Authors: James Barclay
Tags: #Fantasy, #Fiction, #General
He did not take Stein’s hand, though something on the man’s palm caught Auum’s attention. Stein held up both his hands to quieten the displeasure of his mages.
‘I remind you that we were not expecting any thanks,’ he said to them. ‘But a word of understanding would not go amiss.’
‘Really?’ said Auum. ‘I understand that humans kept my people as slaves and treated them like animals for a hundred and fifty years. I understand that your magic gives you power but it does not give you courage. I understand that the elves will never again be enslaved by men.’
‘But you should also understand that we are linked. The war that is coming in Balaia will touch every corner of our land, and it will reach yours in time. If Ystormun’s cadre are the victors, then one day they will grow strong enough to look to your shores, and you will need to defend yourselves.’
‘Ystormun is dead,’ said Auum.
Stein shook his head. ‘No. He is diminished. We do not have the power to kill him. Only his cadre can do that. His soul is with the . . . you call them the Arakhe . . . and he will return. He will not forget, Auum, and he will never forgive. And one day we may call upon the elves to fight with us to keep him and his like from dominion.
‘You must answer that call, when it comes, for the good of both elves and men.’
Auum’s hand snapped out and he grabbed Stein’s wrist, turning it over to reveal his palm. A birthmark stained it, in a shape not unlike a tree.
‘You have proved that you can keep your word and for that I grant you respect,’ said Auum. ‘But until four generations of your kin are grown and one holds this mark again, no man will be welcome here. No man will survive coming here. That is my promise and, unlike you, I will be alive to keep it.’
‘So be it,’ said Stein. ‘We’ll take word to the other cities. Without Ystormun, they will fall to you like leaves in autumn.’
‘Thank you,’ said Auum. ‘We will bring an army to Tolt Anoor and to Deneth Barine. Any humans we find will suffer the same fate as those here. Tell them that too.’
Stein gave a command, and in a few moments all his men had shadow wings on their backs.
‘I hope that, one day, elf and man will greet each other like brothers,’ said Stein.
‘As Garan would say,’ said Takaar. ‘Don’t push your luck.’
Stein smiled. ‘Goodbye.’
Auum watched him and his mages fly high into the sky and head out towards a ship anchored in the deep water beyond the harbour. He walked to the edge of the roof, feeling the splintered bones and blood of Ystormun beneath his feet.
‘That one’s for you, Katyett,’ he said.
‘And for every elf who died by human hand,’ said Takaar.
They stood and looked out over Ysundeneth. The hoots and calls of the mob were mingled with songs that rose in ten thousand throats. Across the city fires were burning and elves prayed in every desecrated temple, thanking their gods for their deliverance.
Auum looked directly down. The TaiGethen still stood in front of the doors though the crowd in front of them was beginning to disperse. Ulysan sensed him and looked up. He put his hands together and smiled. As one the TaiGethen began to sing a hymn of remembrance for their fallen.
Auum sighed. Tears for Elyss and his child were in his eyes. Beside him Takaar was staring towards the forest and the clarity was gone from him. He twitched with the desire to leave. Auum didn’t blame him.
‘Bloody hell, Takaar, but we’ve got some work to do now,’ he said.
Takaar looked at him, and the ghost of a smile played over his lips.
‘Four generations isn’t very long in human terms.’
‘Can you have some Il-Aryn ready by then?’
‘I think so.’
‘Good,’ said Auum. ‘Then you’d best get to it.’
Auum jumped from the temple roof to join the TaiGethen in song.
Thank you to Gillian Redfearn for fantastic insights, friendship and support; to Robert Kirby who works so hard on my behalf; to all my friends and fans who have stayed the journey over the past thirteen years and are still hungry for more; and to all at Gollancz who help make every book we publish together better than the last.
And thank you most of all to Simon Spanton. You’ve been a rock in my life as an author ever since 1999, as well as a truly great friend, and though we aren’t working together right now, I’ll never forget all you have done for me. I aspire to be a man with as much heart and soul as you.
Also by James Barclay from Gollancz:
Chronicles of the Raven
Legends of the Raven
The Ascendants of Estorea
CRY OF THE NEWBORN
SHOUT FOR THE DEAD
ELVES: ONCE WALKED WITH GODS
A Gollancz eBook
Copyright © James Barclay 2012
All rights reserved.
The right of James Barclay to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
First published in Great Britain in 2012 by
The Orion Publishing Group Ltd
5 Upper Saint Martin’s Lane
London, WC2H 9EA
An Hachette UK Company
This eBook first published in 2012 by Gollancz.
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
ISBN 978 0 575 08685 2
All characters and events in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
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