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The Cold Commands
TheColdCommands
The Cold Commands cover.

Author

Richard K. Morgan

Publisher

Gollancz (UK), Del Rey (US)

Release Date

Oct 2011

Preceded By

The Steel Remains

Followed By

The Dark Defiles


The Cold Commands is the second book in the series A Land Fit For Heroes by Richard K. Morgan, published in 2011.

Story SummaryEdit

The Cold Commands continues the story of the three heroes, Ringil, Egar, and Archeth. A brief time has passed since the previous novel, and Ringil has acquired magical powers. Ringil is on a warpath to cause as much disruption to the slave trade as he can. A messenger in the form of a helmsman has arrived to bring dire warnings to Archeth and the Emperor. A mysterious Kiriath city has appeared out of nowhere, and Archeth plans to set an expedition to investigate. Risgillen and the other dwenda continue their quest to conquer the humans by manipulation of The Citadel.

RingilEdit

The story begins from the point of view of Gerin Trickfinger, a young man who is in a slave coffle. They are being forced to march to Yhelteth, a long six-week journey. There is concern among the slaves about who will survive the march. Another slave Tigeth, a fat city dweller, argues that the slave masters will treat them fine. Barat, a harbor-end pimp, was killed for causing fights in the coffle. Many of the slaves are coming down with a "cold". Gerin talks about plans to make an escape.

Gerin starts the escape attempt by pretending to be poisoned by food. They quickly overwhelm the march-masters, and start their escape. One of the slaves, a veteran from the war, stays behind to viciously attack the march-masters and give the others more time to escape.

Gerin teams up with a blacksmith as they make their escape in the forest. When they reach a stream, they make plans to use it to hide their tracks from the dogs which are behind them. The blacksmith dies from a shot from a crossbow. Gerin then runs into Ringil. Ringil uses a spell to force a dog to throw itself off a cliff, and another spell to make the other dogs leave. Gerin is then shot by the same crossbowman. Ringil uses a spell to make the marchmasters drop their weapons. He then kills them. Gerin dies in Ringil's hands.

Poppy Snarl, the slave trader in charge of the slave march, argues with the Imperial trade legate over the disruption in the coffle and the escaped slaves. Several of the slave masters have been killed. Poppy has sent off for support from Hinerion and its border patrol commander, but the help has not yet arrived. Ringil arrives and kills several of the guards. Eril, a man who has been assisting Ringil attack the slave traders, arrives with his men and kills the rest of the guards. They had stolen outfits from the march masters in the forest. Ringil asks Poppy about Sherin, whom she dismisses. Ringil allows all of the men to rape Poppy, and Ringil kills the legate.

Ringil interrupts the raping of Poppy to kill her. The mercenaries set the slaves free. Ringil thinks he might be coming down with a cold. 'Ware riders (armored cavalry) are coming from Hinerion. A strange old man (who knows who Ringil is despite the fact that Ringil told no one of his identity) prepares two horses for Ringil and Eril to escape. The old man says he will make his own escape, with a smile.

While crossing a river, a dead body clings to Ringil. The body says "Better run", and then turns out it is just a tree. They can't take the caravan road to leave because of the City Guard, so they wait. There is also concern that Yhelteth will push in hard because of the dead legate. While they are waiting, Dakovash appears out of nowhere. Ringil chastises him for not showing up when Gerin prayed for him. Dakovash makes Ringil's bones burn. In the pain, Ringil goes back to the Gray Places. Ringil has been there many times since Ennishmin. He looked, but never found Seethlaw there.

When Ringil was young, after Jelim's death, he was in the ocean water at Lanatry (his mother's summer residence) and let the ocean take him away. But the ocean spit him back to shore. Dakovash implies the merroigai did it. Dakovash warns Ringil that chaos is gathering, and that the Dark Court is running "damage control", but "the rules have changed" and things are not going well. And then Dakovash is gone and Ringil is back with Eril. Ringil thinks he is coming down with marsh flu. He tells Eril that he has a plan to get away.

Ringil recalls the poet Skimil Shend who was exiled to Hinerion by the Committee for Public Morals for "seditious composition". Ringil knew him from earlier times as a lover. Eril and Ringil go to Hinerion and hide. It is only 10 miles from where the slave caravan was attacked. Ringil is concerned he might look like he is coming down with the plague. Eril goes to get a room, and Ringil goes to the bounty office using the pseudonym Laraninthal of Shenshenath. There, Ringil tries a Yhelteth accent of Naomic, as there is not much love for people from the Empire in Hinerion. Ringil signs up for the bounty to hunt himself, and returns to Eril. They talk about what is going on, and about the fact that even though an imperial legate was killed, it hasn't been mentioned in town.

At the inn, a boy tells Ringil that soldiers have arrived to speak with him. They are the bounty hunters. Klithren seems to be in charge. He asks if Ringil wants to go with them in the morning to ferret out the bandits before the bounties have been formalized, to which Ringil agrees.

Ringil and Eril go to a boat named the Marsh Queen's Favor and talk to the captain. They pick this boat due to the marsh daisy pennants and the Brotherhood allegiance. They want to leave at dawn, but the captain says he has another passenger who won't be ready until later the next day. Ringil goes to talk to the female passenger, whose name is Lady Quilien of Gris. Ringil has paid some men to escort him and to carry the lady's things back to the boat. She is at Hero's Respite Inn, a somewhat fancy location. When he goes up to her room, there is a large dog/wolf. Ringil tells her that the departure time has been moved up. She greets him naked, and unconcerned. She has very odd behaviors and mannerisms, Ringil thinks she is mad. She tells him she is traveling light and won't need help, and that she will be at the boat at dawn. Ringil tells the sailors that he brought with him to go back to the ship. He stays to drink a little, but he is very ill.

When Ringil leaves to go sleep on the Marsh Queen's Favor, the bounty hunters are waiting and call him by name (they discovered who he was). They quickly overwhelm Ringil. Then they start to hear echoes of the veteran from the slave chain who killed the slavers. A shadowy figure savagely kills the bounty hunters. Ringil wakes up amongst the mutilated bodies. Klithren arrives, but he doesn't seem to know Ringil's true identity. Klithren sees the mutilated bodies, and is sad that his friend Venj is dead. He tells Ringil that they wouldn't be going out in the morning anyways, the city is locked up because some of the slaves had the plague. Ringil knocks out Klithren and runs to the harbor to meet Eril. Ringil tells Eril that the city is being closed due to the plague and that Eril should escape immediately on the boat. He relieves Eril of his debt.

Ringil wakes up on a rock in a seawater-like place in the Gray Places. He drops into the not-quite-water. An akyia tries to grab him, but he flinches back. He continues falling, though it is more like hanging. A stone appears under his feet. It has old Myrlic script, though he can't read all of it. It floats up and he grabs it and is taken up to a marsh. Ringil is then bitten by a spider. A circle of stones flicker in and out around him (kind of like a prison or armor). Ringil recalls once that Dakovash wouldn't enter the stone circle. Ghosts show up, such as Skimil Shend and Ishil. Ringil knows that he makes the aspect storm every time he walks in the Gray Places.

Ringil walks on. He sees hundreds of skulls attached to dry, cracked tree stumps. He assumes they are dead due to a drought or the long ravages of time. Egar's ghost shows up. Eventually Ringil arrives at a sign post. A cowled, hunched figure in dark rags (with at least six arms and eyes). It tells him of false futures. After some tense moments, the figure shows him the way to go.

Ringil comes across the ruins of a city. Wagons are gathered around a bonfire with a group of motley-clad men and women. A woman sees him, and calls to Hjel who is plucking a mandolin. Ringil had previously met with Hjel in the Gray Places, had a sexual relationship, and Hjel taught him the magic of the ikinri 'ska. This Hjel does not know who Ringil is, due to the warping of time. However, Ringil convinces Hjel that he is not a "wraith" and Hjel admits him as a guest (though he says his "friends" must say in the dark).

Ringil and Hjel talk after the others have gone to sleep. Hjel asks Ringil if he met the "demon familiar" at the crossroads. Hjel tells him this story:

Hjel's ancestors banished the demon to the Margins when they founded the city. The demon cursed them as a result. The eldest heirs of Hjel's family must go to meet it and get an ambiguous gift in return (though some don't return at all). It gave Hjel the gift of being a very skilled musician. He can crack a man's heart to a halt with it. Hjel sees it as having limited application, that the creature has a sense of humor.

Hjel and Ringil retire to his tent where they have sex, which has an odd reversal for Ringil because he has been with Hjel before, but not vice versa, but previously when Ringil first met Hjel, Hjel already knew who Ringil was. Ringil sees the scars on Hjel's back, and realizes that the creature had ripped out his wings. Hjel says that it was the cost of the gift from the creature.

The story continues in the morning with Hjel and his band, along with Ringil and they have moved out of the Margins, where the world is solid again. A member of the court lets slip mention that the Black Sail gang has come for Ringil. Ringil goes down to the shore where Hjel is talking to them. The Black Sail gang are corpses wrapped in grave swaddling. Hjel has had dealings with them in the past, and trusts them. Hjel tells Ringil that they will take him where he wants to go. He says that he is not trying to get rid of Ringil, but there are greater forces at play, that "the cold legions" wrap around him. Ringil leaves with the Black Sail into the Margins.

Ringil wakes up on a ship and smells dragon. He has recovered from the plague. He suits up and runs out to deck. Lady Quilien of Gris had given an order to turn the boat about because they spotted a reef, which is really a raft used by the scaled folk for hatching. Ringil and the Lady Quilien talk, and Ringil learns she is the one who brought him on board, and that they are on their way to Yhelteth. They smoke krinzanz twigs she offers, though she tells him she got it from his belongings. The captain of the boat is Captain Dresh Alannor of the Famous Victory None Foresaw. They want to harvest the dragondrift cuttings which they will sell for a good price. Out on the drift, the captain falls into the water and is lost.

When they arrive in Yhelteth, a young girl has a message for Ringil as he disembarks. It is a cryptic message telling him to come quickly to the Temple of Red Joy. Archeth calls to Ringil, who unexpectedly sees him. She takes him onto Shanta's boat. They recruit Ringil to keep an expedition team in line.

(Ringil's story continues below.)

EgarEdit

Egar is getting a shave in Yhelteth. He learns that some young Majak are part of the Citadel Guard, which surprises him. He returns to Archeth's house, but she is not home. Egar has been spending his time working for Archeth, somewhat as her bodyguard (due to her run-in with the Citadel in the previous novel). Egar learns that there are Citadel people watching the house. Egar goes to them and breaks the invigilator's collar bone, and seriously injures the other two, and tells them not to come around again.

Egar gets up early in the morning, and goes to the Combined Irregulars barracks. At the gate are Imperial Sons of the Desert (southerners with desert-dark skin, almost Kiriath black). Egar is there to see Commander Darhan. He asks Darhan about the young Majak joining up with the Citadel. Egar is looking for a way in to get information about what's going on at the Citadel because of the people watching Archeth's place. Darhan warns Egar not to get wrapped up in the Citadel vs Empire squabbles, but tells him to check out the Lizard's Head.

At the Lizard's Head, he learns there was a fight recently involving some northerners. Half of them were wearing Citadel clothing. The publican tells him about Harath, who was there when the fight broke out. Egar goes to find Harath, and asks him why steppe kids are working for the Citadel. Harath says he had followed Alnarh as an Ishlin-ichan brother to the Citadel. Alnarh went and converted to the Citadel. Technically Harath did, too, but only for the money. They were working for Menkarak, watching over slaves at a place called Afa'marag. Harath was kicked out due to an argument over a slave he had sex with. Egar takes Harath to lunch, and asks Harath to help him to break into Afa'marag.

Egar and Harath have a boatman take them up to the Afa'marag temple. There are Citadel guards posted there, so he won't stop close. They are dressed in black burglar's garb and charcoal smear. There are cracks in the old temple due to a volcanic eruption from long ago in the past. As they make their way in, Egar sees squat statues, the glirsht Naomic statues that Archeth had told him about.

They run into some unexpected guards at the slave quarters. There are three, Alnarh, Elkret, and another. They kill Alnarh and the other, but Harath asks Egar to spare Elkret who is badly injured. Harath went in to this mission not expecting to get in to battle. Even though it was Alnarh who turned him in, he feels bad about fighting the people he once was with. Elkret warns them about the "angels". The slave quarters are nice. It contains mostly young women, and a few boys, all northerners. They can't find the woman Harath had sex with. Egar questions one of the young women. She tells them that the other was taken away. She pleads for Egar to take her with him. She tells him about the "blue fire angles". Egar decides to take her with them, and then they see the blue fire up the stairs.

Egar and Harath fight a dwenda (in its black armor). Harath lands the killing blow. There are wolf howls, and the two dead Majak stir and are coming back to life. The glirsht statues are flickering with blue fire. Harath and the young girl go up a rope, but then two dwenda come upon Egar. Egar fights the two dwenda alone. They injure each other. Harath distracts the dwenda by throwing part of a statue down, and Egar jumps up to the rope to escape. They make it to the boat and leave.

Egar checks to see if the dwenda have followed, but doesn't see anything. Egar, Harath, and the girl go to get a drink. Egar tells Harath to sit tight at home and he will pay him the rest in a few days. He takes the girl (Nil) to Imrana. Imrana is angry that Egar showed up while her husband Saril Ashant is still in town (though probably visiting a brothel or mistress). She has the girl taken to be cleaned and taken care of. She stitches Egar's wound he received from the dwenda. Ashant arrives with Lord Hanan, who is angry to see a man in his wife's quarters. Egar kills both of them. Egar takes off, with a plan to have Imrana place all the blame on Egar to spare her.

Egar dyes his hair black, and buys a cloak from an old veteran beggar on the street. He goes to a doctor to deal with his wounds.

Egar wakes up in the flandrijn house next to the doctor's. He has been there for maybe 2 or 3 days. Egar goes to look for Harath to give him a warning. He goes to the Lizard's Head. There, Darhan recognizes him. Darhan tells him he needs to get out of town, there is a 20,000 elemental reward. Darhan hits him due to the high reward and because he was drafted for Demlarashan, this would be his way out. As the guards take Egar away, a burned man in the crowd slips Egar a knife. Egar kills several of the guards, and seriously injures the rest. He then jumps into the river and goes to the same flandrijn house, thinking it might be safe.

(Egar's story continues below.)

ArchethEdit

Archeth is at An-Monal communing with her past. Archeth is trying to get off krinzanz, and she is experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Manathan asks to see her in her father's study. He tells her that a messenger is coming to give her a message in person. He tells her there will be a sign in the desert to indicate when it has arrived. She returns to the boat that brought her there, the Sword of Justice Divine. On board is Senger Hald, the marine commander, Lal Nyanar, the frigate's captain, and Hanesh Galat, Holy Invigilator to the ship, as well as a small detachment of marines. On board the four discuss the news of the messenger. Archeth wants to go directly to pick up the messenger, the others are hesitant. Then, a giant lightning bolt hits to the east, which is the signal that Manathan mentioned to Archeth.

They make their way down the river to investigate. In the morning, Galat asks to talk to Archeth. He essentially tells her he's aware of what has happened between her and the Citadel, and that not everyone is of the same opinion of Menkarak, that "we are not all filled with hate."

The boat gets stuck on an unknown mudbank. They are not far from where they were going, so a team disembarks while others stay behind to get the boat free. They come across a burned caldera oak which is unusual because the tree normally does not burn. There is unspoken concern it was caused by a dragon. They see more burned trees, a crater, and a glassy pale substance in the middle. They find a helmsman there. It spooks the men because it knows many details about all of their lives. It has limited ability to move on its own, and it asks them to take it to Yhelteth.

The helmsman's name is Anasharal. They carry it to the boat where Nyanar refuses to let it on board. Galat proposes an open deliberation about what to do, to determine if Anasharal is a demon. After a prolonged discussion, Galat finally declares that Anasharal is welcome on the ship. Anasharal won't tell Archeth why he's there, just that whatever will require cooperation, and that "something dark is on the way".

At the Chamber of Confidences, Jhiral is executing traitors. Archeth brings Anasharal to the palace and goes to talk to the Emperor. She tells him about the new helmsman. She learns that Bentan Sanagh was one of the victims being put to death. Archeth knows him through Mahmal Shanta. She liked Sanagh well enough, but didn't really know him. Anasharal is in the Queen Consort Gardens. There it ominously tells Jhiral that a darkness is coming to end the Empire. It tells a story:

In the time before this, the Earth was ravaged by endless conflict. Weapons of hideous, unnatural power. The planet shuddered from the tread of the Visitors. Allies chosen in desperation from other worlds and places worse than other worlds. Nations and people disappeared inside storms that lasted decades. Humanity was broken into a dozen disparate races. The wars ended for reasons no longer well understood.
Into this void burst the dwenda, the Aldrain, the witch folk. They are human in base form, claiming a prior heritage, an ownership of Earth predating the conflict (though it was argued their memories were faulty due to dwelling in the real of the Unrealized Possible). The Aldrain created an empire that lasted seven thousand years. Many called it glorious. Magic was a way of life, sprinkled across the planet like seed. They created insane Dark Kings with dark powers. Eventually the enemies of the dwenda learned their magic, and brought the Kiriath through the hidden gates in the bowels of the Earth to defeat the Aldrain.

Angfal had once told Archeth that the Kiriath did not choose to come to Earth. They stayed only because they were afraid returning to the quick paths would break them.

The Last Dark King (whose name is not to be uttered, though Anasharal calls him the Ilwrack Changeling). He was brought up by the dwenda. When the Kiriath destroyed Hannais M'hen in the last stages of the Twilight war, the Ilwrack Changeling was at the head of the Aldrain forces and their human allies. He was betrayed. The Aldrain fell back in chaos, not quite dead. A few humans entombed him on an islet in the norther ocean, farther west and north than the Hironish Isles (islands which are not on any maps). The Dark Lord's Aldrain lover came later in secret to the tomb, couldn't wake him so he/she cast an enchantment around the island, sweeping it up into the margin of the Aldrain marches. The magic was hurried and incomplete, thus the island emerges from time to time and stands solid again in the ocean, sometimes for only moments at a time.

Archeth has read about this, called "The Ghost Isle, the Chain's Last Link". There is a legend of the Hironish peoples. There is an uncharted island beyond the last in the Hironish Chain.

In a Naom legend, it is said the dark lord will return when the Aldrain have been thrown back in battle from their heart's ancestral desire, and are once more in disarray. The concern is that this dark lord is returning now.
The Kiriath clan Halkanirinakral commissioned a city called An-Kirilnar to be constructed standing above the waves south and east of the Ghost Isle to set watch. The Kiriath could not counter the sorceries of the Ilwrack clan (or at least none they would bring themselves to deploy). The city comes and goes as the Ghost Isle does. Now, it has returned permanently (for some number of weeks).

Archeth and the Emperor talk about what Anasharal has told them, even though it is evident Anasharal can hear (and speak) through walls. Archeth mentions An-Naranash which stands above the water in the same way as what Anasharal described of An-Kirilnar. The Emperor expresses how the Empire cannot afford an expedition and the problems with Trelayne (pirate attacks, etc.). Archeth and Jhiral's father had once done an expedition to An-Naranash, only to find it stripped of anything valuable, and that it was a great waste of money. Anasharal interjects with a suggestion on how to pay for the expedition.

The plan is to have several wealthy citizens to pay for the expedition. Archeth and the Emperor discuss who should fund the expedition, and make a list of names. These people will put up the money in turn for plundered rewards and have the royal seal of approval. Jhiral tells Archeth that Bentan Sanagh named Mahmal Shanta in his confession about covert meetings of the shipwright seniors. He knows that she and Mahmal know each other well. Archeth manipulates Jhiral to pick Shanta for the expedition. The story is that Shanta will be busy with preparations, that they won't be able to leave until next spring. And then, Shanta will want to accompany the journey, which will keep him busy and away and not up to "extra curricular activities." Archeth notes how dangerous the northern ocean is. Jhiral acquiesces and agrees to Shanta.

Archeth is in discussions with Mahmal Shanta about not being careful enough, and how she had to save him. She tells him about the expedition. The expedition members are Tand and Shendanak (who hate each other), Noyal Rakan and a squad of the Throne Eternal, Senger Hald and his marines, Lal Nyanar and his crew, and Hanesh Galat the invigilator.

As Archeth is walking, she spots Ringil getting off a boat.

Archeth and RingilEdit

During a meeting of the expedition team, Ringil asserts his dominance and the others back down from him. Ringil and Archeth talk about Egar and empire politics.

Ringil goes to talk to Anasharal. It tells him that the Ahn Foi are not his friends, that once the Aldrain walked the Earth much the same as the Kiriath did. Noyal Rakan comes to visit Ringil.

After a long banquet given by Shanta for the Nyanar clan, Ringil and Rakan have sex in the room they stayed in at Shanta's place. The are woken early in the morning with news that Egar had killed several City Guard. Archeth, Ringil, and Rakan go with the messengers to the palace, expecting to send the King's Reach to get Egar. There, Ringil slightly insults the Emperor, and after talking to the Emperor, Ringil and Archeth argue. Ringil leaves without talking to the guards about Egar per the Emperor's order.

Ringil goes to the Lizard's Head. The bar tender points him over to Harath. Harath tells him the story of what happened. Ringil recalls the strange girl who met him when he got off the boat, and told him about the Temple of Red Joy. Harath's whore tells him where the Temple of Red Joy is. Ringil goes to the temple. He sees in bass relief on an alter the image of Kwelgrish, and recalls that he owes Lady Quilien a favor. Quilien is there circling him with luminous wolf-eyed intent (equating her with Kwelgrish). A voice tells him to run. He runs outside, there is commotion, and he sees Egar struggling with some guards. They are the King's Reach and some bowmen. Ringil uses the ikinri 'ska against the bowmen, but it does not work against the commander (it only works against weaker people). Ringil is about to kill the commander, but Egar stops him and turns himself in. Egar tells Ringil about the dwenda (Ringil is already aware), and that there is a better way to handle this.

The DwendaEdit

The Emperor, Archeth, and Ringil (and others of the court) are on a coracle in the middle of the Chamber of Confidences. Ringil asks for a full pardon for Egar. The plan is for Ringil to murder Pashla Menkarak. Crippling the dwenda's allies (The Citadel) will greatly weaken the dwenda because they rely on them so heavily. The Emperor gives Ringil three days to kill Menkarak, and then he will release Egar. Ringil returns to Egar and his cell (which has nice amenities compared to a commoner jail). Egar tells Ringil that he's seen his own death (on the Black Folk Span). Ringil tells him he's crazy and that he'll be fine on the mission. Egar would prefer to die fighting.

Taran Alman, Noyal Rakan, Ringil, and some of the King's Reach sneak towards the Citadel. One of the King's men tells Ringil how to get into the Citadel and where Menkarak should be. Ringil has studied the layout and a sketch of Menkarak's face, so he should know where to go. Ringil has a Kiriath flare to use as a signal once he's killed Menkarak. As Ringil is climbing the rock face to get in, he slips and falls. Something dark and cold grabs his hand and moves it upward to the safety of a hold.

Archeth goes to talk to Angfal, looking for help on what to do, whether to still go on the quest for An-Kirilnar. Angfal speaks in a cryptic fashion, but in a way tells her he is constrained on what he can say. He has prevented Anasharal from listening in on their conversation, but won't/can't say more. He tells her that Manathan acts in the best interests of the Kiriath mission. As Archeth lays in bed, Ishgrim arrives saying Anasharal sent her. Archeth weakens and has sex with Ishgrim.

In the Citadel, Ringil kills three people trying to make his way to Menkarak. He eventually finds the apartment, barges in, and kills the man who he thinks is Menkarak, but it is not. A dwenda (whose voice he recognizes) hits him from behind and knocks him out. When he awakes, he is tied up with no weapons and his sorcery "in check." Menkarak is there with a dwenda he calls Atalmire, and Risgillen. Menkarak really believes that the dwenda are the angels of the Revelation. Risgillen tells Ringil that Menkarak is useful, that he hates the "black scourge" (the Kiriath), and that she knows there is only one left (Archeth). Ringil learns that the man standing in for Menkarak was Hanesh Galat, and that Menkarak despised him.

Ringil and Risgillen are alone and they argue. She bites his cheek, breaking the bone. She tells him she has been building a great scheme to bring him here (dealing with the Ahn Foi, etc.). She bites him again and crushes his eye with her tongue. She tells him in three days they will unleash the Talons of the Sun on Yhelteth. Her plan was to have Egar executed in a very painful way to punish Ringil. She pushes Ringil back, and he falls forever into the Gray Places.

Two days have passed, and they have not seen the flare from Ringil. Two assassins from the Ashant clan come to kill Egar in his cell, sent by Kadral Ashant. Egar gets stabbed and cut by a knife. Archeth comes and kills the two assassins. She had gone out to score some krinzanz, and a mystic suggested she "check on her friends," so she had returned.

Ringil is in the marshes. There are tens of thousands of men, women, children, and dogs on tree stumps. There is nothing he can do for them. His wounds from Risgillen seem to have healed. He occasionally hears Seethlaw's howling. He collapses and Seethlaw bounds on him in a dog-like form, and starts tearing Ringil apart. Ringil awakes again, falls, and restarts in the marsh. Hjel approaches playing the mandolin. The heads on the tree stumps quiet as he approaches. He says "The cold legions wrap around you already and they are yours to command." He tells Ringil that Ringil has passed through the Dark Gate; that "the Aldrain do not know, Kwelgrish and Dakovash buried it deep, but it's done, it's paid for." Ringil then realizes there are many thousands around him, and he hears the same phrases he had heard before (such as when he was attacked in Hinerion), echoes from the past. Hjel creates a path and they walk down it. Along the cliff sides there is a script Ringil cannot read, but Hjel explains it's all of the ikinri 'ska. Hjel tells Ringil to call for his sword near a lake. An arm appears out of the lake holding the sword, held by the akyia. Hjel disappears, and only the ikinri 'ska remains.

Back at the temple of Afa'marag, Risgillen is performing a ritual cutting a young boy (a "distant" cousin). Atalmire asks what's wrong. She explains something is blocking the flow of force, the sacrifice goes unrecognized. He asks if it's the Ahn Foi backing up again (again from a thousand years ago). Risgillen doesn't speak Tethanne, she's happy to let Atalmire call down the Talons of the Sun and rule what is left. She looks forward to their return in the north. Risgillen warns him that if he brings the Talons of the Sun without the correct opening rituals, he risks the wrath of the Origin, which would set them back another thousand years or more.

Ringil appears before Risgillen. She attacks, but Ringil's power over the cold legions protect him. Ringil fights the two dwenda warriors and Risgillen. He lets the cold legion sweep through him and starts tearing the temple apart, killing one of the dwenda. He tells Risgillen and Atalmire to leave and not come back. He cuts off Menkarak's head and leaves. The place is falling apart as Ringil makes his way out, and sees a Kiriath flare. He also runs into some guards who he orders to free the slaves before the place collapses. He waits outside for all the slaves to leave, and fires the flare at the waters edge. Archeth finds him. His dragon-tooth dagger is in the sandy mud (he says "washed up"). Noyal Rakan appears, and tells them the Emperor wants to see them (to give Ringil a medal).

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