Bleak SeasonseBook - 1996
"Let me tell you who I am, on the chance that these scribblings do survive....I am Murgen, Standard bearer of the Black Company, though I bear the shame of having lost that standard in battle. I am keeping these Annals because Croaker is dead. One-Eye won't, and hardly anyone else can read or write. I will be your guide for however long it takes the Shadowlanders to force our present predicament to its inevitable end..."
So writes Murgen, seasoned veteran of the Black Company. The Company has taken the fortress of Stormgard from the evil Shadowlanders, lords of darkness from the far reaches of the earth. Now the waiting begins.
Exhausted from the siege, beset by sorcery, and vastly outnumbered, the Company have risked their souls as well as their lives to hold their prize. But this is the end of an age, and great forces are at work. The ancient race known as the Nyueng Bao swear that ancient gods are stirring. the Company's commander has gone mad and flirts with the forces of darkness. Only Murgen, touched by a spell that has set his soul adrift in time, begins at last to comprehend the dark design that has made pawns of men and god alike.
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"Let me tell you who I am, on the chance that these scribblings do survive....
"I am Murgen, standardbearer of the Black Company, though I bear the shame of having lost that standard in battle. I am keeping these annals because Croaker is dead, One-Eye won't, and hardly anyone else can read or write. I will be your guide for however long it takes the Shadowlanders to force our present predicament to its inevitable end....
"I expect these writings to blow away on a dark wind, never to be touched by another eye. Or they might become the tinder Shadowspinner uses to light the pyre under the last man he murders after taking Dejagore..."
So begins the saga of the siege of Stormgard, the chronicle of a desperate conflict between dark sorcery and bare human courage, seen through the eyes of a war-weary, battle-scarred veteran. Spellbinding adventure on an epic scale, this is heart-stopping heroic fantasy at its finest.
Taking place in part during the events of Dreams of Steel, which was told from the point of view of Lady, this story examines the events surrounding Murgen, who is trapped within the siege of Dejagore where atrocities are being committed by both sides. Also examines events later in Taglios under rule of the Liberator and the increasing tensions between the Black Company and the Radisha, as well as the ever-present threats from the Stranglers and of some new deception by Soulcatcher and the Howler. Bleak Seasons is unique among the Black Company series for the unusual narrative device of Murgen being totally unfixed in time and uncertain of when he will experience another seizure and move between distant past, recent past and a vaguely comprehended present. This narrative device is followed through three-quarters of the novel until we come to understand the traumas that have led Murgen to this point, while the enchantment that has made it possible remains unclear. The tone is introspective, haunted and mysterious. This novel introduces several key elements and characters to the series, including visions of the frozen caverns, Sahra, Uncle Doj, Mother Gota, One-Eye's black spear, and the manipulation of the comatose wizard Smoke.
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