The black prism, p.65
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       The Black Prism, p.65

           Brent Weeks
 

  Gavin stopped. Corvan had talked to him like this before, but not since the war. “What are you talking about?”

  “I mean this Lord Omnichrome doesn’t care about Garriston. The only thing Garriston was to him was a chance to take a victory from us, and frame you for murdering a satrap so he could mobilize people to fight you. What he wants is to destroy the Chromeria. He wants to drive out the belief in Orholam and set up a new order. And we don’t even know what that new order is yet.”

  “So let’s rephrase ‘defeat’ as ‘crushing defeat,’ huh?” Gavin knew he was being childish, but Corvan was the only person around whom he could complain. It felt good to have his friend back.

  “We have to get ready for war,” Corvan said. “A bigger war than over one little city.”

  “You think people are going to join him?”

  “In droves,” Corvan said. “My daughter did, and she’s not stupid. So we have to believe he’s charismatic, and we’ve already seen that he’s smart enough to defeat us and get all he wants. So we have to look at what we have, and prepare.”

  “I’m sorry she joined him, Corvan. She seemed like such a sensible girl. I should have watched out for her better while she was—”

  “She is a sensible girl. I’m not worried about her. She’ll come back,” Corvan said. There was an edge on his voice, as well there should be. He was trying to convince himself too. But Gavin knew not to push it.

  “So what do we have?” Gavin asked.

  “We have you and me. We got Karris back and Kip back and Ironfist back, when we could have easily lost all three. We have the devotion, loyalty, awe, and motivation of thirty thousand people who now believe in Gavin Guile to the core of their souls. I call that the start of an army. You’re the Prism. How is some pagan king going to stand up to you?”

  Gavin laughed, because both of them knew that there were about a thousand ways. It was also a little scary, how Corvan thought. How he saw through things. Gavin would have to be careful. There are things you can’t tell even your best friend. Great purposes best achieved by misdirection.

  Pensive, Gavin said, “You know, I came up with a list of things I want to accomplish before I die, and the best thing on that list was to free Garriston. What I let happen there after the war was… I don’t know if it’s the worst thing I’ve done, that’s a crowded field, but I let what was happening in Garriston keep happening. For sixteen years. With all my power, I could never get the Spectrum to stop it.”

  “I knew a man once who had a knack of changing the rules when he couldn’t win. He didn’t give up when others said he’d already lost,” Corvan said. “So… Garriston is a collection of ramshackle buildings with indefensible walls.”

  “So I built new walls, I changed the rules. I tried, Corvan! I lost!” Gavin grimaced, light dawning. “Oh, and you’re going to say next, ‘You lost a collection of ramshackle buildings.’ And I’m going to say, ‘Yes! We’ve established that.’ And you’re going to point out that when I decided to free Garriston, I probably wasn’t worried about the misery of the buildings, but the misery of the people.”

  “And then I’ll point out that all those people you wanted to free are here. And then you’ll admit my superior wisdom.”

  Gavin laughed. In some moments, it was like a day hadn’t passed since they’d been separated. “Well, we know one of those things isn’t going to happen.”

  Corvan grinned. He was right, though. “So,” he said, “go out there and smile, and pat your soldiers on the back, and act like an emperor with a great purpose before him—a promachos who will accomplish that great purpose. You have freed these people. You are going to protect them, and you will give them a new home. You will give them justice. And they’re going to help you.”

  “Sometimes I think you should have been the leader, not me,” Gavin said.

  “Me too,” Corvan said. He grinned. “Orholam’s ways are mysterious. In some cases, very mysterious.”

  “Thanks,” Gavin said. Then they laughed together. It felt good. Food for a hungry soul.

  “By the by, how’s your back? I could’ve sworn that little weasel stabbed you. Kip’s being hailed as a hero for stopping him, you know.”

  “He got him right in the nick of time, I guess,” Gavin said, though he must have taken a shot in the kidney from the boy’s fist as Kip had tackled him, because he had felt a searing pain. He pulled his shirt around and showed it to Corvan. The shirt was cut over his kidney, but his skin was unbroken. “A near thing,” he said.

  Corvan whistled. “Orholam’s hand must be on you, my friend.”

  Gavin grunted. From how his head felt, he wished Orholam’s hand were a little gentler. “Well, time to go play emperor, then,” he said. Together, they walked to the door of the cabin—and who had drafted cabins onto the barge?

  Gavin paused. “Corvan, something was bothering me.”

  “Yes?”

  “All those years you spent in that little town. Seems like an awful coincidence that both you and Kip were in the same place.”

  “Not a coincidence,” Corvan said soberly.

  “You tracked him down. You were looking out for him. Watching him.” Gavin didn’t need Corvan to confirm it. He knew. “But you never got very close to him.”

  “Tried not to, anyway. He’s a good boy. But he is who he is,” Corvan said. He meant, He is your brother’s son. Corvan looked down at his hands and lowered his voice, so that even if someone had been eavesdropping just outside the room, they couldn’t have made out the words. “I knew you might need me to kill him someday. I didn’t want to make it harder than it had to be.”

  Neither said anything for a long moment.

  The Danavis motto was Fealty to One. Corvan didn’t believe in Orholam, or the Chromeria, or any creed. He believed in Gavin. Sometimes it was frightening to have someone believe in you like that. For a second, Gavin considered telling Corvan his seventh and final purpose. Trusting him. But no. Safer this way. He’d tell him when the time came.

  “Some world,” Corvan said finally.

  “Some day,” Gavin said, looking out on the gray skies. Blah.

  Corvan grunted. “At least it’s nice out,” he said, and went on his way.

  Sometimes Corvan’s sarcasm was so deadpan.

  Gavin shrugged and went around patting shoulders, checking on the wounded, asking about supplies and their course, mostly being seen and being seen to care and to be in charge. Karris watched him the whole time, but never said a word to him. There was another problem he’d have to address.

  He checked in on Kip. The boy was curled up, asleep. As well he might be. Gavin was still sorting out the tales. According to the stories, Kip had drafted green, blue, red, and maybe yellow. At fifteen years of age. Gavin had hoped to buy them both some time by falsifying the testing stone; Kip’s road was going to be hard enough as it was. Too late now. Smart, brave, and now a polychrome, the boy had more than proven himself a Guile—Gavin would have to work twice as hard to keep the truth from him.

  There was a lot of work to do.

  Not least of which was facing his father and telling him his wife was dead, that his bastard grandson had killed a satrap, and trying to fend off a conversation about marrying some satrap’s daughter in order to patch things up—a conversation Gavin was going to lose.

  He went to the side of the barge to draft a scull to head over to the other barge. He looked around for something blue to draft from. There was nothing. He looked up. There were no clouds. He was on a barge on the sea under a bright sky. But something was wrong.

  He tried to draft blue. He was a Prism; he could split white light into anything.

  But nothing happened.

  A bolt of panic flashed through Gavin. He counted off his colors on his fingertips, thumb to forefinger first, down then up. Sub-red, red, orange, yellow, green, bl—Nothing. He stared at his offending middle finger as if this were its fault. There was no blue. He couldn’t draft it. He couldn’t eve
n see it. It was starting. Not on the seventh year. Now. He’d never even known how a Prism knew when the end began. Now he knew. He was losing his colors. He didn’t have five years left; it was starting now. Gavin was dying.

  Acknowledgments

  Two years ago, I sent my Night Angel trilogy into the world with the typical triumph and terror. I’ve burned to be a novelist since I was thirteen. This was my shot, my chance to run the gauntlet of the masses. A hundred things can bury a debut, and just to push off the necessity of getting a real job, I needed my debut to do better than most. But dreams burn to the ground every day. Tragedies happen.

  But so do miracles.

  So my first thank-you is to you readers who gave an unknown guy with some ninja novel a chance. And thank you especially to you readers who then handed my book to a friend and said, “Try this. No, really, try it.” And a double especially with whip and a chocolate-covered espresso bean to those of you who work at bookstores who did that, from Albuquerque to Perth. You all have changed my life. It is a huge privilege to get to write for a living, so thank you.

  Kristi, you are grace and tenacity. I wouldn’t be living the dream without you, and I wouldn’t want to. Thanks for having that crazy impractical streak where it comes to me, an inch wide and a mile deep.

  Don, thank you for not just wrangling deals, but also knowing when to say no to them. Thank you for steering me to work with people who will be passionate about my books. Cameron, thanks for foisting my books on the unwary all over the world.

  Devi, thank you for using the fierce Eye of Sauron—no, not on me!—but secretly on my behalf. And to you and Tim, Alex, Jack, and Jennifer, I promised you this book would be my shortest, and it turned into my longest, causing headaches for everyone. Rather than beating me to get the next product in the supply chain, you’ve allowed me a huge amount of autonomy. I appreciate your faith in me and all you do to make me successful. You guys are fearless and brilliant, and it’s great to work with you.

  Thanks to all the other folks at Hachette, from the nameless unpaid interns (hang in there!), to the guy who keeps the computers running, to Gina (I really owe you several nice dinners, don’t I?), to the patient production people who have good reason to hate me. But I pass all hatred along to my editor, Devi. (She also likes unsolicited manuscripts! Here’s her home phone number and personal email @.)

  Heather and Andrew, thank you for all your work in managing the forum. You’ve allowed me to connect with my fans—and still have time to write. Thank you thank you thank you.

  I’m afraid I’ve rewarded the friends and family who tolerated many email updates over the years (how many words can you use to say “still no book sale”?) by being so busy in the last two years that I hardly ever update them at all. If you were in the first acknowledgments, thank you again.

  Cody L., your enthusiasm is better than coffee. Shaun and Diane M., thank you for your wise counsel and friendship. Scot and Kariann B., thanks for the trips to Red Robin every time we sold a foreign right. (Italy, huzzah!) Dr. Jacob K., thanks for awesome impromptu lectures, gentle translation corrections, and “promachos.” Thank you to Dr. Jon L., who once said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if instead of [genre trope], the hero [inverse of genre trope]?” That seed niggled at me for years, Jon. I have since found the very good reasons why more writers haven’t done that—and had a blast doing it anyway. Thank you to Seiei, who changed this whole book with a couple of tweets. Thank you Nate D., for genius brainstorming, and Laura J. D., for insights into two things I will probably never truly understand: women, and being incredibly fit. Any errors in this book are theirs.

  Thank you Rockstar Energy Drink. Those years you took off my life were probably the bad ones anyway.

  And last, thank you to you unshakably curious readers who still read acknowledgments though you aren’t looking for your name. What, the book wasn’t long enough for you? Go on, get outta here and go tell someone, “You gotta read this! No, really. C’mon, there’s a maa-aap.”

 


 

  Brent Weeks, The Black Prism

  (Series: # )

 

 


 

 
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