Legend (Drenai Series)

Legend (Drenai Series)

4.7 46
by David Gemmell

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Druss, Captain of the Axe, was the stuff of legends. But even as the stories grew in the telling, Druss himself grew older. He turned his back on his own legend and retreated to a mountain lair to await his old enemy, death. Meanwhile, barbarian hordes were on the march. Nothing could stand in their way. Druss reluctantly agreed to come out of retirement. But could


Druss, Captain of the Axe, was the stuff of legends. But even as the stories grew in the telling, Druss himself grew older. He turned his back on his own legend and retreated to a mountain lair to await his old enemy, death. Meanwhile, barbarian hordes were on the march. Nothing could stand in their way. Druss reluctantly agreed to come out of retirement. But could even Druss live up to his own legends?

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Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Drenai Series
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Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.88(h) x 0.95(d)

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Rek was drunk. Not enough to matter but not enough not to matter, he thought, staring at the ruby wine casting blood shadows in the lead crystal glass. A log fire in the hearth warmed his back, the smoke stinging his eyes, the acrid smell of it mixing with the odor of unwashed bodies, forgotten meals, and musty, damp clothing. A lantern flame danced briefly in the icy wind as a shaft of cold air brushed the room. Then it was gone as a newcomer slammed shut the wooden door, muttering his apologies to the crowded inn.
Conversation, which had died in the sudden blast of frosty air, now resumed, a dozen voices from different groups merging into a babble of meaningless sounds. Rek sipped his wine. He shivered as someone laughed; the sound was as cold as the winter beating against the wooden walls. Like someone walking over your grave, he thought. He pulled his blue cloak more tightly about his shoulders. He did not need to hear the words to know the topic of every conversation: It had been the same for days.
Such a little word, such a depth of agony. Blood, death, conquest, starvation, plague, and horror.
More laughter burst upon the room. “Barbarians!” roared a voice above the rabble. “Easy meat for Drenai lances.” More laughter.
Rek stared at the crystal goblet. So beautiful. So fragile. Crafted with care, even love, multifaceted like a gossamer diamond. He lifted the crystal close to his face, seeing a dozen eyes reflected there.
And each accused. For a second he wanted to crush the glass into fragments, destroy the eyes and the accusation. But he did not. I am not a fool, he told himself. Not yet.
Horeb, the innkeeper, wiped his thick fingers on a towel and cast a tired yet wary eye over the crowd, alert for trouble, ready to step in with a word and a smile before the snarl and a fist became necessary. War. What was it about the prospect of such bloody enterprises that reduced men to the level of animals? Some of the drinkers–most, in fact–were well known to Horeb. Many were family men: farmers, traders, artisans. All were friendly; most were compassionate, trustworthy, even kindly. And here they were talking of death and glory and ready to thrash or slay any suspected of Nadir sympathies. The Nadir–even the name spoke of contempt.
But they’ll learn, he thought sadly. Oh, how they’ll learn! Horeb’s eyes scanned the large room, warming as they lighted upon his daughters, who were cleaning tables and delivering tankards. Tiny Dori blushing beneath her freckles at some ribald jest; Besa, the image of her mother, tall and fair; Nessa, fat and plain and loved by all, soon to marry the baker’s apprentice Norvas. Good girls. Gifts of joy. Then his gaze fell on the tall figure in the blue cloak seated by the window.
“Damn you, Rek, snap out of it,” he muttered, knowing the man would never hear him. Horeb turned away, cursed, then removed his leather apron and grasped a half-empty jug of ale and a tankard. As an afterthought he opened a small cupboard and removed a bottle of port he had been saving for Nessa’s wedding.
“A problem shared is a problem doubled,” he said, squeezing into the seat opposite Rek.
“A friend in need is a friend to be avoided,” Rek countered, accepting the proffered bottle and refilling his glass. “I knew a general once,” he said, staring at the wine, twirling the glass slowly with his long fingers. “Never lost a battle. Never won one, either.”
“How so?” asked Horeb.
“You know the answer. I’ve told you before.”
“I have a bad memory. Anyway, I like to listen to you tell stories. How could he never lose and never win?”
“He surrendered whenever threatened,” said Rek. “Clever, eh?”
“How come men followed him if he never won?”
“Because he never lost. Neither did they.”
“Would you have followed him?” asked Horeb.
“I don’t follow anyone anymore. Least of all generals.” Rek turned his head, listening to the interweaving chatter. He closed his eyes, concentrating. “Listen to them,” he said softly. “Listen to their talk of glory.”
“They don’t know any better, Rek, my friend. They haven’t seen it, tasted it. Crows like a black cloud over a battlefield feasting on dead men’s eyes, foxes jerking at severed tendons, worms . . .”
“Stop it, damn you . . . I don’t need reminding. Well, I’m damned if I’ll go. When’s Nessa getting married?
“In three days,” answered Horeb. “He’s a good boy; he’ll look after her. Keeps baking her cakes. She’ll be like a tub before long.”
“One way or another,” said Rek with a wink.
“Indeed, yes,” answered Horeb, grinning broadly. The men sat in their own silence, allowing the noise to wash over them, each drinking and thinking, secure within their circle of two. After a while Rek leaned forward.
“The first attack will be at Dros Delnoch,” he said. Do you know they’ve only ten thousand men there?”
“I heard it was less than that. Abalyn’s been cutting back on the regulars and concentrating on militia. Still, there’re six high walls and a strong keep. And Delnar’s no fool–he was at the Battle of Skeln.”
“Really?” said Rek. “I heard that was one man against ten thousand, hurling mountains of ice on the foe.”
“The saga of Druss the Legend,” said Horeb, deepening his voice. “The tale of a giant whose eyes were death and whose ax was terror. Gather around, children, and keeps from the shadows lest evil lurks as I tell my tale.”
“You bastard!” said Rek. “That used to terrify me. You knew him, didn’t you–the Legend, I mean?”
“A long time ago. They say he’s dead. If not, he must be over sixty. We were in three campaigns together, but I only spoke to him twice. I saw him in action once, though.”
“Was he good?” asked Rek.
“Awesome. It was just before Skeln and the defeat of the Immortals. Just a skirmish really. Yes, he was very good.”
“You’re not terribly strong on detail, Horeb.”
“You want me to sound like the rest of these fools, jabbering about war and death and slaying?”
“No,” said Rek, draining his wine. “No, I don’t. You know me, don’t you?”
“Enough to like you. Regardless.”
“Regardless of what?”
“Regardless of the fact that you don’t like yourself.”
“On the contrary,” said Rek, pouring a fresh glass. “I like myself well enough. It’s just that I know myself better than most people.”
“You know, Rek, sometimes I think you ask too much of yourself.”
“No. No, I ask very little. I know my weaknesses.”
“It’s a funny thing about weakness,” said Horeb. “Most people will tell you they know their weaknesses. When asked, they tell you, ‘Well, for one thing I’m overgenerous.’ Come on, then; list yours if you must. That’s what innkeepers are for.”
“Well, for one thing I’m overgenerous, especially to innkeepers.”
Horeb shook his head, smiled, and lapsed into silence.
Too intelligent to be a hero, too frightened to be a coward, he thought. He watched his friend empty his glass, life it to his face, and peer at his own fragmented image. For a moment Horeb thought he would smash it, such had been the anger on Rek’s flushed face.
Then the younger man gently returned tha goblet to the wooden table.
“I’m not a fool,” he said softly. He stiffened as he realized he had spoken aloud. “Damn!” he said. “The drink finally got ot me.”
“Let me give you a hand to your room,” offered Horeb.
“Is there a candle lit?” asked Rek, swaying in his seat.
“Of course.”
“You won’t let it go out on me, will you? Not keen on the dark. Not frightened, you understand. Just don’t like it.”
“I won’t let it go out, Rek. Trust me.”
“I trust you. I rescued you, didn’t I? Remember?”
“I remember. Give me your arm. I’ll guide you to the stairs. This way. That’s good. One foot in front of the other. Good!”
“I didn’t hesitate. Straight in with my sword raised, didn’t I?”
“No, I didn’t. I stood for two minutes, shaking. And you got cut.”
“But you still came in, Rek. Don’t you see? It didn’t matter about the cut–you still rescued me.”
“It matters to me. Is there a candle in my room?”

Behind him was the fortress, grim and gray, outlined in flame and smoke. The sounds of battle filled his ears, and he ran, heart pounding, his breathing ragged. He glanced behind him. The fortress was close, closer than it had been. Ahead were the green hills sheltering the Sentran Plain. They shimmered and retreated before him, taunting him with their tranquility. He ran faster. A shadow fell across him. The gates of the fortress opened. He strained against the force pulling him back. He cried and begged. But the gates closed, and he was back in the center of the battle, a bloody sword in his shaking hand.

He awoke, eyes wide, nostrils flared, the beginning of a scream swelling his lungs. A soft hand stroked his face, and gentle words soothed him. His eyes focused. Dawn was nearing, the pink light of a virgin day piercing the ice on the inside of the bedroom window. He rolled over.

What People are saying about this

Lawrence Watt-Evans
[Legend] is a powerful, intense and moving military fantasy at its finest...Sweeping in its scope...The depictions of courage, honor, and fortitude are second to none.
Harry Turtledove
Legend is a rousing tale, all primary colors: think of Robert E. Howard meeting David Eddings. If you like headlong adventure, this one's for you.

Meet the Author

Most famous for his debut novel Legend, which became the first book in the Drenai series, David Gemmell (1948-2006) was a British fantasy writer who eventually wrote thirty books. He described his novels as "essentially Christian books," and they are known for featuring heroic characters with tragic flaws and promoting the value of redemption.

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Legend 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 46 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Druss, the main character, is the Clint Eastwood of blade carrying warriors. Gemmell creates characters in a simple and clean way like no other. Gemmell darn near ruined me for any other fantasy author...his books are just that good. Druss IS a modern fantasy world super hero in the same vein as characters such as William Wallace in the movie Braveheart or Connor McCloud of the Clan McCloud. I dropped out of reading the Eye of the World and Game of Thrones series' due to long gaps in action and endless backtracking and flashbacks and overly complicated plotlines. This doesn't make the book a "dumbed down" story in the least. In many ways it makes the characters more elegant and relatable without the unnecessary soap opera like qualities that eventually soured me on Robert Jordan and George R.R. Martin. Druss is what Conan would have grown into if he had ever advanced beyond the emotional age of 21. Truth be told...I liked the Conan books and the character of Conan as a kid, but Gemmell is a better writer than Burroughs ever was. Another thing I like about this and other Gemmell books is that they are fast paced and Gemmell never uses twenty words to fully explore a plot point when he can do it just as well with ten words. Again, it doesn't mean book doesn't explore and question the human condition any less than most decent books...it just means Gemmell does it better, does it in a more entertaining fashion and without having to hit the reader in the face with it over and over. He makes his point and moves on, like...well, like Clint in Unforgiven or Gran Torino. I hate to keep going to that Clint-well but there is quite a degree of similarity between how the two men create characters. Read it. You won't regret it.
El_Guapo53 More than 1 year ago
Gemmell does a fantastic job bringing this diverse and complex world to life. The characters in the story have all the epic moments that draws readers of classic fantasy while still remaining accessible to everyone. Druss is a hero for the ages and in a world filled with too many "pretty" vampires and heartthrob heroes reminds me of why I love the genre. If you're a fan of David Gemmell or looking for a great read I highly recommend this book. If you enjoy it be sure to check out "White Wolf" or "Sword in the Storm" also by Gemmell.
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The single best book I have read. David Gemmell never disappoints me. A truly inspirational read. Buy it now!!
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This book was vey well written. David Gemmel keeps you turning the pages till you're finished. My advice is too get this book immediately, and perhaps pick up a few other of Gemmel's novels.
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This book and Gemmel's Waylander series got me into fantasy over a decade ago and out of the hundreds of fantasy books ive read since then this is still the one I always come back to. Druss is the kind of Hero that everyone writer eantts to create.
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ksn_jesse More than 1 year ago
When I think about what a fantasy book should be, I always come back to compare them to this book and David Gemmell. Legend is the story of how an old legend of a an old legend of a warrior, a wayward traveler, and a earl's daughter all come together to defy the largest army that the world has seen. Rek, an warrior sick of war and more than a little fightened of the idea of fighting, heads out seeking to avoid the coming war between the Drenai and the barbarian hordes of the Nadir. As he departs, he saves a lone woman fighting with a group of thieves. After saving her, he learn's she is the daughter of the earl where the horde of Nadir will descend in order to invade. He follows her to a group of White Priest Knights, where she pleas for their aid in the coming war. At the same time, the aging warrior Druss, of which most stories of the days are told about, is requested by the Earl to come and help defend the Dross. He makes his way, bringing with him some unconventional reinforcements and training harsher than any of the waiting soldiers have done. Problems, espionage and battle ensue, but does the Dross fall? This is a novel full of heroism, full bodied characters, and battles that dwarf Hollywood ideas. It is exactly what the word epic was intended for. You will not be disappointed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Bistro More than 1 year ago
This is my favorite book that I have ever read. Gemmell is the best... Every book that I have read of his his wonderful, and there are only a couple left for me to read. I REALLY HATE that there will be no more David Gemmell books after that. I will re-read all of them... I am a huge Druss fan and this is the best, I literally read it cover to cover in one sitting... Gemmell got me started reading sci-fi/fantasy and I have read probably 50 books by a lot of authors, and Gemmell is unlike any other. Yes, I like Robert Jordan's "The Wheel of Time" series, very good reading. I am about to read the 12th book in that one. I also really like Raymond Feist and have read all his stuff, sarting with the Magician: Apprentice. I would have to say he is my second favorite author. But Gemmell is superior, if you don't read LEGEND you are truly missing the boat!!!
dreden More than 1 year ago
I fell in love with David Gemmells writing style in his series on Troy. I loved it so much that I had to seek out his other works too! I normally don't read books in the Fantasy section but I'm glad I decided too! The Drenai Series has been exciting to read! I have read 7 out of the 11 in the series and have fallen in love with the characters Druss and Waylander. It's going to be a sad day for me when I finish the last book. I encourage everyone to read this series and all of his books. Exciting from cover to cover! If you like battles between good and evil, sorcery, humor, love and just overall great writing, you will love these books. His descriptive writing puts you right in the mix of the battles and has you cheering as your reading! This is the most excited I have been about a book in awhile!