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Authors: David Eddings

The Ruby Knight

BOOK: The Ruby Knight
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Voyager

David Eddings
The Ruby Knight
The Elenium
Book Two

For Young Mike ‘put it in the car'
and for Peggy ‘what happened to my balloons'

Contents

Prologue

It was in the twenty-fifth century when the hordes of…

Part One:
Lake Randera

Chapter 1

It was well after midnight, and a dense grey fog…

Chapter 2

The fog was even thicker when they gathered in the…

Chapter 3

Sephrenia was tending a large, ugly-looking bruise on Berit's upper…

Chapter 4

The castle of Baron Alstrom was situated on a rocky…

Chapter 5

The booming crash of boulders slamming against the walls of…

Chapter 6

‘We'll need to go to the highest point in your…

Chapter 7

The toll bridge was narrow and in some disrepair. A…

Chapter 8

The ancient battlefield at Lake Randera in north central Lamorkand…

Chapter 9

Ulath walked over to where Tynian sat on the wet…

Part Two:
Ghasek

Chapter 10

The rain was slackening, and a fitful breeze was coming…

Chapter 11

They slept late the following morning. Sparhawk awoke before daybreak,…

Chapter 12

Their mood was very bleak the following morning as they…

Chapter 13

Because the road they proposed to follow was reputed to…

Chapter 14

The corridor into which the surly gate-guard led them was…

Chapter 15

‘How did she get out of that tower?' Sparhawk asked…

Chapter 16

They removed their armour and put on the plain workmen's…

Chapter 17

‘I am eternally in your debt, my friends,' Ghasek said…

Part Three:
The Troll Cave

Chapter 18

‘Was that really Azash?' Kalten asked in awe.

Chapter 19

Sparhawk sat in the room he shared with Kalten, poring…

Chapter 20

They dragged the husk of the Seeker off the road…

Chapter 21

Promptly at noon, King Soros of Pelosia called a halt.

Chapter 22

It seemed that it took them two more weeks to…

Chapter 23

It was that same peculiarly drowsy melody Flute had played…

Chapter 24

They rode out at first light, circled through the forest…

Chapter 25

The cave had the musty smell of long-damp earth and…

A history of the House of Sparhawk
From the Chronicles of the Pandion Brotherhood

It was in the twenty-fifth century when the hordes of Otha of Zemoch invaded the Elene kingdoms of western Eosia and swept all before them with fire and sword in their march to the west. Otha appeared invincible until his forces were met on the great, smoke-shrouded battlefield at Lake Randera by the combined armies of the western kingdoms and the concerted might of the Knights of the Church. The battle there in central Lamorkand is said to have raged for weeks before the invading Zemochs were finally pushed back and turned to flee for their own borders.

The victory of the Elenes was thus complete, but fully half of the Church Knights lay slain upon the battlefield, and the armies of the Elene kings numbered their dead by the scores of thousands. When the victorious but exhausted survivors returned to their homes, they faced an even grimmer foe – the famine which is one of the common results of war.

The famine in Eosia endured for generations, threatening at times to depopulate the continent. Inevitably, social organization began to break down, and political chaos reigned in the Elene kingdoms. Rogue barons paid only lip service to their oaths of fealty to their kings. Private disputes often resulted in ugly little wars, and open banditry was common. These conditions generally prevailed until well into the early years of the twenty-seventh century.

It was in this time of turmoil that an acolyte appeared at the gates of our Mother-house at Demos expressing an earnest desire to become a member of our order. As his training began, our Preceptor soon realized that this young postulant, Sparhawk by name, was no ordinary man. He quickly outstripped his fellow novices and even mastered seasoned Pandions on the practice field. It was not merely his physical prowess, however, which so distinguished him, since his intellectual gifts were also towering. His aptitude for the secrets of Styricum was the delight of his tutor in those arts, and the aged Styric instructor guided his pupil into areas of magic far beyond those customarily taught the Pandion Knights. The Patriarch of Demos was no less enthusiastic about the intellect of this novice, and by the time Sir Sparhawk had won his spurs, he was also skilled in the intricacies of philosophy and theological disputation.

It was at about the time that Sir Sparhawk was knighted that the youthful King Antor ascended the Elenian throne in Cimmura, and the lives of the two young men soon became intricately intertwined. King Antor was a rash, even foolhardy youth, and an outbreak of banditry along his northern border enraged him to the point where he threw caution to the winds and mounted a punitive expedition into that portion of his kingdom with a woefully inadequate force. When word of this reached Demos, the Preceptor of the Pandion Knights dispatched a relief column to rush north to the King's aid, and among the knights in that column was Sir Sparhawk.

King Antor was soon far out of his depth. Although no one can dispute his personal bravery, his lack of experience often led him into serious tactical and strategic blunders. Since he was oblivious to the alliances between the various bandit barons of the northern marches, he oft-times led his men against one of them without giving
thought to the fact that another was very likely to come to the aid of his ally. Thus, King Antor's already seriously outnumbered force was steadily whittled down by surprise attacks directed at the rear of his army. The barons of the north gleefully outflanked him again and again as he charged blindly forward, and they steadily decimated his reserves.

And so it stood when Sparhawk and the other Pandion Knights arrived in the war-zone. The armies which had been so sorely pressing the young king were largely untrained, a rabble recruited from local robber-bands. The barons who led them fell back to take stock of the situation. Although their numbers were still overwhelming, the reputed skill of the Pandions on the battlefield was something to be taken into account. A few of their number, made rash by their previous successes, urged their allies to press the attack, but older and wiser men advised caution. It is certain that a fair number of the barons, young and old alike, saw the way to the throne of Elenia opening before them. Should King Antor fall in battle, his crown might easily become the property of any man strong enough to wrest it from his companions.

The barons' first attacks on the combined forces of the Pandions and King Antor's troops were tentative, more in the nature of tests of the strength and resolve of the Church Knights and their allies. When it became evident that the response was in large measure defensive, these assaults grew more serious, and ultimately there was a pitched battle not far from the Pelosian border. As soon as it became evident that the barons were committing their full forces to the struggle, the Pandions reacted with their customary savagery. The defensive posture they had adopted during the first probing attacks had been clearly a ruse designed to lure the barons into an all-out confrontation.

The battle raged for the better part of a spring day, and late in the afternoon when bright sunlight flooded the field, King Antor became separated from the troops of his household guard. He found himself horseless and hard-pressed, and he resolved to sell his life as dearly as possible. It was at this point that Sir Sparhawk entered the fray. He quickly cut his way through to the king's side, and, in the fashion as old as the history of warfare, the two stood back to back, holding off their foes. The combination of Antor's headstrong bravery and Sparhawk's skill was convincing enough to hold their enemies at bay until, by mischance, Sparhawk's sword was broken. With triumphant shouts the force encircling the two rushed in for the kill. This proved to be a fatal error.

Snatching a short, broad-bladed battle-spear from one of the fallen, Sparhawk decimated the ranks of the charging troops. The culmination of the struggle came when the swarthy-faced baron who had been leading the attack rushed in to slay the sorely wounded Antor and died with Sparhawk's spear in his vitals. The baron's fall demoralized his men. They fell back and ultimately fled the scene.

Antor's wounds were grave, and Sparhawk's only slightly less so. Exhausted, the two sank side by side to the ground as evening settled over the field. It is impossible to reconstruct the conversation of the two wounded men there on that bloody field during the early hours of the night, since in later years neither would reveal what had passed between them. What is known, however, is that at some point during their discussions, they traded weapons. Antor bestowed the royal sword of Elenia upon Sir Sparhawk and took in exchange the battle-spear with which Sir Sparhawk had saved his life. The king was to cherish that rude weapon to the end of his days.

It was nearly midnight when the two injured men saw a torch approaching through the darkness, and, not knowing if the torch-bearer was friend or foe, they struggled to their feet and wearily prepared to defend themselves. The one who approached, however, was not an Elene, but was rather a white-robed and hooded Styric woman. Wordlessly, she tended their wounds. Then she spoke to them briefly in a lilting voice and gave them the pair of rings which have come to symbolize their lifelong friendship. Tradition has it that the oval stones set in the rings were as pale as diamond when the two received them, but that their mingled blood permanently stained the stones, and they appear to this day to be deep red rubies. Once she had done this, the mysterious Styric woman turned without a further word and walked off into the night, her white robe glowing in the moonlight.

As misty dawn lightened the field, the troops of Antor's household guard and a number of Sparhawk's fellow Pandions found the two wounded men at last, and they were borne on litters to our Mother-house here at Demos. Their recovery consumed months, and by the time they were well enough to travel, they were fast friends. They went by easy stages to Antor's capital at Cimmura, and there the king made a startling announcement. He declared that henceforth the Pandion Sparhawk would be his champion and that so long as both their families survived, the descendants of Sparhawk would serve the rulers of Elenia in that capacity.

As inevitably happens, the king's court at Cimmura was filled with intrigues. The various factions, however, were taken aback somewhat by the appearance at court of the grim-faced Sir Sparhawk. After a few tentative attempts to enlist his support for this or that faction had been sternly rebuffed, the courtiers uncomfortably
concluded that the King's Champion was incorruptible. Moreover, the friendship between the king and Sparhawk made the Pandion Knight the King's confidant and closest adviser. Since Sparhawk, as we have pointed out, had a towering intellect, he easily saw through the oft-times petty scheming of the various officials at court and brought them to the attention of his less-gifted friend. Within a year, the court of King Antor had become remarkably free of corruption as Sparhawk imposed his own rigid morality upon those around him.

Of even greater concern to the various political factions in Elenia was the growing influence of the Pandion order in the kingdom. King Antor was profoundly grateful, not only to Sir Sparhawk, but also to his champion's brother knights. The King and his friend journeyed often to Demos to confer with the Preceptor of our order, and major policy decisions were more often made in the Mother-house than in the chambers of the royal council where courtiers had customarily dictated royal policy with an eye more to their own advantage than to the good of the kingdom.

Sir Sparhawk married in middle life, and his wife soon bore him a son. At Antor's request, the child was also named Sparhawk, a tradition which, once established, has continued unbroken in the family to this very day. When he had reached a suitable age, the younger Sparhawk entered the Pandion Mother-house to begin the training for the position he would one day fill. To their fathers' delight, young Sparhawk and Antor's son, the crown prince, had become close friends during their boyhood, and the relationship between king and champion was thus ensured to continue unbroken.

When Antor, filled with years and honours, lay on his death-bed, his last act was to bestow his ruby ring and the short, broad-bladed spear upon his son, and at the
same time the elder Sparhawk passed his ring and the royal sword on to
his
son. This tradition has also persisted down to this very day.

It is widely believed among the common people of Elenia that for so long as the friendship between the royal family and the house of Sparhawk persists, the kingdom will prosper and that no evil can befall it. Like many superstitions, this one is to some degree based in fact. The descendants of Sparhawk have always been gifted men, and in addition to their Pandion training, they have also received special instruction in statecraft and diplomacy, the better to prepare them for their hereditary task.

Of late, however, there has been a rift between the royal family and the house of Sparhawk. The weak King Aldreas, dominated by his ambitious sister and the Primate of Cimmura, rather coldly relegated the current Sparhawk to the lesser, even demeaning position as caretaker of the person of Princess Ehlana – possibly in the hope that the champion would be so offended that he would renounce his hereditary position. Sir Sparhawk, however, took his duties seriously and educated the child who would one day be queen in those areas which would prepare her to rule.

When it became obvious that Sparhawk would not willingly give up his post, Aldreas, at the instigation of his sister and Primate Annias, sent the Knight Sparhawk into exile in the Kingdom of Rendor.

Upon the death of King Aldreas, his daughter Ehlana ascended the throne as queen. Hearing this news, Sparhawk returned to Cimmura only to find that his young queen was gravely ill and that her life was being sustained only by a spell cast by the Styric sorceress Sephrenia – a spell, however, which could keep Ehlana alive for no more than a year.

In consultation, the Preceptors of the four militant orders of Church Knights decided that the four orders must work in concert to discover a cure for the queen's illness and to restore her to health and power, lest the corrupt Primate Annias achieve his goal, the throne of the Archprelacy in the basilica of Chyrellos. To that end, the Preceptors of the Cyrinics, the Alciones and the Genidians dispatched their own champions to join with the Pandion Sparhawk and his boyhood friend Kalten to seek out the cure which would not only restore Queen Ehlana, but also her kingdom, which suffers in her absence with a grave malaise.

Thus it stands. The restoration of the queen's health is vital not only to the Kingdom of Elenia, but to the other Elene kingdoms as well, for should the venial Primate Annias gain the Archprelate's throne, we may be sure that the Elene kingdoms will be wracked by turmoil; and our ancient foe, Otha of Zemoch, stands poised on our eastern frontier ready to exploit any divisions or chaos. The cure of the queen who is so near to death, however, may daunt even her champion and his stalwart companions. Pray for their success, my brothers, for should they fail, the whole of the Eosian continent will inevitably fall into general warfare, and civilization as we know it will cease to exist.

BOOK: The Ruby Knight
5.47Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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