see the muscles clenching in the side of his head. Blaming himself, most likely. Men liked to do that a lot when folk died, in the Dogman’s experience, and West seemed the type for it. Pike followed him, and the two of them passed Shivers, coming up the other way.

He stopped beside the graves, frowning down, hair hanging round his face, then he looked up at them. “Don’t mean no disrespect. None at all. But we need a new chief.”

“The earth’s only just turned on him,” hissed Dow, giving him the eye.

Shivers held up his hands. “Best time to discuss it, then, I reckon. So there’s no confusion. My boys are jumpy, being honest. They’ve lost friends, and they’ve lost Threetrees, and they need someone to look to, that’s a fact. Who’s it going to be?”

Dogman rubbed his face. He hadn’t even thought about it yet, and now that he did he didn’t know what to think. Tul Duru Thunderhead and Black Dow were two big, hard names, both led men before, and well. Dogman looked at them, standing there, frowning at each other. “I don’t care which o’ you it is,” he said. “I’ll follow either one. But it’s clear as clear, it has to be one of you two.”

Tul glared down at Dow, and Dow glowered back up at him. “I can’t follow him,” rumbled Tul, “and he won’t follow me.”

“That’s a fact,” hissed Dow. “We talked it out already. Never work.”

Tul shook his head. “That’s why it can’t be either one of us.”

“No,” said Dow. “It can’t be one of us.” He sucked at his teeth, snorted some snot into his face and spat it out onto the dirt. “That’s why it has to be you, Dogman.”

“That’s why what now?” said Dogman, his eyes wide open and staring.

Tul nodded. “You’re the chief. We’ve all agreed it.”

“Uh,” said Grim, not even looking up.

“Ninefingers gone,” said Dow, “and Threetrees gone, and that leaves you.”

Dogman winced. He was waiting for Shivers to say, “You what? Him? Chief?” He was waiting for them all to start laughing, and tell him it was a joke. Black Dow, and Tul Duru Thunderhead, and Harding Grim, not to mention two dozen Carls besides, all taking his say-so. Stupidest idea he ever heard. But Shivers didn’t laugh.

“That’s a good choice, I reckon. Speaking for my lads, that’s what I was going to suggest. I’ll let ’em know.” And he turned and made off through the trees, with the Dogman gawping after him.

“But what about them others?” he hissed once Shivers was well out of hearing, wincing at a stab of pain in his ribs. “There’s twenty fucking Carls down there, and jumpy! They need a name to follow!”

“You got the name,” said Tul. “You came across the mountains with Ninefingers, fought all those years with Bethod. There ain’t no bigger names than yours left standing. You seen more battles than any of us.”

“Seen ’em, maybe—”

“You’re the one,” said Dow, “and that’s all. So you ain’t the hardest killer since Skarling, so what? Your hands are bloody enough for me to follow, and there’s no better scout alive. You know how to lead. You’ve seen the best at it. Ninefingers, and Bethod, and Threetrees, you’ve watched ’em all, close as can be.”

“But I can’t… I mean… I couldn’t make no one charge, not the way Threetrees did—”

“No one could,” said Tul, nodding down at the earth. “But Threetrees ain’t an option no more, sorry to say. You’re the chief, now, and we’ll stand behind you. Any man don’t care to do as you tell ’em can speak to us.”

“And that’ll be one short-arsed conversation,” growled Dow.

“You’re the chief.” Tul turned and strode off through the trees.

“It’s decided.” And Black Dow followed him.

“Uh,” said Grim, shrugging his shoulders and making off with the other two.

“But,” muttered the Dogman. “Hold on…”

They’d gone. So he guessed that made him chief.

He stood there for a moment, blinking, not knowing what to think. He was never leader before. He didn’t feel no different. He didn’t have any ideas, all of a sudden. No notions of what to tell men to do. He felt like an idiot. Even more of one than usual.

He knelt down, between the graves, and he stuck his hand in the soil, and he felt it cold and wet around his fingers. “Sorry, girl,” he muttered. “Didn’t deserve this.” He gripped the ground tight, and he squeezed it in his palm. “Fare you well, Threetrees. I’ll try and do what you’d have done. Back to the mud, old man.”

And he stood up, and he wiped his hand on his shirt, and he walked away, back to the living, and left the two of them behind him in the earth.


Four people without whom…

Bren Abercrombie, whose eyes are sore from reading it

Nick Abercrombie, whose ears are sore from hearing about it

Rob Abercrombic, whose fingers are sore from turning the pages

Lou Abercrombie, whose arms are sore from holding me up


Jon Weir, for putting the word out

Simon Spanton, for not putting the boot in

And who could forget…

Gillian Redfearn, who not only made it happen, but made it better

Copyright © Joe Abercrombie 2007 All rights reserved

The right of Joe Abercrombie to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

First published in Great Britain in 2007 by Gollancz

An imprint of the Orion Publishing Group

Orion House, 5 Upper St Martin’s Lane, London WC2H 9EA

This edition published in Great Britain in 2008 by Gollancz 13579 10 8642

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library ISBN 9780575082014

Typeset at The Spartan Press Ltd, Lymington, Hants

Printed and bound in Great Britain by Mackays of Chatham plc, Chatham, Kent

The Orion Publishing Group’s policy is to use papers that are natural, renewable and recyclable products and made from wood grown in sustainable forests. The logging and manufacturing processes are expected to conform to the environmental regulations of the country of origin.

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