The darkest road - By Guy Gavriel Kay

Chapter 1

“Do you know the wish of your heart?”

Once, when Kim Ford was an undergraduate, young for university and young for her age, someone had 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 her into bed on the strength of a good line and a way with waiters in a chic restaurant. The question, though, had stayed with her.

And now, not so much older but white-haired nonetheless, and as far away from home as she could imagine 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 his forehead 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. Crumpled beside her, blood seeping from the side of his head, lay Brock of Banir Tal. From where Kim lay she 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 about fifty men surrounding them on the high plateau, and most of them bore the green tattoos of Eridu. Glancing down at her own hand she saw that the Baelrath lay quiescent, no more than a red 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 but pain 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 have done down below?”

“What? What have they done, Ceriog?” another man asked, moving forward a little from the circle of men. He was older than most of them, Kim saw. There was grey in his dark hair, and he bore no sign of the green tattoo markings.

“I thought you might be interested,” the one named Ceriog said, and laughed. There was something wild in the sound, very near to pain. Kim tried not to hear it, but she was a Seer more than she was anything else, and a premonition came to her with that laughter. She looked at Brock again. He had not moved. Blood was still welling slowly from the wound at the side of his 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 the Latham, just below us.”

There was a murmur among the listening men. Kim closed her eyes. What had happened? What could have 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. You are an outlaw even among outlaws. Why should any of us answer questions of yours when you won’t even give us your name?”

The other man raised his voice very slightly. On the windless plateau it carried. “I have been in the foothills and the mountains,” he said, “for more years than I care to remember. For all of those years, Dalreidan is what I have offered as my name. Rider’s Son is what I choose to call myself, and until this day no man has seen fit to question it. Why should it matter to you, Ceriog, if I choose not to shame my father’s grave by keeping his name as part of my own?”

Ceriog snorted derisively. “There is no one here who has not committed a crime, old man. Why should 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 the plateau—broken by Ceriog’s laughter. Again Kim heard the twisting note in it, halfway between madness and grief.

“Surely,” Ceriog mocked, “that should have given you a taste for more!” He flung his arms wide. “Surely we should all have a taste for death by now! I had come back to tell you of women and boys for sport down below. I had not thought to see a Dwarf delivered into my hands so soon.”

He did not laugh again. Instead,

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