Book 2: Assassin Out of Twilight
Hadrim sets out for the Yellow Tower. To him the journey is a gesture: He knows he has no hope of reaching his destination as, since losing the power of the staff, he is being poisoned by the black-silver in his body. He travels the lower ways of Twilight; ways he had travelled in the past. In the first land he comes to something wakens from rest at the bottom of a pool and pursues him. He also journeys with brother and sister warriors Adrania and Miraldia, and the priest Tarik and his silent acolyte. At the first sight of him and on hearing his name Tarik names Hadrim demon. The people of this land still remember him. During the journey Hadrim learns that Miraldia and Adrania are heading for the same place as he; the statue of Doric. Miraldia is seeking vengeance. Her husband had been killed by a creature serving the one called Meleche, who dwelt there. She shows Hadrim the pendant it wore. It is the sigil of the Yellow Tower.
The five come to the fortified town of Idrun where they have to speak to prove their humanity before the armoured guard will let them in. Once past the gate Tarik and his acolyte go their way. Miraldia and Adrania go with Hadrim to an inn.
The creature pursuing Hadrim comes to the gate. It lures the guard out, kills him, then fills his armour, digesting his body. It then kills the two gatekeepers and enters Idrun.
Hadrim is woken by the grey man; a spectre he saw in the Mad Quarter of Edgehouse. Then he had thought it just one of the strange aspects of that place. Seeing it now in another land he realises it is something more. It leads him to the gate and shows him what has happened.
On returning to the inn Hadrim is accused of murder. A serving girl has been killed in the same manner as those at the gate, evidently by some mollusc-like creature. He tells them of what has happened at the gate and is soon exonerated.
A scream sends Hadrim, Miraldia, and a member of the town watch into the inn. There Adrania stumbles from Hadrim’s room with a calcite spear driven through his torso. In the room is the creature in the guard’s armour. Hadrim attacks and drives it out through the window. In the street below it deserts the armour and slinks off into the shadows. While Miraldia grieves, Hadrim leaves the town, sure that the creature is after him and that his absence will draw it away.
In the wasteland beyond Idrun Hadrim is attacked by the creature. During the fight the staff remanifests its power, and the creature flees that power. As Hadrim travels on he is filled with doubts about his journey and purpose now. Perhaps the residual poison will not kill him after all. Miraldia catches up with him and they travel on. Nearly to the statue they are attacked and captured by priests led by Tarik. Bound, Hadrim to his staff, they are taken to Meleche.
The forest around the statue is infested by Darvish; the kind of creatures that killed Miraldia’s husband. Inside the statue they are brought to Meleche, who is prostrate in worship before a manufactured Portal. Through the Portal Hadrim sees the one he believes to be his ultimate enemy.
The Portal is closed at the other end and left open only on void. Hadrim, who had only been biding his time, breaks free. There is a fight. Miraldia breaks free. Meleche calls the Darvish. Hadrim’s staff ignites, Hadrim also, luminescent with power he kills most of the Darvish. Miraldia goes after Meleche. Attacked by Darvish she falls into the Portal to cling to its edge. Hadrim tries to pull her back, but the power in him chars her hand. She falls into void.
Hadrim, angry and horrified at what he has done, goes after Meleche, who is trying to escape through the other Portal; the one Hadrim came to use. Hadrim catches him, flings him from the head of the statue to his death, and uses the Portal himself. After he has gone the wasteland creature comes and takes up the steel mask and claws, and robe of Meleche. It too uses the Portal.
The land beyond the Portal is a drowned land, there, while filled with guilt and disgust, Hadrim is once again visited by the grey man. He learns nothing from the silent spectre and travels on. While on a crude raft made to cross the flood he meets up on a strange manlike creature with a coracle, stays for a while with this ones tribe, then travels on in a stolen coracle. Rowing to the next Portal he is attacked and seriously injured by the creature. He escapes through the Portal to a Twilight forest and there collapses with fever.
On waking Hadrim finds himself tended by a monk and is aware, that despite this, he is dying. Without volition he grabs the monk and strangles him, drawing out the man’s life-force as he had with his brother Cuthred and the Weregril Nacromis. He is healed, but driven almost mad by what he has done. He blames something of Nacromis, which still seems to inhabit him, and the staff. He exits the shelter, burning now from the fire scattered in the struggle. The staff remains in the shelter and he waits until the fire has gone out before reclaiming it. In the ashes the body of the monk lies unburnt. Hadrim sears his hand when he reclaims the staff. Resolved after this he tries to cast it away. He cannot. The monk’s body falls to ash.
On one of the ways Hadrim again encounters the creature. It tries only to bar his way. He attacks it and drives it into a chasm. He travels on only to find the way ending against an abyss. There, despondent, his journey seemingly finished, he rests.
Out of the abyss comes a strange craft with someone seated upon it. Hadrim is grabbed by a hand of force and taken onto this craft. Its unhuman occupant he finds to be the Rell, Karon, millennia past companion of Kensic Arrinias, founder of Edgehouse. Karon was also the one who with Drannen, Hadrim’s half brother, fashioned the staff. Across the abyss and through storm Karon takes him, with one detour to the place where the staff was made, to a sunlit land and sanctuary, and there leaves him for a while.
The sanctuary is a house owned by Laura, a woman Hadrim soon discovers to older than himself and probably kin. She heals him of most of his hurts but can do nothing about the black-silver. By her tests Hadrim should have been dead. He learns from her that she is the one who healed Drannen, knows about and has travelled the interstices, and is aware of the threat of the Yellow Tower. She also tells him that the creature that attacked him is called a Fage; another creature from the Tower.
At Laura’s house the grey man comes again, and shortly after Yeff-hounds from the Tower. There are too few of them to cause much trouble but their numbers increase. Karon returns and inspects Hadrim’s staff to see why it made him kill the monk, for this is what Hadrim believes. The Rell tells him there is nothing wrong with the staff, that the fault is in Hadrim.
Hadrim senses a Portal freshly opened nearby. Karon, Laura, and a troop of her soldiers take him to it. On the way they are attacked by Yeff-hounds and a number of soldiers are killed. The Portal is located in a primitive village. The villagers are dead and there is no one around. Hadrim steps into the jaws of a potential trap and uses the Portal, as it takes him far on his way to the Tower.
Hadrim arrives in a sunlit land that is strangely familiar. He journeys for a day and comes to an abandoned farm house. Before he can rest, Darvish, shepherded by a Yeff-hound, come for him. He escapes, riding all night and most of the following day, eventually arriving in an inhabited area and finding an inn. Here he hears the innkeeper telling a story to some children; a story about Hadrim. He now knows that the land he has come to is Dreggedon; the land where he had fought for many years and come to be known as the Berserker Captain, and where he had loved and lost a wife.
Talking to two mercenaries, Picudus and Drexor, at the inn Hadrim learns that the situation here is the same as it was at the statue of Doric; the place which contains the next Portal on his route, the Autumn Palace, is occupied by minions of the Tower. He also learns that an army led by one Prince Adric is marching against it. He hires the two and continues on his way.
On the fourth day of travel Hadrim is once again visited by the spectre. He surmises that it comes to warn him of danger, as it has as yet done him no harm. Three days after this they come to the Emperor’s ride; a stone road leading to the palace. They cross it but do not use it. That night the Darvish and the Yeff-hound come. They escape, only to spend the night trying to avoid attack. The next day they pass the Ride again and see the Fage travelling along it to the palace. It sees them but does not pursue. Eventually they arrive at the palace themselves and Hadrim sees that it would be impossible for him to gain access alone. They turn away. In the night the Darvish and the hound come again. Hadrim kills the Yeff-hound. Picudus is killed by the Darvish.
Drexor and Hadrim survive the night, and at dawn the Darvish flee, one not far enough though. They see it bury itself and with the sun risen dig it up. Daylight kills it. It is a night creature; a creature from a world of eternal night, beyond even the Yellow Tower.
Fleeing from the lands around the palace Hadrim and Drexor come upon Prince Adric’s army; a force of thousands with cannon and siege towers. They join, and Adric is quick to use Hadrim’s status to raise the moral of his army.
At the palace, following the dictates of protocol, Adric delivers his royal order for those within to vacate. Hadrim, Drexor, General Sapharon -one who knew Hadrim- Tavrum the Regent, and a troop of soldiers accompany him. As a precaution men have been stationed in hiding all around.
Out of the palace comes an armoured knight, the Fage, two faceless creatures which Hadrim recognises as the Nathed-hul; the men with the hollow faces, and humans who have been altered in some horrible way; pipes sown into their heads. The knight lifts his helm. There is nothing inside. It is a signal for attack. Archers fire from the walls. Adric and crew flee only to find some of the men they had positioned in hiding have been replaced by altered men, and their escape is blocked. The staff ignites. Hadrim attacks. The rest follow.
In berserker rage Hadrim kills many, and with the help of other men stationed nearby all the altered men are killed. The siege of the Autumn Palace commences. Under the cover of cannon-fire the siege towers are moved into position.
While the towers are being moved one is attacked by altered men, that attack halted by cannon fire. Before the cannon can be reloaded a party of Nathed-hul come out a the siege Tower. Adric sends his lancers against them. Hadrim and Drexor join them. During the fight it is soon discovered that only Hadrim’s staff can kill the Nathed-hul. All are immobilised, then killed by Hadrim. The lancers pull back.
Many days ride from the battle Karon and Laura arrive at a small village.
With the towers now in position a Jaugre, like the one Hadrim slew at Edgehouse, comes from the palace. He is shocked into inaction. The Jaugre is unstoppable and almost destroys one of the towers before Hadrim acts. He attacks, and during the battle uses the power of the staff in a way he had never used it before. The Jaugre is killed.
Karon and Laura, by means of a second lachrymal, see Hadrim’s battle with the Jaugre. They know now that Hadrim is still partially possessed by a fragment of the Weregril Nacromis, this enabled to exist under the aegis of black-silver poison. They now have the cure for this; a potion used in conjunction with the staff’s power.
Tired out by his last battle Hadrim enters the palace with the troops. Battle is joined with altered men and Adric’s troops soon get control of the walls.
At the inn Hadrim first stayed at a man and a huge hound arrive; Oswulf, and the Rimhound Aldreas.
During the battle for the walls Adric discovers that to try and free the altered men from the tubes and mechanism that controls them is to condemn them to a horrific death in which their spines are crushed by a surgically implanted brace. He orders them all to be quickly killed. As the last of them are cleared from the walls he joins Hadrim and Drexor to enter the palace. Before entering he sends Tavrum, the Regent, for men to follow on.
Deep in the palace Hadrim tells Drexor and Adric to come no further with him. Drexor obeys. Adric does not, so Hadrim knocks him out. Alone Hadrim heads for the Portal he can sense. Part way there he comes to an ossuary and is attacked by powerful Nathed-hul hiding amongst the bones.
Adric recovers consciousness and with Drexor awaits the men he has sent for. He learns that Drexor no longer trusts Hadrim’s judgement, and considers him to be insane.
Hadrim defeats the hollow faced ones, but with difficulty. He feels the staff is losing its power, but he goes on.
Tavrum and a few men come to Drexor and Adric. It is betrayal. The men attack them. Drexor is knocked unconscious by the glancing blow of an axe.
Hadrim comes to a cave below the palace through which the Sfax, the river, runs. There, by one of the Tower’s manufactured Portals, he finds the Fage, an old man in a loin-cloth, and the armoured knight. The knight claims to be the Warden of the Tower and the one who killed Hadrim’s father.
Drexor awakes injured to find Adric dead beside him. He splints his broken arm with Adric’s dagger, then sets out to look for Hadrim through the ruined part of the palace where the Jaugre made its exit. He comes at length to the edge of the Sfax and witnesses what occurs in the cave.
Hadrim fights the armoured one and destroys it, but he is left exhausted and powerless. The old man approaches, takes control of the staff, reveals himself to be the true Warden of the Yellow Tower, and drives a black-silver spike into Hadrim’s sternum. Hadrim’s body is thrown into the river. The Fage follows it. The Warden leaves with the staff.
Karon sees what has happened and tells Laura that the Warden has the staff, not that Hadrim is dead.
Drexor returns to Edronin with the wounded, and the body of Adric. There he is seen by Tavrum’s men, kills one, and escapes into the city.
The Fage continues its mindless pursuit of Hadrim’s body.
Oswulf, deserted now by the Rimhound, rides into Edronin.
Karon and Laura arrive at the Autumn Palace. From the men demolishing the walls there they learn much of what has happened then head for Edronin.
Drexor is captured by General Sapharon’s men rather than Tavrum’s. Because he possesses Adric’s dagger he is imprisoned. Arriving shortly after Karon and Laura learn of this imprisonment.
Hired killers come for Drexor in his cell. Before they can carry out their commission Karon arrives and kills them. On horseback Laura, Karon, and Drexor escape the prison area only to be halted by another on horseback training a crossbow on them. It is Oswulf, he recognises Karon and joins them. As they escape Edronin Oswulf asks Drexor where Hadrim is. Drexor tells him Hadrim is dead. Karon says that death is a luxury denied to such as Hadrim.
At last the Fage finds Hadrim’s body. It drags it from the river and tries to remove the spike. Red fire prevents it, but it tries again.