Жанр: Фэнтези » Steven Erikson » Gardens of the Moon (страница 95)


Whiskeyjack held up a hand. «A moment, sir. You and Tattersail worked this out?»

Paran closed his eyes briefly. «She's: dead. Chasing Hairlock out on the Rhivi Plain. Tayschrenn got to her. It was also her intent to find you and tell you all that I'm telling you. I'm afraid I won't be her equal as your ally once the Adjunct shows up, but at least I can prepare you somewhat.»

Kalam spoke. «I don't like the idea of Oponn's pawn supposedly helping us.»

Paran nodded. «I have it on good authority that I'm not Oponn's. That sword downstairs is, though. Your squad wizard should be able to confirm this.»

«The Adjunct's plan,» Whiskeyjack reminded him, the fingers of one hand tapping slowly on the tabletop.

«She'll have no trouble finding you. She has a talent in that area. But I fear she's not the major threat. There's a T'lan Imass with her. Maybe her mission is simply to lead him to you, then he'll handle the rest.»

Kalam cursed and began pacing behind the sergeant's chair.

Whiskeyjack reached a decision. «The satchel, Corporal.»

The assassin frowned, then picked up the sergeant's standard-issue supply satchel left beside the door. He returned and set it down on the tabletop.

Whiskeyjack released the straps and pulled out an object wrapped in burgundy silk. He removed the cloth, revealing twin yellowed bones of a human forearm. The elbow-end's ball joints were bound together with verdigrised copper wire; the wrist ends were wrapped as well, but as a misshapen knife grip, beyond which jutted a serrated blade.

«What is it?» the captain asked. «I've never seen its like before.»

«Be surprised if you had,» Whiskeyjack said. «Back in the days of the Emperor, the inner ring of military commanders each possessed one of these, the booty of a looted K'Chain Che'Malle tomb.» He grasped the bones with both hands. «It was the source of much of our success, Captain.» He rose and drove the point into the table.

A flash of white light erupted from the bones, then contracted to a swirl spinning thread-like between them. Paran heard a voice he knew.

«I was getting worried, Whiskeyjack,» High Fist Dujek growled.

«Unavoidable,» the sergeant replied, frowning at Paran. «We've had little to report: until now. But I need to know the situation in Pale, High Fist.»

"You want an update before you spill the bad news, eh? Fair enough,» Dujek said. «Tayschrenn's stumbling in circles. He was last happy when Bellurdan was killed along with Tattersail. Two more of the Old Guard gone in one fell swoop. Since then, all he's got is questions. What game is Oponn playing? Was there truly a clash between the Knight of Darkness and Shadowthrone? Did a soul-shifted puppet kidnap, torture then murder a Claw officer in Nathilog and what truths were revealed by the poor man?»

«We were not aware that Hairlock had done that, High Fist.»

«I believe you, Whiskeyjack. In any case, enough of the Empress's plans have been discovered and, indeed, she seems convinced that the dismantling of my army will pull me back under her wing, in time to saddle me with the command of the Seven Cities» garrisons and put a bloody stop to the rebellion that's brewing. She seriously miscalculated there-if only she'd paid attention to Toc the Younger's reports. Well: Laseen's intentions now seem to be riding on Adjunct Lorn and Onos T'oolan. They've reached the Jaghut barrow, Whiskeyjack.»

Mallet joined them and met Kalam's stunned gaze. Clearly, even they'd had no idea that their sergeant was so well informed. Suspicion dawned in the assassin's eyes, and Paran nodded to himself. It was happening, after all.

Dujek continued, «The Moranth Black are ready to march, but it's only for show, and to get them out of the city. So, what are we looking at, friend? The balance of the world is with you, in Darujhistan. If Lorn and Onos T'oolan succeed in unleashing the Tyrant on the city, you can be certain that you and your squad are intended to be on the casualty list.

«Closer to home, here's what you want: we're ready to move. Tayschrenn himself will trigger events when he announces the disbanding of the Bridgeburners-the blind idiot. Now, I'm waiting.»

«High Fist,» Whiskeyjack began, «Captain Paran's made it. He's sitting across from me right now. His story is that Oponn's working through his sword, not him.» He met the captain's eyes. «I believe him.»

Dujek spoke. «Captain?»

«Yes, High Fist?»

«Was Toc any help?»

Paran winced. «He gave his life for this, High Fist. The puppet Hairlock ambushed us, tossed Toc into a-a rent or something.»

There was silence, then Dujek said, his voice hoarse, «I'm sorry to hear that, Captain. More than you know. His father: Well, enough of that. Go on, Whiskeyjack.»

«No success yet in contacting the local Assassins» Guild, High Fist. We've mined the intersections, though. I'll be explaining everything to my men tonight. The question remains what to do about Captain Paran., «Understood,» Dujek replied. «Captain Paran?»

«Sir?»

«Have you come to any conclusions?» Paran glanced at Whiskeyjack. «Yes, sir. I think so.»

«So? What choice will you make, Captain?»

He ran a hand through his hair and leaned back in the chair. «High Fist,» he said slowly, «Tayschrenn killed Tattersail.» And failed, but that is a secret I will keep

to myself. «The Adjunct's plan included betraying her word to me, and probably killing me in the process. But, I admit, that's secondary to what Tayschrenn did.» Looking up, he met Whiskeyjack's steady gaze. «Tattersail took care of me, and I her after that Hound. It:» he hesitated «: it meant something, High Fist.» He straightened.

«So, I gather you intend to defy the Empress. But what then? Do we challenge the Empire's hundred legions with ten thousand men? Do we proclaim an independent kingdom and wait for Laseen to make an example of us? I need more details, High Fist, before I decide whether I join you. Because, sir, I want vengeance.»

Dujek responded, «The Empress loses Genabackis, Captain. We've got the support for that. By the time the Malazan Marines arrive to reinforce the campaign, it'll already be over. The Crimson Guard won't even let them disembark. Expect Nathilog to rise up and Genabaris to follow. The Moranth alliance is about to lose its punch-though I'm afraid I can't give you the details on that.

«My plans, Captain? They might not make sense, because I don't have time to explain. But we're readying ourselves to take on a new player in the game-someone completely outside all of this, and that someone is damn nasty. He is called the Pannion Seer, who even now prepares his armies for a holy war. You want vengeance? Leave Tayschrenn to enemies closer to home. As for Lorn, she's all yours, if you can manage it. I can't offer you anything more, Captain. You can say no. Nobody will kill you for that.»

Paran stared at his hands. «I want to know when High Mage Tayschrenn gets what he deserves.»

«Agreed.»

«Very well, High Fist. As far as this present situation is concerned, however, I'd rather Sergeant Whiskeyjack remained in command.»

Dujek asked, a grin in his voice, «Whiskeyjack?»

«Accepted,» the sergeant answered. He smiled at Paran. «Welcome aboard, Captain.»

«Enough?» Dujek asked.

«We'll speak again after it's all done,» Whiskeyjack said. «Until then, High Fist, success.»

«Success, Whiskeyjack.»

The threads of light faded. As soon as they were gone Kalam rounded on his sergeant. «You old bastard! Fiddler told me Dujek wouldn't hear any talk of revolt! Not only that, the High Fist told you to walk after this mission.»

Whiskeyjack shrugged, removing the strange contraption from the table. «Things change, Corporal. When Dujek got the Adjunct's word on next year's reinforcements, it became obvious that someone was ensuring that the Genabackan Campaign would end in disaster. Now, even Dujek won't tolerate that. Obviously, plans would have to be revised.» He faced Paran, his eyes hardening. «I'm sorry, Captain, but Lorn has to live.»

«But the High Fist-»

Whiskeyjack shook his head. «She's on her way into the city, assuming that she and the Imass succeed in freeing the Jaghut. The Tyrant will need a reason to come to Darujhistan, and we can only assume that, somehow, Lorn will be that reason. She will find us, Captain. Once that happens, we'll decide, what's to be done with her, depending on what she tells us.

«If you challenge her openly, she will kill you. If necessary, she will have to die, but her demise will be subtle. Do you have problems with any of this?»

Paran released a long breath. «Can you at least explain why you went ahead and mined the city?»

«In a moment,» Whiskeyjack said, rising. «First,» he said, «who's the wounded man?»

«Not wounded any more,» Mallet said, grinning at Paran. «Just sleeping.»

Paran also rose. «In that case, I'll also explain everything. just let me go downstairs and retrieve my sword.» At the door he paused and turned to Whiskeyjack. «One more thing. Where's your recruit, Sorry?»

Kalam answered, «Missing. We know what she is, Captain. Do you?»

«Yes.» But she may not be what she once was, assuming Shadowthrone didn't lie. He thought to relate that part of his story, then dismissed the notion. He couldn't be sure, after all. Better to wait and see.

The burial chamber proved to be a small, nondescript beehive tomb, the low dome constructed of roughly dressed stones. The passageway leading to it was narrow and less than four feet high, sloping slightly downwards. The chamber's floor was of packed earth and in its centre rose a circular wall of stones, capped by a single, massive lintel stone.

Frost-crusted objects lay on this flat surface.

Tool swung to the Adjunct. «The object you seek is called a Finnest. Within it is stored the Jaghut Tyrant's powers. It is perhaps best described as a self-contained Omtose Phellack Warren. He will discovcr it is missing once fully awakened, and will unerringly hunt it down, n slowly approached Lorn blew on her numb hands, the d the lintel stone. «And while it's in my possession?» she asked.

«Your Otataral sword will deaden its aura. Not completely… The Finnest should not remain in your hands for long, Adjunct.»



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