Massive spoiler warning
This is going to tell you everything that happens in the Black Hawks
Well on your own head be it
For those of us who struggle to remember what happened last week, remembering the events of a book from a while back can be a bit of an ask, especially when the sequel assumes we all have perfect recall and have only just put the first one down. The good news is that The Righteous features a little recap from the one and only Lemon at its start. However, for reasons of space and decency said recap is quite brief, so if you’d like a fuller synopsis, read on…
Vedren CHEL, a sullen young man of ANDRIZ heritage (an unloved minority considered lucky to have around), is tripped by a beggar while running to perform his duties at the winter palace that overlooks the great sea-port of DENIRNAS. Dispatched into the port on an errand, Chel sees the beggar again, but his efforts to pursue are thwarted by an encounter with the agents of a menacing Church sect: HURKEL and VASHENDA. He is spared violence when great black ships of THE NORTS sail into port, imposing a blockade. When attacked, the ships destroy their aggressors with advanced and horrifying alchemical weapons.
In the chaos, Chel attempts to escape both the palace and the hostile Church agents. In doing so, he unwittingly aids the flight of TARFEL, the kingdom’s junior prince. He is ward of the port’s lord, the Grand Duke, a consequence of the king’s infirmity. Prince Tarfel demands to be escorted to his brother’s armies, and promises that Chel will be released from his hated oath of service if he complies. Chel complies.
On reaching the armies, Chel runs into his younger sister SABINA, now also in service to the royal family, before his presentation to MENDEL, the crown prince and thrall of senior Church operatives (and the surviving half of a pair of royal twins). Mendel, under evident Church instruction from BALISE DA LORAN, swears Chel into the official service of Tarfel, and sends the pair, disbelieving, back to the blockaded port.
Chel and his new liege return, and the palace is attacked; when trying to protect his charge, Chel encounters the beggar again, now revealed as a disguised warrior. They fight, until the beggar dislocates Chel’s shoulder and knocks him down. Wounded, he watches the beggar save the prince from the murderous ESEN BASAR, son (and killer) of the Grand Duke, leaving Chel confused and on the edge of consciousness.
He wakes to find himself and the prince taken as presumed hostages by the beggar and his comrades, a small band of mercenaries: THE BLACK HAWK COMPANY, led by the disguised beggar, RENNIC. They are WHISPER, a mute scout; FOSS, an amiable man-mountain; SPIDER, a climbing psychopath; LOVELESS, a blue-haired enigma; and LEMON, a garrulous dogsbody with an outrageous accent. The group find themselves pursued by vicious forces at the Church’s command; instead of trying to rescue the prince, they seem intent on killing him off for good. They are led by Hurkel, and feature fearsome hired killers, among them GRASSI OF THE MAWN.
The mercenaries, dragging the prince and the injured Chel with them, attempt to evade the pursuers. After several gory encounters (including leaving a maimed HURKEL to be eaten by wolves and a run-in with some mountain cannibals), Chel and the prince have a chance to escape, but Chel feels bound to go back for the mercenaries who have kept them both alive thus far. Despite his willingness to fight, Chel flatly refuses to kill, citing his father’s teachings. This causes the mercenaries some consternation, Rennic in particular.
At last they reach their destination: THE RAU REL, partisan fighters and the remnants of the ancien regime. The mercenaries intend to trade the prince with the partisans, and invite the impressive if non-killing Chel to join them now their job is complete. Chel insists on staying with the prince.
In an intemperate encounter with the partisan spy-master, much is confirmed of Chel’s suspicions: the king’s illness is the work of PRIMARCH VASSAD, the head of the Church, who now rules through his underlings, controlling the dim-witted crown prince Mendel in particular. The partisans reveal their plan: to use prince Tarfel to lure out his brother, then use Mendel as the only key to Vassad’s fortress.
The abduction of Mendel is far bloodier than expected (and ends with the capture of a Horvaun Reaver, BRECKI THE STRANGLER, and the execution of Balise da Loran at the hands of AYLA PALO, a partisan captain), but the two princes are reunited at last. Without delay, the partisans move on the citadel, disguising themselves as a royal retinue, determined to rescue the king from his stupor and bring Primarch Vassad to justice. Chel accompanies the fearful Tarfel on the mission to rescue his father the king, while the partisans take Mendel to Vassad’s tower.
Things go wrong: the king is dead, and has been for years, and they find the partisan spy-master murdered at the tower-top. There Mendel sits on a bloodied throne, while a shambling addict who was once Primarch Vassad inhabits empty chambers. It is the crown prince who controls the kingdom, his stupidity an act - he is not Mendel, but CORVEL, the other twin, thought long since assassinated. Corvel’s original desire for revenge on the shadow state has been transmuted by his capture of its levers, and now he seeks total control. Outraged, Tarfel pushes Vassad from the tower, destroying his brother’s careful subterfuge. Spider flees, leaving Chel and Rennic to be captured by the overwhelming Church forces, the restored Hurkel at their forefront.
Chel and the survivors are imprisoned beneath the citadel, visited first by Corvel who demands their compliance, then by a disguised confessor who urges hope: Chel’s sister Sabina, a partisan spy since the beginning. They are not doomed yet.
And if you’d like to know what happened next, why not preorder The Righteous while there’s still time!