The Shattered Land: The Dreaming Dark - Book 2

BOOK: The Shattered Land: The Dreaming Dark - Book 2
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P
RAISE FOR
K
EITH
B
AKER’S
T
HE
C
ITY OF
T
OWERS …

“… I ate it up. I read the novel in a single sitting and enjoyed it entirely … Baker’s characters are solid and believable, with real personalities and personal stories. The story is a compelling mystery with a hard edge. It’s a fun, fast-paced adventure with interesting characters and setting, and enough grit and dark tone for me to take it seriously.”


SF Site

“… Baker has a deft hand for teasing out the plot, wrapping up one story with blazing action while leaving other stories—and other conflicts—waiting for the sequel.
The City of Towers
is a great lead-in to The Dreaming Dark trilogy and to Eberron as a whole.”


Black Gate Magazine

The exciting saga of The Dreaming Dark begun in
The City of Towers
continues as the heroes embark on a desperate adventure to save one of their own. Their one hope for salvation lies across the Thunder Sea on the dark continent of Xen’drik …

… The Shattered Land!

THE
DREAMING DARK

Book 1
C
ITY OF
T
OWERS

Book 2
T
HE
S
HATTERED
L
AND

Book 3
T
HE
G
ATES OF
N
IGHT

D
EDICATION

To everyone who has
helped to make the dream
of Eberron into reality
.

And to Patricia Baker,
who has helped me to shape
my stories and dreams since
the day I was born
.


KB

D
aine dove across the makeshift barricade, but the enemy was right behind him. He caught a glimpse of the warforged soldier as it hurtled over the wall; in the firelight it was a nightmare of steel and sharp edges. Even as it landed, it lashed out with an elongated forearm covered with razor-sharp spikes.

Daine could barely remember the start of the battle. It might have been hours since the army of steel soldiers came bursting out of the night, tearing into the Cyran camp. The troop had been taken by surprise, and the butchery was all too fresh in Daine’s mind. It was this memory that gave him the strength to keep fighting, to overcome exhaustion and the pain of a dozen cuts and bruises. The reason for the attack was a mystery—and Daine wasn’t going to let the rest of his troop fall to this unknown foe.

Exhausted as he was, Daine had a lifetime of training to fall back on. The warforged was just a shadow in the darkness, and Daine let the image fall away. As the spiked limb flew toward his head, he remembered his days on the drilling fields in Metrol, duel after duel after duel. He could hear his grandfather barking instructions as he spun toward his foe and lashed out with his longsword, blocking the warforged’s clublike arm with all the force he could muster.
Strength versus strength, speed versus speed
. His forearm ached from the impact, but he forced himself to move.
Close the distance, use the space!
Pushing forward and twisting
his blade, Daine held the ’forged’s arm in place as he stepped in close and thrust with his dagger. The adamantine blade slid into the gap in the ’forged’s armor where a human would keep his stomach, and Daine smiled as he cut through leathery cords and felt something shatter.

This triumph was short lived.
Don’t expect one blow to end every fight
, his grandfather whispered in his mind … too late. Pain lanced through his thigh, and he caught a glimpse of bloody spikes bristling on his enemy’s knee. Gritting his teeth, Daine stepped back into his guard position. His left leg burned when he shifted his weight onto it, but the ’forged was staggering as well; Daine’s blow had struck true.

The two wounded soldiers studied each other, waiting for an opening.

“You don’t have to do this,” Daine said. “Lay down your … arms, and you might live out the night.”

The warforged said nothing. For all Daine knew, it couldn’t speak. It was an unusual design, blackened metal studded with long spikes and sharp blades. Blue fire burned in its crystal eyes. It watched Daine and slowly stepped to the right.

Daine grimaced. It might be silent, but it wasn’t stupid; it wanted to force Daine to move on his wounded leg until the pain wore him down.

“Who are you fighting for?” he said. “What do they gain from your death?”

Silence. It continued the slow circle.

In truth, Daine hadn’t expected the soldier to surrender. Warforged were remarkably loyal to their causes; they were built for battle and knew no other life. But the conversation had served its purpose.

“It’s yours, Lei.”

Distracted by Daine’s words, the warforged hadn’t heard the woman approach. She rose up from behind a mound of rubble, a glittering crossbow in her hands. The warforged staggered as a bolt smashed into its back, and its eye-crystals flared with light.

Even as the bolt struck, Daine was flying forward in a swift lunge. He cried out with pain as his foot hit the ground, but his blade slammed into the gap in his enemy’s stomach. The
warforged collapsed, an inert mass of metal and wood, and Daine fell to one knee.

Lei walked out from behind the rubble. Her coppery hair gleamed in the firelight, and the golden studs on her leather vest gleamed with the same faint radiance that surrounded her crossbow. She knelt by the fallen warforged, examining its body.

“I’m fine,” Daine said. “Thanks for asking.”

She looked up from the ’forged. Soot and dirt blackened her face, and her eyes were distant; the battle was clearly taking its toll. “Sorry. I … these warforged …” She gestured vaguely at the fallen soldier. “This doesn’t make any sense.”

“A lot of things don’t make sense. Look, Pierce was taking the longer route back here, but as soon as he returns—”

“He’s already back.”

Warforged
. “Fine. Get him, Jholeg, Jani, and Krazhal, and bring them to me.”

“Understood.” Lei’s eyes were back on the warforged. “What’s going on?”

“Get the others. I only want to explain this once, and now … I’ve got to see a halfling about this leg.”

Daine braced himself against the wall and stood up. The moons were hidden by clouds of black smoke, and the smell of blood and fire filled the air. Out in the valley, the wreckage of the fallen airship still burned amidst the ruined tents. Corpses were intertwined with shattered warforged, but no movement could be seen in the flickering firelight. Glancing around, he saw a few of his soldiers reinforcing the barricade and tending to the injured. Krazhal, the siege engineer, was standing over another warforged, hammering relentlessly on his fallen foe. His eyes were wild, and he struck again and again, heedless of the fact that his victim was already in pieces.

They’d lost most of their supplies in the initial attack, but Jode had done the best he could, assembling a makeshift infirmary in the midst of the camp. Lei arrived with Pierce and the other three soldiers while the halfling healer was examining Daine’s leg.

“You’re lucky your opponent had such poor aim,” Jode said, studying the wound. Daine was wearing a coat of chainmail over leather, but the spikes had punched through both layers to leave a bloody gouge in the thigh. “There may yet be little Daines frolicking on the battlefields of the future.”

Daine shook his head. Humor might be Jode’s way of dealing with the horror, but it wasn’t his. “Just deal with it.”

The halfling placed his tiny hand over the wound, and the intricate blue pattern traced across his bald head burst into light. When he lifted his hand, the gash had mended, leaving a dark bruise. “Good enough?”

“It’ll have to do.” Daine stood, flexing the muscle. Satisfied, he turned to the knot of people who’d come at his call. “None of this makes any sense. Leagues from any settlement, in one of the least hospitable regions of the ridge—this may be contested land, but it holds no strategic value. This should have been a safe path to the gap garrison, yet here we are. Lei, what have you found?”

BOOK: The Shattered Land: The Dreaming Dark - Book 2
13.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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