|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 argument was this: a civilization shackled to the strictures of excessive control on its populace, from choice of religion through to the production of goods, will sap the will and the ingenuity of its people – for whom such qualities are no longer given sufficient incentive or reward. At face value, this is accurate enough. Trouble arrives when the opponents to such a system institute its extreme opposite, where individualism becomes godlike and sacrosanct, and no greater service to any other ideal (including community) is possible. In such a system rapacious greed thrives behind the guise of freedom, and the worst aspects of human nature come to the fore, a kind of intransigence as fierce and nonsensical as its maternalistic counterpart.
Denabaris of Letheras, 4th century
The Undying Gratitude
Its hold filled with booty from the Tiste Edur ship, the Undying Gratitude makes its way north out of the Draconean Sea heading for the mouth of the Lether River. Shurq Elalle is pleased with her new profession. She enjoys taking things away from others and she is good at it. But she is alarmed by the fleet of a hundred or more Edur and Letherii vessels that have suddenly appeared in her wake. Do they know she has looted one of their number? She and her first mate, Skorgen Kaban, debate whether to be bottled in the river by a potentially vengeful foe or to safely sell their cargo up the coast for a smaller profit. She chooses to be careful and sets course for a prison isle outside the Fent Reach that has been independent since the Edur invasion. If no Edur ships follow them, then they know they are in the clear. Shurq sends for Burdenar to join her in her cabin. Skorgen warns she will wear the young man out.
Letheras, Hivanar's inn
On his way out of the city, Venitt Sathad stops at Rautos Hivanar's newly purchased inn. The property is being refurbished by Bugg's Construction and Bugg, the company's owner, is there to update him on their progress. Venitt is astonished to see that one of the outbuildings has been removed to reveal a huge monolith of unknown metal. Bugg notes that several such mechanisms have been found throughout the city, although he has never had much time to determine how they are connected. Venitt immediately recognises the mechanism's relation to the artifacts found on the Hivanar estate. In fact, one artifact is a perfect replica of this monolith.
Venitt must continue on to Drene, but he requests Bugg deliver a message to Master Hivanar asking him to personally visit the site and bring his artifacts. He admits it is related to the work Bugg's crews are performing on the river at Hivanar's estate. The servant leaves to take his modest pack train over the Bluerose Mountains to Drene and Bugg bids him farewell, asking the Errant to ignore him. Venitt wishes him the same and is surprised to hear the old man mutter, "If only".
The Awl'dan, Letherii drover camp
Atri-Preda Bivatt and Overseer Brohl Handar walk among the wreckage of the massacred drover camp. The dead have been struck down by huge blades, massive fangs, and talons. The wounds are much the same as those delivered to the Bluerose Lancers who had been slain in pursuit of Redmask from Drene. Handar wonders if Redmask has Demon allies and asks Bivatt if she will follow in pursuit of the stolen Myrid and Rodara. Bivatt notes her duty is to the Letherii Empire, not Factor Letur Anict's economic interests. It is too dangerous. Handar approves, and the Atri-Preda sees his confidence (and contempt for the Factor) is growing. They agree that soldiers will now have to move in force accompanied by Letherii and Edur mages.
Handar grieves that so many children have died in the camp, while Bivatt counters that it is little different than what the Letherii do to the Awl. What must be done to win a war is what must be done. Handar argues that Bivatt and her troops are ultimately no different than the Awl or the drovers in the Factor's eyes. He will use up whoever he needs to serve his own ends. They ready to return to Drene.
The Awl'dan, Ganetok camp
Redmask and his young warriors arrive at the sprawling Ganetok camp with their thousands of recaptured myrid and rodara. Avaricious Ganetok warriors speculate at how easy it would be to take the herds from these foolish Renfayar. Greed soon turns to rage as they recognise the mask on Redmask's face. Masarch admits he no longer fears what may come next--a courage granted by his death night.
The angry crowd parts to admit Hadralt and a dozen of his hulking Copperfaces. The arrogant young warleader of the Ganetok commands Redmask to leave or face death. Redmask names Hadralt and his warriors cowards. They hired foreign mercenaries to join them against the Letherii, then fled in battle leaving their allies to be massacred. Redmask announces he will kill Hadralt this day. The Ganetok warleader calls for Redmask to face him in combat. Redmask agrees, but first he summons his K'Chain Che'Malle guardians to ward back the furious crowd. Hadralt sees his Copperface allies shrink back and realises he will face Hadralt alone.
When Redmask invokes the name of Capalah, Hadralt's father, one of the Copperfaces bitterly reveals that the former warleader fell to Hadralt's poison. Soon more secrets pour out. Hadralt has been retreating in the face of Letherii aggression in return for iron weapons. But at the Drene Garrison, Redmask learned these weapons came from Factor Letur Anict and were of poor quality and ready to shatter at the first blow. He pushes Hadralt to confess that the warleader is also receiving Letherii coin and promises of an estate on the side. Hadralt finally admits that the Awl have no chance of victory against the Letherii and three blades erupt from his chest. The Copperfaces have no loyalty to traitors. Redmask declares himself warleader of the Awl. Now it is time to go to war.
Overlooking the crowd from a nearby ridge are Masarch, Kraysos, and Theven. Kraysos says Redmask will unleash a river of blood on these lands and both Letherii and Awl will drown. Masarch accuses the other two of cheating their death nights by use of a bledden herb to numb their senses. But Kraysos reveals the herbs lost their potency before the night was over and both spent the hours screaming. Neither fears what is to come, but Redmask will decide if they are to survive much longer.
Atri-Preda Bivatt and Overseer Handar are still half a day from Drene with Bivatt's troops. The Overseer worries the situation with the Awl could ignite into full-out war and begins thinking about logistics. Neighbouring Bluerose is their principal supply route and trading partner, but that nation has not been as successfully absorbed into the Letherii Empire as Drene. A complicated religion unites disaffected elements of the country, small bands of rebels are reputed to be in the Bluerose Mountains, and the Letherii Army is careful to send Bluerose units to duties far away from their native lands. Its stability is a concern.
Handar and Bivatt debate over whether Drene is economically prepared for war. Bivatt has no worries that her army will remain supplied. The Letherii transport system is designed for conquest and will remain open. What happens to the citizens of Drene is of lesser importance. Handar surprises her when he reveals that a major fortress guarding one of the trade routes through the Bluerose Mountains has been sacked by brigands. It even seems to have cut off the supply of low-grade weapons and armour the Factor has been smuggling into Drene to trade to the Awl for land. Handar is pleased when Bivatt appears ignorant of the extent of the Factor's illegal schemes.
Talk turns to the military situation. Bivatt believes the Awl can only field eight or nine thousand undisciplined warriors, who are riven by feuds and rivalries and incapable of fighting as a unit. Their herds and camps make them vulnerable. Meanwhile, she has six companies of Bluerose Lancers, nearly the entire Artisan Battalion, four companies from the Harridict Brigade, and detachments from the Drene Garrison. Further, she expects to be joined by the Crimson Rampant Brigade and at least half the Merchants' Battalion. Redmask presents a threat only in his ability to organise superior raids and ambushes. If the Awl stand and fight, they will be annihilated.
Handar says he will request three K'risnan and four thousand Edur warriors of his own. He intends to end the war quickly by killing Redmask, shattering the Awl army, and forcing them to seek terms. Bivatt warns that any terms will require the entire Awl population to be enslaved and scattered throughout the empire like the Nerek, Fent, and Tarthenal before them. Handar is unhappy with such terms and doubts the Emperor will approve. He silently curses Redmask for dashing the Overseer's hopes for a peaceable resolution.
The Awl'dan, Ganetok camp
Redmask calls all the clan leaders and elders into council. They are fearful he will continue to castigate them, but that time is over. They must rediscover their courage in battle. Hadralt was right that the old ways of fighting were doomed to fail, but so is attempting to fight as if the Awl are Letherii. A new way must be learned. Redmask discovers that the mercenaries Hadralt betrayed were the Grey Swords. They came to the eastern borderlands from a distant land called Lamatath seeking a prophesied Battlefield of the Gods. But Hadralt grew too fond of the coin promised them for their services and so they were led to their deaths. Natarkas, the Copperface who revealed Hadralt's poisoning of his father, discloses that even now one of the Grey Sword commanders is chained near the latrine pits.
Redmask abruptly leaves the council in silent fury. He makes his way to the place where the one-eyed Grey Sword commander is chained in mud and filth. The man introduces himself as Toc the Unlucky, who was once Anaster. Before Redmask can fully introduce himself, Toc interrupts saying he knows who he is and Redmask is not what he expected. After all, who would expect the First Sword of the K'Chain Che'Malle to be human?
A nineteen-year-old man with dusky skin emerges from a nearly invisible crevasse between two steep mountainsides well north of the passes that cross the western Bluerose Mountains. He is one of the Tiste Andii hidden away in Andara, the secret enclave of the Onyx Wizards and monastery of the Black-Winged Lord. Like many Andii his age, he rejects the hidden society's suffocating traditions and has rejected his clan name for one he has chosen himself--Clip. But when Ordant Brid, Reve Master of the Rock among the Onyx Order, gives you a direct command, even a self-described exile cannot ignore it.
He spends the day walking south mindlessly spinning and snapping a chain with rings attached to either end. By dusk he finds a ledge overlooking one of the mountain's passes and he waits. Some two thousand spins of the chain later, he spots movement in the darkness at the western end of the pass and descends to meet those he has been sent to find. It is a small group of travellers--one of whom happens to be the brother of his god. The Shadow wraith Wither appears at his side to investigate the stranger, warning that the White Crow has sensed his presence. Clip is not impressed and the wraith laughs at his impertinence.
Seren Pedac is staring into the darkness beyond their campfire awaiting the visitor that Silchas Ruin has warned the group to expect. She hears the clacking of Clip's rings just before he appears in the light. Ruin is surprised to discover the Andii is not one of those who followed him into this world, but one of Rake's. He did not know any of Rake's people had been so close to his own. Clip greets Ruin in the name of the Onyx Order. In response to Ruin's question of whether Rake had avenged his betrayal, Clip says Rake thought the guilty parties had already been punished enough. And then Rake was preoccupied with the sundering of Kurald Emurlahn.
Seren thinks Clip is appallingly relaxed in Ruin's presence and the young Andii does not hesitate to sling barely veiled insults at Ruin. Clip warns that K'risnan wards ensnare the trail ahead and that the party will not find what they are looking for in Bluerose's cities anyway. He invites them to come to Andara, although they will have to travel through Kurald Galain to keep its location secret. Further questioning reveals that the five Onyx Wizards are not of one mind in support of Ruin. In fact, if any of the others had discovered Clip's mission they would have stopped him. The young Andii delights in anticipation at what chaos Ruin's presence in Andara will bring.
As Clip opens a gate into Darkness with his chain, he delivers Ruin another insult regarding his albinism. Ruin's sword hisses towards Clip's neck, but the young man nonchalantly leans away from the killing blow. Ruin enters the gate and Seren blisters at Clip's immaturity, but Clip counters that the Reve Master knows the nature of his representative. The rest of the group follows Ruin and the Acquitor complains in irritation as Clip once again begins clacking his rings.