Bloodheir
given him gloves – gloves that had once belonged to the husband the Heart Fever took from her, as it had taken both of Iavin’s parents – and without them he suspected his hands would have been too cold to hold his spear. He rolled his shoulders, trying to loosen the stiff muscles.
    A point of light where there should have been none caught his eye. To the north, high up and far out in the heart of the Vale of Stones, a torch was burning. All else in that direction was utter darkness. There was no moonlight on this cloud-bound night. The yellowish fragment of fire bobbed like a solitary bright moth. Iavin blinked, suspicious that his cold and exhausted eyes were playing tricks. But the light remained, and one by one others appeared.
    Iavin heard a muffled call from somewhere along the wall, and answering shouts. He was not imagining it, then. Others were seeing the same thing. Even as he watched, any last vestiges of doubt were dispelled. A long tongue of fire was slowly winding its way over a saddle in the pass. Scores of torches, carried by scores of hands, were coming south through the falling snow.
    Horns sounded to call Tanwrye’s captains to the walls. There were signs of movement amongst the besieging army, too. Figures passed to and fro in front of the campfires, orders were shouted. And the torches flowing out of the Vale of Stones were in the hundreds now. Iavin watched the fiery river in a kind of numb amazement. It was almost beautiful, this vision of light and fire in the winter’s night; it would have been beautiful, had it not told him that death was coming for him, and for everyone in Tanwrye.
    At dawn, they were still coming. Thousand upon thousand, company after company, the Black Road was flooding through the Vale of Stones. The rocky, snow-covered ground around Tanwrye was already thick with tents and with seething crowds. A constant rumble of noise drifted up and over the besieged town, like a never-ending peal of distant thunder.
    Every warrior who could still walk had come to the walls to witness this gigantic assembly of their foe.
    Iavin Helt should have been resting by now, his watch long done, but nobody expected any rest today, unless it was the final, unending kind offered by the Sleeping Dark. He glanced down the line of grim-faced men that stretched along the top of the wall. There were not nearly enough of them to withstand the coming storm.
    It was not only the number of these newly arrived foes that had stilled any hope in the hearts of Tanwrye’s defenders, but their nature. Sometime in the night, amidst that river of blazing torches out of the Stone Vale, the Battle Inkall had arrived. So many of their great raven standards were now visible in the heart of the enemy camp that older, more experienced men than Iavin had shaken their heads in disbelief and despair. Tanwrye’s garrison included some of the finest warriors the Lannis-Haig Blood could muster; not one of them thought himself a match for the ravens of the Battle Inkall.
    Iavin’s stomach was knotted and growling. He could not tell whether it was hunger or fear. His throat felt tight, his mouth dry. His mind had emptied itself of thoughts, as if it too had been numbed by the night’s awful cold. Hidden behind heavy clouds, the sun climbed the sky. The day grew no warmer, the light no less subdued. Eventually, in the late morning, surges of movement spread through the Black Road camp. Like some great beast bestirring itself, the army rumbled into motion.
    The assault was controlled, precise and overwhelming. It rolled on through the afternoon. The few stretches of outlying wall and palisade that had still been held by Tanwrye’s defenders were stormed one after another. A few survivors made it back to the main town walls; most of their comrades died at their posts.
    Without pause, the Black Road host pressed closer and closer to the town. Beneath a sheltering cloud of crossbow bolts and arrows and stones, ladders were

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