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Blood Song: Book 1 of Raven's Shadow (Anglais) Broché – 20 février 2014

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Description du produit

Extrait

PART I

Raven’s shadow

Sweeps across my heart,

Freezes the torrent of my tears.

—SEORDAH POEM, AUTHOR UNKNOWN

VERNIERS’ ACCOUNT

He had many names. Although yet to reach his thirtieth year, history had seen fit to bestow upon him titles aplenty: Sword of the Realm to the mad king who sent him to plague us, the Young Hawk to the men who followed him through the trials of war, Darkblade to his Cumbraelin enemies and, as I was to learn much later, Beral Shak Ur to the enigmatic tribes of the Great Northern Forest—the Shadow of the Raven.

But my people knew him by only one name and it was this that sang in my head continually the morning they brought him to the docks: Hope Killer. Soon you will die and I will see it. Hope Killer.

Although he was certainly taller than most men, I was surprised to find that, contrary to the tales I had heard, he was no giant, and whilst his features were strong they could hardly be called handsome. His frame was muscular but not possessed of the massive thews described so vividly by the storytellers. The only aspect of his appearance to match his legend was his eyes: black as jet and piercing as a hawk’s. They said his eyes could strip a man’s soul bare, that no secret could be hidden if he met your gaze. I had never believed it but seeing him now, I could see why others would.

The prisoner was accompanied by a full company of the Imperial Guard, riding in close escort, lances ready, hard eyes scanning the watching crowd for trouble. The crowd, however, were silent. They stopped to stare at him as he rode through, but there were no shouts, no insults or missiles hurled. I recalled that they knew this man, for a brief time he had ruled their city and commanded a foreign army within its walls, yet I saw no hate in their faces, no desire for vengeance. Mostly they seemed curious. Why was he here? Why was he alive at all?

The company reined in on the wharf, the prisoner dismounting to be led to the waiting vessel. I put my notes away and rose from my resting place atop a spice barrel, nodding at the captain. “Honour to you, sir.”

The captain, a veteran Guards officer with a pale scar running along his jawline and the ebony skin of the southern Empire, returned the nod with practised formality. “Lord Verniers.”

“I trust you had an untroubled journey?”

The captain shrugged. “A few threats here and there. Had to crack a few heads in Jesseria, the locals wanted to hang the Hope Killer’s carcass from their temple spire.”

I bridled at the disloyalty. The Emperor’s Edict had been read in all towns through which the prisoner would travel, its meaning plain: no harm will come to the Hope Killer. “The Emperor will hear of it,” I said.

“As you wish, but it was a small matter.” He turned to the prisoner. “Lord Verniers, I present the Imperial prisoner Vaelin Al Sorna.”

I nodded formally to the tall man, the name a steady refrain in my head. Hope Killer, Hope Killer…“Honour to you, sir,” I forced the greeting out.

His black eyes met mine for a second, piercing, enquiring. For a moment I wondered if the more outlandish stories were true, if there was magic in the gaze of this savage. Could he truly strip the truth from a man’s soul? Since the war, stories had abounded of the Hope Killer’s mysterious powers. He could talk to animals, command the Nameless and shape the weather to his will. His steel was tempered with the blood of fallen enemies and would never break in battle. And worst of all, he and his people worshipped the dead, communing with the shades of their forebears to conjure forth all manner of foulness. I gave little credence to such folly, reasoning that if the Northmen’s magics were so powerful, how had they contrived to suffer such a crushing defeat at our hands?

“My lord.” Vaelin Al Sorna’s voice was harsh and thickly accented, his Alpiran had been learned in a dungeon and his tones were no doubt coarsened by years of shouting above the clash of weapons and screams of the fallen to win victory in a hundred battles, one of which had cost me my closest friend and the future of this Empire.

I turned to the captain. “Why is he shackled? The Emperor ordered he be treated with respect.”

“The people didn’t like seeing him riding unfettered,” the captain explained. “The prisoner suggested we shackle him to avoid trouble.” He moved to Al Sorna and unlocked the restraints. The big man massaged his wrists with scarred hands.

“My lord!” A shout from the crowd. I turned to see a portly man in a white robe hurrying towards us, face wet with unaccustomed exertion. “A moment, please!”

The captain’s hand inched closer to his sabre but Al Sorna was unconcerned, smiling as the portly man approached. “Governor Aruan.”

The portly man halted, wiping sweat from his face with a lace scarf. In his left hand he carried a long bundle wrapped in cloth. He nodded at the captain and myself but addressed himself to the prisoner. “My lord. I never thought to see you again. Are you well?”

“I am, Governor. And you?”

The portly man spread his right hand, lace scarf dangling from his thumb, jewelled rings on every finger. “Governor no longer. Merely a poor merchant these days. Trade is not what it was, but we make our way.”

“Lord Verniers.” Vaelin Al Sorna gestured at me. “This is Holus Nester Aruan, former Governor of the City of Linesh.”

“Honoured Sir.” Aruan greeted me with a short bow.

“Honoured Sir,” I replied formally. So this was the man from whom the Hope Killer had seized the city. Aruan’s failure to take his own life in dishonour had been widely remarked upon in the aftermath of the war but the Emperor (Gods preserve him in his wisdom and mercy) had granted clemency in light of the extraordinary circumstances of the Hope Killer’s occupation. Clemency, however, had not extended to a continuance of his Governorship.

Aruan turned back to Al Sorna. “It pleases me to find you well. I wrote to the Emperor begging mercy.”

“I know, your letter was read at my trial.”

I knew from the trial records that Aruan’s letter, written at no small risk to his life, had formed part of the evidence describing curiously uncharacteristic acts of generosity and mercy by the Hope Killer during the war. The Emperor had listened patiently to it all before ruling that the prisoner was on trial for his crimes, not his virtues.

“Your daughter is well?” the prisoner asked Aruan.

“Very, she weds this summer. A feckless son of a shipbuilder, but what can a poor father do? Thanks to you, at least she is alive to break my heart.”

“I am glad. About the wedding, not your broken heart. I can offer no gift except my best wishes.”

“Actually, my lord, I come with a gift of my own.”

Aruan lifted the long, cloth-covered bundle in both hands, presenting it to the Hope Killer with a strangely grave expression. “I hear you will have need of this again soon.”

There was a definite hesitation in the Northman’s demeanour before he reached out to take the bundle, undoing the ties with his scarred hands. The cloth came away to reveal a sword of unfamiliar design, the scabbard-clad blade was a yard or so in the length and straight, unlike the curved sabres favoured by Alpiran soldiery. A single tine arched around the hilt to form a guard and the only ornamentation to the weapon was a plain steel pommel. The hilt and the scabbard bore many small nicks and scratches that spoke of years of hard use. This was no ceremonial weapon and I realised with a sickening rush that it was his sword. The sword he had carried to our shores. The sword that made him the Hope Killer.

“You kept that?” I sputtered at Aruan, appalled.

The portly man’s expression grew cold as he turned to me. “My honour demanded no less, my lord.”

“My thanks,” Al Sorna said, before any further outrage could spill from my lips. He hefted the sword and I saw the Guard Captain stiffen as Al Sorna drew the blade an inch or so from the scabbard, testing the edge with his thumb. “Still sharp.”

“It’s been well cared for. Oiled and sharpened regularly. I also have another small token.” Aruan extended his hand. In his palm sat a single ruby, a well-cut stone of medium weight, no doubt one of the more valued gems in the family collection. I knew the story behind Aruan’s gratitude, but his evident regard for this savage and the sickening presence of the sword still irked me greatly.

Al Sorna seemed at a loss, shaking his head. “Governor, I cannot…”

I moved closer, speaking softly. “He does you a greater honour than you deserve, Northman. Refusing will insult him and dishonour you.”

He flicked his black eyes over me briefly before smiling at Aruan, “I cannot refuse such generosity.” He took the gem. “I’ll keep it always.”

“I hope not,” Aruan responded with a laugh. “A man only keeps a jewel when he has no need to sell it.”

“You there!” A voice came from the vessel moored a short distance along the quay, a sizeable Meldenean galley, the number of oars and the width of the hull showing it to be a freighter rather than one of their fabled warships. A stocky man with an extensive black beard, marked as the captain by the red scarf on his head, was waving from the bow. “Bring the Hope Killer aboard, you Alpiran dogs!” he shouted with customary Meldenean civility. “Any more dithering and we’ll miss the tide.”

“Our passage to the Islands awaits,” I told the prisoner, gathering my possessions. “We’d best avoid the ire of our captain.”

“So it’s true then,” Aruan said. “You go to the Islands to fight for the lady?” I found myself disliking the tone in his voice, it sounded uncomfortably like awe.

“It’s true.” He clasped hands briefly with Aruan and nodded at the captain of his guard before turning to me. “My lord. Shall we?”

“You may be one of the first in line to lick your Emperor’s feet, scribbler”—the ship’s captain stabbed a finger into my chest—“but this ship is my kingdom. You berth here or you can spend the voyage roped to the mainmast.”

He had shown us to our quarters, a curtained-off section of the hold near the prow of the ship. The hold stank of brine, bilge water and the intermingled odour of the cargo, a sickly, cloying mélange of fruit, dried fish and the myriad spices for which the Empire was famous. It was all I could do to keep from gagging.

“I am Lord Verniers Alishe Someren, Imperial Chronicler, First of the Learned and honoured servant of the Emperor,” I responded, the handkerchief over my mouth muffling my words somewhat. “I am emissary to the Ship Lords and official escort to the Imperial prisoner. You will treat me with respect, pirate, or I’ll have twenty guardsmen aboard in a trice to flog you in front of your crew.”

The captain leaned closer; incredibly his breath smelt worse than the hold. “Then I’ll have twenty-one bodies to feed to the orcas when we leave the harbour, scribbler.”

Al Sorna prodded one of the bedrolls on the deck with his foot and glanced around briefly. “This’ll do. We’ll need food and water.”

I bristled. “You seriously suggest we sleep in this rat-hole? It’s disgusting.”

“You should try a dungeon. Plenty of rats there too.” He turned to the captain. “The water barrel is on the foredeck?”

The captain ran a stubby finger through the mass of his beard, contemplating the tall man, no doubt wondering if he was being mocked and calculating if he could kill him if he had to. They have a saying on the northern Alpiran coast: turn your back on a cobra but never a Meldenean. “So you’re the one who’s going to cross swords with the Shield? They’re offering twenty to one against you in Ildera. Think I should risk a copper on you? The Shield is the keenest blade in the Islands, can slice a fly in half with a sabre.”

“Such renown does him credit.” Vaelin Al Sorna smiled. “The water barrel?”

“It’s there. You can have one gourd a day each, no more. My crew won’t go short for the likes of you two. You can get food from the galley, if you don’t mind eating with scum like us.”

“No doubt I’ve eaten with worse. If you need an extra man at the oars, I am at your disposal.”

“Rowed before have you?”

“Once.”

The captain grunted, “We’ll manage.” He turned to go, muttering over his shoulder, “We sail within the hour, stay out of the way until we clear the harbour.”

--Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Poche.

Revue de presse

"Ryan hits all the high notes of epic fantasy—a gritty setting, ancient magics, ruthless intrigue, divided loyalties and bloody action."—Publishers Weekly

“Just impossible to put down…I had to read it ASAP and to reread it immediately on finishing, as I could not part from the wonderful universe the author created.”—Fantasy Book Critic

“Anthony Ryan is a new fantasy author destined to make his mark on the genre...A new master storyteller has hit the scene.”—Michael J. Sullivan, author of the Riyria Revelations series --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Poche.

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