Read Death of a Darklord Online

Authors: Laurell K. Hamilton

Death of a Darklord

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“Your magic recognizes you,” Gersalius said.

Elaine stared at the glowing shield. It recognized her? She tried to be afraid but wasn’t. In fact, she wanted to touch it, to run her fingers along its gleaming surface. It was akin to the desire she’d had to touch the wizard’s hands in the kitchen. Magic called to magic. Her own magic called most strongly.

“Touch it,” he said softly.

Elaine reached out to it. Her hands tingled with its nearness. Her skin was stained violet, as unnatural-looking as the elf’s, but she didn’t care. Her hands sunk into the glow with a gush of sparks that flared and blinded her. She took a sharp breath, and as the air went into her lungs the spell went into her skin. She felt it being absorbed, like a tingling lotion. Then it was gone.

From
The New York Times
best-selling author of the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter novels comes
Death of a Darklord
, the story of a girl struggling to realize her gift for magic without compromising the love and lives of those around her
.

R
avenloft
®
T
he covenant

D
eath of a
D
arklord
L
aurell
K. H
amilton

V
ampire of the
M
ists
C
hristie golden

I
, strahd:
T
he
M
emoirs of a vampire
P. N. E
lrod

T
o sleep with
E
vil
A
ndria cardarelle

T
apestry of
D
ark souls
E
laine
B
ergstrom

S
cholar of
D
ecay
T
anya
H
uff

Ravenloft
The Covenant
DEATH OF A DARKLORD

©1995 TSR, Inc,.
©2006 Wizards of the Coast LLC

All characters in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.

This book is protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America. Any reproduction or unauthorized use of the material or artwork contained herein is prohibited without the express written permission of Wizards of the Coast LLC.

Published by Wizards of the Coast LLC.

R
AVENLOFT
, W
IZARDS OF THE
C
OAST
, and their respective logos are trademarks of Wizards of the Coast LLC in the U. S.A. and other countries.

All Wizards of the Coast characters and their distinctive likenesses are property of Wizards of the Coast LLC.

Cover art by: Jon Foster and Matt Adelsperger

eISBN: 978-0-7869-5957-0
640-37845000-001-EN

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v3.1

Dedication

To Baby Bird,
who died during the writing of this book.
This was the first book written without her
sitting on my shoulder.
A bit of magic has gone out of my life
.

Contents

t
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e sk
ULL
L
ay
ON
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e
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esk, g
L
eam
IN
g
IN
t
H
e t
HIN
daylight. It was an old piece of bone, clean and dry. It looked human until held in one’s hands and studied. The eye sockets were huge, almost as large as the empty sockets of a bird of prey. The strong yellowish teeth had sharp edges; the front teeth were fangs, made for piercing flesh, spilling blood.

Calum Songmaster remembered what the thing had looked like when alive. Something between a hawk and a wolf … and what was left of the human the creature had once been. The man had been Gordin Smey, a friend, a comrade in battling evil. With the remnant of his mind, his decency, he had begged Calum to kill him. Calum had done it. Gordin had been a good man, with a wife and children. He had slain many monsters, but in the end, he had become one of them. Calum had saved the skull as a reminder that the land of Kartakass could corrupt anyone.

Now he lay in the soft, smothering folds of his sickbed, propped up on one side like a spitted piece of meat, save that pillows and quilts kept him in place, not a sharp metal spike. But he was just as trapped. He stared at the skull of his long-dead friend and envied him his quick death.

Calum had survived all of the evils of the land for eighty years. It was a prodigious age to have lived to see. Foul sorceries, monsters, beasts, robbers, evil people of every description; all these he had survived. Old age was not so easily escaped.

For many months, he had been unable to sit at his desk and work. The pain of the disease that ate him alive made every movement agony. He had been a tall, strong man, but now he was a bundle of sticks clothed in loose skin. He had made his housekeeper take down the room’s mirror. Calum no longer recognized the fragile creature that stared back at him. In his mind, he was still young and strong, but mirrors did not lie, so he banished the truth-telling glass. The pain, and what he could see of his own body, were reminder enough.

His friends had come to visit him. His good friends. It was why he was propped up on his side, so he could see them without having to move, without having to let them know how much even the smallest movement hurt him. His housekeeper was very good about such things. He planned to leave her what money he had and this house. After twenty years, she deserved more, but it was all he had. Fighting evil was not a particularly lucrative business.

His friend, his best friend, sat in a chair by the bed. Jonathan Ambrose was not really young, nearly fifty. There was gray in his beard. His hair had receded to a thin circle that he kept closely cropped. The fashion was to let what hair you had grow long, but Jonathan never cared much for fashion. He wore a simple brown robe, clean, well mended, but utterly plain. No one had worn ankle-length robes in a decade, but Jonathan found them comfortable. His clear blue eyes looked at Calum. His face was smooth, calm. There was no hint of horror or pity. For that Calum was grateful, but at the same time, irritated.

To look at him, Jonathan might have been here on any afternoon. No special reason. Calum wanted to shout, “Don’t you know I’m dying, dying?” He was angry his friend could face him without showing the pain he saw on so many faces. So why had he gotten angry at his housekeeper for crying this morning?

Calum gave a careful sigh. Nothing would satisfy him. He wanted everyone to know and pity his pain, and yet not to show it. He wanted to have his cake and eat it, too.

“I am a cranky old man,” Calum said in a scratchy voice that he barely recognized as his own.

Jonathan smiled that same gentle smile. “Never.”

Calum had to smile. His anger dripped away. He was suddenly glad of the visit. Was it a sign of death’s nearness, these swift-changing moods? He was not sure; he had never died before.

In a smaller chair, the one his housekeeper usually sat in to do her sewing while she kept him company, sat the only other woman he allowed to see him like this. Tereza was tall, lithe, dark. Her thick black hair spilled round the strong bones of her face like a raven cloud. Her short, more fashionable tunic was scarlet, breeches brilliant emerald green. One black-booted foot was drawn up on the chair, her strong hands holding the knee. The belt from which hung short sword and pouches was black but much embroidered, so that it gleamed rainbowlike. Jonathan had a matching belt that made his brown robe look even more ordinary. But Tereza had embroidered the belts herself, and Jonathan always wore his.

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