Authors: Aaron Pogue
By Aaron Pogue
The Godlanders War
The Dreams of a Dying God
The Wrath of a Shipless Pirate
The Crown of a Common King
The Dragonprince’s Legacy
The Dragonprince’s Heir
“Remnant” (short story)
“From Embers” (short story)
The Dragonprince’s Arrows
A Darkness in the East
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Text copyright © 2014 Aaron Pogue All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.
Published by 47North, Seattle
Library of Congress Control Number: 2013947617
Cover Illustration: Chris McGrath Cover Design: Kerrie Roberston
he bustling ci
ty of Khera crowded close to the mighty river Nel, but even at the docks the air sweltered with the vicious heat that rolled forever in from the Endless Desert. The locals didn’t seem to mind. In the marketplace, on the streets, or even bustling up and down the gangplanks loading goods for sale in the Godlands, they dressed in long white robes and wrapped their heads in turbans.
The foreigner stood out like a beacon among them. His sun-darkened skin might have matched theirs for tone, but he wore only loose pantaloons and cheap thong sandals. His bare chest prickled with sweat despite the dry air, and his ragged hair clung wetly to his forehead. He fanned himself ineffectually and repositioned his chair every hour or so to steal what little shade the wine shop’s awning offered.
He drank without ceasing and cursed almost as often, but he never left his post. For days at least, he held this place, staring out across all the docks, and watched the comings and goings of every passenger, sailor, or slave to board a ship. The man was clearly waiting for someone.
And then, between one heartbeat and the next, someone stepped out of the shadows behind him. This newcomer was a foreigner as well, a Godlander by the looks of him, but this one seemed unaffected by the heat. He was dressed in black from top to toe and wore a long, cowled cloak of the same color. He held a sword of blue steel with a golden grip in his right hand and an ancient book with cracking leather in his left. He leaned down beside the watcher’s ear and grinned.
“Looking for me?”
“Gods’ blood!” the watcher screamed, diving to the earth in fear before he tried to scramble off. The newcomer stopped him with a boot planted firmly on the back of his scrabbling knee. The man on the ground yelped, then fell still, panting.
“In truth,” the other said, still grinning, “I did not expect such a strong reaction.”
“Corin Hugh! You’re dead!”
“You threaten me? I’ve seen the way you fight, Charlie Claire. I suspect you have that backwards.”
“No! No. It’s not a threat. But
but I was there. Blake fed you to the fires. He closed the cavern’s mouth with the cannons. How could you have escaped?”
“Consider me a ghost, come back for revenge.”
The prisoner wept against the packed-earth street. Passers-by were watching now, but the man in black dismissed them with a cutting glare and a meaningful gesture with the beautiful blade.
When they’d turned away, Corin fell into a crouch beside his former crewmate. He turned the blade back and forth across his knees, considering how the sunlight played along its edge, and spoke with feigned disinterest. “We have business to attend to. Every man who stood against me is going to pay.”
“But why here? Why now? After all this time?”
Corin cocked his head at that, confused.
All this time?
But he had more pressing questions to pursue. He ran a quick eye along the ships docked in the port. “Where’s the
? She’s gone, Captain. Long gone.”
Corin frowned, confused again. He’d left his ship in trusted hands. Had that scurvy dog already taken the ship and left Khera behind? That would certainly complicate Corin’s plans. Even without Corin’s ship and crew, Ethan Blake had all the resources he would need to slip away and hide in safety. That wouldn’t do. The traitor needed to die. But how was Corin to find him? He
to have his vengeance, but how?
Before he found an answer, he sensed a new commotion beginning some way down the street to his left. Some local had clearly reported the altercation, because a contingent of the caliph’s guards was fighting its way down the street in his direction. They were big men with huge swords, and Corin had no wish to tangle with them at all.
So he rolled his eyes and bounced to his feet. The sword went into a sheath too plain by far, and Corin slapped at the back of the deckhand’s shoulder until Charlie rolled over and accepted help up.
“Come with me,” Corin said. “We have much to discuss.”
Charlie shook his head, oblivious to the approaching danger. “I can’t. I can’t. I’m sorry, Captain, but I can’t leave my post.”
“A wine shop’s patio is no common post for a pirate.”
“Is that what we are? I haven’t felt a pirate since you dragged me from the sea, and if things go right today
Storm’s favor, Captain! This is no place to talk. And you caused such a ruckus—”
Corin gave a rich laugh, covering the sound of shouts from the rapidly approaching guards. “You’re not wrong there. We should talk somewhere private. For now, accept my apology for the rough treatment and accept my hand.”
He thrust out his empty right hand, and for a moment Charlie Claire considered it with suspicion. Corin only waited, his face carefully blank, but he was silently counting the time
ards arrived. He was one heartbeat away from leaving
Charlie Claire on his own when the deckhand rolled his
in a shrug and caught Corin’s hand in a hearty shake.
“I make apologies as well. The way we treated you—”
Corin didn’t listen to the explanation. He closed his grip tight on Charlie Claire’s, then shut his eyes and concentrated.
All the world’s a dream
, he thought. The creator-king himself had said so, and he’d taught Corin how to navigate it. Corin focused hard on a rented room elsewhere in the busy city, and when he opened his eyes, he was there.
Charlie screamed again.
Corin looked around and shrugged. “You protest too much. I wouldn’t call it luxurious, but what’s so fearsome here?”
“What is this place? What happened to the docks?”
“It is a room I sometimes rent when I must pass through Khera. And the docks should be just fine, though I suspect the caliph’s guards will be quite confused.”
Charlie tore his hand from Corin’s grasp and darted to the window. Halfway there he faltered and fell to his knees with a wretched groan. “Oh, what have you done?”
“I’ve brought you somewhere private to complete our conversation.”
“You’ve cost me everything!”
“Not yet. Not yet.”
“But don’t you see? The stars!”
Corin growled, irritated. “What of them?”
“The stars are out! The sun has set. Whatever spell you used to bring us here has brought the night down on us!”
Corin stalked back toward Charlie. “I am not a child to fear the dark. I intend to learn a thing or two from you.”
“I swear I have no answers, Captain. But if you will just take me back to the docks—”
“So you can summon Blake back to betray me?” Corin snapped, an unexpected anger flaring in his breast. “I know why they would post a man to watch for me.”
“To watch for you? Stormy seas, who’d watch for you? We al
ew you were dead.”
“And yet you staked a perfect sentry spot.” Corin chuckled, but his hand clenched hard around the fine sword’s hilt. “Where is Ethan hiding?”
“I can’t tell you, Captain!”
“You will. In time. I’ve no ill will for you, Charlie, but I’ve a mission I won’t soon abandon, and you stand in my way.”
The frightened deckhand backed away until his shoulders bumped the wall. He held his empty palms toward Corin. “Easy, Captain. Careful, there. I think you are confused.”
Corin slashed the sword. It whistled as it sliced the air and passed within a breath of Charlie’s nose. “There is nothing easy about me! I have faced Ephitel in person and seen the death of legends. I sacrificed what might have been to save a girl who I let down. And there is blood to pay for all of it. Will you pay with yours, or will you point me after Ethan Blake?”
Charlie Claire whimpered weakly and sank down on his heels. “I’m not the man you want! I swear, I’m not the man you want. It’s Blake. And Dave Taker, right? They’re the ones who wronged you.”
Corin lowered the blade. “Every man who went along became my enemy.”
“No! No, no—never! I would never call you enemy! But what was I to do? I couldn’t stop an inferno! I couldn’t drag you out! Blake said you had fed the fires, and even Sleepy Jim gave you u
Corin blinked, remembering. “At least Jim stood for me. At least he tried to fight.”
“So he did, and that cost him dear. Almost as bad as
cost me! They put him off at Aljira and left him with the fishermen.”
“Aljira? Impossible! That’s two weeks’ worth of sailing even under favorable winds.”
“Hah! It is. It took us nearly three in wicked storms, but Blake had his heart set on making for the open ocean lanes.”
“There hasn’t been time enough for any of this!” Corin snapped, and a vicious déjà vu nearly dazed him. Something like panic came in its wake, scrabbling at the back of Corin’s breastbone. Time. Time had bent for him once; it had melted like wax and dumped him into a memory of the distant past. But not again. Not here. He was supposed to be back, home in the real world he’d left behind.
He needed to find Blake. To rescue Iryana. Or avenge her. He couldn’t do any of that if time were still such a fickle thing. He clenched a fist and fought to keep his voice level. “How much time has passed, Charlie Claire? How long since you left me in that cave?”
Charlie narrowed his eyes. “That is no ordinary question.”
The blade whipped back around, almost of its own accord, until the very tip made a dimple in the pirate’s nose. “Answer it all the same.”
“Aye, aye, Captain! Aye, aye. It’s been a hundred days since we entered that cursed tomb. Time enough to leave the desert and regain our ships. Time enough to sail west and sink the ships and scatter half the crew. Time enough to find my own way back to Khera, to unravel my own plans.”
“A hundred days? In truth?”
Charlie nodded. “There’s nothing more of the life you left behind, Captain. Everything has changed.”
“Is Ethan Blake alive?”
“I think he is.”
The next question was already on his lips, but his throat felt suddenly dry. He swallowed hard and forced it out. “And
“What, the slave girl?”
“She was, last I saw her.”
Some of the tension left Corin’s shoulders. “She escaped?”
“I wish she had. I wish all of us had before the man went mad. But no. She was still with Blake and Taker when I left.”
“Left?” Corin frowned, and for the first time it truly hit him what the old deckhand had said. “
A hundred days
? Three months on open water? He could be anywhere by now!”
“Gods grant it’s nowhere near here,” Charlie said. “He was no stable captain. He was wicked. Cruel. I breathed easier a’shipwreck than I did in his crew.”
?” Corin trailed off, more confused than ever. Charlie waited patiently, but Corin couldn’t find the track of his thoughts.
At last his prisoner spoke up. “Beg pardon, Captain, but if I may be so bold as to ask
how many days did
think it was?”
Corin met the sailor’s eyes. “Two. Or three at most. I closed my eyes and stepped across the sands, but in an instant I lost weeks and weeks.”
Charlie’s mouth hung open. He clearly had no answer. Corin laughed and put his sword away. He stepped past the frightened sailor and stood for a moment, staring out the window. Charlie wasn’t wrong. Night had fallen, dark and deep, and by the position of the huge silver moon hanging over the desert, morning was not far off.
It had been midafternoon down by the docks, but a blink of the eye had cost him twelve hours.
twelve hours. For one long moment Corin just stood staring at the night, trying hard to understand. It had to be something to do with the magic he had used. Fairy magic. Wild, dangerous stuff.
Corin gave a weary sigh. “It dearly messes with your head to wander ’round in a dead god’s dreams. Perhaps I need more answers from you than I thought.”