She Is the Darkness (Glittering Stone Series #2)by Glen Cook
The tale comes to us from the pen of Murgen, Annalist and Standard Bearer of the Black Company, whose developing powers of travel through space and time give him a perspective like no other. Led by the wily commander, Croaker, and the Lady, the Company is working for the Taglian government, but neither the Company nor the Taglians are overflowing with trust for each… See more details below
The tale comes to us from the pen of Murgen, Annalist and Standard Bearer of the Black Company, whose developing powers of travel through space and time give him a perspective like no other. Led by the wily commander, Croaker, and the Lady, the Company is working for the Taglian government, but neither the Company nor the Taglians are overflowing with trust for each other. Arrayed against both is a similarly tenuous alliance of sorcerers, including the diabolical Soulcatcher, the psychotic Howler, and a four-year-old child who may be the most powerful of all.
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She Is the Darkness
By Glen Cook
Tor BooksCopyright © 1997 Glen Cook
All right reserved.
The wind whines and howls with bitter breath. Lightning snarls and barks. Rage is an animate force upon the plain of glittering stone. Even shadows are afraid.
The scars of cataclysm disfigure a plain that has known only an age of dark perfection. A jagged fissure lies like a lightning slash across its face. Nowhere is that fissure so wide that a child could not step across but it seems bottomless. Trailers of mist drift forth. Some bear a hint of color. Any color clashes with the thousand blacks and greys.
At the heart of the plain stands a vast grey stronghold, unknown, older than any written memory. One ancient tower has collapsed across the fissure. From the heart of the fastness comes a great deep slow beat like that of a slumbering world-heart, cracking the olden silence.
Death is eternity. Eternity is stone. Stone is silence.
Stone cannot speak but stone remembers.
The Old Man looked up. His quill twitched, betraying his irritation at being interrupted. "What is it, Murgen?"
"I went for a walk with the ghost. That earth tremor we felt a while ago?"
"What about it? And don't give me none of that around-the-bush crap One-Eye's always handing out. I don't have time for it."
"The farther south you go the worse the destruction is."
The Old Man opened his mouth, closed, it to think some before he said anything else.
Croaker, the Old Man, the Captain of the Black Company, the right-now-by-god military dictator of Taglios and all its tributaries, dependencies and protectorates, does not look the part. He is in his middle fifties, possibly closer to sixty. He stands more than six feet tall. He has grown slightly heavy during four years spent mainly in garrison. He has a high forehead with a feeble crop of haft farther back. Lately he has been affecting a beard on his chin. It is grizzled. So is what hair still lurks upon his head. His icy blue eyes are deeply set, giving him a hard, scary look, like some kind of psychopathic killer.
He does not know. Nobody ever told him. Sometimes he is hurt because people back off. He does not understand why.
Mostly it's his eyes. They can be really spooky.
He considers himself just one of the guys. Most of the time.
If he understood it he would use his impact to its limit. His belief in the value of creating illusions in the minds of others borders on religious conviction.
He stood up. "Let's go for a walk, Murgen."
In the Palace it is always best to be moving if you want to keep your conversations your own. The Palace is vast, a honeycomb networked with a labyrinth masking countless secret passageways. I have been mapping those but could not winkle them all out in a lifetimeeven if we were not heading south any day.
The point is, there is always a chance our friends will be listening to anything we say.
We have been very successful at driving our enemies out beyond arm's reach.
Thai Dei picked us up at the doorway. The Old Man grimaced. He has no personal prejudice against my bodyguard and brother-in-law but he abhors the fact that so many Company brothers have acquired similar companions, none of whom are bound to his direct command. He does not trust the Nyueng Bao. He never has, never will and cannot explain clearly why.
He does understand that he was not there in hell's forge when the bonds were hammered into existence. He will stipulate that. He has done his time in other hells. He was suffering one at that time.
I made a small gesture to Thai Dei. He dropped back a step, symbolically acknowledging our need for privacy rather than actually accepting it. He would hear everything we had to say anyway.
So every word we said would be spoken in the dialect of the Jewel City Beryl, which lies six thousand miles beyond the edge of any world Thai Del can even imagine.
I wondered, why Croaker bothered walking when he was going to use an alien tongue. No Taglian would understand a word. "Tell me," he said.
"I walked with the ghost. I went south, I made the routine checks. I was just following the daily ritual." I understood his desire to walk. Soulcatcher. Soulcatcher understood the Jewel Cities dialects. She would have more trouble eavesdropping if she had to find us first.
"Thought I told you to ease up. You're spending too much time out there. It'll hook you. It's too easy to shake loose from the ache. That's why I don't go anymore."
I masked my pain. "That's not a problem, boss." He would not believe me. He knew just how much Sarie meant to me, how much I missed her. How much I hurt. "I'm handling it. Anyway, what I want you to know is, the farther south you look the worse the damage done by that earthquake gets."
"Am I supposed to be concerned? Dare I hope that you'll tell me the Shadowmaster's house fell in on his head?"
"You can hope all you want but you won't hear it from me. Not now. His faults don't include being a bad architect."
"I had a feeling you wouldn't tell me what I wanted to hear. You're no fun at all that way."
Part of my job as Annalist is to remind my superiors that they are not gods. "It didn't happen this time. Overlook came through almost unscathed. But Kiaulune was destroyed. Thousands were killed. The way disasters go, thousands more will die from hunger, disease and exposure." The heart of winter was fast approaching.
Kiaulune is the southernmost city of men. Its name means Shadow Gate. When he came out of nowhere two decades ago and made himself master of the province, the Shadowmaster Longshadow changed the name to Shadowcatch. Only the peoples of the Shadowlands, who are inclined to avoid the Shadowmaster's displeasure, actually employ names enforced upon them by their enslavement.
"Is that good news?"
"It'll sure slow down construction work on Overlook. Longshadow won't like it but he's going to have to take time out to help his subjects. Otherwise he'll run out of people to do his work for him."
Our parade continued slowly through busy hallways. This part of the Palace had been given over to the war effort completely. Now people were packing. Soon we would be heading south, bound toward a major and possibly final collision with the armies of the Shadowmasters. Most of our forces were in transit already, a slow and difficult process. It takes ages to move large numbers a great distance.
The men in these offices had been laying the groundwork for years.
Croaker asked, "Are you saying we don't need to get in any big hurry?"
"There's no need now. The quake crippled him."
"There wasn't any pressing need before the quake. We could've gotten there before he finished his oversized sand castle."
True. We were starting the campaign now mostly because the Captain and his woman were so thirsty for revenge.
Add the name Murgen to that list. My taste for vengeance was newer and bloodier. My wife was a more recent victim.
Longshadow and Narayan Singh would pay for Sarie's death. Especially Narayan Singh.
You living saint of the Stranglers, your nightwalking companion now hunts you, too.
"Something that hurts him doesn't really change anything at our end."
I agreed. "True. Though it does give us more flexibility."
"Yet it makes sense to jump them while they're stunned. How widespread was the damage? Was it just Kiaulune?"
"There's heavy damage everywhere south of the Dandha Presh. It gets worse as you go farther south. Those people won't have much energy to spend trying to stop an invasion."
"All the more reason to stay on schedule. We'll stomp them while they're down."
The Old Man was bitter and vindictive. Comes with the job, I guess. And because of all the evils done to him.
"You ready to travel?" he asked.
"Personally? Me and my whole household have our preparations made. You name the day and we'll be on the road." My own bitterness leaked through.
I kept telling myself not to let the need for vengeance sink roots too deep. I dared not let it become an obsession.
Croaker pursed his lips, sour for a moment. My household includes not only Thai Dei but Sarie's mother, Ky Gota, and Uncle Doj, who is not really anybody's uncle but is a family attachment nonetheless. Croaker refuses to trust them. But he does not Crust anybody who has not been a brother of the Company for years.
Proof was immediate. "Murgen, I want you to add the Radisha to the list of people you check regularly. I'm betting that as soon as we clear the city wall she'll start fixing to break our hearts."
I did not argue. It seemed likely.
All through our history the Black Company has suffered the ingratitude of our employers. Usually those blackguards received ample cause to regret their villainy. This time there was a good chance we could subvert the effort before the Radisha Drah and her brother, the Prahbrindrah Drah, could deal us any major treachery.
Right now the Radisha and Prince have to restrain themselves. As long as Longshadow survives, the Company will remain their lesser fear.
I asked, "You looked at those books yet?"
He could be exasperating. I snapped, "The books I risked my precious ass to steal back from Soulcatcher the other night. The lost Annals that are supposed to tell us why every damned-fool lord and priest in this end of the world is scared shitless of the Black Company."
"Oh. Those books."
"Yeah. Those ..." I realized that he was ragging me.
"I haven't had time, Murgen. Although I did find out that we're going to need a translator. They aren't written in modern Taglian."
"I was afraid of that."
"We're taking the ghostwalker south with us."
The sudden shift surprised me. Lately he has been so paranoid he will not mention Smoke, by name or otherwise, for any reason, even in a non-Taglian language.
There is always a crow around somewhere.
I replied. "I assumed we would. The resource is too valuable to leave here."
"We don't want anyone to know if we can help it."
"The Radisha already wonders how come we find him so interesting that we'll take care of him and keep him alive. She no longer thinks there's any chance he'll recover. If she puts much thought into it she might start adding things up." He shrugged. "I'll talk to One-Eye. You two can smuggle him out when nobody's looking."
"One more thing to do in my copious spare time."
"Hey. Enjoy it while you can. Soon we'll get to sleep for ages."
He is not a religious man.
Excerpted from She Is the Darkness by Glen Cook Copyright © 1997 by Glen Cook. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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First, Kirkus reveiw got everything wrong. Bleak Stones? *Bleak Stones*?! Shadowmaster Soulcatcher? Her *hordes* of Stranglers? 'The Old Man'? And what about Longshadow? The reveiw makes it sound totally ridiculous. Their reveiwers need to actually *read the book*. It's nothing like that at all, and Cook also explains where the money/food is coming from. He has a superb grasp of strategy and tactics, and his characters are memorable. Wonderful writing. But read the others first, or this will make no sense at all. Buy Bleak Seasons and this together, too. You will want to read this really badly after Bleak Seasons.
This was much better than 'Bleak Seasons', though From all the books, I preferred where Croaker is the main focus and from his point of View. Murgen tends to be flying around alot. But the story is getting on fine, the action is well, though Glen cook still needs to improve describing some of the stuff in more detail. I would have probably given this book 4 stars, but since I just finished read 'Soldiers Live' sataying up most of the night because of I feel generous. The first few books of The Glittering Stone may not be as good as the previous but wait till Soldiers Live, that is just superb. I really love the characters in these series, Croaker, Lady, One-eye, Goblin and some others. But those four are the core to the books for me.