Cover illustration by Didier Graffet.
About the Book:
THE GREAT MERCHANT CITY OF CARTHULA—RAISED FROM THE BONES OF A KRAKEN ON THE WHIM OF A GODDESS
WHERE NOBLE HOUSES CALL UPON DARK MAGIC TO TRIUMPH IN THEIR ENDLESS AND DEADLY GAME FOR DOMINION…
Landless one-time king Guyime, once called Pilgrim but known to history as the Ravager, has survived the fall of the Execration - an event that set him on a path to find the legendary Seven Swords.
Guided by sorcery, Guyime journeys to Carthula in the centre of the First Sea to claim the mythical blade known as the Kraken’s Tooth. Aided by three companions - the beast charmer Seeker, a powerful sorceress and a scholarly slave - Guyime ventures into Carthula’s perilous underbelly to secure a prize guarded by ancient magics, cursed spirits, and lethal traps. But can he survive an ultimate ordeal crafted from his worst nightmares?
Continuing the epic story begun in A Pilgrimage of Swords, The Kraken’s Tooth is a fast-paced tale of low intrigue and grand adventure from the New York Times bestselling author of the Raven’s Shadow and Draconis Memoria trilogies.
From Publishers Weekly (Starred Review):
“Ryan masterfully combines vivid characterization and understated worldbuilding in the stellar second fantasy novella in his Seven Swords series (after A Pilgrimage of Swords)... Ryan does a superior job of propelling the adventure along while simultaneously pulling back the layers of [the fallen king] Guyime’s tortured backstory, and the robust fantasy world is described in clean, evocative prose…”
The Kraken’s Tooth
Sleep eluded him come nightfall, as he knew it would. He told Seeker to forego her share of the watch and spent the hours regarding the dwindling flames of the campfire before prowling the slopes of the hill in search of possible threats. The rise was tall enough to afford a clear view of the surrounding scrub and with the moon so high and bright it would be a foolish bandit indeed who chose to try their luck. Guyime found himself resenting the silver speckled desert and its absence of danger. A distraction would have been welcome this night.
Restless, my liege? Lakaroth asked, roused from his huff by the chance to land a jibe or two. Why would that be, I wonder? Is this place, perhaps, a little too familiar?
“Shut up,” Guyime grunted, his boot sending a loose rock tumbling down the slope.
It wasn’t always so empty a landscape, as I recall, Lakaroth went on blithely. Time was the lonely fire of two unescorted travellers would have attracted all manner of miscreants. But those were days of war and famine, not to mention a plague or two. The sword gave off a faint vibration that told of a wistful sigh. What a trial it is to live in peaceful times. Particularly so for you, I imagine. When you came here to claim me all those years ago I assume this place provided more than a few pleasing diversions, and those dozen loyal killers who used to traipse in your shadow.
“Thirteen,” Guyime corrected in a dull whisper, watching the dust stirred by the stone he had kicked.
Thirteen? But, I only recall twelve. Not that I could name any. It’s the fate of mere followers to be forgotten, I find. You remember the actor playing the lead but not the faceless soldier standing at the back clutching a spear desperately trying to remember his one line. Do you remember them, I wonder?
“Yes.” The rising dust seemed to linger in the air with unnatural sluggishness, taking on a discernable substance he ascribed to a trick played on the eyes by the over-bright moon, or his sleep-deprived mind. He could see them, vague figures formed in the lethargic dust. All of them, armed and armoured, faces hardened and scarred by war, and a boy, still not full-grown, a boy who followed King Guyime faithfully throughout his first exile. A boy who had followed him all the way to Sallish and never left. A boy named Ellipe.
“What a wondrous thing!” he had exclaimed upon catching sight of Juseria’s gleaming monument. Ellipe tried to maintain a manly demeanour at most times, deepening his voice and moulding his unmarked, beardless features into an unconvincing parody of the scowl habitually worn by his fellows. But that day, when confronted with one of the most renowned wonders in all the Five Seas he became a boy again.
“I hadn’t imagined there was was enough gold in all the world,” he went on, eyes reflecting the gleam of the sun on the metal. His voice was high and the vowels well spoken, the legacy of his education, an uncommon trait amongst the close companions of King Guyime who preferred to raise up deserving souls rather than favour those born to privilege.
“Fucking waste, y’ask me,” Leonne had said, the grey whiskered crags of his face bunching in righteous disapproval. “How many beggars did we pass on the road? A lot of empty bellies could be fed with that thing.”
Leonne, like most of the souls that comprised this company of dispossessed knights and men-at-arms, was a man of many contradictions. Guyime had seen him slit the throats of a dozen useless captives in the aftermath of battle then rifle their corpses for valuables. A good portion of the loot would be spent at the grog waggon but most he would hand out to the hordes of displaced villages that invariably clustered on the fringes of the Ravager’s army. When Guyime had knighted him he took the title ‘Sir Leonne of the Kindly Hand’, however throughout the long years of their association, his hand remained as deft and ruthless with a knife as it was generous with alms.
I remember that one, Lakaroth said as Guyime gaze tracked over the parade of dusty ghosts. Took a dozen arrows to kill him at Saint Maree’s Field. The tall one lost half his skull to a mace. The woman with the crossbow died screaming with her hands buried in her sundered guts…
“Enough!” Guyime grated, which, of course, only encouraged the demon to intensify his taunts.
Don’t recall the boy, though. The wind shifted, causing the dust-crafted ghosts to slip away, all save one. Ellipe, still standing rapt by the sight of the golden statue, probably the most beautiful thing his eyes ever witnessed in all too short a life. Meaning he must have perished in Sallish, Lakaroth concluded. Care to elaborate as to how and why, my liege?
It was rare these days for fury to claim Guyime, the times when it could strip away his reason and lead to all manner of unfortunate complications were mostly in the past, but not completely. A grunt of bestial anger emerged from between his clenched teeth as he drew the sword, whirling to cast it away, send it spinning into the desert where it could lay for centuries for all he cared. Let it be covered by the sand, a discarded forgotten prison for so pestilent a soul…
The sword handle slipped barely an inch along his calloused palm before abruptly becoming as weighty as an anvil. Sand blossomed as the blade sliced into the ground, dragging Guyime down with it, so heavy it pinned his hand beneath the handle, pain joining with fury as he tried vainly to tug it free.
Really? Lakaroth asked with arch disdain. After all this time, you still haven’t learned this particular lesson?
The blade began to glow, smoke rising and sand hissing as the heat turned it to glass.
We are bound, my liege. Lakaroth’s voice possessed no humour now, just implacable certainty, and also a measure of regret. After all, he was as much Guyime’s slave as his tormentor. You to me and me to you. You cannot discard me. You cannot sell me. You cannot destroy me.
“Wrong!” Guyime hissed back, sweat beading his face as the heat grew and the sword pressed his hand deeper into the sand, skin prickling as muscle and bone strained under the pressure. “The Seven Swords. When I have them…”
Lakaroth laughed. Demon laughter, an ugly, grating ripple of amusement. So, that’s your true plan, he said. So much for you lofty ambitions of uniting the seven demon-cursed blades in order to rid the world of the Risen Church. You think that by bringing them together you’ll somehow fulfil the purpose for which they were created, whatever that might be. Then you will finally be free. Is that it, my liege?
The sword’s glow faded and its weight returned to normal, allowing Guyime to heft it once more. The handle thrummed with amused satisfaction as he slid the blade into the scabbard on his back. “Yes!” he snarled, seeing little reason to conceal his design, or his hatred for the creature he was forced to carry. “If I fulfil the destiny of the seven swords and there will no longer be a reason for your existence, demon.”
And what do you think it might be? This fabled destiny?
“You mean you don’t know?”
I know only that I was trapped in this blade a very long time ago. I have been wielded by heroes of legend and villains of infamy. By the worst scum and the most noble spirit. And in all that time you know what I learned, my liege? There was no meaning in any of it, no purpose that counted for more than shit in the end. Heroes win their wars only to become tyrants. The worst of murderers may escape punishment but cannot escape their own souls and they will always die pitiful, friendless and unmourned. The Infernus is an eternal plane of chaos and agony, but this world is worse. Vile we may be but at least a demon knows what it is. Mortals live their entire existence flailing in the effluent of their own delusions. By all means find the swords, set me free or destroy me. But don’t look for purpose when it’s done as I suspect all you’ll find is death.
- Didier Graffet
- Anthony Ryan
- eBook Edition