There were … I don’t know how many. More than I could count. All tall, pale, and dressed in clacking bones. Some with swords, some with spears—the tools they had used to slay the people of Möllerud and Hillegöm …
I had a glass knife. They had swords and spears and arms that were half again as long as mine, plus bodies that weren’t slowing and breaking down. Combat wasn’t an option, even at one-to-one odds, much less one-to-hundreds or thousands. But the Lord of the Deep had given me a kenning and now an opportunity not only to avenge my people but perhaps learn something that would help rid us of this scourge …
BY KEVIN HEARNE
Two Ravens and One Crow
Grimoire of the Lamb
A Plague of Giants
Published by Orbit
All characters and events in this publication, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2017 Kevin Hearne
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
Illustrations by Yvonne Gilbert
Map drawn by the author
Copyright © 2017 by Dale Lucas
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher.
The publisher is not responsible for websites (or their content) that are not owned by the publisher.
Little, Brown Book Group
50 Victoria Embankment
London EC4Y 0DZ
By Kevin Hearne
Day 1: The Bard Begins
Day 2: Eruption
Day 3: The Creature in the Dungeon
Day 4: Kindling
Day 5: Kherns and Hounds
Day 6: The Bloodcat
Day 7: A Stalk Hawk
Day 8: Plaguebringer
Day 9: Revelations
Day 10: Fire and Blood
Day 11: Brotherly Love
Day 12: The Unseen World
Day 13: Death at Dawn
Day 14: The Granite Tunnel
Day 15: New Courses
Day 16: Bryn’s Lung
Day 17: The Cleansing
Day 18: Unhinged Wrath
Day 19: Below the Godsteeth
FINTAN, BARD OF THE POET GODDESS KAELIN: Raelech bard assigned to perform daily for the people of Pelemyn, telling the story of the Giants’ War.
DERVAN DU ALÖBAR: Brynt historian tasked to write down the Raelech bard’s tale. Widowed, providing shelter now to a family of refugees.
GORIN MOGEN: Hearthfire of Harthrad, determined to secure safe haven for his people.
NEL KIT BEN SAH: Fornish greensleeve of the White Gossamer Clan, opposed to Gorin Mogen’s scheme.
KALLINDRA DU PASKRE: Daughter of a Brynt merchant. Fond of honey-apple bacon.
ABHINAVA KHOSE: Son of a hunting family in Ghurana Nent, struggling with how to tell them that he doesn’t want to hunt anymore.
MELISHEV LOHMET: Viceroy of Hashan Khek, the southernmost Nentian city. To him falls the task of repelling Gorin Mogen. Plagued by a persistent health issue.
TALLYND DU BÖLL: Tidal mariner of Pelemyn, widowed mother of two boys.
GONDEL VEDD: Kaurian scholar of linguistics. Married, fond of mustard.
MEARA, STONECUTTER OF THE EARTH GODDESS DINAE: Young stonecutter engaged to a soldier in the garrison in Baseld. Likes to play in the mud.
CULLAND DU RAFFERT: Brynt spice importer in Fornyd, compelled to seek an abrupt career change.
When we encounter a voice that moves us on an emotional level, by turns wringing tears from our eyes and plucking laughs from our bellies, there is an ineffable quality to its power: all we know is that we like listening to it and want to hear more. But when we encounter voices we find loathsome, we usually can pinpoint why without difficulty: too nasal, too whiny, too steeped in anger or sodden with melancholy.
The bard’s voice was the ineffable sort.
He planted himself behind the battlement facing the peninsula, where the vast sea of refugees swirled around their tents, and raised his hands from his sides as if to embrace all the people who had washed up there because of the war. Then he turned slowly as he spoke, including the city in his address as well: “Good people of Pelemyn, I am Fintan, Bard of the Poet Goddess Kaelin.” At once, eyes swiveled to lock upon his form or heads tilted in the far corners of the city to hear his disembodied voice better; conversations subsided, and other magics seemed to begin their work. His beaming face elicited a kindred response and lifted moods; the cup of watery beer from a nameless keg that I had in my hand suddenly tasted like the crisp, legendary brews of Forn; pleasant aromas of fresh food were accentuated and wafted about on the wind, and the less pleasant whiffs of unwashed bodies and rotting garbage faded away.
“It is my life’s work to tell stories,” the bard continued, his smile gone now and replaced with an earnest tone. “And no one else can tell you what I have seen. This great war of our time has indeed been terrible, and I am still struck with its horrors, waking up in the night sweating and—well, I am sure I don’t have to tell you.”
No, he didn’t. Most of the people on Survivor Field were still wearing the same clothes they’d been wearing when they’d had to flee their homes. They were all dirty and ragged now, and purple hollows lay under their eyes, testament to lost sleep, lost loved ones, just … loss.
“But I am also struck by the sudden heroism of people all across the continent. For I have come from the other side of it, the western front, where I participated in the great battle below the Godsteeth.” A tide of exclamation greeted that announcement, and I marveled that it came from far out on the peninsula and from the streets of the city as well. He was not shouting—his volume was what one might use for a toast at a fair-sized dinner party—yet no one had difficulty hearing him.
“Yes, I witnessed that and much more. I can tell you exactly what happened in the Granite Tunnel—” Here the people sent up another cheer. “—and I can reveal that a peace-loving citizen of Kauria, acting at the behest of Mistral Kira, long may she reign, has had a secret role to play in this war and indeed may have finally found a way to bring it to an end. It is why I am here now.” That earned him the loudest roar yet, and he nodded at Survivor Field, assuring them that what he said was true. “Friends, I have permission from the pelenaut to tell you that there is a fleet on its way here from Kauria this instant. And it is coming to pick up the two allied armies that are marching this way across the mountains—one from Rael and one from Forn—and together they will sail across the ocean with your own forces to answer the enemy in kind for what they have done to us!”
The emotion that news tore from the throats of the assembled would have drowned out even the power of his kenning. It was angry at first, not directed at him but at distant shores, a tide of people who had lost almost everything and hungered for a balancing of the scales, and then it lightened, morphing into jubilation as people felt hope for the first time in months. They hugged one another, danced in the mud, tears streaming down their faces as they punched the air with their fists, for it was good news at last instead of another dose of despair, and I was not immune to those feelings. I lost track of the bard for a few minutes as I surveyed Survivor Field and then crossed to the other side of the wall and saw the same celebration happening in the streets of the city.
People skipped out of the buildings to embrace and smile and savor the sight of teeth that weren’t bared in a snarl or a cry. I could not see my own house from the wall, but I imagined that even Elynea might be grinning right then, and I was sorry to miss it; she had never looked anything but haunted since she and her children had come to live with me. And when the bard spoke again, his voice cutting through the noise as people were trying to find their second wind, he was no longer standing on the wall, half hidden by the crenellations, but was up on an improvised stage a few mariners had cobbled together out of crates. “But our relief and the enemy’s defeat will not arrive tomorrow or even the next day. It will take time for it to get here and even more time to prepare the voyage. I am told it could be up to sixty days. In the meantime, the pelenaut thinks it wise that you all hear what has happened elsewhere, for it is doubtful you have heard more than rumors. He has asked me to share what I know with you all, and he is listening a ...