The Blood Mirror (Lightbringer #4)

by Brent Weeks

Chapter 1

Like a house slave sweeping dirt into a pile, Orholam had heaped together all the earth’s horrors and sin. Whistling a nursery song, he gathered barbarities and cruelties and outrages as Gavin lay on his back in the center of it all, arms spread, thrashing against his bonds. Dustpan filled to overflowing with creosote sins, Orholam turned toward Gavin for the first time.

As he turned, his face was blinding bright, unknowable, a miasma of razor-edged light, but at the corner of his mouth, his beard twitched with a torturer’s glee.

“Servient omnes,” Orholam said. All shall serve.

He upended his dustpan over Gavin’s face. Gavin screamed, but his words were taken from him like silk torn from the spool in a spider’s gut, unwinding until it snapped inside him, leaving him empty and shattered inside. He tried to turn, twist, look away, but his eyes were propped open. There was no escaping the bulbous, congealed ordure schloomping toward his eye.

The whole mass fell. And as it fell, it caught fire and burnt in the air, sizzling, spattering, spitting angrily.

And afire, all the world’s sin fell into Gavin’s eye and set his orb aflame. The fire sank sizzling into his socket, gases escaping, tssst, like a sigh from a disappointed father at his failure son.

And the fire lodged in his eye, burning, and he screamed for ages past counting, until his throat was raw and tongue was dry, until deserts blew barren sands into snow, and his attempts to shriek faded, and his skin grew hard and cracked, and the burning shard impaled him, pinning him to the world, cooled by temperature’s reckoning but not by pain’s, and the shard crystallized, and the smoke cleared, and impaling Gavin’s blind eye was a black prism.

Gasping, Gavin woke from his dream to find himself in darkness. But his arms jerked hard against iron manacles.

He was shackled to a table, arms extended. The nightmare wasn’t over.

The nightmare had just begun.

Chapter 2

Teia lowered the silk noose toward her damnation. Rope spooled out from careful fingers toward the anxious woman quietly working at the desk below. The target was perhaps thirty, wearing a slave’s dress, her copper-colored hair pulled up in a simple ponytail. As Teia watched, the woman folded a piece of the luxin-imbued flash paper that all her spies used. She paused and took a sip of an expensive whisky.

Don’t look up! Please don’t look up.

The woman was Prism Gavin Guile’s room slave. She was the White’s hidden spymistress. She was Teia’s former superior and her mentor. Marissia put down her whisky, and as she sealed the note, she said, “Orholam, forgive me.”

Teia was using the shimmercloak that Murder Sharp had given her, but because she was clinging to the ironwork on the ceiling, it hung away from her body, and it didn’t hide the dangling noose at all.

But Marissia didn’t look up. She put the note aside and pulled out another sheet of thin paper.

As her mentor leaned forward again, Teia dexterously flipped the noose over Marissia’s head and then dropped from the ceiling, holding the rope. Draped over a beam above, the noose jerked tight around Marissia’s throat and hauled her to her feet. The sharp movement flung her chair backward just as Teia, holding the other end, swung down and forward. The falling chair cracked across Teia’s shins a moment before she crashed into Marissia.

Somehow Teia kept from releasing the rope, and she didn’t cry out. Marissia was choking, grabbing at her neck, scrambling to get her feet under her.

Amazing how pain shuts down your thinking. If Teia hadn’t just gotten her shins destroyed, there were a dozen things she would have done. Instead she clung stupidly to the rope, gasping, tears springing from her eyes, face-to-face with her old superior.

As Marissia regained her feet, Teia saw the problem: she wasn’t as heavy as Marissia. Marissia noticed it, too. Though gagging, she grabbed the rope above her head and pulled down with all her strength.

Something shimmered in the corner of Teia’s eye, and Murder Sharp became visible as he took quick steps across the carpet. He buried a fist in Marissia’s stomach.

Marissia’s strangled cough blew spit across Teia’s face. The slave woman went slack. In quick motions, Sharp took the noose from Teia, threw a sack over Marissia’s head, and bound Marissia’s hands behind her back in such a way that any move she made to escape would tighten the noose around her neck.

Master Sharp was gifted with knots.

He forced Marissia to her knees and checked once more that she could breathe—all the fight had gone out of her.

“Not good,” Master Sharp said, turning back to Teia. He was a lean man with sharp features, orange-red hair, and a short beard the color of fire. His most remarkable features, though, were his teeth and his too-big, too-frequent smile, which he flashed now joylessly, from mere habit. Usually the teeth he revealed with that smile were too white and too perfect. On most hunts, he wore dentures made of predators’ teeth. But today, perhaps because his mission wasn’t to kill anyone, he wore dentures of beaver teeth—a full, disconcerting mouth of big, wide, flat incisors. They barely fit in his mouth.

“Not very good at all. But you kept her from destroying any of the papers,” he continued, “so I’ll accept it.”

“You were here the whole time?” Teia asked. She set the chair back upright to give herself a moment of not looking at the monster who was now her master. She massaged her aching shins. Orholam have mercy, those beaver teeth made her skin crawl.

“This is too important for me to let you bungle it. She was some kind of secretary for the Prism. Who knows what she has access to?”

Secretary? So the Order didn’t know what Marissia really was. Why, then, was it kidnapping her?

And why kidnapping? Teia had thought that the Order only killed people.

Not that it wouldn’t murder Marissia later.

Handing Teia the noose, Murder Sharp strode to the window to look down at the islands. Even from where she was, Teia could see a thick curl of black smoke rising to greet the morning sun.

Earlier this morning, their trainer Tremblefist had blown the black powder stores beneath the cannon tower so Kip and the rest of the Mighty could escape by sea. He’d probably given his life doing it. The squad had gotten away while Teia had chosen to stay here. And now she was doing this.

She was a fool.

“We’re lucky,” Sharp said. “The few Blackguards who weren’t already on the parade route have abandoned their posts to get down to that tower. Still, no time to waste. You watch her. Break her neck if she screams.”