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Book #4 of DemonWars series

LIST PRICE ₹799.00


About The Book

Master of fantasy adventure and #1 New York Times bestselling author R. A. Salvatore returns in the imaginative tour de force hailed by critics and readers as his finest work yet in the stunning fourth volume in the brilliant DemonWars Saga.

The long struggle is over at last. The demon dactyl is no more, its dark sorceries shattered by the gemstone magic wielded by the woman known as Pony. But victory did not come easily. Many lives were lost, including Pony’s lover, the elf-trained ranger Elbryan Wynden.

Yet despite the dactyl’s demise, the kingdom still seethes in the same cauldron of plots and machinations. Was it for this, Pony wonders, that her beloved gave his life? Assailed by grief and doubt, Pony retreats to the northern lands where she and Elbryan once shared their brief happiness. There, among old friends, her wounded spirit can begin to heal.

Then a deadly sickness appears suddenly among the people of Corona. Only Pony, with her supreme magical abilities, can heal the victims…or so she believes. But the plague resists her as if possessed by a malevolent strength and intelligence all its own.

Now Pony must undertake a pilgrimage that will test her powers—and her faith—as never before. Watchful eyes follow her: the eyes of the elves who have stolen something precious from her and keep it for their own mysterious purposes. And the eyes of the man she hates above all else: Marcalo De’Unnero, the villain responsible for Elbryan’s death…who would desire nothing more than to lead Pony down that same treacherous path to destruction.


Chapter 1: The Show of Strength CHAPTER 1 THE SHOW OF STRENGTH
THE MUD SUCKED AT HIS boots as he walked along the narrow, smoky corridor, a procession of armored soldiers in step behind him. The conditions were not to his liking—he didn’t want his “prisoners” growing obstinate, after all.

Around a bend in the tunnel the light increased and the air cleared, and before Duke Targon Bree Kalas loomed a wider and higher chamber, its one entrance securely barred. Kalas motioned to a soldier behind him, and the man hustled forward, fumbling with keys and hastily unlocking the cell door. Other soldiers tried to slip by, to enter the cell protectively before their leader, but Kalas slapped them back and strode in.

A score of dwarvish faces turned his way, the normally ruddy-complexioned powries seeming a bit paler after months imprisoned underground.

Kalas studied those faces carefully, noting the narrowing of eyes, a reflection, he knew, of seething hatred. It wasn’t that the powries hated him particularly, but rather that they merely hated any human.

Again, almost as one, the dwarves turned away from him, back to their conversations and myriad games they had invented to pass the tedious hours.

One of the soldiers began calling them to attention, but Duke Kalas cut him short and waved him and the others back. Then he stood by the door, calmly, patiently letting them come to him.

“Yach, it’s to wait all the damned day if we isn’t to spake with it,” one powrie said at last. The creature removed its red beret—a cap shining bright with the blood of its victims—and scratched its itchy, lice-filled hair, then replaced the cap and hopped up, striding to stand before the Duke.

“Ye comin’ down to see our partyin’?” the dwarf asked.

Kalas didn’t blink, staring at the powrie sternly. This dwarf, the leader, was always the sarcastic one, and he always seemed to need a reminder that he had been captured while waging war on the kingdom, that he and his wretched little fellows were alive only by the grace of Duke Kalas.

“Well?” the dwarf, Dalump Keedump by name, went on obstinately.

“I told you that I would require your services at the turn of the season,” Duke Kalas stated quietly.

“And we’re to be knowin’ that the season’s turned?” Keedump asked sarcastically. He turned to his fellows. “Are ye thinkin’ the sun to be ridin’ lower in the sky these days?” he asked with a wicked little laugh.

“Would you like to see the sun again?” Duke Kalas asked him in all seriousness.

Dalump Keedump eyed him long and hard. “Ye think ye’re to break us, then?” the dwarf asked. “We spent more time in a barrelboat, tighter and dirtier than this, ye fool.”

Kalas let a long moment slip past, staring at the dwarf, not daring to blink. Then he nodded slightly and turned, leaving the cell, pulling its door closed behind him as he returned to the muddy corridor with his soldiers. “Very well, then,” he said. “Perhaps I will return in a few days—the first face you will see, I assure you. Perhaps after you have murdered some of your companions for food, you will better hear my propositions.” And he walked away, as did his men, having every intention of carrying through with his threat.

He had gone several steps before Dalump called out to him. “Ye came all the way down here. Ye might as well be tellin’ us what ye gots in mind.”

Kalas smiled and moved back to the cell door. Now the other dwarves, suddenly interested in the conversation, crowded behind Dalump.

“Extra rations and more comfortable bedding,” the Duke teased.

“Yach, but ye said we’d be walkin’ free!” Dalump Keedump protested. “Or sailin’ free, on a boat back to our homes.”

“In time, my little friend, in time,” Kalas replied. “I am in need of an enemy, that I might show the rabble the strength of the Allhearts and thus bring them the security they desperately need. Assist me in this, and the arrangements will be made for your release soon enough.”

Another of the dwarves, his face a mask of frustration, rushed forward, shouldering past Dalump. “And if we doesn’t?” he asked angrily.

Duke Kalas’ fine sword was out in the blink of a powrie eye, its point snapping against the obstinate fellow’s throat, pressing firmly. “If you do not, then so be it,” Kalas said calmly, turning to eye Dalump directly as he spoke. “From our first meeting, I have been clear in my intentions and honest in our deal-ings. Choose your course, Dalump Keedump, and accept the consequences.”

The powrie leader glared at his upstart second.

“Fairly caught,” Duke Kalas reminded, rather poignantly, considering that his sword was still out and the statement was true enough. Dalump and his group had been fairly caught on the field of battle, as they had attacked this city. Duke Kalas was bound by no codes or rules in dealing with the powries. He could execute them openly and horribly in Palmaris’ largest square, or he could let them starve to death down here in the dungeons beneath Chasewind Manor, forgotten by all.

Dalump shifted his gaze back and forth between Kalas and the upstart powrie, his expression hinting that he wanted to choke them both—wanted to choke anybody or anything—just to relieve the mounting frustration accompanying this wretched situation. “Tell me yer stinkin’ plan,” he reluctantly agreed.

Duke Kalas nodded and smiled again.

DUKE KALAS WALKED ONTO THE rear balcony of Chasewind Manor early in the morning a few days later. The air was heavy with fog and drizzle, a perfectly miserable day, but one to Kalas’ liking. It had turned warmer again, though they still had more than a month before the winter solstice. The remnants of the previous blizzard, winter’s first blast, were fast melting, and the reports Kalas had received the day before indicated that grass was showing again on the windblown western fields.

That fact, plus the gathering storm clouds in the west threatening a second storm, had prompted the Duke’s action, and now, with the poor visibility, he could not have asked for a better morning. He heard the door open behind him, and he turned to see King Danube Brock Ursal step out to join him.

He was a few years older than his dear friend Kalas, and rounder in the middle, but his hair remained thick and black, and his beard, a new addition, showed no signs of graying.

“I hope to sail within the week,” Danube remarked. Kalas was not surprised, since Bretherford, Duke of the Mirianic and commander of the King’s navy, had indicated as much to him the previous evening.

“You will have favorable weather all the way back to Ursal,” Duke Kalas assured his beloved king, though he feared the decision to travel. If winter weather came on again with the fleet still in the northern waters of the Masur Delaval, the result could be catastrophic.

“So Bretherford believes,” said Danube. “In truth, I am more concerned about the situation I leave behind.”

Kalas looked at him, his expression wounded.

“Brother Braumin seems formidable and, to the common man, likable,” Danube elaborated. “And if the woman Jilseponie stands by him—along with Markwart’s former lackey Francis—then their appeal to the folk of Palmaris will be considerable. I remind you that Brother Francis endeared himself to the people in the last days of Markwart, when he served the city as bishop.”

Kalas could find little to dispute, for he and Danube had discussed the situation at length many times since the fall of Markwart and the hero, Elbryan, in this very house.

“Jilseponie has formally refused your offer, then?” Kalas asked.

“I will speak with her one last time,” King Danube replied, “but I doubt that she will comply. Old Je’howith has spent much time in St. Precious, and has indicated to me that the woman is truly broken and without ambition.”

The mere mention of Je’howith, the abbot of Ursal’s St. Honce and a close adviser to Danube, made Kalas narrow his eyes suspiciously. It was no secret among the court that Je’howith hated Jilseponie above all others. He had been Markwart’s man, and she and her dead lover had killed Markwart, had turned his secure little church world upside down. Je’howith had pushed King Danube to raise the woman to the position of baroness. With Pony in secular circles, answerable to the King, her influence on the Church would come from outside, far less dangerous, to Je’howith’s thinking, than from inside.

“Abbot Je’howith favors the appointment of Jilseponie as baroness,” Danube pointedly reminded Kalas.

“Abbot Je’howith would more favor her execution,” Kalas replied.

Danube gave a laugh at the irony. At one point, both Pony and Elbryan, imprisoned in St. Precious, had been slated for execution by Father Abbot Markwart.

Their conversation was interrupted by a tumult in the grand house behind them.

“Reports of a powrie force outside the western wall,” Duke Kalas explained with a wry grin.

“You play a dangerous game,” the King returned, then he nodded, for he did not disagree with the necessity of the ruse. “I will not go to the wall,” he decided, though he and Kalas had previously spoken of his attendance. “Thus will suspicions of any conspiracy be lessened.”

Duke Kalas paused, staring thoughtfully for a moment, then nodded in agreement.

The King’s other close adviser—but one who was unaware of Kalas’ strategem, a lady of the court named Constance Pemblebury—came through the balcony doors, her face flushed. “Bloody cap powries,” she said breathlessly. “There are reports that they are attacking the western gate!”

Kalas put on an alarmed expression. “I’ll rouse the Allhearts,” he said, and he rushed from the balcony.

Constance moved beside the King, who draped an arm casually about her and kissed her cheek. “Fear not, dear Constance,” he said. “Duke Kalas and his charges will more than meet the attack.”

Constance nodded and seemed to calm a bit. She knew the proud Allheart Brigade well, had seen their splendor on the field many times. Besides, how could she be afraid, up here on the balcony of the magnificent Chasewind Manor, in the arms of the man she adored?

SHE WOKE TO THE SOUNDS of shouting, lifted her head from her pillow just as a brown-robed monk ran by her small room, crying, “Powries! Powries at the western gate!”

Pony’s eyes popped open and she scrambled out of her bed. Not much could rouse her from her grieving lethargy, but the cry “Powries,” those wretched and tough murderous dwarves, made her blood boil with rage. She was dressed and out the door in moments, rushing along the dim corridors of St. Precious, finally finding brothers Braumin Herde, Francis, Anders Castinagis, and Marlboro Viscenti gathered together in the nave of the abbey’s large chapel—the same chapel wherein Pony had married Connor Bildeborough all those years ago.

“Are they in the city?” she asked.

“We know not,” said Francis, seeming calm indeed.

Pony spent a long moment studying him. Once she had considered Francis a hated enemy, had watched Elbryan beat him senseless in the bowels of St.-Mere-Abelle, but what a change had come over the man since the revelations and subsequent fall of Father Abbot Markwart! Pony still held no love for him, but she had come to trust him somewhat.

“They are out beyond the west wall, so say the reports,” Brother Braumin put in. “Whether they have breached the city—”

“Or even whether or not those reports are accurate,” Brother Viscenti, a nervous little man with fast-thinning light brown hair and far too many twitches, quickly added. When Braumin looked at him hard, he continued. “The people remain nervous. Are such frantic reports to be believed out of hand?”

“True enough,” said Braumin. “But, still, we must assume that the report is accurate.”

Another group of monks hustled in then, the lead brother waving a bag in front of him.

Pony understood without even asking. They had brought gemstones—mostly hematite, likely, that any wounds might be magically tended.

“Out to the wall we go,” Brother Braumin said to her as the others started away. “Will you join us?”

Pony thought on it for just a moment. She wanted nothing to do with any battles, in truth, but neither could she ignore the responsibility laid before her. If there were powries outside Palmaris’ western gate, then likely there would be fighting, and any fighting against powries would mean wounded men. No one in all Corona could wield the gemstones as powerfully as Pony. Was there a wound she could not heal?

One, at least, she reminded herself, the one in her own heart.

She followed Brother Braumin out to the city’s western wall.

FROM AN ALLEY, DUKE KALAS watched the bustle upon the western wall. “There!” one man cried, and the city guardsmen nearly fell over themselves trying to bring their bows to bear, letting fly a volley of arrows into the mist that likely hit nothing but grass.

They were frightened, Kalas recognized, scared nearly witless. The folk of Palmaris had been involved in more fighting than those of any other major city in Honce-the-Bear during the war, and their city guard had done themselves proud. But they had had their fill of it, Kalas knew, and no one who had ever battled powries wanted another fight with the rugged dwarves.

Unless, of course, they had made a previous agreement with the dwarves concerning how that battle would go.

More cries arose and more arrows flew out from the wall. Then a large group near the center of the crowd cried out and scrambled away, many leaping the ten feet from the parapet back to the ground.

A moment later came a thunderous report as something heavy slammed into the wall.

Kalas smiled; his gunners had spent the better part of the previous day lining up that catapult shot perfectly so that it would hit the wall but do no real damage.

In response, another volley of arrows went out from the wall into the mist, and then a series of howls, shouts, and the gravelly voices of the rugged powries came back at them.

Duke Kalas slipped back into the shadows as another group—Abellican monks and the woman Jilseponie—rushed to join those soldiers and commoners at the wall. The Duke observed their arrival with mixed feelings. He was glad that the monks had come, and especially thrilled that beautiful Jilseponie would witness this moment of his glory. But he was also trepidatious. Might Jilseponie take up a gemstone and lay low the powries?

With that disturbing thought in mind, Kalas rushed back to the other end of the alley and waved his arm, the signal to the trumpeters, then ran to his large pony, the lead To-gai-ru pinto in the line of fifty armored Allheart knights.

From nearly every rooftop in the area, it seemed, the trumpets blared, the rousing battle chorus of the mighty Allheart Brigade. All heads along the wall turned at the sound and at the ensuing thunder of pounding hooves.

“Throw wide the gates!” came a commanding cry. The city guardsmen rushed to pull wide the western gates, opening the path.

Out they went, bursting through the gate and onto the field, their silvery armor gleaming despite the dim light of the drizzly day. With practiced precision, they brought their powerful ponies into a wedge formation, Duke Kalas at the point.

The trumpet song continued a few moments longer, and then, as suddenly as it began, it ended. All on the wall hushed and gawked at the spectacle of the legendary Allheart Brigade. Even Pony, who had seen so much, could not miss the majesty of the moment, the King’s finest soldiers in their bright plate mail. Could any force in all the kingdom, in all the world, stand against them?

At that moment, to Pony, who had felled giants with strokes of magical lightning, who had witnessed Avelyn blasting away the top of a mountain with an amethyst, it didn’t seem so.

In a powerful swift motion, Duke Kalas brought his sword from its scabbard and raised it high into the air.

All was silent, the brief moment of calm before the battle.

From somewhere out in the mist, a powrie cursed.

The charge was on—the blare of trumpets, the thunder of horses, the clash of steel, and the cries of battle.

From the wall, Pony and the others couldn’t see much, just ghostly forms rushing to and fro in the fog. But then one group of powries burst out of the mist, charging for the wall. Before the archers could level their bows, before Pony could even take the offered graphite stone from Brother Braumin, Duke Kalas and a group of knights charged out behind the dwarves, trampling and slashing, disposing of them in mere seconds, then whirling their superb To-gai-ru ponies and thundering back across the field.

Some of those on the wall uttered a few prayers, but most remained hushed in disbelief, for never had they seen a band of tough powries so completely and easily overwhelmed.

Out in the mist, the sounds of battle began to recede, the powries obviously in flight, the Duke and his men giving chase.

The hundreds on or near Palmaris’ western wall broke out into cheers for the Duke, the new Baron of Palmaris.

“Pray they are not being baited,” Brother Francis remarked, an obvious fear given the ease of the rout.

Pony, standing quietly next to him, staring hard at the opaque veil that had kept so much from her eyes, didn’t fear that possibility. She simply had a sense that it was not so, that Kalas and his Allheart knights had not gone off into great danger.

Something about the whole battle hadn’t seemed… right.

She thought about taking up a hematite then, and spirit-walking across the field, through the veil of mist to watch the Duke’s moves more closely. But she dismissed the notion with a shake of her head.

“What is it?” the observant Brother Braumin asked.

“Nothing at all,” Pony replied, running her hand through her damp mop of thick blond hair. She continued to stare out at the mist, continued to listen to the cries of battle and dying powries, continued to feel that something here was not quite right. “Nothing at all.”

FROM A COPSE ACROSS THE field, another set of eyes curiously watched the spectacle of battle. Bedraggled, wet, and miserable with a scraggly beard, his monk’s robes long ago tattered by inner demons, Marcalo De’Unnero could not understand how a substantial powrie force—and he figured any force that would go so boldly against Palmaris had to be substantial—had arrived on the field so suddenly without his noticing the approach. He had been here for several days, seeking food and shelter, trying to stay alive and stay sane. He had watched every movement of the few farmers who had dared to come back out from within the walls of their city, to sit buttoned down in their modest homes for the winter. He had spent long hours studying the graceful movements of the skittish animals.

Mostly De’Unnero had watched the animals, his primary prey. He could sense their moods now, could see the world as they did, and he had noted no unusual smell of fear in the air that any approaching army, especially one dragging machines as large as catapults, would likely provoke.

So where had the powries come from?

De’Unnero made his way back into the copse and through the trees, at last sighting the catapult—just a single war engine—and its crew, its human crew, in a small lea amid the trees. The gunners, as far as he had discerned, had lobbed but a single shot and appeared in no hurry to load and fire another.

“Clever Duke Kalas,” De’Unnero, the former brother justice, remarked, figuring out the ruse and the purpose behind it.

He hushed immediately, hearing the snap of a twig not so far away. Close enough for him to smell the blood.

“Yach, damned swordsman,” he heard a powrie grumble, then he spotted the bloody cap dwarf, trudging along a path.

Then De’Unnero spotted the gash on the dwarf’s shoulder, a bright line of blood crystal clear to him despite the fog. Yes, he saw it and smelled it, the sweet fragrance filling his nostrils, permeating his senses.

He felt the first convulsions of change an instant later, growled quietly against the sudden, sharp pains in his fingers and toes, and then in his jaw—the transformation of the jaw always hurt the most.

De’Unnero’s shoulders lurched forward suddenly as his spine twisted. He fell to all fours, but that was a more comfortable position anyway, as his hips rotated.

Now he was a cat, a great orange, black-striped tiger.

“Damned,” the approaching powrie cursed. “Said ’e wouldn’t hit me so hard!”

The last words vanished in the powrie’s throat as the dwarf came on guard, sensing suddenly that he was not alone. He started to turn back, but swung in a terrified rush as the brush rustled and the great cat leaped over him, bearing him to the ground with frightening speed and ease. The dwarf flailed wildly and tried to call out, but the cat paws were quicker and stronger, hooking leathery skin and forcing the powrie’s arms away. The powerful jaws clamped onto his throat.

A moment later, De’Unnero began his morning meal.

His keen senses soon discerned the sounds of others approaching—horsemen and cursing dwarves—so he bit into the dead powrie’s shoulder and dragged the meal away.

“YE KILT THEM TO DEATH in battle!” Dalump Keedump accused, spitting with every word, waggling his stubby finger at Duke Kalas, who sat tall astride his brown-and-white To-gai-ru pony, seeming unconcerned.

“I told you that several might die,” Kalas replied.

“Too many!” grumbled another dwarf, the same one who had challenged Kalas in the dungeons of Chasewind Manor those days before. “Ye’re a lyin’ bastard dog.”

A single urging kick sent the Duke’s well-trained pony into a leap that brought him right by the powrie; and with a single fluid motion, Kalas, as fine a warrior as Honce-the-Bear had to offer, brought his shining sword out and swiped down, lopping off the powrie’s head.

“You think this a game?” the Duke cried at Dalump, at all the remaining powries. “Shall we cut you all down here and now and make our victory complete?”

Dalump Keedump, hardly frightened by the death of several of his kinfolk—in fact, a bit relieved that Kalas had finally disposed of the loudmouth—hooked his stubby thumbs under the edges of his sleeveless tunic and tilted his head, staring hard at the Duke. “I’m thinkin’ that our blood just bought us a boat fer home,” he said.

Duke Kalas calmed, stared long at the dwarf, and then nodded his head. “In the spring,” he agreed, “as soon as the weather permits. And you will be treated well until then, with warm blankets and extra food.”

“Keep yer blankets and get us some human women for warmin’,” Dalump pressed.

Kalas nearly gave the command to slaughter the rest of the powries then and there. He’d keep his word to let this group go free, back to their distant homeland, and he would make sure that they fared better in the dungeons over the winter, with more supplies. But if he ever saw a grubby powrie hand anywhere near a human woman, even a lowly peasant whore, he’d surely cut it off and then take the powrie’s head, as well.

“Drag them back in chains tonight,” he instructed one of his knights, “as quietly as possible. Tell any city guards that the captured dwarves will be interrogated and summarily executed, then put them back in their cell.”

Kalas spun his pony and started away, his closest commanders hurrying to get their mounts at his side. The Duke stopped, and turned back. “Count the dead and the living and scour the field,” he instructed. “Every powrie is to be accounted for.”

“Ye think we’d stay in yer miserable land any longer than we’re havin’ to?” Dalump Keedump asked, but Kalas simply ignored him.

His triumphant return into the city awaited.

THEY CAME OUT OF THE mist more gloriously than they had entered, the Duke and his men, and the grime and blood of battle only made their armor seem all the more brilliant.

Duke Kalas drew out his bloodstained sword and lifted it high into the air. “Honor in battle, victory to the King!” he cried, the motto of the mighty Allheart Brigade. Nearly every person on or near the western wall was cheering wildly, and most were crying.

Duke Kalas soaked it all in, reveling in the glory of the moment, in the triumph that would strengthen his, and thus, King Danube’s, grasp upon this fragile frontier city. He swept his gaze along the wall, taking in the relieved and appreciative expressions but then lingering on one figure who was neither crying nor cheering.

Still, Kalas was thrilled to see that beautiful and dangerous Jilseponie had witnessed his glorious moment.

About The Author

As one of the fantasy genre’s most successful authors, R. A. Salvatore enjoys an ever-expanding and tremendously loyal following. His books regularly appear on The New York Times bestseller lists and have sold more than 30 million copies. Salvatore’s most recent original hardcover, The Two Swords, book three of The Hunter’s Blade Trilogy debuted at #1 on The Wall Street Journal bestseller list and at #4 on The New York Times bestseller list. His books have been translated into numerous foreign languages, including German, Italian, Finnish, Greek, Hungarian, Turkish, Croatian, Bulgarian, Yiddish, Spanish, Russian, Polish, Czech, and French.

Product Details

  • Publisher: S&S/Saga Press (February 20, 2024)
  • Length: 672 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781668018187

Raves and Reviews

“An enthralling epic adventure.”—Terry Brooks

“Wild adventure, unique magic, stunning suspense, and forgettable characters.”—James Rollins, bestselling author of the Sigma Force series and The Starless Crown

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