The Books of the South: Tales of the Black Company (Chronicles of the Black Company)

BOOK: The Books of the South: Tales of the Black Company (Chronicles of the Black Company)
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Contents

Title Page

Copyright Notice

Shadow Games

Acknowledgments

1.
The Crossroads

2.
The Road South

3.
A Tavern in Taglios

4.
The Dark Tower

5.
Chains of Empire

6.
Opal

7.
Smoke and the Woman

8.
Opal: Crows

9.
Across the Screaming Sea

10.
Shadowmasters

11.
A March into Yesteryear

12.
The Shaggy Hills

13.
Willow’s Last Night Little

14.
Through D’loc Aloc

15.
The Savannah

16.
Willow’s War

17.
Gea-Xle

18.
The Barge

19.
The River

20.
Willow up the Creek

21.
Thresh

22.
Taglios

23.
Willow, Bats, and Things

24.
Taglios: A Princely Pressure

25.
Taglios: Scouting Southward

26.
Overlook

27.
Night Strife

28.
Back to Scouting

29.
Smoke’s Hideout

30.
Taglios Aroused

31.
Taglios: a Boot-Camp City

32.
Shadowlight

33.
Taglios: Drunken Wizards

34.
To Ghoja

35.
Before Ghoja

36.
Ghoja

37.
Shadowlight: Coal-Dark Tears

38.
Invaders of the Shadowlands

39.
Stormgard (formerly Dejagore)

40.
Dejagore (formerly Stormgard)

41.
Lady

42.
That Stump

43.
Overlook

44.
Glittering Stone

Dreams of Steel

Dedication

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

Chapter 52

Chapter 53

Chapter 54

Chapter 55

Chapter 56

Chapter 57

Chapter 58

Chapter 59

Chapter 60

Chapter 61

Chapter 62

Chapter 63

Chapter 64

Chapter 65

Chapter 66

Chapter 67

Chapter 68

Chapter 69

Chapter 70

Chapter 71

Chapter 72

Chapter 73

Chapter 74

Chapter 75

Envoi: Down There

The Silver Spike

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

Chapter 52

Chapter 53

Chapter 54

Chapter 55

Chapter 56

Chapter 57

Chapter 58

Chapter 59

Chapter 60

Chapter 61

Chapter 62

Chapter 63

Chapter 64

Chapter 65

Chapter 66

Chapter 67

Chapter 68

Chapter 69

Chapter 70

Chapter 71

Chapter 72

Chapter 73

Chapter 74

Chapter 75

Chapter 76

Chapter 77

Chapter 78

Chapter 79

Chapter 80

Epilogue

Tor Books by Glen Cook

Copyright

Shadow Games

 

Got to be for Harriet McDougal,

whose gentle hands

guided Croaker and the Company

out of the darkness

 

With Special Thanks to

Lee Childs of North Hollywood,

for historical research

and valued suggestions

1

The Crossroads

We seven remained at the crossroads, watching the dust from the eastern way. Even irrepressible One-Eye and Goblin were stricken by the finality of the hour. Otto’s horse whickered. He closed her nostrils with one hand, patted her neck with the other, quieting her. It was a time for contemplation, the final emotional milemark of an era.

Then there was no more dust. They were gone. Birds began to sing, so still did we remain. I took an old notebook from my saddlebag, settled in the road. In a shaky hand I wrote:
The end has come. The parting is done. Silent, Darling, and the Torque brothers have taken the road to Lords. The Black Company is no more.

Yet I will continue to keep the Annals, if only because a habit of twenty-five years is so hard to break. And, who knows? Those to whom I am obliged to carry them may find the account interesting. The heart is stilled but the corpse stumbles on. The Company is dead in fact but not in name.

And we, O merciless gods, stand witness to the power of names.

I replaced the book in my saddlebag. “Well, that’s that.” I swatted the dust off the back of my lap, peered down our own road into tomorrow. A low line of greening hills formed a fencerow over which sheeplike tufts began to bound. “The quest begins. We have time to cover the first dozen miles.”

That would leave only seven or eight thousand more.

I surveyed my companions.

One-Eye was the oldest by a century, a wizard, wrinkled and black as a dusty prune. He wore an eyepatch and a floppy, battered black felt hat. That hat seemed to suffer every conceivable misfortune, yet survived every indignity.

Likewise Otto, a very ordinary man. He had been wounded a hundred times and had survived. He almost believed himself favored of the gods.

Otto’s sidekick was Hagop, another man with no special color. But another survivor. My glance surprised a tear.

Then there was Goblin. What is there to say of Goblin? The name says it all, and yet nothing? He was another wizard, small, feisty, forever at odds with One-Eye, without whose enmity he would curl up and die. He was the inventor of the frog-faced grin.

We five have been together twenty-some years. We have grown old together. Perhaps we know one another too well. We form limbs of a dying organism. Last of a mighty, magnificent, storied line. I fear we, who look more like bandits than the best soldiers in the world, denigrate the memory of the Black Company.

Two more. Murgen, whom One-Eye sometimes calls Pup, was twenty-eight. The youngest. He joined the Company after our defection from the empire. He was a quiet man of many sorrows, unspoken, with no one and nothing but the Company to call his own, yet an outside and lonely man even here.

As are we all. As are we all.

Lastly, there was Lady, who used to be the Lady. Lost Lady, beautiful Lady, my fantasy, my terror, more silent than Murgen, but from a different cause: despair. Once she had it all. She gave it up. Now she has nothing.

Nothing she knows to be of value.

That dust on the Lords road was gone, scattered by a chilly breeze. Some of my beloved had departed my life forever.

No sense staying around. “Cinch them up,” I said, and set an example. I tested the ties on the pack animals. “Mount up. One-Eye, you take the point.”

Finally, a hint of spirit as Goblin carped, “I have to eat
his
dust?” If One-Eye had point that meant Goblin had rearguard. As wizards they were no mountain movers, but they were useful. One fore and one aft left me feeling far more comfortable.

“About his turn, don’t you think?”

“Things like that don’t deserve a turn,” Goblin said. He tried to giggle but only managed a smile that was a ghost of his usual toadlike grin.

One-Eye’s answering glower was not much pumpkin, either. He rode out without comment.

Murgen followed fifty yards behind, a twelve-foot lance rigidly upright. Once that lance had flaunted our standard. Now it trailed four feet of tattered black cloth. The symbolism lay on several levels.

We knew who we were. It was best that others did not. The Company had too many enemies.

Hagop and Otto followed Murgen, leading pack animals. Then came Lady and I, also with tethers behind. Goblin trailed us by seventy yards. And thus we always traveled for we were at war with the world. Or maybe it was the other way around.

I might have wished for outriders and scouts, but there was a limit to what seven could accomplish. Two wizards were the next best thing.

We bristled with weaponry. I hoped we looked as easy as a hedgehog does to a fox.

The eastbound road dropped out of sight. I was the only one to look back in hopes Silent had found a vacancy in his heart. But that was a vain fantasy. And I knew it.

In emotional terms we had parted ways with Silent and Darling months ago, on the blood-sodden, hate-drenched battleground of the Barrowland.

BOOK: The Books of the South: Tales of the Black Company (Chronicles of the Black Company)
9.47Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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