Жанр: Фэнтези » Steven Erikson » Gardens of the Moon (страница 91)


«It was unlocked,» Apsalar pointed out.

Crokus opened the door. «Meese! What're you-?»

«Quiet!» the big woman hissed, pushing past him and shutting the door. Her gaze fell on Apsalar and her eyes widened. Then she turned back to Crokus. «Good. I found you, lad! You've seen no one since getting Au, back?»

«Why, no. That's just it-»

«A stabler,» Apsalar said, frowning up at Meese. «Have we met?»

«She's lost her memory,» Crokus explained. «But, yes, we stabled Coll's horse.»

«Why?» Meese demanded, then as Crokus was about to elaborate she went on, «Never mind. The stabler shouldn't prove a problem. Well, we're in luck!»

«Dammit, Meese,» Crokus said. «What's going on?»

She met his eyes. «That D'Arle guard you killed the other night. The one in the garden. They've got your name and description, lad. Don't ask me how. But the D'Arles are talking high gallows when you're caught.»

The blood left Crokus's face. Then his head jerked to Apsalar. He opened his mouth, then shut it again. No, she truly didn't remember. But it must have been her. He collapsed into Mammot's chair.

«We've got to hide you, lad,» Meese said. «Both of you, I guess. But don't you worry, Crokus, me and Irilta, we'll take care of you till something can be worked out.»

«I don't believe this,» he whispered, staring at the wall opposite him. «She betrayed me, damn her!»

Meese looked questioningly at Apsalar, who said, «It's a guess, but I'd say a girl named Challice.»

Meese closed her eyes briefly. «Challice D'Arle, the court's honey these days.» Compassion softened her face as she looked down on Crokus.

«Oh, lad. That's the way of it, then.»

He jerked in the seat and glared up at her. «It isn't any more.»

Meese grinned. «Right. For now,» she said, arms folded over her chest, «we just sit tight till night, then it's the rooftops for us. Don't worry, we'll handle things, lad.»

Apsalar rose. «My name's Apsalar,» she said. «Pleased to meet you, Meese. And thank you for helping Crokus.»

«Apsalar, huh? Well,» her grin broadened, «guess the rooftops will be no problem for you, then.»

«None,» she replied, knowing somehow that she was right in this.

«Good enough,» Meese said. «Now, how about we find something to drink?»

«Meese,» Crokus asked, «do you know where my uncle might have gone?»

«Can't help you there, lad. No idea.»

She wasn't sure about the old woman on the steps, but the one immediately below, tucked into a shadowed niche and steadily watching the tenement building-that one would have to be taken care of. It seemed, that this Coin Bearer had protection.

Serrat was not unduly concerned. Next to her lord, Anomander Rake, she ranked the deadliest among the Tiste And? of Moon's Spawn.

Finding this boy-servant of Oponn's had not proved difficult. Once her lord had given her the necessary details, Oponn's magical signature had been easy to find. It helped that she'd encountered it before-and from this very boy-on the rooftops two weeks past. Her agents had chased the Coin Bearer that night, abandoning him once he'd entered the Phoenix Inn-but only at her command. If she'd suspected then what she now knew, Oponn's presence would have ended that very night.

Ill luck, Serrat smiled to herself, taking a more comfortable position on the rooftop. They'd move at night, she suspected. As for the woman hiding below, she'd have to be removed. Indeed, with a spell of bluffing and enough in the way of shadows, she might as easily take the woman's place.

There'd be no suspicion from the other woman, then, the one presently inside with the Coin Bearer. Serrat nodded. Yes, that would be how she'd play it.

But for now, she'd wait. Patience ever rewards.

«Well,» Murillio said, as he scanned the crowd, «they're not here. Which means they're with Mammot.»

Kruppe drew a deep breath of the sweaty, smoky air. «Ah, civilization. Kruppe believes your assessment is accurate, friend. If so, then we might as well rest here, drinking and supping for an hour or two.» With that, he strode into the Phoenix Inn.

A few old hands, seated at Kruppe's table, gathered their tankards and pitcher and left, murmuring apologies and grinning among themselves.

Kruppe gave them a gracious nod and settled with a loud sigh into his usual chair. Murillio paused at the bar and spoke with Scurve, then he joined Kruppe.

Brushing dust from his shirt, Murillio frowned distractedly at his road-weary condition. «I look forward to a bath,» he said. «Apparently Scurve saw Rallick in here earlier, talking with some stranger. Since then, nobody's seen him.»

Kruppe waved an uninterested hand. «Kind Sulty arrives,» he announced. A moment later a pitcher of ale stood on the table. Kruppe wiped his tankard with his silk handkerchief, then filled it with the foaming brew.

«Weren't we supposed to report to Baruk?» Murillio asked, his eyes on his friend.

«All in due time,» Kruppe said. «First, we must recover from our ordeals. What if Kruppe were to lose his voice in very

mid-sentence of said report? What would avail Baruk of that?» He raised his tankard and drank deep.

Murillio drummed the fingers of one hand restlessly on the table, his eyes constantly scanning the crowd. Then he straightened in his seat. He filled his tankard. «So now that you know what Rallick and I are up to,» he said, «what do you plan to do about it?»

Kruppe's eyebrows lifted. «Kruppe? Why, nothing but good, of course. Timely assistance, and such. No need for blatant fretting, friend Murillio. By all means proceed as planned. Think of wise Kruppe as no more than a kindly chaperon.»

«Hood's Breath,» Murillio groaned, eyes rolling. «We were doing fine without your help. The best thing you could do for us is stay out of our way. Don't get involved.»

«And abandon my friends to the fates? Nonsense!»

Murillio finished his ale and rose. «I'm going home,» he said. «You can make the report to Baruk in a week's time for all I care. And when Rallick finds out you know all about our plans, well, Kruppe, I'd hate to be in your boots.»

Kruppe waved dismissively. «See Sulty yon? Upon her tray is Kruppe's supper. Rallick Nom's nasty daggers and nastier temper pale to insignificance before such repast as now approaches. Goodnight to you, then, Murillio. Until the morrow.»

Murillio stared down at him, then grumbled, «Goodnight, Kruppe.»

He left the bar through the kitchen door. As soon as he stepped into the back alley a figure accosted him from across the way. Murillio, frowned. «That you, Rallick?»

«No,» the shadowed figure said. «Fear me not, Murillio. I have a message to you from the Eel. Call me Circle Breaker.» The man strode closer. «The message concerns Councilman Turban Orr:»

Rallick moved from rooftop to rooftop in the darkness. The need for absolute silence slowed his hunt considerably. There'd be no conversation with Ocelot. Rallick expected he'd have but one shot at the man.

If he missed his chance, his Clan Leader's sorcery would prove the deciding factor. Unless:

Rallick paused and checked his pouch. Years back, the alchemist Baruk had rewarded him for work well done with a small bag of reddish dust. Baruk had explained its magic-deadening properties, but Rallick resisted placing his trust in the powder. Had its potency survived the years? Was it a match for Ocelot's powers? There was no telling.

He crossed a high rooftop, skirting the edge of a dome. Off to his right and below was the city's eastern wall. The faint glow of Worrytown rose beyond it. The assassin suspected that Ocelot would await Coll's arrival at Worry Gate, hiding within crossbow range. Better to kill the man before he entered the city.

This limited the possibilities considerably. Lines of sight were few, and K'rul Hill was the best of them. Still, Ocelot might well have used sorcery already, and lie hidden from mundane eyes. Rallick might stumble right over him.

He reached the north side of the dome's skirt. Before him rose the K'rul Temple. From the belfry, there'd be a clean shot just as Coll entered the gate. Rallick removed the pouch from his bag. Whatever the dust covered, Baruk had said, would be impervious to magic. More, it had an area effect. The assassin scowled. How much of an area? And did it wear off? Most importantly, Baruk had said-and Rallick remembered this clearly-do not let it touch your skin. Poison? he'd asked. «No,» the alchemist had replied. «The powder changes some people. There is no predicting such changes, however. Best not to take the chance, Rallick.»

Sweat trickled down his face. Finding Ocelot was already a slim chance. Coll's death would ruin everything and, more, it would strip from Rallick his last claim: to what? To humanity. The price of failure had become very high. «Justice,» he hissed angrily. «It has to mean something. It has to!»

Rallick untied the pouch. He dipped into it and scraped out a handful of the powder. He rubbed it between his fingers. It felt like rust. «That's it?» he wondered. Maybe it had deteriorated. Shrugging, he began to massage it into his skin, starting with his face. «What changes?» he muttered. «I don't feel any changes.»

Reaching under his clothing as much as was possible, Rallick used up the last of the powder. The pouch itself was stained on the inside. He turned it inside out, then stuffed it into his belt. Now, he grimaced, the hunt continues. Somewhere out there an assassin waited, eyes fixed on Jammit's Worry Road. «I'll find you, Ocelot,» he whispered, his eyes fixed on K'rul's belfry tower. «And magic or no magic, you won't hear me, you won't even feel my breath on your neck until it's too late. I swear it.»

He began his ascent.



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