A meteor falls. An empire rises. In a world where magic is new, the rules are still being written, and power is up for grabs. The metal from the sky has been forged into instruments of death, of life, to steal a man’s vital essence and give it to another. The Black Order rises with the new empire, an order of men with the ability, and the ruthlessness, to wield the metal. More
A meteor falls. An empire rises. In a world where magic is new, the rules are still being written, and power is up for grabs. The metal from the sky has been forged into instruments of death, of life, to steal a man’s vital essence and give it to another. The Black Order rises with the new empire, an order of men with the ability, and the ruthlessness, to wield the metal.
But this taking has its price – the more life you take into yourself, the more life you will need, and the more you must kill to stay alive.
Jorin has the gift, but that is no protection. For the power is in the blood, and the blood can be stolen… In the training grounds of the Black Order, he will make friends, and enemies, and this is an education whose survival is not guaranteed.
We rode through an iron gate, a wide field before us, planted with a forest of torches.
As the gates closed behind us, horns sounded and the torches began to move – hundreds of men marching in formation, a fiery human pinwheel, knights of the Black Order gathered to welcome welcome home their friends, and enemies.
They began to sing, with a spirit that raised the hackles. It was the deep guttural power in the sound, an invocation to things buried, this chant like a great stretching yawn after many years asleep underground.
Now comes the new order to sweep away the old Now feel the sword’s kiss, the kiss of molten gold Now come the new men to paint the streets with red Now feel the sword’s joy, swollen with the dead
We were all drunk on it, and we followed blindly as we were led to a platform where a man in a red cowl, his face fully shadowed by his hood, held a sword redder than his cloak, brighter than all the torches. My blood sang at the sight of it. We were to be touched by it, I knew, and I knew it held human lives, who knew how many. I could feel it, the knowledge infused into me by the dead Testing sword. And who cared how many had died to fill it, who they were, why they had been killed? All I could see was the sword’s throbbing vitality, and I wondered how much of it I could take into myself tonight.
Each of us was marched up the steps, pushed to our knees before the hooded man, as if about to be executed. And the words of the song, dimly penetrating my ringing ears, seemed to confirm it.
Now you leave the old life, never to return Now embrace the fire, now the gods are spurned Now you are reborn Death, now you are the Sword Welcome to the Order, over life a Lord
This time the touch was not to the crook of the arm, but to the jugular vein. Each of us touched, stunned with pleasure, dragged off the platform.
My turn came. I was shoved to my knees and never did a man go to his death with more joy. The sword met my neck and I could feel my blood sing. And for a second the great surge of life rushed into me, pumping through my veins, to every nerve and hair on my body. My lungs expanded and I took a huge, gasping breath. Ahhhhh, the sword sang, feeling me, knowing me, as the first one had, but then something happened. My veins went from hot to cold as I felt a painful change in the current’s direction.
You gave of the blood, the sword hissed. You gave! You gave your power away! Suddenly I felt the life sapping out of me, the sword’s contempt for my gesture to Balin turning it into my would-be destroyer. I struggled for breath but none came; I felt myself age, felt all my confidence and invulnerability and certainty and strength flow out of me, leaving only a husk – dead gods, I thought, what a horrible death to give a man. As the sword shrieked at me, something in me snapped. “It is mine!” I grunted with what breath I had left. “It is my birthright, my power, to do with as I see fit! I will it!” And with that, the power rushed back into me, and the sword flew backwards, almost out of the hands of the hooded man, repulsed by some electric charge between us.