Robert Salvatore: The Ghost King

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Robert Salvatore The Ghost King
  • Название:
    The Ghost King
  • Автор:
  • Жанр:
    Фэнтези / на английском языке
  • Год:
    2009
  • Язык:
    Английский
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    4 / 5
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The Ghost King: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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Don't miss the gripping conclusion to Salvatore's best-selling Transitions trilogy! When the Spellplague ravages Faerûn, Drizzt and his companions are caught in the chaos. Seeking out the help of the priest Cadderly-the hero of the recently reissued series The Cleric Quintet-Drizzt finds himself facing his most powerful and elusive foe, the twisted Crenshinibon, the demonic crystal shard he believed had been destroyed years ago.

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The Ghost King

The third book in the Forgotten Realms: Transitions series

R.A. Salvatore

To Diane, of course, the love of my life who has walked through these years beside me and my dreams, and I beside her and hers.

But there is someone else who gets a big thank you for this book—five someones actually. This calling I have found, this purpose in my life, takes me places. It is my duty to let it, to follow it. Sometimes those journeys are not to places I want to go. Sometimes it hurts. When I finished Mortalis, the fourth book of my DemonWars series, during a terrible time in my life, I stated that I hoped I would never write a book like that again (though I considered it the best piece I had ever written), that I would never again have to go to that dark place.

When I started The Ghost King, I knew I had to go there, yet again. These characters, these friends of twenty years, demanded no less of me. And so I have spent the last months watching three videos, songs of my past from the band and songstress that have walked beside me for most of my life.

Stevie Nicks once asked in a song, “Has anyone ever written anything for you? And in your darkest hours, do you hear me sing?”

Ah, Ms. Nicks, you have been writing songs for me since my high school years in the 1970s, though you don’t know it. You were there with me during those lonely and confusing days in high school, those awakening moments of college. I watched the sun rise over Fitchburg State College, sitting in my car and waiting for my class to begin, to the sounds of “The Chain.” You were there with me during that blizzard in 1978 when I found the works of Tolkien and a whole new way of expressing myself suddenly came into view. You were there with me when I met the woman who would be my wife, and on the morning after our wedding, and at the births of our three children.

You went with us to hockey games and horse shows. To your concert at Great Woods went my family, and my brother even as he neared the end of his life.

And you were there with me as I wrote this book. “Sisters of the Moon,” “Has Anyone Ever Written Anything for You?” and “Rhiannon,” all three, the songs that took me through my darkest hours and now let me go back to that place, because my friends of two decades, the Companions of the Hall, demanded no less of me.

So thank you, Stevie Nicks, and Fleetwood Mac, for writing the music of my life.

— R. A. Salvatore

PRELUDE

The dragon issued a low growl and flexed his claws in close, curling himself into a defensive crouch. His eyes were gone, having been lost to the brilliant light bursting from a destroyed artifact, but his draconian senses more than compensated.

Someone was in his chamber—Hephaestus knew that beyond a doubt—but the beast could neither smell nor hear him.

“Well?” the dragon asked in his rumbling voice, barely a whisper for the beast, but it reverberated and echoed off the stone walls of the mountain cavern. “Have you come to face me or to hide from me?”

I am right here before you, dragon, came the reply—not audibly, but in the wyrm’s mind.

Hephaestus tilted his great horned head at the telepathic intrusion and growled.

You do not remember me? You destroyed me, dragon, when you destroyed the Crystal Shard.

“Your cryptic games do not impress me, drow!”

Not drow.

That gave Hephaestus pause, and the sockets that once—not so long ago—housed his burned-out eyes widened.

“Illithid!” the dragon roared, and he breathed forth his murderous, fiery breath at the spot where he’d once destroyed the mind flayer and its drow companion, along with the Crystal Shard, all at once.

The fire blazed on and on, bubbling stone, heating the entire room. Many heartbeats later, fire still flowing, Hephaestus heard in his mind, Thank you.

Confusion stole the remaining breath from the dragon—confusion that lasted only an instant before a chill began to creep into the air around him, began to seep through his red scales. Hephaestus didn’t like the cold. He was a creature of flame and heat and fiery anger, and the high frosts bit at his wings when he flew out of his mountain abode in the wintry months.

But this cold was worse, for it was beyond physical frost. It was the utter void of emptiness, the complete absence of the heat of life, the last vestiges of Crenshinibon spewing forth the necromantic power that had forged the mighty relic millennia before.

Icy fingers pried under the dragon’s scales and permeated his flesh, leaching the life-force from the great beast.

Hephaestus tried to resist, growling and snarling, tightening sinewy muscles as if trying to repel the cold. A great inhale got the dragon’s inner fires churning, not to breathe forth, but to fight cold with heat.

The crack of a single scale hitting the stone floor resounded in the dragon’s ears. He swiveled his great head as if to view the calamity, though of course, he couldn’t see.

But Hephaestus could feel … the rot.

Hephaestus could feel death reaching into him, reaching through him, grasping his heart and squeezing.

His inhale puffed out in a gout of cold flame. He tried to draw in again, but his lungs would not heed the call. The dragon started to swing his head forward, but his neck gave out halfway and the great horned head bounced down onto the floor.

Hephaestus had perceived only darkness around him since the first destruction of the Crystal Shard, and now he felt the same inside.

Darkness.

* * * * *

Two flames flickered to life, two eyes of fire, of pure energy, of pure hatred.

And that alone—sight! — confused the blind Hephaestus. He could see!

But how?

The beast watched a blue light, a curtain of crawling lightning, crackle and sizzle its way across the slag floor. It had crossed the point of ultimate devastation, where the mighty artifact had long ago blasted loose its layers and layers of magic to blind Hephaestus, then again more recently, that very day, to emanate waves of murderous necromantic energy to assail the dragon and …?

And do what? The dragon recalled the cold, the falling scales, the profound sensation of rot and death. Somehow he could see again, but at what cost?

Hephaestus drew a deep breath, or tried to, but only then did the dragon realize that he was not drawing breath at all.

Suddenly terrified, Hephaestus focused on the point of cataclysm, and as the strange curtain of blue magic thinned, the beast saw huddled forms, once contained within, dancing about the remnants of their artifact home. Stooped low, backs hunched, the apparitions—the seven liches who had created the mighty Crenshinibon—circled and chanted ancient words of power long lost to the realms of Faerûn. A closer look revealed the many different backgrounds of these men of ancient times, the varied cultures and features from all across the continent. But from afar, they appeared only as similar huddled gray creatures, ragged clothes dripping dullness as if a gray mist flowed from their every movement. Hephaestus recognized them for what they were: the life force of the sentient artifact.

But they had been destroyed in the first blast of the Crystal Shard!

The beast did not lift his great head high on his serpentine neck to breathe forth catastrophe on the undead. He watched, and he measured. He took note of their cadence and tone, and recognized their desperation. They wanted to get back into their home, back into Crenshinibon, the Crystal Shard.

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