Жанр: Фэнтези » Steven Erikson » Gardens of the Moon (страница 93)


He drew some deep breaths, then reached for another handhold.

Passers-by stopped to watch Paran and Coll move slowly through Worrytown towards the gate. Ignoring them, and the questions they asked, the captain focused his attention on the two guards at the gate itself. They'd spotted him and Coll, and now stood waiting.

Reaching the gate, Paran motioned that they would pass through. One guard nodded while the other walked alongside the captain's horse.

«Your friend needs a surgeon,» he said. «If you wait just inside we can have one here in five minutes.»

Paran refused the offer. «We need to find the Phoenix Inn. I'm from the north, never been here before. The man said the Phoenix Inn, so that's where I'm going to take him.»

The guard was dubious. «Be surprised if he'd make it that far. But if that's what you want, the least we can do is give you an escort.»

As they emerged from the gate's shadow the other guard cried out in surprise.

Paran held his breath as the man stepped close to Coll. «I know him,» he said. «He's Coll jhamin, of House jhamin. I served under him.» «What? I thought Coll died a few years back» the other guard said «Screw the writs,» his companion snapped. «I know what I know, Vildron. This is Coll, all right.»

«He wants to go to the Phoenix Inn,» Paran told the man. «That's the» The man nodded. «Let's do it right, though.» He turned to the other guard. «I'll take the grief if there's any, Vildron. Get me the wagon-it's still hitched up from this morning, right?» The guard smiled up at Paran «Thanks for getting him here. Some of us in the city still got eyes, and damn what the highbrows whisper. We'll put him in the back of the

Paran relaxed. «Thanks, soldier.» He looked past the man, eager to see what he could of the city now that the wall was behind him. Immediately before them rose a humped hill, its sides overgrown with weeds and gnarled trees. On its summit squatted a temple of some kind, abandoned long ago, from which a square-sided tower rose, capped by a bronze A, — A rnnf A'shis e es reached the belfry's open-sided platform he saw a. Rallick raised his head cautiously over the platform's edge. He almost gasped aloud. The belfry was empty. Then he remembered Ocelot's sorcery. Holding his breath, he strained one last time with leaden arms, drawing himself flat on to the platform. As soon as he moved to gather in his feet, the barren stone of the platform shimmered and he saw Ocelot lying before him, crossbow cocked, taking aim at something. Rallick unsheathed his knives and moved all at once. But his ex. Ocelot spun on to his back, weapon swinging to fix on Rallick. The Clan Leader's face twisted into a mask of rage and fear. He wasted no time with words and immediately released the quarrel set in his cross. Rallick tensed for the impact that he was certain would throw him across the platform and possibly over the edge. A flash of red before his chest blinded him momentarily, but no impact came. Blinking, Rallick looked down. The quarrel had vanished. The truth came to him in an instant. The quarrel had been magic, created by sorcery to fly unimpeded but Baruk's rusty powder had worked. Even as this thought burst Ocelot swore and dropped the crossbow. As he reached for his knife, Rallick landed on him. A loud grunt sounded from the Clan Leader, his eyes squeezing shut in pain.

1&-akywv, axww&t "X-aggm ~n V,% figWha-ria against Ocelot's chest. The weapon scraped across mail beneath the cloth shirt. Damn, the man had learned something from that other night-and this was Rallick's own precaution, come to defy him now. The blade in his left hand he angled upward, under Ocelot's right arm. The weapon's point cut into flesh, then continued on into the man's armpit.

Rallick saw, inches from his face, the dagger's tip emerge from the cloth covering Ocelot's right shoulder, followed by a bloom of blood. He heard a knife skitter across the flagstones.

Teeth bared, Ocelot snapped his left hand up to the back of Rallick's neck, finding his braid. He gave it a savage yank, twisting Rallick's head around. Then he tried to sink his teeth into Rallick's neck.

Ocelot gasped as Rallick jammed a knee into his crotch. He tightened his hold on the braid again, this time near its knotted end.

Rallick heard the snick of metal and attempted desperately to roll to his right. Wounded as Ocelot's right arm was, it struck his body with enough force to drive the wedged wrist-blade through the chain links and into his chest. A dull fire blossomed from the wound. Ocelot jerked the blade free and, still holding Rallick's braid, drew back for another stab.

Rallick brought up his right arm and, in a single sweeping motion, sliced through his braid. Freed, he pushed himself on to that side, withdrawing the knife in his left hand as he did so. Ocelot slashed wildly at his face, missing by inches.

With all the remaining strength in his left arm, Rallick slammed his knife into Ocelot's stomach. Links snapped and the blade sank to its hilt.

The Clan Leader's body doubled up, curling around the embedded weapon. Gasping, Rallick lurched forward and hammered the other dagger into Ocelot's forehead.

Rallick lay unmoving for a time, wondering at the absence of

pain.

The plan would fall to Murillio now. Coll would be avenged. Murillio could handle it-he had no choice.

Ocelot's body seemed to grow heavier on him despite the blood ing from it. «I'd always believed I was this man's match,» he muttered. He pushed himself from the still-twitching body and rolled on to his back in the centre of the platform. He'd hoped to see sky, to look one last time on its bright, depthless blue. Instead, he found himself looking at the underside of the belfry's roof, its ancient stone arch crowded with nesting bats. This detail fixed itself in his head as he felt the blood stream from his chest. He thought he could see beady eyes glittering down at him.

After seeing no other sign of movement on the belfry, Paran's gaze swung to the avenue on his left. Vildron approached, seated on a wagon drawn by two horses. The guard waiting beside Coll's horse said, «Give me a hand here, will you? Let's get the old man down.»

Paran dismounted and hurried to help him. He glanced at Coll's face.

Though still hunched on the saddle, he was unconscious. How much longer could he last? If that was me, Paran realized, I'd be dead by now.

«After all this,» he growled as they dragged Coll from the saddle, «you'd damn well better live.»

Groaning, Serrat rolled on to her back. The sun beat down hot against her eyelids as the scattered fragments of her memory gathered. The Tiste And? had been about to make her move on the woman in the alley below. With that one dead, the Coin Bearer's protectors would number but one. And when they left the tenement block under cover of darkness, they'd walk right into the trap she'd set.

The assassin-mage opened her eyes to a mid-morning sun overhead.

Her daggers, which she'd held in her hands as she crouched at the rooftop's edge, now lay on the pebbled surface beside her, neatly placed side by side. A thick, dull ache throbbed in the back of her skull. She probed the wound, wincing, then sat up.

The world spun, then settled. Serrat was bewildered and angry. She'd been blind-sided, and whoever had done it was good, good enough to sneak up on a Tiste And? assassin-mage. And that was worrying, since they'd yet to meet such a match in Darujhistan, with the exception of those two Claw on the night of the ambush. But if it had been the Claw, she'd be dead now.

Instead, the arrangements looked to have been designed more with embarrassment in mind than anything else. Leaving her here in broad daylight, weapons beside her, hinted of a subtle and cunning sense of humour. Oponn? Possibly, though gods rarely acted so directly, preferring unwitting agents culled from among the mortal masses.

One certainty rose from the mystery, however, and that was that she'd lost her opportunity to kill the Coin Bearer-at least, for another day.

Next time, she vowed, as she climbed to her feet and accessed her Kurald Galain Warren, her secret foes would find her ready for them.

The air around her shimmered with sorcery. When it settled, Serrat was gone.

Motes of dust drifted through the dead, hot air of the Phoenix Inn's attic.

The slanting ceiling rose from five feet along the east wall to seven feet along the west wall. Sunlight streamed in from windows at each end of the long and narrow room.

Both Crokus and Apsalar slept, though at opposite ends of the room.

Sitting on, a crate beside the trap door, Meese cleaned her nails with a sliver of wood. Leaving Mallet's tenement and making their way across the rooftops to this hiding place had proved an easy task. Too easy, in fact. Irilta reported that no one on the streets had followed them. And the rooftops themselves had been empty of life. It was as if a path free of obstruction had been made for them.

More of the Eel's brilliance at work? Meese grunted softly. Maybe.

More likely Meese was putting too much weight on the instinctive unease that travelled like an elusive itch along her spine. Even now she felt hidden eyes upon them, and that, she told herself, glaring around the musty attic, was impossible.

There came a soft knock at the trap-door. The door swung up and Irilta appeared. «Meese?» she whispered loudly.

«Breathing down your neck,» Meese rumbled, tossing the wood sliver on to the oily floor. «Tell Scurve this place is a fire waiting to happen.»

Irilta grunted as she pulled herself into the room. She shut the trap door and wiped the dust from her hands. «Getting strange downstairs,» she said. «City wagon rolls up and off comes a guard and some other fellow carrying Coll between them. The old fool's near-dead from a sword cut. They put him in Kruppe's room a floor down. Sulty's run off to find a cutter, but it don't look good. Not good at all.»

Meese squinted in the dusty air, her gaze fixing on Crokus where he still slept. «What's the other one look like?» she asked.



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