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Authors: Brent Weeks

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Meanwhile, Kip and Tisis have been trying, unsuccessfully, to consummate their marriage—an issue that becomes urgent as their wedding will be annulled if they don’t. Tisis wants to accompany the Mighty when they go to fight in Blood Forest. On the way, their ship finds itself in the middle of an enormous luxin storm, and Kip saves them by pushing apart twisted streams of
chi
and paryl until the ship is able to pass. The effort leaves him blind for three days, but Rea Siluz heals his eyes. After Kip wakes up, the Mighty head out on Ben-hadad’s newly designed skimmer, and Tisis begins to demonstrate her worth to the squad.

Gavin has been talking to the dead man in the blue cell, who admits that Gavin will-cast the dead men into the prisons to torture his brother. The dead man also reveals that Gavin is the Black Prism—a black drafter who absorbed the power to draft all colors by killing other drafters. Gavin attempts to escape from the cells and makes it through green and into a small cove to find none other than his father, Andross, there, waiting for him. Andross tries to strike a deal with Gavin, but instead Gavin ends up in the yellow cell, where he left his brother’s body after shooting him.

The Mighty meet the Ghosts of Shady Grove, a group of will-casters led by Conn Ruadhán Arthur; they convince him to join Kip’s army. They successfully start raiding the Blood Robes and come upon the Cwn y Wawr (‘Dogs of Dawn’), a band of skilled warrior-drafters with highly trained dogs. The Ghosts have a fraught history with the Cwn y Wawr, but the two groups are able to set aside their differences to fight together.

Elsewhere, Liv has become the superviolet god Ferrilux, and meets Samila Sayeh/Mot in Rekton. Samila tells Liv that the White King has her bane, but that Liv can only claim it if she agrees to become bound to him and wear the black luxin. She refuses.

Eirene has sent Antonius, cousin to her and Tisis, to bring Tisis back, but Tisis is able to convince him to join Kip’s army and swear fealty to him instead. With his army growing, Kip sets his sights on saving a besieged city.

Gavin sees that his brother is not in the yellow luxin cell, and after talking to the dead man there, realizes that he never imprisoned his brother; he killed the real Gavin at Sundered Rock, and drafting black erased his memory of the event. Andross, Felia, and Orea had all known the truth about Gavin and waited to see how and whether he would recover from his madness/memory loss. Gavin eventually passes out from eating drugged bread and wakes up in the black luxin prison.

Teia is sent on a mission to Paria by both the Order and Karris, charged with killing the Nuqaba by the Order and Satrapah Tilleli Azmith (the Nuqaba’s spymistress) by Karris. During her mission, she discovers that the Nuqaba is Haruru, Ironfist’s sister, and that Iron-fist is alive and imprisoned by her. Teia completes her mission, but Ironfist discovers her, and Teia then returns to report to Karris that Ironfist is alive.

Corvan and his newlywed wife, the Third Eye, spend their last night together before her assassination by Murder Sharp. She reveals that Kip marches to Dúnbheo to free it, not having seen the White King’s trap.

Gavin spends months in the black cell, and eventually discovers the dead man there is not a will-casting, but something else entirely. Grinwoody appears sometime later, revealing that he is the Old Man of the Desert and that he will free Gavin if he agrees to sail to White Mist Reef, climb the Tower of Heaven, and kill Orholam—what the Old Man believes is the nexus of magic in the satrapies—using the Blinding Knife. Gavin agrees, places a piece of black luxin that will ensure his obedience over his eye socket, and walks to the ship. It is the
Golden Mean
, captained by none other than Gunner.

Teia is given a final mission by the Order to test her. She is told to murder someone (Gavin) once he has completed a quest for the Order. If she fails, they will murder her father.

Karris meets with Andross, who tells her that Ironfist has declared himself king of Paria. She then has to kill Blackguard Gavin Greyling, who broke his halos while out searching for her husband. After his Freeing, Karris orders that the Blackguard is to search for Gavin no more, accepting that he is dead.

Liv decides to join the White King and realize her full powers as a goddess, seeing that he is preparing to sail the bane to invade the Chromeria.

Kip and his army successfully free the besieged city of Dúnbheo, at great personal cost to Conn Arthur, who deserts following the battle. Kip deposes the nobles and claims the city for himself and his army. He and Tisis profess their love for each other and are finally able to consummate their marriage. Kip uses every color of luxin to repair an ancient mural in their room, known as
Túsaíonn Domhan
, ‘A World Begins.’

Author’s Note

Astute readers—or those who accidentally read Author’s Notes—will notice that Teia’s first scenes happen at the same time several characters’ last scenes occurred in
The Blood Mirror
.

Am I cheating? Retroactively patching up continuity errors?

Nah. I’d already written these overlapping scenes, and they don’t change what the other characters do, but I decided to pull them from
The Blood Mirror
and put them here instead.

Why? One of the challenges of writing an epic story over multiple volumes is balancing dramatic unities against one another. The Light-bringer series tells one huge, unified story, but my goal has been for each book to comprise its own story so that both journey and destination satisfy. Sometimes the desires of an individual novel yield to the demands of the whole series—say, when big plot questions are raised in one volume but not answered until several books later. Other times I think an individual novel has the better claim.

This series certainly doesn’t need more complexity, and thus the vast majority of the scenes
are
presented in chronological order. But what’s a writer to do when a character jumps the gun and gets into her book five problems while the other characters are still wrapping up their book four problems? (In this case, Teia.)

A strict chronological presentation would interrupt the other characters’ book four finales, and then, when book five came out, what Teia had done mere hours before would have to be reintroduced. Worse, that ordering would undercut our end-of-book satisfaction—that precious, fragile feeling that though this epic journey will continue, we’ve reached a logical base camp.

Characters warming themselves around a fire and looking up at the mountain peak they’ll attempt tomorrow? That’s a good tease. Characters never stopping hiking and the book simply ending? That’s bad structure.

In another case here, a character off in the hinterlands has his most interesting scenes occur back-to-back in a single day, while everyone else’s are spread over weeks.

Chronological order may be the simplest, but where one character’s actions won’t (yet) affect other characters, I’ve chosen to present a small number of scenes in the order I think gives the best reading experience instead.

Trust me, when the characters come back together, it all works out.

The chronology, that is. Not necessarily the events.

—Brent Weeks
in a hole in the ground, outside Portland, Oregon

 

 

Beware of shedding blood unnecessarily . . . for blood never sleeps.

—A
N
-N
ASIR
S
ALAH AD
-D
IN
Y
USUF IBN
A
YYUB
(S
ALADIN
)

Chapter 1

The White King’s plan to destroy Kip Guile only began with an assassination. The assassination began with the scent of cloves.

“I love being in the Mighty, don’t get me wrong,” Big Leo was telling Ferkudi, “but sometimes the bodyguard duty is too much for only five of us, don’t you think? The Blackguard always has at least a hundred warriors. That’s like ten times as many. Fifteen? Dammit, twenty. You see? That’s how tired I am. And sure, they gotta guard more people than we—”

Ferkudi sniffed.

Big Leo stopped. He took his eyes off the chattering nobles for the first time all night and glanced at him. Like most things he did, Ferkudi sniffed
different
, huffing in his air in little triads, short, short, long.

The two of them had pulled door-guard duty for the big dinner party hailing Kip (Breaker to the Mighty) as the Liberator of Dúnbheo. After his initial chilly reception by the Council of Divines—and a couple of hangings—the nobles of Blood Forest’s cultural capital were trying to make nice.

When Ferkudi said nothing, Big Leo took the sniff as agreement. He continued, “I mean, no one’s going to make a move on the city’s big savior tonight, right? It ever bother you no one seems to notice
Lord Kip Guile
didn’t save the city all by himself?”

Everything was fine, Leo thought. No one was acting strangely. Sure, there were some nerves as everyone was trying to figure out how to turn Breaker into an ally, but the noise of the crowd was right. People even seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Ferkudi sniffed.

“Don’t tell me you’re coming down with a cold,” Leo said, not looking over this time.

Ferkudi inhaled deeply, like a war-bound soldier carefully filling his mnemonic storehouses with the scent of his wife’s hair.

“What?” Ferkudi said blankly. “Cold? Huh?”

“Yeah, all right. What was I—oh, yeah, I mean Breaker saves the city, distributes all our food to the starving? And fixes that ceiling-art-whatever-thing? That
meant
something to these people. He’s like a god here now. If the Council of Divines or any of the Blood Forest nobles makes a move against him, the people would riot. They’d burn the nobles’ heart trees, string up every last one of—”

Ferkudi interrupted. “Anyone get added to the guest list late?”

Ferkudi loved lists, all lists. When the palace chatelaine had shown him her immaculately organized ledgers, the look on his face had been a baggage train of astonishment, then disbelief, then rapture, and finally utter infatuation for the bespectacled sexagenarian and her perfect figures. Kip—Breaker—had been turning Ferkudi’s odd brain to good use in his now daily wranglings with traders and bankers and nobles. The Mighty mostly used it for humor: setting Ferkudi to ranking units of the army by sewage produced had been a recent favorite. (By weight? No, by volume. How long after excretion?)

But when you pulled door duty, there was nothing humorous about reconciling the guest list. “Absolutely not!” Big Leo said, stone serious. Something in his growl or his changing stance sent a few nearby nobles back a step.

It was a discipline they’d learned from the Blackguard—there were
never
to be late additions or surprise guests when they provided security, ever. If a Blackguard saw someone at an event who wasn’t on the master list, he or she had free rein to consider them a threat.

But that only worked when the Blackguards could identify every guest by sight. Maybe Ferkudi could do that on the Mighty’s second night in Dúnbheo, but Big Leo certainly couldn’t. A flare of white-knuckled rage shot through him. The five of them, being asked to protect the Lightbringer himself? Impossible!

Damn you, Cruxer, it’s been a year. You should have recruited fifty of us by now.

But everything still looked fine.

“Ferk?” he said.

“I talked with the cooks,” the big round-shouldered young man said, sniffing again. “There were no dishes with cloves.”

Cloves. Superviolet luxin smelled something like cloves. Big Leo felt a frisson down his spine.

“Breaker’s the only declared superviolet in the room,” Big Leo said. Kip sat at the head table, where he was chatting amicably with an older woman who was some kind of authority on cultural antiquities.

He was much too far away for the scent to be coming from him.

“A secret message?” Big Leo said. Superviolet was often used for diplomatic messages. This was precisely the kind of crowd that would carry those, and even a noble could get jostled, breaking some fragile superviolet luxin scrawled on a parchment.

Or the cooks could have added cloves to one of the dishes at the last moment. Right?

Hell, for all Big Leo knew, maybe some lady walking past had clove-scented perfume.

‘Falsely declaring an assassination attempt is the worst thing you can do . . .’ Blackguard Commander Ironfist had once lectured them, ‘. . . except stand over the body of your ward. Announcing an assassination attempt means throwing a burning torch into the powder magazine of history.
You
are the people trusted with guns and spears and drafting while the most powerful and paranoid people in the world sleep and sup and talk and f . . . fornicate.’ They’d laughed, but the point was serious: several Prisms had been murdered by cuckolded spouses and scorned lovers. ‘When powerful paranoid people see you burst into a room shouting, armed and drafting, you
will
see pistols somehow appear on people who you know have been searched and cleared. You will see munds somehow turn out to be able to draft. You will see people innocent of everything except stupidity give you reasons to believe they need killing.

‘In a false alarm, you may see people die for no reason other than that you yelled. You may kill them yourself.

‘Given all that, some say calling a false alarm is shameful,’ Commander Ironfist had said. ‘But I say a Blackguard who doesn’t shout a Nine Kill once in their life isn’t working on edge. We protect the most important people in the world. Work on edge.’

The code was shorthand for the number of attackers, the suspected intent, and capabilities. A normal shout might be One Kill Five (a solo attacker, attempting assassination, likely a red drafter) or Two Grab Ten (two attackers attempting kidnapping, armed with muskets). Nine was ‘unspecified’ and the most likely to be wrong.

Big Leo looked over at Ferkudi, praying he’d say he’d been mistaken.

Ferkudi was glowering at the room, his brain grinding forward as slowly as a millstone and just as implacably.

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