“Gifts at the crossroads are not cheap,” Hjel says quietly. “Everyone must pay. And most of us heal somewhat with time.”
“I am Welcomed in the Home of Ravens and Other Scavengers in the Wake of Warriors,” Ringil recited for him, hollowly. “I am Friend to Carrion Crows and Wolves. I am Carry Me and Kill with Me, and Die with Me Where the Road Ends. I am not the Honeyed Promise of Length of Life in Years to Come, I am the Iron Promise of Never Being a Slave.”
“The Cold Commands”
Ringil blinks. The flattened disk is a three-elemental piece, struck with the face of Akal the Great and worn dull with age. The ends of the chain are welded into it, and the coin itself looks to have melted badly in the process.
Out on the marsh, says the first voice, the boy. Salt in the wind.
He feels a fresh pulse beating in his throat. He stares about him, at the sacrificed and the weeping abandoned, gathered in their tens of thousands.
You’d better run, says the second voice, but he knows, with sudden warm assurance, that the warning is not for him. He can feel a strength growing in his hands like iron tools and the cold is burning off him now, replaced by furnace glow within. He looks at Hjel and sees, in the shadow of the hat brim, the tight grin still on the scavenger prince’s face.
Very distantly, he thinks he hears Seethlaw howl.
His lip curls off his teeth, as if in answer.
Do I look like a fucking slave to you? the third voice asks.
Ringil’s face twists. A muscle in his cheek jumps. He breathes in deeply, out again, and a fresh wind seems to pick up across the plain of weeping, screaming souls. When he speaks, his voice still husks, but there’s a rasp in it now, an ugly edge of purpose.
“Where’s my sword?”