The Darkest Road
The Fionavar Tapestry Book 3
Guy Gavriel Kay
Table of Contents
PART I: The Lost Kanior
PART II: Lisen's Tower
Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7
PART III: Calor Diman
Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11
PART IV: Andarien
Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15
PART V: Flowerfire
The Lost Kanior
“Do you know the wish of your heart?”
Once, when Kim Ford was an undergraduate, young for university and young for her age, someonehad asked her that question over cappuccino on a first date. She’d been very impressed. Later,rather less young, she’d often smiled at the memory of how close he’d come to getting herinto bed on the strength of a good line and a way with waiters in a chic restaurant. Thequestion, though, had stayed with her.
And now, not so much older but white-haired nonetheless, and as far away from home as she couldimagine being, Kim had an answer to that question.
The wish of her heart was that the bearded man standing over her, with the green tattoos on hisforehead and cheeks, should die an immediate and painful death.
Her side ached where he had kicked her, and every shallow breath was a lancing pain. Crumpledbeside her, blood seeping from the side of his head, lay Brock of Banir Tal. From where Kim layshe couldn’t tell if the Dwarf was alive or not, and if she could have killed in that moment,the tattooed man would be dead. Through a haze of pain she looked around. There were aboutfifty men surrounding them on the high plateau, and most of them bore the green tattoos ofEridu. Glancing down at her own hand she saw that the Baelrath lay quiescent, no more than ared stone set in a ring. No power for her to draw upon, no access to her desire.
It didn’t really surprise her. The Warstone had never, from the first, brought anything butpain with its power, and how could it have been otherwise?
“Do you know,” the bearded Eridun above her said, with harsh mockery, “what the Dalrei havedone down below?”
“What? What have they done, Ceriog?” another man asked, moving forward a little from thecircle of men. He was older than most of them, Kim saw. There was grey in his dark hair, and hebore no sign of the green tattoo markings.
“I thought you might be interested,” the one named Ceriog said, and laughed. There wassomething wild in the sound, very near to pain. Kim tried not to hear it, but she was a Seermore than she was anything else, and a premonition came to her with that laughter. She lookedat Brock again. He had not moved. Blood was still welling slowly from the wound at the side ofhis head.
“I am interested,” the other man said mildly.
Ceriog’s laughter ended. “They rode north last night,” he said, “every man among them,except the blind ones. They have left the women and children undefended in the camp east of theLatham, just below us.”
There was a murmur among the listening men. Kim closed her eyes. What had happened? What couldhave driven Ivor to do such a thing?
“What,” the older man asked, still quietly, “does any of that have to do with us?”
Ceriog moved a step toward him. “You,” he said, contemptuously, “are more than a fool. Youare an outlaw even among outlaws. Why should any of us answer questions of yours when youwon’t even give us your name?”
The other man raised his voice very slightly. On the windless plateau it carried. “I have beenin the foothills and the mountains,” he said, “for more years than I care to remember. Forall of those years, Dalreidan is what I have offered as my name. Rider’s Son is what I chooseto call myself, and until this day no man has seen fit to question it. Why should it matter toyou, Ceriog, if I choose not to shame my father’s grave by keeping his name as part of myown?”
Ceriog snorted derisively. “There is no one here who has not committed a crime, old man. Whyshould you be different?”
“Because,” said Dalreidan, “I killed a mother and child.”
Opening her eyes, Kim looked at him in the afternoon sunlight. There was a stillness on theplateau—broken by Ceriog’s laughter. Again Kim heard the twisting note in it, halfway betweenmadness and grief.
“Surely,” Ceriog mocked, “that should have given you a taste for more!” He flung his armswide. “Surely we should all have a taste for death by now! I had come back to tell you ofwomen and boys for sport down below. I had not thought to see a Dwarf delivered into my handsso soon.”
He did not laugh again. Instead, he turned to look down on the figure of Brock, sprawledunconscious on the sun-baked stone of the plateau.
A sick foreboding swept over Kimberly. A recollection, though not her own; Ysanne’s, whosesoul was a part of her now. A memory of a legend, a nightmare tale from childhood, of verygreat evil done, very long ago.
“What happened?” she cried, wincing with pain, desperate to know. “What did they do?”
Ceriog looked at her. They all did. For the first time she met his eyes and flinched away fromthe raw grief she read in them. His head jerked up and down convulsively. “Faebur!” he criedsuddenly. A younger light-bearded Eridun stepped forward. “Play messenger again, Faebur. Tellthe story one more time. See if it improves with age. She wants to know what the Dwarves havedone. Tell her!”
She was a Seer. The threads of the Timeloom shuttled for her. Even as Faebur began his flat-voiced recitation, Kim cut straight past his words to the images behind them and found horror.
The background of the tale was known to her, though not less bitter for that: the story of Kaenand Blod, the brothers who had led the Dwarves in search, forty years ago, of the lost Cauldronof Khath Meigol. When the Dwarfmoot had voted to aid them, Matt Sören, the young King, hadthrown down his scepter and removed the Diamond Crown and left the twin mountains to findanother fate entirely, as source to Loren Silvercloak.
Then, a year ago, the Dwarf now lying beside her, had come to Paras Derval with tidings ofgreat evil done: Kaen and Blod, unable to find the Cauldron on their own and driven near tomadness by forty years of failure, had entered into an unholy alliance. With the aid of Metran,the treacherous mage, they had finally unearthed the Cauldron of the Giants—and had paid theprice. It had been twofold: the Dwarves had broken the wardstone of Eridu, thus severing thewarning link of the five stones, and then they had delivered the Cauldron itself into the handsof their new master, the one whose binding under Rangat was to have been ensured by the linkedward-stones—Rakoth Maugrim, the Unraveller.
All this she had known. Had known, too, that Metran had used the Cauldron to lock in thekilling winter that had ended five mornings ago, after the night Kevin Laine had sacrificedhimself to bring it to a close. What she hadn’t known was what had happened since. What shenow read in Faebur’s face and heard him tell, feeling the images like lashes in her soul. Thedeath rain of Eridu.
“When the snow began to melt,” Faebur was saying, “we rejoiced. I heard the bells ring inwalled Larak, though I could not return there. Exiled in the hills by my father, I too gavethanks for the end of the killing cold.” So had she, Kim remembered. She had given thanks evenas she mourned, hearing the wailing of the priestesses at dawn outside the dark cave of DunMaura. Oh, my darling man.
“For three days,” Faebur went on, in the same detached, numb tones, “the sun shone. Thegrass returned overnight, and the flowers. When the rain came, on the fourth day, that tooseemed natural, and cause for joy.
“Until, looking down from the high hills west of Larak, I heard the screaming begin. The raindid not reach the hills, but I could see herdsmen not far away on the slopes below, with theirgoats and kere, and I heard them scream when the rain fell, and I saw huge black blisters formand break on animals and men as they died.”
Seers could go—were forced by their gift to go—behind the words to the images suspended inthe coils of time. Try as she might, Kim’s second, inner sight would not let her look awayfrom the vision caught in Faebur’s words. And being what she was, twinned soul with two setsof memories, she knew more, even, than Faebur knew. For Ysanne’s childhood memories were hers,and clearer now, and she knew the rain had been shaped once before in a distant time of dark,and that the dead were deadly to those who touched them, and so could not be buried.
Which meant plague. Even after the rain stopped.
“How long did it last?” she asked suddenly.
Ceriog’s harsh laughter told her her mistake and opened a new, deeper vein of terror, evenbefore he spoke. “How long?” he snapped, his voice swirling erratically. “White hair shouldbring more wisdom. Look east, foolish woman, up the valley of the Kharn. Look past Khath Meigoland tell me how long it lasted!”
She looked. The mountain air was thin and clear, the summer sun bright overhead. She could seea long way from that high plateau, almost to Eridu itself.
She could see the rain clouds piled high east of the mountains.
The rain hadn’t ended. And she knew, as surely as she knew anything at all, that, ifunchecked, it would be coming their way; Over the Carnevon Range and the Skeledarak, toBrennin, Cathal, the wide Plain of the Dalrei, and then, of course, to the place where undyingRakoth’s most undying hatred lay—to Daniloth, where dwelt the lios alfar.
Her thoughts, shrouded in dread, winged away west, far past the end of land, out over the sea,where a ship was sailing to a place of death. It was named Prydwen, she knew. She knew thenames of many things, but not all knowledge was power. Not in the face of what was falling fromthat dark sky east of them.
Feeling helpless and afraid, Kim turned back to Ceriog. As she did, she saw that the Baelrathwas flickering on her hand. That, too, she understood: the rain she had just been shown was anact of war, and the Warstone was responding. Unobtrusively she turned the ring inward andclosed her palm so it would not be seen.
“You wanted to know what the Dwarves had done, and now you know,” Ceriog said, his voice lowand menacing.
“Not all the Dwarves!” she said, struggling to a sitting position, gasping with the pain thatcaused. “Listen to me! I know more of this than you. I—”
“Doubtless, you know more, traveling with one of them. And you shall tell me, before we aredone with you. But the Dwarf is first. I am very pleased,” said Ceriog, “to see he is notdead.”
Kim whipped her head around. A cry escaped her. Brock moaned, his hands moved slightly.Heedless of risk, she crawled over to help him. “I need clean cloths and hot water!” sheshouted. “Quickly!”
No one moved. Ceriog laughed. “It seems,” he said, “that you haven’t understood me. I ampleased to see him alive, because I intend to kill him with great care.”
She did understand and, understanding, could no longer hate—it seemed that clear,uncomplicated wishes of the heart were not allowed for her. Which wasn’t all that surprising,given who she was and what she carried.
She could no longer hate, nor could she hold back her pity for one whose people were being socompletely destroyed. But neither could she allow him to proceed. He had come nearer, had drawna blade. She heard a soft, almost delicate rustle of anticipation among the watching outlaws,most of whom were from Eridu. No mercy to be expected there.
She twisted the ring back outward on her finger and thrust her hand high in the air.
“Harm him not!” she cried, as sternly as she could. “I am the Seer of Brennin. I carry theBaelrath on my hand and a magegift vellin stone about my wrist!”
She was also hellishly weak, with a brutal pain in her side, and no idea whatsoever of how shecould hold them off.
Ceriog seemed to have an intuition about that, or else was so goaded by the presence of thedwarf that he was beyond deterrence. He smiled thinly, through his tattoos and his dark beard.
“I like that,” he said, gazing at the Baelrath. “It will be a pretty toy to carry for thehours we have left before the rains come west and we all turn black and die. First, though,”he murmured, “I am going to kill the Dwarf very slowly, while you watch.”
She wasn’t going to be able to stop him. She was a Seer, a summoner. A storm crow on the windsof war. She could wake power, and gather it, and sometimes to do so she could flame red and flybetween places, between worlds. She had two souls within her, and she carried the burden of theBaelrath on her finger and in her heart. But she could not stop a man with a blade, let alonefifty of them, driven mad by grief and fury and awareness of coming death.
Brock moaned. Kim felt his life’s blood soaking through her clothing as she held his head inher lap. She glared up at Ceriog. Tried one last time.
“Listen to me—” she began.
“While you watch,” he repeated, ignoring her.
“I think not,” said Dalreidan. “Leave them alone, Ceriog.”
The Eridun wheeled. A twisted light of pleasure shone in his dark face. “You will stop me, oldman?”
“I shouldn’t have to,” Dalreidan said calmly. “You are no fool. You heard what she said:the Seer of Brennin. With whom else and how else will we stop what is coming?”
The other man seemed scarcely to have heard. “For a Dwarf?” he snarled. “You wouldintercede, now, for a Dwarf?” His voice skirled upward with growing incredulity. “Dalreidan,this has been coming between us for a long time.”
“It need not come. Only hear reason. I seek no leadership, Ceriog. Only to—”
“Only to tell the leader what he may or may not do!” said Ceriog viciously. There was afrozen half second of stillness, then Ceriog’s arm whipped forward and his dagger flew—
—over the shoulder of Dalreidan, who had dived and rolled and was up again in a move the Plainhad seen rehearsed from horseback for past a thousand years. No one had seen his own bladedrawn, nor had they seen it thrown.
They did see it, all of them, buried in Ceriog’s heart. And an instant later, after the shockhad passed, they saw also that the dead Eridun was smiling as might one who has found releasefrom overmastering pain.
Kim was suddenly aware of the silence. Of the sun overhead, the finger of the breeze, theweight of Brock’s head in her lap—details of time and place made unnaturally vivid by theexplosion of violence.
Which had come and was gone, leaving this stillness of fifty people in a high place. Dalreidanwalked over to retrieve his blade. His steps were loud on the rocks. No one spoke. Dalreidanknelt and, pulling the dagger free, cleaned it of blood on the dead man’s sleeve. Slowly herose again and looked around the ring of faces.
“First blade was his,” he said.
There was a stir, a loosening of strain, as if every man there had been holding his breath.
“It was,” said an Eridun quietly, a man older even than Dalreidan himself, with his greentattoos sunken deep in the wrinkles of his face. “Revenge lies not in such a cause, neither bythe laws of the Lion nor the code of the mountains.”
Slowly, Dalreidan nodded his head. “I know nothing of the former and too much of the latter,”he said, “but I think you will know that I had no desire for Ceriog’s death, and none at allto take his place. I will be gone from this place. I will be gone from this place within thehour.”
There was another stir at that. “Does it matter?” young Faebur asked. “You need not go, notwith the rain coming so soon.”
And that, Kim realized, brought things back round to her. She had recovered from theshock—Ceriog’s was not the first violent death she’d seen in Fionavar—and she was readywhen all their eyes swung to where she sat.
“It may not come,” she said, looking at Faebur. The Baelrath was still alive, flickering, butnot intensely so.
“You are truly the Seer of Brennin?” he asked.
She nodded. “On a journey for the High King with this Dwarf, Brock of Banir Tal. Who fled thetwin mountains to bring us tidings of the treachery of others.”
“A dwarf in the service of Ailell?” Dalreidan asked.
She shook her head. “Of his son. Ailell died more than a year ago, the day the Mountainflamed. Aileron rules in Paras Derval.”
Dalreidan’s mouth crooked wryly. “News,” he said, “is woven slowly in the mountains.”
“Aileron?” Faebur interjected. “We heard a tale of him in Larak. He was an exile, wasn’the?”
Kim heard the hope in his voice, the unspoken thought. He was very young; the beard concealedit only partially. “He was,” she said gently. “Sometimes they go back home.”
“If,” the older Eridun interposed, “there is a home to go back to. Seer, can you stop therain?”
She hesitated, looking beyond him, east to where the clouds were piled high. She said, “Icannot, not directly. But the High King has others in his service, and by the Sight I have Iknow that some of them are sailing even now to the place where the death rain is being shaped,just as the winter was. And if we stopped the winter, then—”
“—then we can end the rain!” a deep voice rumbled, low and fierce. She looked down. His eyeswere open.
“Oh, Brock!” she cried.
“Aboard that ship,” the Dwarf went on, speaking slowly but with clarity, “will be LorenSilvercloak and my lord, Matt Sören, true King of the Dwarves. If any people alive can save us,it is the two of them.” He stopped, breathing heavily.
Kim held him close, overwhelmed for an instant with relief. “Careful,” she said. “Try not totalk.”
He looked up at her. “Don’t worry so much,” he said. “Your forehead will set in a crease.”She gave a little gasp of laughter. “It takes a great deal,” he went on, “to kill a Dwarf. Ineed a bandage to keep the blood out of my eyes, and a good deal of water to drink. Then, if Ican have an hour’s rest in the shade, we can go on.”
He was still bleeding. Kim found that she was crying and clutching his burly chest far toohard. She loosened her grip and opened her mouth to say the obvious thing.
“Where? Go where?” It was Faebur. “What journey takes you into the Carnevon Range, Seer ofBrennin?” He was trying to sound stern, but the effect was otherwise.
She looked at him a long moment, then, buying time, asked, “Faebur, why are you here; why areyou exiled?”
He flushed but, after a pause, answered, in a low voice.
“My father unhoused me, as all fathers in Eridu have the right to do.”
“Why?” she asked. “Why did he do that?”
“Seer—” Dalreidan began.
“No,” said Faebur, gesturing at him. “You told us your reason a moment ago, Dalreidan. Ithardly matters anymore. I will answer the question. There is no blood on the Loomweft with my
name, only a betrayal of my city, which in Eridu is said to be red on the Loom, and so the sameas blood. It is simply told. Competing at the Ta’Sirona, the Summer Games, at Teg Veirene ayear ago, I saw and loved a girl from high-walled Akkai’ze, in the north, and she… saw andloved me, as well. In Larak again, in the fall of the year, my father named to me his choicefor my wife, and I… refused him and told him why.”
Kim heard sympathetic sounds from the other Eriduns and realized they hadn’t known why Faeburwas in the mountains; nor Dalreidan either, for that matter, until, just now, he’d told of hismurders. The code of the mountains, she guessed: you didn’t ask.
But she had, and Faebur was answering. “When I did that, my father put on his white robe andwent into the Lion’s Square of Larak, and he called the four heralds to witness and cursed mewest to Carnevon and Skeledarak, unhoused from Eridu. Which means”—and there was bitternessnow—“that my father saved my life. That is, if your mage and Dwarf King can stop Rakoth’srain. You cannot, Seer, you have told us so. Let me ask you again, where are you going in themountains?”
He had answered her, and with his heart’s truth. There were reasons not to reply, but noneseemed compelling, where they were, with the knowledge of that rain falling east of them.
“To Khath Meigol,” she said, and watched the mountain outlaws freeze into silence. Many ofthem made reflexive signs against evil.
Even Dalreidan seemed shaken. She could see that he had paled. He crouched down on his haunchesin front of her and spent a moment gathering and dispersing pebbles on the rocks. At length, hesaid, “You will not be a fool, to be what you are, so I will say none of what first comes tome to say, but I do have a question.” He waited for her to nod permission, then went on. “Howare you to be of service in this war, to your High King or anyone else, if you are bloodcursedby the spirits of the Paraiko?”
Again, Kim saw them making the sign against evil all around her. Even Brock had to suppress agesture. She shook her head. “It is a fair question—” she began.
“Hear me,” Dalreidan interrupted, unable to wait for her answer. “The bloodcurse is no idletale, I know it is not. Once, years ago, I was hunting a wild kere, east and north of here, andso intent on my quarry that I lost track of how far I had gone. Then the twilight came, and Irealized I was on the borders of Khath Meigol. Seer of Brennin, I am no longer young, nor am Ia tale-spinning elder by a winter fire stretching truth like bad wool: I was there, and so Ican tell you, there is a curse on all who go into that place, of ill fortune and death andsouls lost to time. It is true, Seer, it is not a tale. I felt it myself, on the borders ofKhath Meigol.” She closed her eyes.
Save us, she heard. Ruana. She opened her eyes and said, “I know it is not a tale. There is acurse. I do not think it is what it is believed to be.”
“You do not think. Seer, do you know?”
Did she know? The truth was, she didn’t. The Giants went back beyond Ysanne’s learning orLoren’s or that of the Priestesses of Dana. Beyond, even, the lore of the Dwarves, or the liosalfar. All she had was her own knowledge: from the time in Gwen Ystrat when she’d made thatterrible voyage into the designs of the Unraveller, shielded by the powers of her friends.
And then the shields had fallen, she had gone too far, has lost them and was lost, burning,until another one had come, far down in the Dark, and had sheltered her. The other mind hadnamed himself as Ruana of the Paraiko, in Khath Meigol, and had begged for aid. They werealive, not ghosts, not dead yet. And this was what she knew, and all she knew.
On the plateau she shook her head, meeting the troubled gaze of the man who called himselfDalreidan. “No,” she said. “I know nothing with certainty, save one thing I may not tellyou, and one thing I may.” He waited. She said, “I have a debt to pay.”
“In Khath Meigol?” There was a real anguish in his voice. She nodded. “A personal debt?” heasked, straining to deal with this.
She thought about that: about the image of the Cauldron she had found with Ruana’s aid, theimage that had told Loren where the winter was coming from. And now the death rain.
“Not just me,” she said.
He drew a breath. A tension seemed to ease from within him. “Very well,” he said. “You speakas do the shamans on the Plain. I believe you are what you tell me you are. If we are to die ina few days or hours, I would rather do so in the service of Light than otherwise. I know youhave a guide, but I have been in the mountains for ten years now and have stood on the bordersof the place you seek. Will you accept an outlaw as companion for this last stage of yourjourney?”
It was the diffidence that moved her, as much as anything else. He had just saved their lives,at risk of his own.
“Do you know what you are getting into? Do you—” She stopped, aware of the irony. None ofthem knew what they were getting into, but his offer was freely made, and handsome. For onceshe had not summoned nor was she compelled by the power she bore. She blinked back tears.
“I would be honored,” she said. “We both would.” She heard Brock murmur his agreement.
A shadow fell on the stone in front of her. The three of them looked up.
Faebur was there, his face white. But his voice was manfully controlled. “In the Ta’Sirona,the Games at Teg Veirene, before my father exiled me, I came… I placed third of everyone inthe archery. Could you, would you allow—” He stopped. The knuckles of the hand holding hisbow were as white as his face.
There was a lump in her throat and she could not speak. She let Brock answer this time.
“Yes,” said the Dwarf gently. “If you want to come we will be grateful for it. A bowman isnever a wasted thread.”
And so, in the end, there were four of them.
Later that day, a long way west, Jennifer Lowell, who was Guinevere, came to the Anor Lisen astwilight fell.
With Brendel of the lios alfar as her only companion, she had sailed from Taerlindel themorning before in a small boat, not long after Prydwen herself had dipped out of sight in thewide, curving sea.
She had bidden farewell to Aileron the High King, to Sharra of Cathal, and Jaelle, thePriestess. She had set out with the lios alfar that she might come to the Tower built so longago for Lisen. And so that, coming there, she might climb the spiraling stone stairs to the onehigh room with its broad seaward balcony and, as Lisen had done, walk upon that balcony, gazingout to sea, waiting for her heart to come home.
Handling the boat easily in the mild seas of that first afternoon, sailing past Aeven Islandwhere the eagles were, Brendel marveled and sorrowed, both, at the expressionless beauty of hiscompanion’s face. She was as fair as were the lios, with fingers as long and slender, and herawakened memories, he knew, went back almost as far. Were she not so tall, her eyes not held togreen, she might have been one of his people.
Which led him to a strange reflection, out among the slap of waves and the billow of the singlesail. He had not made or found this boat, which would ultimately be required when his timecame, but it was a trim craft made with pride, and not unlike what he would have wanted. And soit was easy to imagine that they had just departed, not from Taerlindel but from Danilothitself. To be sailing west and beyond west, toward that place made by the Weaver for theChildren of Light alone.
Strange thoughts, he knew, born of sun and sea. He was not ready for that final journey. He hadsworn an oath of vengeance that bound him to this woman in the boat, and to Fionavar and thewar against Maugrim. He had not heard his song.
He did not know—no one did—the bitter truth. Prydwen had just set sail. She was two nightsand a dawn yet from the sound of singing in the sea, from the place where the sea stars of