Жанр: Фэнтези » Steven Erikson » Gardens of the Moon (страница 97)


Baruk's gaze dropped calmly to Kruppe. «Thank you. How soon the reply?»

«By this evening,» Kruppe said.

«Excellent. I admit to resisting my own decision to compromise this Circle Breaker. The means you offer seem the best. You may go now, Kruppe.»

Kruppe's head bobbed. He rose. «Until tonight, then, Master Baruk.»

Coll slept while the men in the room continued their discussion. Mallet said that the man might well sleep for days, Hood's Gate having been close as it was.

Paran felt frustrated. Something was missing from Whiskeyjack's explanations. The saboteurs had gone ahead with planting the mines, and even now it was Whiskeyjack's plan to detonate them. More, the efforts to contact the Assassins» Guild remained with the purpose of offering a contract on Darujhistan's true rulers. These facts hardly complemented this idea of a full-scale, continent-wide revolt. If anything, wouldn't Dujek be seeking local alliances?

As the sergeant went on, more and more of what the man said gathered in the captain's mind, and he sensed a pattern emerging. He broke his hour-long silence and addressed Whiskeyjack. «You still intend to cripple Darujhistan. And I keep thinking about that, and now I think I've worked out why.» He studied Whiskeyjack's blank expression. «What you seek is to crack this city wide open. Chaos in the streets, a headless government. Everybody who matters shows up and they kill each other.

«What does that leave?» Paran leaned forward, his eyes hard. «Dujek's got an army ten thousand strong, about to become outlaws of the Empire. Maintaining ten thousand soldiers is an expensive business. Housing them is even tougher. Dujek knows Pale's days are numbered. Caladan Brood's on the march down the Rhivi Plain right now. Are the Moranth about to pull out of the alliance? Maybe make a move of their own?

«Tayschrenn's in Pale-maybe old Onearm can handle him, maybe not.

«How am I so far, Sergeant?»

Whiskeyjack glanced over at Kalam, then shrugged. «Go on,» he said to Paran.

«Darujhistan's filled with panic. No one knows anything. In marches Dujek, rebel army at his heels. He'll set things aright. Wealth beyond measure falls into his lap-and he'll need all of it if he's to oppose what the Empress sends after him. So, the city gets conquered after all. Fancy that.» He sat back.

«Not bad,» Whiskeyjack admitted, grinning at the surprise on the faces of Mallet and Kalam. «With one piece missing. Something,» he eyed Paran, «that might relieve the captain's sense of betrayal, if not his outrage.»

Paran's smile was cold. «Surprise me.»

«All right, Captain. We don't give a damn if the Empress wants to come after us. She won't have much to do it with, since Seven Cities is days away from reclaiming its independence. It's coming down, Captain. On all sides. So why do we maintain our army? Look to the south. Something's growing there, so ugly it makes the Imass look like kittens.

«When I say we're in trouble, I don't mean just Genabackis, I mean the world. We're all in for a fight, Captain. And that's why we need Darujhistan.»

«The south?» Paran asked sceptically.

%n.%-Ntxta, his words a breath of fear, «The Pannion Seer. So the,qore, the rumours are true, then. «The Seer's proclaimed a holy war. The genocide's purpose of begun.»

rdly corn-Whiskeyjack got to his feet. «Explain it to the man,» he said to Kalam.

«That Guild still needs contacting, if possible. Hood knows, we've made a show of ourselves at this bar. Might be what's needed, though.» He looked to Paran. «Captain, I don't think Adjunct Lorn should know you're alive, do you?»

«No.»

«Can you stay here until I call for you?»

Paran glanced at Kalam, then nodded.

«Good. Mallet, let's move.»

«We've lost at least two days,» Lorn pronounced, thankful for the day's lingering heat. «These are thirsty horses.»

Tool stood near the shattered barrow marker, watching the Adjunct ready her horses for the journey into Darujhistan. «How fares your wound, Adjunct?» he asked.

«Mostly healed,» she replied. «Otataral has that effect on me.»

«My task is finished,» the Imass said. «If it becomes your desire to accompany me after you have completed your mission, I will be found here for the next ten days. I wish to observe this Jaghut Tyrant-though it will not see me, nor will I interfere. My thoughts of success are with you, Adjunct.»

Lorn climbed on to her horse and stared down at the Imass. «Fare well in your search, Onos T'oolan.»

«That name is past. I am now Tool.»

She grinned, then gathered the reins and kicked her mount forward, the packhorse trailing on its lead. Once the Finnest was out of her hands, she would focus her talents on discovering this Coin Bearer. Until now she had not allowed herself to think about Oponn. She had had too many other, more immediate concerns, like Sorry.

A strong sense of regret filled her at the loss of Captain Paran. That man would have made her task much easier, possibly even enjoyable.

Though he'd been a dour man, getting grimmer by the minute, she had to admit that she had been attracted to him. There might have been something there.

«Well,» she sighed, as she urged her horse up a hillside,» dying's never in anybody's plans.»

Tool's estimation gave her two days at the most.

Then the Jaghut would be fully awake, and free of the barrow. The Finnest would have to be securely in place long before then. She looked forward to her meeting with Sorry, and instinctively brushed a hand against her sword's pommel. To kill a servant of Shadow, perhaps the Rope himself. The Empress's pleasure at that would be immense.

She realized that the doubts that had plagued her, borne on those wings of knowledge, now lay quiescent. An effect of her time in the barrow? More likely this acorn in her pocket. Or perhaps she'd moved unconsciously beyond them. When the time for action comes, all doubts must be discarded. An old Claw tenet. She knew herself well, and she knew how to control all that was within her. Years of training, discipline, loyalty and duty. The virtues of a soldier.

She was ready for the mission, and with this realization the weight on her shoulders vanished. She urged her mount into a gallop.

Crokus craned his head and squinted into the darkness above. «Right to the top,» he said. «We can see the whole city from there.»

Apsalar eyed the stairs dubiously. «It's awfully dark,» she said. «Are you sure this tower is abandoned? I mean, my father told me stories about ghosts, undead monsters, and they always lived in ruined places.» She looked around with wide eyes. «Places just like this one.»

Crokus groaned. «The god K'rul's been dead for thousands of years,» he said. «Besides, no one ever comes here, so what would all those monsters do with all that spare time? What would they eat? Tell me that! Stupid stories.» He walked to the foot of the spiral staircase. «Come on, the view's worth it.»

She watched Crokus climb upward and hurried to follow before he disappeared from sight. What at first seemed to be impenetrable darkness slowly faded to grey, and Apsalar was surprised to find herself able to discern even the minutest details. The first things she noticed were the soot-stained paintings on the wall to their left. Each stone panel was as wide as a single step, rising half a dozen feet in a jagged procession that mimicked the stairs. «Crokus,» she whispered,» there's a story painted on this wall.»

Crokus snorted. «Don't be ridiculous! You can't even see your hand in front of your face in here.»

I can't?

He continued, «Wait till you get up top. Those clouds we saw should have cleared the moon by now.»

«There's something wet on these steps,» Apsalar said.

«Run off from up top,» he explained, exasperated.

«No, it isn't,» she insisted. «It's thick, and sticky.»

Crokus stopped above her. «Look, will you be quiet for a minute? We're almost there.»

They emerged on to a platform bathed in the moon's silver glow. Near one of the low walls Crokus saw a heap of cloth. «What's that?» he wondered. «Looks like somebody's been camping up here.»

Apsalar stifled a gasp. «That's a dead man!»

«What?» Crokus hissed. «Not another one!» He rushed to the huddled figure and crouched beside it. «Blessed Mowri, somebody's stabbed him in the head.»

«There's a crossbow over here.»

He grunted. «An assassin. I saw one just like this killed here last week There's an assassin war going on, just like I told Kruppe and Murillio.»

«Look at the moon,» Apsalar breathed, from the far side of the platform.

Crokus shivered. She was still a cold one, at times. «Which one?» he asked, rising.

«The shining one, of course.»

Feeling contrary, Crokus studied Moon's Spawn instead. A fair reddish glow suffused it-something he'd not seen before. A worm of fear squirmed in his stomach. Then his eyes widened. Five massive winged shapes seemed to sweep down the Moon's face, angling north east. He blinked, and they were gone.

«Do you see its oceans?» Apsalar asked.

«What?» He turned.

«Its oceans. Grallin's Sea. That's the big one. The Lord of the Dead Waters living there is named Grallin. He tends vast, beautiful underwater gardens. Grallin will come down to us, one day, to our world. And he'll gather his chosen and take them to his world. And we'll live in the gardens, warmed by the deep fires, and our children will swim like dolphins, and we'll be happy since there won't be any more wars, and empires, and no swords and shields. Oh, Crokus, it'll be wonderful won't it?»

Her profile was in silhouette. He stared at her. «Of course,» he said quietly. «Why not?» And then that question repeated itself in his head an entirely different reason. Why not?

BOOK SEVEN THE F?TE

The Flaying of Fander, She-Wolf of Winter, marks the Dawn of Gedderone. The priestesses race down the streets, strips of wolf-fur streaming from their hands. Banners are unfurled. The noises and smells of the market rise into the morning air. Masks are donned, the citizens discard the year's worries and dance across the day into night.

The Lady of Spring is born anew.

It is as if the gods themselves pause their breath:



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