The Crimson Shadow

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THE CRIMSON SHADOW

A Thrilling Epic of Magic, Adventure, and Romance

“I admire Bob Salvatore tremendously . . . He gives us a world of depth and humanity, filled with color and sound and feeling and with heroes we can’t help but admire.”

—Tracy Hickman, New York Times bestselling coauthor of the Bronze Canticles Trilogy and the Deathgate Cycle

“Packed from cover to cover with high-spirited derring-do and the ring of crossed steel.”

—James Lowder, author of Prince of Lies

“Salvatore tells a story with exciting action scenes that contain great bantering dialogue reminiscent of Indiana Jones.”

—Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA)

“A worthy, entertaining addition to fantasy literature.”

—Starlog

“R. A. Salvatore makes a solid mark on the world of fantasy writing. The characters are rich, vibrant, and full of life. The story line is quick-paced and flowing.”

—Cryptych

BOOKS BY R. A. SALVATORE

Forgotten Realms® Book Series

Author of more than 20 novels including:

The Crystal Shard

Homeland

The Two Swords

Promise of the Witch King

DemonWars Series

The Demon Awakens

The Demon Spirit

The Demon Apostle

Mortalis

Ascendance

Transcendence

Immortalis

The Highwayman

Spearwielder’s Tale

Star Wars: Vector Prime

THE SWORD OF BEDWYR

To Betsy Mitchell, for all of her support and input, for showing me new potential and new directions. Enthusiasm truly is infectious.

And a special thank you to Wayne Chang, Donald Puckey, and Nancy Hanger. In a business as tough and competitive as this, it’s comforting to be working with such talented and dedicated people.

PROLOGUE

THESE ARE THE AVONSEA ISLANDS, rugged peaks and rolling hills, gentle rains and fierce winds blowing down from the glaciers across the Dorsal Sea. They are quiet Baranduine, land of folk and Fairborn, land of green and rainbows. They are the Five Sentinels, the Windbreakers, barren peaks, huge, horned sheep, and multicolored lichen that grows eerily when the sun has set. Let all seafarers beware the rocks of the channels near to the five!

They are Praetoria, most populous and civilized of the islands, where trade with the mainland is the way and cities dot the countryside.

And they are Eriador, untamed. She is a land of war, of hardy folk as familiar with sword as with plow. A land of clans, where loyalties run as deep as blood and to fight a man is to fight all his kin.

Eriador, untamed. Where the clouds hang low over rolling hills thick with green and the wind blows chill, even in the height of summer. Where the Fairborn, the elves, dance atop secret hills and rugged dwarves forge weapons that will inevitably taste of an enemy’s blood within a year.

The tales of barbarian raiders, the Huegoths, are long indeed, and many are the influences of that warlike people on the folk of Eriador. But never did the Huegoths hold the land, never did they enslave the folk of Eriador. It is said among the clans of both Eriador and the barbarian islands that one Eriadoran was killed for every slain Huegoth, a score that no other civilized people could claim against the mighty barbarians.

Down from the holes of the Iron Cross came the cyclopians, one-eyed brutes, savage and merciless. They swept across the land, burning and pillaging, murdering any who could not escape the thunder of their charge. And there arose in Eriador a leader among the clans, Bruce MacDonald, the Unifier, who brought together the men and women of the land and turned the tide of war. And when the western fields were clear, it is said that Bruce MacDonald himself carved a swath through the northern leg of the Iron Cross so that his armies could roll into the eastern lands and crush the cyclopians.

That was six hundred years ago.

From the sea came the armies of Gascony, vast kingdom south of the islands. And so