Read The Witch's Daughter Online

Authors: R. A. Salvatore

Tags: #Fiction, #Fantasy, #General, #Epic, #Fantasy fiction; American, #Occult & Supernatural

The Witch's Daughter

Praise for R. A. Salvatore’s
DemonWars
series!

The Demon Spirit

“Absorbing … This is one of the finest books yet in Salvatore’s prolific career.”


Publishers Weekly

“A gripping story … some of [his] best work.”


Booklist

The Demon Awakens

“Salvatore’s best work since the
Dark Elf
series … An enthralling epic adventure story, it introduces memorable characters and an intricate scheme of magic the readers won’t soon forget. I am anxious for the next.”

—T
ERRY
B
ROOKS


The Demon Awakens
is Salvatore doing what he does best. Page-turning action provides the backdrop for engaging characters locked in the eternal struggle of good vs. evil. My favorite since
The Halfling’s Gem
.”

—M
ARY
K
IRCHOFF
Author of the
Defenders of Magic
trilogy

 

By R. A. Salvatore:

TARZAN: THE EPIC ADVENTURES*

The DemonWars
THE DEMON AWAKENS*
THE DEMON SPIRIT*
THE DEMON APOSTLE*

Forgotten Realms Novels
THE CRYSTAL SHARD
STREAMS OF SILVER
THE HALFLING’S GEM
HOMELAND
EXILE
SOJOURN
THE LEGACY
STARLESS NIGHT
SIEGE OF DARKNESS
PASSAGE TO DAWN

CANTICLE
IN SYLVAN SHADOWS
NIGHT MASKS
THE FALLEN FORTRESS
THE CHAOS CURSE

The Spearwielder’s Tales
THE WOODS OUT BACK
THE DRAGON’S DAGGER
DRAGONSLAYER’S RETURN

The Crimson Shadow Trilogy
THE SWORD OF BEDWYR
LUTHIEN’S GAMBLE
THE DRAGON KING

The Chronicles of Ynis Aielle
ECHOES OF THE FOURTH MAGIC*
THE WITCH’S DAUGHTER*

*
Published by Del Rey Books

Books published by The Ballantine Publishing Group are available at quantity discounts on bulk purchases for premium, educational, fund-raising, and special sales use. For details, please call 1-800-733-3000.

A Del Rey® Book
Published by The Ballantine Publishing Group
Copyright © 1991 by R. A. Salvatore

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by The Ballantine Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto. Originally published in slightly different form by Roc, an imprint of New American Library, a division of Penguin Books, USA, Inc., in 1991.

Del Rey is a registered trademark and the Del Rey colophon is a trademark of Random House, Inc.

www.randomhouse.com/delrey/

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 99-90416

eISBN: 978-0-307-77607-5

First Ballantine Books Edition: September 1999

v3.1

CONTENTS
Chapter 1
Bastion of Darkness

T
HE SEA SWELLED
and heaved, slamming into the rocky cliffs of the Kored-dul Mountains of western Aielle. Pounding, incessantly pounding, against the gray stone. Again and again the waves rolled in, and each time they were turned away, unable to defeat the strength, the unnatural strength, of the stone.

There was magic here, mighty enchantments, stronger than the stone or the sea. It climbed out of the very earth, rising through the sheer cliffs and up a thousand feet, to the iron fortress of the Black Warlock. Talas-dun, the castle was called, a name that struck terror—and rightly so—into the hearts of all the goodly folk of Ynis Aielle. Few had ever come here; none but a single wizard had ever returned.

Battlement after black battlement circled the massive keep, and iron spires rose into the ever gray sky, the eternal gloom that marked the Kored-dul. No craftsmen built this place, for it was not the labor of skilled hands. Talas-dun was the heart of the Black Warlock, the embodiment of the warlock’s evil soul, the fortress wrought of Morgan Thalasi’s magic in an age long past.

And after all the centuries, Talas-dun remained impressive,
leering down from the jutting tip of a peninsula, three sides to the sheer drop to the ocean and the fourth separated from the rest of the mountain by a wide and deep gorge. A single road wound down the mountainside from the castle’s lone gate, forlorn and as barren as death itself. Not a scrub or vine grew here, not a bird circled on the updrafts of these cliff faces, and none of the rodents that were so common to the mountains flitted across the stones.

For this was Talas-dun.

Morgan Thalasi’s bastion of darkness.

But if a hero dared now to come close enough, if one of the other wizards of Aielle had come in to inspect the Black Warlock’s legendary fortress, he would have been surprised, and at least some of the hopelessness evoked by the sight of this most evil of places might have been washed away. After more than half a millennium, Talas-dun had begun to wear. The evil that bound the monstrous bastion into a singular iron entity could not keep firm to its hold. Cracks lined the iron walls and the stone of the mountain; doors creaked on rusted hinges; a great ballistae stood useless on one tower, its drawstring rotted to breaking. And so it went throughout the structure, from the foundation to the highest tier of the highest tower.

Decay.

Parapets that once thundered under the marching footsteps of a thousand talons, the evil soldiery of the Black Warlock, now sounded only with the murmurs of the sea wind, or with the occasional shuffle of a worn boot. A single shot from a weapon of another age on a battlefield halfway across the world had brought the being that had been Morgan Thalasi to a sudden and disastrous end, and the twenty years since had begun the unmistakable erosion of his legacy, of Talas-dun.

Beyond the closed drawbridge and the open courtyard,
and through the massive doors of the main keep—one hanging loosely on a single bent hinge—the power that had once been Talas-dun lingered on in anguish, caught in a web of confusion that it could not break.

There sat the physical being that had once been Martin Reinheiser, one of the ancient ones who had come from the sea, from a past world, in the dawning of Ynis Aielle’s second age. The other three men who had walked beside him then would not have recognized him now. Gaunt and pale, skin stretched beyond its limits over deep-set hollowed cheeks, and eye sockets that more closely resembled the empty holes of a skull, Reinheiser seemed something far different from the man he had once been. Something not human, something not alive.

Eyes twitched and darted, unable to find clear focus, vainly seeking to view two objects at once. One bony hand twitched uncontrollably on the stone arm of the black throne, muscle tearing against muscle until yet another garish blue-red bruise erupted, one of a dozen on this arm alone.

“Stop!” the lipless mouth demanded in a throaty voice.

“Mine!” that same mouth argued, its tone higher pitched. And so it went, hour after hour, year after long year. The being that had been Martin Reinheiser fought against itself, every move, every word, a ferocious struggle that pitted muscle against muscle.

For two wills now inhabited this single body, two powerful wills that would not relinquish control, not for a moment, to the other.

“Mine!” the higher tone argued again, the word stretched into several syllables by the trembling and twisting of the mouth. “I am Martin Reinheiser!”

A grimace of agony crossed over the face as the other will stole the mouth away.

“Get out!” the will of Reinheiser demanded. How many
times had Reinheiser cried out these words, in voice and thought, since that fateful day on the distant battleground of the field called Mountaingate?

It had all been so promising, with the spirt of Morgan Thalasi joining his own, and the warlock’s black gemstone, the mark of power growing through the skin of Reinheiser’s forehead. What greatness might these two beings accomplish now that they had been joined?

But Thalasi was not interested in exploring the possibilities. He had shrugged off his mortal body, his dominating spirit defeating even the grim clutches of death itself, and had found a new receptacle in the nearest living being, in the body of Martin Reinheiser. And now Thalasi wanted Reinheiser out. The Black Warlock had never intended to share, had planned from the beginning to possess this body wholly. But Thalasi had underestimated the willpower of his host, and the spirit of Reinheiser still stubbornly held on.

“You get out!” Thalasi countered, his customary growling response as soon as he had wrestled control of the mouth. The hand came up from the arm of the stone throne, slapping the face hard.

Of course, they did not need the mouth to communicate. They could read each other’s thoughts and emotions—they had no choice but to read each other’s thoughts and emotions, fully. But the mouth had become the central battleground of their struggle, a pointed reminder of disadvantage to the opponent of he who controlled it.

The hand came up again, but the other hand shot up to intercept, locking together in wrenching grips. And all the while the opposing wills attacked at the inside, wrestling muscles from each other. More bruises appeared, more sinews ripped away, ravaging the body. The mouth opened and contorted as both sides felt the burning agony.

But even the scream came out only as a gurgle.

*   *   *

“He’s to it again,” croaked Burgle, one of the two talons standing guard outside of the Throne Room door. He rubbed a foot against the inside of one leg, scratching the lice that always managed to make a comfortable home of him.

The other guard paused to listen, then smiled wickedly at the groans of agony emanating from beyond the door. “Always at it,” he grunted back in the same guttural tone. “That one’s lost ’is wits, is me guesses, an’ to the ruins of usses all!”

“Blasted wizards,” Burgle replied. “Promisin’ the world, he does, an’ can’t find ’is own way outta ’is blasted chair.” He eyed his counterpart slyly and grinned. “But Grok’ll be fixin’ that.”

“An’ none too soon, fer me thinkin’,” agreed the other talon. “Heared he’s back in the castle this day. Heared ’e’s lookin’ fer the boss.”

“Ain’t hard to find,” said Burgle. “Never to be leavin’ ’is room!”

    Exhausted, the two entities of the Black Warlock found a long enough moment of truce to coordinate the body into a shaky walk from the throne. They stumbled to the wall, grasping a worn tapestry to catch themselves as they neared the lone window in the chamber.

Why?
demanded Martin Reinheiser, using internal communication now—no need to renew the fight over control of the mouth. He felt a portion of the body relax, a movement he had come to recognize as a resigned shrug from his counterpart.

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