The Last Guardian of Everness (War of the Dreaming 1)

The Last Guardian of Everness (War of the Dreaming 1) by John C. Wright Read Free Book Online

Book: The Last Guardian of Everness (War of the Dreaming 1) by John C. Wright Read Free Book Online
Authors: John C. Wright
source of his fear. Then he turned.
    Behind him, there was a shadow among the statues, robed and hooded, who stood without motion. The hood was facing Galen. Galen slowly raised his star-shining spear.
    The figure still did not move. Galen, one cautious step at a time, drew closer. The light from his speartip fell across the fabric of the hooded being’s robe.
    It was the same red and bloodstained robe Galen had despoiled from the corpse of the Red Knight.
    Now a soft voice came from the hood. Galen could not tell if it were a man’s voice or a woman’s. “I see into the World of Judgment even as you see into the World of Dreams, and you cannot hide your crimes from me, any more than I can hide my dreams from you.”
    Galen said, “Who are you?”
    The voice replied: “I and my race are appointed to guard against traffic from dishonest Nastrond even as Everness is set to stand watch against the invasion of nightmarish Acheron. Yet, my race was here before there was a city of Tirion, for all this place was created to hold one single traitor damned by Oberon. All those imprisoned afterward were given to us only because this prison already existed. That prisoner also is of the House of Everness. Also a traitor.”
    “I’m not a traitor,” said Galen.
    “If I wished, these stone statues would rise to life and rend you limb from limb. Yet I will not hinder you. You go forward to a doom far worse that any to which my justice would condemn you. Go! All which you have done shall return to you, and your guardianship invaded by one who wears your cloak, even as you, by wearing my son’s cloak, came into mine.”
    The cloak fell to the ground in a heap, empty. Perhaps it had never been full.
    “Wait!” cried out Galen. “Guardian of Tirion, listen to me! I fought only because I was attacked! I came here only because I was summoned! I am loyal to the cause of Light!”
    But he was only calling into empty air. He looked left and right, but there was nothing to be seen. Galen prodded the cloak with the tip of his spear, but there was no reaction, and the voice did not come again.
    Galen said the words he had been taught to mitigate curses. But the words came dull and slow to his lips, and he did not know if there were any effect. Should he continue onward? There seemed no reason to delay. Uncertainly, he walked back along the stone bridge.
    Where the stone brink of the bridge he stood upon fell away to open air, three dozen rings or more, each a dozen feet in diameter, held hugelinks, as large as any Galen had ever seen or dreamed, curving away down into the dark, giant chains gleaming in the starlight. From the very central ring, one chain dropped down larger and straighter, farther into the gloom below, than any of the others.
    He had passed over the brink of the cliff of the world’s edge without realizing it; this half-bridge was cantilevered over the abyss. Underfoot was only air.
    This was not a good sign. When had he passed beyond the world’s edge? When the Guardian of Tirion had cursed him? Before? This was a bad place to be. Things here, even a few feet beyond the world’s boundary, were not bound by worldly rules. The Powers and Dominions to which he prayed might not be in range to hear him now, and ordinary objects might not recall their true names. His prayer meant to deflect the curse might have been meaningless.
    And yet there was no reason to wait.
    He knelt at the edge of the half-bridge he stood on, put his feet on the huge links of the long central chain he found there, and swung himself over the edge.
     
    V
     
    With no memory of an arduous climb, Galen next found himself to be standing, balanced like a wire walker on the links of a great chain, leading to a ring embedded in the icicles and ice stalactites of a frozen waterfall. Depending from that ring, entwined and half buried in thick icicles, hung a grisly cage all made of spikes and needles.
    To either side and high above were other iron cages of

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