Жанр: Фэнтези » Steven Erikson » Gardens of the Moon (страница 96)


She scanned the objects scattered on the stone surface. The Imass joined her. Lorn picked up a scabbarded knife, then discarded it. In this Tool could not help her. She had to rely upon her own senses, honed by the strange, unpredictable effects of the Otataral. A mirror set in an antler caught her eye. The mica surface was latticed in a web of frost, yet it seemed to glimmer with a light of its own. She reached for it, then hesitated. Beside it, almost lost among the crystalline frost, was a small, round object. It lay upon a flap of hide. Lorn frowned, then picked it up.

As its ice coating melted, she saw that it was not perfectly round. She polished the blackened surface and studied it closely.

«I believe it is an acorn,» Tool said.

Lorn nodded. «And it's the Finnest.» Her gaze fell to the capped mound of rocks. «What an odd choice.»

The Imass shrugged in a clatter of bones. «The Jaghut are odd people.»

«Tool, they weren't very war-like, were they? I mean, before your kind sought to destroy them.»

The Imass was slow to reply. «Even then,» he said at last. «The key lay in making them angry, for then they destroyed indiscriminately, including their own.»

Lorn shut her eyes briefly. She pocketed the Finnest. «Let's get out of here.»

«Yes, Adjunct. Even now the Jaghut Tyrant stirs.»

CHAPTER NINETEEN

But someone died here alas. Who drinks of this now and then and stirs the ashes of thine own pyre?

Maker of Paths, you were never so thirsty in youth:

Old Temple Sivyn Stor (b.1022)

«This isn't right, meese,» Crokus said, as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes. «We can't just hide in here for ever.»

Apsalar said, from the window, «It's almost dark.»

Meese crouched once again to check the trap-door's lock. «We're moving you again, after the twelfth bell. Irilta's down below, getting details.»

«Who's giving these orders?» Crokus demanded. «Have you found Uncle Mammot yet?»

«Relax, lad.» Meese straightened. «No, we ain't found your uncle. And the orders come from your protectors. I won't answer any questions about who they are, Crokus, so save your breath.»

Apsalar shifted position by the window to take in Meese. «Your friend's been a long time,» she said. «Do you think something's happened?»

Meese looked away. This girl was sharp. Of course, Meese had known that the first time they'd met, and old Chert had found out the hard way.

«Not sure,» she admitted. She bent to unlock the trap-door. «You both stay put,» she ordered, glaring at Crokus. «I ain't going to be happy if you do something stupid. Understand?»

«Yes.»

The boy looked glum, his arms crossed. He watched as Meese opened the trap-door and climbed down the ladder.

«Close this up after me,» she said, from below, «and lock it. Wait to hear from either me or Irilta, got it?»

«Yes.» Crokus strode to the square hole in the floor and stared down at Meese. «We got it,» he said, grasping the door. and swinging it shut. Then he locked it.

«Crokus,» Apsalar asked, «why did you kill a guard?»

This was their first time alone since entering the city. Crokus glanced away. «It was an accident. I don't want to talk about it.» He crossed the room to the back window. «All these people trying to protect me,» he said. «Makes me uneasy. There's more going on than just an order for my arrest. Hood's Breath, the Thieves» Guild takes care of such things, that's why they get ten per cent of every job I do. No, none of it makes sense, Apsalar. And,» he said, as he unlatched the window, «I'm sick of everybody telling me what to do.»

She came to his side. «Are we leaving, then?»

«Damn right. It's already dusk so we'll take the rooftops.» He pulled and the window swung inward.

«Where?»

Crokus grinned. «I've got a great hiding-place in mind. Nobody will find us, not even my protectors. Once there, I can do what I want.»

Apsalar's brown eyes searched his face. «What do you want to do?» she asked softly.

He looked away, concentrating on propping up the window. «I want to talk to Challice D'Arle,» he said. «Face to face.»

«She betrayed you, didn't she?»

«Never mind that. Are you staying here?»

«No,» she said, surprised. «I'm coming with you, Crokus.»

The power of her Warren bristled on her body. Serrat scanned the area one more time, still seeing and sensing nothing. She was certain she was alone.

The Tiste And? tensed as the window in the attic beneath her creaked inward on rusty hinges. Knowing herself to be invisible, she leaned forward.

The lad's head popped out. He glanced at the alley below, the opposite rooftops and those to either side, then he looked up. His gaze passed right through Serrat, and she smiled.

It hadn't taken long to find him again. His only company, she could sense, was a young woman whose aura was harmless, astonishingly innocent. The other two women no longer occupied the attic. Excellent.

It would be that much easier. She stepped back as the Coin Bearer climbed through the window.

A moment later he scrambled on to the sloping rooftop.

Serrat decided that she would waste no time. Even as the Coin Bearer pushed himself to his feet, she sprang forward.

Her charge met an invisible hand, driving into her chest with bonejarring force. It pushed her back through the air, giving a final shove that sent her cartwheeling beyond the roof's edge. Her spells of invisibility and flight remained with her, even when she rebounded off a brick chimney, dazed and drifting.

Apsalar appeared on the roof's edge. Crokus crouched before her, daggers in hand and glaring all around him. «What's wrong?» she whispered, frightened.

Slowly, Crokus relaxed and turned a rueful grin her way. «Just nerves,» he said. «Thought I saw something, felt a wind. Looked like: Well, never mind.» He looked around again. «There's nothing here. Come on, then.»

«Where's this new hiding-place of yours?» Aspalar asked, as she gained the rooftop.

He faced

east and pointed to the shadowed hills rising on the other side of the wall. «Up there,» he said. «Right under their very noses.»

Murillio clasped on his sword-belt. The longer he waited for Rallick to arrive the more certain he was that Ocelot had killed his friend. The only question that remained was whether Coll still lived. Maybe Rallick had done enough, wounded Ocelot sufficiently to prevent the Clan Master from completing the contract. I can hope, anyway.

They'd know at the Phoenix Inn, and each minute that passed made his Spartan room seem smaller, more cramped. If Coll lived, Murillio vowed to attempt Rallick's role in the plan. He checked his rapier. It'd been years since his last duel, and Turban Orr was said to be the city's best. His chances looked poor.

He collected his cape and fastened the collar around his neck. And who was this Circle Breaker with all the devastating news? How did this Eel justify involving himself or herself in their schemes? Murillio's eyes narrowed. Was it possible? That little round runt of a man?

He pulled on his doeskin gloves, muttering under his breath.

A scrape at the door caught his attention. A heavy sigh of relief escaped him. «Rallick, you old bastard,» he said, as he opened the door.

For an instant he thought the hallway empty, then his gaze fell to the floor. The assassin lay there, his clothing soaked through with blood, looking up at him with a weak grin.

«Sorry I'm late,» he said. «My legs keep giving out.»

Cursing, Murillio helped Rallick into the room and on to the bed. He returned to the door, checked the hallway, then shut and set the lock.

Rallick pushed himself upright against the headboard. «Orr offered a contract on Coll-»

«I know, I know,» Murillio said, as he approached. He knelt beside the bed. «Let's see to your wound.»

«I need to take off my armour first,» Rallick said. «Ocelot stuck me one. Then I killed him. Coll's still alive as far as I know. What day is this?»

«The same day,» Murillio said, as he helped his friend remove his mail hauberk. «We're still on schedule, though from all this blood it looks like you won't be duelling Orr at Sinital's F?te. I'll handle that.»

«Stupid idea.» Rallick groaned. «You'll just get killed and Turban Orr will walk away, still Lady Sinital's backer and still powerful enough to prevent Coll's claim to rights.»

Murillio made no reply to that. He peeled back the leather padding to expose the wound. «What's with all this blood on you?» he demanded.

«There's nothing here but a week-old scar.»

«Huh?» Rallick probed the place where Ocelot's wrist-blade had stabbed him. It felt mildly tender, itchy at the edges. «I'll be damned,» he muttered. «Anyway, get me a washcloth, so I can clean all this rust off.»

Murillio sat back on his haunches, clearly confused. «What rust?»

«The stuff on my face,» Rallick said, scowling at his friend.

Murillio leaned close.

«Baruk's magic-deadening powder!» the assassin snapped. «How the hell do you think I managed to kill Ocelot?»

«Your face is clean, Rallick,» Murillio, said. «You're welcome to the washcloth. We'll get all that dried blood off you in any case.»

«Give me a mirror first,» Rallick said.

Murillio found one and stood watching Rallick study his own pallid reflection, which bore a deep frown. He observed drily, «Well, that expression confirms it for me.»

«Confirms what?» the assassin asked, in a dangerous tone.

«That you're you, Rallick.» Murillio squared his shoulders. «Rest here for a while. You've lost a lot of blood. I'm off to find the Eel and tell him a thing or two.»

«You know who the Eel is?»

He strode to the door. «I've got a hunch. If you can walk, try locking this door behind me, will you?»

Kruppe mopped his brow with his limp, sodden handkerchief. «Kruppe has uttered every single detail at least a thousand times, Master Baruk,» he complained. «Will this ordeal never end? Look at yon window, a whole day in Kruppe's life has passed!»

The alchemist sat frowning down at his slippers, occasionally wiggling his toes, as the minutes passed. It was as if he'd forgotten Kruppe's presence in the room, and it had been this way for the past hour, no matter how much Kruppe talked.

«Master Baruk,» Kruppe tried again, «may your loyal servant leave? He's not yet recovered from his horrific journey in the eastern wastelands. Simple fare, of roast mutton, potatoes, fried onions and carrots, mussels in garlic butter, dates, cheese, smoked slipper minnows and a carafe of wine, now occupies Kruppe's mind to the exclusion of all else. Such as he has been reduced, his world contracting apace with his stomach-»

Baruk spoke. «For the past year,» he said slowly, «an agent of the Eel's, known to me as Circle Breaker, has been providing me with vital information regarding the City Council.»

Kruppe's mouth shut with an audible click.

«It lies within my powers, of course, to identify this Circle Breaker at my leisure. I have a score of missives written in his own hand-the parchment alone suffices.» Baruk's eyes lifted to fix on the mantelpiece. «I am considering doing so,» he said. «I must speak with this Eel. We've reached a critical juncture in the life of Darujhistan, and I must know the Eel's purposes. We could work in close alliance, sharing all we know, and perhaps we can save the life of this city. Perhaps.»

Kruppe cleared his throat and wiped his brow again. He carefully folded the handkerchief on his lap, then stuffed it into a sleeve. «If you wish to convey such a message,» he said quietly, «Kruppe can oblige Master Baruk.»



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