Жанр: Фэнтези » Steven Erikson » Gardens of the Moon (страница 98)

Faces of Daruihistan Maskral jemre (b.1101)


It is said that the matron's blood like ice brought forth into this world a birthing of dragons and this flowing river of fate brought light into dark and dark into light, unveiling at last in cold, cold eyes the children of chaos.

7"matha's Children Heboric

Murillio wondered again at rallick's healed wound. He'd already concluded that whatever magic-deadening powder of Baruk's the assassin had used had been responsible for the healing. Nevertheless, much blood had been lost, and Rallick would need time to recover-time they didn't have. Was the assassin capable of killing Orr now?

In answer to his own question, Murillio laid a hand on the rapier at his side. He strode down the empty street, cleaving the low-lying mists that swirled like incandescent cloaks in the gaslight. Dawn was still two hours away. As was the Daru custom, the new year's celebrations would begin with sunrise, lasting through the day and well into the night.

He walked through a silent city, as if he were the last of the living yet to flee the past year's turmoil, and now shared the world with ghosts tolled among the year's dead. The Five Tusks had slipped behind in the ancient cycle, and taking its place was the Year of the Moon's Tears.

Murillio mused on such obscure, arcane titles. A massive stone disc in Majesty Hall marked the Cycle of the Age, naming each year in accordance with its mysterious moving mechanisms.

As a child, he'd thought the wheel magical in how it spun slowly as the year rolled by, coming into the new year aligned precisely with the dawn whether there was cloud in the sky or not. Mammot had since explained to him that the wheel was in fact a machine. It had been a gift to Darujhistan over a thousand years ago, by a man named Icarium. It was Mammot's belief that Icarium had Jaghut blood. By all accounts he'd ridden a Jaghut horse, and a Trell strode at his side-clear evidence, Mammot asserted, to add to the wonder of the wheel itself, for the Jaghut were known to have been skilled at such creations.

Murillio wondered at the significance of the names each year bore.

The close association of the Five Tusks with Moon's Tears held prophecy, according to the Seers. The Boar Tennerock's tusks were named Hate, Love, Laughter, War and Tears. Which Tusk would prove dominant in the year? The new year's name provided the answer. Murillio shrugged.

He viewed such astrology with a sceptical eye. How could a man of a thousand years ago-Jaghut or otherwise-have predicted such things?

Still, he admitted to more than a few qualms. The arrival of Moon's Spawn threw the new year's title into a different light, and he knew that the local scholars-particularly those who moved in the noble circles-had become an agitated and short-tempered lot. Quite unlike their usual patronizing selves.

Murillio turned a corner on his approach to the Phoenix Inn, and collided with a short, fat man in a red coat. Both grunted, and three large boxes that the man had been carrying fell between them, spilling out their contents.

«Aye, why, Murillio! Such fortune as Kruppe is known for! Thus does your search end, here in this dank, dark street where even the rats shun the shadow. What? Is something the matter, friend Murillio?»

He stared down at the objects on the cobbles at his feet. Slowly, Murillio, asked, «What are these for, Kruppe?»

Kruppe stepped forward and frowned down at the three expertly carved masks. «Gifts, friend Murillio, of course. For you and Rallick Nom. After all,» he looked up with a beatific smile, «the Lady Sinital's f?te demands the finest in workmanship, the subtlest of design perfectly mated with ironic intent. Don't you think Kruppe's taste is sufficiently expensive? Do you fear embarrassment?»

«You'll not distract me this time,» Murillio growled. «First of all, there

«Indeed!» Kruppe replied, bending down to pick one up. He brushed spatters of mud from the painted face. «This is Kruppe's own. Well chosen, Kruppe pronounces with certain aplomb.»

Murillio's eyes hardened. «You're not coming, Kruppe.»

«Well, of course Kruppe will attend! Do you think Lady Sinital would ever show herself if her long-time acquaintance, Kruppe the First, was not in attendance? Why, she'd wither with shame!»

«Dammit, you've never even met Sinital!»

«Not relevant to Kruppe's argument, friend Murillio. Kruppe has been acquainted with Sinital's existence for many years. Such association is made better, nay, pristine, for the fact that she has not met Kruppe, nor Kruppe her. And, in final argument designed to end all discussion, here,» he pulled from his sleeve a parchment scroll tied in blue silk ribbon, «Kruppe's invitation, signed by the Lady herself.» Murillio made a grab for it but Kruppe replaced it deftly in his sleeve.

«Rallick will kill you,» Murillio said levelly.

«Nonsense.» Kruppe placed the mask over his face. «How will the lad ever recognize Kruppe?»

Murillio studied the man's round body, the faded red waistcoat, gathered cuffs, and the short oily curls atop his head. «Never mind.» He sighed.

«Excellent,» Kruppe said. «Now, please accept these two masks, gifts from your friend

Kruppe. A trip is saved, and Baruk need not wait any longer for a secret message that must not be mentioned.» He replaced his mask in its box, then spun round to study the eastern skyline. «Off to yon alchemist's abode, then. Good evening, friend-»

«Wait a minute,» Murillio said, grasping Kruppe's arm and turning him round. «Have you seen Coll?»

«Why, of course. The man sleeps a deep, recovering sleep from his ordeals. «Twas healed magically, Sulty said. By some stranger, yet. Coll himself was brought in by yet a second stranger, who found a third stranger, who in turn brought a fifth stranger in the company of the stranger who healed Coll. And so it goes, friend Murillio. Strange doings, indeed. Now, Kruppe must be off. Goodbye, friend-»

«Not yet,» Murillio snarled. He glanced around. The street was still empty. He leaned close. «I've worked some things out, Kruppe. Circle Breaker contacting me put everything into order in my mind. I know who you are.»

«Aaahh Kruppe cried, withdrawing. «I'll not deny it, then! It's true, Murillio, Kruppe is Lady Sinital, connivingly disguised.»

«Not this time! No distractions. You're the Eel, Kruppe. All this blubbering, sweaty meek-mouse stuff is just an act, isn't it? You've got half this city in your pocket, Eel.»

Eyes wide, Kruppe snatched the handkerchief from his sleeve and mopped his brow. He wrung sweat from it, droplets spattering on the cobbles, then a veritable torrent splashed on to the stones.

Murillio barked a laugh. «No more magical cantrips, Kruppe. I've known you a long time, remember? I've seen you cast spells. You've got everybody fooled, but not me. I'm not telling, though. You don't have to worry about that.» He smiled. «Then again, if you don't come out with it here and now, I might get annoyed.»

Sighing, Kruppe returned the handkerchief to his sleeve. «Annoyance is uncalled for,» he said, waving a hand and fluttering his fingers.

Murillio blinked, suddenly dizzy. He rubbed his forehead and frowned. What had they just been talking about? It couldn't have been important. «Thanks for the masks, friend. They'll come in handy, I'm sure.» His frown deepened. What a confusing thing to say! He wasn't even angry that Kruppe had figured things out; nor that the fat little man would attend the F?te. How odd! «Good that Coll's all right, isn't it? Well,» he mumbled, «I'd better head back to check on Rallick.»

Smiling, Kruppe nodded. «Until the F?te, then, fare you well, Murillio, Kruppe's finest and dearest friend.»

«Goodnight,» Murillio replied, turning to retrace his steps. He lacked sleep. All these late nights were taking their toll. That was the problem.

«Of course,» he muttered, then began to walk.

His features darkening, Baruk studied the Tiste And? lounging in the chair across from him. «I don't think it's a very good idea, Rake.»

The Lord raised an eyebrow. «As I understand such things, the event includes the wearing of disguises,» he said, with a slight smile. «Do you fear I lack taste?»

«I've no doubt your attire will be suitable,» Baruk snapped. «Particularly if you choose the costume of a Tiste And? warlord. It's the Council that worries me. They're not all fools.»

«I would be surprised if they were,» Rake said. «Indeed, I would have you point out the cunning ones. I don't imagine you will refute my suspicion that there are those within the Council seeking to pave the way for the Empress-for a price, of course. Power comes to mind. Nobles delving in merchant trades no doubt drool at the prospect of Empire trade. Am I far off the mark, Baruk?»

«No,» the alchemist admitted sourly. «But we have that under control.»

«Ah, yes,» Rake said. «This brings to mind my other reason for wishing to attend this Lady Sinital's F?te. As you said, the city's power will be there. I assume this includes such mages as are in your T'orrud Cabal?»

«Some will attend,» Baruk conceded. «But I must tell you, Anomander Rake, your d6bicles with the Assassins» Guild has made a good number of them rue our alliance. They'll not appreciate your presence in the least.»

Rake's smile returned. «To the extent that they will reveal their community to cunning Council members? I think not.» He rose in a fluid motion. «No, I would like to attend this F?te. My own people hold little to such social affairs. There are times when I grow weary of their dour preoccupations.»

Baruk's gaze focused on the Tiste And?. «You suspect a convergence, don't you? A fell gathering of powers, like iron filings to a lodestone.»

«With so much power gathered in one place,» Rake admitted, «it's likely. I'd rather be on hand in such circumstances.» His eyes held Baruk's, their colour flowing from dun green to amber. «Also, if this event is as publicly known as you suggest, then the Empire's agents within the city will know of it. Should they wish to cut out Darujhistan's heart, they'll have no better opportunity.»

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