|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|
Denigration afflicted our vaunted ideals long ago, but such inflictions are difficult to measure, to rise up and point a finger to this place, this moment, and say: here, my friends, this was where our honour, our integrity died.
The affliction was too insipid, too much a product of our surrendering mindful regard and diligence. The meanings of words lost their precision – and no-one bothered taking to task those who cynically abused those words to serve their own ambitions, their own evasion of personal responsibility. Lies went unchallenged, lawful pursuit became a sham, vulnerable to graft, and justice itself became a commodity, mutable in imbalance. Truth was lost, a chimera reshaped to match agenda, prejudices, thus consigning the entire political process to a mummer’s charade of false indignation, hypocritical posturing and a pervasive contempt for the commonry.
Once subsumed, ideals and the honour created by their avowal can never be regained, except, alas, by outright, unconstrained rejection, invariably instigated by the commonry, at the juncture of one particular moment, one single event, of such brazen injustice that revolution becomes the only reasonable response.Consider this then a warning. Liars will lie, and continue to do so, even beyond being caught out. They will lie, and in time, such liars will convince themselves, will in all self-righteousness divest the liars of culpability. Until comes a time when one final lie is voiced, the one that can only be answered by rage, by cold murder, and on that day, blood shall rain down every wall of this vaunted, weaning society. Impeached Guild Master’s Speech
Semel Fural of the Guild of Sandal-Clasp Makers
Letheras, Azath Tower
Summer has arrived in Letheras as indicated by the nests of Vinik turtles floating their way down the Lether River. The twisted form of Hannan Mosag makes his way through the grounds of the Azath Tower. He inspects empty barrow after empty barrow until he delightedly finds one that is not. The Azath House is dead, but some sorcery still remains. As he examines what he suspects to be the binding rituals of Kurald Galain, he is startled to discover they are unravelling. Someone has recently been here before him to start the process of freeing the barrow's occupant.
Letheras, an alley
Somewhere in the city, an immortal woman with diluted Tiste Edur blood pauses in the act of feeding on her potential rapist. The fool had followed the richly dressed woman through the streets, thinking her lost and alone, until she ambushed him in an alley. She has forgotten how good the heart and lungs of mortals taste. But what interrupted her feast was the sense that someone has discovered her rituals to remove the bindings cast by Silchas Ruin at one of the Azath barrows. She assumes it is the meddling Errant, or even worse Mael. She has no interest in tarrying in this miserable city any longer than she has to and heads toward the site of the dead tower to discover who is attempting to interfere in her plans.
Letheras, Hivanar Estate
Rautos Hivanar watches as work continues on the excavation on the shore of his estate. He has brought in water pumps so that the dig can extend into the river. Hivanar has come to suspect that the artifacts they are discovering are all part of the same unknown device.
Venitt Sathad approaches from the house. He is readying for his trip to Drene. Hivanar grants him the use of four house guards and several packhorses for the journey. He reiterates that Venitt is to investigate Drene's Factor, Letur Anict. The Liberty Consign has received reports that the man's ambitions have overruled his restraint beyond all common sense. He identifies Orbyn Truthfinder, the Patriotist agent, as a reliable ally in the city. The master advises Venitt to err on the side of caution, as he does not want to lose him. Venitt is momentarily touched by Hivanar's concern before the master warns the servant not to embarrass him. In the river beyond, a large vinik turtle eats one of the floating nests whole.
Letheras, Tehol Beddict's residence
Tehol Beddict prepares for bed atop the roof of his home as Bugg stares across the river into the city. The servant's thoughts soon return to his master and he adjusts the mosquito netting around the bed, but Bugg clearly has other matters on his mind. Tehol asks him to share his thoughts so that he might resolve the Elder God's dilemma with a mortal's perspective. Bugg lays out the movements and schemes of several Ascendants in and around Letheras. He says the Errant currently follows the Warlock King to see what the man is up to. The Warlock King meddles with nefarious rituals set in place by another ascendant, who is currently eating a freshly killed corpse. Soon the two will meet and bargain to their mutual benefit over the crumbling chains binding yet another ascendant. When the prisoner is freed, it will perturb someone else far to the north who is not yet ready to act. Meanwhile the Edur fleet is skirting the Draconean Sea, on its return to Letheras. On board are two fell champions who are not likely to do what is expected of them. Finally, the secret of Scabandari Bloodeye's soul is about to be a secret no longer. It will be an eventful summer.
Tehol points out that Bugg has not even mentioned their scheme to bankrupt the Letherii Empire. Bugg warns that Karos Invictad is aware that something is going on and hunts in earnest for the perpetrator. Then he announces that dinner tonight will be some vinik eggs he found washed under a dock. Normally they are poisonous, but he tells a skeptical Tehol he knows some preparation techniques that negate most of the ill effects.
Letheras, Patriotists Headquarters
Tanal Yathvanar places a package delivered by an urchin on the desk of Karos Invictad. The Invigilator watches as it is opened to reveal another puzzle box. This one contains a two-headed insect, which endlessly walks around in circles inside. The instructions say the object is to manipulate the box's tiles to halt the creature's motion before it starves to death in four month's time. If it dies, the puzzle is failed. Karos is intrigued, but thinks the solution should be simple enough. He orders Tanal to remove the bodies of three prisoners suspected of dying of disease overnight and to disinfect their cells.
In the dungeons below, Janath Anar is mentally reciting one of her course lectures concerning the earliest history of Letheras and its construction upon the ruins of the civilisation that predated it. She does this to keep herself from going mad. Tanal arrives to give her water and wash her sore-ridden body after a long absence. The scholar tells him of an ancient cult within the city that believed every victim tallied by a person in life awaits their tormentor after death. Tanal calls such beliefs bizarre and insane. They argue over Karos Invictad, with Janath deriding the Invigilator as a failed scholar taking out his pain on others. Tanal can no longer bear to hear her insults, and he beats her seemingly into unconsciousness while shouting that only Karos can guide the Letherii Empire into a new age of glory, free of the Tiste Edur and the failed peoples the Letherii have conquered. Tanal is a true believer in Karos Invictad.
Janath mumbles that she will wait for him on the other side, and Tanal stumbles away, desperate to believe this is not true.
Letheras, Eternal Domicile
The Errant wanders the empty fifth wing of the Eternal Domicile. It is one of two wings that have never been occupied and are rapidly succumbing to dampness and rot. Having discerned the Warlock King's intentions, the Elder God ponders whether he should forgo his nature and intervene against the forces of dissolution. He empathises with the Jaghut, a race who comprehend the nature of futility and wonders if Gothos ever completed his suicide note. The Errant determines to act while he still has a will to do so.
Within moments, the Errant appears in a glade of thick grass and dazzling flowers surrounded by black-boled trees. Butterflies dance beneath a sky of faint vermilion. Menandore scowls at him, saying she does not welcome visitors here in her refuge. He announces he has information for her, but seeks recompense for its delivery. The two begin a cryptic conversation. Menandore's long preparations have begun to take motion. They involve Skykeeps and the side she has chosen is her own. The Errant warns that her sisters conspire against her, although not directly. But the end goal is to remove Menandore's head from her shoulders. "Her" freedom is imminent. Menandore asks what the others in Letheras plan. Other than Mael, the Errant knows of no other that hides in the city. He is angered by Menandore's taunting games and is frustrated that he will now have to spend time investigating her carefully planned slip of the tongue. She dismisses him and he returns to the Eternal Domicile.
As soon as the Errant departs, Shadowthrone and Hood emerge from the forest. The air is tense among the three. Menandore states she has never accepted Shadowthrone's claim to Shadow. Shadowthrone makes light of the other two, and says all three agree on an unnamed matter Hood wanted to address. He offers Menandore his assistance in handling her sisters in return for allowing him one-time access to the gate of Starvald Demelain. She is suspicious of his intentions, but he admits the offer serves their converging interests. Hood says the two are worse than advocates, whose souls face a terrible fate in his realm. Then the Lord of Death departs. Shadowthrone and Menandore finish their business, then they too vanish. Menandore's last thoughts as she looks about the glade are about how much she hates this place.
Letheras, Eternal Domicile
Nisall visits Janall Diskanar in her chambers. The former queen's body is a twisted nightmare and her eyes burn with madness and hate. The First Concubine says she has come to see if the queen needs anything, but Janall counters that Nisall really seeks allies and wants to steal the queen away from the Crippled God. Janall claims to be Queen of High House Chains and the god himself sees through her eyes. This is why Turudal Brizad can no longer visit her. Nisall promises to provide the queen with a bed and servants to clean her chamber and soiled bedding. Janall's angry response is a mixture of misery, shame, and righteousness.
When Nisall departs, Janall begins a conversation with the Crippled God, speaking both sides aloud in different voices. She demands her throne, saying the god is mad and lied to her. The Crippled God says his broken followers have lied to themselves and made him what he is. They make his every breath agony. They decry his indifference, but he warns they do not truly want his attention. But when Janall insists on her throne, he agrees, saying he did warn her.
As Nisall returns to her rooms she thinks upon how the Eternal Domicile has become rife with paranoia and intrigue. Chancellor Triban Gnol pushes Emperor Rhulad Sengar to make war with the Bolkando-led alliance in the east. Rhulad has so far been slow to act even as the Chancellor reports that Karos Invictad has only yesterday arrested four Bolkando agents entering Letheras. At the doorway to her rooms she finds a Tiste Edur awaiting her. Thinking he has been sent by the Emperor, she invites the man in for wine and is startled when he reveals that Karos Invictad is compiling evidence against her to charge her with sedition. He introduces himself as Bruthen Trana, the court's liaison to the Patriotists, and assures her he does not share these beliefs. Nisall confirms that none of his reports have found their way to the Emperor. Instead all information on the secret police comes from the Invigilator after being vetted by the Chancellor. Bruthen warns that the Emperor is being systematically isolated from his people and requests Nisall help grant him a private audience. In return, he can offer her some protection from arrest by assigning her two Edur bodyguards. He assures her that as children of Shadow they will slip the notice of the Chancellor's spies.
Letheras, Azath Tower
The woman from the alley enters the grounds of the Azath Tower, seeing long-extinct insects crawling into this world from fissures in Hood's Realm. She recalls her own long ago journey through that land. Soon she sees evidence of the Seregahl's defeat by the Azath's guardians. It is easy for ancient powers to be too arrogant in this world.
She spies Hannan Mosag squatting near a barrow, sensing his fear warring with his ambition. He greets her and names her as Sukul Ankhadu, cruelest of the sisters and accursed among the Edur pantheon. He notes that she works to free Sheltatha Lore from her prison in the ground and Sukul agrees that she always worked better with her than Menandore. But Sheltatha has her obsessions. Hannan Mosag admits he had hoped to find Scabandari Bloodeye here, but offers to work with Sukul for a time. Silchas Ruin seeks Scabandari and he doubts whether she or Sheltatha would be pleased to see him succeed. The new Ceda can guide them on his trail and lend them the Crippled God's support at their eventual confrontation. In return, she will stop eating the citizens of Letheras and she will slay Ruin.
Sukul knows that any agreement will descend into treachery when it comes time to determine the fate of Scabandari's Finnest. But she also knows Scabandari's power is not what it once was. She agrees, but warns that if the Crippled God steals away with the Finnest before Ruin's defeat, she and Sheltatha will set the relentless Ruin on the god's trail with their dying breaths. The two women would see the Finnest destroyed, and if the Crippled God's use of its power sees to that end, it can be his once Ruin is gone.
Sheltatha begins to stir and Sukul warns Mosag to depart before she awakens. War is coming and the Crippled God will need all the allies he can manage.