Brotherhood of the Wolf: Volume Two of 'The Runelords'by David Farland
Volume Two of The Runelords
Raj Ahtan, ruler of Indhopal, has used enough forcibles to transform himself into the ultimate warrior: The Sum of All Men. Ahtan seeks to bring all of humanity under his rule-destroying anything and anyone that stood in his path, including many friends and allies of young Prince Gaborn Val Orden. But Gaborn has fulfilled a/p>/i>
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Volume Two of The Runelords
Raj Ahtan, ruler of Indhopal, has used enough forcibles to transform himself into the ultimate warrior: The Sum of All Men. Ahtan seeks to bring all of humanity under his rule-destroying anything and anyone that stood in his path, including many friends and allies of young Prince Gaborn Val Orden. But Gaborn has fulfilled a two-thousand-year-old prophecy, becoming the Earth King-a mythic figure who can unleash the forces of the Earth itself.
And now the struggle continues. Gaborn has managed to drive off Raj Ahtan, but Ahtan is far from defeated. Striking at far-flung cities and fortresses and killing dedicates, Ahtan seeks to draw out the Earth King from his seat of power, to crush him. But as they weaken each other's forces in battle, the armies of an ancient and implacable inhuman enemy issue forth from the very bowels of the Earth.
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Brotherhood of the Wolf
By David Farland
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 1999 David Farland
All rights reserved.
THE VOICES OF MICE
As King Gaborn Val Orden rode toward Castle Sylvarresta on the last day of Hostenfest, the day of the great feast, he reined in his horse and peered up the Durkin Hills Road.
Here the trees of the Dunnwood had been cleared back from the road, three miles from town. The sun was just rising, casting a sliver of silver light over the hills to the east, and the shadows of leafless oaks blotted the road ahead.
Yet in a patch of morning sun around the bend, Gaborn spotted three large hares. One hare seemed to be on guard, for it peered up the road, ears perked, while another nibbled at sweet golden melilot that grew at the margin of the road. The third just hopped about stupidly, sniffing at freshly fallen leaves of brown and gold.
Though the hares were over a hundred yards distant, the scene looked preternaturally clear to Gaborn. After having been underground in the darkness for the past three days, his senses seemed invigorated. The light appeared brighter than ever before, the early morning birdsong came clearer to his ears. Even the way the cool dawn winds swept down from the hills and played across his face seemed new and different.
"Wait," Gaborn whispered to the wizard Binnesman. He reached behind his back, untied his bow and quiver from his saddle. He gave a warning glance to his Days, the skeletal scholar who had followed him since his childhood, bidding the Days to stay behind.
The three were alone on the road. Sir Borenson was following some distance behind them, bearing his trophy from the Hostenfest hunt, but Gaborn had been in a hurry to get home to his new wife.
Binnesman frowned. "A rabbit, sire? You're the Earth King. What will people say?"
"Shhh," Gaborn whispered. He reached into his quiver, pulled his last arrow, but then paused. Binnesman was right. Gaborn was the Earth King, and it seemed fitting that he should bring down a fine boar. Sir Borenson had slain a reaver mage, and was dragging its head into town.
For two thousand years, the people of Rofehavan had looked forward to the coming of an Earth King. Each year during the seventh day of Hostenfest, this last day of the celebration, the day of the great feast, served as a reminder of the promise of the Earth King who would bless his people with all "the fruits of the forest and of the field."
Last week the Earth Spirit had crowned Gaborn, and charged him to save a seed of humanity through the dark times to come.
He'd fought long and hard these past three days, and the reaver's head belonged as much to Gaborn and Binnesman as it did to Sir Borenson.
Still, if Gaborn brought in nothing more than a single hare for the great feast, he could imagine how the mummers and puppetmasters would ridicule him.
He braced himself for the mummers' scorn and leapt lightly from his charger, whispering "Stand" to the beast. It was a force horse, his fine hunter, with runes of wit branded along its neck. It stared at him knowingly, perfectly silent, while Gaborn put the lower wing of his bow on the ground, stuck a leg between the bow and the string, then bent the bow and pulled the upper end of the string tight into its nock.
With the bow strung, he took his last arrow, inspected the gray goose quills, and then nocked the arrow.
He crept forward, staying low along the brushy side of the road. Wizard's violet grew tall here by the roadside, its flowers a dark purple.
When he rounded the corner, the hares would be in full sunlight. So long as he stayed in the shadows, they'd not be likely to see him; if he remained silent, they'd not hear him; and while the wind blew in his face, they'd not smell him.
Glancing back, Gaborn saw that his Days and Binnesman remained on their mounts.
He began stalking down the muddy road.
Yet he felt nervous, more nervous than mere hunting jitters could account for. He sensed a vague apprehension dawning. Among the newfound powers that the Earth had granted him, Gaborn could sense danger around those people he'd Chosen.
Only a week ago, he'd felt death stalk his father, but he'd been unable to stop it. Last night, however, that same overpowering sense had enabled him to avoid disaster when the reavers staged an ambush in the Underworld.
He felt danger now, but vaguely, distantly. Death was stalking him, as surely as he stalked these rabbits.
The only weakness of this newfound power was that he could not know the source of the danger. It could be anything: a crazed vassal, a boar lurking in the underbrush.
Yet Gaborn suspected Raj Ahten, the Wolf Lord of Indhopal, the man who had slain Gaborn's father.
Riders on force horses had brought word from Mystarria that in Gaborn's homeland, Raj Ahten's troops had taken three castles by subterfuge just before Hostenfest.
Gaborn's great-uncle, Duke Paldane, had marshaled troops to contain the problem. Paldane was an old lord, a master strategist with several endowments of wit. Gaborn's father had trusted him implicitly, and had often sent him out on campaigns to track down criminals or to humble haughty lords. Because of his success, he was called the "Huntsman" by some, the "Hound" by others. He was feared throughout Rofehavan; if any man could match wits with Raj Ahten, it was Paldane. Surely Raj Ahten could not march his troops north, risk the wights of the Dunnwood.
Yet danger approached, Gaborn felt certain. He placed his feet carefully on the dry mud of the road, moved as silently as a wraith.
But when he reached the bend in the road, the hares had left. He heard a rustling in the grass by the roadside, but it was only mice stirring, scampering about under dry leaves.
He stood a moment wondering what had happened. Ah, Earth, he said in his thoughts, addressing the Power he served. Could you not at least send a stag from the forest?
But no voice answered. None ever did.
Moments later, Binnesman and the Days came trotting up the road. The Days bore the reins of Gaborn's duncolored mare.
"The hares are skittish today, it seems," Binnesman said. He smiled slyly, as if pleased. The morning light accentuated the creases in the wizard's face and brought out the russet hues of his robes. A week ago, Binnesman had given part of his life to summon a wylde, a creature strong in the earth powers. Before that, Binnesman's hair had been brown, and his robes the green of a leaf in summer. Now his robes had changed color, and the fellow seemed to Gaborn to have aged decades in the past few days. Worse yet, the wylde he'd sought to summon had vanished.
"Aye, the hares are skittish," Gaborn answered suspiciously. As an Earth Warden, Binnesman sought to serve the Earth, and claimed that he cared as much about mice and snakes as he did mankind. Gaborn wondered if the wizard had warned the hares off with some spell, or perhaps something as simple as a wave of the hand. "More than a little skittish, I'd say." Gaborn swung up into his saddle but kept his bow strung and his arrow nocked. They were close to the city, but he imagined that he still might see a stag by the roadside, some enormous old grandfather with a rack as big as his arm span, come down out of the mountains to eat one sweet apple from a farmer's orchard before it died.
Gaborn glanced over at Binnesman. He still wore that secretive grin, yet Gaborn could not tell if it was a sly expression or a worried smile.
"You're happy that I missed the hares?" Gaborn ventured.
"You'd not have been pleased with them, milord," Binnesman said. "My father was an innkeeper. He used to say, 'A man with fickle innards is never pleased.'"
"Meaning?" Gaborn said.
"Choose your quarry, milord," Binnesman answered. "If you are hunting reavers, it's silly to go chasing after hares. You wouldn't allow your hounds to do it. Neither should you."
"Ah," Gaborn said, wondering if the wizard meant more than he said.
"Besides, the reavers proved a harder match than any of us had bargained for."
Bitterly, Gaborn realized that Binnesman was right. Despite the powers of Gaborn and Binnesman combined, forty-one strong knights had died fighting the reavers. Besides Gaborn, Binnesman, and Sir Borenson, only nine others had made it from the ruins alive. It had been a bitter struggle. The nine were back with Borenson now, dragging the reaver mage's head to town, opting to stay with their trophy.
Gaborn changed the subject. "I didn't know that wizards had fathers," he teased. "Tell me more about yours."
"It was long ago," Binnesman said. "I don't remember him much. In fact, I think I just told you everything I recall about him."
"Certainly you recall more than that," Gaborn chided. "The more I know you, the more I know not to believe anything you say." He didn't know how many hundred years the wizard had lived, but he suspected that Binnesman must have a story or two.
"You are right, milord," Binnesman said. "I don't have a father. Like all Earth Wardens, I was born of the Earth. I was but a creature that someone sculpted of mud, till I formed this flesh for myself of my own will." Binnesman arched an eyebrow mysteriously.
Gaborn glanced at the wizard, and for just a moment, he had the nagging suspicion that Binnesman spoke more truly than he pretended.
Then the moment passed and Gaborn laughed. "You are such a liar! I swear, you invented the art!"
Binnesman laughed in turn. "No, 'tis a fine skill, but I did not invent it. I merely seek to perfect it."
At that moment, a force horse came thundering along the road from the south. It was a fast horse, with three or four endowments of metabolism, a white charger that flashed in the sunlight as it moved between shadows and trees. Its rider wore the livery of Mystarria, the image of the green man upon a blue field.
Gaborn reined in his horse and waited. He'd felt danger. Now he feared the courier's news.
The messenger rode up swiftly, never slowing his mount, until Gaborn raised a hand and called out. Only then did the messenger recognize Gaborn, for the King wore nothing now but a simple gray traveling robe, stained from the road.
"Your Highness!" the messenger cried.
He reached for a leather pouch at his waist, then proffered a small scroll, its red wax seal bearing the mark of Paldane's signet ring.
Gaborn opened the scroll. As he read, his heart sank and his breathing quickened.
"Raj Ahten has moved south into Mystarria," he told Binnesman. "He's toppled castles at Gorlane, Aravelle, and Tal Rimmon. This was near dawn two days ago.
"Paldane says that his men and some Knights Equitable made Raj Ahten pay. Their archers ambushed Raj Ahten's troops. You can walk from the village of Boarshead to Gower's Ridge on the backs of the dead."
Gaborn dared not relate more of the horrific news. Paldane's observations were extremely detailed and precise, noting the exact type and number of enemy casualties — 36,909 men, the vast majority of whom were common troops out of Fleeds. He also noted the number of arrows spent (702,000), defenders slain (1,274), wounded (4,951), and horses slain (3,207) versus the amount of armor, gold, and horses captured. He then gave precise notes on the movements of enemy troops along with the current dispositions of his own men. Raj Ahten's reinforcements were converging on Carris from Castles Crayden, Fells, and Tal Dur. Paldane was reinforcing Carris, convinced that Raj Ahten would seek to capture the mighty fortress rather than casually destroy it.
Gaborn read the news and shook his head in dismay. Raj Ahten had engaged in savagery. Paldane had paid him in kind. The news revolted Gaborn.
Paldane's last words were: "Obviously, the Wolf Lord of Indhopal hopes to draw you into this conflict. He has decimated your northern border, so that you cannot come south with the hope of bringing in fresh troops of any consequence. I beg you to remain in Heredon. Let the Huntsman bring this dog to bay."
Gaborn rolled the scroll back up, tucked it into the pocket of his robe.
This is maddening, Gaborn thought, to sit here nearly a thousand miles away and learn when my people died days after it happened.
He could do little to stop Raj Ahten. But he could get news faster....
He glanced at the messenger, a young lad with curly brown hair and clear blue eyes. Gaborn had seen him at court on many occasions. He looked the young man in the eyes and used the Earth Sight to stare beyond his eyes, into his heart. The courier was proud, proud of his position and his riding skill. He was daring, almost eager to risk his life in his lord's service. A dozen wenches at inns across Mystarria thought they loved him, for he tipped well and kissed even better, but the fellow was torn between his love of two women who had vastly different personalities.
Gaborn did not think particularly well of the young man, but saw no reason not to Choose him. Gaborn needed servants like this, needed messengers he could count on. Gaborn raised his left hand, stared the lad in the eyes, and whispered, "I Choose you for the Earth. Rest now, but head back for Carris today. I currently have one Chosen messenger there. If I sense danger to you both, I'll know that Raj Ahten plans to attack the city. If ever you hear my Voice warning you in your mind, obey me."
"I dare not rest, Your Highness," the messenger said, "while Carris is in danger."
To Gaborn's satisfaction, the lad wheeled his mount to the south. In moments he was gone, only the dust hovering above the road to show that he'd come to Heredon at all.
With a heavy heart, Gaborn considered what he should do. He would have to notify the lords in Heredon of this disturbing news.
As they rode through the dawn, Gaborn suddenly had the urge to get away. He put his heels to horseflesh, and his roan hunter raced under the shadowed trees along the road, with Binnesman's mount easily keeping pace beside and the Days on his white mule struggling along behind. At last they reached a wide bend on a hilltop that afforded them an unobstructed view of Castle Sylvarresta.
Gaborn drew in his reins; he and the wizard halted, staring in surprise.
Castle Sylvarresta was set on a small hill at a bend in the river Wye, its high walls and towers rising like pinnacles. All around that hill squatted a walled city. Beyond the city walls, there was normally just the countryside — empty fields with a few haycocks, orchards, and farmers' cottages and barns.
But over the past week, as news of the rise of an Earth King spread, lords and peasants from all across Heredon — and even from kingdoms beyond Heredon — had begun to gather. Gaborn had a premonition of what was to come. The fields before Castle Sylvarresta had been burned black by Raj Ahten, yet already so many peasants had amassed that the grounds around the great walled city of Sylvarresta were covered by pavilions. Not all of the pavilions belonged to peasants; many tents belonged to lords and knights from around Heredon — armies that had marched when they'd heard of the invasion but had arrived too late to offer any aid. Banners of Orwynne and North Crowthen and Reeds and various merchant princes from Lysle mingled among the hosts, and off on one hill camped thousands of merchants out of Indhopal who — after having been driven off by King Sylvarresta — had hurried back to see this new wonder, this Earth King.
The fields around Castle Sylvarresta were dark, but they were no longer dark from the blackened grass. They were dark with the massed bodies of hundreds of thousands of men and animals.
"By the Powers," Gaborn swore. "Their numbers must have quadrupled in the past three days. It will take me the better part of a week to Choose them all."
Distantly, Gaborn could hear music drifting above the smoke of cooking fires. The sound of a jousting lance cracked across the countryside, followed immediately by cheers. Binnesman sat ahorse, gazing down, just as the Days rode up. All three mounts breathed heavily after their short run.
But something caught Gaborn's eye. In the sky above the valley, a flock of starlings flew, thousands strong, like a living cloud. They weaved one way, then another, swooped and then soared upward. It was as if they were lost, searching for a place to land but unable to find safety. Starlings often flew thus in the autumn, but these birds seemed peculiarly spooked.
Gaborn heard the honking of geese. He looked along the Wye River, which wound through the green fields like a silver thread. A hundred yards above the river, miles away, the geese flew in a V along the river course. But their voices sounded strained, crass.
Beside him, Binnesman sat upright and turned to Gaborn. "You hear it, too, don't you? You feel it in your bones."
"What?" Gaborn asked.
Gaborn's Days cleared his throat as if to ask a question, but said nothing. The historian seldom spoke. Interference in the affairs of mankind was forbidden by the Time Lords that the Days served. Still, he was obviously curious.
"The Earth. The Earth is speaking to us," Binnesman said. "It is speaking to you and to me."
"What does it say?"
"I don't know, yet," Binnesman answered honestly. The wizard scratched at his beard, then frowned. "But this is the way it usually speaks to me: in the worried stirrings of rabbits and mice, in the shifting flight of a cloud of birds, in the cries of geese. Now it whispers to the Earth King, too. You are growing, Gaborn. Growing in power."
Excerpted from Brotherhood of the Wolf by David Farland. Copyright © 1999 David Farland. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
David Farland is the author of the bestselling Runelords series, including Chaosbound, The Wyrmling Horde and Worldbinder. He also writes science-fiction as David Wolverton. He won the 1987 Writers of the Future contest, and has been nominated for a Nebula Award and a Hugo Award. Farland also works as a video game designer, and has taught writing seminars around the U.S. and Canada. He lives in Saint George, Utah.
David Farland is the author of the bestselling Runelords series, including Chaosbound, The Wyrmling Horde and Worldbinder. He also writes science fiction as David Wolverton. He won the 1987 Writers of the Future contest, and has been nominated for a Nebula Award and a Hugo Award. Farland also works as a video game designer, and has taught writing seminars around the U.S. and Canada. He lives in Saint George, Utah.
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I picked up the Runelords on a whim, and checked out the website, and also on a whim e-mailed the author--and he surprised me by writing BACK. He told me a little more about the story than what I could read on the reviews, and well, he convinced me to give his story a go...it was a gamble I was VERY happy I took. I can't TELL you how impressed I was with the overall 'feel' of the story, especially the complete originality of the magic described...using 'dedicates' and taking upon you the attributes of others was incredibly facinating, and like I said, TOTALLY original. This is absolutely the BEST part of The Runelords, and it continues in the sequel, 'Brotherhood of the Wolf'. David Farland has written a captivating sequel which completely captures what made the original so unique and fun. Fantasy novels come and go, and I am fervently hoping that David Farland can continue to tap into his vast creative resources to entertain us for years to come. Give these books a try, and just sit back and let your imagination run wild. Great storytelling and a fantastic book. By the way, 4-stars in NO way means that this isn't an incredible book. I just don't give out very many. Judge for yourself and let's hope the next installment in the Runelords saga comes out SOON.
I loved most of the characters, even the ones I loved to hate, but I think there were too many and the overall premise was constantly sad. I know that some of that premise is what makes the story unique, but it doesn't make me fond of it. With so many characters, I wasn't sure who I was supposed to like or trust, and some of the gaps between scenarios left me wondering where I was when we last left off. That's confusing. Overall, I enjoyed the book, and I do like Farland's writing style. There were some misspellings, incorrect punctuation, and other technical things that were a little irritating, too, something both author and editor should have paid better attention to.