared dead. Durzo will be reunited with Gwinvere Kirena, who will eventually rule Cenaria, and rule more capably than any king or queen has ruled there for four centuries. Vi will return to the Chantry to finish her schooling. There will be calls to make her Speaker, which will scare the hell out of the current Speaker, Istariel Wyant. Vi will decline, but not before using her influence to make the Speaker swear that no Sister pursue you. To a surprising extent, they will actually obey.”

  “And what happens to me?” Kylar asked.

  “You will be welcomed wherever you go in this guise. Sooner or later, the world will have need of you again. You are not a man to fade into oblivion, Kylar Stern. Secrecy, perhaps, intentional obscurity certainly, but never oblivion.” He cocked his head to the side in his wolfish way. “I have a question.”

  “Yes?”

  “You were four days away from the Wood when you unveiled Curoch. You knew that it would draw the Hunter?”

  “Yes.”

  “How did you know that the Hunter would make it here in time to make a difference in the battle? Indeed, as it happened, all the difference. Without it, you didn’t have nearly the power those spells required.”

  Kylar remembered removing the black ka’kari from Curoch before going to face Neph Dada. It had barely been a conscious act. He’d known that the Hunter hated krul and that it would be drawn to reclaim its stolen sword. Maybe he’d thought it would come earlier and kill a lot of krul. But more than a plan, it had simply been something that felt right. It felt like he was moving in consonance with the universe, with his own deepest character. If the Wolf was right, that was its own kind of magic. “I didn’t know,” Kylar admitted. “I believed.”

  The Wolf got pensive. “In this world of shadows, you believe? Despite all you’ve seen?”

  Kylar took a breath, looking over the city in all its splendor and remembering what it had looked like not so long ago. “We live on a great battlefield, and you and I fight behind enemy lines,” he said. “Like it or not, my lupine friend, you are one of the lights that helps me believe.”

  Ezra hmmed. “I will consider what you’ve said. The creature stirs. The day’s battle begins.”

  “May the light shine on you, my friend,” Kylar said.

  “That’s twice you’ve called me friend.” Ezra seemed to taste the word as if it were a flavor long lost. Then he smiled, accepting it. “Thank you.”

  Ezra turned away, then hesitated. He turned back. “There is… one other thing. The red flowers? They’re a modified tulip not native to Midcyru. They’re known as the Heralds of Spring. They’re the first flowers to bloom every year. They’re a symbol of hope. I studied the magic, and… Elene made them, Kylar, all of them. She made them for you,” Ezra’s voice cracked. “I couldn’t save her. I owed you that much, but I couldn’t save her.” Ezra pursed his lips, and his jaw clenched as he crushed his own emotions. He touched Kylar’s shoulder. “I must go. May I not see you in the Antechamber of the Mystery for many, many years.”

  Tears flowed down Kylar’s face. There were tens of thousands of red tulips. Every intersection, every field, every house was adorned with them. They were Elene’s sign to him of her presence, her joy, her acceptance, her love. Only Elene would put such beauty in the middle of his pain. How was he ever going to live without her?

  99

  Logan dispatched perhaps the fortieth messenger of the day. Not being Talented seemed to have saved him from the brunt of the cost the magi who’d used Curoch had borne. Half of them were still unconscious, including Kylar. Vi had a white streak in her fiery red hair now, and Dorian’s hair was gone utterly white like Solon’s, though Solon retained his sanity, while Dorian had completely lost his. It was, perhaps, the better part of why Logan had spared the man. Dorian had turned at the end, and he’d certainly saved Logan’s life and the lives of everyone else—but they wouldn’t have been in jeopardy if Dorian hadn’t stolen Logan’s wife in the first place. Or not in jeopardy today, at any rate.

  Scrubbing his hands through his hair, Logan almost knocked his new crown off. A soldier had found it waiting in the castle and had presented it to Logan, who’d lost his Cenarian crown in the fighting. They’d wanted to start the coronation celebrations to crown him High King immediately, but Logan insisted on taking care of his men first, and with Lantano Garuwashi and Hideo Mitsurugi reporting to him, as well as one of the magi telling him about the conditions of Khalidor’s human soldiers, the number of men Logan regarded as his own had exploded. Mercifully, he also had the services of eight thousand Sisters, most of whom had some ability with Healing. With more than one in ten of his people a Healer, far fewer died than would have otherwise. And Curoch’s magic had left them in a paradise where they’d expected a wasteland.

  Still, he’d had more than enough work to keep him busy until long after dark. Part of him was glad for it. It was one thing to raise an army to rescue your stolen bride; it was quite another to figure out how to repair a marriage when your wife had thought you dead, had remarried, and had been sharing another man’s rule and his bed.

  Logan rubbed his temples again and set the crown down on a desk. He looked around the room and realized he had no idea where he was. He’d left an immense throne room and walked at random. Kaldrosa Wyn and Gnasher and several other bodyguards had followed him, but they’d said nothing as they took up their positions outside the door. He guessed they knew he needed nothing so much as a quiet place. He sat.

  There was a gentle knock and the door opened. It was Jenine. She looked small, fragile. Her face was gray. “Your Majesty,” she said formally. “I’m pregnant.”

  “I know,” Logan said flatly. “Solon told me you bear Dorian’s child.”

  “I’ve just met with a Healer. It’s twins. Boys.” Her voice was wooden.

  It was a disaster. Sons. Nor would they be simple bastards who could be put aside: they were the offspring of a Godking and a Cenarian queen, with ample claim to the High King’s throne on the basis of their blood alone. Their very existence would be destabilizing. If Logan had sons of his own, it would only be inviting civil war.

  “I found a Healer who said… she said this early it would be safe to abort them.” Jenine’s eyes were dead.

  “That isn’t what you want,” Logan said.

  “There’s more you have to know, Your Majesty,” Jenine said. “I—I loved Dorian. Not the way I loved you, but even as I watched him descend into the madness and evil, I cared for him. You can scrub his sons from my body, but I will not come clean so easily. I’m sorry. You waited for me, and I didn’t wait for you. If you wish to put me aside, Your Majesty, I will make no trouble for you. And if you wish me to purge my womb, I will. My duty to my lord husband and my country is greater than my own—”

  “I’ve always wanted to be a dad,” Logan said.

  “What?”

  “Can you love me, Jeni?”

  She blinked up at him. “I love you so much it hurts.”

  Logan took her right hand in his left. “You are my wife, my lady, my queen.” He put his right hand on her stomach. “Let these boys be my sons.”

  She jumped into his arms and squeezed him so hard he coughed. Then they laughed together and cried together and sat talking together for hours until Logan asked a question and Jeni didn’t answer. She was staring at his lips.

  “What?” he asked. He brushed his lips, but there was nothing on them.

  Then her mouth was on his and there was roaring in his ears and the room faded and her softness and warmth was better than anything Logan had ever imagined. Somehow she was on his lap straddling him and her hands were on his back, in his hair, on his face, always pulling him closer, and he was pulling her in to him, crushing her against him, begging, demanding to be closer than clothes would allow.

  When he surfaced from that kiss, her eyes were warm, dark pools of desire, reflecting only him. Somehow her hair had become disheveled, but it had never been more
perfect. He’d surfaced for a reason, but he had to kiss the curve of her neck, so he did—and then her throaty murmur demanded more kisses and he gave them gladly. Following the curving of her neck to his lips, her back arched and her hand was behind his head, pulling him down toward her breasts.

  Damn, the girl knows what she wants. Guess Dorian taught her a thing or three. What if Logan the Virgin doesn’t measure up?

  It was like catching a lake of cold water on his lap. He must have tensed because she pulled back.

  She looked in his eyes. She knew.

  Now I’ve spoiled everything. It wasn’t just one moment he had destroyed; he could have just destroyed the easy, unfettered spirit of her sensuality. Every time they made love she would have to be conscious of Logan thinking, “Did she learn this from Dorian? Was Dorian better?”

  “I’m sorry,” she said. She swallowed, and he could see her wilting inside.

  He breathed. “I forgive you.” She moved to get off his lap, but he caught her and held her against him. It wasn’t an emotion, it was a decision. He forgave her, even of the things that weren’t her fault. This was too precious to let the past destroy it.

  “Jeni,” he said as he had said the night of their wedding. “Jeni, will you kiss me?”

  She smiled and laughed and almost cried—and kissed him, still laughing. She pulled away and beat her fists on his chest.

  “What?” Logan asked, alarmed.

  “You can’t do this to me. I can’t feel all this at once!”

  He grinned, and felt that he was himself once again. The idealistic, noble Logan and the wry, carefree Logan and the fierce, primal Logan were being reunited, reintroduced to each other—and Logan would need all of them to be the man and husband and king that he wanted to be. “Then just feel this,” he said.

  He kissed her again softly, slowly drawing her in, and in the pleasant blur of minutes that followed, they rebuilt their passion.

  The thoughts came again like buzzing flies, but Logan ignored them. No, you won’t have this. This is precious. This is ours.

 
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