The fourth novel in Greenwood's popular fantasy series, The Band of Four. At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.
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May 13, 2003
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Excerpt from The Dragon's Doom by Ed Greenwood
To Conquer a Kingdom
The rattle of keys awakened an echo in that dark and stone-walled place, and then a heavy door scraped open, flooding torchlight into a damp darkness that had lasted for decades. Old Thannaso, who kept the locks and hinges -- and the manacles that waited on the gigantic wall wheel within, gleaming now in the leaping flames -- well oiled, was as blind as deep night, and so had no need to light his way when he worked.
A lithe, slender man who wore skintight garb of soft, smoky-gray leather on his body and a half-smile upon his darkly handsome face held the torch high and behind his own shoulder, to peer into all corners of the cell. A little water was seeping in high on the south wall, glistening as it ran down the stone, but of intruders -- beyond a small, scuttling legion of spiders -- he saw none. Craer Delnbone was one of the best procurers in all Asmarand... which is to say that after too many years of escapades enough for a dozen thieves, he was still alive. If Craer's bright eyes saw no intruder, none was there.
The woman who followed at his elbow saw nothing either. She was much of Craer's size, and moved against him with the familiarity of intimate companions, but she was no thief. Tshamarra Talasorn was a sorceress from a proud family of Sirlptar, the last of her line -- and her tongue could be every bit as sharp as her wits, as Craer had learned to both his fascination and cost. His "Tash" wore garments cut like his but of shimmerweave and silk, that flashed back torchlight every bit as much as her large and alert eyes. She, too, saw no peril in the cell -- though most of her thin-lipped attention was bent upon the burden being carried behind her.
That burden was a large, stout man in rich garments, frozen in a pose as stiff and rigid as stone save for his furious eyes -- eyes that darted this way and that, seeking to see all as one does who knows he will soon have very little to look upon at all. An armaragor of great size and thews carried the straight, immobile man, with the legs-steadying aid of a slightly smaller, older warrior who strode along with the easy authority of one born to command.
Hawkril Anharu was a gentle giant of a man, unless one crossed blades with him in battle. He carried their captive as lightly as if the man weighed nothing, and had to stoop and turn his broad shoulders at an angle to pass through the narrow door of the cell. He resembled an amiable bull in armor more than anything else.
The formerly raven-dark hair of the older armored man behind Hawkril was going gray and white now, but Ezendor Blackgult -- once infamous across Asmarand as "the Baron Blackgult," a dashing warcaptain, decadent noble, and seducer of ladies high and low -- was still handsome... and every bit as alert, as they moved through the dungeons, as Craer at the front of the band.
A radiance far paler than the torchlight flickered about their captive's head -- the light of magic, lancing forth from a mottled stone carried in the palm of a tall, slender woman who walked at the rear of the group. Above a slight frown, her eyes were also fixed upon her captive.
Embra Silvertree had once been best known as "the Lady of Jewels" for her elaborately decorated gowns, but she much preferred the simple leather breeches, warriors' boots, and open silk shirt she was wearing now. Her long, dark hair swirled untamed down her back as if it was a half-cloak, and men best knew her now in Aglirta as the most powerful sorceress in the land.
Like the others who walked with her, she was an Overduke of Aglirta -- and like them, she was carrying out a distasteful but necessary duty this day. Her gaze never left their dark-robed captive as Hawkril swung the frozen-limbed man upright -- boots uppermost -- as if he weighed no more than the petals of a flower.