The dark defiles.
They lead here, all of them. This is where they empty out, and he chose to follow them to their end. He was not brought here, he asked to come.
The ikinri ‘ska.
The ancient, silent walkways at An-Monal, the stilled machines. The watchful spirits that lived in the walls. The Helmsmen, the Warhelms, the naming of blades …
Bandgleam, Laughing Girl, Falling Angel, Quarterless and Wraithslayer, oh yes, Wraithslayer—
She took up the molten traceries the way she would the reins on a horse. She opened herself, finally, entirely, to the calling of the Kiriath steel.
She brought her knives, all of them.
She tore the wraith apart.
“She won’t do it, Helmsman, she doesn’t fucking want it. She’ll never turn on the Khimrans, they’re the keystone of everything her people built.”
“Yes, I believe I have taken that into account and allowed for it. Mechanisms are in place.”
A handful who still had mouths to talk with, and minds to recall, spoke of a race of beings within the Grey Space Beyond, alien things either summoned by some faction of warring mankind or simply drawn scuttling to the scent of the damage done—and these creatures were powerful beyond belief. Some said they appeared in some strange way to be repairing the wounds gouged in the fabric of the world, others that they merely waited outside the boundaries of the real, biding their time for an invasion.
I am the Codes and the Binding Force, I am the Way and Means. I am the Chain that Holds the Source Restrained.
And for just a moment, out of nowhere, Ringil has a sudden flash of ikinri ‘ska vision. As if the sky splits open to spill fresh light in, and there’s the god, frozen in place like some storm-blasted tree on a heath, old and worn and hollowed out, nothing left living but the bark.
There are worse fates, are there not, than being forced into a place where your choice of acts is limited to those that cause your soul to burn the brightest?
“Hjel, then. Good. It is a strong name. I like it.”
“The Dark Defiles”
“We can swim to the shallows, yes; with practice we can step into places where time slows to a crawl, slows almost to a stopping point, even dances around itself in spirals. But however slow the crawl, we cannot actually stop time, and nor can we turn it back. What is done, cannot be undone. You will have to accept this as truth.”
Gil becomes Dakovash and may have been Dakovash all along. Hjel is another version of Gil, but the Bookkeeper (and the accidental name change at birth) chose a different path for the dispossessed Prince.