Жанр: Фэнтези » Steven Erikson » Gardens of the Moon (страница 94)

Irilta grinned. «Good enough for a roll on the mat, I'd say. Said he found Coll on Jammit's Worry, bleeding all over the place. Coll woke up long enough to tell him to ride here. The guy's downstairs in the bar right now, eating enough for three men.»

Meese grunted. «Foreigner?»

Irilta strode to the window facing the street. «Speaks Daru like he was born to it. But he said he'd come down from the north. Pale, Genabaris before that. He's got the soldier about him, I'd say.»

«Any word from the Eel yet?»

«We keep the lad here for now.»

«And the girl?»

«The same.»

Meese sighed loudly. «Crokus ain't gonna like being cooped up here.»

Irilta glared over at Crokus's sleeping form. Was the lad truly asleep?

«No choice. Got word that there's a couple of guardsmen waiting at Mammot's place-too late, of course, but they've got damn close.» Irilta rubbed dust from the window and leaned forward. «Sometimes I swear I see someone, or maybe something. Then I blink and it's gone.»

«Know what you mean.» Bones creaking, Meese pushed herself to her feet. «I think even the Eel's beginning to sweat.» She chuckled. «Life's heating up, friend. Rolling times ahead.»

Irilta nodded grimly. «Roll on, roll on.»

Captain Paran refilled his tankard for the third time. Was this what that Tiste And? had meant about his luck turning? Since coming to this land he'd found three friends-something wholly unexpected and new to him, precious, in fact. But the Tattersail he knew was dead, and in her place: a child. Toc was dead. And now it looked like Coll would join that list.

He ran a finger through a pool of spilled beer on the table, creating a river leading to a crack between two planks, then watched as the beer drained down and out of sight. He felt a spreading wetness on his right shin but ignored it as his eyes focused on the crack. The wood had been bolted down, joining the thick planks to an equally robust frame of legs.

What had Rake said? Paran rose and unclipped his sword belt. He laid it on the table, then withdrew Chance.

The few regulars in the bar fell silent and turned to watch him. Behind the counter, Scurve reached for his club.

The captain noticed none of this. With the sword in his right hand, he set the point into the crack and brought the weapon vertical. Working it back and forth, he managed to drive it close to half its length between the planks. Then he sat down again and reached for his beer.

Everyone relaxed, and spoke among themselves in shared confusion.

Paran swallowed a mouthful of beer, frowning at Chance. What had Rake said? When your luck turns, break the sword. Or give it to your worst enemy. He doubted Oponn would accept it, however. And that meant breaking it. The sword had been with him for a long time. He'd used it in battle only once, and that had been against the Hound.

Faintly, he heard the words of one of his childhood tutors. The man's lined face rose into his thoughts to accompany the voice. «Those whom the gods choose, «tis said, they first separate from other mortals-by treachery, by stripping from you your spirit's lifeblood. The gods will take all your loved ones, one by one, to their death. And, as you harden, as you become what they seek, the gods smile and nod. Each company you shun brings you closer to them. «Tis the shaping of a tool, son, the prod and pull, and the final succour they offer you is to end your loneliness-the very isolation they helped you create. Never get noticed, boy.»

Had the shaping begun? Paran scowled. Was he responsible for taking Coll's life? The mere brush of friendship between them-enough to seal the man's doom? «Oponn,» he whispered, «you've a lot to answer for, and answer for it you shall.»

He set down the tankard and rose. Then he reached for the sword.

Climbing the steps of the Phoenix Inn, Kalam paused. Damn, there it was again, this feeling that unseen eyes were fixed on him. The sensation, born of his Claw training, had struck him four times in quick succession since he'd come within sight of this bar. Heeding such warnings was what kept him alive, and yet he felt no malice in that unwanted attention-rather, it had the feel of amused curiosity, as if whoever watched him knew full well who and what he was, yet seemed unconcerned.

He shook himself, then entered the bar. As soon as he took his first step into the heavy, stagnant atmosphere, Kalam knew that something was wrong. He shut the door behind him, waited for his eyes to adjust to the gloom. He heard breathing, the light scuff of furniture and clank of tankards coming to rest on tabletops. So, there were people here. Then why the silence?

As the grey confines of the bar grew defined, he saw that its denizens had turned their backs to him and were watching a man standing behind his table at the far end of the room. The lantern light reflected dully from a sword thrust through the table, and the man had closed one hand around its grip. He seemed oblivious to everyone else in the bar.

Kalam took a half-dozen steps, coming to the near end of the counter.

His dark eyes remained on the man with the sword, and a frown deepened the lines on his broad, flat forehead. The assassin stopped. Was it a trick of this damn light? he wondered. «No,» he said, startling the innkeeper behind the counter, «it isn't.» He

pushed himself back from the counter, ran his eyes over the others in the chamber-all locals. He'd have to take the risk.

A band of tension tightened around Kalam's neck and shoulders as he strode directly for the man, who looked to be but moments away from snapping his sword's blade. The assassin plucked an empty chair from a table in his path and slammed it down one-handed opposite the man.

Startled eyes fixed on Kalam.

«Your god-given luck's holding, Captain,» the assassin rumbled, in low, close tones. «Sit down.»

His expression confused and frightened, Paran released his grip on the weapon and sank back into his seat.

Kalam followed suit and leaned forward over the table. «What's all this drama anyway?» he asked, in a whisper.

The captain frowned. «Who are you?»

Behind them conversations resumed, loud with rattled nerve «Ain't you guessed?» Kalam wagged his head. «Corporal Kalam, Ninth Squad, Bridgeburners. The last time I saw you, you was recovering from »

Paran's hands shot out and gripped Kalam's shirt. The assassin was too surprised to react and the cantain's words confused him all the more. «Is your squad's healer still alive, Corporal?»

«What? Alive? Yeah, sure, why not? What's-?»

«Shut up,» Paran snapped. «Just listen, soldier. Bring him here. Now! No questions. I'm giving you a direct order, Corporal.» He released

Kalam almost saluted, but caught himself in time. «As you command,» Paran glared at the corporal's back until the man disappeared through the front door. Then he surged to his feet. «Innkeeper!» he called, stepping around the table. «The black man will be showing up in a few minutes with company. Send them up to Coll's room on the double. Understood?» Paran strode to the stairs. As he reached them he glanced back at the sword «And nobody touch that sword,» he ordered, swinging a glare across everyone in the room. Nobody seemed inclined to challenge him.

With a sharp, satisfied nod, the captain ascended the stairs.

On the first floor, he strode down the hallway to the last room on the right. He entered without knocking to find Sulty and a local surgeon sitting at the room's lone table Coll's blanket-covered form a un. The surgeon rose. «It's no good,» he said, in a thin, reedy voice. «The «Aye,» the surgeon replied. «But it won't be for much longer. If the wound had been further down on his leg, I might have been able to cut it off. Even then, I'm afraid the poison's spread through all of him. I'm what do I owe you for the services,» the captain asked, remembering.

The surgeon frowned over at Sulty. «Why, nothing, sir. I failed.» He left. Sulty joined the captain at the bedside. She wiped her face as she looked down on Coll, but said nothing. A few minutes later she, too, left the room, unable to remain any longer.

Paran found a stool and pulled it over to the bed. He sat and leaned his forearms on his knees. He was not sure how long he sat there, staring down at the straw-littered floor, but the door slamming open behind him brought him to his feet.

A bearded man stood in the doorway, his slate-grey eyes hard and cold.

«Are you Mallet?» Paran demanded.

The man shook his head and strode inside. Behind him appeared Kalam and another man. The latter's gaze found Coll, and he walked quickly to the bed.

«I'm Sergeant Whiskeyjack,» the bearded man said quietly. «Pardon my directness, sir, but what the hell are you doing here?»

Ignoring the question, Paran joined the healer. Mallet laid a hand over the crusted bandages. He glared up at the captain. «Can't you smell the rot? He's gone.» Mallet frowned and leaned forward. «No, wait: Damn, I don't believe it.» The healer took a spoon-shaped blade from his pouch and removed the bandages. Then he began to dig into the wound with the blade. «Shedenul's Mercy, someone's stuffed this with herbs!» He drove his fingers into the wound.

Coll jerked and moaned.

Mallet grinned. «Hah, that got you going, did it? Good.» He probed deeper. «This cut's half-way through the bone,» he breathed in amazement. «Those damn herbs have poisoned his marrow. Who the hell treated this?» he asked, looking accusingly at Paran.

«I don't know,» Paran said.

«All right,» Mallet said, removing his hand and wiping it on the blankets. «Move back, everybody. Give me some room. A minute later, Captain, and this man would've been striding through Hood's Gate.» He pressed his hand down on Coll's chest and closed his eyes. «And be glad I'm as good as I am.»

«Now, Captain?»

Paran walked over to the table and motioned for the sergeant to join him. «First, has Adjunct Lorn contacted you yet?»

Whiskeyjack's blank look was sufficient answer.

«Good, I'm in time, then.» Paran glanced up at Kalam, who had stationed himself behind the sergeant. «You've been set up. The plan was to take the city, yes, but also to make certain you were all killed in the process.»

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