The Sequel to Light in the Gloaming
What Readers say:
“Taking a good series and making it better in every way. The second (and concluding) book ups the ante - bigger plot, deeper characters, more suspense, polished prose, more difficult questions of ethics, religion, and philosophy, more pathos... if you liked Light, you'll love this one. If you were so-so on Light, you'll still love this one. If you loved Light... you know what to do.”
“The Gloaming and Breaking the Gloaming were the best novels I have read in a long time.”
“I could still see traces of the Gloaming in him.”
The strength of love, the faith of an old priest, and the Gloaming of princes will each fracture and forge anew until a victor is declared between darkness and light.
Below is the opening chapter. Enjoy!
Coup in the Underworld
“The more I thought about it, the more I dug out of my memory things I had overlooked or forgotten. I realized then that a man who had lived only one day could easily live for a hundred years in prison. He would have enough memories to keep him from being bored. In a way, it was an advantage.”
The room was dark, and not because of a change in the light. The dim gray light was the same as always, seeping into our city from the top of the wall around us. The room was dark because I was in it, starving and alone.
I sat cross-legged in the center of the emptiness. This was my perch atop the tallest building in the Gloaming. I stared down at the floor, at the knots of wood twisted over the long lives of long dead trees. I understood knots like these. They were scars from a wounded past.
My mind reeled through the recent months. It all started when I woke Andor with a sword at his neck. I had stolen his throne, and I had sent him here to rot. There were no emotions in that memory. There was only obedience—obedience to Ramzi, my now-headless advisor, and to my will to power. Once I gained that power, I had gone parading to war.
But then Andor’s face had appeared again, returned from this city of the lost. I remembered my anger when I saw him in Icaria. I remembered my pain when everyone, even my own sisters, betrayed me for him. I remembered when he cast me down here and followed after me. I came to bring you out, he had said. The words haunted me, for I had denied him and attacked. It ended with a dagger stabbing through my hand, Andor escaping, and me going into a rage against the men who failed to stop him. Then came my solitude in this dark, empty room.
At least the hole in my hand was starting to heal. Soon after Andor had pierced it, the wound had swollen into a blazing mound of red flesh. The skin around it seemed to suck up all my heat. My body and mind grew feverish, furious.
I had risked one visit to the floor below, where I had told my strongest man, Cain, to find salt and a clean bit of cloth. Cain was a murderer and a rapist—the kind of man destined to decay in the Gloaming. Still, he had served me well. In little time, he had returned to me with water and a salty cloth. I did not ask about the source of the salt. It was better not to know whether it was sweat wiped from some dying man.
I had taken the food, cleaned my festering wound, and settled into a fitful sleep. As my body had fought back the infection, Cain maintained order in my place. He was to seek me only if our rule became endangered, but he did not come again. Time passed in quiet. Minutes became hours and maybe days. My hand began to heal, but the dimension of time was lost to me. Everything was pain and darkness, pierced by occasional shouts of men fighting to the death. That was the Gloaming.
Now that the fever was lifting, my stomach ached with hunger. I was tired of sitting alone with my memories. I rose and staggered down the steps.
Cain was there, talking with a handful of men. He was a brute, towering over the others. His face was blunt and covered in scars. I did not recognize any of the men behind him. It seemed he had replaced my original group with his own. I glanced at a handsome pile of food in the far corner. Then Cain spotted me.
“What did I tell you?” Cain jeered at me. “He’s alive. It was just a matter of time before he came groveling for food.” The brute stepped toward me. “Sword on the ground. Do it now and you might live.”
I stayed on the stairs, with the prince’s sword Zarathus held in front of me and my other hand hidden behind my back. “You supported me from the beginning,” I said. “I gave you order and a home here. Now you betray me?”
“This is no home,” Cain answered, moving closer. “This is a battleground. We were loyal to your creed, not to you.” His voice was low and raspy, like a common criminal. “The strong take what they can, the weak suffer what they must.” He said the words that Ramzi and I had loved.
“You think I am weak, but you are wrong.” I tried to project strength, though I was too weak to fight them all. “Come, test my creed. But before you do, know that you can lay down your arms now, step back, and remain free to rule under me.”
“I cannot do that.” Cain stepped up the first stair, blade drawn, within range. It was the same blade I had used against Andor. The rust had been removed. “Give me the sword now or die.” He and his men tensed to strike.
I swung Zarathus down at him. Cain deflected the attack. He pressed forward, his men close behind, and I stepped backwards up the stairs, holding the higher ground.
I knew I could not stand for long. The men threw pieces of bone and stone at me as Cain hammered away with his blade. He was brutally strong, and my one good arm barely held him back. Zarathus was meant for two hands, and I was distracted trying to dodge whatever the other men hurled at me.
I saw one thrown rock too late. It slammed into my shoulder and almost knocked my blade to the floor. I turned and fled up the stairs. I ran to the far side of my dark room. There I would have more space to move, more time to think. But there was nowhere to escape.
Cain charged into the room after me. He slowed as he drew closer, to allow his men to stay close. He still knew better than to fight me by himself.
I found my back against the wall, with the men forming a net around me. I shouted out in desperation. “Who is with me?”
My shout made everything pause for an instant.
Then one man answered, “For Tryst!”
I dashed toward him, at the corner of the room and the far end of the encircling men. He had young, wild eyes. He pointed with a rusted dagger to the stairs, and turned to run along the edge of the room. The momentary confusion was gone, and men moved to stop us.
I swept Zarathus low and slashed at the legs of the nearest men. One went down screaming. It gave me space to leap out of their net. I charged after the man who had answered me. Cain and the others stampeded after us.
My new ally was struggling to fight past a man who was guarding the stairs. I stabbed my blade into the man’s side without slowing. I retreated down the stairs, the ally following after me.
No one else blocked the way. We bounded down six flights of stairs and were out the door at the bottom of the building before I risked a look back.
The man with me ran with an odd grace, like a gazelle. I tucked Zarathus under my bad arm and pulled out the last of my daggers. The next man out of the building was Cain. I flung the little blade at his chest.
He ducked aside too late. The metal sank into his shoulder. He fell to his knees, and the men with him stopped. They were not so brave without their leader, but he would survive, and so would we.
“Let’s go,” I said to the gazelle. To rebuild my reign, he might be a good man to start with.
He nodded with a wild edge in his eyes. “Follow me.” He sprinted off a different way.
I had little choice but to follow. I was weakened and would not live long on my own. The last time a hand reached down to pull me up, my pride had denied it and led to this mess. I would not make the same mistake again.