The novel introduces the eponymous assassin Waylander, as well as other characters important to the Drenai saga, such as Karnak and the Thirty. The origin of the Armour of Bronze is also detailed in the course of the story, as well as the events that lead to Drenai becoming a republic.
Orien the Battle King of the Drenai abdicates in favour of his son, Nialliad, but does not leave him his famous bronze armour. Instead he has the armour - viewed with reverence by the Drenai people - hidden, to wait until it is found by a Chosen One during days of blood and darkness for the Drenai.
Several years later, those days have arrived. Vagrian armies have invaded Drenai and are wreaking havoc across the land. King Nialliad is dead, slain by an assassin's crossbow bolt. The only surviving Drenai military forces of note are either besieged in the port city of Dros Purdol or in hiding in Skultik Forest, while the priests of the Source are being systematically hunted down and murdered.
One of these priests, Dardalion is captured by a group of robbers and highwaymen (one of many unaligned brigand bands taking advantage of the national situation) and tortured for sport. His ordeal is interrupted when a lone man walks into the camp and demands the return of his horse, which the brigands had apparently stolen earlier. His demand met only with threats of violence, the lone man swiftly attacks and slays all five of the brigands. Recovering his horse, he is just about to leave the scene - and Dardalion, tied to a tree - when he reverses his initial decision and rescues the priest. He introduces himself as Waylander, the infamous assassin.
Waylander and Dardalion travel on together, heading for Skultik. On the road, they bump into a young refugee woman, Danyal, and the children she is trying to get to safety. Once again going against his better judgement, Waylander agrees to help the group. During their flight, Dardalion is assaulted in the spirit realm by a member of the Dark Brotherhood. He is saved when Waylander bleeds himself and drips the blood into the unconscious priest's mouth; this polluting of a pure soul with that of someone notably unpure results in the pacifistic Dardalion choosing to turn and fight back against his spiritual pursuer. Killing him, Dardalion awakes a changed man.
Not long afterwards, Orien (now an aged blind man) wanders into their camp, and attempts to convince Waylander to retrieve the Armour of Bronze and deliver it to the man thought of by most as the current Drenai leader, the general Egel. After a long conversation - in which it is revealed that Orien knows Waylander was the assassin who killed his son, King Nialliad - Waylander eventually agrees to attempt the quest. Orien takes his leave before sunrise.
The little group is soon forced by Vagrian troop movements to take shelter in a partially-collapsed fort, which is also providing shelter for a small band of Drenai soldiers that had been operating as a raiding and harassing force. The leader of this unit, Gellan, turns out to be a contemporary of Waylander's, having known him under his real name of Dakeyras when they served alongside each other in the Drenai military several years previously. The fort is attacked by a much larger force of Vagrians, but the defenders (including the now decidedly non-pacifistic Dardalion) manage to hold them off long enough for aid to arrive in the form of a relief column led by the charismatic Drenai general Karnak. The whole group then travels to Skultik forest together.
Once there, Karnak - despite learning Waylander's true identity - allows him to leave on his quest for the Armour of Bronze. Dardalion aligns himself with Karnak, resolving to use his mystical powers to aid the general in the coming battles. Suffering censure and condemnation from the Source Priesthood, Dardalion nevertheless continues with his plan...and semi-accidentally ends up gathering around him a group of other, like-minded priests.
Waylander makes a brief stop to visit Hewla, an old woman of his aquaintance possessed of great mystical power, and learns that not only is he pursued by the Vagrian military and their Dark Brotherhood (for both seeking the Armour and for killing the son of the Vagrian general, Kaem) but he is also being hunted by a famed assassin, Cadoras the Stalker. He leaves Skultik in the company of a refugee group, who are being guided through hostile lands by another aquaintance of Waylander's, a rogue named Durmast. Also in the group is Danyal, who joins it specifically to meet up with Waylander, with whom she has fallen in love. During the journey the pair grow close. Waylander spends part of the journey engaged in a form of assasin's duel with Cadoras, the latter choosing at one point not to kill Waylander as it would have been unsporting. Waylander returns the gesture when he manages to capture Cadoras, by letting him go unharmed. All during this time the refugee group suffers several misfortunes, including an attack by the Dark Brotherhood, before it is finally destroyed by a Nadir tribe (with whom Durmast had been acting in collusion to harry and rob the refugees; they eventually double-cross him and pillage it utterly). Durmast and Danyal escape into the wilderness, as does Waylander, although he believes himself to be the only survivor. In rage over Danyal's death (as he believes) he casts aside his quest for the Armour and manages to penetrate the Nadir camp and slay their chief before being captured and tortured. However, he is suddenly rescued by the arrival of none other than Cadoras, who manages to kill his way into the camp, grab Waylander and get them both out again, although receiving a mortal wound in the process. Electing to die alone, Cadoras makes Waylander leave him behind. Waylander resumes his quest for the Armour, unaware that Durmast and Danyal have decided to head to the reputed location (the mountain Raboas) themselves.
Meanwhile, Karnak has led a relief force to Dros Purdol, managing to get enough reinforcements inside to ensure that the siege will be significantly slowed. He plans to draw as much Vagrian attention and force to the cauldron of Dros Purdol as possible, so that Egel's powerful mounted army can regain its mobility and surprise the Vagrians. He also hopes that his actions will create enough time for Waylander to return with the Armour. With him go Dardalion and thirty priests who have also decided to use their talents in battle. Dardalion splits his time between attending to the siege and in monitoring Waylander's progress from afar, attempting to shield him from Dark Brotherhood mind probes.
Waylander by this time has more than just the Dark Brotherhood to worry about; the Nadir shaman Kesa Khan has sent not only a scouting force of tribesmen, but also a group of Joinings after him. The assassin also encounters a monstrously deformed man fighting off a group of wolves and pitches in to help, leaving the man - who cannot talk properly - with his two hunting knives for self-defence. Waylander finally manages to fight his way to Raboas, where he soon meets up with Danyal and Durmast. Danyal and he are overjoyed to see each other again, whilst Durmast is also pleased...as he is a double-agent in the employ of the Vagrians and intends to betray Waylander the minute the assassin retrieves the armour (making the deal sweeter for him is that he has also blackmailed Danyal into agreeing to sleep with him if Waylander manages to get the Armour). The trio then find the Armour of Bronze, but also find that it is protected by magic; although it looks solid, hands pass through it as if it were smoke (explaining why it hasn't been stolen long before). Waylander goes to pick up the armour...and his hands pass through it. Despite being sent on the quest by Orien himself, Waylander isn't the Chosen One. Danyal attempts, and she too cannot touch the armour. Durmast - who hasn't even attempted to touch it, so convinced is he (and everyone else) of his own moral bankruptcy - is then stunned to discover that he alone can touch the armour. Durmast is the Chosen One. Dismantling it from the stand, he brings it to a place where the others can handle it and pack it up. However, before the three of them can leave, the Nadir scouts arrive, closing off one of the two mountain paths. Despite Danyal's entreaties, Waylander elects to stay behind and delay them, while the other two flee with the armour. He succeeds in despatching several of the Nadir, although is wounded in turn, before the last of the Joinings arrives and kills all the tribesmen in an attempt to get to Waylander. Before the Joining can kill the downed assassin however, it in turn is slain by members of the Dark Brotherhood, who have by now arrived upon the other mountain-path. The Brotherhood begin to torture Waylander, more for kicks than for anything else, but are distracted by the completely unexpected return of Durmast, who attacks them in an attempt to save Waylander. Both of them (with a little long-distance help from Dardalion) manage to defeat the Brotherhood members, although Durmast is fatally wounded and soon dies, leaving Waylander (himself grieviously wounded) on the mountainside as both darkness and predatory beasts gather.
Danyal meanwhile, travels south wth the armour, a troop of Egel's cavalry already sent to meet her by Dardalion. On the journey she meets Kai, the deformed man Waylander earlier aided. Establishing that they are both friends of Waylander, Kai not only ensures Danyal completes the last part of her journey safely, he demonstrates a remarkable mystical healing talent...
Back in Dros Purdol, the situation grows grim. Despite destroying several of the Vagrain siege weapons, the Drenai defenders eventually falter. Most of them perish in battle, including Gellan and all of the Thirty but Dardalion. However, at the last minute Egel's army arrives, the general encased in the Armour of Bronze. A perfectly timed cavalry charge routs the Vagrians and Egel manages to relieve the Dros just in time to prevent Karnak's death. Any hope of the Vagrians reorganising and turning on the attacking Drenai is foiled when thier general, Kaem, dies in what some call suicide, others an accident. The only man that knows for sure is the cloaked and hooded assassin who leaves unnoticed by all.
In the years that follow, the Vagrian forces are not only pushed out of Drenai completely, they are destroyed when Karnak leads an invasion of Vagria itself, eventually toppling thier Emperor. Drenai eschews the return of monarchy and a form of republic is instituted. Egel refuses leadership of the nation, but accepts ennoblement as the Earl of Bronze. On the advice of Dardalion, he constructs the largest fortress ever built, placing it upon the main route in and out of Drenai's northern border. It is to be called Dros Delnoch. Egel later dies there, assassinated, and Karnak rises to rule the Drenai.
As for Danyal, she returns to Skultik to raise the children she, the assassin and the priest saved near the beginning of the whole affair. Six months later, she and the children are seen leaving in the company of a stranger.
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- Waylander (Dakeyras) – the eponymous assassin
- Dardalion – Source priest and founder of the Thirty
- Danyal – refugee, Waylander's love interest
- Durmast – acquaintance of Waylander's
- Cadoras – assassin hired to kill Waylander
- Kaem – Vagrian general
- Karnak – Drenai general
- Gellan, Jonat and Sarvaj – Drenai officers
- Egel – Drenai general and future Earl of Bronze
- Orien – former King of the Drenai
Book details Edit
- The Drenai King is dead – murdered by a ruthless assassin. Enemy troops swarm into Drenai lands. Their orders are simple – kill every man, woman and child.
- But there is hope.
- Stalked by men who act like beasts and beasts that walk like men, the warrior Waylander must journey ino the shadow-haunted lands of the Nadir to find the legendary Armour of Bronze. With this he can turn the tide. But can he be trusted?
- For he is Waylander the Slayer.
- He is the traitor that killed the King.
- This book is dedicated with love to Denis and Audrey Ballard, my parents-in-law, for the friendship of two decades.
- And to their daughter Valerie, who changed my world on December 22 1965.
- My thanks go to my agent Leslie Flood, whose support carried me through the lean years; my local editor, Ross Lempriere, without whom Waylander would not have stalked the dark woods; Stella Graham, the finest of proof-readers, and Liza Reezes, Jean Maund, Shane Jarvis, Jonathan Poore, Stewart Dunn, Julia Laidlaw and Tom Taylor.
- Special thanks to Robert Dreare for the fun of it all, and for holding the fortress against the odds.