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Set in the world of the Sword of Truth saga, the ramifications of New York Times bestseller Terry Goodkind's Shroud of Eternity extend throughout all of the Old World as familiar allies, dangerous magic, and creatures created by twisted sorcery all work at cross purposes to either save or destroy Ildakar in Siege of Stone
The Sorceress Nicci, the Wizard Nathan Rahl, and the young swordsman Bannon remain in the legendary city of Ildakar after a great internal revolt has freed the slaves and brought down the powerful wizards council. But as he fled the city, capricious Wizard Commander Maxim dissolved the petrification spell that had turned to stone the invading army of General Utros fifteen centuries earlier. Now, hundreds of thousands of half-stone soldiers from the ancient past have awakened, led by one of the greatest enemy commanders in history.
Nicci, Nathan, and Bannon have to help Ildakar survive this unbreakable siege, using all the magical defenses of the legendary city. Even as General Utros holds Ildakar hostage and also unleashes his incredible army on the unsuspecting Old World, an equally powerful threat arises out in the sea.
Nicci knows the battle won’t remain in the city; if she can’t stop this threat, two invincible armies can sweep across the Old World and destroy D’Hara itself.
The Nicci Chronicles
1. Death's Mistress
2. Shroud of Eternity
3. Siege of Stone
About the Author
TERRY GOODKIND is the author of the worldwide bestsellers making up the Sword of Truth, and the #1 New York Times bestseller The Omen Machine. He lives in Henderson, Nevada.
Read an Excerpt
The city of Ildakar continued to burn, even though the violent revolt had run its course. Riled up by the rebel leader Mirrormask, the city's downtrodden had torn apart the prosperous neighborhoods. Arena warriors, tradesmen, and gifted nobles battled one another with every weapon and resource at their disposal.
As Nicci worked alongside Nathan Rahl to quell the worst of the destruction, she knew the unrest was far from over, but Ildakar's woes were no longer her problem to solve. Nicci had helped bring freedom to the oppressed city, and now these people would have to rebuild their own society — nobles and slaves, gifted wizards and everyday laborers. In order for a city to function, all the parts need to work together.
Back in the D'Haran Empire, Richard was likely facing the same turmoil, but on a grander scale. It was Nicci's job to spread Lord Rahl's message of freedom to the entire Old World, not just one city, and she and her companions were anxious to move on to other destinations.
In the last hours of the exhausting night, though, Ildakar remained her priority. She shouted orders, calling the people together to fight a fire that roared out of control in a silk merchant's warehouse. Flames licked up the wooden walls and shattered the window glass, then spilled out of the upper windows. Ildakar was famed for fine silks, created by gifted craftsmen in the spinners' guild. Now hundreds of bolts of valuable cloth went up in flames, sending a sour smell of smoke into the air.
"We have to get this fire under control before it spreads to other buildings." Nicci swept her piercing blue gaze across the bedraggled crowd, assessing them as fighters, as helpers. Many of them wore clothes spattered with blood and grimy with soot, while others looked battered and disheveled from fighting one another or trying to put out the scattered fires. "This is not a time to choose who benefits most."
Rendell, one of the older house slaves who had joined Mirrormask's revolt, rallied several of his comrades. "We destroyed the water basins so Sovrena Thora couldn't spy on us, but we can still use the water from the aqueducts." He ran to a nearby wall where a public fountain had been smashed. Together, he and several companions used metal bars to break the cap that blocked the fountain pipe, and a silvery ribbon of liquid sluiced out. "Buckets! We need buckets!"
From nearby shops and homes, people emerged with pails and tubs. Together they collected the spraying water and rushed to throw it on the fire in the silk warehouse.
The cavernous building had become a blazing furnace. Flames erupted through a hole in the tile roof, and sparks shot through the air like night wisps. Dawn would arrive in an hour or two, but for now, the orange glow of burning lit the sky.
Flaming tatters of silk wafted through the air toward the nearby rooftops. Nicci summoned her gift and created a river of wind that drove the sparks away from nearby roofs before they could catch fire. The embers swept higher, twirling like orange stars against the deep darkness, until they extinguished themselves.
The wizard Nathan stood beside her, his long white hair tangled from the night's struggles. He showed no lack of confidence, and he smiled as he took a step forward. "Now that I have my gift back, Sorceress, it's time to get a little more practice with magic."
So long stripped of his gift, Nathan reveled in having his abilities back. That was one reward he had received from the wizards of Ildakar, though the fleshmancer had been forced to rip out Nathan's heart and give him a new one from the dying Chief Handler Ivan. A horrific process, but that had cured his problem at last.
As Rendell and his companions continued their bucket brigade, pouring water on the flames at the street level, Nathan blasted open a second fountain at a nearby intersection so that more water gushed into the streets. He called upon the flow, tugging the stream like a liquid whip, looping it in the air. The manipulated water rose above the warehouse roof, then struck down like a viper. The column of water poured through the open roof and onto the roaring flames. Nathan pulled more water from the aqueducts to continue the deluge. With a whistling hiss, a mist of steam sprayed out, overwhelming the black smoke. The flames began to sputter and withdraw from the warehouse windows.
Nicci formed a wall of air to surround the broken walls where the flames tried to escape.
Nathan flexed his fingers, as if feeling the tingle of magic through them. "It's quite exhilarating to be able to do that again!"
The warehouse owner watched the destruction of his goods, his face sagging with dismay. The man had a lush brown beard and overly curled locks of long hair. He wore layers of colorful silk robes that were now rumpled from the night's ordeal. "All of my silk, all of my wealth. The slaves destroyed it!"
"The fire destroyed it," Nicci said. "The nobles and merchants are as much to blame for the uprising as the slaves."
Rendell handed the distraught merchant a wooden bucket full of water. "If you want to save part of what you have, then pitch in and help with the rest of us."
The merchant held the bucket and looked helplessly at the team of people pouring load after load of water on the now-dying fires.
"This isn't our warehouse," Rendell scolded him in a stern voice. "We're doing this to save Ildakar." He nudged the reluctant man into motion.
The dazed merchant squared his shoulders and got in line with the workers, filling the bucket at the nearest gushing pipe. "For Ildakar," he muttered, as if to convince himself.
The legendary city had hidden beneath the shroud of eternity for fifteen centuries. During that time, Sovrena Thora had tried to build her perfect society, which had become more grim and stagnant over the years. Thora and the other gifted nobles had been oblivious to the explosive situation they were creating. Thora's own husband, Wizard Commander Maxim, had exploited that situation, fashioning himself into a rebel leader and trying to destroy the city just because he was tired of it. But his guise of Mirrormask had been exposed, and Maxim had fled the city at the height of the revolt. Thora was also overthrown, turned to stone by members of her own duma — just like the hundreds of thousands of stone soldiers that had laid siege to Ildakar fifteen centuries earlier.
"Nicci!" called a familiar voice. Bannon Farmer, who had journeyed with them across the Old World, ran to them with his long ginger hair flying wild. The young man had gained some muscle during his travels, but Nicci noticed how fit Bannon's physique had become from his training as an arena fighter. He was still shirtless from escaping the combat pits, and he carried his unremarkable sword, Sturdy.
He stopped in front of them, breathing hard with alarm. "Three spiny wolves are loose in Potter's Alley, and they've killed nine people already. Some citizens have blocked them, but they can't kill those beasts." He held up his sword. "And I can't do it by myself."
"You are not by yourself, boy," said a wiry young woman who trotted up beside him. She wore a black leather wrap around her waist, and another enfolded her breasts. Her short light brown hair stuck out in spiky strands. Her body was marked with protective runes that had been branded into her skin during her training to become a morazeth, a ruthless female warrior. Lila had put Bannon through harsh training to become an arena warrior, but after the revolt, she now offered her grudging cooperation to help.
"Spiny wolves were bred to slaughter humans," Nathan said. The fleshmancers of Ildakar had altered fearsome wild wolves, added muscles, arched their backs, extended their teeth.
Bannon said, "They were turned loose by escaping slaves, but now we have to take care of them before they hurt anyone else."
"Tonight, we take care of everything," Nicci said. "Lead on, Bannon Farmer."
The tall young man trotted off, while Lila darted after him. The group ran past shuttered shops, overturned cobbler's benches, a ransacked grocer's stall, and finally into the alley where several potters had set up their wheels along with shelves to display their wares. At the end of the street, near a shared, smoke-stained kiln, anxious people armed with sticks stood together, barely managing to hold three spiny wolves at bay. Several men already lay dead on the ground, their chests torn open, their throats mangled.
Behind the cornered wolves, Nicci heard the wails of two young children and their mother trapped in a small potter's shop. The door of old planks was too flimsy to offer much protection. One of the spiny wolves growled at the whimpering children and smashed at the door with a large paw, splintering the supports, but the jabbing spears and shovels kept the animals preoccupied.
Rushing toward the end of the street, Nicci snatched up a glazed pot from a nearby shelf and hurled it with perfect aim, shattering it against the skull of a wolf. The three beasts snarled, and the reluctant defenders backed away in fear. Nicci strode forward, palms on the daggers at her waist, while Nathan, Bannon, and Lila joined her.
She saw a flash of tawny fur, heard a familiar growl, and Mrra bounded up beside her. Nicci's sister panther had prowled the streets of Ildakar after being released from the combat pits. Now Mrra was free, and because of her bond with Nicci, she didn't attack the humans in the city.
Unlike the sand panther, these three wolves could never be captured and tamed, and Nicci had no intention of letting them terrorize or kill more people. She glanced at Bannon and Nathan. "We need to make this quick. Don't let them suffer. They are monsters through no fault of their own."
Lila nodded. "Yes, we have other work to do this night."
Using her gift, Nicci would have reached out and simply stopped their hearts as the swiftest and most merciful way to end the threat, but the spiny wolves were branded with protective runes that rendered them invulnerable to direct magical attacks. She would have to kill them in a more straightforward way. Nicci drew her two daggers, Nathan held out his ornate sword, Bannon raised Sturdy, and Lila grasped a short sword.
The growling beasts knew their true enemies. They moved together as a pack and lunged. Nicci wielded a knife in each hand, slashing and stabbing. The wolves' fangs glistened with ribbons of silver drool as they tried to tear into her, but she drove her left dagger up, plunging it into one creature's throat, and then stabbed the other blade into its heart. Mrra dove on top of the beast, driving it to the ground.
The spiny wolf weighed twice as much as Nicci did, and its sheer momentum forced her to the street, still thrashing. Its paw tore a long wound in her bare arm, but she pushed the knives deeper. The wolf jerked and twitched. Suddenly, its head rolled free as Bannon decapitated it with a stroke of his sword.
Nicci shoved the rank-smelling wolf carcass off of her and found herself soaked with the creature's blood. She yanked her knives loose, and blood ran down her wrists. She pulled herself up to see if Nathan needed help, but the wizard stood victorious over another beast, his ornate sword wet and red. He wiped the blade on its matted fur. Bannon and Lila had killed the third wolf.
Nicci gathered her composure. Dust and gravel clung to her bloodstained black dress, and sticky blood coated her fingers. She wiped her daggers clean on the wolf fur and sheathed them. Mrra came to stand beside her, twitching her long tail.
In the huddled shack next to the potter's shop, two little girls and their mother yanked the flimsy door open and rushed out, sobbing, into the arms of a broad-chested man. The crowd cheered, calling out her name: "Nicci! Nicci!"
At the beginning of this violent night, these same people had shouted for Mirrormask, yet Nicci had been a more dedicated leader of their uprising. "Nicci, we continue the fight!" cried a voice. "You helped show us."
"We've got to free ourselves from the nobles of Ildakar!" called another.
She turned to see two burly slaves wearing the drab garments of workers from the yaxen slaughter yards. Proudly, the men carried blood-soaked sacks, as if they held trophies. One man with a burn scar on his forehead strutted forward. He glanced down at the dead spiny wolves. "You killed those arena animals and you helped make the city safe. Meanwhile, we continue to fight our true enemies."
The bloody sacks made Nicci uneasy. "And do you know your true enemies?"
The two defiant slaves walked up to her, ignoring Bannon and Nathan, while the other people in Potter's Alley backed toward their shops. Opening their stained sacks, the men dumped the heads of four nobles onto the street. The dead faces wore frozen grimaces, their eyes still open. The neck stumps were ragged and still bloody. "These were cruel masters," said the gruff man with the burn scar. "They beat their slaves, treated them badly."
"They might have been gifted, but they were still vulnerable." The second man chuckled. A few others in Potter's Alley cheered, though most seemed shaken and nauseated by their own ordeal.
The scarred man said, "Even though Mirrormask deceived us, his words were valid. We will have our revenge, and we have you to help us, Nicci. We demand justice before we rebuild Ildakar. The slaves must be the ones who rule the city now."
Before Nicci could speak, Nathan expressed his own troubled thoughts. "Dear spirits, you will all have to rule together to build something stronger for Ildakar. If you kill all the nobles and make yourselves the new ruling class, you'll be as cruel and corrupt as they were."
"Never!" sneered the scarred man, insulted by Nathan's suggestion. He kicked one severed head with his foot, and it bounced down the street like a ball in a game of Ja'La.
"The wizard is right," Nicci said. "I make no excuse for the corrupt nobles — I know what Thora and Maxim did. But Ildakar is your city, so don't waste the opportunity. You have work to do, hard work, while I have my own mission, given to me by Lord Rahl himself." She shook her head. "My companions and I have spent far too much time in Ildakar already."
Even though the two burly, blood-flecked slaves looked cowed by her rebuke, they remained unrepentant as they stared at the four severed heads. Nicci was sure there would be much more killing before this unrest settled.
She couldn't save the whole city; she knew that. Nicci would not become their new sovrena and impose her own rule. "You're free now. Understand what that means. The people of Ildakar will have to make their rules and live with the consequences of their behavior."
"I'm afraid that's the cost of true freedom," Nathan agreed. "There might be lean and painful times ahead, but it's the only way you can truly value what you build."
After the long and violent night, the sun began to rise on a new Ildakar. The sacrificial pyramid had been destroyed, along with all the bloodworking apparatus that Thora would have used to create a new shroud of eternity. The legendary city was now permanently a part of the real world.
Lila stood silent, looking at the dead wolves. Bannon said with his usual optimism, "This turmoil will settle down soon enough. People will see reason. They want to make a nice life for themselves."
"They simply need to remember how, dear boy," Nathan said, sounding reassuring.
An alarm went up as the dawn brightened. Sentries on the high walls that blocked off the city shouted, first one outcry and then dozens. Loud warning bells began to clang.
Lila looked up, frowning. "Those are invasion bells. They haven't been rung in centuries."
"What threat could be coming from out there?" Nicci asked, remembering the broad, empty valley bounded by a line of dry hills on either side.
As the alarms grew louder and more urgent, the group hurried toward the outer wall. Mrra loped along behind them. High Captain Stuart of the Ildakaran city guard met them at the base of the wall, his face ashen. "They're moving. After all this time ... they're moving!"
"Who?" Bannon asked. "What?"
Nicci pushed past Stuart and bounded up the stone stairs to the top of the high wall. The others followed her up to the battlements and stared westward toward the foothills and distant mountains. When she and her companions had crossed the wide valley, they encountered a huge army of statue warriors once led by General Utros, a besieging army that had nearly brought down Ildakar before the city's wizards worked a petrification spell that turned them all to stone.
Now, by the smoky light of dawn, Nicci saw that the huge stone army was stirring. The long-petrified soldiers began to move with a purpose, forming ranks against Ildakar.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Siege of Stone"
Copyright © 2018 Terry Goodkind.
Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
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