Authors: Raymond E. Feist
A Crown Imperiled
A Kingdom Besieged
Rides a Dread Legion
At the Gates of Darkness
Flight of the Nighthawks
Into a Dark Realm
Wrath of a Mad God
Talon of the Silver Hawk
King of Foxes
EGENDS OF THE
(with William R. Forstchen)
Murder in LaMut
(with Joel Rosenberg)
Jimmy the Hand
(with S. M. Stirling)
Krondor: The Betrayal
Krondor: The Assassins
Krondor: Tear of the Gods
THE SERPENTWAR SAGA
Shadow of a Dark Queen
Rise of a Merchant Prince
Rage of a Demon King
Shards of a Broken Crown
(with Janny Wurts)
Daughter of the Empire
Servant of the Empire
Mistress of the Empire
Prince of the Blood
The King's Buccaneer
A Darkness at Sethanon
This one's for Janny Wurts, who showed me that two heads often were far better than one.
Raymond E Feist
When I think of Honour, Colonel Donald V Bennett, Fox-Green, Omaha Beach, and Sergeant Andy Andrew, Easy Red, Omaha Beach stand before me. When duty called, they served unflinchingly. I am honoured to call them my friends.
William R Forstchen
The rain had stopped.
Lord Brucal, Knight-Marshal of the Armies of the West, entered the command pavilion, snorting like a warhorse and swearing under his breath. âDamn weather,' he finally said. The elderly general, still broad-shouldered and fit, ran a gloved hand back from his forehead, getting the damp hair out of his eyes.
Borric, Duke of Crydee, and his second-in-command looked at his old friend with a wry smile. Brucal was a steadfast warrior and a reliable ally in the politics of the Kingdom of the Isles, as well as an able field general. But he had a tendency towards vanity, though. Borric knew he was getting irritated by the regal mane of hair now being plastered to his skull.
âStill sick?' Borric was a striking man of middle years, with more black in his hair and beard than grey. He had on his usual garments of blackâthe only colour he had donned since the death of his wife many years beforeâand over this he wore the brown tabard of Crydee, emblazoned with a golden gull above which perched a small golden crown, signifying Borric's royal blood. His eyes were dark and piercing, and currently showed a slight amusement at his old friend's bluster.
As Borric expected, the old grey-bearded duke swore an oath. âI'm not sick, damn it! Just a bit of a sniffle.'
Borric remembered Brucal when he was a young man, visiting Borric's father at Crydee, his laughter, with his robust joy and a
glint in his eye. Even when his reddish-brown hair and beard had turned grey, Brucal had been a man who lived each day to the fullest. Today was the first time Borric recognized that Brucal was now an old man.
On the other hand, it had to be said that Brucal was an old man who could quickly draw a sword and do considerable harm. And he refused to admit he was ill.
Brucal pulled off his heavy gauntlets and handed them to an aide. He allowed another to remove the heavy fur-lined weather-cloak he had worn from his own tent. He was dressed in simple blue trousers and a grey tunic, his tabard left behind in his tent. âAnd this bloody rain doesn't help.'
âAnother week of this and the snows will be falling in earnest.'
âAccording to our scouts, it's already snowing heavily up north, around the Lake of the Sky,' replied Brucal. âWe should consider sending the reserves back to LaMut and Yabon for the winter.'
Borric nodded. âWe might get one more week of clement weather before the winter storms come, though. Just enough time for the Tsurani to start something. I think we'll keep half of the reserves close by; I'll order the other half back to LaMut.'
Brucal looked at the campaign map on the large table before Borric. He said, âThey haven't been doing much, lately, have they?'
âThe same as last year,' said Borric, pointing at the map. âA sortie here, a raid there, but there's little evidence they seek to expand much any more.'
Borric studied the map: the invading Tsurani had taken a large chunk of the Grey Tower Mountains and the Free Cities of Natal, but had seemed satisfied to hold a stable front for the last five years of the war. The dukes had managed one successful raid through the valley in the mountains the Tsurani had used as their beachhead, and since then intelligence about what was occurring behind enemy lines was non-existent.
Brucal blew his nose in a rag used to oil weapons, and then threw it into a brazier nearby. His large nose now looked red and shiny. The nine-year campaign had taken its toll on him, Borric noticed.
Borric thought back a moment to when the first sightings of the Tsurani invaders had been reported, by two boys at his own keep
who had found a wrecked Tsurani ship on the headlands near his castle at Crydee. Later, word had been brought by the Elven Queen of aliens in the forests that lay between her own Elvandar and the Duchy of Crydee.
The world had changed: the fact of an alien invasion from another world via a magic gate was no longer a source of wonder. Borric had a war to fight and win. He had added some marks with brush and ink to the campaign map.
âWhat's this?' asked Brucal, pointing to a notation Borric had added earlier in the morning.
âAnother migration of Dark Brothers. It looks as if a fairly large contingent of them are moving down the southern foothills of the Great Northern Mountains. They're treading a narrow path near the elven forests. I can't understand why they'd come over the mountains at this time of year.'
âThose blackhearts don't have to have a reason,' observed Brucal.
Borric nodded. âMy son Arutha reported a large force tangled with the Tsurani while they were besieging my castle five years ago. But those were Dark Brothers driven from the Grey Towers by the Tsurani; they were striking north to join their kin in the Northlands. They've been quiet since then.'
âThere's one possibility.'
Borric shrugged. âI'm listening, old friend.'
âThat's a bloody long trek for nothing,' observed Brucal, as he wiped his nose with the back of his hand. âThey're not fools.'
âThe Dark Brotherhood is many things, but never stupid,' agreed Borric. âIf they're moving in force, it's for a reason.'
âWhere are they now?'
Borric said, âLast reports from the scouts near the Elven Forest. They're avoiding the dwarves at Stone Mountain and the elven patrols, heading east.'
âLake of the Sky is the only destination,' said Brucal, âunless they're going to turn south and attack the elves or the Tsurani.'
âWhy Lake of the Sky?'
âIt makes sense if they're trying to get up to the eastern side of the Northlands. There's a spur of mountains that runs north-east out of the Teeth of the World, hundreds of miles long and impassable. Over
the Great Northerns, past the Lake of the Sky, and up a trail back north over the Teeth of the World is a short-cut, actually.' The old duke stroked his still-wet beard. âIt's one of the reasons we have so much trouble with the bastards up in Yabon.'
Borric nodded. âThey tend to leave us alone in Crydee, compared to the encounters your garrisons have with them.'
âI just wish I knew why they were out in force, heading east, this close to winter,' muttered Brucal.
âSomething's up,' said Borric.
Brucal nodded. âI've been fighting Clan Raven since I was a boy.' He fell silent for a moment. âTheir paramount chieftain is a murderous dog named Murad. If this bunch from the Northlands is looking to join with himâ¦'
âI don't know, but it'll be bad.' Looking over the rest of the map, Brucal asked, âDo we have anyone in that area now?'
âJust the garrison forts along the Tsurani front, and a few last patrols before winter,' Borric replied.
Brucal leaned close to inspect each of the small ink marks on the map, then made a sound half-way between a snort and a laugh. âHartraft.'
âWho?' asked Borric.
âSon of one of my squires. Dennis Hartraft. Runs a company of thugs and cut-throats called the Marauders for Baron Moyet. He's up there.'
âWhat's he doing?' asked Borric. âThe name is familiar, but I don't recall any reports from him.'
âDennis is not one for paperwork,' said Brucal. âWhat he's doing is unleashing bloody murder on the Tsurani. It's personal with him.'
âCan we get word to him about this Dark Brothers migration?'
âHe's an independent. He'll come back to Moyet's camp for the winter in the next week or two. I'll send word to the Baron to get whatever information from Dennis he can.' Then Brucal laughed. âThough it would be fitting for him and Clan Raven to tangle if it comes to that.'
Brucal said, âToo long a story to tell now. Just say there's even
more history between his family and Murad's blood-drinkers than there is between him and the Tsurani.'
âSo what happens if this Hartraft and the Dark Brothers meet up?'
Brucal sighed, and wiped his nose. âA lot of people are going to get dead.'
Borric took a step away from the map table and looked out of the pavilion's door. A light mix of rain and snow was starting to fall. After a moment, he said, âMaybe they'll miss each other and Hartraft will get back to Moyet's camp.'
âMaybe,' said Brucal. âBut if that bunch from the north gets between Dennis and Moyet's camp, or some bunch from Clan Raven moves to meet with themâ¦'
Brucal let the thought go unfinished. Borric knew what he thought. If that many Brothers got between Hartraft and his base, the chances for the Kingdom soldiers returning home alive were nearly non-existent. Borric let his mind wander for a moment, considering the cold hills of the north and the icy winter almost upon them, then he brushed away the thoughts. There were other fronts and other conflicts to worry about, and he couldn't help Hartraft and his men, even if he knew where they were. Too many men had already died in this war for him to lose sleep about another high-risk unit out behind enemy lines. Besides, maybe they'd get lucky.