Жанр: Фэнтези » Steven Erikson » Gardens of the Moon (страница 99)

Baruk barely repressed a shiver. «Extra guards have been hired, of course. If an Empire Claw should strike, they will find their hands full with the T'orrud mages besides.» He thought for a time, then nodded wearily. «Very well, Rake. Sinital will accept you as my guest. You will wear an effective disguise?»


Baruk climbed to his feet and strode to the window. Beyond the sky had begun to pale. «And so it begins,» he whispered.

Rake joined him. «What begins?»

«The new year,» the alchemist replied. «Past is the Five Tusks. The dawn you see marks the birth of the Year of the Moon's Tears.»

Lord Anomander Rake stiffened.

Baruk noticed. «Indeed. An unusual coincidence, though I would put little weight upon it. The titles were devised over a millennium ago, by a visitor to these lands.»

When Rake spoke his voice was a ravaged whisper. «Icarium's gifts. I recognize the style. Five Tusks, Moon's Tears-the Wheel is his, correct?»

Eyes wide, Baruk hissed his surprise between his teeth. A dozen questions struggled to be uttered first, but the Lord continued. «In the future, I'd suggest you heed Icarium's gifts-all of them. A thousand years is not so long a time, Alchemist. Not so long a time. Icarium. last visited me eight hundred years ago, in the company of the Trell Mappo, and Osric-or Osserc, as the local worshippers call him.» Rake smiled bitterly. «Osric and I argued, as I recall, and it was all Brood could do to keep us apart. It was an old argument.

into grey. He fell silent, lost in memories.

There came a knock at the door and both turned to see Roald enter and bow.

«Master Baruk, Mammot has awakened and appears refreshed. More,» his almond eyes shaded, «your agent Kruppe has delivered a verbal message. He extends his regret that he cannot deliver it to you in person. Do you wish to receive it now?»

«Yes,» Baruk said.

Roald bowed again. «The Eel will contact you the eve of this day. At Lady Sinital's F?te. The Eel further finds the prospect of shared information and co-operation intriguing. That is all.»

Baruk brightened. «Excellent.»

«Shall I bring Mammot to you, Master?»

«If he's able.»

«He is. A moment, then.» Roald left.

The alchemist smiled. «As I said, «he laughed, «everyone will be there, and in this case, everyone is an appropriate term.» His smile broadened at Rake's blank look. «The Eel, Lord. Darujhistan's master-spy, a figure without a face.»

«A masked face,» the Tiste And? reminded him.

«If my suspicions are correct,» Baruk said, «the mask won't help the Eel one bit.»

The door opened again and there stood Mammot, looking fit and full of energy. He nodded to Baruk. «Withdrawal proved easier than I'd imagined,» he said, without preamble. His bright gaze fixed on Anomander Rake and he smiled, then bowed. «Greetings, Lord. I've looked forward to this meeting ever since Baruk brought to us the offer of alliance.»

Rake glanced at Baruk and raised an eyebrow.

The alchemist said, «Mammot numbers among the Vorrud Cabal.» He faced the old man again. «We were deeply worried, friend, given the Elder mageries at play around the barrow."

«I was snared for a time,» Mammot admitted, «but at the extreme edges of the Omtose Phellack influence. Quiescent regard proved the correct course, as the one stirring within did not sense me.»

«How much time do we have?» Baruk asked tightly.

«Two, perhaps three days. Even for a Jaghut Tyrant, it is an effort to make the return journey to life.» Mammot's eyes fell upon the mantelpiece. «Ah, your carafe of wine awaits as is usual. Excellent.» He strode over to the fireplace. «Have you word of my nephew, by any chance?»

Baruk frowned. «No, should I have? The last time I met the child was, what, five years ago?»

«Mmm,» Mammot said, raising his freshly filled goblet and taking a mouthful. «Well, Crokus has grown somewhat since then, I assure you. I hope the lad's all right. He was-»

Baruk threw up a hand and staggered-a step forward. «What?» he demanded in sudden fear. «What's his name? Crokus? Crokus!» The alchemist rapped his forehead. «Oh, what a fool I've been!»

Mammot's face crinkled into a wise smile. «Oh, you mean the matter of the Coin Bearer, do you?»

Shock registered in Baruk's face. «You knew?»

Standing to one side, his charcoal-grey eyes fixed intently on Mammot, Rake said, in a strangely flat tone, «Mammot, forgive me for interrupting. Will you be attending Lady Sinital's F?te?»

The old man nodded easily. «Of course.»

«Very good,» Rake said, with something like anticipation. He pulled his leather gloves from his belt. «We'll speak then.»

Baruk had no time to think about Rake's sudden departure. It was his first mistake of the day.

A woman with a shaved head and long flowing robes ran shrieking from the gates, a shred of brown fur streaming from one hand. Adjunct Lorn stepped back to let the priestess pass. She watched as the woman plunged into the crowd behind her. The festival had spilled out beyond Darujhistan's walls, and Worrytown's main street was a streaming mob she'd spent the last half-hour pushing through on her way to the gates.

Absently she rubbed the rapier wound in her shoulder. Her journey into the barrow seemed to have slowed the healing, and an ache had settled inside the puncture, cold

as the ice in the barrow's tunnel. Eyeing the two guards stationed at the gate, she approached warily.

Only one seemed to pay her any attention, and this man spared her but the briefest glance before returning his attention to the Worrytown mob.

Lorn entered the city unremarked, simply one more traveller come to attend the spring festival.

Immediately within the gates the avenue split around the base of a squat hill, on which crouched a half-ruined temple and tower. Off to her right rose another hill, evidently a garden, given the wide steps ascending to the summit, covered in trees, and the many fetishes and banners tied to branches and the gas-lamps.

Lorn's sense of those she sought was strong, unerring. Once past the hills, she could see an inner wall. Sergeant Whiskeyjack and his squad were somewhere beyond it, in the lower city. Lorn strode through the surging crowds, one hand hitched in her sword belt, the other massaging the puffed red flesh around her wound.

The guard at Worry Gate pushed himself from the wall he had been leaning against and paced a slow circle on the cobblestones. He paused to adjust his peaked helmet, loosening the strap a notch.

The other guard, an older man, bandy-legged and short, approached.

«Those fools out there making you uneasy?» he asked with a grin more gaps than teeth.

The first man glanced through the gateway. «Had a near-riot here a couple of years back,» he said.

«I was there,» the old man said, hawking on to the stones. «We had to pull the hoods off our polearms, draw some blood. That sent them packing, and I don't think the lesson's gone on them. I wouldn't worry much. This ain't your regular duty, is it?»

«No, just filling in time for a friend.»

«That's the way of it, isn't it? What's your usual round?»

«Midnight till the third bell, Despot's Barbican,» Circle Breaker replied.

He adjusted his helmet again, hoping the unseen friendly eyes had marked his signal. That woman who had passed through a few minutes ago had matched the Eel's description perfectly. Circle Breaker knew he wasn't mistaken.

She'd looked the warrior, dressed as a mercenary and trying to hide the blood-stains of a wound on her shoulder. His searching glance had been but momentary. Years of practice, however, made it sufficient. He'd caught everything the Eel's messenger had told him to look for.

«That's a hell of a watch,» the old man said beside him, turning to squint up at Despot's Park. «And you were here t» meet the dawn.» He wagged his head. «The bastards got us working too hard these days, what with the city infiltrated with Empire spies and the like.»

«It doesn't get any better,» Circle Breaker agreed.

«I'm here for another three hours, and you think they give me some time to join my wife and kids in the festival?» The old man spat again.

«No way. Old Berrute's off to stand around watching other people having fun in some bloody estate.»

Circle Breaker held his breath, then sighed. «Lady Sinital's F?te, I suppose.»

«Damn right. Bloody Councilmen chuffing around with all their stinking airs. And me with sore feet and all, standing like a statue.»

This was a bit of luck, Circle Breaker smiled to himself. His companion's next station was precisely what the Eel had wanted for Circle Breaker. Better yet, the old man was complaining about it. «They need those statues,» he said. «Keeps them secure.» He stepped close to Berrute.

«Didn't you tell the sergeant about your bad feet?»

«What's the point?» Berrute complained. «He just delivered them orders, he didn't come up with thein.»

Circle Breaker looked up the street, as if considering something, then he laid a hand on the other's shoulder and met his gaze. «Look, I don't have any family. For me, today's just another day. I'll stand in for you, Berrute. Next time I want some time off, though, I'll come calling.»

Genuine relief lit the old man's eyes. «Nerruse bless you,» he said, grinning again. «It's a deal, friend. Hey, I don't even know your name!»

Circle Breaker smiled, then told him.

With most of the revelry out in the streets, the interior of Quip's Bar was all but deserted. Adjunct Lorn paused inside the doorway and waited for her eyes to adjust to the gloom. A few desultory voices drifted out to her, mingling with the clatter of wooden cards.

She entered the low-ceilinged chamber. A dishevelled old woman watched her dully from behind the counter. Against the far wall was a table at which sat three men. Copper coins glittered in the lamplight, amid pools of spilled beer on the tabletop. The men held cards in their hands.

The man with his back against the wall, wearing a scorched leather cap, looked up to meet Lorn's eyes. He gestured to an empty chair. «Have a seat, Adjunct,» he said. «Join in the game.»

Lorn blinked, then hid her shock with a shrug. «I don't gamble,» she said, lowering herself into the rickety chair.

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