King of Thorns

By: Mark Lawrence

BOOK TWO OF THE BROKEN EMPIRE




ACKNOWLEDGMENTS




I need to thank my reader, Helen Mazarakis, for reading King of Thorns one chunk at a time as I wrote it, and telling me what she thought.

Many thanks go to Ginjer Buchanan at Ace for taking a chance on me, and to both her and Kat Sherbo for all their labour in making The Broken Empire series a success.

My editor at HarperCollins Voyager, Jane Johnson, deserves huge thanks for all her splendid efforts to date. Thanks also to Amy McCulloch and Laura Mell, who have worked various wonders on my behalf.

And finally, my agent Ian Drury must be thanked for getting me the gig in the first place and for continuing to sell my books across the world. Gaia Banks and Virginia Ascione, working with Ian at Sheil Land Associates Ltd., also need thanking for their efforts in getting Jorg’s story into so many translations.





PROLOGUE





I found these pages scattered, teased across the rocks by a fitful wind. Some were too charred to show their words, others fell apart in my hands. I chased them though, as if it were my story they told and not hers.

Katherine’s story, Aunt Katherine, sister to my stepmother, Katherine who I have wanted every moment of the past four years, Katherine who picks strange paths through my dreams. A few dozen ragged pages, weighing nothing in my hand, snowflakes skittering across them, too cold to stick.

I sat upon the smoke-wreathed ruins of my castle, careless of the heaped and stinking dead. The mountains, rising on all sides, made us tiny, made toys of the Haunt and the siege engines strewn about it, their purpose spent. And with eyes stinging from the fires, with the wind’s chill in me deep as bones, I read through her memories.





FROM THE JOURNAL OF KATHERINE AP SCORRON


October 3rd, Year 98 Interregnum

Ancrath. The Tall Castle. Fountain Room.


The fountain room is as ugly as every other room in this ugly castle. There’s no fountain, just a font that dribbles rather than sprays. My sister’s ladies-in-waiting clutter the place, sewing, always sewing, and tutting at me for writing, as if quill ink is a stain that can’t ever be washed off.

My head aches and wormroot won’t calm it. I found a sliver of pottery in the wound even though Friar Glen said he cleaned it. Dreadful little man. Mother gave me that vase when I came away with Sareth. My thoughts jump and my head aches and this quill keeps trembling.

The ladies sew with their quick clever stitches, line stitch, cross-line, layer-cross. Sharp little needles, dull little minds. I hate them with their tutting and their busy fingers and the lazy Ancrath slurring of their words.

I’ve looked back to see what I wrote yesterday. I don’t remember writing it but it tells how Jorg Ancrath tried to kill me after murdering Hanna, throttling her. I suppose that if he really had wanted to kill me he could have done a better job of it having broken Mother’s vase over my skull. He’s good at killing, if nothing else. Sareth told me that what he said in court, about all those people in Gelleth, burned to dust…it’s all true. Merl Gellethar’s castle is gone. I met him when I was a child. Such a sly red-faced man. Looked as if he’d be happy to eat me up. I’m not sorry about him. But all those people. They can’t all have been bad.

I should have stabbed Jorg when I had the chance. If my hands would do what I told them more often. If they would stop trembling the quill, learn to sew properly, stab murdering nephews when instructed…Friar Glen said the boy tore most of my dress off. Certainly it’s a ruin now. Beyond the rescue of even these empty ladies with their needles and thread.

I’m being too mean. I blame the ache in my head. Sareth tells me be nice. Be nice. Maery Coddin isn’t all sewing and gossip. Though she’s sewing now and tutting with the rest of them. Maery’s worth talking to on her own, I suppose. There. That’s enough nice for one day. Sareth is always nice and look where that got her. Married to an old man, and not a kind one but a cold and scary one, and her belly all fat with a child that will probably run as savage as Jorg Ancrath.

I’m going to have them bury Hanna in the forest graveyard. Maery tells me she’ll lie easy there. All the castle servants are buried there unless their families claim them. Maery says she’ll find me a new maidservant but that seems so cold, to just replace Hanna as if she were torn lace, or a broken vase. We’ll go out by cart tomorrow. There’s a man making her coffin now. My head feels as if he’s hammering the nails into it instead.

I should have left Jorg to die on the throne-room floor. But it didn’t feel right. Damn him.

We’ll bury Hanna tomorrow. She was old and always complaining of her aches but that doesn’t mean she was ready to go. I will miss her. She was a hard woman, cruel maybe, but never to me. I don’t know if I’ll cry when we put her in the ground. I should. But I don’t know if I will.

That’s for tomorrow. Today we have a visitor. The Prince of Arrow is calling, with his brother Prince Egan and his retinue. I think Sareth would like to match me there. Or maybe it’s the old man, King Olidan. Not many of Sareth’s ideas are her own these days. We will see.

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