|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|
The waking moment awaits us all
upon a threshold or where the road turns
if life is pulled, sparks like moths inward
to this single sliver of time gleaming
like sunlight on water, we will accrete
into a mass made small, veined with fears
and shot through with all that's suddenly
precious, and the now is swallowed,
the weight of self a crushing immediacy,
on this day, where the road turns,
comes the waking moment.
Corara of Drene
Seren Pedac, Silchas Ruin, and the others continue their summit into the Bluerose Mountains. Beyond the end of the Letherii-built road the trail continues within site of what the Acquitor takes to be the devastated remains of an ancient city. Ruin reveals that they are all that is left of a K'Chain Che'Malle skykeep that was destroyed by an alliance of twelve or more dragons using Starvald Demelain, but he does not know what crime was deserving of such punishment. The Shadow wraith, Wither, reappears after having been gone for some time to reveal that the K'Chain Che'Malle had beend destroyed because the sought the annihilation of all existence as their own race descended into extinction. When Pedac asks where the wraith has been, it says it has journeyed into the frozen blood of the heart of stone. Ruin warns that if the wraith becomes entrapped like an ant in sap, he will not be able to free him. Wither knows the danger, but admits the blood is seductive.
Pedac is amused by Ruin's single-minded determination to avenge himself against Scabandari. She asks what Ruin hopes to accomplish against a man who has already been reduced to a wraith. At least Fear Sengar seeks something positive--to speak to the spirit his people see as their god, if Ruin does not annihilate it first. Ruin says his anger is complicated. Pedac says her task always seems to be delivering fools to where knives can be drawn.
As they draw closer to the ruins, Udinaas and Fear argue over the way forward as the trail turns icy and treacherous. Fear wants to continue on the path, while Udinaas climbs towards the mouth of a cave. The former slave chastises the Tiste Edur for thinking he is the hero of a heroic tale. Ruin and the Acquitor follow Udinaas. The cave is an entrance into the ancient city. As they make their way past roosting bats, Udinaas and Fear argue over the Edur's treatment of their slaves.
Letheras, Patriotists Headquarters
Tanal Yathvanar watches as a Patriotist prisoner is dragged screaming across the courtyard. He calls the fanatic naive, catching the ear of Karos Invictad. The Invigilator corrects his assistant. Fanatics are not the Letherii Empire's most dangerous enemies. A fanatic is consumed with certainty and that certainty can be steered to support the empire's own ends. Lether's true enemies are the skeptical, who defy simple answers and are driven to distrust those who promote them. Karos heatedly identifies Tanal as one of the naive. The conversation ends when Tanal informs Karos that a new puzzle awaits in his office, sent by an anonymous benefactor.
Tanal heads into the Patriotists' lower dungeons to the inquisition chamber where the woman from his bed is shackled. She is Janath Anar, senior lecturer of the Academy of Imperial Learning. When he tells the academic how little her words are worth now, she is defiant. They spar for a time with Janath calling the Patriotists pitiful human failures who revisit their own torments as children upon their countrymen. Tanal eventually admits he has come to feed, clean, and free her. Janath refuses to believe this is true, seeing it as yet another torment. Her academic specialty was the psychology of the human mind, and she uses her knowledge to lay Tanal's insecurities bare. He angrily strikes her before departing in the midst of her laughter.
Brohl Handar sits in his ornate carriage on Drene's main thoroughfare outside the city's High Market. He thinks about how little his previous life as an Arapay tribal patriarch has prepared him for his current position. Looking over the chaos of the Letherii market, he compares it unfavourably to life in the Edur homeland. And life here has changed him. He has prepared a report for the Emperor explaining how Drene's Factor, Letur Anict, is conducting an unofficial war with the tribes of the Awl to steal their lands and consolidate his own holdings. But he is hesitant to send it back to Letheras, suspecting that Chancellor Triban Gnol will make it disappear. He believes the chancellor is complicit with Factor Anict, and perhaps the Liberty Consign of Merchants, in the events in the Awl'dan. Brohl does not know where to turn.
His thoughts are interrupted by the commotion of an arrest by the Patriotists at the market gates. As he ponders the secret police's war on the empire's populace there is a scratch at the carriage door and Orbyn Truthfinder, local head of the Patriotists, invites himself inside. Brohl detests him. Orbyn reports a sighting just west of Bluerose that he thinks Brohl will find significant. It is a group of travellers consisting of two Edur (one whom they believe is Fear Sengar and the other white-skinned) and three Letherii (two females and a male with tattoos marking him as an escaped Hiroth slave). Brohl is not surprised--the Emperor's K'risnan know the group's general whereabouts. Orbyn is curious regarding the one known as the White Crow--a disturbing title known to the Letherii--but Brohl will only say he is no Edur. He turns down Orbyn's offer of assistance. Their conversation is cut off by the sound of alarms. Orbyn hastily departs while Brohl orders his driver to follow.
Wrapped in a hooded cloak and hidden in the shadows across the street, a man wearing a red mask has been watching the Drene Garrison since dawn. He observes a steady stream of messengers, merchants, and Bluerose Lancers coming and going. By late afternoon, he realises his presence has not gone unnoticed. Two agents of the Patriotists pass his hiding place for a second time, studiously ignoring him. The masked man darts and hides in an alleyway where he ambushes and kills his pursuers with his Awl'dan cadaran whip. As he mutilates the bodies and takes grisly trophies, a third agent sounds the alarm. When a five-man squad of the city guard appears, he quickly dispatches them with his whip and Rygtha crescent axe. Then he runs toward the sound of more approaching guards and lancers.
Atri-Preda Bivatt takes charge of the bloody aftermath. At least eighteen more guards and a troop of lancers perished in the intruder's escape. Dismembered limbs and spilled intestines litter the cobblestones. One of the two survivors, missing his hands, is screaming. Bivatt angrily questions the other stunned survivor, who reveals that only one man was responsible for the carnage. Learning the attacker has escaped on a stolen horse, she orders the other lancers to chase after him. Orbyn Truthfinder arrives just in time to hear the intruder's description. Both he and the Atri-Preda are horrified to realise Redmask has returned from exile.
Brohl's carriage arrives and Bivatt tells the Overseer of the enemy the Letherii only know through stories. Years before Factor Letur Anict attempted to steal the herds of a wealthy Awl clan by kidnapping their leader's daughter. When it came time to make the exchange, the girl killed herself and the Factor had the rest of the tribe slain and their herds seized. A few years later, the regular skirmishes between Letherii and Awl began to turn in the Awl's favour under the leadership of a new war chief named Redmask. The young son of the wealthy clan leader, he was the previously unknown sole survivor of his tribe's massacre. But when the young war chief had tried to unite all the clans against the Letherii, he was rebuffed by the Awl elders. Further argument led to his exile in the east. Now he has returned. Bivatt says if Redmask is able to successfully unite the clans this time, then the Letherii will need the aid of the Tiste Edur. Brohl thinks this may finally allow him to catch the emperor's ear, but quietly curses the Factor for bringing this upon them.
Redmask rides his captured horse east through the now tilled fields of former Awl grazing land. His mission to learn the nature of his enemy is a success. The lancers are far more experienced and formidable than the foot soldiers he fought years earlier. At the same time, he has seen little sign of his own people beyond abandoned camps and disused tipi rings. By dusk he discovers and rides through a year-old burned out Awl encampment still littered with bones. That night his two companions, Sag'Churok and Gunth Mach, find their way to his side once more. They are K'Chain Che'Malle--a K'ell Hunter and a Drone. They are content to follow and protect him as he kills the Letherii. But he does not know why.
Bluerose Mountains, K'Chain Che'Malle ruins
Seren Pedac's group has been making their way through the city's maze of tunnels, ascending inclines, and spiralling ramps for hours, but now they rest. The Acquitor is irritated that she finds Ruin fascinating. His certainty is appealing, but impossible for herself to share.
Fear challenges Ruin's assumptions that he is ignorant of the Tiste Andii's relationship with Scabandari and of the Edur's betrayal. His demand to know if Scabandari was the first to betray their friendship provokes no reaction from Ruin. Udinaas mocks them both, asking why it matters. He suggests that the reason why they are pursued only by small bands of hunters and not ten thousand warriors led by Rhulad Sengar is that the Emperor does not know Ruin's true identity. When Seren asks why imperial forces block their way inland, Kettle pipes up that it is because the Crippled God wants them to find what they are looking for.
Everyone is startled by her words. Kettle says the Crippled God thinks it is too early for them to travel east--there are too many secrets to be found there and he is not yet ready for war. A confused Seren asks who this god is, and Kettle replies he is the one who gave Rhulad his sword and is the true power behind the Tiste Edur. Fear demands to know who told her this. She says, "The dead told me. They told me lots of things. So did the ones under the trees, the trapped ones. And they said something else too. They said the vast wheel is about to turn, one last time, before it closes. It closes, because it has to, because that's how he made it. To tell him all he needs to know. To tell him the truth...Him, the one who's coming."
Ruin does not understand Kettle's words, but vows to keep listening to what she has to say.