Shadows Linger: A Novel of the Black Company

Shadows Linger: A Novel of the Black Company

by Glen Cook

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Overview

Mercenary soldiers in the service of the Lady, the Black Company stands against the rebels of the White Rose. They are tough men, proud of honoring their contracts. The Lady is evil, but so, too, are those who falsely profess to follow the White Rose, reincarnation of a centuries-dead heroine. Yet now some of the Company have discovered that the mute girl they rescued and sheltered is truly the White Rose reborn. Now there may be a path to the light, even for such as they. If they can survive it.


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781466831100
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 04/15/1990
Series: Chronicles of The Black Company , #2
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 256,559
File size: 410 KB

About the Author

Born in 1944, Glen Cook grew up in northern California, served in the U.S. Navy, attended the University of Missouri, and was one of the earliest graduates of the well-known "Clarion" workshop SF writers. Since 1971 he has published a large number of SF and fantasy novels, including the "Dread Empire" series, the occult-detective "Garrett" novels, and the very popular "Black Company" sequence that began with the publication of The Black Company in 1984. Among his SF novels is A Passage at Arms.

After working many years for General Motors, Cook now writes full-time. He lives near St. Louis, Missouri, with his wife Carol.


Born in 1944, Glen Cook grew up in northern California, served in the U.S. Navy, attended the University of Missouri, and was one of the earliest graduates of the well-known "Clarion" workshop SF writers. Since 1971 he has published a large number of Science Fiction and fantasy novels, including the "Dread Empire" series, the occult-detective "Garrett" novels, and the very popular "Black Company" sequence that began with the publication of The Black Company in 1984. Among his science fiction novels is A Passage at Arms.

After working many years for General Motors, Cook now writes full-time. He lives near St. Louis, Missouri, with his wife Carol.

Date of Birth:

July 9, 1944

Place of Birth:

New York City, New York

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

JUNIPER

All men are born condemned, so the wise say. All suckle the breast of Death.

All bow before that Silent Monarch. That Lord in Shadow lifts a finger. A feather flutters to the earth. There is no reason in His song. The good go young. The wicked prosper. He is king of the Chaos Lords. His breath stills all souls.

We found a city dedicated to His worship, long ago, but so old now it has lost that dedication. The dark majesty of his godhead has frayed, been forgotten by all but those who stand in his shadow. But Juniper faced a more immediate fear, a specter from yesteryear leaking into the present upon a height overlooking the city. And because of that the Black Company went there, to that strange city far beyond the bounds of the Lady's empire. ... But this is not the beginning. In the beginning we were far away. Only two old friends and a handful of men we would meet later stood nose-to-nose with the shadow.

CHAPTER 2

TALLY ROADSIDE

The children's heads popped from the weeds like groundhog heads. They watched the approaching soldiers. The boy whispered, "Must be a thousand of them." The column stretched back and back. The dust it raised drifted up the face of a far hill. The creak and jangle of harness grew ever louder.

The day was hot. The children were sweating. Their thoughts lingered on a nearby brook and a dip in a pool they had found there. But they had been set to watch the road. Rumor said the Lady meant to break the renascent Rebel movement in Tally province.

And here her soldiers came. Closer now. Grim, hard-looking men. Veterans. Easily old enough to have helped create the disaster which had befallen the Rebel six years ago, claiming, among a quarter million men, their father.

"It's them!" the boy gasped. Fear and awe filled his voice. Grudging admiration edged it. "That's the Black Company."

The girl was no student of the enemy. "How do you know?"

The boy indicated a bear of a man on a big roan. He had silvery hair. His bearing said he was accustomed to command. "That's the one they call the Captain. The little black one beside him would be the wizard called One-Eye. See his hat? That's how you tell. The ones behind them must be Elmo and the Lieutenant."

"Are any of the Taken with them?" The girl rose higher, for a better look. "Where are the other famous ones?" She was the younger. The boy, at ten, already considered himself a soldier of the White Rose.

He yanked his sister down. "Stupid! Want them to see you?"

"So what if they do?"

The boy sneered. She had believed their uncle Neat when he had said that the enemy would not harm children. The boy hated his uncle. The man had no guts.

Nobody pledged to the White Rose had any guts. They just played at fighting the Lady. The most daring thing they did was ambush the occasional courier. At least the enemy had courage.

They had seen what they had been sent to see. He touched the girl's wrist. "Let's go." They scurried through the weeds, toward the wooded creek bank.

A shadow lay upon their path. They looked up and went pale. Three horsemen stared down at them. The boy gaped. Nobody could have slipped up unheard. "Goblin!"

The small, frog-faced man in the middle grinned. "At your service, laddy-boy."

The boy was terrified, but his mind remained functional. He shouted, "Run!" If one of them could escape....

Goblin made a circular gesture. Pale pink fire tangled his fingers. He made a throwing motion. The boy fell, fighting invisible bonds like a fly caught in a spider's web. His sister whimpered a dozen feet away.

"Pick them up," Goblin told his companions. "They should tell an interesting tale."

CHAPTER 3

JUNIPER: THE IRON LILY

The Lily stands on Floral Lane in the heart of the Buskin, Juniper's worst slum, where the taste of death floats on every tongue and men value life less than they do an hour of warmth or a decent meal. Its front sags against its neighbor to the right, clinging for support like one of its own drunken patrons. Its rear cants in the opposite direction. Its bare wood siding sports leprous patches of grey rot. Its windows are boarded with scraps and chinked with rags. Its roof boasts gaps through which the wind howls and bites when it blows off the Wolander Mountains. There, even on a summer's day, the glaciers twinkle like distant veins of silver.

Sea winds are little better. They bring a chill damp which gnaws the bones and sends ice floes scampering across the harbor.

The shaggy arms of the Wolanders reach seaward, flanking the River Port, forming cupped hands which hold the city and harbor. The city straddles the river, creeping up the heights on both sides.

Wealth rises in Juniper, scrambling up and away from the river. The people of the Buskin, when they lift their eyes from their misery, see the homes of the wealthy above, noses in the air, watching one another across the valley.

Higher still, crowning the ridges, are two castles. On the southern height stands Duretile, hereditary bastion of the Dukes of Juniper. Duretile is in scandalous disrepair. Most every structure in Juniper is.

Below Duretile lies the devotional heart of Juniper, the Enclosure, beneath which lie the Catacombs. There half a hundred generations rest, awaiting the Day of Passage, guarded by the Custodians of the Dead.

On the north ridge stands an incomplete fortress called, simply, the black castle. Its architecture is alien. Grotesque monsters leer from its battlements. Serpents writhe in frozen agonies upon its walls. There are no joints in the obsidian-like material. And the place is growing.

The people of Juniper ignore the castle's existence, its growth. They do not want to know what is happening up there. Seldom do they have time to pause in their struggle for survival to lift their eyes that high.

CHAPTER 4

TALLY AMBUSH

I drew a seven, spread, discarded a trey, and stared at a lone ace. To my left, Pawnbroker muttered, "That did it. He's down to a rock."

I eyed him curiously. "What makes you say that?"

He drew, cursed, discarded. "You get a face like a corpse when you've got it cold, Croaker. Even your eyes."

Candy drew, cursed, discarded a five. "He's right, Croaker. You get so unreadable you're readable. Come on, Otto."

Otto stared at his hand, then at the pile, as though he could conjure victory from the jaws of defeat. He drew. "Shit." He discarded his draw, a royal card. I showed them my ace and raked in my winnings.

Candy stared over my shoulder while Otto gathered the cards. His eyes were hard and cold. "What?" I asked.

"Our host is working up his courage. Looking for a way to get out and warn them."

I turned. So did the others. One by one the tavern-keeper and his customers dropped their gazes and shrank into themselves. All but the tall, dark man seated alone in shadows near the fireplace. He winked and lifted a mug, as if in salute. I scowled. His response was a smile.

Otto dealt.

"One hundred ninety-three," I said.

Candy frowned. "Damn you, Croaker," he said, without emotion. I had been counting hands. They were perfect ticks of the clocks of our lives as brothers of the Black Company. I had played over ten thousand hands since the battle at Charm. Only the gods themselves know how many I played before I started keeping track.

"Think they got wind of us?" Pawnbroker asked. He was edgy. Waiting does that.

"I don't see how." Candy arrayed his hand with exaggerated care. A dead giveaway. He had something hot. I reexamined mine. Twenty-one. Probably get burned, but the best way to stop him. ... I went down. "Twenty-one."

Otto sputtered. "You son-of-a-bitch." He laid down a hand strong for going low. But it added to twenty-two because of one royal card. Candy had three nines, an ace and a trey. Grinning, I raked it in again.

"You win this one, we're going to check your sleeves," Pawnbroker grumbled. I collected the cards and started shuffling.

The back door hinges squealed. Everyone froze, stared at the kitchen door. Men stirred beyond it.

"Madle! Where the hell are you?"

The tavern-keeper looked at Candy, agonized. Candy cued him. The taverner called, "Out here, Neat."

Candy whispered, "Keep playing." I started dealing.

A man of forty came from the kitchen. Several others followed. All wore dappled green. They had bows across their backs. Neat said, "They must've got the kids. I don't know how, but. ..." He saw something in Madle's eyes. "What's the matter?"

We had Madle sufficiently intimidated. He did not give us away.

Staring at my cards, I drew my spring tube. My companions did likewise. Pawnbroker discarded the card he had drawn, a deuce. He usually tries to go low. His play betrayed his nervousness.

Candy snagged the discard and spread an ace-deuce-trey run. He discarded an eight.

One of Neat's companions whined, "I told you we shouldn't send kids." It sounded like breathing life into an old argument.

"I don't need any I-told-you-so," Neat growled. "Madle, I spread the word for a meeting. We'll have to scatter the outfit."

"We don't know nothing for sure, Neat," another green man said. "You know kids."

"You're fooling yourself. The Lady's hounds are on our trail."

The whiner said, "I told you we shouldn't hit those. ..." He fell silent, realizing, a moment too late, that strangers were present, that the regulars all looked ghastly.

Neat went for his sword.

There were nine of them, if you counted Madle and some customers who got involved. Candy overturned the card table. We tripped the catches on our spring tubes. Four poisoned darts snapped across the common room. We drew swords.

It lasted only seconds.

"Everybody all right?" Candy asked.

"Got a scratch," Otto said. I checked it. Nothing to worry about.

"Back behind the bar, friend," Candy told Madle, whom he had spared. "The rest of you, get this place straightened up. Pawnbroker, watch them. They even think about getting out of line, kill them."

"What do I do with the bodies?"

"Throw them down the well."

I righted the table again, sat down, unfolded a sheet of paper. Sketched upon it was the chain of command of the insurgents in Tally. I blacked out NEAT. It stood at mid-level. "Madle," I said. "Come here."

The barkeep approached with the eagerness of a dog to a whipping.

"Take it easy. You'll get through this all right. If you cooperate. Tell me who those men were."

He hemmed and hawed. Predictably.

"Just names," I said. He looked at the paper, frowning. He could not read. "Madle? Be a tight place to swim, down a well with a bunch of bodies."

He gulped, surveyed the room. I glanced at the man near the fireplace. He hadn't moved during the encounter. Even now he watched with apparent indifference.

Madle named names.

Some were on my list and some were not. Those that were not I assumed to be spear carriers. Tally had been well and reliably scouted.

The last corpse went out. I gave Madle a small gold piece. He goggled. His customers regarded him with unfriendly eyes. I grinned. "For services rendered."

Madle blanched, stared at the coin. It was a kiss of death. His patrons would think he had helped set the ambush. "Gotcha," I whispered. "Want to get out of this alive?"

He looked at me in fear and hatred. "Who the hell are you guys?" he demanded in a harsh whisper.

"The Black Company, Madle. The Black Company."

I don't know how he managed, but he went even whiter.

CHAPTER 5

JUNIPER: MARRON SHED

The day was cold and grey and damp, still, misty, and sullen. Conversation in the Iron Lily consisted of surly monosyllables uttered before a puny fire.

Then the drizzle came, drawing the curtains of the world in tight. Brown and grey shapes hunched dispiritedly along the grubby, muddy street. It was a day ripped full-grown from the womb of despair. Inside the Lily, Marron Shed looked up from his mug-wiping. Keeping the dust off, he called it. Nobody was using his shoddy stoneware because nobody was buying his cheap, sour wine. Nobody could afford it.

The Lily stood on the south side of Floral Lane. Shed's counter faced the doorway, twenty feet deep into the shadows of the common room. A herd of tiny tables, each with its brood of rickety stools, presented a perilous maze for the customer coming out of sunlight. A half-dozen roughly cut support pillars formed additional obstacles. The ceiling beams were too low for a tall man. The boards of the floor were cracked and warped and creaky, and anything spilled ran downhill.

The walls were decorated with old-time odds and ends and curios left by customers which had no meaning for anyone entering today. Marron Shed was too lazy to dust them or take them down.

The common room L-ed around the end of his counter, past the fireplace, near which the best tables stood. Beyond the fireplace, in the deepest shadows, a yard from the kitchen door, lay the base of the stair to the rooming floors.

Into that darksome labyrinth came a small, weasely man. He carried a bundle of wood scraps. "Shed? Can I?"

"Hell. Why not, Asa? We'll all benefit." The fire had dwindled to a bank of grey ash.

Asa scuttled to the fireplace. The group there parted surlily. Asa settled beside Shed's mother. Old June was blind. She could not tell who he was. He placed his bundle before him and started stirring the coals.

"Nothing down to the docks today?" Shed asked.

Asa shook his head. "Nothing came in. Nothing going out. They only had five jobs. Unloading wagons. People were fighting over them."

Shed nodded. Asa was no fighter. Asa was not fond of honest labor, either. "Darling, one draft for Asa." Shed gestured as he spoke. His serving girl picked up the battered mug and took it to the fire.

Shed did not like the little man. He was a sneak, a thief, a liar, a mooch, the sort who would sell his sister for a couple of copper gersh. He was a whiner and complainer and coward. But he had become a project for Shed, who could have used a little charity himself. Asa was one of the homeless Shed let sleep on the common room floor whenever they brought wood for the fire. Letting the homeless have the floor did not put money into the coin box, but it did assure some warmth for June's arthritic bones.

Finding free wood in Juniper in winter was harder than finding work. Shed was amused by Asa's determination to avoid honest employment.

The fire's crackle killed the stillness. Shed put his grimy rag aside. He stood behind his mother, hands to the heat. His fingernails began aching. He hadn't realized how cold he was.

It was going to be a long, cold winter. "Asa, do you have a regular wood source?" Shed could not afford fuel. Nowadays firewood was barged down the Port from far upstream. It was expensive. In his youth. ...

"No." Asa stared into the flames. Piney smells spread through the Lily. Shed worried about his chimney. Another pine scrap winter, and he hadn't had the chimney swept. A chimney fire could destroy him.

Things had to turn around soon. He was over the edge, in debt to his ears. He was desperate.

"Shed."

He looked to his tables, to his only real paying customer. "Raven?"

"Refill, if you please."

Shed looked for Darling. She had disappeared. He cursed softly. No point yelling. The girl was deaf, needed signs to communicate. An asset, he had thought when Raven had suggested he hire her. Countless secrets were whispered in the Lily. He had thought more whisperers might come if they could speak without fear of being overheard.

Shed bobbed his head, captured Raven's mug. He disliked Raven, partially because Raven was successful at Asa's game. Raven had no visible means of support, yet always had money. Another reason was because Raven was younger, tougher and healthier than the run of the Lily's customers. He was an anomaly. The Lily was on the downhill end of the Buskin, close to the waterfront. It drew all the drunkards, the worn-out whores, the dopers, the derelicts and human flotsam who eddied into that last backwater before the darkness overhauled them. Shed sometimes agonized, fearing his precious Lily was but a final way station.

Raven did not belong. He could afford better. Shed wished he dared throw the man out. Raven made his skin crawl, sitting at his corner table, dead eyes hammering iron spikes of suspicion into anyone who entered the tavern, cleaning his nails endlessly with a knife honed razor-sharp, speaking a few cold, toneless words whenever anyone took a notion to drag Darling upstairs. ... That baffled Shed. Though there was no obvious connection, Raven protected the girl as though she were his virgin daughter. What the hell was a tavern slut for, anyway?

Shed shuddered, pushed it out of mind. He needed Raven. Needed every paying guest he could get. He was surviving on prayers.

He delivered the wine. Raven dropped three coins into his palm. One was a silver leva. "Sir?"

"Get some decent firewood in here, Shed. If I wanted to freeze, I'd stay outside."

"Yes, sir!" Shed went to the door, peeked into the street. Latham's wood yard was just a block away.

The drizzle had become an icy rain. The mucky lane was crusting. "Going to snow before dark," he informed no one in particular.

"In or out," Raven growled. "Don't waste what warmth there is."

Shed slid outside. He hoped he could reach Latham's before the cold began to ache.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Shadows Linger"
by .
Copyright © 1984 Glen Cook.
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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
Shadows Linger,
Dedication,
Chapter One: Juniper,
Chapter Two: Tally Roadside,
Chapter Three: Juniper: The Iron Lily,
Chapter Four: Tally Ambush,
Chapter Five: Juniper: Marron Shed,
Chapter Six: Tally Mix-up,
Chapter Seven: Juniper: Krage,
Chapter Eight: Tally: Close-up,
Chapter Nine: Juniper: Death Pays,
Chapter Ten: Tally Turnaround,
Chapter Eleven: Juniper: Night Work,
Chapter Twelve: The Barrowland,
Chapter Thirteen: Juniper: The Enclosure,
Chapter Fourteen: Juniper: Duretile,
Chapter Fifteen: Juniper: Death of a Gangster,
Chapter Sixteen: Juniper: Nasty Surprise,
Chapter Seventeen: Juniper: Travel Plans,
Chapter Eighteen: Juniper: Blowing Smoke,
Chapter Nineteen: Juniper: Fear,
Chapter Twenty: Juniper: Shadow Talk,
Chapter Twenty-One: Juniper,
Chapter Twenty-Two: Juniper: Running Scared,
Chapter Twenty-Three: Juniper: Interrogation,
Chapter Twenty-Four: Juniper: Shadow Dancing,
Chapter Twenty-Five: Juniper: Lovers,
Chapter Twenty-Six: Juniper: Lovers' Parting,
Chapter Twenty-Seven: Juniper: Banished,
Chapter Twenty-Eight: Juniper: Lisa,
Chapter Twenty-Nine: Juniper: Payoff,
Chapter Thirty: Juniper: More Trouble,
Chapter Thirty-One: Juniper: The Return,
Chapter Thirty-Two: Juniper: Visitors,
Chapter Thirty-Three: Juniper: The Encounter,
Chapter Thirty-Four: Juniper: Flight,
Chapter Thirty-Five: Juniper: Bad News,
Chapter Thirty-Six: Juniper: Fireworks,
Chapter Thirty-Seven: Juniper: The Calm,
Chapter Thirty-Eight: Juniper: The Storm,
Chapter Thirty-Nine: On the Run,
Chapter Forty: Meadenvil: Pathfinding,
Chapter Forty-One: Meadenvil: The Ship,
Chapter Forty-Two: Meadenvil: The Refugee,
Chapter Forty-Three: Meadenvil: Warm Trail,
Chapter Forty-Four: Meadenvil: The Clearing,
Chapter Forty-Five: Meadenvil: Hot Trail,
Chapter Forty-Six: Meadenvil: Trouble,
Chapter Forty-Seven: The Inn: On the Run,
Chapter Forty-Eight: The Inn: Ambush,
Chapter Forty-Nine: On the Move,
Tor Books by Glen Cook,
Copyright,

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