Authors: David Gemmell
Praise for David Gemmell
Hero in the Shadows
“On the surface, David Gemmell’s
Hero in the Shadows
has everything a fan of heroic fantasy could desire: dramatic heroes, an exotic sorceress, deep evil, mood-drenched settings, an array of likeable characters, and a well-designed plot. But the book also has something more, a quality which raises Gemmell’s achievement to a much higher level: an empathetic and convincing grasp on the complexities and conflicts of real human beings. As a result,
Hero in the Shadows
has true power and poignancy.”
The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever
“I am truly amazed at David Gemmell’s ability to focus his writer’s eye. His images are crisp and complete, a history lesson woven within the detailed tapestry of the highest adventure. Gemmell’s characters are no less complete, real men and women with qualities good and bad, placed in trying times and rising to heroism or falling victim to their own weaknesses.”
—R. A. S
“Gemmell is very talented; his characters are vivid and very convincingly realistic.”
Author of the
Wizard in Rhyme
“Gemmell’s great reading; the action never lets up; he’s several rungs above the good—right into the fabulous!”
By David Gemmell
Published by Ballantine Books
LION OF MACEDON
ECHOES OF THE GREAT SONG
KNIGHTS OF DARK RENOWN
THE HAWK ETERNAL
THE DRENAI SAGA
THE KING BEYOND THE GATE
QUEST FOR LOST HEROES
IN THE REALM OF THE WOLF
THE FIRST CHRONICLES
OF DRUSS THE LEGEND
THE LEGEND OF DEATHWALKER
HERO IN THE SHADOWS
THE SWORDS OF NIGHT AND DAY
THE STONES OF POWER CYCLE
LAST SWORD OF POWER
WOLF IN SHADOW
THE LAST GUARDIAN
SWORD IN THE STORM
LORD OF THE SILVER BOW
A Del Rey
Published by The Random House Publishing Group
Copyright © 2000 by David A. Gemmell
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Del Rey Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
Del Rey is a registered trademark and the Del Rey colophon is a trademark of Random House, Inc.
Hero in the Shadows
is dedicated with much love
to Broo Doherty, with thanks for the years of support,
encouragement, and flawless good humor. Be happy, Broo!
My thanks to my test readers, Jan Dunlop, Tony Evans, Alan Fisher, Stella Graham, and Steve Hutt, whose observations and advice were invaluable, and to my editors, Ursula Mackenzie, Liza Reeves, and Steve Saffel. I am also more than grateful to Tim Walker and the crew at Active Computers, Bexhill, who stepped in when my computer turned rogue and died during the final run up to deadline. Their swift assistance—and the loan of a new computer—insured that Waylander’s last adventure made it to the publishers on time
Special thanks to Dale Rippke and to Eric Harris who have made planning the next Drenai novel an even greater pleasure
HE MERCENARY CAPTAIN
Camran Osir reined in his mount at the crest of the hill and swung in the saddle to stare back down the forest trail. The twelve men under his command rode from the trees in single file and paused while he scanned the horizon. Removing his iron helm, Camran ran his fingers through his long blond hair, momentarily enjoying the warm breeze evaporating the sweat on his scalp. He glanced at the captive girl on the horse beside him. Her hands were tied, her dark eyes defiant. He smiled at her and saw her blanch. She knew that he was going to kill her and that her passing would be painful. He felt the warmth of blood pulsing in his loins. Then the feeling passed. His blue eyes narrowed as he gazed over the valley, seeking sign of pursuit.
Satisfied that no one was following, Camran tried to relax. He was still angry, of course, but calmed himself with the thought that his riders were ill-educated brutes with little understanding of civilized behavior.
The raid had gone well. There had been only five men in the little farming settlement, and they had been killed quickly, with no wounds or losses among his own men. Some of the women and children had managed to escape into the woods, but three young women had been taken—enough, at least, to satisfy the carnal urges of his riders. Camran himself had captured the fourth, the dark-haired girl on the swaybacked horse beside him. She had tried to run, but he had ridden her down,
leaping from his horse and bearing her to the ground. She had fought silently, without panic, but one blow to the chin had rendered her unconscious, and then he had thrown her over his saddle. There was blood now on her pale cheek, and a purple bruise was showing on the side of her neck. Her faded yellow dress was torn at the shoulder and had flapped down, almost exposing her breast. Camran jerked his thoughts from her soft skin, turning his mind to more urgent concerns.
Yes, the raid had gone well until that idiot Polian had incited the others to set fire to the old farmhouse. Wanton destruction of property was anathema to a man of breeding such as Camran. It was criminally wasteful. Peasants could always be replaced, but good buildings should be treated with respect. And the farmhouse had been a good building, soundly constructed by a man who cared about quality work. Camran had been furious not only with them but with himself. Instead of merely killing the captured women, he had allowed his needs to override his common sense. He had taken his time, enjoying the screams of the first and luxuriating in the desperate pleading of the second and the subsequent cries of agony of the third. With each of them dead, he had turned his attentions to the dark-haired girl. She had not pleaded or made a sound after returning to consciousness to find her hands and ankles bound. She was to be the richest harvest; her cries, when they came, would be the purest and sweetest.
The smoke had billowed over him just as he was unwrapping his ivory-handled skinning knives. Swinging around, he saw the fires. Leaving the bound girl where she lay, he ran back to the scene. Polian was grinning as Camran came alongside him. He was still grinning as he died, Camran’s dagger plunging between his ribs, skewering his heart.
That sudden act of savagery cowed the men. “Did I not tell you?” he thundered. “Never property! Not unless directly ordered. Now, gather supplies and let’s be gone.”
Camran had returned to the young woman. He thought of
killing her, but there would be no pleasure in it now, no slow, pounding joy as he watched the light of life fade from her eyes. Gazing down at the six small skinning knives in their silk-lined canvas pouch, he felt the dead weight of disappointment dragging at him. Carefully he rolled the pouch, tying it with black ribbon. Then he hauled the girl to her feet, cut the ropes around her ankles, and lifted her to the dead Polian’s mount. Still she said nothing.
As Camran rode away, he gazed back at the burning building, and a deep sense of shame touched him. The farmhouse had not been built speedily but with great patience, the timbers lovingly fashioned, the joints fitting to perfection. Even the window frames had been carved and embellished. Destroying such a place was an act of sacrilege. His father would have been ashamed of him.
Camran’s sergeant, the hulking Okrian, rode alongside him. “Wasn’t in time to stop them, sir,” he said.
Camran saw the fear in the man’s eyes. “It is what happens when one is forced to deal with scum,” he said. “Let’s hope there are better men available when we reach Qumtar. We’ll earn little commission from Panagyn with only eleven men.”
“We’ll get more, sir. Qumtar is crawling with fighters seeking employment with one or another of the houses.”
“ ‘Crawling’ is probably an apt description. Not like the old days, is it?”
“Nothing ever is,” said Okrian, and the two men rode in silence, each lost in thoughts of the past. Camran remembered the invasion of Drenai lands eighteen years earlier, when he had been a junior officer in the army of Vagria, serving under Kaem. It had been, Kaem had promised, the dawn of a new empire. And for a time it was true. They crushed all the armies sent against them, forcing the greatest of the Drenai generals, Egel, into the vastness of Skultik Forest and besieging the last fortress, Dros Purdol. But that had been the high point of the campaign. Under the command of the giant Karnak, Purdol
had held, and Egel had broken from Skultik, descending on the Vagrian army like a storm. Kaem had been slain by the assassin, Waylander, and within two years Drenai forces had invaded Vagria. And it did not end there. Arrest warrants were issued against many of the best Vagrian officers, charging them with crimes against the populace. It was laughable. What crime was there in killing your enemies, whether they were soldiers or farmers? But many officers were taken and hanged.
Camran had escaped north into the lands of the Gothir, but even there agents of the Drenai had continued to hunt him. So he had drifted east, across the sea into Ventria and beyond, serving in numerous armies and mercenary bands.
At thirty-seven he was now in charge of recruitment for House Bakard, one of the four ruling houses of Kydor. There was no outright war for them to fight. Not yet. But each of the houses was gathering soldiers, and there were many skirmishes in the wild lands.
News from home rarely reached Kydor, but Camran had been delighted to hear of the death of Karnak some years previously. Assassinated as he led a parade. Wonderful! Killed, apparently, by a woman wielding the bow of the legendary Waylander.
Jerking his mind once more to the present, Camran gazed back at his recruits. They were still frightened now and anxious to please, hoping that when they made camp, Camran would let them have the girl. He would soon dash those hopes. His plan was to use her, skin her, and leave the men to bury the body. He glanced once more at her and smiled. She looked at him coolly and said nothing.
Just before dusk Camran swung from the trail and selected a campsite. As the men unsaddled their mounts, he took the girl deeper into the forest. She offered no resistance as he pushed her to the ground, and she did not cry out as he took her. As he was reaching his climax, he opened his eyes and
found her staring at his face, expressionless. That not only removed any pleasure from the rape, it also ruined his erection. Anger roared through him. Drawing his knife, he laid the edge on her throat.
“The Gray Man will kill you,” she said slowly, no trace of fear in her voice. The words carried certainty, and he paused.