Exile's Honor

Exile's Honor

by Mercedes Lackey

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Overview

Alberich had spent most of his youth in the Karsite military schools training to be an officer. As the son of an impoverished mother, he had no other career choice open to him. And Alberich had risen in the ranks with almost unnatural speed. He developed expertise with many weapons and excelled in academic subjects with an ease that was the envy of his classmates. But in fact, the reclusive Alberich studied long and hard, pushing himself ruthlessly.
 
In battle, Alberich had always had a sort of “sixth sense” about things which were about to happen—when and from where the enemy would attack. Instinctively, he his this ability, for the Sunpriests kept careful watch for anyone exhibiting “demon powers” which were the hallmark of Karse’s greatest enemy—the witch-nation of Valdemar. Those they caught were “cleansed” in the fires of Vkandis Sunlord.
 
Both Alberich’s skill and secret served him well in the army of Karse, and when Alberich became one of Karse’s youngest captains, he received a special gift—a powerful white stallion “liberated” from the enemy. But this honor was merely a distraction, for the Sunpriests had laid a trap which even Alberich’s strange foresight could not predict…
 
Saved from burning as a witch when this odd white stallion braved flames and carried him over the border into Valdemar, he was healed by the same enemies he had been taught to hate his entire life. Though he knew he could never again return to his home, Alberich also knew he could never truly become a Valdemaran. How could Alberich remain true to his own people and still retain his honor while helping to train the direst enemy of Karse?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101118641
Publisher: DAW
Publication date: 10/07/2003
Series: Valdemar Series
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 51,133
File size: 621 KB

About the Author

Mercedes Lackey is a full-time writer and has published numerous novels and works of short fiction, including the best-selling Heralds Of Valdemar series. She is also a professional lyricist and a licensed wild bird rehabilitator. She lives in Oklahoma with her husband, artist Larry Dixon, and their flock of parrots. She can be found at mercedeslackey.com.

Read an Excerpt

PROLOGUE

SILVER stamped restively as another horse on the picket line shifted and blundered into his hindquarters. Alberich clucked to quiet him and patted the stallion's neck; the beast swung his head about to blow softly into the young Captain's hair. Alberich smiled a little, thinking wistfully that the stallion was perhaps the only creature in the entire camp that felt anything like friendship for him.

And possibly the only creature that isn't waiting for me to fail, hoping that I will, and ready to pounce on me and cut me to pieces when I do. Life for an officer of Karsite troops was spent half in defeating the enemies of Karse and half in watching his own back.

Amazingly gentle, for a stallion, Silver had caused no problems either in combat or here, on the picket line. Which was just as well, for if he had, Alberich would have had him gelded or traded off for a more tractable mount, gift of the Voice of Vkandis Sunlord or no. Alberich had enough troubles without worrying about the behavior of his beast.

He wasn't sure where the handsome and muscular creature had come from; Shin'a'in-bred, they'd told him. The Voice had chosen the beast especially for him out of a string of animals "liberated from the enemy." Which meant war booty, of course, from one of the constant conflicts along the borders. Silver hadn't come from one of the bandit nests, that was sure. The only beasts the bandits owned were as disreputable as their owners. Horses "liberated" from the bandits usually weren't worth keeping, they were so run-down and ill-treated.

Silver probably came from Menmellith via Rethwellan; the King was rumored to have some kind of connection with the horse-breeding, bloodthirsty Shin'a'in nomads.

Whatever; when Alberich lost his faithful old Smoke a few weeks ago he hadn't expected to get anything better than the obstinate, intractable gelding he'd taken from its bandit owner. But fate ruled otherwise; the Voice chose to "honor" him with a superior replacement along with his commission, the letter that accompanied the paper pointing out that Silver was the perfect mount for a Captain of light cavalry. It was also another evidence of favoritism from above, with the implication that he had earned that favoritism outside of performance in the field.

Talk about a double-edged blade. . . . Both the commission and the horse came with burdens of their own. Not a gift that was likely to increase his popularity with some of the men under his command, and a beast that was going to make him pretty damned conspicuous in any encounter with the enemy. A white horse? Might as well paint a target on his back and have done with it.

Plus that's an unlucky color. Those witchy-Heralds of Valdemar ride white horses, and the blue-eyed beasts may be demons or witches, too, for all I know. The priests say they are. The priests call their owners the "Demon-Riders."

The horse nuzzled him again, showing as sweet a temper as any lady's mare. He scratched its nose, and it sighed with content; he wished he could be as contented. Things had been bad enough before getting this commission. Now There was an uneasy, prickly sensation between his shoulder blades as he went back to brushing down his new mount. He glanced over his shoulder, to intercept the glare of Leftenant Herdahl; the man dropped his gaze and brushed his horse's flank vigorously, but not quickly enough to prevent Alberich from seeing the hate and anger in the hot blue eyes.

No, indeed, the Voice had done Alberich no favors in rewarding him with the Captaincy and this prize mount, passing over Herdahl and Klaus, both his seniors in years of service, if not in experience. Neither of them had expected that he would be promoted over their heads; during the week's wait for word to come from Headquarters, they had saved their rivalry for each other.

Too bad they didn't murder each other, he thought resentfully, then suppressed the rest of the thought. It was said that some of the priests of Vkandis could pluck the thoughts from a man's head. It could have been thoughts like that one that had led to Herdahl's being passed over for promotion. But it could also be that this was a test, a way of flinging the ambitious young Leftenant Alberich into deep water, to see if he would survive the experience. If he did, well and good; he was of suitable material to continue to advance, perhaps even to the rank of Commander. If he did not well, that was too bad. If his ambition undid him, or if he wasn't clever enough to see and avoid the machinations of those below him, then he wasn't fit enough for the post.

That was the way of things, in the armies of Karse. You rose by watching your back, and (if the occasion arose) sticking careful knives into the backs of your less-cautious fellows, and ensuring other enemies took the punishment. All the while, the priests of the Sunlord, the ones who were truly in charge, watched and smiled and dispensed favors and punishments with the same dispassionate aloofness displayed by the One God. Karse was a hard land, and the Sunlord a hard God; the Sunpriests were as hard as both.

But Alberich had given a good account of himself along the border, at the corner where Karse met Menmellith and the witch-nation Valdemar, in the campaign against the bandits there. Frankly, Herdahl and Klaus put together hadn't been half as effective or as energetic as he'd been. He'd earned his rank, he told himself once again, as Silver stamped and shifted his weight beneath the strokes of Alberich's brush.

The spring sun burned down on his head, hotter than he expected without the breeze to cool him, hot as Herdahl's angry glare.

Demons take Herdahl. There was no reason to feel as if he'd cheated to get where he was. He'd led more successful sorties against the bandits in his first year in the field than the other two had achieved in their entire careers. He'd cleared more territory than anyone of leftenant rank ever had in that space of time and when Captain Anberg had met with one too many arrows, the men had seemed perfectly willing to follow him when the Voice chose him over the other two candidates.

It had been the policy of late to permit the brigands to flourish, provided they confined their attentions to Valdemar and the Menmellith peasantry and left the inhabitants of Karse unmolested. A stupid policy, in Alberich's opinion; you couldn't trust bandits, that was the whole reason why they became bandits in the first place. If they could be trusted, they'd be in the army themselves, or in the Temple Guard, or even have turned mercenary. He'd seen the danger back when he was a youngster in the Academy, in his first tactics classes. He'd even said as much to one of his teachers phrased as a question, of course, since cadets were not permitted to have opinions. The question had been totally ignored.

Perhaps because it wasn't wise to so much as hint that the decisions of the Sunpriests were anything other than divinely inspired.

But, as Alberich had predicted, there had been trouble from the brigands once they began to multiply; problems that escalated far, far past the point where their use as an irritant to Valdemar was outweighed by their effect as a scourge on Karse. With complete disregard for the unwritten agreements between them and Karse, they struck everyone, and when they finally began attacking villages instead of just robbing solitary travelers or going after single farms, the authorities deemed it time they were disposed of.

Alberich had spent a good part of his young life in the Karsite military schools and had just finished cavalry training as an officer when the troubles broke out. The ultimate authority was in the hands of the Voices, of course. The highest anyone not of the priesthood could expect to rise was to Commander. But officers were never taken from the ranks; many of the rank-and-file were conscripts, and although it was never openly stated, the Voices did not trust their continued loyalty if they were given power.

Alberich, and many others like him, had been selected at the age of thirteen by a Voice sent every year to search out young male children, strong of body and quick of mind, to school into officers. And there was one other qualification that at least half of them be lowborn, so that they were appropriately grateful to the Voices for their opportunity to rise in rank and station.

Alberich had all those qualities, developing expertise in many weapons with an ease that was the envy of his classmates, picking up his lessons in academic subjects with what seemed to be equal ease.

It wasn't ease; it was the fact that Alberich studied long and hard, knowing that there was no way for the bastard son of a tavern wench to advance in Karse except in the army. There was no place for him to go, no way to get into a trade, no hope for any but the most menial of jobs. The Voices didn't care about a man's parentage once he was chosen as an officer, they cared only about his abilities and whether or not he would use them in service to his God and country. It was a lonely life, though. His mother had loved and cared for him to the best of her abilities, and he'd had friends among the other children of similar circumstances. When he came to the Academy, he had no friends, and his mother was not permitted to contact him, lest she "distract him," or "contaminate his purity of purpose." Alberich had never seen her again, but both of them had known this was the only way for him to live a better life than she had. And there had been a half-promise which he had no way of knowing was kept that if he did well at the Academy, his mother would be rewarded, perhaps with a little house of her own, if she could manage to keep herself from further sin. He had trusted in that particular Voice, though. The priest had no reason to lie to him and every reason to give his mother that reward. After all, Karse needed officers. . . . willing officers, and young boys eager to throw themselves into their studies with all the enthusiasm of youth in order to become those willing officers. Knowing that their parents would be taken care of provided plenty of incentive.

And he had done better than well. He had pushed himself harder than any of his classmates pushed themselves.

Friends? When did I have the time for friends? Up before dawn for extra exercise, all my spare time practicing against the older boys, and after dinner studying by the light of Vkandis' lamps in the Temple until the priests came in for midnight prayers.

Alberich had no illusions about the purity of the One God's priesthood. There were as many corrupt and venal priests as there were upright, and more fanatic than there were forgiving. He had seen plenty of the venal kind in the tavern when they passed through his little mountain village on the way to greater places; had hidden from one or two that had come seeking pleasures strictly forbidden by the One God's edicts. He had known they were coming, looking for him, and had managed to make himself scarce long before they arrived. Just as, somehow, he had known when the Voice was coming to look for young male children for the Academy, and had made certain he was noticed and questioned. And that he had known which customers it was safe to cadge for a penny in return for running errands

Or that he had known that drunk was going to try to set the stable afire. Oh, that had been a tricky thing to manage to stay awake despite aching eyes that threatened to close long enough to be able to "stumble out of bed" and into the courtyard in search of a drink from the pump "just in time" to see the first flames. No matter how much noise is in a tavern, the sound of a child's shrill scream will penetrate it. No matter how drunk the inhabitants, the cry of "Fire!" will get the appropriate response.

Somehow. That was Alberich's secret. He knew things were going to happen. That was a witch-power, and forbidden by the Voices of the One God. If anyone knew he had it The Fires, and the Cleansing. Oh, of course, those whom the One God favors are supposed to be able to endure the Fires and walk from the ashes Cleansed. Not that anyone has ever seen that happen.

But he had also known from the time that the visions first came on him, as surely as he had known all the rest, that he had to conceal the fact that he had this power, even before he knew the law against it.

He'd succeeded fairly well over the years, though it was getting harder and harder all the time. The power struggled inside him, wanting to break free, once or twice overwhelming him with visions so intense that for a moment he was blind and deaf to everything else. It was getting harder to concoct reasons for knowing things he had no business knowing, like the hiding places of the bandits they were chasing, the bolt-holes and escape routes. But it was harder still to ignore them, especially when subsequent visions showed him innocent people suffering because he didn't act on what he knew.

He brushed Silver's neck vigorously, the dust tickling his nose and making him want to sneeze and between one brush stroke and the next, he lost his sense of balance, went light-headed, and the dazzle that heralded a vision-to-come sparkled between his eyes and Silver's neck.

Not here! he thought desperately, clinging to Silver's mane and trying to pretend there was nothing wrong. Not now, not with Herdahl watching But the witch-power would not obey him, not this time.

No Sunlord, help me, not now! He believed in the Sunlord, in His power and goodness, if not in the goodness of those who said they spoke for Him . . . A flash of blue light, blinding him

Then came sight again, but not of the picket line, but another place. Where? Where? Sunlord, where?

The bandits he'd thought were south had slipped behind him, into the north, joining with two more packs of the curs, becoming a group large enough to take on his troops and give them an even fight. But first, they wanted a secure base. They were going to make Alberich meet them on ground of their choosing. Fortified grond.

That this ground was already occupied was only a minor inconvenience, one that would soon be dealt with.

He fought free of the vision for a moment, clinging to Silver's shoulder like a drowning man, both hands full of the beast's silky mane, while the horse curved his head back and looked at him curiously. The big brown eyes flickered blue, briefly, like a half-hidden flash of lightning, reflecting another burst of sapphire. And now, now he knew where! The bandits' target was a fortified village, a small one, built on the top of a hill, above the farm fields. Ordinarily, these people would have no difficulty in holding off a score of bandits. But there were three times that number ranged against them, and a recent edict from the High Temple decreed that no one but the Temple Guard and the army could possess anything but the simplest of weapons. Not three weeks ago, a detachment of priests and a Voice had come through here, divesting them of everything but knives, farm implements, and such simple bows and arrows as were suitable for waterfowl and small game. And while they were at it, a third of the able-bodied men had been conscripted for the regular army.

Alberich's own troops had acted as silent guards for the process, to ensure that there were no "incidents" while the conscripts were marched away, while the weapons were taken or destroyed. Yes, he knew this place, knew it too well.

These people didn't have a chance.

The bandits drew closer, under the cover of a brush-filled ravine.

Alberich found himself on Silver's back, without knowing how he'd gotten here, without remembering that he'd flung saddle and bridle back on the beast No, not bridle; Silver still wore the halter he'd had on the picket line. Alberich's bugle was in his hand; presumably he'd blown the muster, for his men were running toward him, buckling on swords and slinging quivers over their shoulders.

Blinding flash of sapphire throwing him back into the vision, showing him what he would rather not see. He knew what was coming, so why must he see it? The bandits attacked the village walls, overpowering the poor man who was trying to bar the gate against them, and swarming inside. He couldn't close his eyes to it; the vision came through eyes closed or open. He would look because he had no choice.

It hadn't happened yet, he knew that with the surety with which he knew his own name. It wasn't even going to happen in the next few moments. But it was going to happen soon.

They poured inside, cutting down anyone who resisted them, then throwing off what little restraint they had shown and launching into an orgy of looting and rapine. Alberich gagged as one of them grabbed a pregnant woman and with a single slash of his sword, murdered the child that ran to try and protect her, followed through to her

The vision released him, and he found himself surrounded by dust and thunder, still on Silver's backbut leaning over the stallion's neck as now he led his troops up the road to the village of Sunsdale at full gallop. Hooves pounded the packed earth of the road, making it impossible to hear or speak; the vibration thrummed into his bones as he shifted his weight with the stallion's turns. Silver ran easily, with no sign of distress, though all around him and behind him the other horses streamed saliva from the corners of their mouths, and their flanks ran with sweat and foam, as they strained to keep up.

The lack of a bit didn't seem to make any difference to the stallion; he answered to neck-rein and knee so readily he might have been anticipating Alberich's thoughts.

Alberich dismissed the uneasy feelings that prompted. Better not to think that he might have a second witch-power along with the first. He'd never shown any ability to control beasts by thought before. There was no reason to think he could now. The stallion was just superbly trained, that was all. And he had more important things to worry about.

They topped the crest of a hill; Sunsdale lay atop the next one, just as he had seen in his vision, and the brush-filled ravine beyond it. There was no sign of trouble.

This time it's been a wild hare, he thought, and his skin crawled at the thought that he'd roused the men and sent them here at the gallop, and there were sure to be questions asked for which he had no answers.

And I answer what? That I wanted to see how quick they'd respond to an emergency? That would hardly serve.

He was just about to pull Silver up and bring the rest of his men to a halt no point in them running their horses into foundering

When a flash of sunlight on metal betrayed the bandits' location. Alberich grabbed for the bugle dangling from his left wrist instead, and pulled his blade with the right. He sounded the charge and led the entire troop down the hill, an unstoppable torrent of hooves and steel, hitting the brigands' hidden line like an avalanche.

—from Exile's Honor by Mercedes Lackey, Copyright © October 2002, Daw Books, a member of Penguin Putnam, Inc., used by permission.

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Exile's Honor (Heralds of Valdemar Series #6) 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 78 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am only giving 4 stars since this is to be a series novel. The novel stands well on pure storyline and concept, but then again so did the first Jordan novel. Thankfully, if the others do not pan out this can be a great stand alone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you enjoy hero's who are honorable and brave this book is for you. Aldrich is a young captain in the Karse Calvary who was given a beautiful gray horse. Weeks later he has a vision of bandits attacking a small village. He calls for his men and saves the village. The bad news is that one of those priests who search for cursed people and calls Aldrich one. The throw him in a wooden shed and set it on fire. His horse saves him by knocking down a wall and telling for him to get on. Aldrich escapes to Vadamar, a country that has demon horses who are ridden by demon men. They are Karse's worst enemies, or are they?
Nikkles on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is one of my favorite, if not my favorite set within the Valdemar series. Albrich is a character I always wanted to know more about! I only wish I had more than the two books to read about him! I highly recommend the set to Lackey lovers as being some of her better and more well written work.
LisaMaria_C on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm a fan of Lackey's Valdemar books, and was excited to see a new one when I first saw this in stores, yet the first time I tried it, I couldn't even finish it. There are books in the series I'd recommend that could make you a fan of them: such as the books about Vanyel (The Last Herald Mage trilogy starting with Magic's Pawn) or about Talia (Heralds of Valdemar trilogy starting with Arrows of the Queen). Then there are the books that if you do find you love this world, I could recommend buying (like the Mage Winds or Mage Storms series). This book however, I can't recommend except to a hardcore fan. It seems to suffer from tired blood, and it also had an element that was so jarring it stopped me reading on my first try. Alberich's love interest, Myste, a non-athletic bookworm Herald and Chronicler, screamed "Mary Sue." (Lackey's nickname is "Misty.") Recently I went on a nostalgic binge of reading and rereading Lackey's Valdemar books, and tried this again. It's not a terrible book exactly, readable and enjoyable if you love this world and want to spend time with it, but I still feel it's not up to the standard of the best of her writing.
humouress on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a prequel to the Heralds of Valdemar series, although written later. It is the story of how Alberich of Karse (a neighbouring country at war with Valdemar) came to hold a high position with the Heralds of Valdemar, themselves crucial to the running and defense of that kingdom, and how he was critical in training Heralds to fight.Alberich has a Gift, which the Sunpriests of Karse regard as evil, although it enables him to help save people, and so he escapes into exile in Valdemar when they discover it in him. However he feels about the Sunpriests, he still loves his homeland, while at the same time coming to respect the Valdemarans who rescue him and to see they are not the villains painted by the Sunpriests of Karse. He holds to his honour by not letting the love and duty for the two lands come into conflict.I found this a nicely written story, with a well woven storyline, not heavy going. I could have done with fewer italics which turn up at least once or twice on each page, quite apart from the mindspeech with Companion horses (which is necessary). I liked reading the story of Alberich, who (if I remember correctly) is not a huge part of the stories that occur later, though he does have a dour presence (since he is involved in training new Heralds), because this shows that he does have a human side, and clears up the mystery of how someone who should have been the enemy came to be close to the royal family of Valdemar. Towards the end of the book, Valdemar goes to war, and, inevitably, there is tragedy; however, having read the "Arrows" trilogy which occurs soon after these events, it wasn't unexpected, but I might have found the tone of the book a bit darker otherwise.
silentq on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the first part of Alberich's backstory, the short story from Horse Fantastic leads off as a prologue detailing how he was Chosen. It stays in his brain a lot (which is good, as his Karsite syntax when speaking is a bit hard to read!), as he struggles with honour and loyalty as his birth country attacks his adopted one. The scenes in the last battle of the Tedrel Wars had tears running down my face, Lackey can always reduce me to blubbering.
van_stef on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Alberich is one of my favorite characters ever. He's amazingly resourceful. And I love the fact that he's from Valdemar's sworn enemy.
Meijhen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the second in the series of books about Herald Alberich of Valdemar. I think I am growing out of the Valdemar books. I picked this one up because I was bored, in a bookstore with very limited options. I used to consider these 'good' books; now I consider them 'fluff', for light entertainment only. That said, this suits that purpose very well. The story was engrossing, although I knew the outcome already since it is a prequel to the original Heralds of Valdemar series. But it was an entertaining couple of hours while I went through it.
jehovahrapha on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My favorites of all the Valdemar books I've read so far, the duology is wonderful, and I love this glimpse into Alberich's psyche. He seems so tough, but it's not until the Exile duology that we understand why he has such a 'Stoneheart.' I like this first best, but I admit that his unsaid 'I told you so' to Selenay at the end of Exile's Valor makes me smile...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ariam More than 1 year ago
Mercedes Lackey is fantasy royalty in her own right and this is just another amazing novel to prove it. Coming back to her amazing fantasy world of Valdemar, Mrs. Lackey introduces her Alberich, a Karasite soldier, who has his world upended which he is chosen by one of the mysterious Companions of the enemy kingdom of Valdemar. Well written, action packed, with witty characters you come to cheer for and enemies you've come to despise. Highly recommended for those who are fans of Mrs. Lackey and her previous Valdemar novels. A good stand alone novel or starting point for those wanting to get into the world of Valdemar and learn more about the Heralds and their amazing world. Highly recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Is a heart warming story of one mans search to not only to belong, but to overcome predjust and truly belong in an different country.
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Shamballah More than 1 year ago
I've been reading Mercedes Lackey books for years, the Valdemar series is my all time favorite. Once you read one you will have to read the rest.
Barbed-Wire More than 1 year ago
I would rank this novel right up there with her "By The Sword". Fascinating characters, terrific adventure, very satisfying fantasy. One of her best, along with "Exile's Valor" which is the continuation of Alberich's story. I have read most of Mercedes' books, and I wish that I could recommend them all, but I'm not real good at guessing what other people like, and a couple of her books are real clunkers. Mind you I still read those books as well.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you like your fantasy heroes with a side order of man pain, meet Herald Alberich. I could totally imagine him being played by Tyler Hoechlin while I was reading this. Anyone who is already a fan of the Valdemar novels is familiar with the basic plot of a Herald's journey - there's a discovery phase, an identity crisis phase, and a recovery phase, all with angst and hurt/comfort aplenty. This one's a bit different though. Alberich is no teeanager struggling with his relationships to his peers. He's a grown man who could give a damn about what anyone besides his Companion thinks of him (and sometimes not even the Companion). No, Alberich's issues all stem from a bone deep sense of honor (hence the title) and whether or not he is turning his back on it by allying himself with his home country's traditional enemies. It's a refreshing change from the usual sturm and drang. If you're not familiar with the Valdemar novels, this is a fine entry point, as Alberich starts the novel as a complete outsider and has to learn the ways and mores of his new country, so the reader can learn alongside of him. Lackey brings across his difficulty with Valdemarran syntax by making him talk exactly like Yoda, which gets a bit distracting, but luckily there are a few characters around who can speak to him in Karsite so that he doesn't spend the whole book sounding like he's about to bust Luke Skywalker's chops any minute. I didn't really have a problem with Myste. Sure she was probably a self-insert, but she is also a classic example of the Badass Bookworm trope so I read her more as the latter than the former and it was all good.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of my all time favorite books
biblio-filer More than 1 year ago
The first of two books which focus on Alberich. These two are hands down my two favorites in this series, and I have enjoyed many, and read I think all of them. When I met Alberich in the 'Arrows' trilogy, I really wanted to know about him, since he was such a fascinating individual. This and Exile's Valor give us that insight.
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