Krondor: The Betrayal (Riftwar Legacy Series #1)by Raymond E. Feist
The RiftWar is done. But a fearsome army of trolls and renegade humans, emboldened by the drug of destruction, has risen in strength from the ashes of defeat. There is one, however, who defies the call to battle...
New York Times bestselling fantasist Raymond E. Feist returns to a beleaguered realm of wonders and magic-where war is an enduring legacy;/em>… See more details below
The RiftWar is done. But a fearsome army of trolls and renegade humans, emboldened by the drug of destruction, has risen in strength from the ashes of defeat. There is one, however, who defies the call to battle...
New York Times bestselling fantasist Raymond E. Feist returns to a beleaguered realm of wonders and magic-where war is an enduring legacy; where blood swells the rivers and nourishes the land. Attend to this hitherto untold chapter in the violent history of Midkemia -- a towering saga of great conflicts, brave acts and insidious intrigues. It is the story of a traitor who rejects the brutality of his warlike kind and casts his lot with the human targets of their fierce aggression. It tells of mysterious deaths and sinister machinations -- and signs of a time when the fate of many civilizations rested in the able, unfaltering hands of RiftWar veterans Squire Locklear and cunning their-turned-squire Jimmy the Hand. It chronicles the powerful awakening of Owyn -- apprentice magician of untried strengths -- and celebrates the selfless achievements of Pug, the great sorcerer of two worlds. Welcome now to astonishing new corners of a world you have not yet fully explored-and prepare to experience true excitement, blood chilling terror...and the triumph born from the doom aimed at the beating heart of a kingdom.
Read an Excerpt
THE FIRE CRACKLED.
Owyn Belefote sat alone in the night before the flames, wallowing in his personal misery. The youngest son of the Baron of Timons, he was a long way from home and wishing he was even farther away. His youthful features were set in a portrait of dejection.
The night was cold and the food scant, especially after having just left the abundance of his aunt's home in Yabon City. He had been hosted by relatives ignorant of his falling-out with his father, people who had reacquainted him over a week's visit with what he had forgotten about his home life: the companionship of brothers and sisters, the warmth of a night spent before the fire, conversation with his mother, and even the arguments with his father.
"Father," Owyn muttered. It had been less than two years since the young man had defied his father and made his way to Stardock, the island of magicians located in the southern reaches of the Kingdom. His father had forbidden him his choice, to study magic, demanding Owyn should at least become a cleric of one of the more socially acceptable orders of priests. After all, they did magic as well, his father had insisted.
Owyn sighed and gathered his cloak around him. He had been so certain he would someday return home to visit his family, revealing himself as a great magician, perhaps a confidant of the legendary Pug, who had created the Academy at Stardock. Instead he found himself ill suited for the study required. He also had no love for the burgeoning politics ofthe place, with factions of students rallying around this teacher or that, attempting to turn the study of magic into another religion. He now knew he was, at best, a mediocre magician and would never amount to more, and no matter how much he wished to study magic, he lacked sufficient talent.
After slightly more than one year of study, Owyn had left Stardock, conceding to himself that he had made a mistake. Admitting such to his father would prove a far more daunting taskwhich was why he had decided to visit family in the distant province of Yabon before mustering the courage to return to the East and confront his sire.
A rustle in the bushes caused Owyn to clutch a heavy wooden staff and jump to his feet. He had little skill with weapons, having neglected that portion of his education as a child, but had developed enough skill with this quarterstaff to defend himself.
"Who's there?" he demanded.
From out of the gloom came a voice, saying, "Hello, the camp. We're coming in."
Owyn relaxed slightly, as bandits would be unlikely to warn him they were coming. Also, he was obviously not worth attacking, as he looked little more than a ragged beggar these days. Still, it never hurt to be wary.
Two figures appeared out of the gloom, one roughly Owyn's height, the other a head taller. Both were covered in heavy cloaks, the smaller of the two limping obviously.
The limping man looked over his shoulder, as if being followed, then asked, "Who are you?"
Owyn said, "Me? Who are you?"
The smaller man pulled back his hood, and said, "Locklear, I'm a squire to Prince Arutha."
Owyn nodded. "Sir, I'm Owyn, son of Baron Belefote."
"From Timons, yes, I know who your father is," said Locklear, squatting before the fire, opening his hands to warm them. He glanced up at Owyn. "You're a long way from home, aren't you?"
"I was visiting my aunt in Yabon," said the blond youth. "I'm now on my way home."
"Long journey," said the muffled figure.
"I'll work my way down to Krondor, then see if I can travel with a caravan or someone else to Salador. From there I'll catch a boat to Timons."
"Well, we could do worse than stick together until we reach LaMut," said Locklear, sitting down heavily on the ground. His cloak fell open, and Owyn saw blood on the young man's clothing.
"You're hurt," he said.
"Just a bit," admitted Locklear.
"We were jumped a few miles north of here," said Locklear.
Owyn started rummaging through his travel bag. "I have something in here for wounds," he said. "Strip off your tunic."
Locklear removed his cloak and tunic, while Owyn took bandages and powder from his bag. "My aunt insisted I take this just in case. I thought it an old lady's foolishness, but apparently it wasn't."
Locklear endured the boy's ministrations as he washed the wound, obviously a sword cut to the ribs, and winced when the powder was sprinkled upon it. Then as he bandaged the squire's ribs, Owyn said, "Your friend doesn't talk much, does he?"
"I am not his friend," answered Gorath. He held out his manacles for inspection. "I am his prisoner."
Trying to peer into the darkness of Gorath's hood, Owyn said, "What did he do?"
"Nothing, except be born on the wrong side of the mountains," offered Locklear.
Gorath pulled back his hood and graced Owyn with the faintest of smiles.
"Gods' teeth!" exclaimed Owyn. "He's a Brother of the Dark Path!"
"Moredhel," corrected Gorath, with a note of ironic bitterness. "'Dark elf,' in your tongue, human. At least our cousins in Elvandar would have you believe us so."
Locklear winced as Owyn applied his aunt's salve to the wounded ribs. "A couple of hundred years of war lets us form our own opinions, thank you, Gorath."
Gorath said, "You understand so little, you humans."
"Well," said Locklear, "I'm not going anywhere at the moment, so educate me."
Gorath looked at the young squire, as if trying to judge something, and was silent for a while. "Those you call `elves' and my people are one, by blood, but we live different lives. We were the first mortal race after the great dragons and the Ancient Ones."
Owyn looked at Gorath in curiosity, while Locklear just gritted his teeth, and said, "Hurry it up, would you, lad?"
"Who are the Ancient Ones?" asked Owyn in a whisper.
"The Dragon Lords," said Locklear.
"Lords of power, the Valheru," supplied Gorath. "When they departed this world, they placed our fate in our own hands, naming us a free people."
Locklear said, "I've heard the story."
"It is more than a story, human, for to my people it gave over this world to our keeping. Then came you humans, and the dwarves, and others. This is our world, and you seized it from us."
Locklear said, "Well, I'm not a student of theology, and my knowledge of history is sadly lacking, but it seems to me that whatever the cause of our arrival on this world according to your lore, we're here, and we don't have anywhere else to go. So if your kin, the elves, can make the best of it, why can't you?"
Gorath studied the young man, but said nothing. Then he stood, moving with deadly purpose toward Locklear.
Owyn had just tied off the bandage and fell hard as Locklear pushed him aside while he attempted to rise and draw his sword as Gorath closed on him.
But rather than attack Locklear, he lunged past the pair of humans, lashing out above Locklear's head with the chain that held his manacles. A ringing of steel caused Locklear to flinch aside, as Gorath shouted, "Assassin in the camp!" Then Gorath kicked hard at Owyn, shouting, "Get out from underfoot!"
Owyn didn't know where the assassin came from; one moment there had been three of them in the small clearing, then the next Gorath was locked in a life-and-death struggle with another of his kind.
Two figures grappled by the light of the campfire, their features set in stark relief by the firelight and darkness of the woods. Gorath had knocked the other moredhel's sword from his hand, and when the second dark elf attempted to pull a dagger, Gorath slipped behind him, wrapping his wrist chains around the attacker's throat. He yanked hard, and the attacker's eyes bulged in shock, as Gorath said, "Do not struggle so, Haseth. For old times' sake I will make this quick." With a snap of his wrists, he crushed the other dark elf's windpipe, and the creature went limp.
Gorath let him fall to the ground, saying, "May the Goddess of Darkness show you mercy."
Locklear stood up. "I thought we had lost them."
"I knew we had not," said Gorath.
"Why didn't you say something?" demanded Locklear as he retrieved his tunic and put it on over the new bandages.
"We had to turn and face him sometime," said Gorath, resuming his place. "We could do it now, or in a day or two when you were even weaker from loss of blood and no food." Gorath looked into the darkness from which the assassin had come. "Had he not been alone, you'd have had only my body to drag before your prince."
"You don't get off that easily, moredhel. You don't have my permission to die yet, after the trouble I've gone through to keep you alive so far," said Locklear. "Is he the last?"
"Almost certainly not," said the dark elf. "But he is the last of this company. Others will come." He glanced in the opposite direction. "And others may already be ahead of us."
Locklear reached into a small pouch at his side and produced a key. "Then I think you'd better get those chains off," he said. He unlocked the wrist irons, and Gorath watched them fall to the ground with an impassive expression. "Take the assassin's sword."
"Maybe we should bury him?" suggested Owyn.
Gorath shook his head. "That is not our way. His body is but a shell. Let it feed the scavengers, return to the soil nourish the plants, and renew the world. His spirit has begun its journey through darkness, and with the Goddess of Darkness's pleasure, he may find his way to the Blessed Isles." Gorath looked northward, as if seeking sight of something in the dark. "He was my kinsman, though one of whom I was not overly fond. But ties of blood run strong with my people. For him to hunt me names me outcast and traitor to my race." He looked at Locklear. "We have common cause, then, human. For if I am to carry out the mission that brands me anathema to my people, I must survive. We need to help one another." Gorath took Haseth's sword. To Owyn he said, "Don't bury him, but you could pull him out of the way, human. By morning he's going to become even more unpleasant to have nearby."
Owyn looked uncertain about touching a corpse, but said nothing as he went over, reached down, and gripped the dead moredhel by the wrists. The creature was surprisingly heavy. As Owyn started to drag Haseth away, Gorath said, "And see if he dropped his travel bag back there in the woods before he attacked us, boy. He may have something to eat in it."
Owyn nodded, wondering what strange chance had brought him to dragging a corpse through the dark woods and looting its body.
Morning found a tired trio making their way through the woodlands, staying within sight of the road, but not chancing walking openly along it.
"I don't see why we didn't return to Yabon and get some horses," complained Owyn.
Locklear said, "We have been jumped three times since leaving Tyr-Sog. If others are coming after us, I'd rather not walk right into them. Besides, we may find a village between here and LaMut where we can get some horses."
"And pay for them with what?" asked Owyn. "You said the fight where you were wounded was when your horses ran off with all your things. I assume that means your funds, too? I certainly don't have enough to buy three mounts."
Locklear smiled. "I'm not without resources."
"We could just take them," offered Gorath.
"There is that," agreed Locklear. "But without obvious badges of rank or a patent from the Prince on my person, it might prove difficult to convince the local constable of my bona fides. And we should hardly be safe penned up in a rural jail with cutthroats out looking for us."
Owyn fell silent. They had been walking since sunup, and he was tired. "How about a rest?" he offered.
"I don't think so," said Gorath, his voice falling to a whisper. "Listen."
Neither human said anything for a moment, then Owyn said, "What? I don't hear anything."
"That's the point," said Gorath. "The birds in the trees ahead suddenly stopped their songs."
"A trap?" asked Locklear.
"Almost certainly," said Gorath, pulling the sword he had taken from his dead kinsman.
Locklear said, "My side burns, but I can fight." To Owyn he said, "What about you?"
Owyn hefted his wooden staff. It was hard oak, with iron-shod ends. "I can swing this, if I need to. And I have some magic."
"Can you make them vanish?"
"No," said Owyn. "I can't do that."
"Pity," said Locklear. "Then try to stay out of the way."
They advanced cautiously, and as they neared the spot Gorath had indicated, Locklear could make out a shadowy figure between the trees. The man or moredhelLocklear couldn't tell whichmoved slightly, revealing his position. Had he remained motionless, Locklear would never have seen him.
Gorath signaled for Locklear and Owyn to move more to their right, looping around behind the lookout. Without knowing how many men they faced, they would do well to seek the advantage of surprise.
Gorath moved through the woods like a spirit, silent and almost unseen once Owyn and Locklear left him. Locklear signaled for Owyn to keep slightly behind and to the right of him, so he knew where he was when they closed upon their ambushers.
As they moved through the woods, they heard the sound of whispers, and Locklear knew no elves waiting for them would utter a word. Now the question was were these mere bandits or agents seeking to stop Gorath's journey.
A grunt from ahead signaled Gorath's first contact with the ambushers. A shout followed instantly, and Locklear and Owyn ran forward.
Four men stood and one was already dying. The other three spread out in a small clearing between two lines of trees, a perfect position for a roadside ambush. Locklear felt an odd flicker behind him, and something sped past his eyes, as if an arrow had been fired from behind, but other than the sensation of motion, there was nothing to be seen.
One of the three remaining ambushers cried out in shock, his hand going out before him as vacant eyes stared ahead. "I'm blind!" he shouted in panic.
Locklear decided it was Owyn's useful magic, and thanked the Goddess of Luck the boy had that much talent.
Gorath was engaged with one man while Locklear advanced on the other. Suddenly their garb registered, and he said, "Quegans!"
The men were wearing short tunics and leggings, and cross-gartered sandals. The man facing Locklear had his head covered with a red bandanna, and over his shoulder was a baldric from which a cutlass had hung. The cutlass was now carving through the air at Locklear's head.
He parried, and the blow shot fire through his wounded side. Putting aside his pain, Locklear riposted, and the pirate fell back. A strangled cry told Locklear the second pirate was down.
The strange missile sensation sped by, and the man facing Locklear winced and held his hand up as if shielding his eyes. Locklear didn't hesitate and ran the man through.
Gorath killed the last man, and suddenly it was quiet again in the woods.
Locklear's side was afire, but he didn't feel any additional damage. He put up his sword, and said, "Damn me."
"Are you hurt?" asked Owyn.
"No," answered Locklear.
"Then what is the problem?" asked Owyn.
Locklear looked around the clearing. "These are the problem. Someone has gotten word ahead of us. We can be certain of that."
"How?" asked Gorath.
"These are Quegan pirates," said Locklear. "Look at their weapons."
"I wouldn't know a Quegan if I tripped over him," said Owyn. "I'll take your word for it, Squire."
"Do not pirates usually ply their trade at sea?" asked Gorath.
"They do," said Locklear, "unless someone's paid them to stake out a road and wait for three travelers on foot." He knelt next to the man who had died at his feet, and said, "Look at his hands. Those are the hands of a man used to handling rope. Those Quegan cutlasses are the clincher." He examined the man, looking for a pouch or purse, saying, "Look for anything that might be a mess age."
They did and came away with a little gold and a couple of daggers in addition to the four cutlasses. But no messages or notes, nothing indicating who had hired the pirates. "We're not close enough to Ylith for a band of pirates to have made it this far north undetected in the time since we left Yabon."
"Someone must have sent word south when I left the Northlands," said Gorath.
"But how?" asked Owyn. "You've told me you only spent a couple of days in Tyr-Sog, and you were riding until yesterday."
"That's an odd question for a student of magic," observed Gorath.
Owyn blushed a little. "Oh."
"You've Spellweavers who can do such?" asked Locklear.
"Not such as the eledhelthose you call `elves'call Spellweavers. But we have our practitioners of magic. And there are others of your race who will sell their arts."
Owyn said, "I've never witnessed it, but I have heard of a talent called `mind speech' which allows a spellcaster to speak with another. And there's something known as `dream speech' as well. Either"
"Someone really wants you dead, don't they?" observed Locklear, interrupting the boy.
"Delekhan," said Gorath. "And he was gathering to his side any of my people who showed such talents. I know his goals, but not his plan. And if magic arts are part of it, I fear the results."
Locklear said, "I understand that. I've had my share of encounters with people using magic who shouldn't." He glanced at Owyn, and said, "That blinding trick was quite good, lad."
Looking embarrassed, Owyn said, "I thought it might help. I know a few spells like that, but nothing that would overpower an enemy. Still, I'll try to help where I can."
Glancing at Owyn, Locklear said, "I know. Let's get to LaMut."
LaMut stood astride the road south, requiring anyone traveling from Yabon to Ylith to pass through its gates or endure a long trek to the east through dangerous foothills.
The foulbourgh of the city sprawled in all directions, while the old walls of the city stood behind, nearly useless now, given the ease with which any attacker could mount the buildings next to them and gain the parapet from their roofs.
It was nearly sundown, and all three travelers were tired, footsore, and hungry. "We can present ourselves to Earl Kasumi tomorrow."
"Why not now?" asked Owyn. "I could use a meal and a bed."
"Because the garrison is up there," said Locklear, pointing at a distant fortress high above the city on a hillside, "and that would be another two hours' walk, whereas a cheap inn is but one minute that way." He pointed at the gate.
"Will your countrymen object to my presence?" asked Gorath.
"They would if they suspected your nature. If they think you an elf from Elvandar, they may only stare a little. Come on. We've looted enough gold for a night of relative comfort, and in the morning we'll visit the Earl and see if he can get us safely to Krondor."
They entered the city under the watchful gaze of otherwise bored-looking soldiers. One of them stood out from his companions, being shorter and much more businesslike in his manner. Locklear smiled and nodded at the guards, but the three travelers didn't stop or speak. A short distance inside the city gates sat an inn, marked by a wagon wheel painted bright blue. "There," said Locklear.
They entered the inn, busy, but not crowded, and moved to a table near the far wall. As they sat a stout young servingwoman came, took their order for food and ale, and left. As they were waiting, Locklear spied a figure on the other side of the room staring at him.
It took a moment for Locklear to realize the figure wasn't a man, but a dwarf. The dwarf stood and made his way across the room. He bore a large scar across his face, cutting through his left eye. He stood before them, and said, "You don't recognize me, do you, Locky?"
Locklear realized the last time he had seen the dwarf he had not borne the scar he now sported, but at hearing his name from the dwarf's lips, he said, "Dubal! Without the eye patch, it took me a moment."
The dwarf moved to sit next to Owyn, across from Gorath. "I won this face in battle, from one of his kin"he pointed at Gorath"and I'll be a dragon's mother before I hide it again."
"Dubal found me hiding in a cellar after the Battle of Sethanon," said Locklear.
"Locked in there with a pretty wench, if memory serves." The dwarf laughed.
Locklear shrugged. "Well, that was by chance."
Dubal said, "Now tell me, what is a Seigneur of the Prince's court doing sitting in LaMut with a moredhel warchief?" He kept his voice low, but Owyn glanced around to see if anyone had overhead him.
"You know me?" asked Gorath.
"I know your race, for you are the enemy of my blood, and I know your armor for what it is. A human might not notice, but we of the Grey Towers have fought your kind long enough I wouldn't mistake you for one from Elvandar. It's only your present company that keeps me from killing you here and now."
Locklear held up his hand. "I would count it a kindness and a personal favor, as would Prince Arutha, should you imagine this person on my left to be an elf."
"I think I can manage. But you'll have to come to the Grey Towers and tell me the story behind this mummery."
"If I can, I will," said Locklear. "Now, what brings you alone to LaMut?"
"We've got problems at our mines and had a collapse. Some of us are stuck on this side of the Grey Towers, and I came in to the city to buy some stores. I'll hire a wagon and head back in the morning. For the time being, I'm content to sit and drink, and jabber with some of these Tsurani here in LaMut. I fought them during the war, and they've turned out to be a stalwart enough bunch once you get to know them." He pointed to the bar. "That tall fellow"Locky laughed to hear anyone call a Tsurani "tall""he's Sumani, the owner. Has a fair number of tales to spin about his days serving on the Tsurani world, and I'm switched if it doesn't sound like he's telling the truth most of the time."
Locklear laughed. "Most Tsurani I know don't indulge in tall tales, Dubal."
"Seems to be so, but you never know. I've fought the big bugs, the Cho-ja, but some of those other things he talks about, well, I'm hard-pressed to believe them."
The servingwoman arrived with the food and ale, and they fell to. "Now," said Dubal, "can you tell me what brings you here?"
"No," replied Locklear, "but we can ask you if you've seen any Quegans hanging around."
"There was a pack of them through here two days ago, according to the gossip," said Dubal. "I just arrived and was brokering the material we need. Aren't Quegans a bit far from home?"
"You could say that," observed Locklear. "We ran into some and wondered if they had friends."
"Well, according to the gossip, they were all heading north from here, so if you didn't run into a big bunch, they've got friends around."
Locklear said, "That's as I figured."
They ate in silence for a while, as Dubal nursed his mug of ale. Then the dwarf said, "You wouldn't have run across one of those Armengar monster hunters coming from the north, have you?"
"Monster hunter?" asked Owyn.
Locklear said, "Beast Hunter, is what he means. I met one once." He smiled at the memory. They had been traveling with Prince Arutha away from a band of moredhel, and had run into a Beast Hunter from Armengar with his Beast Hound. It had been a trap, but it had saved them from the pursuing moredhel. "No, I think those that remain are up in the hills of northern Yabon. Why?"
"Oh, we've got a Brak Nurr loose in the mine and need someone to hunt it down for us. We can either rebuild the mine or hunt the thing, but there aren't enough of us on this side of the mountain to do both."
"What's a Brak Nurr?" asked Owyn. "I've never heard of such a creature."
"It's more a nuisance than a menace," said Dubal. "It's a pretty stupid creature, but most of their kind stay in the lower mines and tunnels under the mountain. It's roughly man-shaped, but looks like a walking pile of rocks. That's part of its danger, boy," Dubal said to Owyn. "You can't see one until you've stepped on its toes, as often as not. They're slow and lumbering, but they're strong and can crush a man's skull with a single blow. This one came up because of the rockslide, I think, but whatever the cause, it's tried to hurt a couple of our lads. We've chased it off, but can't take the time to hunt it down. If you're up for a bit of fun, I can take you along, and if you rid the mines of it, I'll be happy to see you rewarded."
"Reward?" said Locky. "That's always a good word, but time doesn't permit. If circumstances bring us to the mines anytime soon, we'll be glad to help, but for the moment, we're heading south."
Dubal stood. "I understand. Once we get the tunnels finished, we'll go looking for the beastie. Now, I'm for bed and an early start. It was good seeing you again, Squire, even in such company as this," he said, indicating Gorath. "Good fortune follow you."
"And you, Dubal."
Locklear finished eating and rose to approach the innkeeper.
The innkeeper wore a Kingdom-style tunic and trousers, the latter tucked into high-top calfskin boots. But he wore a furlined, woven-wool heavy cloak, though it was thrown back, as if even in this warm inn it was too cold for his liking.
"Sir?" asked the innkeeper, his heavy accent making the word sound odd to Locklear.
"Honors to your house," said Locklear in Tsurani.
The man smiled, and said something in return. Locklear smiled and shrugged. "Sorry, that was all the Tsurani I know."
The man's smile broadened. "More than most," he said. "You're not from LaMut," he observed.
"True. I learned a little of your native tongue at Sethanon."
"Ah," said the innkeeper, nodding in understanding. Few who were at Sethanon spoke of what occurred there, mostly because few understood it. At the height of the battle a great upheaval had driven both armies, invaders and defenders, fleeing from the city. A green light from the heavens and the appearance of something in the sky, followed by the destruction of the center of the city, had rendered most men stunned, and a few deaf, after the battle. No one was certain what had happened, though most conceded a great magic had been unleashed. Most speculated the magician Pug, a friend of the Prince, had a hand in it, but no one seemed to know for certain.
Locklear had missed most of the end of the battle, being hidden in a cellar in the city, but he had heard enough accounts from other eyewitnesses to have formed a pretty clear picture in his own mind. And there was a special bond among those who had survived the Battle of Sethanon, irrespective of their place of birth, for it had been Tsurani, Kingdom, and even Keshian soldiers, who had driven the moredhel and their goblin allies back into the Northlands.
"What I said," explained the innkeeper, "was `Honor to your houses, and be welcome to the Blue Wheel Inn.'"
"Blue Wheel? That's one of your Tsurani political parties, isn't it?"
The innkeeper's broad face split into a smile, revealing even white teeth. His dark eyes seemed to glint in the lanternlight. "You do know of us!" He extended his hand, Kingdom fashion, and said, "I am Sumani. If there is anything that my servants or I may do, you need only ask."
Locklear shook the innkeeper's hand, and said, "A room for the night after we finish our meal would serve. We have business in the castle tomorrow at dawn."
The stocky ex-fighter nodded. "You're in luck, my friend. Last night I would have had to express my regrets and endure the shame of being unable to fulfill your request. We were full, but this morning a large party departed, and we have rooms." He reached under the bar and produced a heavy iron key. "On my homeworld this would have been worth a man's life; here it is but a tool."
Locklear nodded, understanding the scarcity of metals on Kelewan. He took the key. "Large party?"
"Yes," said Sumani. "Foreigners. Quegans, I believe. Their speech was strange to my ear."
Locklear looked around the obviously prosperous inn. "How did a Tsurani soldier end up running an inn in LaMut?"
"After the war, Earl Kasumi gave those of us who had been trapped on this side of the rift the opportunity to live as Kingdom citizens. When the rift was reopened, he gave those of us here in LaMut the choice of leaving service and returning to the Shinzawai estates on Kelewan. Most stayed, though some left service and returned to serve again with Kasumi's father, Lord Kamatsu. A few of us, however, retired here in LaMut. I had no living family back home." He glanced around. "And to tell the truth, I live better here than I would have back home. There, I might have become a farmer, or a laborer on the Shinzawai estates." He pointed through the open door to the kitchen, to where a tall, stout woman was hard at work preparing food. "Here, I have a Kingdom wife. We have two children. Life is good. And I am part of the city's militia, so I still train with my sword. The gods of both worlds smile on me, and I prosper. I find business to be as challenging as warfare."
Locklear smiled. "I have no head for business, though I have been told it often is like warfare. What gossip?"
The old former fighter said, "Much. Many travelers in LaMut over the last month. Much speculation. A large party of Great Ones came through here last week. And it is rumored some brigands from my homeworld, grey warriors, have also been seen near the city."
"Grey warriors?" asked Locklear. "Houseless men? What would they be doing here in LaMut?"
Sumani shrugged. "It may be those without honor have heard that here a man may rise by his own wits and talents, and not be bound by his rank at birth. Or it may be they are seeking riches in this land. With a grey warrior, who can say?" A frown crossed Sumani's face.
"What?" asked Locklear.
"Just this one thing: the rift is controlled by those who serve the Great Ones on Kelewan, and Kingdom soldiers guard the gate on this side. To pass through, these grey warriors would have to have documents, or allies among those guarding the rift gate."
"Bribes?" asked Locklear.
"Here, perhaps. I've found in the Kingdom the concept of honor is different than at home. But betrayal from the servants of the Great Ones?" He shook his head. "That is impossible."
"Thanks," said Locklear, smelling a puzzle. "I'll keep my eyes and ears open."
The Tsurani laughed. "That is a funny thing to say," he observed. "Let me know if I may be of any further service."
Locklear nodded. He took a lantern from the innkeeper and returned to the table. Gorath and Owyn rose, and Locklear led his companions up the stairs to a simple room with four beds. He motioned for Owyn to help him move one of the beds across the door, barring it against a sudden attack, then he moved another directly below the bed. "Owyn," he said, pointing to the bed under the window, "you sleep there."
"Why?" asked the young man from Timons. "It's drafty under there."
Gorath looked on with a slight turn to his lip, as if amused, as Locklear answered, "Because if anyone climbs in through the window, they'll step on you, and your shouts will alert us."
Grumbling, Owyn wrapped his cloak tightly around himself and lay down. Locklear indicated one of the beds to Gorath, who lay upon it without comment. Locklear sat on his bed and blew out the flame in the lantern, plunging the room into darkness. Voices from the common room below carried upstairs, and Locklear let his mind wander. The presence of foreigners and the attack by the Quegans worried him, and the rumor of Tsurani grey warriors in the area caused him additional concern, but fatigue and his injury caused him to quickly fall asleep.
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