The Blinding Knife (Lightbringer #2)

by Brent Weeks

Chapter 1

Gavin Guile lay on his back on a narrow skimmer floating in the middle of the sea. It was a tiny craft with low sides. Lying on his back like this, he’d once almost believed he was one with the sea. Now the dome of the heavens above him was a lid, and he a crab in the cauldron, heat rising.

Two hours before noon, here on the southern rim of the Cerulean Sea, the waters should be a stunning deep blue-green. The sky above, cloudless, mist burned off, should be a peaceful, vibrant sapphire.

But he couldn’t see it. Since he’d lost the Battle of Garriston four days ago, wherever there was blue, he saw gray. He couldn’t even see that much unless he concentrated. Robbed of its blue, the sea looked like thin, gray-green broth.

His fleet was waiting. Hard to relax when thousands of people were waiting for you and only you, but he needed this measure of peace.

He looked to the heavens, arms spread, touching the waves with his fingertips.

Lucidonius, were you here? Were you even real? Did this happen to you, too?

Something hissed in the water, a sound like a boat cutting through the waves.

Gavin sat up on his skimmer. Then stood.

Fifty paces behind him, something disappeared under the waves, something big enough to cause its own swell. It could have been a whale.

Except whales usually surface to breathe. There was no spray hanging in the air, no whoosh of expelled breath. And from fifty paces, for Gavin to have heard the hiss of a sea creature cutting through the water, it would have to be massive. His heart leapt to his throat.

He began sucking in light to draft his oar apparatus—and froze. Right beneath his tiny craft, something was moving through the water. It was like watching the landscape speed by when you’re riding in a carriage, but Gavin wasn’t moving. The rushing body was huge, many times the width of his craft, and it was undulating closer and closer to the surface, closer to his own little boat. A sea demon.

And it glowed. A peaceful, warm radiance like the sun itself on this cool morning.

Gavin had never heard of such a thing. Sea demons were monsters, the purest, craziest form of fury known to mankind. They burned red, boiled the seas, left fires floating in their wake. Not carnivores, so far as the old books guessed, but fiercely territorial—and any interloper that disrupted their seas was to be crushed. Interlopers like ships.

This light was different than that rage. A peaceful luminescence, the sea demon no vicious destroyer but a leviathan traversing the seas, leaving barely a ripple to note his passing. The colors shimmered through the waves, grew brighter as the undulation brought the body close.

Unthinking, Gavin knelt as the creature’s back broke the surface of the water right underneath his boat. Before the boat slid away from the swell, he reached out and touched the sea demon’s skin. He expected a creature that slid through the waves to be slimy, but the skin was surprisingly rough, muscular, warm.

For one precious moment, Gavin was not. There was no Gavin Guile, no Dazen Guile, no High Luxlord Prism, no scraping sniveling dignitaries devoid of dignity, no lies, no satraps to be bullied, no Spectrum councilors to manipulate, no lovers, no bastards, no power except the power before his eyes. He felt small, staring into incomprehensible vastness.

Cooled by the gentle morning breeze, warmed by the twin suns, one in the sky, one beneath the waves, Gavin was serene. It was the closest thing to a holy moment he had ever experienced.

And then he realized the sea demon was swimming toward his fleet.

Chapter 2

The green hell was calling him to madness. The dead man was back in the reflective wall, luminous, grinning at Dazen, features squeezed skeleton-thin by the curving walls of the spherical green cell.

The key was to not draft. After sixteen years of drafting only blue, of altering mind and damaging body with that loathsome cerulean serenity, now having escaped the blue cell, Dazen wanted nothing more than to gorge on some other color. It was like he’d eaten breakfast gruel morning, noon, and night for six thousand days, and now someone was offering him a rasher of bacon.

He hadn’t even liked bacon, back when he’d been free. Now it sounded lovely. He wondered if that was the fever, turning his thoughts to sludge and emotion.

Funny how he thought that: ‘Back when he’d been free.’ Not ‘Back when he’d been Prism.’

He wasn’t sure if it was because he was still telling himself that he was the Prism whether he was in royal robes or rancid rags, or if it simply didn’t matter anymore.

Dazen tried to look away, but everything was green. To have his eyes open was to be dipping his feet in green. No, he was up to his neck in water and trying to get dry. There was no hope of dryness. He had to know that and accept it. The only question wasn’t if he was going to get his hair wet, it was if he was going to drown.

Green was all wildness, freedom. That logical part of Dazen that had basked in blue’s orderliness knew that sucking up pure wildness while locked up in this luxin cage would lead to madness. Within days he’d claw out his own throat. Pure wildness, here, would be death. He would finally accomplish his brother’s objective for him.

He needed to be patient. He needed to think, and thinking was hard right now. He examined his body slowly, carefully. His hands and knees were lacerated from his crawl through the hellstone tunnel. The bumps and bruises from his fall through the trapdoor and into this cell he could ignore. They were painful, but inconsequential. Most worrisome was the inflamed, infected slash across his chest. It nauseated him just looking at it, oozing pus and promises of death.

Worst was the fever, corrupting his very blood, making him stupid, irrational, sapping his will.

But Dazen had escaped the blue prison, and that prison had changed him. His brother had crafted these prisons quickly, and probably put most of his efforts into that first, blue one. Every prison had a flaw.

The blue prison had made him the perfect man to find it. Death or freedom.

In his reflective green wall, the dead man said, “You taking bets?”

Chapter 3

Gavin sucked in light to start making his rowing apparatus. Unthinking, he tried to draft blue. While brittle, blue’s stiff, slick, smooth structure made it ideal for parts that didn’t undergo sideways stresses. For a futile moment, Gavin tried to force it, again. He was a Prism made flesh; alone out of all drafters, he could split light within himself. The blue was there—he knew it was there, and maybe knowing it was there, even though he couldn’t see, might be enough.

For Orholam’s sake, if you could find your chamber pot in the middle of the night and, despite that you couldn’t see it, the damned thing was still there, why couldn’t this be the same?

Nothing. No rush of harmonious logic, no cool rationality, no stained blue skin, no drafting whatsoever. For the first time since he was a boy, he felt helpless. Like a natural man. Like a peasant.

Gavin screamed at his helplessness. It was too late for the oars anyway. That son of a bitch was swimming too fast.

He drafted the scoops and the reeds. Blue worked better to make the jets for a skimmer, but naturally flexible green could serve if he made it thick enough. The rough green luxin was heavier and created more drag against the water, so he was slower, but he didn’t have the time or attention to make it from yellow. Precious seconds passed while he prepared his skimmer.

Then the scoops were in hand and he began throwing luxin down into the jets, blasting air and water out the back of his little craft and propelling himself forward. He leaned far forward, shoulders knotting with the effort; then, as he picked up speed, the effort eased. Soon his craft was hissing across the waves.