"It's been ages since Guthay wore two crowns for seven days, and then, a single crown for another three nights. Ten nights together, Omniscience! Not since the Year of Ral's Vengeance in the 177th King's Age," Enver said, reading from a freshly written scroll. "The high bureau scholars have taken half a quinth to research the archives, but they've at last confirmed what you, Omniscience, no doubt, remembered."
Hamanu nodded, not because he agreed, but because when Enver's recitation slowed, it was time for Enver's king to nod his head... and recall what the dwarf had said. Hamanu did pay attention to what his executor told him, and certain words or intonations would prick him to instant awareness. For the rest, though, Hamanu remembered faster than Enver recited. He listened with an empty ear, gathering words the way a drip bucket gathered water, until it was time to nod, and remember.
Having nodded and remembered, Hamanu's thoughts went wandering again as Enver read what the scholars had dug out of the Urik archives. He had not recalled the exact date when Guthay had put on her last ten-night performance—the systematic reckoning of years and ages meant little to him anymore—but he certainly remembered the event, two years after Borys, Butcher of Dwarves, had become Borys, Dragon of Tyr. That year, whole swaths of the heartland had turned gray with sorcerous ash, but, yes, Guthay had promised water in abundance and kept her promise.
As she'd kept it this year.
Fifty-eight days ago—twenty days after Guthay had shed her last crown—the gullies north of Urik had begun to fill. Ten days later, every cultivated field had received twice its allotment of silt-rich water. At the head of a planting army larger than the first military levy, which Commandant Javed drilled on the southern high ground, the Lion-King had marched into the pondlike fields and with back-breaking, dawn-to-dusk labor, planted a year's worth of hope.
The precious water flowed for another ten days. Gullies overflowed their banks. Walls of sun-baked brick dissolved into mounds of slick, yellow mud. Dumbstruck farmers stepped across their crumbling thresholds into ankle-deep streams of frigid, mountain water. With their newly planted fields endangered by an almost inconceivable threat—too much water—the farmers had turned to the priests of earth and water who, in turn, eighteen days ago, had led an anxious procession through the city walls, to the very gates of Hamanu's palace.
Hamanu had been waiting for them—he could see farther from his palace rooftop than any priest in his temple. He'd known the water was still rising, and after a dramatic hesitation, he'd called a second levy of Urik's able-bodied men, another one from every remaining five. Then, as he rarely did, the Lion-King explained his intentions: The second levy wouldn't march south to drill with the first. It would march north, beyond the established fields, and, digging with picks and shovels, pointed sticks and muddy hands, make new channels to spread Guthay's bounty across the barrens. The newly planted fields would be spared.
The crowd erupted with a spontaneous cheer for their Lion-King—an infrequent event, though not as infrequent as the floods that inspired it. By the next sunrise, a thousand men stood at the north gate. They'd come peacefully, the registrators said—another infrequent event—and fully half of them were volunteers, which was unprecedented. Fear and worship could sustain a living god, but nothing compared to the pride Hamanu had felt with them and for them as they marched north to save the fields from drowning.
Hamanu released the second levy to Javed's mercy and called up a third. One in five of men and women, both, and every age, would be levied. Five days ago, four thousand Urikites assembled in the palace forecourt. While the throng watched, the mighty Lion-King had taken a hammer to the doors of one of Urik's ten sealed granaries, then he'd sent the third levy into the second levy's mud, sacks of seed slung over their shoulders.
The third levy continued its labor in the flooded field; Hamanu could see hundreds of dark dots moving slowly across the mud. Pavek was out there, planting seeds with his toes while knee-deep in muck. His gold medallion was thrown carelessly over one shoulder. Twenty Quraiters worked alongside him. The hidden village had sent more than its share of farmers—of druids, too, though they strove to conceal their subtle renewals of the land.
It was a gamble as old as agriculture: if the granary seed they planted sprouted and throve until it ripened, they'd harvest four sacks for every one they'd risked, a respectable yield for land that hadn't been cultivated in ages. There'd be grain to sell to less-fortunate neighbors, conquering them with trade rather than warfare. There might even be enough to justify laying the foundation for an eleventh granary. If the grain throve—
And if the bonus crop failed, if war came to Urik, or some other disaster intervened, there were still nine sealed granaries, each with enough grain to feed Urik for a year. Hamanu didn't make blind gambles with his city's well-being.
"Omniscience, the orators have composed a new encomium." Enver was still reading from his notes. "They name you Hamanu Water-Wealth, Maker of Oceans. They wish to include the encomium in tomorrow's harangue. I have the whole text here, Omniscience; I'll read it, if you wish. It's quite good—a bit too florid for my taste—but I'm sure the people will find it stirring."
"Maker of Oceans," the Lion-King repeated, bringing his attention back to the palace roof.
Ocean was a word his scholars had found in the archives, nothing more. The Lion of Urik doubted there was anything alive that had seen an ocean—except Rajaat, of course, if Rajaat were alive in his Hollow prison. Hamanu had glimpsed the memory of an ocean once in Rajaat's crystal visions: blue water rippling from horizon to horizon, foaming waves that crashed one after the other on sand that never dried. The steamy moat girdling Urik wasn't an ocean, wasn't even the promise of an ocean. All it promised—all a living god dared hope that it promised— was a green field and an unexpected harvest.
What did an ocean want before it would be born? What did it need? More than ten nights of silver rings around a golden moon. More than one year of muddy water as wide as the eye could see. Borys had taken more than an age to finish the destruction the Cleansing Wars had begun. It had only been a handful of years since a dragon stalked the heartland. How many years before Urik's cavern could hold no more and water began to pool above ground?
Maybe then Hamanu would start to believe in oceans.
"The temples of Andarkin and Ulydeman—"
Temples was a word guaranteed to seize Hamanu's attention. He didn't completely forbid the worship of divinities other than himself—the Lion of Urik was neither a god nor a fool—but he didn't encourage them. As long as priests of the elemental temples stayed in their time-honored place, the Lion of Urik tolerated their presence in his city. Their place didn't include Enver's daily list.
Patience had never been Hamanu's virtue, but he felt exceptionally generous this morning—exceptionally curious, too—and let the dwarf continue without interruption.
"—would proclaim the existence of a demiurge they name Burbote—"
"Mud, dear Enver," Hamanu corrected with a sigh. "The word is mud. Rummaging through their grimoires looking for words that were old when I was a boy won't change matters. They want to sanctify mud."
After the Dragon's demise, when change had become inevitable, Hamanu had told his venerable executor the truth: Urik's Lion-King had been born an ordinary human man in a Kreegill valley thirteen ages earlier. He was immortal, but he wasn't a god. The dwarf hadn't taken the revelation well. Enver, the son, grandson, and great-grandson of yellow-robed templars, preferred to believe the lies about divinity—and omniscience—he'd learned in his own youth.
"If you say it is so, Omniscience, then it must be so," he said stiffly, his chosen response when his god disappointed him. "The priests of earth and water wish to erect a temple to mark the flood's greatest extent, but surely they will dedicate it to whomever you wish, even mud."
"Do they claim to have marked the flood's greatest extent, dear Enver? Have the flood waters begun to recede?"
"Omniscience, I do not know."
Hamanu could not resist baiting his loyal servant. "Neither do I, dear Enver."
"I am at a loss, Omniscience." The dwarf was so stiff it seemed he'd crack and crumble in the slightest breeze.
"What shall I tell them, Omniscience? That they must rename their demiurge? Or should I tell them nothing at all until the floods recede?"
"Nothing, I think, would be the wiser course—for all I know, dear Enver, Burbote might consume all the land between here and the Smoking Crown. He might swell up and drown us all... Burbote is a he, yes? A muddy demiurge that is female, as well—the combination is more than I can bear to contemplate."
"Very well, Omniscience. As you will, Omniscience. I shall instruct the priests of Andarkin and Ulydeman to interrogate their oracles. They've not got the demiurge's name right, and they must be certain of its maleness... or femaleness... before their proclamation can be read or their temple built. Will that suffice, Omniscience?"
Enver was a paragon of mortal diligence and rectitude, and almost completely devoid of humor. But a god who acknowledged his own fallibility had to tolerate the failings of his associates—or dwell in utter isolation.
"It must, dear Enver. It must."
Hamanu's attention began to wander before Enver was three syllables into the next entry on his tightly clutched scroll. Between floods and preparations for war, he'd neglected his minions for the better part of a seventy-five-day quinth. The minions survived, of course—most of them. When he wasn't living their lives, they lived their own, much as they'd done before he'd woven his curiosity into their being. Casting an Unseen net, Hamanu touched them, one by one. A beggar had died. A nobleman had eaten unwisely and suffered the consequences in a dark, befouled corner of his luxurious home. Lord Ursos entertained an unwilling guest. Cissa's daughter had another tooth coming in. Nouri Nouri'son had adopted his beggar and put him to work behind the counter of his busy bakery.
Ewer's recitation progressed from religion to refugees, a subject that did not engage Hamanu's curiosity or require his attention. Though it pleased the Lion-King to think that the suffering citizens of Raam, Draj, and even far-off Balic would choose Urik as their sanctuary, his templars dealt with such strangers. Urik's borders were, of course, legally sealed, but Hamanu trusted his yellow-robes to determine when, where, and against whom his laws should apply.
He went back to his minions, until another trip-word scratched his hollow ear: arrows. The Khelo fletchers were squabbling with the Codesh butchers over the price of feathers for the thousands of arrows the army required.
"Tell the butchers they'll sell their damned feathers at the established rate, or their heirs will donate them in perpet—"
O Mighty Hamanu! Lion-King, Lord, and Master, hear me!
A distant voice echoed in Hamanu's mind. The totality of his awareness raced backward, along a silver thread of consciousness through the Unseen netherworld, to the source.
The Gray was charged with acid needles, and Hamanu's vision, when he opened his sulphur eyes above the desperate templar, was streaked with lurid colors. There was powerful magic—someone else's powerful magic—in the vicinity.
O Mighty Hamanu! Hammer of the World! Grant me invincible armor and earthquake!
Squinting through the magic, Hamanu made out chaos and bloodshed: a full cohort of his own templars outnumbered by ragtag brigands. Or, not brigands. Another moment's study discerned a well-armed, well-drilled force disguised for brigandage. In the midst of the Urikites' impending defeat, a militant, a human man with tears of panic streaming down his face, raised his bronze medallion and entreated the Lion-King for the third time:
O Mighty Lion, grant me invincible armor and earthquake, lest I die!
A wise invocation—in its way. An earthquake, if Hamanu empowered the spell to create one, would swallow everything on the battlefield, friend and foe alike, except for the invincibly armored militant. Though sacrifice was necessary in battle, the Lion-King of Urik was not in the habit of rewarding militants who'd save themselves and doom the lesser ranks and mercenaries they led. He'd have considered granting the earthquake while withholding the invincible armor—and savored the militant's death—if the netherworld turbulence wouldn't have negated any spell he granted.
There were only a handful of mind-benders capable of disturbing the netherworld enough to disrupt the bond between a champion and his templars. The champions themselves were foremost in that small group. Hamanu knew the hallmarks of their spellcasting intimately.
Inenek, Hamanu loosed an enemy's name to the Unseen wind. It was her spoor he scented in the netherworld and her disguised Gulgan templars winnowing his own. Ogre-Naught.
The turbulence ebbed, replaced by a sultry voice, full of seduction and, though Inenek tried to hide it, hate. You tricked me once, Manu, but never again. Rajaat chose you for your strength, not your brilliance. You're not as clever as you think you are. Surrender to me, and Urik will survive.
A wind-driven fist shrieked through the Gray with the power to smash a mountain into gravel.
Your promises are as empty as your threats, Inenek, Hamanu replied, dispelling her assault with a roar of laughter.
Inenek had always been vulnerable to mockery. The netherworld shone with futile lightning; she'd never learned to control her temper, either. Hamanu dispelled the bolts as he'd dispelled the shrieking fist. Inenek—the Oba of Gulg, she called herself now—was arguably the least among the champions. How she'd annihilated the ogres was a mystery Hamanu had never taken the time to solve. He suspected she'd disguised herself as an ogress and slain every male after taking him into her bed.
The Ogre-Naught couldn't harm him, but his besieged templars were doomed if he didn't intervene. With his eyes still glowing, Hamanu turned to Enver, who'd sensed nothing amiss until that moment.
"I go," he told the dwarf. He caught a fleeting glimpse of Enver's widening eyes before he slit the rooftop air with a talon and stepped into the Gray.
Hamanu departed Urik as a black-haired man. He emerged on the battlefield as the black-maned Lion of Urik, taller than a half-giant, stronger and far more deadly. A gold sword gleamed in his right hand. It sliced through the warrior weapons raised against him, and through the warriors as well. Hamanu wielded his sorcery-laced sword with the skill gained in a very long lifetime of practice, inflicting precise slaughter among his enemies.
He didn't bother to guard his back or slow his attacks with parries; the Lion of Urik was only another glamour, hiding his true form. A calm and sharp-eyed observer—had there been any on the field—would have noticed the discontinuity as metal weapons passed through the Lion's ephemeral form before shattering against otherwise invisible dragon flesh. Wooden and bone-crafted weapons met a different fate. They burst into short-lived flames when they breached his infernal aura.
With their king wreaking havoc among their enemies, the Urikite templars rallied. They surged forward in a score of close-fought skirmishes. Hamanu welcomed their renewed courage; he'd reward them with their lives. And as for the militant who led them...
One lapse of leadership might be forgiven—if the militant's panic hadn't been stronger than Inenek's Unseen interference, Hamanu wouldn't have known that his templars needed him. A second lapse would be unforgivable, unsurvivable. Hamanu strained his hearing. He found half of what he listened for: a mortal heart pounding hard beneath a bronze medallion.
Bakheer! Hamanu seized the militant's disarrayed thoughts and rattled them. Fight, Bakheer.
Hamanu didn't enjoy killing his own templars. At the very least, it was a waste of mortal life. At the worst, because of the medalLion-forged bond he shared with them, their deaths brought his darkest appetites to the fore. Fight the enemy, Bakheer. Fight to the death... or face me.
A sane man would have listened, would have understood and thrown himself at Inenek's minions, but Bakheer was no longer sane. What Inenek had begun, Hamanu inadvertently finished. Bakheer's mind shattered. His heart beat one final time, and his spirit flared in the instant before Rajaat's last champion savored it.
The tiny morsel of mortality tantalized Hamanu's much-denied appetites. For a moment, there were neither Urikites nor enemies on the field before him, only aching need, and the motes of life that would sate it.
The Lion of Urik roared words too loud and angry for mortal ears to interpret: "Damn you!"
Hamanu turned away from temptation, away from the battlefield. Abandoning his templars, he cast himself into the netherworld... where a whirlwind awaited him.
Inenek had guessed his choice—his predictable weakness—and caught him in a mind-bender's trap. Stripped of all his glamour, reduced to a spindly shadow of his unnatural form, Hamanu, was sucked away from his templars. He wasn't surprised when a black maw appeared suddenly, far below his feet, growing larger with each howling spiral.
Inenek was sending him toward the Black, toward the Hollow beneath it, and into Rajaat's grasp. Hamanu could imagine what rewards Rajaat had promised her.
But, truly, the Oba of Gulg couldn't harm the Lion of Urik. Her powers, though awesome, were no match for his, when he chose to use them. Radiance blossomed from Hamanu's long, skeletal fingers, wrapping him in a cocoon of light. Inenek's whirlwind lost its hold over him, and he began to rise, slowly at first, then faster, until the whirlwind dissipated in his wake.
Time flowed erratically in the Gray. Days, even years, of sunlit time could vanish during a netherworld sneeze, or time could twist the other way, and a champion could reappear on the battlefield—as Hamanu did—a heartbeat after he'd left.
Hamanu took advantage of his enemies' astonishment and confusion. Two of them died from a single, decapitating sword stroke. Another two tried to run; he took them from behind.
Drubbed in the netherworld, unable to deliver Hamanu to Rajaat, and besieged on the battlefield, Inenek withdrew her support from her templars who, feeling the tide of battle shift away from them, tried to escape a now-inevitable defeat. A few, on the battlefield's fringes, might have succeeded; they were hardly the lucky ones. Inenek wouldn't take them back for fear Hamanu had tampered with them, and ordinary folk made certain that the life of a renegade templar was neither pleasant nor long.
The Gulg templars who fell into Hamanu's hands knew what their fate would be: a quick death, if they were lucky, a drawn-out one if they weren't. They didn't know who the sorcerer-kings truly were or why they despised one another. They only knew that a templar's life was over once he stood before another sorcerer-king. Two or three of Inenek's templars fell on their knees, renouncing their city; they offered oaths to Urik's mightier king. But there was no hope in their hearts or useful knowledge in their heads—and he would never spare a templar who denied his city.
He offered them the same opportunity he offered his templar prisoners—death by their own hands instead of his. Without exception, they took the easier, safer course: running onto the swords and spears the Urikites held before them.
"O Mighty One, your will is done," a young adjutant informed Hamanu when the deeds were finished. The elf's bright yellow robe and metallic right sleeve were torn and stained. The thoughts on his mind's surface were painfully clear. His name was Kalfaen, and this had been his first campaign. He hadn't risen through the war-bureau ranks, but had been given an adjutant's enameled medallion on the strength of his family's connections. "The Oba's templars are all dead, except—except for the wounded—"
Hamanu ignored the young man's distress. He tolerated nepotism in the templar ranks because it gave the likes of Kalfaen no real advantage. "Wait here," he commanded, and insured obedience with a frigid thought that held the youthful elf where he stood. "When I am finished with the wounded, you shall recount what happened here, from the beginning."
Elves were chancy mortals. A good many of them crumpled and died the first time Hamanu touched their minds. The best of them matured into loyal, independent templars such as Javed. If he'd made the effort, Hamanu could have learned to separate the weak from the strong before he put them to the test, but it was easier—certainly quicker—to nail Kalfaen to the ground and see if he survived.
None of the Oba's wounded templars would survive. Those who remained welcomed the release provided by yellow-robed surgeon-sergeants, usually with a quick slash through the jugular. The two knife-wielding sergeants bowed low when Hamanu's shadow fell between them. Without a spoken word, they scuttled off to join their comrades beside the Urikite wounded. They left their king to tread silently among the bloody Gulgans, carefully severing the spiritual fibers that bound essence to substance. Hamanu had subsumed one man's spirit already, and he neither wanted nor needed to add another name to his army of grievance against Rajaat.
He was careful as well because these templars had belonged to Inenek and she could have easily tampered with them. He himself had done so, from time to time, with the men and women he'd sent into war.
With Nibenay between them, Urik and Gulg—the Don-King and the Oba—had rarely warred with each other. While Borys lived, Rajaat's champions made war with their closest neighbors and uneasy alliances with the rest of their peers. Gulg and Nibenay had never been anything but enemies, until now—
Hamanu plunged his awareness deep into the ground and located himself. A chill shook his heart. This battle had taken place far from any road, farther still from any village or oasis, deep within the barren borderlands that Urik and Nibenay had contested for thirteen ages.
Hamanu didn't doubt that Gallard knew where Inenek had sent her templars, but he doubted that his old nemesis knew she'd been trading secrets with Rajaat. In other times, communion with the War-Bringer was the only crime that the champions would unanimously condemn and punish.
Times had changed. Everything had changed—except Hamanu, the Lion of Urik. As Hamanu thought of dragons and champions, the last of the Gulg templars heaved a shuddering sigh and passed from life into eternal sleep.
The Lion-King strode toward the Urik infirmary tended by his surgeon-sergeants. He granted unlimited spells to the war-bureau healers in the aftermath of battle, for all the good it did the injured. Working with second-hand magic, the surgeon-sergeants were barely competent in their craft. Templars moaned and wailed when their wounds were tended. They healed with troublesome scars such as Pavek bore across his otherwise handsome face.
Hamanu used the endless potential of the Unseen world when he chose to heal. As a restorer of life and health, he was more than competent, but not even his flexible consciousness could attend the needs of so many. He chose not to choose a lucky few among them. He chose, in truth, to keep his compassion well-hidden from the templars who served him, and he defended his choice with the thought that it was better that mortals not rely on his mercy.
Pale and streaked with clammy sweat, Kalfaen waited precisely where Hamanu had left him.
"Recount," the Lion commanded, tugging the Unseen strings laced through the elven youth's mind.
Hamanu's sorcery kept Kalfaen upright. His own will shaped the words and thoughts that the king skimmed off the surface of his mind.
"There were children with them," Kalfaen explained.
Despite their strong tribal attachments to kith and kin, elves weren't sentimental about their offspring. They'd abandon anything, anyone if the need arose. On the other side of the coin, a tribe with children in tow appeared both prosperous and fearless. Kalfaen's thoughts were tinged with shame. He'd succumbed to metal-coin bribes, women's charm, and the prejudices of his own race.
Hamanu returned that shame as a thousand sharp needles lancing Kalfaen's inmost self. The youth gasped involuntarily.
"I die," he whispered.
Trust and prejudice together were just another two-sided coin. When the Lion of Urik trusted his mortal templars, he got their prejudices in the bargain. Kalfaen wasn't the only Urikite who'd bought the Gulgan deception. Hamanu's spell kept the youth alive as surely as it kept him standing.
"Recount," he demanded. "What next? What of the others? Recount!"
The rest was as simple as it was predictable: something had been slipped into the wine. Immune to their own poisons, the false refugees had slipped away during the night, leaving the templars to death at dawn. But the militant had drunk less than Kalfaen and the rest. He saw telltale dust on the eastern horizon and sounded an alarm, then kicked each of them soundly in the flanks until they roused. By the time Kalfaen was on his feet, the sound of hobnail sandals slapping the barren soil was all around them.
There was nothing more to say or learn. Hamanu released Kalfaen. The elf collapsed in stages—to his knees, his elbows, his face. Belatedly, he clapped his long-fingered hands over his ears and scalp, as if scraps of mortal flesh could have protected him from Hamanu's inquiry. He reeked of vomit and worse, but he'd live. He'd been tempered in the Lion's fire and, having failed to die, was doomed to survive.
Hamanu's thoughts were already moving away from the elf. Scanning the remains of the camp, he looked for the missing pieces in the puzzle Inenek had left for him. Her plans had gone awry: he'd arrived early, trying to save his templars, triggering her traps out of sequence. But she had meant for him to come—why else tamper with the mind of his militant or set a whirlwind to wait for him in the Gray?
The militant, then, was the key. Inenek had meant for the templar to use his medallion to summon him to this barren place, though not during the fighting. The poisoned wine and the netherworld disruption were both designed to keep him away while his templars were slain.... While all save one of his templars were slain....
Did the Oba think Urik's templars were fools? No war-bureau templar would admit to being the sole survivor of monumental stupidity. He certainly wouldn't summon his immortal king to witness the debacle. A militant would have needed a better reason.
"Stand down!" Hamanu's voice roared beyond the battlefield.
The surgeon-sergeants continued their work, but the templars who'd been gleaning armor, weapons, and other valuables from the corpses of friend and foe alike stood at attention with their arms at their sides. Hamanu's head throbbed—had been throbbing since he stepped from the netherworld. It was a minor ache compared to the agonies he customarily ignored, and no surprise, considering the unnatural power that had been expended in this unlikely place.
Massaging an illusory forehead with a human-seeming hand, Hamanu dissected his aches. Sorcery and mind-bending, his and Inenek's, had caused much of the harm, and beneath that, the War-Bringer's spoor. The smell of Rajaat was not just in the netherworld, where Hamanu had glimpsed the Black as he battled Inenek's whirlwind, but here, amid the battle refuse.
Hamanu bestrode his lifeless militant, who'd fallen exactly where he'd stood when he raised his medallion. The man's mind was cold; when a champion subsumed a mortal spirit, there was nothing left behind for necromantic interrogation.
With a roar, the Lion of Urik cursed himself, Inenek, Rajaat, and the useless militant. He kicked the corpse aside and knew before it struck ground again that he'd found his missing piece.
Impatiently, Hamanu cast a net into the netherworld.
Nearly a quinth had passed since Hamanu had sent the troll to Ur Draxa—not a lot of time, considering how treacherous the citadel might have become if Rajaat were working sorcery from his prison.
Hamanu hadn't been concerned by the troll's absence. In the past, Windreaver had been gone a year, even a decade, ferreting out secrets. Disembodied, neither dead nor alive, the wayfaring troll had little effect on the world around him and was equally immune to any manner of assault. And if Windreaver had been destroyed—Hamanu rubbed his forearm; beneath the leonine illusion he felt a stony lump—the troll's passing would have been noticed.
A third call echoed throughout the Gray and died unanswered. Hamanu pondered the imponderable: Windreaver falling into a trap. Windreaver imprisoned. Windreaver seizing an opportunity for vengeance. Hamanu would have staked his immortal life that Windreaver wouldn't betray him to Rajaat or another champion, but he'd been wrong more often than not lately.
To me, Windreaver—now!
Nothing. Not a whisper or a promise anywhere in the netherworld. By sundown, the surgeon-sergeants had finished their work among the wounded. Hamanu picked up the wrapped shard and broke it over his thigh. He inhaled the malignant vapors, and then seared Rajaat's spells with his own. With nothing left to hinder him, Hamanu shouted Windreaver's name to the beginning of time, the end of space. He harvested countless interrupted thoughts, none of which emanated from a troll.