Dragonlance 15 - Dragons Of A Fallen Sun

 

 

MARGARET WEIS & TRACY HICKMAN

DRAGONS OF THE FALLEN SUN

THE WAR OF THE SOULS VOLUME ONE

DRAGONLANCE

MAR 2000

 

MiNa's SONG

 

The day has passed beyond our power.

The petals close upon the flower.

The light is failing in this hour

Of day's last waning breath.

The blackness of the night surrounds

The distant souls of stars now found,

Far from this world to which we're bound,

Of sorrow, fear and death.

Sleep, love; forever sleep.

Your soul the night will keep.

Embrace the darkness deep.

Sleep, love; forever sleep.

The gathering darkness takes our souls,

Embracing us in chilling folds,

Deep in a Mistress's void that holds

Our fate within her hands.

Dream, warriors, of the dark above

And feel the sweet redemption of

The Night's Consort, and of her love

For those within her bands.

Sleep, love; forever sleep.

Your soul the night will keep.

Embrace the darkness deep.

Sleep, love; forever sleep.

We close our eyes, our minds at rest,

Submit our wills to her behest,

Our weaknesses to her confessed,

And to her will we bend.

The strength of silence fills the sky,

Its depth beyond both you and I.

Into its arms our souls will fly,

Where fear and sorrows end.

Sleep, love; forever sleep.

Your soul the night will keep.

Embrace the darkness deep.

Sleep, love; forever sleep.

 

BOOK ONE

 

CHAPTER ONE

THE SONG OF DEATH

 

 

The dwarves named the valley Gamashinoch-the Song of

Death. None of the living walked here of their own free

will. Those who entered did so out of desperation, dire

need, or because they had been ordered to do so by their com-

manding officer.

They had been listening to the" song" for several hours as

their advance brought them nearer and nearer the desolate valley.

The song was eerie, terrible. Its words, which were never clearly

heard, never quite distinguishable-at least not with the ears-

spoke of death and worse than death. The song spoke of entrap-

ment, bitter frustration, unending torment. The song was a

lament, a song of longing for a place the soul remembered, a

haven of peace and bliss now unattainable.

On first hearing the mournful song, the Knights had reined in

their steeds, hands reaching for their swords as they stared about

them in unease, crying "what is that?" and "who goes there?"

But no one went there. No one of the living. The Knights

looked at their commander, who stood up in his stirrups, inspect-

ing the cliffs that soared above them on their right and the left.

"It is nothing," he said at last. "The wind among the rocks.

Proceed."

He urged his horse forward along the road, which ran, turn-

ing and twisting, through the mountains known as the Lords of

Doom. The men under his command followed single file, the pass

was too narrow for the mounted patrol to ride abreast.

"I have heard the wind before, my lord," said one Knight

gruffly, "and it has yet to have a human voice. It warns us to stay

away. We would do well to heed it."

"Nonsense!" Talon Leader Ernst Magit swung around in his

saddle to glare at his scout and second-in-command, who walked

behind him. "Superstitious claptrap! But then you minotaurs are

noted for clinging to old, outmoded ways and ideas. It is time you

entered the modem era. The gods are gone, and good riddance, I

say. We humans rule the world."

A single voice, a woman's voice, had first sung the Song of

Death. Now her voice was joined by a fearful chorus of men,

women, and children raised in a dreadful chant of hopeless loss

and misery that echoed among the mountains.

At the doleful sound, several of the horses balked, refused to

go farther, and, truth told, their masters did little to urge them.

Magit's horse shied and danced. He dug his spurs into the

horse's flanks, leaving great bloody gouges, and the horse sulked

forward, head lowered, ears twitching. Talon Leader Magit rode

about half a mile when it occurred to him that he did not hear

other hoof beats. Glancing around, he saw that he was proceed-

ing alone. None of his men had followed.

Furious, Magit turned and galloped back to his command. He

found half of his patrol dismounted, the other half looking very

ill at ease; sitting astride horses that stood shivering on the road.

"The dumb beasts have more brains than their masters," said

the minotaur from his place on the ground. Few horses will allow

a minotaur to sit upon their backs and fewer still have the

strength and girth to carry one of the huge minotaurs. Galdar was

seven feet tall, counting his horns. He kept up with the patrol,

running easily alongside the stirrup of his commander.

Magit sat upon his horse, his hands on the pommel, facing his

men. He was a tall, excessively thin man, the type whose bones

seem to be strung together with steel wire, for he was far stronger

than he looked. His eyes were flat and watery blue, without

intelligence, without depth. He was noted for his cruelty, his

inflexible-many would say mindless-discipline, and his com-

plete and total devotion to a single cause: Ernst Magit.

"You will mount your horses and you will ride after me," said

Talon Leader Magit coldly, "or I will report each and every one of

you to the groupcommander. I will accuse you of cowardice and

betrayal of the Vision and mutiny. As you know, the penalty for

even one of those counts is death."

"Can he do that?" whispered a newly made Knight on his first

assignment.

"He can," returned the veterans grimly, "and he will."

The Knights remounted and urged their steeds forward, using

their spurs. They were forced to circle around the minotaur,

Galdar, who remained standing in the center of the road.

"Do you refuse to obey my command, minotaur?" demanded

Magit angrily. "Think well before you do so. You may be the pro-

tege of the Protector of the Skull, but I doubt if even he could

save you if I denounce you to the Council as a coward and an

oath-breaker."

Leaning over his horse's neck, Magit spoke in mock confi-

dentiality. "And from what I hear, Galdar, your master might

not be too keen on protecting you anymore. A one-armed mino-

taur. A minotaur whose own kind view him with pity and with

scorn. A minotaur who has been reduced to the position of

scout.' And we all know that they assigned you to that post

only because they had to do something with you. Although I

did hear it suggested that they turn you out to pasture with the

rest of the cows."

Galdar clenched his fist, his remaining fist, driving the sharp

nails into his flesh. He knew very well that Magit was baiting

him, goading him into a fight. Here, where there would be few

witnesses. Here where Magit could kill the crippled minotaur

and return home to claim that the fight had been a fair and glori-

ous one. Galdar was not particularly attached to life, not since the

loss of his sword arm had transformed him from fearsome war-

rior to plodding scout. But he'd be damned if he was going to die

at the hands of Ernst Magit. Galdar wouldn't give his commander

the satisfaction.

The minotaur shouldered his way past Ernst Magit, who

watched him with a sneer of contempt upon his thin lips.

The patrol continued toward their destination, hoping to

reach it while there was yet sunlight-if one could term the chill

gray light that warmed nothing it touched sunlight. The Song of

Death wailed and mourned. One of the new recruits rode with

tears streaming down his cheeks. The veterans rode hunkered

down, shoulders hunched up around their ears, as if they would

block out the sound. But even if they had stuffed their ears with

tow, even if they had blown out their eardrums, they would have

still heard the terrible song.

The Song of Death sang in the heart.

The patrol rode into the valley that was called Neraka.

In a time past memory, the goddess Takhisis, Queen of Dark-

ness, laid in the southern end of the valley a foundation stone,

rescued from the blasted temple of the Kingpriest of Istar. The

foundation stone began to grow, drawing upon the evil in the

world to give it lif~: The st~ne grew into a temple, vast and awful;

a temple of magnificent, hideous darkness.

Takhisis planned to use this temple to return to the world

from which she'd been driven by Huma Dragonbane, but her

way was blocked by love and self-sacrifice. Nevertheless she had

great power, and she launched a war upon the world that came

near to destroying it. Her evil commanders, like a pack of wild

dogs,.fell.to figh~g among themselves. A band of heroes rose up

Looking mto theIr hearts, they found the power to thwart her,

defeat her, and cast her down. Her temple at Neraka was de-

stroyed, blasted apart in her rage at her downfall.

The temple's walls exploded and rained down from the skies

on that terrible day, huge black boulders that crushed the city of

Neraka. Cleansing fires destroyed the buildings of the cursed city,

burned down its markets and its slave pens, its numerous guard

houses, filling its twisted, mazelike streets with ash.

Over fifty years later, no trace of the original city remained.

The splinters of the temple's bones littered the floor of the south-

em portion of the valley of Neraka. The ash had long since blown

away. Nothing would grow in this part of the valley. All sign of

life had long been covered up by the swirling sands.

Only the black boulders, remnants of the temple, remained in

the valley. They were an awful sight, and even Talon Leader

Magit, gazing upon them for the first time, wondered privately if

his decision to ride into this part of the valley had been a smart

one. He could have taken the long route around, but that would

have added two days to his travel, and he was late as it was,

having spent a few extra nights with a new whore who had ar-

rived at his favorite bawdyhouse. He needed to make up time,

and he'd chosen as his shortcut this route through the southern

end of the valley.

Perhaps due to the force of the explosion, the black rock that

had formed the outer walls of the temple had taken on a crys-

talline structure. Jutting up from the sand, the boulders were not

craggy, not lumpy. They were smooth-sided, with sharply de-

fined planes culminating in faceted points. Imagine black quartz

crystals jutting up from gray sand, some four times the height of

a man. Such a man could see his reflection in those glossy black

planes, a reflection that was distorted, twisted, yet completely

recognizable as being a reflection of himself.

These men had willingly joined up with the army of the

Knights of Takhisis, tempted by the promises of loot and slaves

won in battle, by their own delight in killing and bullying, by

their hatred of elves or kender or dwarves or anyone different

from themselves. These men, long since hardened against every

good feeling, looked into the shining black plane of the crystals

and were appalled by the faces that looked back. For on those

faces they could see their mouths opening to sing the terrible

song.

Most looked and shuddered and quickly averted their gaze.

Galdar took care not to look. At first sight of the black crystals

rising from the ground, he had lowered his eyes, and he kept

them lowered out of reverence and respect. Call it superstition, as

Ernst Magit most certainly would. The gods themselves were not

m this valley. Galdar knew that to be impossible; the gods had

been driven from Krynn more than thirty years ago. But the

ghosts of the gods lingered here, of that Galdar was certain.

Ernst Magit looked at his reflection in the rocks, and simply

because he shrank from it inwardly, he forced himself to stare at

It until he had stared it down.

"I will not be cowed by the sight of my own shadow!" he said

WIth a meaningful glance at Galdar. Magit had only recently

thought up this bovine humor. He considered it extremely funny

and highly original, and he lost no opportunity to use it. "Cowed.

Do you get it, minotaur?" Ernst Magit laughed.

The death song swept up the man's laughter and gave it

melody and tone-dark, off key, discordant, opposing the rhythm

of the other voices of the song. The sound was so horrible that

Magit was shaken. He coughed, swallowed his laughter, much to

the relief of his men.

"You have brought us here, Talon Leader," said Galdar. "We

have seen that this part of the valley is uninhabited, that no force

of Solamnics hides here, prepared to sweep down on us. We may

proceed toward our objective safe in the knowledge that we have

nothing from the land of the living to fear from this direction. Let us

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