By John Gregory Betancourt

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Of all the things that had befallen me--of all the horrors I had seen since leaving Ilerium--his death struck me the hardest. After murdering him, hell-creatures had mounted his head on a pole outside of Kingstown. When I had returned there, the king's head spoke to me. Somehow, impossibly, magic kept it alive. It had called me vile names and shouted for hell-creatures to come and kill me. That had been one of the worst moments of my life. Of course, I knew deep inside that it hadn't really been King Elnar speaking--not truly--but the words still hurt like no others could have.

Had its murderous rage finally passed? Would it talk civilly to me now? Cautiously opening one eye, I peeked up at King Elnar's face. He stared down at me, frowning severely. "Don't stop," I said with a chuckle. " it demanded. " "Scream all you want," I said, folding my arms behind my head and closing my eyes. " "We're far from Ilerium. " "It's just you and me, old friend. No one can hear you, so go ahead! Scream all you want! Curse. Call me names. It doesn't bother me. No one can hear you. " I closed my eyes.

So it went. Over the next half hour, she lead me through the forest, then into grassy hills dotted with the round shoulders of ancient boulders. We crossed lush but empty valleys where wind sang a single mournful note, and then again entered a long stretch of primal forest where a peaceful, hush hung over everything. I could not tell if we were traveling through Shadows, but I didn't think so. Finally, we pushed through a thick hedge and entered a broad clearing. Here, in its center, on top of a huge stone slab that must have been a hundred and fifty feet wide, shone the Pattern that my father had inscribed with his own blood.

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To Rule in Amber by John Gregory Betancourt

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