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The Legend of Deathwalker

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The Legend of Deathwalker

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Author: David Gemmell
Publisher: Del Rey / Ballantine, 1999
Bantam UK, 1996
Series: Drenai Saga: Book 7
Book Type: Novel
Genre: Fantasy
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(16 reads / 5 ratings)


Enter a powerful realm of legend, dark sorcery, and conquest, where the mighty Drenai warrior Druss faces his most deadly opponent . . .

Druss the Legend, the dark axman known as the Deathwalker, must join the warrior Talisman on a mission of blood and glory. Only the stolen Eyes of Alchazzar--mystic jewels of power--will save Druss's dying friend, then unite the Nadir tribes against the evil of the Gothir. Druss agrees to help look for the twin gems--hidden for centuries in the shrine of Oshikai, the Demon-bane, the Nadir's greatest hero.

It has been prophesied that with the recovery of the stones, there will come the Uniter, a magnificent fighter who will free the Nadir from brutal oppression. But Garen-Tsen, the sadistic power behind the Gothir throne, also seeks the gems. To control them, he will send five thousand men against a handful of savages, Talisman, and the one Drenai warrior.


As the huge crowd bayed for blood, Sieben the Poet found himself staring around the vast colosseum, its mighty columns and arches, its tiers and statues. Far below on the golden sand of the arena two men were fighting for the glory of their nations. Fifteen thousand people were shouting now, the noise cacophonous like the roaring of some inchoate beast. Sieben lifted a scented handkerchief to his face, seeking to blot out the smell of sweat that enveloped him from all sides.

The colosseum was a marvelous piece of architecture, its columns shaped into statues of ancient heroes and gods, its seats of finest marble covered by cushions of down-filled green velvet. The cushions irritated Sieben, for the color clashed with his bright blue silken tunic inset with shards of opal on the puffed sleeves. The poet was proud of the garment, which had cost a suitably enormous amount of money and had been bought from the best tailor in Drenan. To have it beggared by a poor choice of seat covering was almost more than he could stand. Still, with everyone seated, the effect was muted. Servants moved endlessly through the crowd, bearing trays of cool drinks or sweetmeats, pies, cakes, and savory delicacies. The tiers of the rich were shaded by silken coverings, also in that dreadful green, while the very rich sat in red-cushioned splendor with slaves fanning them. Sieben had tried to change his seat and sit among the nobility, but no amount of flattery or offers of bribes could purchase him a place.

To his right Sieben could just see the edge of the God-King's balcony and the straight backs of two of the Royal Guards in their silver breastplates and white cloaks. Their helms, thought the poet, were particularly magnificent, embossed with gold and crested with white horsehair plumes. That was the beauty of the simple colors, he thought; black, white, silver, and gold were rarely upstaged by upholstery, no matter what its color.

"Is he winning?" asked Majon, the Drenai ambassador, tugging at Sieben's sleeve. "He's taking a fearful battering. The Lentrian has never been beaten, you know. They say he killed two fighters last spring in a competition in Mashrapur. Damn, I bet ten gold Raq on Druss."

Sieben gently lifted the ambassador's fingers from his sleeve, brushing at the bruised silk, and forced his gaze away from the wonders of the architecture to focus briefly on the combat below. The Lentrian hit Druss with an uppercut, then a right cross. Druss backed away, blood seeping from a cut over his left eye. "What odds did you get?" asked Sieben.

The slender ambassador ran his hand over his close-cropped silver hair. "Six to one. I must have been mad."

"Not at all," said Sieben smoothly. "It was patriotism that drove you. Look, I know ambassadors are not well paid, so I will take your bet. Give me the token."

"I couldn't possibly ... I mean, he's being thrashed out there."

"Of course you must. After all, Druss is my friend, and I should have wagered on him out of loyalty." Sieben saw the glint of avarice in the ambassador's dark eyes.

"Well, if you are sure." The man's slim fingers darted into the pearl-beaded leather pouch at his side, producing a small square of papyrus bearing a wax seal and the amount wagered. Sieben took it, and Majon waited with hand outstretched.

"I didn't bring my purse with me," said Sieben, "but I will hand over the money tonight."

"Yes, of course," said Majon, his disappointment obvious.

"I think I'll take a walk around the colosseum," said Sieben. "There is so much to see. I understand there are art galleries and shops on the levels below."

"You don't show much concern for your friend," said Majon.

Sieben ignored the criticism. "My dear ambassador, Druss fights because he loves to fight. Generally one saves one's concern for the poor unfortunates he faces. I will see you later at the celebrations."

Easing himself from his seat, Sieben climbed the marble steps, making his way to the official gambling booth. A gap-toothed cleric was sitting inside the recess. Behind him stood a soldier, guarding the sacks of money already wagered.

"You wish to place a wager?" asked the cleric.

"No, I am waiting to collect."

"You have bet on the Lentrian?"

"No. I bet on the winner. It's an old habit," he answered, with a smile. "Be so good as to have sixty gold pieces available, plus my original ten."

The cleric chuckled. "You bet on the Drenai? It will be a cold day in hell before you see a return on that investment."

"My, I do think I sense a drop in the temperature," Sieben told him with a smile.

In the heat of the arena the Lentrian champion was tiring. Blood was seeping from his broken nose, and his right eye had swollen shut, but even so his strength was prodigious. Druss moved in, ducking beneath a right cross and thundering a blow to the man's midsection; the muscles of the Lentrian's stomach were like woven steel. A punch smashed down onto Druss' neck, and he felt his legs buckle. With a grunt of pain he sent an uppercut into the taller man's bearded chin, and the Lentrian's head snapped back. Druss hammered an overhand right that missed its mark, cracking against the man's temple. The Lentrian wiped blood from his face, then hit Druss with a thundering straight left followed by a right hook that all but spun Druss from his feet.

The crowd was baying, sensing that the end was close. Druss tried to move in and grapple, only to be stopped by a straight left that jarred him to his heels. Blocking a right, he fired home another uppercut. The Lentrian swayed but did not fall. He countered with a chopping blow that took Druss behind the right ear. Druss shrugged it off. The Lentrian's strength was fading; the punch lacked speed and weight.

This was the moment! Druss waded in, sending a combination of punches to the Lentrian's face: three straight lefts followed by a right hook that exploded against the man's chin. The Lentrian spun off balance, tried to right himself, then fell face first to the sand.

A sound like rolling thunder went up, booming around the packed arena. Druss took a deep breath and stepped back, acknowledging the cheers. The new Drenai flag, a white stallion on a field of blue, was hoisted high, fluttering in the afternoon breeze. Striding forward, Druss halted below the royal balcony and bowed to the God-King he could not see.

Behind him two Lentrians ran out and knelt beside their fallen champion. Stretcher bearers followed, and the unconscious man was carried from the arena. Druss waved to the crowd, then walked slowly to the dark mouth of the tunnel that led through to the bathhouses and rest areas for the athletes.

The spear thrower Pellin stood grinning at the tunnel entrance. "Thought he had you there, mountain man."

"It was close," said Druss, spitting blood from his mouth. His face was swollen, and several teeth had been loosened. "He was strong. I'll say that for him."

The two men walked down the tunnel, emerging into the first bathhouse. The sound from the arena was muted there, and around a dozen athletes were relaxing in the three heated pools of marble. Druss sat down beside the first. Rose petals floated on the steamy surface of the water, their fragrance filling the room.

The runner Pars swam across to him. "You look as if a herd of horses has run across your face," he said.

Leaning forward, Druss placed a hand on top of the man's balding head and propelled him down beneath the surface. Pars swam clear and surfaced several yards away; with a sweep of his hand he drenched Druss. Pellin, stripped now of his leggings and tunic, dived into the pool.

Druss peeled off his leggings and slid into the warm water. The relief to his aching muscles was instant, and for some minutes he swam around the pool; then he hauled himself clear. Pars joined him. "Stretch yourself out and I'll knead the aches away," he said. Druss moved to a massage table and lay facedown, where Pars rubbed oil into his palms and began to work expertly on the muscles of his upper back.

Pellin sat down close by, toweling his dark hair, then draping the white cloth over his shoulders. "Did you watch the other contest?" he asked Druss.


"The Gothir man, Klay, is awesome. Fast. Strong chin. That plus a right hand that comes down like a hammer. It was all over in less than twenty heartbeats. Never seen the like, Druss. The Vagrian didn't know what hit him."

"So I heard," Druss grunted as Pars' fingers dug deeply into the swollen muscles of his neck.

"You'll take him, Druss. What does it matter that he's bigger, stronger, faster, and better-looking?"

"And fitter," put in Pellin. "They say he runs five miles every day on the mountains outside the city."

"Yes, I forgot fitter. Younger, too. How old are you, Druss?" asked Pars.

"Thirty," grunted Druss.

"An old man," said Pellin with a wink at Pars. "Still, I'm sure you'll win. Well ... fairly sure."

Druss sat up. "It is good of you youngsters to be so supportive."

"Well, we are a team," said Pellin. "And since you deprived us of Grawal's delightful company, we've sort of adopted you, Druss." Pars began to work on Druss' swollen knuckles. "More seriously, Druss, my friend," said the runner, "your hands are badly bruised. Back home we'd use ice to bring the swelling down. I should soak them in cold water tonight."

"There's three days before the final. I'll be fine by then. How did you fare in your race?"

"I finished second and so will contest the final at l...

Copyright © 1996 by David Gemmell


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