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White Wolf

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White Wolf

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Author: David Gemmell
Publisher: Bantam UK, 2003
Del Rey / Ballantine, 2003
Series: Drenai Saga: Book 10
Book Type: Novel
Genre: Fantasy
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(15 reads / 4 ratings)


White Wolf marks a return to the bestselling Drenai series and David Gemmell’s most popular hero of all, Druss the Legend.

Skilgannon the Damned had vanished from the pages of history. No-one knew where he had gone, following the terrible triumph at Perapolis, and the assasins sent by the Witch Queen could find no trace of his passing. Three years later, a murderous mob gathers outside a monastery, faced by a single, unarmed priest. In a few terrifying seconds their world is changed for ever, and word spreads across the lands of the East -- Skilgannon is back.

Now he must travel across a perilous, demon-haunted realm seeking a mysterious temple and the ageless goddess who rules it. With assassins on his trail and an army of murderous foes ahead, the Damned sets off on a quest to bring the dead to life. But he does not travel alone. The man beside him is Druss the Legend.

In this tale of love, betrayal and treachery, in a world torn by war, White Wolf examines the nature of heroism and friendship and the narrow lines dividing good and evil.


Smoke from the burning buildings still hung in the air, but the rioting mobs of yesterday had dispersed now, as the two priests walked slowly down the hill toward the town. Heavy clouds were gathering over the eastern mountains, promising rain for the afternoon, and a cool wind was blowing. The walk from the old monastery buildings to the little town was one that Brother Braygan usually enjoyed, especially with the sunshine glinting from the white buildings, and glittering on the rushing river. The chubby young priest loved to see the colorful meadow plants, so small and ephemeral against the backdrop of the eternal, snowcapped mountains. Not so today. Everything seemed different. The beauty was still there, but now an underlying sense of menace and real peril hung in the air.

“Is it a sin to be frightened, Brother Lantern?” he asked his companion, a tall young man, with eyes of cold and brilliant blue, upon whom the pale robes of the acolyte seemed out of place.

“Have you ever killed a man, Braygan?” Lantern’s reply was cold and disinterested.

“Of course not.”

“Or robbed, or raped, or stolen?”

Braygan was shocked and stared up at his companion, his fears momentarily forgotten.


“Then why do you spend so much time worrying about sin?”

Braygan fell silent. He never enjoyed working alongside Brother Lantern. The man said very little, but there was something about him that was wholly disturbing. His deep-set sapphire eyes were fierce, his lean face hard, his expressions unyielding. And he had sword scars upon his arms and legs. Braygan had seen them when they worked in the fields in the summer. He had asked him about them, but Lantern had ignored him. As he ignored questions concerning the harsh and warlike tattoos upon his back, chest, and arms: an eagle with outstretched wings and open talons between his shoulder blades, a large spider on his left forearm, and the snarling head of a leopard upon his chest. When asked of them Lantern would merely turn his cold eyes on the speaker and say nothing. Yet in all else he was an exemplary acolyte, working hard and never shirking his duties. He never complained, nor argued, and attended all prayer and study meetings. When asked he could quote verbatim from all sections of holy script, and knew also much of the history of the nations surrounding the land.

Braygan turned his attention back toward the town, and his fear returned. The soldiers of the Watch had done nothing to stop the rioters. Two days ago the mob had attacked Brother Labberan, and broken his arms when he went to teach at the church school. They had kicked and punched him, then struck him with rods of iron. Labberan was not a young man, and could easily have died.

The two priests came to the small bridge over the river. Braygan trod on the hem of his pale blue robes and stumbled. He would have fallen, but Brother Lantern’s hand grabbed his arm, hauling him upright.

“Thank you,” said Braygan. His arm hurt from the iron grip, and he rubbed it.

There were some people moving through the rubble. Braygan tried not to stare at them—nor at the two bodies hanging from the branches of a tall tree. “I am frightened, Brother,” he whispered. “Why do people do such hateful things?”

“Because they can,” answered the tall priest.

“Are you frightened?”

“Of what?”

The question seemed ridiculous to Braygan. Brother Labberan was beaten close to death, and there was hatred everywhere. Threats had been made against the church and its priests, and the terror continued. Crossing the bridge they moved past the smoldering buildings and on to the main street. Braygan was sweating now. There were more people here, and he saw several dark-garbed soldiers standing in a group by a tavern door. Some of the townsfolk stopped to stare at the priests as they made their way to the apothecary. One man shouted an insult.

Sweat dripped into Braygan’s eyes and he blinked it away. Brother Lantern had reached the apothecary door. It was locked. The tall priest tapped at the wooden frame. There was no answer. A crowd began to gather. Braygan tried not to look at the faces of the men. “We should go, Brother Lantern,” he said.

Somebody spoke to Braygan, the voice angry. He turned to answer, but a fist struck him in the face and he fell clumsily to the ground. A booted foot caught him in the chest and he cried out, and rolled toward the wall of the apothecary.

Brother Lantern stepped across him and blocked the path of Braygan’s attacker. “Beware,” said Lantern, softly.

“Beware of what?” asked the man, a heavily built and bearded figure, wearing the green sash of the Arbiters.

“Beware of anger, brother,” said Lantern. “It has a habit of bringing grief in its wake.”

The man laughed. “I’ll show you grief,” he said. His fist lashed out toward Lantern’s face. The priest swayed. The blow missed him. The attacker stumbled forward, off balance, and tripped over Lantern’s outstretched leg, falling to his knees. With a roar of rage he surged upright and leapt at the priest—only to miss him and fall again, this time striking his face on the cobbles. There was blood upon his cheek. He rose more warily—and drew a knife from his belt.

“Be careful,” said Lantern. “You are going to hurt yourself further.”

“Hurt myself? Are you an idiot?”

“I am beginning to think that I might be,” said Lantern. “Do you happen to know when the apothecary will be arriving? We have an injured brother and are in need of herbs to reduce his fever.”

“You’re the one who’ll need the apothecary!”

“I have already said that I need the apothecary. Shall I speak more slowly?”

The man swore loudly then rushed in. The knife lanced for Lantern’s belly. The priest swayed again, his arm seeming to brush against the charging man’s shoulder. The Arbiter surged past Lantern and struck the apothecary wall headfirst. Slumping down he screamed as his knife blade gouged into his own thigh.

Lantern walked over and knelt beside him, examining the wound. “Happily—though I suppose that is arguable—you have missed the major artery,” he said, “but the wound will need stitching.” Rising, he turned toward the crowd. “Does this man have friends here?” he called. “He needs to be attended.”

Several men shuffled forward. “Do you know how to treat wounds?” Lantern asked the first.


“Then carry him into the tavern. I will seal the cut. And send someone to fetch the apothecary. I have many duties today and cannot tarry here long.”

Ignored by the crowd, Braygan pushed himself to his feet, and watched as the injured man, groaning in pain, was carried to the tavern. Lantern glanced back at Braygan. “Wait for the apothecary,” he said. “I will be back presently.” With that he strolled toward the tavern, the crowd parting for him.

Braygan felt light-headed and vaguely sick. He took several deep breaths.

“Who was that?” asked a voice. It was one of the black-armored soldiers, a thin-faced man with deep-set dark eyes.

“Brother Lantern,” answered Braygan. “He is our librarian.” The soldier laughed. The crowd began to drift away.

“I do not think you will be further troubled today,” said the soldier.

“Why do they want to harm us? We have always sought to love all people, and I recognized many in the crowd. We have helped them when they were sick. In the famine last year we shared our stores with them.”

The soldier shrugged. “Not for me to say.”

“Why do you not protect us?” asked the priest.

“Soldiers obey their order, priest. The martial code does not allow us to obey only those orders we like. Were I you I would leave the monastery and journey north. It will not be long before it is attacked.”

“Why would they attack us?”

“Ask your friend. He seems to be a man who knows which way the wind will blow.” He paused. “During the fight I saw he had a dark tattoo upon his left forearm. What kind was it?”

“It is a spider.”

“I thought so. Does he perhaps also have a lion or some such upon his chest?”

“Yes. A leopard.”

The soldier said nothing more, and walked away.

For three years now Skilgannon had sought to recapture that one perfect moment, that sense of total clarity and purpose. On rare occasions it seemed tantalizingly close, like a wispy image hovering at the corners of vision that danced away when he tried to focus upon it.

He had cast aside riches and power, and journeyed through the wilderness seeking answers. He had entered the priesthood here at the converted castle of Cobalsin, enduring three mind-rotting years of study and examination, absorbing—and largely dismissing—philosophies and teachings that bore no relation to the realities of a world cursed by the presence of Man.

And each night the dreams would haunt him. He would be wandering through a dark wood seeking the white wolf. He would catch a glimpse of its pale fur in the dense undergrowth and draw his swords. Moonlight would glisten on the blades, and the wolf would be gone.

Instinctively he knew there was a link between the swords and the wolf. The moment he touched the hilts the beast would disappear, and yet, such was the fear of the wolf, that he could not resist the lure of the blades.

The monk known as Lantern would awake with a start, fists clenched, chest tight, an...

Copyright © 2003 by David Gemmell


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