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Lord of the Silent Kingdom

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Lord of the Silent Kingdom

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Author: Glen Cook
Publisher: Tor, 2007
Series: The Instrumentalities of the Night: Book 2
Book Type: Novel
Genre: Fantasy
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Synopsis

It’s cold. The wells of power are weakening and the forces of Night grow strong. The gods are real, and still have some power, mostly to do harm. The Instrumentalities of the Night are the worst of these.

Piper Hecht, born Else Tage, survived a battle with the Instrumentalities. Now he’s Captain-General of the armies fighting a crusade for Patriarch Sublime V. Intrigues swirl around the throne of the Grail Empire, as the imperial family’s enemy Anne of Menand raises money to help the perpetually indebted Patriarch finance his crusades. To reduce his own vulnerability, sickly young Emperor Lothar assigns his two half-sisters-his immediate heirs-to their own realms.

Now Piper Hecht learns that the legendary sorcerer Cloven Februaren, referred to as the Ninth Unknown, is still alive, more than 100 years old, and on Piper’s side. As the dynastic politics of the Empire become even more convoluted, it’s clear that while the old gods may be fading, they’re determined to do everything they can to bend the doings of men to their own advantage.

Sieges, explosions, betrayals, Anti-Patriarchs, and suspicious deaths will ensue as the great chess game plays itself out, with Piper Hecht at the center of it all…


Excerpt

Chapter One: Caron ande Lette, in the End of Connec

The enemy came out of the forest on the Ellow Hills, sudden as a spring squall. There had been no rumor of their coming. Brock Rault, the Seuir ande Lette, thought they were bandits when the first handful appeared. Then his conscience threw up the fear that they might represent Tormond of Khaurene. The Duke of the End of Connec had forbidden the construction of new fortifications except under ducal charter. Unfinished, Lette was just the sort of fastness that Tormond had proscribed.

Fortifications were appearing throughout the End of Connec. And caused more despair than comfort. The universal inclination seemed to be, once a man was confident of his own defenses, to hire mercenaries and become a plague upon his neighbors.

The Seuir ande Lette was an exception. Barely twenty-one, nevertheless, he had been with Count Raymone Garete at the Black Mountain Massacre and was a veteran of the Calziran Crusade. He had smelled the cruel beast War's foul breath. He had tasted blood. He loathed his family's enemies but never so much that he felt compelled to gift them with terror, death, or pain.

Peace was the root of his faith, though he was a warrior born and consecrated.

Brock Rault was Maysalean, a Seeker After Light. Peaceable by belief and a heretic by declaration of the Brothen Episcopal Church. He did not hide his beliefs.

The enemy drew closer, too quickly for some peasants to get safely inside Caron ande Lette. The Seuir realized that the invaders were no brigands. But neither were they much more, except in numbers. A banner identified them as followers of the Grolsacher mercenary captain, Haiden Backe. Backe operated under letters of marque from Patriarch Sublime V. He roamed the northeastern marches of the Connec, supposedly punishing heretics. In actuality, he plundered anyone who would not buy an exemption.

For his troubles, Haiden Backe received a third of the plunder, which he had to share with his troops. The rest went to the Church.

The Church was desperate for funds. Sublime had to repay loans taken during the Calziran Crusade. Any default meant there would be no loans in future. Nor had he yet finished paying for votes he had bought during the Patriarchal election. And he wanted to raise new armies to launch another crusade against the Pramans occupying much of the Holy Lands.

Past crusades had established Brothen Episcopal footholds amongst the Wells of Ihrian, as Crusader principalities and kingdoms. During the last decade, though, those states had been under severe pressure from the Kaifate of Qasr al-Zed and its great champion, Indala al-Sul Halaladin. Sublime desperately wanted history to acclaim him the Patriarch who wrested the Holy Lands from the Unbeliever forever. His extermination of heresy at home would finance the glorious mission overseas.

Honario Benedocto, who had schemed and bribed his way into the Patriarchy, was loathed with enthusiasm by millions.

The Seuir ande Lette turned to his nearest companion, a gray man in his early sixties. "What say you, Perfect Master? It seems the hour of despair has arrived sooner than you forethought."

The Perfect Master of the Path, Brother Candle from Khaurene, bowed his head. "I'm tempted to declare my shame. As though my coming conjured this pestilence. As to advice, I can only repeat the admonition of the Synod of St. Jeules. Let no Seeker After Light be first to raise his hand against another man. But let no Seeker strengthen evil through any failure to resist it."

Brother Candle had argued against that stance. He was a pacifist at heart. But once the synod reached its decision he set out to prepare his Seeker brethren to defend themselves. Some would destroy them rather than recognize their special relationship with the Divine.

The young knight told Brother Candle, "He'll talk first. His men won't want a real fight or a long siege. Get away from Lette while you can."

Brother Candle stared out at the raiders. Few of them were driven by their devotion to the Episcopal faith. They were mercenaries because they could do nothing else. Without this marginally religious pretense they would be simple brigands.

More than one darkness stalks the earth.

"No stain of cowardice would attach to you, Master," Brock Rault promised. "We'd all rather that one so rare as you be removed from harm's way. Haiden Backe will offer you no respect." Rault's brothers and cousins nodded as they prepared to fight. "And you can carry our plea for help to Count Raymone."

Brother Candle went to stand alone, to meditate. To seek the best path. To discover how he could best serve. To let the Light move him.

The flesh was loath to go. The flesh dreaded what secret thoughts others might entertain if he chose flight. Yet he would do no one any good, ever, if he let himself be butchered at Caron ande Lette. The Church would crow because one of the Adversary's most favored had fallen-while insisting that it had nothing to do with Haiden Backe's campaign. Slipping the Grolsacher a bonus for having disposed of one of those pesky Maysalean Perfects.

Rault said, "I'll have a fast horse brought to the water postern."

"I arrived on foot," the holy man replied. "So shall I depart."

No one argued. A man afoot, in tattered clothing, would be ignored. The outlanders did not understand Maysalean vows of poverty.

Brock Rault engaged the Grolsacher warlord in pointless discourse. He hinted that, offered the right terms, Caron ande Lette might yield without an exchange of blows. Haiden Backe would not find negotiations unusual. Connectens seldom chose to fight in the face of superior numbers. Then Brock's youngest brother, Thurm, reported, "The Perfect Master is out of sight."

Rault grunted, gave the signal. The result would stain his soul indelibly. But he knew that soul would return for another turn around the wheel. He did not hesitate to greet evil with unexpected evil. He had learned that from Count Raymone Garete.

Archers sprang up and let fly. Backe's standard bearer and herald fell from their horses, as did two priests in dun cassocks. A third priest, of substance because he wore armor, survived the hail but had to extricate himself from his wounded mount.

Haiden Backe flung a hand into the path of an arrow streaking toward his face. Which exposed the gap in armor under his arm. An arrow found it, broke as its head hit a rib, and turned. It failed to reach his heart.

A companion snatched the reins of Backe's horse. The remaining raiders galloped away, pursued by missiles. A ballista shaft slammed through one, deep into the neck of his mount.

Only the armored priest escaped unscathed.

Brock's sister Socia, just sixteen, observed, "Sublime will use this against us."

"Of course he will. But these men, who don't work for the Patriarch, were here already, without just cause. They mean to steal our lives, our fortunes, and our good names. What else can their not-employer take away?"

Thurm sneered, "He could always excommunicate us."

Everyone in earshot laughed.

Brock said, "None of those people appear to have perished. Let's help them get to this heaven they're determined to force upon us."

Even the fallen priests were disinclined to meet their God today. One volunteered to renounce Sublime V in favor of the Anti-Patriarch, Immaculate II.

Brock let that one inscribe a letter confessing the Brothen Church's Grolsacher connections. He had the rest bound to stakes and left to the mercy of their deity. Within easy bowshot. Should their fellows be overwhelmed by an impulse to rescue them.

The mercenary force surrounded Caron ande Lette.

"Wow!" Socia said. Fearfully. "There's a lot of them."

"But in disarray," Brock replied. "They don't know what to do now. And Haiden Backe can't tell them."

That situation persisted for three days. Backe's underlings launched several clumsy attacks. Each failed.

Haiden Backe lost his struggle with fever and sepsis. The Bishop of Strang, the Grolsacher priest who could afford armor, declared himself Backe's successor. The mercenaries quickly expressed their confidence in the Bishop and the aims of the Brothen Patriarch. That night more than thirty resigned under cover of darkness.

Morcant Farfog, Bishop of Strang, was one of countless corrupt, incompetent bishops associated with the Brothen Patriarchy. Sublime had found that he could ease his fiscal woes by selling new bishoprics.

A rudimentary bureaucracy meant to raise funds through sales of livings, pardons, bequests, and indulgences was in its formative stage.

Sublime needed the money.

The Anti-Patriarch, Immaculate, at Viscesment, moaned and carried on but never really seized the moral opportunity. He was close to abandoning the struggle against the Usurpers of the Mother City.

The mercenaries besieging Caron ande Lette had little to recommend them. But most were not stupid. Few failed to see through Bishop Farfog's bluster. He was supremely incompetent, completely self-involved, and certain to cause fatalities amongst those dim enough to remain in his vicinity.

Desertions continued apace.

Two hours of brisk hiking took Brother Candle to Artlan ande Brith. Seuir Lanne Tuldse was a skeletal, elderly Maysalean knight. Seuir Lanne had kept faith with Khaurene. He had observed the letter of Duke Tormond's proclamation against erecting fortifications.

"Come," Seuir Lanne told the Perfect Master. "We'll go up to the house. From there you'll be able to see the smoke if they fire Caron ande Lette."

"The house" was a stone manor balanced precariously atop a tall, bristling outcrop of weathered limestone. Not, strictly, a fortress. But difficult to enter if the inhabitants preferred that you stay out.

Fifteen minutes after the Perfect Master's arrival Lanne Tuldse's grandson galloped south toward Antieux. He would raise alarums along the way....

Copyright © 2007 by Glen Cook


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