By Brent Weeks
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As the old gods awaken and satrapies splinter, the Chromeria races to find the only man who can still end a civil war before it engulfs the known world in the third novel of the NYT bestselling Lightbringer series by Brent Week.
As the old gods awaken and satrapies splinter, the Chromeria races to find the only man who can still end a civil war before it engulfs the known world. But Gavin Guile has been captured by an old enemy and enslaved on a pirate galley. Worse still, Gavin has lost more than his powers as Prism — he can’t use magic at all.
Without the protection of his father, Kip Guile will face a master of shadows as his grandfather moves to choose a new Prism and put himself in power. With Teia and Karris, Kip will have to use all his wits to survive a secret war between noble houses, religious factions, rebels, and an ascendant order of hidden assassins called The Broken Eye.
Table of Contents
A Preview of The Blood Mirror
A Preview of A Crown for Cold Silver
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The two Blackguards approached the White's door, the younger rhythmically cracking the knuckles of his right fist nervously. The Greyling brothers stopped in front of the door, hesitated. Pop, pop, pop. Pop, pop, pop.
The elder brother, Gill, looked at his little brother, as if trying to emulate their commander's sledge-gaze. Gavin hated it when Gill did that, but he quit popping his knuckles.
"We gain nothing by waiting," Gill said. "Put that fist to use."
It was early morning. The White usually didn't emerge from her chambers for at least another two hours. With her declining health, the Blackguard were doing all they could to make the old woman's last months easy.
"How come it's always me who—" Gavin asked. At nineteen, Gill was two years older, but they were the same rank, and they'd been elevated to full Blackguard status at the same time.
"If you make her miss it because you're arguing with me…" Gill let the threat hang. "Fist," he said. It was an order.
Scowling, Gavin Greyling knocked on the door. After waiting the customary five seconds, he opened the door. The brothers stepped inside.
The White wasn't in her bed. She and her room slave were praying, prostrate on the floor despite their age, facing the rising sun through the open doors to the balcony. Cold wind blew in around the two old women.
"High Mistress," Gill said. "Your pardon. There's something you must see."
She looked at them, recognizing them immediately. Some of the nobles and luxlords didn't treat the youngest of the full Blackguards seriously. It was a judgment that cut because it was partly deserved. Gavin knew that even a year ago, he wouldn't have been promoted to full Blackguard at seventeen. But the White never treated him like he was beneath anyone. He would gladly die for her, even if someone told him that she'd die the next day of old age.
She broke off her prayers, and they helped her into her wheeled chair, but when the old room slave waddled over to close the balcony doors on bad hips, Gill stopped her.
"She needs to look from the balcony, caleen," Gavin said.
Gavin wrapped the White in her blankets gently but efficiently. They'd learned exactly how much delicacy her pride would stand, and how much pain her body could. He pushed her out onto the balcony. She didn't complain that she could do it herself. She would have, not long ago.
"In the bay," Gill said.
Little Jasper Bay was resplendent below them. Today was the Feast of Light and Darkness, the equinox, and it was turning into one of those autumn days one hopes for: the air chilly, but the sky blindingly blue, the waters calm instead of their normal chop. The bay itself was conspicuously underpopulated. The fleet was still gone to fight the Color Prince at Ru and stop his advance. Gavin should have been there. Instead, he and three others had been sent back by skimmer on the eve of battle to report the fleet's disposition and plans.
Surely by now, the battle had taken place, and all that remained was to wait to hear whether they should rejoice in their victory or brace for a war that would tear the Seven Satrapies apart. Thus the White's prayers, Gavin supposed. Can you pray about the outcome of an event after the fact? Do they do anything then?
Do they do anything, ever?
The White waited silently, staring at the bay. Staring at nothing, Gavin was afraid. Had they interrupted her too late? But the White trusted them; she asked nothing, simply waited as the minutes stretched out.
And then, finally, a shape came around the bend of Big Jasper. At first, it was hard to get a sense of the size of the thing. It surfaced a hundred paces from the high walls ringing the entirety of Big Jasper, which were lined with people jostling one another to see. The sea demon was visible at first only by the wake it left, plowing waters to the left and the right.
As the sea demon came closer, it sped up. Its cruciform mouth, half open, swallowing the seas with its ring-shaped maw and jetting them out through its gills along the whole of its body, now opened full. With each big gulping pulse, its mouth opening wide now, water splashed out to the sides and back in great fans every fifty or so paces, then as the massive muscles contracted, the water behind it hissed with churned air and water.
The sea demon was approaching the seawall that protected West Bay. One galley was making a run for a gap in the seawall, trying to get out. With how fast the sea demon moved, the captain couldn't have known it was precisely the wrong direction to go.
"The poor fool," Gill muttered.
"Depends on if this is a coincidence or an attack," the White said, eerily calm. "If it gets inside the seawall, they might be the only ones to escape."
The galley slaves lifted their oars out of the water as one, trying to make as little disturbance on the seas as possible. Sea demons were territorial, but not predators.
The sea demon passed the galley and kept going. Gavin Greyling expelled a relieved breath and heard the others do the same. But then the sea demon dove, disappearing in a sudden cloud of mist.
When it reappeared, it was red-hot. The waters were boiling around it. It veered out to sea.
There was nothing they could do. The sea demon went out to sea, then it doubled back, accelerating. It aimed directly at the prow of the galley, as if it wanted the head-to-head collision with this challenger.
Someone swore under their breath.
The sea demon rammed the galley with tremendous speed. Several sailors flew off the deck: some into the sea, one flying until he crunched against the sea demon's knobby, spiky head.
For an instant it looked like the ship would somehow hold together, and then the prow crumpled. Wood exploded in shards to every side. The masts snapped.
The entire galley—the half of it that was left—was pushed backward, ten paces, twenty, thirty, slapping huge fans of spray into the air. The sea demon's forward progress was only briefly slowed. Then the galley was pushed down into the waves as that great hammerhead rose even higher out of the water and kept pushing. Abruptly, the ship's fire-hardened wood hull shattered like a clay pot thrown against a wall.
The sea demon dove, and attached to that great spiky head by a hundred lines, the wreckage was dragged down with it.
A hundred paces away, a huge bubble of air surfaced as the last of the decks gave way underwater. But the ship never rose. Flotsam was all that remained, and not nearly as much of that as one would expect. The ship was simply gone. Perhaps half a dozen men out of a crew of hundreds were flailing in the waves. Most of them couldn't swim. Gavin Greyling had learned to swim as part of his Blackguard training, and that most sailors couldn't had always struck him as insanity.
"There," Gill said, pointing. "You can see the trail of bubbles."
The sea demon hadn't gotten trapped inside the seawall, thank Orholam. But what it seemed to be heading for was worse.
"High Mistress," a voice broke in behind them. It was Luxlord Carver Black, the man responsible for all the mundane details of running the Chromeria that didn't fall under the White's purview. He was a tall balding man in Ilytian hose and doublet, with olive skin. What remained of his long dark hair was streaked liberally with white. Gavin hadn't noticed him. A Blackguard, and he hadn't noticed. "Your pardon, I knocked but got no response. The beast has been circling the Jaspers, five times now. I've given orders for the guns on Cannon Island not to fire unless it attacked. They want to know if they should consider this an attack." The defense of Little Jasper was technically in his portfolio, but Luxlord Black was a cautious administrator, and he liked to avoid blame wherever possible.
What could a cannonball do against such a beast?
"Tell them to wait," she said.
"You heard her!" the Black bellowed, cupping a hand adorned with many rings to his mouth. There was a secretary on the roof, one floor above the White's balcony, holding a polished mirror a pace wide, leaning out over the edge to listen.
"Yes, High Lord!" The man hurried to flash the signal, and a younger woman replaced him at the edge, trying to listen without appearing to be listening to the wrong things.
The sea demon was now hugging the coast, swimming through waters so shallow its back was visible. It rammed through the portmaster's dock without even appearing to notice it. Then it reached the far northern tip of Big Jasper.
"Oh shit." The thought was everyone's, but the voice was the White's. The White? Cursing? Gavin Greyling hadn't thought she even knew curses.
The people on the Lily's Stem had lost sight of the beast as it had come in close to Big Jasper, and the sea demon was bearing down on the bridge before any of them could react.
The bridge floated at exactly the height of the waves. Without supports, the yellow and blue luxin formed a lattice that looked green. It had withstood battering seas for hundreds of years, the chromaturgy required to make such a thing now beyond perhaps even Gavin Guile himself. More than once it had served as a wavebreak for ships trapped outside the seawalls during storms and had saved hundreds of lives. The sea demon's first, incidental contact with the bridge rocked the entire structure. It threw hundreds of people off their feet.
The vast shape slid along the smooth luxin for ten, twenty paces, then slowed, seeming confused by the contact. Its confusion lasted only an instant, though, as fresh billows of steam rose around it. The sea demon's head plunged into the waves and it sped out to sea, its vast tail slapping the water beside the Lily's Stem and sending geysers over almost the whole length.
Then, out at sea, it turned back again.
"Tell Cannon Island to fire!" the White shouted.
Cannon Island sat in the bay on the opposite side of the Lily's Stem. The likelihood of the gunners there making the shot was remote.
But a slim chance at distraction was better than none.
The first culverin fired immediately; the men must have been waiting for the order. The shot was at least a thousand paces, though. They missed by at least a hundred. The island's other five guns facing the right way each spoke in turn, the sound of their fire lagging behind the bright flash of it, the roar reaching the tower at about the same time they saw the splash. Each missed. The closest splash was more than fifty paces off target. None deterred the sea demon.
The crews began reloading with the speed and efficiency that could be only imparted with relentless training. But they wouldn't get off another volley in time. The sea demon was simply too fast.
The Lily's Stem had become chaos. A team of horses had fallen, panicked, and turned sideways with their cart within the confines of the bridge itself, blocking all but a trickle of men and women from getting out onto Big Jasper. People were climbing over and under the flailing, biting horses.
A stampede flowed out of the other side of the bridge, people falling, being trampled. Some few would make it in time.
"Carver," the White said, her voice clipped. "Go now and organize care for the dead and wounded. You're faster than I, and I need to see how this ends."
Luxlord Black was out the door before she was done speaking.
Four hundred paces out. Three hundred.
The White reached a hand out, as if she could ward off the sea demon by will alone. She was whispering prayers urgently under her breath.
Two hundred paces. One hundred.
A second dark shape suddenly streaked under the bridge from the opposite side, and a colossal collision with the sea demon sent jets of water a hundred feet into the air. The sea demon was launched into the air, bent sideways. A black shape, massive itself but dwarfed by the sea demon, had hit it from below. Both crashed back into the water, not twenty paces from the Lily's Stem.
The sea demon's superior mass carried its body all the way into the bridge itself, shooting a wall of water at the tube and over it. The whole edifice was rocked by the force of the wave—but not shattered.
In a spray of water and expelled breath, flukes and a black tail surfaced. That tail smashed down on the sea demon's body, and then the whale darted into Little Jasper Bay. Out, away from the bridge.
"A whale," the White breathed. "Was that…"
"A sperm whale, High Mistress," Gill said. He'd loved stories of the sea's pugilists. "A black giant. At least thirty paces long, head like a battering ram. I've never heard of one that big."
"There haven't been sperm whales in the Cerulean Sea for—"
"Four hundred years. Since the Everdark Gates closed. Though some persisted for another hundred or—Your pardon," Gill said.
She didn't notice. They were all too engrossed. The sea demon was obviously stunned. Its red-hot body had turned blue and sunk beneath the waves, but even as the sea calmed from the aftershocks of the collision, they could see the red glow begin again. The waters hissed.
A swell of that big body underneath the waves, and it turned and began to move—chasing after the whale.
The White said, "That kind of whale is supposed to be quite aggress—"
Four hundred paces out from shore, another eruption of water as the two leviathans collided again.
Sperm whales had been the only natural enemies of sea demons in the Cerulean Sea. But the sea demons had killed them all, long ago. Supposedly.
They watched, and again the giants collided, this time farther out. They watched, in silence, while the rescue operations below worked to clear the Lily's Stem.
"I thought those whales were usually… blue?" the White asked Gill, not turning from the sea.
"Dark blue or gray. There are mentions of white ones, possibly mythical."
"This one looked black, did it not? Or is that my failing eyes?"
The brothers looked at each other.
"Black," Gill said.
"Definitely black," Gavin said.
"Bilhah," the White said, addressing her room slave by name for the first time that Gavin remembered. "What day is today?"
"'Tis the Feast of Light and Darkness, Mistress. The day when light and dark war over who will own the sky."
The White still didn't turn. Quietly, she said, "And on this equinox, when we know the light must die, when there is no victory possible, we're saved—not by a white whale, but by a black one."
The others nodded sagely, and Gavin felt like a significant moment was passing him by. He looked from one to another. "Well?" he asked. "What does it mean?"
Gill slapped the back of his head. "Well, that's the question, ain't it?"
Gavin Guile's palms bled a warm, thick gray around the slick oar in his hands. He'd thought he had respectable calluses for a man who worked mainly with words, but nothing prepared you for ten hours a day on the oar.
"Strap!" Number Seven said, raising his voice for the foreman. "More bandages for His Holiness."
That elicited a few pale grins, but the galley slaves didn't slow. The big calfskin drums were thumping out a cetaceous pulse. It was a pace the experienced men could maintain all day, though with difficulty. Each bench held three men, and two could keep this pace for long enough to allow their oarmate to drink or eat or use the bucket.
Strap came over with a roll of cloth. She motioned for Gavin to present his hands. Strap was the burliest woman he had ever seen, and he'd known every female Blackguard for twenty years. He pulled his bloody claws off the oars. He couldn't open or close his fingers, and it wasn't even noon yet. They would row until dark; five more hours, this time of year. She unrolled the cloth. It seemed crusty.
Gavin supposed there were worse things to worry about than infection. But as she wrapped his hands with efficient motions, albeit without gentleness, he smelled something vibrant, resin overlaid with something like cloves, and heard the tiny shivering splintering of breaking superviolet luxin.
For a moment, the old Gavin was back, his mind reaching for how he could take advantage of their foolishness. It was difficult to draft directly from luxin breaking down, but difficult was nothing for Gavin Guile. He was the Prism; there was nothing he couldn't—
There was nothing he could do. Not now. Now, he was blind to colors. He couldn't draft anything. In the threadbare light of the slowly swinging lanterns, the world swam in shades of gray.
Strap finished tying the knots at the back of his hands and growled. Gavin took that as his sign and lifted weary arms back to the oar.
"F-f-fights infection," said one of his oarmates, Number Eight, but some of the men called him Fukkelot. Gavin had no idea why. There was a loose community here with their own slang and inside jokes, and he wasn't part of it. "Down here in the belly, infection'll kill you quick as a kick."
Superviolet luxin fighting infection? The Chromeria didn't teach that, but that didn't make it wrong. Or maybe it was simply a new discovery since the war and no one had told him. But his thoughts were drawn instead to his brother, Dazen, who had slashed his own chest open. How had Dazen not succumbed to infection down in the hell Gavin had made him?
Had the madness that had convinced Gavin he had to kill his imprisoned brother not been madness at all, but only a fever?
Too late now. He remembered again the blood and brains blowing out of Dazen's skull, painting the wall of his cell after Gavin had shot him.
Gavin put his bandaged hands back on the well-worn oar, the grip lacquered with sweat and blood and the oil of many hands.
"Back straight, Six," Number Eight said. "The lumbago'll kill ya if you do it all with your back." Now, that many words with no cursing was just a miracle.
Eight had somehow adopted Gavin. Gavin knew it wasn't pure charity that led the wiry Angari to help him. Gavin was the third man on their oar. The less work Gavin did, the more Seven and Eight would have to do to keep time, and Captain Gunner wasn't taking it easy on the speed. He wasn't keen on staying close to the site of the fall of Ru.
In another week, the Chromeria would have pirate hunters out: privateers given writs to hunt the slave takers who'd swept in upon the wrecks of the invasion fleet, saving men in order to press-gang them. They'd look to ransom those who had relatives with means, but many would doubtless head straight back to the great slave yards of Ilyta, where they could offload their human cargo with impunity. Others would seek out nearer slave markets, where unscrupulous officials would forge the documents saying these slaves were taken legally in far distant ports. Many a slave would lose his tongue so he couldn't tell the tale.
This is what I led my people to, Karris. Slavery and death.
Gavin had killed a god, and still lost the battle. When the bane had risen from the depths, it had smashed the Chromeria's fleet, their hopes thrown overboard like so much jetsam.
If I had been declared promachos, it wouldn't have happened.
The truth was, Gavin shouldn't have only killed his brother; he should have killed his father, too. Even up to the end, if he'd helped Kip stab Andross Guile instead of trying to separate them, Andross would be dead, and Gavin would be in his wife's arms right now.
"You ever think that you weren't hard enough?" Gavin asked Seven.
The man rowed three big sweeps before he finally answered. "You know what they call me?"
"Guess I heard someone call you Orholam? Because you're seat number seven?" As six was the number of man, so was seven Orholam's number.
"That ain't why."
Friendly sort. "Why then?"
"You don't get answers to your questions because you don't wait for 'em," Orholam said.
"I've done my share of waiting, old man," Gavin said.
Two more long sweeps, and Orholam said, "No. To all three. That's three times no. Some men pay attention when things come in threes."
Not me. Go to hell, Orholam. And the one you're named after, too.
Gavin grimaced against the familiar agony of rowing and settled back into the tempo, sweep and stretch and brace against the footboard and pull. The Bitter Cob had a hundred and fifty rowers, eighty men in this deck and seventy above. Openings between decks allowed the sounds of drums and shouted orders to pass between the upper and lower galley decks.
But not only sound passed between the upper and lower decks. Gavin had thought his sense of smell was deadened after a few days, but there always seemed some new scent to assail him. The Angari fancied themselves a clean people, and maybe they were—Gavin hadn't seen any signs of dysentery or sweating sickness among the galley slaves, and each night, buckets made the rounds of the slaves, the first full of soapy water for them to slop on themselves and the second full of clean seawater to rinse. Whatever slopped free, of course, dribbled down on the slaves in the lower hold and, dirtied further, into the bilge. The decks were always slippery, the hold hot and damp, the sweat constant, the portholes providing inadequate ventilation unless the wind was high, the dribbles of liquid from the deck above that dripped onto Gavin's head and back suspiciously malodorous.
Footsteps pattered down the stairs, the light step of a veteran sailor. Fingers snapped near Gavin, but he didn't even look over. He was a slave now; he needed to act the part or be beaten for his insolence. But he didn't need to cower. On the other hand, he did still need to row, and that took all his strength.
Strap took Gavin's hands off the oar, unlocked the manacles, whistled to Number Two. Numbers One and Two were at the top of the fluid slave hierarchy, allowed to sit up front and rest, trusted to run errands without chains on, and only required to row when another slave got sick or fainted from exhaustion.
After Strap manacled his hands behind his back, Gavin looked at Captain Gunner, who was standing at the top of the stairs out of the hold. Gunner was Ilytian, with midnight black skin, a wild curly beard, a fine brocaded doublet worn open over his naked torso, loose sailor's pants. He had the handsome intensity of madmen and prophets. He talked to himself. He talked to the sea. He admitted no equal on heaven or earth—and in the firing of guns of any size, he was justified in that. Not long ago, Gunner had been jumping off a ship Gavin had lit on fire and poked full of holes. Gavin had spared Gunner's life on a whim.
The good you do is what kills you.
"Come on up, little Guile," Captain Gunner said. "I'm running out of reasons to keep you alive."
Kip's palms bled vibrant crimson around the slick oar in his hands. His palms had blistered. The blisters had filled with colorless plasma. The tender skin beneath had torn. Blood had swirled into the plasma like red luxin. Chafed ceaselessly against the oar, the blisters broke, bled. He shifted his grip. New blisters formed, colorless. Filled with crimson. Burst.
He didn't see the color, though. Couldn't see anything. He could only imagine the colors waiting for him as soon as he shed the blindfold Zymun had put on him to keep him from drafting. Zymun, the polychrome who'd followed the Color Prince. Zymun, who'd tried to kill Kip in Rekton, and tried to assassinate Gavin at Garriston. Zymun, who held a pistol pointed at Kip's head even now. Zymun, his half brother.
Zymun, whom he would kill.
"What are you smiling about?" Zymun asked.
The rowboat bobbed and lurched on the waves as it had for the last two days. Without the use of his eyes, Kip couldn't thread his way through the chaos of the waves, rowing at the right time, pausing when appropriate. From time to time, he'd pull on one oar and feel it slip free of the water. He'd flounder until Zymun barked a direction. Two days they'd been doing this. Two agonizing days.
The blindfold was overkill the first day: Kip's eyes had swollen shut. During the battle he'd accidentally hit himself, and then Zymun had punched him in the face. He had a dozen small cuts on the left side of his face and down his left arm from when the merlon of the green bane had been hit by a cannonball and exploded into shrapnel. Andross Guile had stabbed him in the shoulder and gashed him along his ribs.
If it hadn't been for his Blackguard training for the last months and the fact he had a gun leveled at his head, Kip wouldn't have been able to move. As it was, the unfamiliar exercise reduced his muscles to quivering clumsiness. His back was agony. The fronts of his legs, kept constantly flexed as he tried to keep his balance in the bobbing boat, were murder. His arms and shoulders were somehow worse. And his hands! Dear Orholam, it was like he'd dipped them in misery. His burned left hand that had been slowly healing was now a claw. It hurt to tighten, it hurt to loosen, it hurt to leave it alone.
Kip was fat and frightened and finished.
"More to port," Zymun said, bored. He didn't think enough of Kip to pursue why Kip had smiled. He was too canny to come close at a slight provocation, and the waves were too heavy today for him to risk putting himself off balance for a momentary pleasure.
He'd never offered to take a turn at the oars.
The only thing that kept Kip going was fear. It was exhausting to be afraid for two days straight, and it was starting to make Kip a bit furious.
But what can I do? I'm blind and reduced to such weakness I couldn't win a fight with a kitten, muscles sure to clamp or collapse at any move I make. Zymun has set the field. He has the cards: six colors and a gun.
But as soon as Kip saw it as a game of Nine Kings, his terror eased. He imagined analyzing the game with the patience of a blue. Could Zymun be nearly as frightening an opponent as Andross Guile? No. But if you have a terrible hand you can still lose to a bad opponent.
Zymun could kill Kip at any moment, easily and without fear of justice or repercussions, because no one would ever know.
Yes, yes, we've established that, but so what?
"Bestseller Weeks keeps the pot simmering with many secrets revealed and much verbal sparring... Weeks deftly moves the pieces around his chessboard, snapping them with assured feeling onto their new squares in preparation for a climactic confrontation."—Publishers Weekly on The Blood Mirror
"Brent Weeks has a style and immediacy of detail that pulls the reader relentlessly into his story. He doesn't allow you to look away."—Robin Hobb on The Black Prism
"The Lightbringer series is great fun. Nobody does breakneck pacing and amazingly executed plot twists like Brent Weeks."—Brian McClellan, author of Promise of Blood on The Black Prism
"His plot feels like an orchestrated chess match between genius grandmasters."—Publishers Weekly on The Broken Eye
"The Blinding Knife was even better than the The Black Prism (and that's saying something!)"—B&N.com on The Blinding Knife
"Brent Weeks is so good it's starting to tick me off."—Peter V. Brett, New York Times bestselling author of The Desert Spear on The Night Angel Trilogy
"The Blinding Knife is a wonderful work of high fantasy with engaging characters facing the perfect antagonists, set in a creatively-wrought and increasingly chaotic world brimful of imaginative magic and interesting politics. Weeks holds fast to the traditions of his genre while adding a compelling new flavor."—The Ranting Dragon on The Blinding Knife
"One of the best epic fantasies I've ever read."—Staffer's Book Review on The Blinding Knife
"Weeks manages to ring new tunes on...old bells, letting a deep background slowly reveal its secrets and presenting his characters in a realistically flawed and human way."—Publishers Weekly on The Black Prism
"Weeks has written an epic fantasy unlike any of its contemporaries. It is a truly visionary and original work, and has set the bar high for others in its subgenre."—graspingforthewind.com on The Black Prism
- On Sale
- Sep 19, 2023
- Page Count
- 864 pages