Troy Denning: The Titan of Twilight

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Troy Denning The Titan of Twilight
  • Название:
    The Titan of Twilight
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    Фэнтези / на английском языке
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    Английский
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Troy Denning


The Titan of Twilight

Prologue

Through the still winds I sweep, silent as death. Below, the Vale: a crooked gorge of rock and snow forever clad in dusk’s ashen winter livery. One beat of my umbral wings, and I sail half its immense length. The forlorn halls of Bleak Palace pass beneath my breast, a grim memorial to my ancient hubris. Two beats, and a craggy wall looms ahead. An insufferable yearning as cold as it is deep shudders through my tenebrous body. I long to soar over the cliff top, to fly into blue midnight and let slip this eternal eventide.

Instead, I dip a wing and bank. I circle back the way I came, as I have done a thousand times more than there are stones upon the land, and I listen to your voices. For an immeasurable eternity, they have poured through my head in an endless, ghastly rain-all the profane things you whisper when no one is listening, no one but me:

“Of course, you don’t have to, my dear! But if you like this shiny necklace…”

“… where the lady stores her jewels-and if you want the key, I need my money…”

“… tonight, my love. Strangle her while she sleeps, and we’ll always be…”

Does it surprise you to know I am listening? It shouldn’t. Your sinister whisperings come to me from all the black corners of your dark, distant world; at times they fill my head with such a profane, raucous rustling that I cannot hear my own thoughts.

And even I–I, Lanaxis, the Titan of Twilight; mother-murderer and eternal prisoner of shadow; founder of Ostoria, Empire of Giants-even I cannot silence your voices. The gods have proclaimed that I must listen, and I dare not defy them. They are trying to tell me something-something momentous, I am sure.

Unbalanced? Demented? Will you call me mad?

Listen.

Aren’t my words ringing inside your head?

Yes, yes! Now you understand. We’re all mad, each of us. The voices make us that way; deranged and maniacal, quite possibly dangerous-but you more than me. I am, after all, chosen of the gods.

And suddenly I, Lanaxis the Chosen One, am sitting alone upon the crumbling steps of my palace, staring, as is my habit, into the eternal dusk above. Where the moon should hang is an enormous green eye. For a moment I am bewildered; then I realize what has happened: I have slipped free of the moment and settled in the past, sometime during the Time of Troubles, when the gods walked the land and chaos ruled Toril. It is, as always, impossible to know the date more exactly.

And truly, it doesn’t matter. Time has lost its meaning. Since long before the first human kingdoms arose in the south lands, twilight has hung in this vale. The dusk is as perpetual and still as the heavens themselves. Never does night fall, nor the sun rise to herald a new dawn. There are no days by which to tally the tenday; no tendays to track the months. In this valley, the season never changes. The years pass without notice; they blur into decades; the decades into centuries; the centuries into decades of centuries. Life has become an endless series of moments that add up to nothing.

It is no wonder that I have slipped the currents of time, that I flit in and out of the eternal river like a dipping gull.

A bird’s shadow appears on the snowy ground ahead. I look up and see a roc, as large as a cloud, soaring across the vale. Well do I remember the flavor of the raptor’s meat-lean and wild, with a spicy tang that tickles the roof of the mouth.

I leap up and hurl a splintered pillar at the bird. As swift as a lightning bolt, the shaft flashes across the sky to bury itself in the raptor’s breast. The creature screeches and reels. It dives, talons extended to exact revenge, but even a roc is no match for a titan’s spear. The life seeps from its wings, and it rolls over to plummet toward me in a limp bundle of feathers.

But the gods would deny me even this simple feast. As the bird’s shadow sweeps across my head, the great carcass dissolves into glimmering golden twinkles. A cold, tingling energy seeps into my body. Black, incorporeal feathers sprout along the edges of my arms, and my feet change into the talons of a great, shadowy raptor. Overwhelmed by the urge to launch myself into the sky, I beat the air with my umbral wings and rise into the purple twilight.

Thus is the shadowroc born, and still I have not decided whether it is the gift of the gods or their curse. How I long to flee this valley! How I yearn to soar over distant lands and see what has become of the world my brothers and I ruled!

Now I am with them again: Nicias and Masud, dynast of cloud giants and khan of fire giants, and also Vilmos, paramount of storm giants, Ottar, jarl of frost giants, and others too numerous to name. We stand beside the bubbling waters of the Well of Health, in the longest and most majestic colonnade of Bleak Palace, the largest and most exalted of the citadels of the Sons of Annam.

I have slipped far into the past, to that fateful moment I live again and again, to the moment I have already endured a thousand times and am doomed to suffer ten thousand times more. My brothers will not meet my gaze, and I know it falls to me alone to save Ostoria from our mother’s faithless treachery. I feel the Mother Queen’s rumbling approach, and the poison is quick from my hand to the well.

Othea arrives, her shadow plunging the entire colonnade into twilight. She is as large as a mountain, with hips like hillocks and a bosom of craggy buttresses. Her eyes are black, like caves, and her white hair billows off her head like a plume of snow.

I bid my two-headed servant, the ettin, to carry a chalice of water to Othea, but she will not drink. Her craggy mouth twitches at the corners, and she declares my brothers will drink with her. My mind fills with a white haze, thoughts sailing through it like wind-driven snow. A warning to my brothers would be a warning to Othea. Perhaps she knows what I have done? Is she testing me, to see if I will sacrifice my brothers to poison her?

I must. I will play this game to the end. Othea is the wife who cuckolds her husband, who loves her paramours’ bastard races more than she loves us, who would give our empire to the children of her lovers.

I command my servant to bring chalices for my guests, and with my own hand I fill each cup. The tray shakes in the ettin’s grasp. The ettin knows what I have poured into the well, but neither head speaks. They carry the goblets to my guests. I watch my brothers drink.

Yes, Othea drank too. I have slipped the moment again. I am once more the shadowroc, flying back and forth in the Vale, a lump of ice where my heart should be. The sensation is very clear to me, even thousands of years later; as my brothers fell dead, the blood in my veins turned to half-frozen slush. I began to shiver uncontrollably, my skin grew icy and numb, and the tears rolling down my cheeks stung like windblown sleet. I thought I had saved Ostoria.

Of course, I was wrong. Othea had already laid her curse on me, as she told me with her last, rattling breaths: her shadow will lie over Bleak Palace forever, filling me with a cold, sick regret for what I have done. I am free to leave, but when I do-this is the true treachery-when I do, I will become mortal. I will grow old and infirm; eventually I will die. The choice is mine: to spend eternity in cold twilight, or to sacrifice my immortality.

I have endured longer than Mother expected, I am sure.

It has not been easy. I have sat paralyzed for whole centuries, staring at a single stone between my feet, caught in the grip of a despair so profound that I remained in Othea’s shadow only because I lacked the will to flee. But I did endure, and now I know I was never truly alone. The gods were watching over me; it was they who kept my feet rooted to the stones when I could think of no reason to remain. They have decreed a special destiny for me, and the time is close when I will fulfill their purpose.

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