The Story So Far
When he was seventeen, Raif Sevrance of Clan Blackhail developed the ability to heart- kill game. One morning while he was hunting in the Badlands with his brother Drey, his father and chief were slain back at camp. When he and his brother returned to Blackhail they found that Mace Blackhail, the chief’s foster son, had declared himself head of the clan. Mace blamed the murders on Vaylo Bludd, chief of a rival clan. When Bludd sacked the Dhoone house of rival clan Dhoone a week later, Mace’s story of Bludd aggression gained credibility. Raif found himself isolated. He alone believed that Mace Blackhail was a liar and a chief- killer.
War against clan Bludd followed, as Hailsmen sought to avenge their chief’s death. When Mace received word that a caravan of Bluddsmen were on the road, heading east to occupy the Dhoonehouse, he ordered an attack. Raif rode with the ambush party. When he discovered the caravan contained women and children, not warriors, he refused to participate in the slaughter. For disobeying an order on the field and deserting his fellow clansmen in battle, Raif was branded a traitor to his clan. Four days later, Raif left Blackhail in the company of his uncle Angus Lok. His oath to protect Blackhail was now broken, even while he had sought to act with faith and loyalty.
The two men headed south. Upon arrival at Duff’s stove house, they learned news of the massacre on the Bluddroad had preceded them. When challenged by a group of Bludd warriors, Raif admitted to being present during the slaughter. He told no one that he took no part in the massacre; loyalty to his clan prevented him from defending himself at their expense. With this admission, however, Raif forever damned himself in the eyes of Bluddsmen. He was the only Hailsmen they knew for a certainty who was present during the slaughter.
When Angus and Raif arrived at the city Spire Vanis they rescued a young woman named Ash March who was being hunted down by the city’s Protector General, Mara.ce Eye. Angus had a strong reaction when he saw the girl and immediately put himself in danger to save her. Raif’s skill with a bow proved invaluable. He single- handedly rescued the girl by shooting arrows through her pursuers’ hearts.
As Raif, Ash and Angus headed north to the city of Ille Glaive, Raif learned that Ash was the foster daughter of the Surlord of Spire Vanis. She had run away when she learned that her foster father intended to imprison her in the city’s citadel, the Inverted Spire. Heritas Cant, a friend of Angus Lok’s, provided the explanation for the Surlord’s behavior. Cant told Ash she was the first Reach to be born in a thousand years. She alone possessed the ability to unlock the Blind, the prison without a key that contained the destructive might of the immortal End-lords. Cant warned Ash she must discharge her Reach- power or die.
Raif and Angus agreed to accompany Ash to the Cavern of Black Ice, the one place where she could discharge her power without tearing a hole in the Blindwall that holds back the Endlords. As soon as their small party reentered the clanholds they were captured by Bluddsmen. The Bludd chief had lost seventeen grandchildren on the Bluddroad, and he was determined to make Raif Sevrance pay for those losses. After days of torture, Raif developed a fever and began to fail. Yet when Death came to take him she changed her mind. “Perhaps I won’t take you yet,” she told him. “You fight in my image and live in my shadow, and if I leave you where you are you’ll provide much fresh meat for my children. Kill an army for me, Raif Sevrance. Any less and I just might call you back.”
The next day Raif was saved by a group of Hailish warriors led by his brother Drey. “We part here. For always,” Drey said as he let his younger brother, the traitor, slip away.
Later that day Raif met up with Ash, who had escaped from Marafice Eye by using her Reach- power. The Dog Lord had handed her over to Eye in repayment for a debt. Penthero Iss, the Surlord of Spire Vanis, had aided Vaylo’s taking of the Dhoonehouse, and Vaylo had come to regret Iss’ sorcerous help. Ash March was payment in full.
Ash’s health deteriorated during the journey to the cavern. When she collapsed in the snow, Raif drew a guide circle and called on the Stone Gods for help. Two members of the ancient Sull people, Far Riders named Mal Naysayer and Ark Veinsplitter, heard this call, and rode to Ash’s aid. Upon seeing her, they suspected that Ash was the Reach. They also suspected that Raif was Mor Drakka, Watcher of the Dead; the one predicted to destroy the Sull.
The Far Riders took Ash and Raif to a frozen river that led to the Cavern of Black Ice and then departed. Ash discharged her power, but it was already too late. By blasting Marafice Eye’s men in the Bitter Hills, she had caused a rent in the Blindwall. Back in her home city of Spire Vanis, a nameless sorcerer who had been enslaved by her foster father was already working to open the breach. “Push and we will give you your name,” the Endlords promised him. Bound by chains, broken and tortured, the sorcerer accepted the deal. “Baralis,” the Endlords named the sorcerer as he broke open the wall.
Meanwhile the clan wars were escalating. Blackhail waged war on Bludd to avenge the killing of the Hail chief; Bludd fought Blackhail for the slaying of its women and children; and Dhoone, dispossessed of its round house by Bludd, fought to regain its territory. With the help of his half- brother Bram, Robbie Dun Dhoone claimed the Dhoone chiefship and retook Dhoone from the Dog Lord. Due to the desertion of his second son, Pengo, the Dog Lord had been holding the Dhoonehouse with a skeleton force. He, his remaining two grandchildren and his lady Nan escaped and headed north toward an old hillfort where his fostered son- Cluff Drybannock was stationed with two hundred men.
In order to secure sufficient manpower to retake Dhoone, Robbie sold his brother to the Milk chief, Wrayan Castlemilk, forcing Bram to leave his clan. Bram was made welcome at Castlemilk, but his taste for intrigue— acquired in negotiations with Skinner Dhoone and the Dog Lord— made him break his oath and join the Phage, a shadowy brotherhood that aimed to defend the world against the Endlords.
Blackhail took possession of Ganmiddich, but lost it when an army led by Marafice Eye broke the Crab Gate that protected it. When news of Penthero Iss’ death reached the battlefield, half of Eye’s forces fied the field to rush back to Spire Vanis and vie for power, leaving Eye at the mercy of a newly- arrived army led by Pengo Bluddfi Bludd took Ganmiddich. Marafice Eye led his injured army— plus four hostages taken from Blackhail— home to Spire Vanis where his father- in- law Roland Stornoway was holding power on his behalffi With Stornoway’s support, Eye became surlord.
Back at Blackhail, the slain chief’s widow, Raina Blackhail, struggled to come to terms with her new life. Like Raif, she suspected that Mace, her foster son, was responsible for her husband’s murder, and she did not support his chiefship. After her husband’s murder, Mace raped her in the Oldwood and then told clansmen it was consensual. Raina married him rather than risk her reputation and status, becoming chief’s wife for the second time. While Mace was away at war with Bludd and Dhoone, Raina quietly began to claim power. When Stannig Beade arrived from Scarpe to replace Blackhail’s guide who had been killed in the explosion of the Hailstone, Raina suspected he had been sent to watch her. Tension ran high as Beade began acting as chief. When Anwyn Bird, Raina’s oldest friend, was assassinated in cold blood it was the final straw. Guessing that Anwyn had been murdered to silence dissension, and fearing for her own life, Raina Blackhail did the only thing she could to protect her clan. She entered the chief’s chamber one night and killed Stannig Beade.
After departing Blackhail, Angus Lok returned to his home east of Ille Glaive. Upon arrival he found his worst nightmare had come to life: His house had been burned down. His three daughters and his wife were gone. Dead. Angus was a ranger, a member of the Phage. He blamed himself for leading evil to his door.
Ash and Raif, once they left the Cavern of Black Ice, headed north into Ice Trapper territory. Ash left Raif while he slept, departing in the company of Mal Naysayer and Ark Veinsplitter. She chose to have her blood drained, a ritual cleansing that would allow her to become Sull. When she and the Far Riders were attacked by Unmade forces at Floating Bridge, Veinsplitter was killed and Ash became separated from the Naysayer. As she traveled alone in Sull territory she met a stranger named Lan Fallstar who told her he would take her to the Heart of the Sull. They became lovers, but he betrayed her, leading her into a trap. Knowing that she was a Reach, Fallstar wanted only to harness the power of her body to kill the Unmade. The Naysayer found Ash just in time to save her from Fallstar’s assassins, and together they headed south to the Heart of Sull.
Raif joined the Maimed Men, an outlaw clan who lived in the cliffs above the Rift— the deep cleft in the earth’s crust through which the Unmade sometimes escaped to attack mortal men. Traggis Mole, the leader of the Maimed Men, sent Raif to raid Blackhail as a test of Raif’s loyalty to the Maimed Men. As the raid party left the mine known as Black Hole, Raif was challenged by his old friend and clansmen Bitty Shank. Raif killed Bitty to escape, and then .ed into the Great Want, the waste at the center of the continent. He was lost for a time.
Meanwhile, Ef.e Sevrance, Raif’s nine- year- old sister, had been forced to leave her clan. Ef.e had been born to the stone lore and was able to tell when bad things were about to happen. She was an unwitting witness when Raina was raped by Mace, and Raina feared this knowledge made Ef.e vulnerable. Seeking to remove the girl from Mace’s sights, Raina sent Ef.e to Clan Dregg. Ef.e never made it. She was kidnapped by boatmen from cursed Clan Gray. On the journey to Clan Gray she met Chedd Lime house, who had also been kidnapped, and fell into the Wolf River, where a pike snapped the stone lore from around her throat.
Raif was found in the Great Want by the lamb brothers, who were there searching for the souls of their undead. They told Raif about a battle thousands of years earlier where their people and many others had died. One warrior had turned the course of the battle, a man known only as Raven Lord, who wielded the sword named Loss. Legend held that after the battle, the .eld was .ooded and all the dead, including Raven Lord, were frozen beneath the ice. When Traggis Mole was attacked by Unmade and lay dying, he forced Raif to speak an oath to protect the Maimed Men. Soon after, Raif left the Rift to search for the frozen battle.eld and the sword. Strikes by the Unmade were becoming more frequent and powerful and there were some creatures in the Blind that could only be slain by the Raven Lord’s sword.
Raif found the sword, and a moment later an old injury to his chest stopped his heart. His old friend, Addie Gunn, and the lamb brothers saved him. He awoke several days later to find himself in possession of the sword named Loss.
Excerpted from Watcher of the Dead by J. V. Jones.
Copyright © 2010 by J. V. Jones.
Published in April 2010 by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.