The many deaths of the b.., p.1
The Many Deaths of the Black Company,
The author and publisher have provided this e-book to you without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied so that you can enjoy reading it on your personal devices. This e-book is for your personal use only. You may not print or post this e-book, or make this e-book publicly available in any way. You may not copy, reproduce, or upload this e-book, other than to read it on one of your personal devices.
Copyright infringement is against the law. If you believe the copy of this e-book you are reading infringes on the author’s copyright, please notify the publisher at: us.macmillanusa.com/piracy.
1. An Abode of Ravens: When No Men Died
2. An Abode of Ravens: When the Baobhas Sang
3. An Abode of Ravens: A Labor of Love
4. The Grove of Doom: Night Songs
5. An Abode of Ravens: Headquarters
6. An Abode of Ravens: Suvrin’s News
7. An Abode of Ravens: Night Visitor
8. Taglios: Trouble Follows
9. An Abode of Ravens: The Invalid
10. An Abode of Ravens: Recovery
11. An Abode of Ravens: Exercise Session
12. Glittering Stone: Steadfast Guardian
13. The Land of Unknown Shadows: Traveling Hsien
14. The Land of Unknown Shadows: Khang Phi
15. The Land of Unknown Shadows: The Secret Masters
16. Wastelands: Night’s Children
17. The Land of Unknown Shadows: The Abode of Ravens
18. The Land of Unknown Shadows: Due South
19. Glittering Stone: Sneak Away
20. Glittering Stone: Mystic Roads
21. Taglios: The Great General
22. Khatovar: Invasion
23. Glittering Stone: Fortress with No Name
24. Khatovar: The Unholy Land
25. Glittering Stone: The Revenant
26. Khatovar: Hunkered Down
27. Shadowlands: Breakout
28. The Taglian Territories: The Blind Measures of Despair
29. Khatovar: The Lords of the Upper Air
30. Khatovar: Then Start the Fire
31. Khatovar: The Opened Gate
32. The Shadowlands: The Protector of All the Taglias
33. Khatovar: Leave-taking
34. The Shadowlands: Tobo’s Chores
35. Taglios: The Message
36. The Nether Taglian Territories: The Barrens
37. The Taglian Territories: Somewhere North of Charandaprash
38. The Taglian Territories: The Dandha Presh
39. Taglios: The Great General
40. The Taglian Territories: Below Lake Tanji
41. The Nether Taglian Territories: Leaves of Misfortune
42. The Nether Taglian Territories: After Battle
43. The Taglian Shadowlands: The Shadowgate
44. The Shadowlands: Gate Repairs
45. Nijha: The Stronghold Falls
46. Nijha: The Darkness Always Comes
47. The Shadowgate: The Repairmen
48. The Shadowgate: The Warlords of the Air
49. Nijha: Place of the Dead
50. The Taglian Territories: The Palace
51. The Taglian Territories: The Middle Ground
52. The Nether Taglian Territories: Lady Made Grumpy Noises
53. The Taglian Territories: A Haunted Wood
54. The Taglian Territories: The Thing in the Cesspit
55. The Nether Taglian Territories: Along the Viliwash
56. The Nether Taglian Territories: The Manor at Gharhawnes
57. The Nether Taglian Territories: The Resurrection
58. Gharhawnes: The Traitor General
59. With the Middle Army: When Guests Arrived
60. Gharhawnes: Tobo and the Voroshk
61. The Taglian Territories: Nightfliers in Dejagore
62. Dejagore: The Occupation
63. The Taglian Territories: The Middle Army
64. Dejagore: The Orphaned Army
65. Taglios: The Palace
66. The Taglian Territories: Midway Between
67. The Taglian Territories: Inside the Middle Army
68. The Taglian Territories: Fire on the Middle Ground
69. Midway Between: The Unanticipated
70. Midway Between: The Capture
71. Midway Between: Unpleasant Truth
72. Midway Between: The Rescuers
73. Midway Between: The Rescue
74. Midway Between: Escape Artists
75. Taglios: The Palace
76. The Taglian Territories: Another Origin Story
77. Above Ghoja: Seeking the One Safe Place
78. Midway Between: Bad News
79. The Taglian Territories: In Motion
80. The Taglian Territories: In Camp
81. The Shadowlander Military Cemetery: Laying To Rest
82. With the Company:
83. Taglios: Decision
84. Beside the Cemetery: Confusion
85. The Grove of Doom: A Big Surprise
86. Beside the Cemetery: More Confusion
87. Glittering Stone: Fortress with No Name
88. Fortress with No Name: Recruiting Excitement
89. Beside the Cemetery: More Confusion
90. By the Cemetery: Still More Confusion
91. By the Cemetery: Even More Confusion
92. By the Cemetery: Confusion Piled Higher
93. Beyond the Grove of Doom: Confusion Grows
94. Beside the Cemetery: Sorrows Gathering
95. Fortress with No Name: Down Below
96. The Shadowgate: Bad News, Bad News
97. Beside the Cemetery: Among the Dead
98. Above the Cemetery: Mogaba Accedes
99. By the Military Cemetery: Missing Persons
100. Taglios: The Palace
101. Beside the Cemetery: Plans
102. The Palace: Better Housekeeping
103. Beside the Cemetery: Search for a Lost Soul
104. Taglios: View from the Protector’s Window
105. The Palace: The Great General’s Place
106. The Palace: View from a High Place
107. Taglios: Soldiers Live
108. Taglios: Someone at the Door
109. Taglios: No Excuses Accepted
110. Taglios: Misfortunes
111. Taglios: Sleepy Flew
112. Taglios: Under Siege
113. Taglios: Attack
114. Taglios: Bad News, White Crow
115. Taglios: The Special Team
116. Taglios: Outrageous Fortune
117. Taglios: Night and the City
118. Taglios: A New Administration
119. Taglios: Messenger
120. Taglios: Thi Kim Was Always Here
121. Taglios: Sleeping Beauty
122. Taglios: Unknown Shadows
123. Taglios: Crow Talk
124. Taglios: The Sandbar
125. Taglios: An Afternoon Off
126. Taglios: Royal Return
127. Taglios: And My Baby
128. Taglios: Another Great General
129. Taglios: Open Tomb, Open Eyes
130. Taglios: Khadidas
131. Around Taglios: Aerial Recon
132. Taglios: Wife and Child
133. Glittering Stone: A Dangerous Game
134. Taglios: Best Served Cold
135. Taglios: The Mad Season
136. Fortress with No Name: Godstalking
137. Taglios: The Melancholy Wife
138. Taglios: The Lost Child
139. Taglios: The Great General
140. Taglios: Brain Surgery
141. Taglios: Family Matters
142. Glittering Stone: Bitter Desserts
143. Fortress with No Name: Sleeping with the Demon
144. Fortress with No Name: Arkana’s Tale
145. Glittering Stone: Then Shukrat Came
146. The Voroshk World: Stronghold Rhuknavr
147. Fortress with No Name: Putting the Pen Down
148. Glittering Stone: And the Daughters of Time
Tor Books by Glen Cook
Book Three of Glittering Stone
For John Ferraro
and all the wonderful
Ducklings, all in a row.
It was a great
In those days the Black Company did not exist. This I know because there were laws and decrees that told me so. But I did not feel entirely insubstantial.
The Company standard, its Captain and Lieutenant, its Standardbearer and all the men who had made the Company so terrible, had passed on, having been buried alive at the heart of a vast desert of stone. “Glittering stone,” they whispered in the streets and alleys of Taglios, and “Gone to Khatovar,” they proclaimed from on high, the mighty making what they had been so determined to prevent for so long over into a great triumph once the Radisha or Protector or somebody decided that people ought to believe that the Company had fulfilled its destiny.
Anyone old enough to remember the Company knew better. Only fifty people had ventured out onto that plain of glittering stone. Half of those people had not been Company. Only two of those fifty had returned to lie about what had happened. And a third who had come back to retail the truth had been killed in the Kiaulune wars, far away from the capital. But the deceits of Soulcatcher and Willow Swan fooled no one, then or now. People simply pretended to believe them because that was safer.
They might have asked why Mogaba needed five years to conquer a Company that had passed on, squandering thousands of young lives to bring the Kiaulune domains under the Radisha’s rule and into the realm of the Protector’s twisted truths. They might have mentioned that people claiming to be Black Company had held out in the fortress Overlook for years after that, until the Protector, Soulcatcher, finally became so impatient with their intransigence that she invested her own best sorceries in a two-year project that reduced that huge fortress to white powder, white rubble and white bones. They might have raised these points. But they remained silent instead. They were afraid. With cause, they were afraid.
The Taglian empire under the Protectorate is an empire of fear.
During the years of defiance, one unknown hero won Soulcatcher’s eternal hatred by sabotaging the Shadowgate, the sole gateway to the glittering plain. Soulcatcher was the most powerful sorcerer alive. She might have become a Shadowmaster to eclipse those monsters the Company had pulled down during its earlier wars on Taglios’ behalf. But with the Shadowgate sealed she could not conjure killer shadows more powerful than the few score she had controlled when she worked her treachery on the Company.
Oh, she could open the Shadowgate. One time. She did not know how to close it again, though. Meaning everything inside would be free to wriggle out and begin tormenting the world.
Meaning that for Soulcatcher, party to so few of the secrets, the choice must be all or very little. The end of the world or making do.
For the moment she is making do. And pursuing continuous researches. She is the Protector. Fear of her steeps the empire. There are no challenges to her terror. But even she knows this age of dark concord cannot endure.
In their homes, in the shadowed alleyways, in the city’s ten thousand temples, nervous whispers never cease. The Year of the Skulls. The Year of the Skulls. It is an age when no gods die and those that sleep keep stirring restlessly.
In their homes, in the shadowed alleyways or fields of grain or in the sodden paddies, in the pastures and forests and tributary cities, should a comet be seen in the sky or should an unseasonable storm strew devastation or, particularly, if the earth should shake, they murmur, “Water sleeps.” And they are afraid.
They call me Sleepy. I was withdrawn as a child, hiding from the horrors of my childhood inside the comfort and emotional safety of daydreams and nightmares. Any time I did not have to work, I went away in there to hide. The evil could not touch me there. I knew no safer place till the Black Company came to Jaicur.
My brothers accused me of sleeping all the time. They resented my ability to get away. They did not understand. They died without ever understanding. I slept on. I did not waken fully till I had been with the Company for several years.
I keep these Annals today. Somebody must and no one else can, though the Annalist title never devolved upon me formally.
There is precedent.
The books must be written. The truth must be recorded even if fate decrees that no man ever reads a word I write. The Annals are the soul of the Black Company. They recall that this is who we are. That this is who we were. That we persevere. And that treachery, as it ever has, failed to suck the last drop of our blood.
We no longer exist. The Protector tells us
We are stubborn ghosts. We will not lie down. We will not cease to haunt them. We have done nothing for a long time but they remain afraid. Their guilt cannot stop whispering our name.
They should be afraid.
Somewhere in Taglios, every day, a message appears upon a wall, written in chalk or paint or even animal blood. Just a gentle reminder: Water Sleeps.
Everyone knows what that means. They whisper it, aware that there is an enemy out there more restless than running water. An enemy who will, somehow, someday, lurch forth from the mouth of his grave and come for those who played at betrayal. They know no power that can prevent it. They were warned ten thousand times before they gave in to temptation. No evil can preserve them.
Mogaba is afraid.
Radisha is afraid.
Willow Swan is so afraid he barely functions, like the wizard Smoke before him, whom he indicted and tormented for his cowardice. Swan knew the Company of old, in the north, before anyone here recognized it as more than a dark memory of ancient terror. The years have seen no calluses form on Swan’s fear.
Purohita Drupada is afraid.
Inspector-General Gokhale is afraid.
Only the Protector is not afraid. Soulcatcher fears nothing. Soulcatcher does not care. She mocks and defies the demon. She is mad. She will laugh and be entertained while being consumed by fire.
Her lack of fear leaves her henchmen that much more troubled. They know she will drive them before her, into the grinding jaws of destiny.
Occasionally a wall will carry another message, a more personal note: All Their Days Are Numbered.
I am in the streets every day, either going to work, going to spy, listening, capturing rumors or launching new ones within the anonymity of Chor Bagan, the Thieves’ Garden even the Greys have not yet been able to extirpate. I used to disguise myself as a prostitute but that proved to be too dangerous. There are people out there who make the Protector seem a paragon of sanity. It is the world’s great good fortune that fate denies them the power to exercise the fullest depth and sweep of their psychoses.
Mostly I go around as a young man, the way I always did. Rootless young men are everywhere since the end of the wars.
The more bizarre the new rumor, the faster it explodes out of Chor Bagan and the more strongly it gnaws the nerves of our enemies. Always, always, Taglios must enjoy a sense of grim premonition. We must provide them their ration of omens, signs and portents.