(Shadowmarch #2) Shadowplay

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Authors: Tad Williams
hands of the gods.” Brone paused at the uprush of sound, the cries and curses which started out low but quickly began to swell. When he spoke again his voice was still loud, but not as clear and composed as it had been; that by itself helped still the crowd. “Please! Remember, Olin is still king here in Southmarch! He may be imprisoned in the south, but he is still king—and his line still survives!” He pointed to a young woman standing next to Hendon Tolly, plump, and plain—a wet nurse holding what was apparently an infant, although it could have been an empty tangle of blankets for all Matt Tinwright could make it out. “See, there is the king’s youngest,” Brone declared, “—a new son, born on Winter’s Eve! Queen Anissa lives. The child is healthy. The Eddon line survives.”
    Now Brone waved his hands, imploring the crowd for quiet rather than ordering them, and Tinwright could not help wondering at how this man who had terrified him down to the soles of his feet could have changed so, as if something inside of him had torn and not been fully mended.
    But why should that surprise? Briony, our gracious, wonderful princess, is gone, and young Barrick is doubtless dead, killed by those supernatural monsters. Tinwright’s poetic soul could feel the romantic correctness of that, the symmetry of the lost twins, but could not work up as much sympathy for the brother. He truly, truly missed Briony, and feared for her—she had been Matt Tinwright’s champion. Barrick, on the other hand, had never hidden his contempt.
    Brone now gave way to Hendon Tolly, who was dressed in unusually somber attire—somber for him, anyway—black hose, gray tunic, and fur-lined black cloak, his clothes touched here and there with hints of gold and emerald. Hendon was known as one of the leading blades of fashion north of the great court at Tessis. Tinwright, who admired him without liking him, had always been sensitive to the nuances of dress among those above his own station, and thought the youngest Tolly brother seemed to be enjoying his new role as sober guardian of the populace.
    Hendon raised his hand, which was mostly hidden by the long ruff on his sleeve. His thin, usually mobile face was a mask of refined sorrow. “We Tollys share the same ancient blood as the Eddons—King Olin is my uncle as well as my liegelord, and despite the bull on our shield, the wolf blood runs in our veins. We swear we will protect his young heir with every drop of that blood.” Hendon lowered his head for a moment as if in prayer, or perhaps merely overcome by humility at the weight of his task. “We have all been pained by great loss this terrible winter, we Tollys most of all, because we have also lost our brother Gailon, the duke. But fear not! My other brother Caradon, the new duke of Summerfield, has sworn that the ties between our houses will become even stronger.” Hendon Tolly straightened. “Many of you are frightened because of worrisome news from the battlefield and the presence of our enemy from the north—the enemy that even now waits at our doorstep, just across the bay. I have heard some speak of a siege. I say to you, what siege?” He swept his arm toward the haunted, silent city beyond the water, sleeve flaring like a crow’s wing. “Not an arrow, not a stone, has passed our walls. I see no enemy—do you? It could be that someday these goblins will come against us, but it is more likely that they have seen the majesty of the walls of Southmarch and their hearts have grown faint. Otherwise, why would they give no sign of their presence?”
    A murmur drifted up from the crowd, but it seemed, for the first time, to have something of hope in it. Hendon Tolly sensed it and smiled.
    “And even if they did, how will they defeat us, my fellow South-marchers? We cannot be starved, not as long as we have our harbor and good neighbors. And already my brother the duke is sending men to help protect this castle and all who dwell

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