The Dark Defiles
The Dark Defiles cover.


Richard K. Morgan


Gollancz (UK), Del Rey (US)

Release Date

Oct 2014

Preceded By

The Cold Commands

The Dark Defiles is the third book in the series A Land Fit For Heroes by Richard K. Morgan, published in 2014.

Story SummaryEdit

The Dark Defiles begins with Archeth, Egar, and Ringil in the middle of their quest as given by the messenger Anasharal to find the Kiriath city of An-Kirilnar near the Hironish isles and the grave of the Illwrack Changeling. However, so far they have been unsuccessful over the past 5 months.

Archeth is the expedition leader. Four of the eight sponsors of the expedition are along for the journey:

  • Mahmal Shanta: An elderly naval engineer, and primary sponsor of the expedition.
  • Klarn Shendanak: A rough Majak, cutthroat in his youth, and distrustful.
  • Menith Tand: A slave trader. He is arrogant and mistrustful of others, particularly Shendanak.
  • Yilmar Kaptal: A self-made man who grew up on the streets, and grew wealthy running brothels. He also does not trust Shendanak and Tand.

The expedition also includes

They have three ships:

It's at this point that Ringil becomes separated from the group while digging up one of the potential grave sites.

Archeth and Egar in OrnleyEdit

Tensions are running high amongst the expedition due to lack of action and success. Shendanak and Tand are in a competition to find the information on where the grave is by beating the locals in Ornley. Shendanak and Egar get into a fight over the issue and Shendanak is severely wounded.

Tand's men have discovered information on the Illwrack Changeling grave by torturing one of the locals. Archeth and Tand speak to him to learn that he is part of a local group of Aldrain worshipers. They discovered the grave. Though the body was mostly rotted (being 4,000 years old), they found a sword. They replaced the body with that of a deformed sheep, causing Archeth to recall that they previously had dug up that very grave. The sword was sent to Trelayne in preparation for the return of the Aldrain.

It is at this time that a very large group of Trelayne League privateers have surrounded Ornley, and they swiftly capture the entire expedition. They are led by the knight commander Captain Klithren of Hinerion. He explains to them that a war has broken out between the Yhelteth Empire and the Trelayne League. It was sparked after the Empire annexed Hinerion as recompense for the murder of an imperial legate.

Klithren is also on the hunt for Ringil in particular. Ringil has been disowned by his family and declared an outlaw by his father, who has given permission for Ringil to be brought back dead or alive. But Klithren has his own private desire for revenge, as he thinks it was Ringil who killed his friend Venj and knocked out Klithren in Hinerion. Klithren sets up an ambush in Ornley to capture Ringil when he returns.

Though Archeth and Egar make plans to attempt to escape, they are shipped out back to Trelayne.


While Ringil is with a group of men digging up one of the prospective grave sites, he is visited upon by Firfirdar, Queen of the Dark Court. She appears as a beautiful corpse. She explains that she has been "helping" and guiding Ringil his entire life. She has come to warn Ringil that the dwenda are returning, that he had already discovered the Illwrack Changeling grave a week ago but were deceived, and that the dwenda are bringing back the Talons of the Sun. She also reveals that a war has started between Trelayne and Yhelteth, and that his friends have been captured in Ornley.

Ringil returns to his men, and uses magic to conjure a mist that will obscure and guide their journey back to Ornley. His attack is largely successful. When Ringil confronts Kilthren, they enter a duel. However, Klithren is not injured when Ringil strikes him with his sword, and Ringil begins to see blue fire like lightning which suggests dwenda involvement. Klithren defeats him and knocks him out.

Ringil spends some time in the Grey Spaces meeting with Hjel who helps him realize the dwenda helped Klithren as their human champion.

Noyal Rakan was never captured, and he slips onto the boat that is carrying Ringil back to Trelayne and frees him. Together they take down Klithren, and Ringil uses his image as a dark mage to frighten the men, and forces them under threat of the ikinri 'ska to follow him.

Klithren does not believe Ringil when he tells him he did not kill Venj. He learns that the cabal in Trelayne hired Klithren. Ringil wants his friends back (he still believes that Archeth and Egar are on their way to Trelayne), and threatens to destroy all of Trelayne to get them. Ringil enters the Grey Places with Klithren, and asks for his allegiance to avoid a bloodbath when they return to Ornley to free those that are left. He also wants information on the cabal, and to destroy them. Ringil offers in return for his allegiance to have a fair one-on-one fight afterwards. He then threatens to leave Klithren in the Grey Places if he doesn't accept.

After Klithren accepts, they liberate the men in Ornley, and they sail back to Trelayne under guise of the Trelayne privateers escorting their captives.

Ringil returns to the Grey Places to meet with Hjel. He first meets with Daelfi from Hjel's camp. She tells Ringil the story of Hjel's birth. The story goes that he was stillborn, and that Akoyavash came and gave him back his life for a great purpose.

Ringil goes with Hjel back to the cliffs to learn more ikinri 'ska. Hjel is hesitant around Ringil, fearing his image as a dark mage. The Souther Scourge defeated and scattered his people, led by a dark mage with an army of the walking dead, with the storms at his command. Ringil is learning the ikinri 'ska at an alarming rate.

Within the defiles of the cliffs, Ringil learns the most powerful iterations of the ikinri 'ska. There he meets the Book-Keeper, the Creature from the Crossroads he had met before. It was responsible for controlling the cold legion, and helping him defeat Risgillen, but is disappointed that Ringil did not finish her. It sees itself as a builder, responsible for stitching the world back together, making it suitable for humans.

When Ringil returns to the boat, he decides to confront Anasharal. He drags it up on deck, and threatens to toss it overboard. He inscribes ikinri 'ska glyphs into Anasharal to compel him to obey Ringil (burning his hand in the process on its self-heating carapace). It unlocks Anasharal's memory. Anasharal explains to Ringil about the Warhelms and Ingharnanasharal's purpose and that it sent part of itself as Anasharal to Earth. After the defeat of the Aldrain, their new mission was to build a new human Empire based on reason and science. It sent Archeth away as it knew about the impending earthquakes, and that the resulting panic would force the Emperor on a holy war against Trelayne. Ringil deduces that Anasharal has been trying to turn Yhelteth into a weapon to defeat the Aldrain, and to place Archeth on the throne. It was building a new cabal made of the sponsors of the expedition that would support Archeth's ascendancy. He sees how each member would have reason to overthrow Jhiral.

Archeth and Egar at An-KirilnarEdit

While being sent back to Trelayne, one of the ships carrying Archeth, Egar, and some of their men are shipwrecked in a storm (unknowingly caused by Ringil's magic) in the Kiriath Wastes. Their prospects of surviving there are very small. Egar becomes the de facto leader of the ragtag group, including some privateers. Tand, Shendanak, and Shanta were on another boat which successfully makes its way to Trelayne. Just as they are trying to figure out what to do, the Kiriath fortress An-Kirilnar appears to them in the sea.

After making their way out there and figuring out a way inside, they are met by the Warhelm Tharalanangharst. It allows them to enter, though it swiftly kills one of the privateers named Sogren who fondled Archeth when she was captured. The rest are all fed and well taken care of. They end up spending several weeks at An-Kirilnar recovering.

Tharalanangharst reveals some of its history, and information about current events. It has detected earthquakes in the underwater Hanliagh fault. The Citadel used the earthquakes as a bad omen against Jhiral, that God is angry with the Empire, and they forced his hand into a holy war against Trelayne. Anasharal knew about the earthquakes, and devised the expedition as a means to get Archeth out of Yhelteth and out of harms way. The Aldrain are likely planning to use the Talons of the Sun to cause the volcanic vents at Hanliagh to burst, which would cover the sky in ash and block out the sun, allowing the Aldrain to invade.

Tharalanangharst also tells them the history of the Illwrack Changeling, whose name is Cormorion Ilusilin Mayne. It explains that the sword Betrayal Becomes You was created by the Kiriath at the behest of the Ahn Foi to mimic his own sword and was designed so that when he drew it in battle, it would mirror his soul and they would obliterate each other. However, the mirrored copy remained in the sword, and it is theorized that this can be used to resurrect Cormorion. The Warhelms had an ultimate safety measure to ensure that the Aldrain did not return. Due to the Aldrain's dependency on humans, they proposed exterminating all of the humans so they would have no means to return, but Flaradnam opposed this solution.

Tharalanangharst tells them more about the Warhelms. Ingharnanasharal is a Warhelm that orbits the planet. It cut a part of itself off and sent it to Earth. Anasharal is that fragment, a tiny shell just to deliver the intended information to Archeth. Tharalanangharst formulates a plan to help Anahsaral's plan to succeed. It will not reveal the intentions of the plan, only that they work in Archeth's best interests.

At one point, Tharalanangharst pulls up a large crab-like Kiriath machine from the water, and inside it is Yilmar Kaptal, bloated and eaten by the monsters of the deep. Eventually Tharalanangharst brings Kaptal back to life, better and stronger than before. Archeth and Egar are unsure of what this means. Tharalanangharst also recovers Archeth's knives, and develops new, almost magical sheaths for them.

Archeth and Egar in the WastesEdit

After three weeks, the group leave An-Kirilnar and head through the Wastes intending to reach the Majak steppes. Tharalanangharst has given them a fire spirit to guide them. They eventually reach the remnants of a vast, ruined city with Myrlic writing. They are attacked by Scaled Folk peons. Several men are lost, but the lizards are ultimately driven back. Archeth's fighting instincts were unlike anything she had experienced in the past, as the bond with her Kiriath knives has grown very strong. Tharalanangharst had told her about Salgra Keth training, an art of juggling, which she had never heard about, but it takes years to learn.

They make their way to a Kiriath facility within the city. It appears as a large pit diving into the earth, with Kiriath machinery covering all around it. They are then attacked by a dragon. Alwar Nash is killed by its venom defending Archeth. Egar succeeds in killing the dragon, but he is killed in the process.

Afterwards, Archeth and the remaining men head into the pits through a Kiriath door. They march more than a mile deep down the corridor, although to them it seemed like a flat incline. They find a large chamber with a Helmsman who digs out a machine for them to travel in to the steppes. Once inside, it suddenly fills with a liquid that they are all forced to breathe.

Ringil in TrelayneEdit

Riding into Trelayne they fly a banner indicating the people on board are infected with the plague. This keeps the Trelayne ships from getting too close to discover that Ringil is in command. Ringil sets out to create a diversion in Trelayne. There are a set of prison ships outside of the harbor. Ringil goes aboard and kills the guards and sets the men free, including Sharkmaster Wyr, the pirate captain who has been in prison for 4 years. His family was tortured to death, and Ringil thinks his resentment will be strong enough for him to want to bring destruction to Trelayne. Using his powers, Ringil sends the prison ships crashing into Trelayne and up towards the Glades. The prisoners are freed, and begin causing mayhem in the city.

Ringil and a small group of soldiers make their way to House Eskiath. Inside, his mother, father, and brother Creglir are there. Tensions are high as he asks about the prisoners, and he is told they were transferred to Etterkal a week ago. He leaves without significant incident and heads to Etterkal.

They enter Slab Findrich's warehouse palace. He is confronted by Iscon Kaad and his father Murmin Kaad and an ambush of soldiers. Ringil uses the ikinri 'ska to defeat them. He mortally wounds Iscon Kaad, and then chops off the hands of Murmin Kaad. In exchange for a mercy killing of his son, Murmin reveals to Ringil that the dwenda have the Illwrack Changeling's sword. The plan is to force the sword into Ringil's grip, allowing the Dark King to possess him. Ringil has Noyal kill both the Kaads.

Anasharal, speaking to Ringil remotely, suggests using the ikinri 'ska to compel Anasharal to connect with the memories of Ingharnanasharal in orbit. He does this and Anasharal shrieks and is gone.

Risgillen and the dwenda appear before Ringil. She uses the power of Atalmire and his clan Tallonreach to use Ringil's power against him, and to bind and control him and his men. They bring out the Illwrack Changeling sword.

Anasharal addresses the dwenda and distracts them. Ringil uses his power to smash the floor beneath them. He kills Atalmire, and starts slaughtering the rest of the dwenda. His ikinri 'ska power starts flowing unabated. During the fighting, Noyal Rakan is killed. Ringil takes Findrich prisoner.

Ringil finds the captives Mahmal Shanta, Menith Tand, and Klarn Shendanak. They think that Archeth and Egar are dead, shipwrecked in the Wastes.

Ringil forces Findrich to take the Illwrack Changeling's sword. He then cuts Findrich in half and severs his arm. Ringil thinks this puts an end to it. They burn down the palace.

As they are loading the boats to escape Trelayne, Shahn, a marine sergeant, knocks Ringil out with a chain.

Ringil awakens sitting on a throne facing the ocean. Cormorion is there as a twisted form and he attacks Ringil. He defeats Ringil, and as he takes his place on the throne, someone grabs him and kills him, finally sending him to the void. Ringil is restored, and talks to the thing which will not give its name. Ringil sits on the throne and awakens back with the dwenda.

Risgillen and Lathkeen argue. Ringil quickly kills Lathkeen, and calls for Ravensfriend and it comes to him. The ikinri 'ska bursts forth. He kills Risgillen and the guard around her.

Passing through the host of dwenda who have assembled, Ringil is addressed by the Codes. It explains the detailed history of the Aldrain, the binding of the Source and the creation of the Codes to restrain it. Ringil addresses the surrounding dwenda who swear their undying hatred towards him. Ringil explains to them their true history, that they were once human, and tears down the mythos of their being. He then orders the Codes to make this truth known to the dwenda.

The entire Dark Court arrives. Firfirdar addresses him, telling him all that remains is for Ringil to take the throne. Ringil, with control of the remaining dwenda, could rule the world.

Ringil speaks to the Source directly. He learns that it is weary, forced to take part in wars it wants no part in. If Ringil releases the Source to the void, he will be trapped in the Grey Space for eternity.

Ringil, much to the shock and disappointment of the Dark Court, releases the Source. Clan Talonreach disappears with it. The Dark Court leaves, but Dakovash returns. Ringil asks for a grain of krinzanz and he gives it. Ringil asks him to release the cold command, but Dakovash says the only way that can happen is if Ringil dies. Ringil then asks him to watch over Archeth and Egar and keep them safe. He informs Ringil how Egar died. Ringil insists he keep his part of the favor, and Dakovash leaves.

Ringil steps forward to fight the remaining dwenda.

Archeth in the SteppesEdit

Archeth awakes in a field in the Steppes, wet but feeling better than she has in a long time. She realizes they were catapulted over a thousand miles.

She is greeted by Takavach. He explains that Poltar the shaman is supported by Kwelgrish and that her quest for Egar's revenge will get her killed. He goes into great detail on how he and Kwelgrish have woven events that lead to the current situation.

Archeth meets with Carden Han in Ishlin-ichan, imperial legate for the Majak steppe. He does not have the forces necessary to take on Poltar. She learns that Egar's brother Ershal is head of a governing council of the Skaranak.

While Marnak Ironbrow from the Skaranak tribe visits Ishlin-ichan, Archeth surprises him in a brothel. He was once a friend of Egar, and had fought with Flaradnam in the past. Archeth tells him the truth about what happened to Egar, and he slowly begins to accept it. He's as happy as anyone to see Poltar gone, but Ershal has been a good clan master, and he would be sad to see him go, but Archeth is determined to kill them both.

While Archeth is returning to the embassy, Kwelgrish appears as a wolf following her. It later grabs her, and fondles her in a way to make her orgasm harder than she can remember. She warns Archeth not to bother with Poltar, as they are only mortal and will eventually die. Archeth is able to draw her knife on Kwelgrish, and she leaves. Back at the embassy, Kaptal oddly asks her if it would make sense if she were Empress.

Archeth and Marnak and the soldiers ride for two days, carrying the wreckage of the catapult projectile to a place of sacred grounds for the Skaranak. They are attempting to lure out Poltar and Ershal. While there, they are attacked by Long Runners. Archeth leads the fight in killing them, but they lose ten men in the process. Marnak believes Poltar is responsible for calling them.

Ershal and 24 riders approach. Archeth lays in wait for ambush, and when they attack they kill all the men except Ershal who runs off on horseback. Archeth chases after him. He hits her with a lance, but she feigns injury, and kills him with a thrown knife.

Poltar appears behind her. He uses his magic to push back Archeth as she tries to strike. He speaks to her in High Kir calling himself the Chosen. A dark thing protects him, leeches on him, with wings like an ocean ray. He sends the wraith towards Archeth. Just then, Yilmar Kaptal arrives and calls to her "Salgra Keth". Knowing suddenly flows into her. The wraith attacks Kaptal and his horse. She attacks, opening herself to the Kiriath blades, and destroys the wraith with her knives. Poltar calls Kelgris to him. Archeth kills him with a blade. Kelgris jokingly asks Archeth if he said "revenge", then that she has other things to do.

Later, hundreds of Skaranak ride with Archeth back to Yhelteth. She thinks the Skaranak council will probably want Marnak to be the new clanmaster. He rides with Archeth a ways to help integrate the new Majak, but refuses to go with her to the Empire. Yilmar Kaptal is still with her, even after being destroyed by the wraith.

Coda - EmpireEdit

Emperor Jhiral has taken Ishgrim and beats her as she fights against him. She prays to the Dark Court to bring Archeth back.

Coda - HjelEdit

Dekovash enters the tent of the Moss. A baby is stillborn. Dekovash takes the baby, bites the pommel of Ravensfriend, and brings the baby back to life. He tells them to name it Gil, though they interpret it as Hjel.