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Authors: J. V. Jones

A Sword From Red Ice

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A Sword from Red Ice

Sword of Shadows – Book 3

J. V. Jones

For dear Fergus for all his kindness

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Thanks are due to Jim Frenkel and the good people at Tor for making this a better book.

THE STORY SO FAR

Raif Sevrance of Clan Blackhail was out shooting
ice hares in the Badlands with his brother Drey when his father and
chief were slain back at camp. Upon returning to their clanhold, Raif
and Drey found that Mace Blackhail, the chief's foster son, had
declared himself head of the clan. Mace had been present at the camp
that day, and blamed the murders on Vaylo Bludd, chief of a rival
clan. A week later, when word arrived that Vaylo Bludd had sacked the
Dhoonehouse, events seemed to bear out Mace's story of Bludd
aggression. Raif found himself isolated. He alone believed that Mace
Blackhail was a liar and a chief-killer.

War against Clan Bludd followed, as Hailsmen
sought to avenge their chief's death. When Mace received word that a
caravan of Bluddsmen were on the road, heading west to occupy the
Dhoonehouse, he ordered an attack. Raif rode with the ambush party,
and was horrified to discover that the caravan contained women and
children, not warriors. He refused to kill them. By disobeying an
order on the field and deserting his fellow clansmen in battle, Raif
made himself a traitor to his clan. Four days later, Raif left
Blackhail in the company of his uncle Angus Lok. Raif's oath to
protect Blackhail had now been broken. There was no going back.

The two men headed south. When they arrived at
Duff's stovehouse, they discovered that the story of the massacre of
innocents on the Bluddroad had preceded them. When challenged by a
group of Bludd warriors, Raif admitted to being present during the
slaughter. He did not tell them that he took no part in the
massacre—loyalty to his clan prevented him from defending
himself at their expense. With this admission, Raif forever damned
himself in the eyes of Bluddsmen.

He was the only Hailsmen they knew for a certainty
who was present during the slayings.

Angus Lok and Raif made their way to Spire Vanis,
the city at the foot of Mount Slain. Upon arrival, they rescued a
young woman named Ash March who was being hunted down by the city's
Protector General, Marafice Eye. Angus had a strong reaction when he
saw the girl and immediately put himself in danger to save her.
Raif's newly formed skills with the bow proved invaluable. He
single-handedly rescued the girl by placing arrows through her
pursuers' hearts.

Heart-killing, it was called: the surest and
quickest way of ending another person's life. Raif Sevrance was
slowly coming to understand that he was master of it.

Having escaped from the city, Raif, Ash and Angus
turned north toward Ille Glaive. During the journey Raif learned that
Ash was the Surlord of Spire Vanis' adopted daughter. She had run
away because she feared that her father intended to imprison her in
the Inverted Spire, which lay beneath the tower known as the
Splinter. Heritas Cant, a friend of Angus Lok's, provided the reason
for Ash's Father's behavior. According to Cant, Ash was the first
Reach to be born in a thousand years. She possessed the ability to
unlock the Blind, the prison without a key that contained the
destructive might of the Endlords. The Endlords' purpose was to
annihilate the world, and every thousand years they rode forth to
claim more men for their armies. Cant informed Ash that she must
discharge her Reach-power or die. The only place to do so safely was
the Cavern of Black Ice; anywhere else and she would tear open the
Blind and free the Endlords.

Raif and Angus agreed to accompany Ash to the
cavern in the far north. As soon as their small party reentered the
clanholds they were captured by Bluddsmen. The Dog Lord, Vaylo Bludd,
ordered Raif's torture in the Ganmiddich tower. The Bludd chief had
lost seventeen grandchildren during the slaying on the Bluddroad, and
Raif Sevrance had to pay for those losses. After days of torture,
Raif developed a fever and began to fail. Yet when Death came to take
him she changed her mind. "Perhaps I won't take you yet,"
she told him. "You fight in my image and live in my shadow, and
if I leave you where you are you'll provide much fresh meat for my
children. Kill an army for me, Raif Sevrance, any less and I just
might call you back" Raif feared the grim words would become his
life.

The night before he was due to be killed by Vaylo
Bludd, Raif was rescued by a group of Hailish warriors led by his
brother Drey. "We part here. For always," Drey said as he
let his younger brother, the traitor, slip away.

Later that day Raif met up with Ash. While Raif
was being tortured, Ash had been handed over to Marafice Eye, who
planned on returning her to her foster father in Spire Vanis. Vaylo
Bludd had a debt to repay. Penthero Iss, the Surlord of Spire Vanis,
had aided Vaylo's taking of the Dhoonehouse. Vaylo had come to regret
Iss's sorcerous help, and sought to end all relations with the
surlord. Ash March was payment in full.

Ash escaped Marafice's custody after his men
attempted to rape her. Drawing forth her Reach-power, she blasted
Marafice's party, killing everyone except Marafice himself and the
surlord's special spy, Sarga Veys.

Ash's and Raif's journey to the Cavern of Black
Ice proved arduous. Ash's health quickly deteriorated. After crossing
the mountains, she collapsed in the snow. Unable to help her, Raif
drew a guide circle and called out to the Stone Gods. Two Sull Far
Riders, Mal Naysayer and Ark Veinsplitter, heard this call, and rode
to Ash's aid. Upon seeing her, they suspected that Ash was the Reach.
They also suspected that Raif was Mor Drakka, Watcher of the
Dead—the one predicted to destroy the Sull. Not surprisingly
the Far Riders were cool with Raif as they tended Ash. After a few
days, the Far Riders led Ash and Raif onto a frozen riverbed and
pointed the way to the Cavern of Black Ice.

The cavern lay beneath the river. Ash discharged
her power, but it was already too late. By blasting Marafice Eye's
men in the Bitter Hills, she had caused a tear in the Blindwall. Back
in her home city of Spire Vanis, a nameless sorcerer who had been
enslaved by her foster father was already working to open the break.
"Push and we will give you your name," the Endlords
promised him. Bound by chains, broken and tortured, the sorcerer
accepted the deal. "Baralis," the Endlords named the
sorcerer as he broke open the wall.

As this was happening, the clan wars were spinning
out of control. Blackhail waged war on Bludd in revenge for the
killing of the Hail chief; Bludd fought Blackhail for the slaying of
its women and children; and Dhoone, dispossessed of its roundhouse
by Bludd, fought to regain its territory. The clanhold of Ganmiddich,
which was traditionally war-sworn to Dhoone, was overtaken first by
Bludd and then Blackhail. Mace Blackhail, now chief of Blackhail,
forced an oath of loyalty from the Ganmiddich chief and then
garrisoned Hailsmen in the Ganmiddich roundhouse to insure it was
upheld.

Meanwhile, infighting amongst Dhoonesmen over the
chiefship came to a head. Skinner Dhoone was the deceased chief's
brother and first choice for the now-vacant chiefship, but the brash
up-and-comer Robbie Dun Dhoone fancied the title for himself. The two
factions split the clan down the middle. The deadlock ended when
Robbie tricked Skinner into attacking Withy, the clan who made kings.
Skinner's forces and Skinner himself were cut down by Bludd, freeing
Robbie to take the chiefship of Dhoone. When infighting amongst Vaylo
Bludd and his seven ungrateful sons resulted in the Dhoonehouse being
held by a skeleton force, Robbie seized his chance and retook the
Dhoonehold. The small occupying force of Bluddsmen were slain, and
only Vaylo, his lady Nan, his two remaining grandchildren and a
guardsman escaped.

Robbie wasted no time naming himself chief and
king. His half-brother, Bram Cormac, was left to pay the price for
this victory. For in order to secure sufficient numbers to retake
Dhoone, Robbie had sold his brother to Castlemilk.

Back at Blackhail, the slain chief's widow, Raina
Blackhail, struggled to come to terms with her new life. Like Raif,
Raina suspected that Mace, her foster son, was responsible for her
husband's murder. At first she had not supported Mace's campaign for
chiefship, but Mace put a stop to her opposition by raping her.
Silver-tongued, he claimed the union was consensual: a momentary
weakness between two grieving adults. Aware that most people in the
clan believed his story, Raina chose to keep her silence. Her place
in the clan was at stake; tell the truth and she would be branded a
liar. Clannish honor demanded that she and Mace marry, so Raina wed
her foster son and became chief's wife again.

From this position, she watched the decline of her
clan. Mace had been born at Clan Scarpe, and it wasn't long before
his old loyalties started to show. When the Scarpehouse was burned
down by a neighboring clan, Mace opened the doors of the Hailhouse
to Scarpe. Scarpemen in their hundreds poured into Blackhail and set
about consuming its resources. When Angus Lok, newly freed from
captivity by the Dog Lord, visited Raina, he planted the seed of
dissent, "I will be chief," Raina found herself saying
after he had left. Her husband was a chief-killer who had ordered the
slaying of innocent women and children on the Bluddroad, and plunged
his clan into needless war. Surely she could be a better chief than
that? The two people she informed of her intentions—the senior
warrior Orwin Shank and the clan matron Anwyn Bird—agreed with
her, and Raina set about looking for opportunities to claim power.

After departing Blackhail, Angus Lok returned to
his home east of Ille Glaive. Upon arrival he found his worst
nightmare had come to life: his house was empty and burned down. His
three daughters and his wife were gone. Dead. Angus was a ranger, a
member of the secret society known as the Phage. His work involved
opposing the rise of the Endlords, and he blamed himself for leading
evil to his door.

Leaving the Cavern of Black Ice, Ash and Raif
headed north into Ice Trapper territory. Once there, they met up with
Mal Naysayer and Ark Veinsplitter. Raif was drugged, and awakened to
find Ash and the Far Riders gone. Sadaluk, Listener of the Ice
Trappers, informed Raif that Ash had chosen to leave, and could not
be followed. Raif reluctantly accepted this and decided to head
east. Sadaluk gave him two parting gifts: a sword salvaged from the
corpse of a Forsworn knight and a single arrow. "Grow wide
shoulders, Clansman," Sadaluk told him. "You will need them
for all of your burdens."

With a heavy heart, Raif departed. He had decided
to join the Maimed Men, an outlaw clan who lived on the great cliffs
above the Rift. During his journey he learned firsthand what the
Endlords and their Unmade could do to men. In an ancient fastness on
the edge of the Great Want, he found the smoking, disintegrating
corpses of four Forsworn knights. They had been attacked by the
Unmade—who were now escaping from the Blind—and as the
knight's bodies smoked to nothing the Endlords claimed their souls.
One knight remained alive but mortally wounded, and Raif learned that
the only way to stop the man's body from becoming unmade was to kill
him, thereby depriving the Endlords of his death. It was a chilling
lesson, and Raif found himself embracing the name the Listener had
given him, Watcher of the Dead.

No man who was whole could join the Maimed Men,
and upon arrival at the Rift, the tip of Raif's finger was taken by a
man named Stillborn. Traggis Mole, the leader of the Maimed Men, was
suspicious of Raif's claims to be a crack bowman, and ordered a test
of arrows. Raif won the test, claimed a prize of a rare Sull longbow
and earned the name Twelve Kill. His opponent was killed and thrown
into the Rift.

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