Crossroads of twilight

CONTENTS

MAPS

PROLOGUE: Glimmers of the Pattern

1 Time to Be Gone

2 Two Captains

3 A Fan of Colors

4 The Tale of a Doll

5 The Forging of a Hammer

6 The Scent of a Dream

7 Blacksmith’s Puzzle

8 Whirlpools of Color

9 Traps

10 A Blazing Beacon

11 Talk of Debts

12 A Bargain

13 High Seats

14 What Wise Ones Know

15 Gathering Darkness

16 The Subject of Negotiations

17 Secrets

18 A Chat with Siuan

19 Surprises

20 In the Night

21 A Mark

22 One Answer

23 Ornaments

24 A Strengthening Storm

25 When to Wear Jewels

26 In So Habor

27 What Must Be Done

28 A Cluster of Rosebuds

29 Something Flickers

30 What the Oath Rod Can Do

EPILOGUE: An Answer

GLOSSARY

And it shall come to pass, in the days when the Dark Hunt rides, when the right hand falters and the left hand strays, that mankind shall come to the Crossroads of Twilight and all that is, all that was, and all that will be shall balance on the point of a sword, while the winds of the Shadow grow.

—From The Prophecies of the Dragon,

translation believed done by Jain

Charin, known as Jain Farstrider,

shortly before his disappearance

PROLOGUE

Glimmers of the Pattern

Rodel Ituralde hated waiting, though he well knew it was the largest part of being a soldier. Waiting for the next battle, for the enemy to move, to make a mistake. He watched the winter forest and was as still as the trees. The sun stood halfway to its peak, and gave no warmth. His breath misted white in front of his face, frosting his neatly trimmed mustache and the black fox fur lining his hood. He was glad that his helmet hung at his pommel. His breastplate held the cold and radiated it through his coat and all the layers of wool, silk and linen beneath. Even Dart’s saddle felt cold, as though the white gelding were made of frozen milk. The helmet would have addled his brain.

Winter had come late to Arad Doman, very late, but with a vengeance. From summer heat that lingered unnaturally into fall, to winter’s heart in less than a month. The leaves that had survived the long summer’s drought had been frozen before they could change color, and now they glistened like strange, ice-covered emeralds in the morning sun. The horses of the twenty-odd armsmen around him occasionally stamped a hoof in the knee-deep snow. It had been a long ride this far, and they had farther to go whether this day turned out good or ill. Dark clouds roiled the sky to northward. He did not need his weather-wise there to tell him the temperature would plummet before nightfall. They had to be under shelter by then.

“Not as rough as winter before last, is it, my Lord?” Jaalam said quietly. The tall young officer had a way of reading Ituralde’s mind, and his voice was pitched for the others to hear. “Even so, I suppose some men would be dreaming of mulled wine about now. Not this lot, of course. Remarkably abstemious. They all drink tea, I believe. Cold tea. If they had a few birch switches, they’d be stripping down for snow baths.”

“They’ll have to keep their clothes on for the time being,” Ituralde replied dryly, “but they might get some cold tea tonight, if they’re lucky.” That brought a few chuckles. Quiet chuckles. He had chosen these men with care, and they knew about noise at the wrong time.

He himself could have done with a steaming cup of spiced wine, or even tea. But it was a long time since merchants had brought tea to Arad Doman. A long time since any outland merchant had ventured farther than the border with Saldaea. By the time news