Home > The Thousand Names (The Shadow Campaigns #1)

The Thousand Names (The Shadow Campaigns #1)
Django Wexler

Prologue

JAFFA

The new supreme rulers of Khandar met in the old common room of the Justices, the cudgel-bearing peacekeepers and constabulary who were now the closest thing the city of Ashe-Katarion had to a civil authority. It was a gloomy space, buried deep in the city’s ancient gatehouse. Jaffa-dan-Iln, as Grand Justice, was the nominal host of the gathering, and he’d done his best to straighten up, removing decades of accumulated rubbish, packs of cards, dice, and misplaced papers. There was no way to hide the marks and patches on the carpets, though, or the plain sandstone walls, devoid of decoration except where some bored Justice had carved them with a belt knife. The table was cheap wood layered with stains, and the chairs were a mismatched set dragged from every room of the gatehouse. Jaffa had rearranged the bookcases and other furniture to at least conceal the more obscene bits of graffiti.

The chime of a bell on the stairs heralded the arrival of the first visitor. General Khtoba entered the room cautiously, as though advancing on an enemy position. He wore his uniform—dun trousers and jacket over a white undershirt, the jacket fringed with gold at the shoulders as befitted his rank. A crimson triangle, open on top like a squat V, had been hastily sewn over his heart to represent the fires of the Redemption. At his side was a sword so filigreed with gold and silver that it sparkled as he moved. Behind him came two other officers of the Auxiliaries, similarly uniformed but less impressively accoutred.

The general looked over the room with barely concealed distaste, selected the least tatty chair, and sat, offering Jaffa only a grunt of recognition. His officers took seats flanking him, as though they expected trouble.

“Welcome, General,” Jaffa said. “Would you care for any refreshment?”

The general scowled. He had a face made for scowls, with bushy eyebrows and lips shadowed by a broad, drooping mustache. When he spoke, gold gleamed on his teeth.

“No,” he said. “I would care to get this over with. Where are the damned priests?”

The bell downstairs rang again, as if to answer this minor blasphemy. There was the sound of a considerable party on the steps, and then the priests of the Seraphic Council entered, all in a gaggle.

Jaffa had grown up knowing what a priest looked like—either an old man, bearded and fat, in gaudy green and purple robes, or else a woman demurely shrouded in silks. This new kind, these hard-eyed young men in spare black wraps, made him uncomfortable. There were no women among their number, demure or otherwise. Their leader was a younger man with close-cropped hair and a scar under one eye who took a seat at the table opposite the general. His flock remained standing behind him.

“I am Yatchik-dan-Rahksa,” he said. “Appointed by the Divine Hand to lead the Swords of Heaven and oversee the final cleansing of foreign taint from our land.”

The name meant “Angel of Victory,” which Jaffa supposed was appropriate enough. The Divine Hand himself had started the fashion for taking the names of angels when he’d called himself Vale-dan-Rahksa, the Angel of Vengeance. At the rate the Council was expanding, there would soon be a serious shortage of angels. Jaffa wondered what would happen when they ran out of manly, intimidating names and were reduced to naming themselves after the Angel of Sisterly Affection or the Angel of Small Crafts.

Khtoba bristled. “That cleansing should have begun weeks ago. The cursed Vordanai were like a fruit in our hands, ripe for the plucking, but they were permitted to escape. Now the task of evicting them will cost many of the faithful their lives.”

“The truly faithful are always prepared to lay down their lives for the Redemption,” the priest said. “But I think you overestimate the difficulty, General.”

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