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Last Guardian

Last Guardian

by David Gemmell

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"David Gemmell tells a tale of very real adventure, the stuff of true epic fantasy."
--R.A. Salvatore, New York Times Bestselling author

While the Earth quaked, a deadly power burst forth from ancient Atlantis. For the gate of time had been torn open, freeing a cataclysmic evil.

Only the last guardian, Jon Shannow, the legendary pistoleer, could shut the deadly portal. But to accomplish this he would have to find the shining Sword of God, said to be floating among the clouds in the perilous lands beyond the wall, where beasts walked like men and worship a dark goddess.  As Shannow embarked on his impossible quest, demons gathered in wait.

And--somewhere--a golden-haired woman was dreaming of blood . . .  

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307797438
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/08/2011
Series: The Stones of Power: Jon Shannow Trilogy , #2
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 482,680
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

David Gemmell was born in London, England, in the summer of 1948. Expelled from school at sixteen for organizing a gambling syndicate, he became a laborer by day, and at night his six-foot-four-inch, 230-pound frame allowed him to earn extra money as a bouncer working nightclubs in Soho.

Born with a silver tongue, Gemmell rarely needed to bounce customers, relying on his gift of gab to talk his way out of trouble. At eighteen this gift led to a job as a trainee journalist, and he eventually worked as a freelancer for the London Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, and Daily Express. His first novel, Legend, was published in 1984 and has remained in print ever since. He became a full-time writer in 1986. David lives with wife, Valerie, and his two children, Kate and Luke, in Hasting, England.

Read an Excerpt

BUT HE DID not die. The flesh around the bullet wound over his hip froze as the temperature dropped to thirty below zero, and the distant spires of Jerusalem blurred and changed, becoming snow-shrouded pine. Ice had formed on his beard, and his heavy black double-shouldered topcoat glistened white in the moonlight. Shannow swayed in the saddle, trying to focus on the city he had sought for so long, but it was gone. As his horse stumbled, Shannow’s right hand gripped the saddle pommel and the wound in his side flared with fresh pain.
He turned the black stallion’s head, steering the beast downhill toward the valley.
Images rushed through his mind: Karitas, Ruth, Donna; the hazardous journey across the Plague Lands and the battles with the Hellborn; the monstrous ghost ship wrecked on a mountain. Guns and gunfire, war and death.
The blizzard found new life, and the wind whipped freezing snow into Shannow’s face. He could not see where he was heading, and his mind wandered. He knew that life was ebbing from his body with each passing second, but he had neither the strength nor the will to fight on.
He remembered the farm and his first sight of Donna, standing in the doorway with an ancient crossbow in her hands. She had mistaken Shannow for a brigand and had feared for her life and that of her son, Eric. Shannow had never blamed her for that mistake. He knew what people saw when the Jerusalem Man came riding—a tall, gaunt figure in a flat-crowned leather hat, a man with cold, cold eyes that had seen too much of death and despair. Always it was the same. People would stand and stare at his expressionless face; then their eyes would be drawn down to his guns, the terrible weapons of the Thundermaker.
Yet Donna Taybard had been different. She had taken Shannow into her hearth and her home, and for the first time in two weary decades the Jerusalem Man had known happiness.
But then had come the brigands and the warmakers and finally the Hellborn. Shannow had gone against them all for the woman he loved, only to see her wed another.
Now he was alone again, dying on a frozen mountain in an uncharted wilderness. And strangely, he did not care. The wind howled about horse and man, and Shannow fell forward across the stallion’s neck, lost in the siren song of the blizzard. The horse was mountain-bred; he did not like the howling wind or the biting snow. Now he angled his way through the trees into the lee of a rock face and followed a deer trail down to the mouth of a high lava tunnel that stretched through the ancient volcanic range. It was warmer there, and the stallion plodded on, aware of the dead weight across his back. This disturbed him, for his rider was always in balance and could signal his commands with the slightest pressure or flick of the reins.
The stallion’s wide nostrils flared as the smell of smoke came to him. He halted and backed up, his iron hooves clattering on the rocky ground. A dark shadow moved in front of him … in panic he reared, and Shannow tumbled from the saddle. A huge taloned hand caught the reins, and the smell of lion filled the tunnel. The stallion tried to rear again, to lash out with iron-shod hooves, but he was held tight and a soft, deep voice whispered to him, a gentle hand stroking his neck. Calmed by the voice, he allowed himself to be led into a deep cave, where a campfire had been set within a circle of round flat stones. He waited calmly as he was tethered to a jutting stone at the far wall; then the figure was gone.
Outside the cave Shannow groaned and tried to roll to his belly, but he was stricken by pain and deep cold. He opened his eyes to see a hideous face looming over him. Dark hair framed the head and face, and a pair of tawny eyes gazed down at him; the nose was wide and flat, the mouth a deep slash rimmed with sharp fangs. Shannow, unable to move, could only glare at the creature.
Taloned hands moved under his body, lifting him easily, and he was carried like a child into a cave and laid gently by the fire. The creature fumbled at the ties on Shannow’s coat, but the thick pawlike hands could not cope with the frozen knots. Talons hissed out to sever the leather thongs, and Shannow felt his coat being eased from him. Slowly but with great care the creature removed his frozen clothing and covered him with a warm blanket. The Jerusalem Man faded into sleep—and his dreams were pain-filled.
Once more he fought the Guardian lord, Sarento, while the Titanic sailed on a ghostly sea and the Devil walked in Babylon. But this time Shannow could not win, and he struggled to survive as the sea poured into the stricken ship, engulfing him. He could hear the cries of drowning men, women, and children but could not save them. He awoke sweating and tried to sit. Pain ripped at his wounded side, and he groaned and sank back into his fever dreams.
He was riding toward the mountains when he heard a shot; he rode to the crest of a hill and gazed down on a farmyard where three men were dragging two women from their home. Drawing a pistol, Shannow kicked his stallion into a run and thundered toward the scene. When the men saw him, they flung the women aside and two of them drew flintlocks from their belts; the third ran at him with a knife. He dragged on the reins, and the stallion reared. Shannow timed his first shot well, and a brigand was punched from his feet. The knife man leapt, but Shannow swung in the saddle and fired point-blank, the bullet entering the man’s forehead and exiting from the neck in a bloody spray. The third man loosed a shot that ricocheted from the pommel of Shannow’s saddle to tear into his hip. Ignoring the sudden pain, the Jerusalem Man fired twice. The first shell took the brigand high in the shoulder, spinning him; the second hammered into his skull.
In the sudden silence Shannow sat his stallion, gazing at the women. The elder of the two approached him, and he could see the fear in her eyes. Blood was seeping from his wound and dripping to the saddle, but he sat upright as she neared.
“What do you want of us?” she asked.
“Nothing, lady, save to help you.”
“Well,” she said, her eyes hard, “you have done that, and we thank you.” She backed away, still staring at him. He knew she could see the blood, but he could not—would not—beg for aid.
“Good day to you,” he said, swinging the stallion and heading away.
The younger girl ran after him. She was blond and pretty, and her face was leathered by the sunlight and the hardship of wilderness farming. She gazed up at him with large blue eyes.
“I am sorry,” she told him. “My mother distrusts all men. I am so sorry.”
“Get away from him, girl!” shouted the older woman, and she fell back.
Shannow nodded. “She probably has good reason,” he said. “I am sorry I cannot stay and help you bury these vermin.”
“You are wounded. Let me help you.”
“No. There is a city near here, I am sure. It has white spires and gates of burnished gold. There they will tend me.”
“There are no cities,” she said.
“I will find it.” He touched his heels to the stallion’s flanks and rode from the farmyard.
A hand touched him, and he awoke. The bestial face was leaning over him.
“How are you feeling?” The voice was deep and slow and slurred, and the question had to be repeated twice before Shannow could understand it.
“I am alive thanks to you. Who are you?”
The creature’s great head tilted. “Good. Usually the question is, What are you. My name is Shir-ran. You are a strong man to live so long with such a wound.”
“The ball passed through me,” said Shannow. “Can you help me sit up?”
“No. Lie there. I have stitched the wounds front and back, but my fingers are not what they were. Lie still and rest tonight. We will talk in the morning.”
“My horse?”
“Safe. He was a little frightened of me, but we understand each other now. I fed him the grain you carried in your saddlebags. Sleep, man.
Shannow relaxed and moved his hand under the blankets to rest on the wound over his right hip. He could feel the tightness of the stitches and the clumsy knots. There was no bleeding, but he was worried about the fibers from his coat that had been driven into his flesh. It was these that killed more often than ball or shell, aiding gangrene and poisoning the blood.
“It is a good wound,” said Shir-ran softly, as if reading his mind. “The issue of blood cleansed it, I think. But here in the mountains wounds heal well. The air is clean. Bacteria find it hard to survive at thirty below.”
“Bacteria?” whispered Shannow, his eyes closing.
“Germs … the filth that causes wounds to fester.”
“I see. Thank you, Shir-ran.”
And Shannow slept without dreams.

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