Logen plunged through the trees, bare feet slipping and sliding on the
wet earth, the slush, the wet pine needles, breath rasping in his chest,
blood thumping in his head. He stumbled and sprawled onto his side,
nearly cut his chest open with his own axe, lay there panting, peering
through the shadowy forest.
The Dogman had been with him until a moment before, he was sure, but
there wasn't any sign of him now. As for the others, there was no
telling. Some leader, getting split up from his boys like that. He
should've been trying to get back, but the Shanka were all around. He
could feel them moving between the trees, his nose was full of the smell
of them. Sounded as if there was some shouting somewhere on his left,
fighting maybe. Logen crept slowly to his feet, trying to stay quiet. A
twig snapped and he whipped round.
There was a spear coming at him. A cruel-looking spear, coming at him
fast with a Shanka on the other end of it.
"Shit," said Logen. He threw himself to one side, slipped and fell on
his face, rolled away thrashing through the brush, expecting the spear
through his back at any moment. He scrambled up, breathing hard. He saw
the bright point poking at him again, dodged out of the way, slithered
behind a big tree trunk. He peered out and the Flathead hissed and
stabbed at him. He showed himself on the other side, just for a moment,
then ducked away, jumped round the tree and swung the axe down, roaring
loud as he could. There was a loud crack as the blade buried itself deep
in the Shanka's skull. Lucky that, but then Logen reckoned he was due a
The Flathead stood there, blinking at him. Then it started to sway from
side to side, blood dribbling down its face. Then it dropped like a
stone, dragging the axe from Logen's fingers, thrashing around on the
ground at his feet. He tried to grab hold of his axe-handle but the
Shanka still somehow had a grip on its spear and the point was flailing
around in the air.
"Gah!" squawked Logen as the spear cut a nick in his arm. He felt a
shadow fall across his face. Another Flathead. A damn big one. Already
in the air, arms outstretched. No time to get the axe. No time to get
out of the way. Logen's mouth opened, but there was no time to say
anything. What do you say at a time like that?
They crashed to the wet ground together, rolled together through the
dirt and the thorns and the broken branches, tearing and punching and
growling at each other. A tree root hit Logen in the head, hard, and
made his ears ring. He had a knife somewhere, but he couldn't remember
where. They rolled on, and on, downhill, the world flipping and flipping
around, Logen trying to shake the fuzz out of his head and throttle the
big Flathead at the same time. There was no stopping.
It had seemed a clever notion to pitch camp near the gorge. No chance of
anyone sneaking up behind. Now, as Logen slid over the edge of the cliff
on his belly, the idea lost much of its appeal. His hands scrabbled at
the wet earth. Only dirt and brown pine needles. His fingers clutched,
clutched at nothing. He was beginning to fall. He let go a little
His hands closed around something. A tree root, sticking out from the
earth at the very edge of the gorge. He swung in space, gasping, but his
grip was firm.
"Hah!" he shouted. "Hah!" He was still alive. It would take more than a
few Flatheads to put an end to Logen Ninefingers. He started to pull
himself up onto the bank but couldn't manage it. There was some great
weight around his legs. He peered down.
The gorge was deep. Very deep with sheer, rocky sides. Here and there a
tree clung to a crack, growing out into the empty air and spreading its
leaves into space. The river hissed away far below, fast and angry,
foaming white water fringed by jagged black stone. That was all bad, for
sure, but the real problem was closer to hand. The big Shanka was still
with him, swinging gently back and forth with its dirty hands clamped
tight around his left ankle.
"Shit," muttered Logen. It was quite a scrape he was in. He'd been in
some bad ones alright, and lived to sing the songs, but it was hard to
see how this could get much worse. That got him thinking about his life.
It seemed a bitter, pointless sort of a life now. No one was any better
off because of it. Full of violence and pain, with not much but
disappointment and hardship in between. His hands were starting to tire
now, his forearms were burning. The big Flathead didn't look like it was
going to fall off any time soon. In fact, it had dragged itself up his
leg a way. It paused, glaring up at him.
If Logen had been the one clinging to the Shanka's foot, he would most
likely have thought, "My life depends on this leg I'm hanging from-best
not take any chances." A man would rather save himself than kill his
enemy. Trouble was that the Shanka didn't think that way, and Logen knew
it. So it wasn't much of a surprise when it opened its big mouth and
sank its teeth into his calf.
"Aaaargh!" Logen grunted, and squealed and kicked out as hard as he
could with his bare heel, kicked a bloody gash in the Shanka's head, but
it wouldn't stop biting, and the harder he kicked, the more his hands
slipped on the greasy root above. There wasn't much root left to hold on
to, now, and what there was looked like snapping off any moment. He
tried to think past the pain in his hands, the pain in his arms, the
Flathead's teeth in his leg. He was going to fall. The only choice was
between falling on rocks or falling on water, and that was a choice that
more or less made itself.
Once you've got a task to do, it's better to do it than to live with the
fear of it. That's what Logen's father would have said. So he planted
his free foot firmly on the rock face, took one last deep breath, and
flung himself out into empty space with all the strength he had left. He
felt the biting teeth let go of him, then the grasping hands, and for a
moment he was free.
Then he began to fall. Fast. The sides of the gorge flashed past-grey
rock, green moss, patches of white snow, all tumbling around him.
Logen turned over slowly in the air, limbs flailing pointlessly, too
scared to scream. The rushing wind whipped at his eyes, tugged at his
clothes, plucked the breath out of his mouth. He saw the big Shanka hit
the rock face beside him. He saw it break and bounce and flop off, dead
for sure. That was a pleasing sight, but Logen's satisfaction was
The water came up to meet him. It hit him in the side like a charging
bull, punched the air out of his lungs, knocked the sense out of his
head, sucked him in and down into the cold darkness ...
Excerpted from "The Blade Itself (The First Law: Book One)" by Joe Abercrombie. Copyright © 0 by Joe Abercrombie. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.