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Blood of the Chosen
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Gyre finally sees a way to overthrow the all-powerful Twilight Order. But he'll have to gain the alliance of both the ghouls and the human rebels to the south in order to even stand have a chance. And uniting them won't be so simple.
His sister Maya is still a soldier of the Order. But after clashing with her brother, she isn't so certain where her loyalties lie. Chasing the origins of a mysterious artifact to a long-lost library, she just might find the answers she's looking for.
Burning Blade & Silver Eye
Ashes of the Sun
Blood of the Chosen
"Fantasy at its finest." —Nicholas Eames, on Ashes of the Sun
Cast of Characters
(as of the end of Ashes of the Sun)
Yora’s crew in Deepfire
Yora—daughter of the famous failed revolutionary Kaidan Hiddenedge, and leader of a group of thieves and rebels opposed to the rule of Dux Raskos Rottentooth. Killed by Tanax in the centarchs’ ambush of her group.
Gyre Silvereye—also known as Halfmask for the mask he wore to hide his missing eye. See the series recap.
Sarah—an arcanist and scavenger. Badly wounded by blaster fire in the centarchs’ ambush, losing an arm.
Nevin—a thief and Sarah’s boyfriend. Disappeared after the centarchs’ ambush.
Ibb—a scavenger. Abandoned the group for civilian life when Kit’s assignments proved too dangerous.
Harrow—a scavenger and animal handler. Tunnelborn, with a crush on Yora. Killed by a ghoul construct on one of Kit’s assignments.
Lynnia Sharptongue—an elderly alchemist and a close friend of Yora’s, with many connections to the underground.
Kitsraea Doomseeker (“Kit”)—a famous scavenger, secretly working for the ghouls of Refuge. Ultimately traveled with Gyre and Naumoriel to Leviathan’s Womb, and was mortally wounded in the confrontation atop the Leviathan. Gyre transferred her mind into the construct’s analytica, and she currently inhabits its swarm of construct bodies.
Government of Deepfire
Dux Raskos Rottentooth—appointed governor of Deepfire for the Republic. Venal and corrupt. Maya exposed his involvement in a smuggling ring, and he fled Deepfire ahead of orders for his arrest.
Guria Fairshot—head of Deepfire’s Auxiliaries and Raskos’ right-hand man. Arrested after Maya exposed Raskos.
Ghouls of Refuge
Naumoriel—Minister of the Exterior for the city of Refuge. Obsessed with restoring the Leviathan and using it to destroy the Order, he tasked Kit with finding the necessary arcana. Ultimately killed by Gyre to prevent the Leviathan from being unleashed on humanity.
Elariel—Naumoriel’s young assistant and Kit’s handler.
The Twilight Order
Maya Burningblade—agathios to Jaedia, later a full centarch. See the series recap.
Jaedia Suddenstorm—a centarch. Master to Maya and Marn and former agathios to Basel. Kept away from the Forge and Order politics. Ambushed and taken over by a “black spider,” she traveled to Leviathan’s Womb with Nicomidi before being confronted by Maya, Tanax, and Beq. Broke the black spider’s control to save Maya and was saved by her in turn, but lapsed into a coma afterward.
Marn—agathios to Jaedia. Captured by dhakim, and later rescued by Maya. Sent to the countryside to recover.
Baselanthus Coldflame—a Kyriliarch of the Council, leader of the Pragmatic faction. Master to Jaedia. Originally installed the Thing into Maya’s body.
Nicomidi Thunderclap—a Kyriliarch of the Council, leader of the Dogmatic faction. Master to Tanax. Revealed as a traitor to the Order, and allied to the spider-controlled Jaedia. Killed by her at Leviathan’s Womb when he outlived his usefulness.
Prodominus Scatterbolt—a Kyriliarch of the Council, leader of the small Revivalist faction. Has a reputation for eccentricity.
Evinda Stonecutter—a centarch, well respected and politically neutral.
Va’aht Thousandcuts—a centarch, member of the Dogmatic faction. Originally took Maya from her home and destroyed Gyre’s eye.
Tanax Brokenedge—agathios to Nicomidi, later a full centarch. A rival to Maya on their first mission as agathia, but became an ally once his master’s treachery was revealed. He and Beq are the only ones who know about the link between Maya and Gyre.
Varo Plagueluck—a scout and friend of Maya’s. Notorious for his disaster stories.
Bequaria (“Beq”)—an arcanist and Maya’s lover. Went to Leviathan’s Womb with Maya, and knows about her link with Gyre.
At eight years old, Gyre is playing with his five-year-old sister, Maya, when their vulpi farm is visited by the centarch Va’aht Thousandcuts, who announces that Maya must come with him to join the Twilight Order. Maya doesn’t want to go, and Gyre tries to stop the centarch, stabbing him with a small knife. Va’aht cuts out Gyre’s eye in punishment before taking Maya away.
Twelve years later, Maya is agathios to the centarch Jaedia Suddenstorm, with few memories of her early life. While on a mission, she encounters a mysterious black spider in control of a human body, which seems to recognize her and calls her sha’deia. Concerned, her mentor leaves on a secret assignment, while Maya is sent out with a team of trainees including Tanax—a student of Jaedia’s enemy Nicomidi Thunderclap—Varo, and Beq.
Meanwhile, Gyre works with a team of rebels—including the elderly alchemist Lynnia and arcanist Sarah—in the city of Deepfire, fighting against the Dawn Republic and the local Dux Raskos Rottentooth. Privately, he searches for the legendary Tomb, the dead city of the ghouls, hoping to find power to overthrow the Order. Kit, the only person who has ever found the Tomb, comes to offer him a deal: He and his friends will help her secure the Core Analytica, and she will guide him to the Tomb.
Gyre’s group accepts the mission, but the search proves dangerous. Some of his friends are killed, and Raskos’ forces raid their base. To convince Gyre to stay with the plan, Kit introduces him to her handlers, the ghouls Elariel and Naumoriel. The Tomb is the supposedly extinct ghouls’ hiding place, which they call Refuge. Naumoriel promises Gyre power if he secures the Core Analytica.
After a first assignment tracking down slavers, Maya’s group is sent to Deepfire to assist Raskos against the rebels. Maya distrusts Raskos and, snooping, discovers evidence he is working with Nicomidi. She and Beq sneak out into the city and meet with Sarah, who tells them about a secret warehouse that holds the spoils of Raskos’ corrupt dealings. When they return, Raskos asks them to spring a trap on the rebels.
Kit has discovered the trap and convinces Gyre to go for the Core Analytica—stored in the warehouse—rather than help warn the others. Maya attempts to talk the rebels down and promises to investigate Raskos, but his troops start a fight and a bloodbath ensues. Sarah is badly wounded, and most of the rebels are killed. Furious, Maya rushes to the warehouse, looking for proof of Raskos’ crimes.
When she gets there, she meets Gyre and Kit, and they end up fighting. Gyre is no match for Maya’s power, but she lets them escape without the Core Analytica. Excessive use of her power has left her feeling ill, and when Tanax catches up, he tells her that she’s under arrest for treason. Jaedia has gone rogue, killing Order forces, and Maya is under suspicion.
Gyre discovers that the ghouls have abandoned him and Kit has given up hope. He convinces her to take him to Refuge to ask for another chance. They find their way to the city, where they’re captured by Naumoriel. He agrees to give Gyre the power he needs to fight the Order, though at great cost—Gyre receives implanted augmentations, enhancing his combat abilities.
Maya spends time in a cell, feverish and delirious. When she recovers, Nicomidi offers to clear her charges if she agrees to renounce Jaedia and drop any investigation into Raskos. Maya refuses and instead issues an ancient challenge to trial by combat, which Tanax, newly promoted to Centarch, must meet. During the duel, Maya discovers her gear has been sabotaged by Nicomidi in an attempt to kill her. She wins anyway, though, and Nicomidi flees, indicating his guilt.
Gyre and Kit, with the reluctant help of Sarah and Lynnia, break into the palace in Deepfire and steal the Core Analytica. Naumoriel takes Gyre and Kit to a mountain fortress called Leviathan’s Womb, where the greatest of the ghoul war-constructs is near completion. The Core Analytica is the last part needed to activate it. Kit suggests to Gyre that they double-cross the ghouls and take it for themselves.
Maya and Beq set out to find Jaedia. Tanax joins them, badly shaken by his master’s treason. They follow a trail that also leads to Leviathan’s Womb, where Jaedia has been joined by Nicomidi. Jaedia is under the control of the black spider, and she kills Nicomidi when he’s no longer useful. She nearly kills Maya, but Jaedia fights off control long enough for Maya to destroy the spider. Wounded, Jaedia asks them to go into the mountain and stop the Leviathan from being activated.
Gyre, Kit, and Naumoriel enter the fortress, with Maya and Tanax on their heels. Naumoriel leaves the two humans to fend the centarchs off, and the ghoul goes to the Leviathan. Gyre defeats Tanax, but Maya fights him to a standstill before Kit stabs her from behind. Kit removes the power source for Gyre’s augments, disabling him, and promises she’ll return after seizing control of the Leviathan. After she leaves, Maya, badly wounded, restores Gyre’s power source and begs him to stop the Leviathan. Gyre agrees, realizing his private revenge against the Order can’t include the mass destruction the Leviathan would cause, and goes after Kit.
Aboard the colossal construct, Naumoriel sees through Kit’s betrayal and mortally wounds her. Gyre sabotages the Leviathan, enraging the ghoul, but Gyre’s augments let him kill Naumoriel. He carries the dying Kit to the Leviathan’s control system, which transfers the user’s mind into the giant machine and its attendant swarm of smaller constructs.
Outside the fortress, Maya and Gyre talk, but both remain committed to their beliefs—in support of the Order or against it. Still, they hope they can meet again. Maya, Tanax, and Beq head back to civilization. Gyre is joined by small constructs, now remotely controlled by the disembodied Kit, and he plans to return to Refuge and find another way to bring down the Order.
Gyre sat on a boulder and shaded his eyes, looking down the length of the little valley.
It was a beautiful day in a beautiful spot. Summer was shading into fall, putting a hint of chill in the air, but the afternoon sun was still warm. A shrunken stream wound snakelike between tufts of grass and stands of hardy mountain bushes. And of course there were the serried ranks of the Shattered Peaks, snowcapped mountains stretching off into blue infinity.
The problem is, it’s a beautiful spot that looks just like every other beautiful spot in the plaguing mountains.
“You think this is the right valley?” Kit said from behind him. “They all look the same to me.”
“Me too.” Gyre sighed. “We’re in the right area, but…”
“Well, we can always check the next one. And the one after that.” Kit’s voice was chipper. “I’m in no hurry. You’re the one who’s dying.”
Gyre frowned. “Who says I’m dying?”
“Just, you know, in general. Since you still have a fragile, aging human body.”
“Weren’t you the one who offered to give up half of eternity last night for a taste of my baked potato?”
“I’m trying,” Kit said in a tone of wounded dignity, “to practice positive thinking.”
Gyre lowered his hand and turned. Kit’s voice was coming from a construct, a spiderlike thing half a meter high with an oval central body and eight limbs that could function as either legs or manipulators. It was made of striated black muscle laid over a metal skeleton, the fibers stretching and pulsing as it moved. In the past week, Kit had become quite adept at controlling the thing, and Gyre even thought he could see some of her body language in the way it carried itself.
Kit wasn’t in the construct, of course. It was more like an appendage, along with hundreds of others, connected to the Core Analytica in the now-crippled Leviathan. Gyre had transferred Kit’s mind into the great construct while she lay dying, and now its swarm served as her surrogate bodies. There were three basic types: a roughly human-sized version for heavy work and an even larger variety for hauling cargo, in addition to this small scout.
“And the most positive thing I can think of is that I’ll get to watch everybody get old and die, while I don’t have to,” Kit went on. “It’s very comforting.”
“I think I read a fairy tale where that was considered a curse,” Gyre said.
“I don’t see why. I’m going to have such a good time outliving the shit out of all of you.”
“Fair enough. I suppose one takes one’s fun where one can find it.”
Gyre got to his feet, brushing dust off the tail of his coat. He patted his side, and the little construct swarmed up his leg and onto his back, tiny claws gripping. It settled on his shoulder, where he’d grown used its modest weight.
The boulder stood at the head of the valley, where the slopes grew too rocky to climb. Gyre was headed for a tall, flat section of cliff, which he desperately hoped looked familiar. A week or so previously, he’d emerged from the ghoul-built tunnels running under the mountains somewhere in this area, but finding the exact spot had proved to be more difficult than he’d hoped.
There. After a week, soft earth held no footprints, but a patch of bare rock showed a long, unnatural scrape. Naumoriel had come with them, in a cart-sized war-construct, and its traces were harder to obscure. This has to be it.
He hiked closer, legs straining at the slope, and ran his fingers along the wall of rock.
“Well?” Kit said from his shoulder.
“You said you could open it,” Gyre said.
“I said I think I can open it,” Kit said. “Assuming this is actually a door at all.”
“Just so we’re clear, if I do get it open, someone is going to notice.”
“I know.” He and Kit had learned the hard way that you couldn’t sneak into Refuge.
“Okay. Here goes.”
Nothing obvious happened. From what Kit had explained, ghoul constructs used invisible energy to talk to one another across short distances, and she could use this channel to convince some of them to do what she wanted. Gyre waited, holding his breath. The little construct on his shoulder shifted its weight.
“Is it—” he began.
“Quiet. This is tricky.” The construct gave a credible impression of the sound of Kit clicking her tongue. “There we go.”
A hole appeared in the side of the mountain, part of the rock face sliding aside to reveal a long, curved tunnel. Gyre let out his breath and closed his eyes for a moment. Finally.
“Better get inside,” Kit said. “I don’t know how long it’ll stay open.”
Gyre strode forward. Patches of faintly glowing moss provided only a sliver of light—ghouls and their constructs could see in almost total darkness. Fortunately, Gyre could as well, through his silver eye. Provided I have a ghoul to charge me back up again. The energy bottle at his hip had barely a third of its power remaining.
The tunnel was perfectly smooth, bored by tireless, painstaking constructs, stretching back and away into the stone until it vanished around a curve. There was only one way to go, so Gyre started walking. Behind him, the door slid closed.
“So we made it,” Kit said in the silence that followed. “Now what?”
“Now we see if the ghouls are willing to talk to us.”
“And if they’re not?”
Gyre sighed. “Then we probably get cut to pieces by constructs.”
“Well. You do. I’ll have to find someone else to hang out with.”
“You’re getting good at this positive thinking, you know that?”
They heard the guard-constructs coming before they saw them, a heartbeat-fast slap of leathery feet on stone. A pair of the things came around the curve of the tunnel, sprinting as fast as a warbird at full gallop. Like Kit’s little spider, they were built of dark, pulsing muscle wrapped around a metal frame. These were soldier-constructs, roughly humanoid, bodies reinforced with steel plates. Bracers on their arms carried long, curved blades.
Gyre held up his hands, hoping they were smart enough to understand the gesture. He took a deep breath and shouted, “Please! I need to speak to Elariel!”
The things didn’t even slow down. Gyre swore and went for his sword.
At the same time, he concentrated and heard a click from the base of his skull. The world suddenly went slow, as though everything was underwater. Shadows fanned out ahead of the two constructs, fading from almost solid to wraithlike—projections of where the things would be a few moments from now, possibilities for how they could change course. Kit’s spider leapt from his shoulder, falling slowly with its legs spread wide.
At Gyre’s side, the energy bottle grew warm. I don’t have much time.
When Gyre himself moved, he felt normal, but he knew the dhaka energy running through his limbs drove him at tremendous speed. He sidestepped the first construct, bringing his sword up at an angle that let the thing’s momentum do most of the work. The ghoul blade sliced neatly through muscle and steel, taking the guard’s arm off below the shoulder. Gyre spun behind it, twisting into a downward chop that removed its other arm, then swung horizontally into the second construct, bisecting it at the waist. Black blood sprayed against the wall.
With another moment of concentration, Gyre disengaged his augmentations, and the world of shadows faded. Time abruptly resumed its normal course. Kit’s spider skittered aside, and the disarmed construct turned awkwardly, dark fluid dripping from its stumps. Its companion fell apart into two halves.
“Listen to me,” Gyre said. Someone has to be able to hear. Naumoriel had been able to find them as soon as they’d gotten close to Refuge, hadn’t he? “I need to speak to Elariel. I don’t want to threaten Refuge, I swear. I was with Naumoriel when he left.” The construct lurched forward, and Gyre jumped away. “Plague it, you gave me this sword! Can anyone hear me?”
More footsteps echoed down the tunnel. Sounds like at least half a dozen. I can’t fight them all. He felt the wall against his back and raised his blade again.
The disarmed thing in front of him abruptly stopped. Gyre once again held his breath, listening to the approaching footfalls grow louder.
“Gyre Silvereye.” A woman’s voice, with a heavy accent, issued incongruously from the construct. It wasn’t Elariel—this ghoul sounded older, and definitely less practiced with the human tongue. “You will come to Refuge for questioning at once. Surrender your weapons to the approaching guardians.”
“Understood,” Gyre said as five more soldier-constructs sprinted into view. He looked down at Kit’s spider. “See? I told you they’d let us in.”
“Oh yeah,” she said as the armored things surrounded them. “This just gets better and better.”
It took the better part of a day to walk to the ghoul city, although truth be told, by the time they got there Gyre had lost track of the hour completely. The constructs set an exhausting pace, but he was glad for their escort—the tunnels branched and twisted, and there was no chance he and Kit would have found their way alone. But the soldier-constructs never hesitated, and eventually they reached a massive pair of doors, which grudgingly pulled apart to admit them.
“So what are we telling them about me?” Kit said in Gyre’s ear as they followed the constructs in. “’Cause let me say up front if they want to come out and mess with my new brain, they can forget about it.”
“I’ll have to play it by ear,” Gyre said quietly. “What Naumoriel was doing was criminal, according to the ghouls, so they may not be happy about you.” He frowned. “You remember the rendezvous, if something goes wrong?”
Kit snorted. “I’m not sure I can forget things anymore. And anyway I’ve got a body there already.”
Gyre nodded. He was still getting used to the idea that Kit could be carrying on a conversation with him while simultaneously performing another task dozens of kilometers away. At least if the ghouls do take exception to her and take this body to bits, she’ll be fine. The same, of course, did not hold true for him.
Beyond the doors was a larger cavern. Much larger, bigger even than the dock at Leviathan’s Womb. Refuge, the last ghoul city, looked at first like a night sky full of dim, twinkling stars. Through Gyre’s silver eye, he could make out more of the shape of it—a vast cave, kilometers wide and hundreds of meters high, studded with enormous columns and rock formations. The stalactites and stalagmites couldn’t be natural, but they had been sculpted to have a rough, organic look, pillars of rock the size of tenement blocks hanging from the ceiling or thrusting up from the cavern floor. Those formations, Gyre knew from previous visits, were honeycombed with rooms and tunnels. Nearby, a small river cascaded out of an opening high in the cavern wall, splashing in a torrential waterfall into a broad pool.
It was a staggering sight, a testament to the power and skill of the ghoul engineers and dhakim. Gyre was almost certainly the only human to have seen it since the Elder War, four hundred years previously. As far as the world knew, the ghouls and the Chosen had wiped one another out—that Refuge had survived was a secret the remaining ghouls would do anything to protect.
There wasn’t much time to admire the view. His escort pointed the way, and they passed quickly through a series of arched doorways and spotless, faintly glowing tunnels. Though Refuge was a ghoul city, actual ghouls were few and far between, and it was constructs they passed in the halls. They came in all shapes and sizes, from tiny messengers smaller than Kit’s spider to great lumbering crabs carrying heavy burdens. Eventually Gyre’s escort halted and a closed door slid open. Gyre went inside, Kit still clinging to his shoulder.
“Gyre Silvereye.” It was the voice that had spoken to him through the soldier-construct. “Please sit.”
The room held only a couple of chairs, with the polished, extruded look of most ghoul furniture. One of them was occupied, so Gyre went to the other, giving a polite bow before he sat down.
The ghoul in the other chair acknowledged him with a bare nod. Like all her kind, she was humanoid but decidedly inhuman in appearance: taller than Gyre, slim enough to look rangy by human standards, and covered all over in dense brown-and-white fur. Her eyes were enormous, filling half her face with huge pupils and narrow whites, and she had long, expressive ears that twitched as she spoke. She wore no clothing, apart from a small metal coil threaded through the base of one ear. Gyre couldn’t say if it was decorative or arcana. When she smiled at him, her teeth were white and finely pointed.
“My name,” she said, with the careful diction of someone speaking a language they’d studied but not used much, “is Tyraves. I am the new Minister of the Exterior.”
“Gyre,” said Gyre. “But you knew that. Thank you for letting me back into the city.”
“It was judged that you may have important information,” Tyraves said. “If you are forthcoming with it, this will be easier for you.”
“I’m happy to tell you anything I can,” Gyre said. “But I would like to speak to Elariel.”
“Elariel”—Tyraves pronounced the name with distaste—“is currently standing trial for her part in the crimes of my… predecessor, Naumoriel.” Her sharp-toothed smile broadened. Gyre didn’t sense much humor in it, and her ears were flattened back against her skull. “Tell me of your association with them. Start from the beginning.”
“That may take some time.”
- On Sale
- Oct 5, 2021
- Page Count
- 480 pages