“From winter’s decay bloom the flowers of spring.”
An uneasy peace has descended over the World Apparent. The Winter Realm and the Old Kingdom are recovering from the cataclysmic events of the Twelfth Reconquest, while in the south, the Djanki and the Sharib retreat to lick their wounds from the battle at Temple Rock. To the east, the divided Empire of Temeria is nearing the end of a long civil war, in which rival Generals have fought like mad dogs to seize the long-vacant Imperial Throne.
Sorrow’s trail leads Colken to ever higher ground and lower company, but he is fascinated by their enigmatic leader. With his plight growing increasingly desperate, Felipe decides he is not going down without a fight. Meanwhile the Prophet Naiyar finally understands his dreams, and the signs are ominous…
There were over two score men charging from the trees, tattered, unkempt brigands who looked no different to the mercenaries. A few still wore the image of General Anma’s leaping lion on their filthy tunics, and in the sad irony of war were now trying to kill and rob former comrades in a bid to stay alive.
As Colken challenged a bearded man with a battle-axe, he saw Blue emerge from the trees where their attackers had come from. The dog leaped snarling on the back of an attacker wielding a falchion, jaws clamping onto his neck and pushing him down into the water.
Colken ducked beneath an axe swing, spun, and beheaded his opponent with a single swing of his scimitar. The head splashed into the water as an arc of blood spurted from the neck, showering him. The body swayed for a moment before tipping over backwards. Stunned at how easily the blade had removed the man’s head, Colken paused and stared wide-eyed at the weapon the Raven-Queen had provided him.
The valley rang to the sound of clashing steel as the fight raged and blades flashed cold in the moonlight.
Now knee-deep in the stony river, Colken fought back-to-back with Yesterday. As Colken parried the swing of a sword and slashed his blade across a man’s eyes, he heard Morrek scream as a short, weasel-faced man bit the mercenary on the cheek and rammed a dagger up beneath his ribcage.
Colken head-butted the blinded man, who fell back shrieking into the water and began to drift slowly downstream. Yesterday grunted as he kicked his assailant in the balls and hit the man on the back of the head with the hilt of his sword. The dazed brigand collapsed into the water and was set upon by Blue, who appeared to be everywhere, a snarling, lethal ghost, his metallic coat blazing in the moonlight.
Dickon the Shit bellowed with pain as a sword scored a deep cut down his arm. He turned with a look of fury on his distorted face and smashed in a skull with his heavy axe. He swung the great weapon left and right, shattering bones and spraying blood into the air. He laughed as he did so, and for every laugh he uttered there was a blood-curdling shriek of agony from one of his victims.
The Gray Man fought three men at once, and the blows they struck had no effect as he wheeled and parried, dispatching them one by one with apparent ease.
Finally there was a lull in the fighting as the remaining dozen or so attackers weighed up the odds and didn’t like the result. One broke and fled the way he had come.The rest joined them, chased by the snarling Blue.