|The Emperor in Gold|
|Chapter 1||Chapter 2|
|Chapter 3||Chapter 4|
|Chapter 5||Chapter 6|
|Layers of the Dead|
|Chapter 7||Chapter 8|
|Chapter 9||Chapter 10|
|Chapter 11||Chapter 12|
|Knuckles of the Soul|
|Chapter 13||Chapter 14|
|Chapter 15||Chapter 16|
|Chapter 17||Chapter 18|
|Chapter 19||Chapter 20|
|Chapter 21||Chapter 22|
|Chapter 23||Chapter 24|
Two forces, once in vicious opposition, now found themselves virtual bedmates, although neither could decide which of them had their legs pried open first. The simple facts are these: the original hierarchical structure of the Tiste Edur tribes proved well-suited to the Letherii system of power through wealth. The Edur became the crown, settling easy upon the bloated gluttony of Lether, but does a crown possess will? Does the wearer buckle beneath its burden? Another truth is now, in hindsight, self-evident. As seamless as this merging seemed to be, a more subtle, far deadlier conjoining occurred below the surface: that of the specific flaws within each system, and this blending was to prove a most volatile brew.The Hiroth Dynasty (Volume XVII)
The Colony, a History of Lether
Letheras, Patriotist Headquarters
Karos Invictad, Invigilator and commander of the Patriotists, the Letherii Empire's secret police, sits in his office pondering a strange object in his hands. It is a mechanical puzzle given to him as a gift from his assistant Tanal Yathvanar. The assistant notes that the record for solving it is just under two days. Karos interrupts his study of the object for his regular weekly meeting with Bruthen Trana, their Tiste Edur liaison with the palace. The Invigilator has been intentionally letting the Edur wait for some time to irritate him.
In the courtyard of the Patriotist Headquarters, a group of eighteen dazed and half-starved detainees lay sprawled in chains. Tanal thinks the Patriotists have had a successful week with 320 detained for questioning this week. A third of those are destined for execution at The Drownings. Karos greets Bruthen and the Invigilator goes through the process of identifying each prisoner and their crime. Bruthen asks him to speed it along, occasionally interjecting curt remarks. Then the Edur departs.
Back in his office, Karos returns to the puzzle and quickly solves it in a flurry of precise moves. He orders his assistant to send a note to the puzzle's maker informing him that the craftsman must be losing his touch. Then they discuss an arrangement with Rautos Hivanar to give Karos a forty-five percent interest in a local inn. The Patriotists need coin. Afterwards, Karos asks Tanal why Bruthen continues to come for the inspection every week. The Edur seems only sullen and uninterested in the activity. Karos startles his assistant by suggesting they investigate the man. After all, the Patriotist's charter does not distinguish between the Edur ruling class and their Letherii subjects. Its only task is determining the loyal and the disloyal.
Letheras, Hivanar Estate
Rautos Hivanar is the Master of the Liberty Consign of Merchants, a loose consortium of businesses run by the wealthy families of Lether founded after the Edur conquest. Running the Consign and managing his family's vast financial interests require much of his time, but he has come to find the work tedious and draining. Not even his suspicions that some enemy of Lether and the wealthy class is actively committing economic sabotage against the empire can attract his full interest. Instead, he has become obsessed with the pieces of an ancient construct that have been unearthed by floodwaters on the riverbank of his family's estate. He spends much of his spare time reading through centuries of records in his library. He interrupts his study when a message arrives from the Invigilator. Declaring that Karos Invictad must perceive the magnitude of the threat to the empire at last, Hivanar tells his trusted servant, Venitt Sathad, to prepare to travel to Drene. The Consign requires a report of preparations there and no longer trusts the word of the city's new Factor, Letur Anict. Hivanar's thoughts then turn back to the construct as he wonders what new discoveries will be made with more digging.
The Western Awl'dan
Atri-Preda Bivatt and Brohl Handar, the newly appointed Tiste Edur governor of Drene City, observe as Bluerose Lancers loot a massacred camp of the Awl in the Awl'dan. Two hundred of the cavalry had surprised the camp of seventy adults and their children at dawn, cutting down the panicked men and women as they tried to fight back. Now only the Drene wardogs finish of the Awl's herder and dray dogs as the lancers cut gold jewelry from the bodies and decorate their shields with swathes of the Awl's tattooed skin. Bivatt leads the expedition at the behest of Factor Letur Anict, whose wealth is enriched by the acquisition of the Awl's Myrid and Rodara herds. The Factor sees the Awl as trespassers on the land, and will soon construct outposts, forts, and raised roads to attract Letherii settlers and consolidate the empire's claim.
Handar asks if Awl warriors ever launch their own attacks on the Letherii. The Preda uncomfortably reveals that the official Letherii position that the raids on the Awl are in response to a warmongering alliance between the Awl, the Ak'ryn, the Bolkando, the D'rhasilhani, and the Saphinand Kingdom are a lie to justify the Lether conquest. She also reveals that his appointment as Overseer was in response to the Letherii Army's recent encounter with an unknown force of mercenaries that were only successfully defeated with the help of Letherii mages. Brohl does not understand the Letherii's rapacious desire for gold and material wealth and the supposed power it brings. He has seen enough of today's carnage and leads his horse away.
South Jasp River
Along the South Jasp River a raised road passes through the Bluerose Mountains into Bluerose. A tall figure wrapped in a black cloak stands in the road blocking the passage of two slave carts escorted by six Tiste Edur warriors and ten Letherii soldiers. The Edur leader approaches the cloaked man to see what he wants and is startled to see he has skin as white as snow and dead eyes as red as blood. The man says the Edur have captured two Letherii who belong to him and he would have them back. The Edur is willing to make a deal for the young girl, but the man is an escaped slave who will be brought back to Letheras for execution. When negotiations break down, Silchas Ruin draws his two longswords and opens the Edur's throat.
The other Edur and the Letherii soldiers rush to their leader's defence, but Ruin makes short work of them, killing all the Edur and sending seven surviving Letherii to flight. Turning to the slaves, he spies Udinaas strangling a guard with his chains. As Seren Pedac and Fear Sengar approach the carts from their hiding place down the road, an enchained Kettle informs them that the man Udinaas has killed is the one who has been raping her to the amusement of the other Letherii guards. As Udinaas demands that his companions free the other slaves, Ruin declares he will pursue the soldiers who have fled. Out of sight of the slaves, he veers into something huge and winged before taking to the air.
Seren Pedac recalls how they have been fleeing eastward for months, eluding the attempts of both Edur and Letherii to stop them. Fear has some destination in mind, but does not care to explain it. Udinaas and Kettle were captured while stealing food from a farm. Tensions have grown among the group. Kettle has learned that being alive is hard--she is always hungry and her feet hurt. She misses tearing people's throats out with her bare hands. Fear is disturbed by the deaths of the Edur and refuses to participate in harming any of his people. He argues that Ruin should have bought their companions' freedom. He detests Udinaas for betraying Rhulad, but Seren suspects his hatred is a manifestation of Fear's own guilt. The Wyval that had so long inhabited Udinaas' body left them a month ago.
Udinaas frees the remaining slaves, despite Seren's misgivings. They are witnesses who could provide information to their pursuers. By the time all the slaves have been freed, Ruin returns and the group continues up into the mountains. Fear does not explain why he believes this is the direction of the thing they search for, but Ruin does not refute it.
Letheras, Patriotist Headquarters
Tanal Yathvanar stares down at the woman he has raped. He likes to take his pick from among the women brutalised by Patriotist questioners. In his mind, the woman's experience does not matter as she will soon be executed at the Drownings anyway. He gets dressed and leaves his quarters to join Karos Invictad in his office. The Invigilator is currently meeting with Rautos Hivanar who relays his suspicions that an unknown thief is hoarding large amounts of coin, and the shortage is starting to put a strain on the empire's financial structure. For the Consign to investigate such a matter would shatter the public confidence in their mastery over the economy, so the Patriotists must do it in secret. Karos promises to attend to the matter personally and will provide weekly reports.
Hivanar also brings up the matter of the Patriotists' recent arrests of certain academics and scholars. Some of the detainees are members of Lether's established and respected families, and their friends have turned to the Consign for aid. Karos warns the master he treads on thin ground, but once Hivanar departs the Invigilator notes that one of those scholars currently inhabits Tanal's bed. Despite his aide's protests, he orders the woman cleaned up and released. Tanal quietly promises himself that he will not be the only one to pay if judgement falls upon him for the crime.
Letheras, Tehol's residence
Tehol Beddict speaks to his manservant, Bugg, of the pleasure of delivering a comeuppance to a deservingly sick soul. All the while he manipulates the insect Ezgara in an attempt to balance it on a fulcrum. When he asks Bugg how the construction business is going, the servant admits he has had to layoff all his employees and himself due to lack of funds, credit, and work. He also reports that his project to build a series of vaults beneath the river will require an extension. He has already filled all sixteen of them, and when Bugg's Construction fails, so will three or four other major enterprises. Tehol instructs him to make ten more while continuing to amass debt, evade creditors, purchase and stockpile materials, and embezzle all he can.
Tehol then requests the man build him a clever box to very special specifications. He tells the quizzical Elder God that he has in mind a certain comeuppance.