The Broken Eye (Lightbringer #3)

by Brent Weeks

Chapter 1

The two Blackguards approached the White’s door, the younger rhythmically cracking the knuckles of his right fist nervously. The Greyling brothers stopped in front of the door, hesitated. Pop, pop, pop. Pop, pop, pop.

The elder brother, Gill, looked at his little brother, as if trying to emulate their commander’s sledge-gaze. Gavin hated it when Gill did that, but he quit popping his knuckles.

“We gain nothing by waiting,” Gill said. “Put that fist to use.”

It was early morning. The White usually didn’t emerge from her chambers for at least another two hours. With her declining health, the Blackguard were doing all they could to make the old woman’s last months easy.

“How come it’s always me who—” Gavin asked. At nineteen, Gill was two years older, but they were the same rank, and they’d been elevated to full Blackguard status at the same time.

“If you make her miss it because you’re arguing with me…” Gill let the threat hang. “Fist,” he said. It was an order.

Scowling, Gavin Greyling knocked on the door. After waiting the customary five seconds, he opened the door. The brothers stepped inside.

The White wasn’t in her bed. She and her room slave were praying, prostrate on the floor despite their age, facing the rising sun through the open doors to the balcony. Cold wind blew in around the two old women.

“High Mistress,” Gill said. “Your pardon. There’s something you must see.”

She looked at them, recognizing them immediately. Some of the nobles and luxlords didn’t treat the youngest of the full Blackguards seriously. It was a judgment that cut because it was partly deserved. Gavin knew that even a year ago, he wouldn’t have been promoted to full Blackguard at seventeen. But the White never treated him like he was beneath anyone. He would gladly die for her, even if someone told him that she’d die the next day of old age.

She broke off her prayers, and they helped her into her wheeled chair, but when the old room slave waddled over to close the balcony doors on bad hips, Gill stopped her.

“She needs to look from the balcony, caleen,” Gavin said.

Gavin wrapped the White in her blankets gently but efficiently. They’d learned exactly how much delicacy her pride would stand, and how much pain her body could. He pushed her out onto the balcony. She didn’t complain that she could do it herself. She would have, not long ago.

“In the bay,” Gill said.

Little Jasper Bay was resplendent below them. Today was the Feast of Light and Darkness, the equinox, and it was turning into one of those autumn days one hopes for: the air chilly, but the sky blindingly blue, the waters calm instead of their normal chop. The bay itself was conspicuously underpopulated. The fleet was still gone to fight the Color Prince at Ru and stop his advance. Gavin should have been there. Instead, he and three others had been sent back by skimmer on the eve of battle to report the fleet’s disposition and plans.

Surely by now, the battle had taken place, and all that remained was to wait to hear whether they should rejoice in their victory or brace for a war that would tear the Seven Satrapies apart. Thus the White’s prayers, Gavin supposed. Can you pray about the outcome of an event after the fact? Do they do anything then?

Do they do anything, ever?

The White waited silently, staring at the bay. Staring at nothing, Gavin was afraid. Had they interrupted her too late? But the White trusted them; she asked nothing, simply waited as the minutes stretched out.

And then, finally, a shape came around the bend of Big Jasper. At first, it was hard to get a sense of the size of the thing. It surfaced a hundred paces from the high walls ringing the entirety of Big Jasper, which were lined with people jostling one another to see. The sea demon was visible at first only by the wake it left, plowing waters to the left and the right.

As the sea demon came closer, it sped up. Its cruciform mouth, half open, swallowing the seas with its ring-shaped maw and jetting them out through its gills along the whole of its body, now opened full. With each big gulping pulse, its mouth opening wide now, water splashed out to the sides and back in great fans every fifty or so paces, then as the massive muscles contracted, the water behind it hissed with churned air and water.

The sea demon was approaching the seawall that protected West Bay. One galley was making a run for a gap in the seawall, trying to get out. With how fast the sea demon moved, the captain couldn’t have known it was precisely the wrong direction to go.

“The poor fool,” Gill muttered.

“Depends on if this is a coincidence or an attack,” the White said, eerily calm. “If it gets inside the seawall, they might be the only ones to escape.”

The galley slaves lifted their oars out of the water as one, trying to make as little disturbance on the seas as possible. Sea demons were territorial, but not predators.

The sea demon passed the galley and kept going. Gavin Greyling expelled a relieved breath and heard the others do the same. But then the sea demon dove, disappearing in a sudden cloud of mist.

When it reappeared, it was red-hot. The waters were boiling around it. It veered out to sea.

There was nothing they could do. The sea demon went out to sea, then it doubled back, accelerating. It aimed directly at the prow of the galley, as if it wanted the head-to-head collision with this challenger.

Someone swore under their breath.

The sea demon rammed the galley with tremendous speed. Several sailors flew off the deck: some into the sea, one flying until he crunched against the sea demon’s knobby, spiky head.

For an instant it looked like the ship would somehow hold together, and then the prow crumpled. Wood exploded in shards to every side. The masts snapped.

The entire galley—the half of it that was left—was pushed backward, ten paces, twenty, thirty, slapping huge fans of spray into the air. The sea demon’s forward progress was only briefly slowed. Then the galley was pushed down into the waves as that great hammerhead rose even higher out of the water and kept pushing. Abruptly, the ship’s fire-hardened wood hull shattered like a clay pot thrown against a wall.

The sea demon dove, and attached to that great spiky head by a hundred lines, the wreckage was dragged down with it.

A hundred paces away, a huge bubble of air surfaced as the last of the decks gave way underwater. But the ship never rose. Flotsam was all that remained, and not nearly as much of that as one would expect. The ship was simply gone. Perhaps half a dozen men out of a crew of hundreds were flailing in the waves. Most of them couldn’t swim. Gavin Greyling had learned to swim as part of his Blackguard training, and that most sailors couldn’t had always struck him as insanity.

“There,” Gill said, pointing. “You can see the trail of bubbles.”

The sea demon hadn’t gotten trapped inside the seawall, thank Orholam. But what it seemed to be heading for was worse.

“High Mistress,” a voice broke in behind them. It was Luxlord Carver Black, the man responsible for all the mundane details of running the Chromeria that didn’t fall under the White’s purview. He was a tall balding man in Ilytian hose and doublet, with olive skin. What remained of his long dark hair was streaked liberally with white. Gavin hadn’t noticed him. A Blackguard, and he hadn’t noticed. “Your pardon, I knocked but got no response. The beast has been circling the Jaspers, five times now. I’ve given orders for the guns on Cannon Island not to fire unless it attacked. They want to know if they should consider this an attack.” The defense of Little Jasper was technically in his portfolio, but Luxlord Black was a cautious administrator, and he liked to avoid blame wherever possible.