The night angel trilogy, p.44
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       The Night Angel Trilogy, p.44

           Brent Weeks
 

  His sword flashed silver? Retribution’s blade is black.

  There was the sound of something metallic rolling across marble toward Kylar. He raised a hand and felt the ka’kari slap into his outstretched palm.

  “No! No, it’s mine!” Blint yelled.

  The ka’kari pooled like black oil in an instant.

  What had Durzo just said? The silver was another fake. You stole my ka’kari. Not a silver ka’kari at all. A black ka’kari. The ka’kari Durzo had been carrying for years, hidden covering the blade of Retribution.

  The ka’kari choose their own masters. For some reason, the black ka’kari had chosen Kylar. Maybe had chosen him years ago, the day Durzo had beaten him for seeing Doll Girl again. That day, when a blue glow had surrounded the black blade. When Durzo had shouted, “No, not that! It’s mine!” as incandescent blue fire had burned into Kylar’s fingers. Durzo had thrown it away from Kylar so Kylar couldn’t complete the bond, because once Kylar completed the bond, Kylar wouldn’t call the silver ka’kari for Durzo. Now they knew he hadn’t called it because it had been a fake. There had never been any ka’kari in the city except Durzo’s black.

  And Durzo had known from that very day that if he let Kylar live, the black ka’kari was lost to him forever. Durzo had even left it for him tonight so that Kylar would have a chance.

  But now it was too late.

  Durzo looked like there was more he wanted to say to Kylar, some way he wanted to vent his anguish. But he’d never been a man of words.

  Instead, mere paces away, he hurled the knife at Kylar’s face.

  Time didn’t slow.

  The world didn’t contract to the point of the spinning knife.

  But despair flash-boiled in the heat of an insane hope in Kylar’s heart. He didn’t even notice his hand come up, didn’t know how it had broken free, couldn’t say how the ka’kari had gone from the blade on the floor into his hand. It was just there.

  In that unslowed fraction of a second, black goo flipped from his fingertips and splattered across the knife spinning toward his chest like spit against pavement.

  When Kylar looked again, the knife was just gone.

  Ting.

  Kylar looked down to see what had made the sound. The ka’kari was rolling across the floor coming toward him. It wobbled as it rolled and when it climbed up his boot and dissolved into his skin, Kylar felt a rush of power.

  With a mental shrug, Kylar burst through the phantasmal hands holding him to the wall. Settling smoothly on his feet, he extended a hand toward his old master and released the power arcing through him.

  Durzo was hurled away as if all the force of a hurricane had been unleashed in his face. He tumbled end over end, sliding and rolling across the room until he slapped against the wall.

  With the Talent, Kylar caught up Retribution and brought it to his hand.

  “Don’t fight when you can’t win,” Kylar said. “And don’t fight when you don’t want to win. Right?”

  Durzo struggled to his feet and stood, weaponless. He took a ready position and smirked. “Sometimes you have to fight.”

  “Not this time,” Kylar said. He raised the sword and came forward at a run. Durzo didn’t move; he just looked Kylar in the eye, ready. At the last second, Kylar dodged to the side and dove through the window into the moonlit air whipping the north tower.

  One of those men on the boat had been Roth.

  57

  Logan had no intention of letting anyone use his sack for a coin purse, much less Roth Ursuul. In fact, he intended to kill the bastard. He wasn’t worried that he was unarmed and still naked—Roth had supposed it would strip him of his dignity—rage gave him power. All the cruelty and depravity and horror Logan had seen in the last day had transformed him. He would be a man again, later. Now he was hard, crystal-clear frozen rage. Logan figured that even with his hands bound he could kill both guards. With the fury that was arcing through his body, he didn’t think there was much of anything that could stop him.

  Except magic. Roth had known it, too, and he’d sent his wytch, Neph Dada, to escort Logan to the dungeon. Neph had obviously memorized the layout of the castle, because he threaded through servants’ hallways and back staircases and cellars effortlessly.

  The city of Cenaria had only one gaol, connected to the castle by a single tunnel—now overrun with Khalidoran highlanders—and separated from the rest of the city by the two forks of the Plith River. Prisoners were taken to the gaol by barge. Few left. The felons who came here might as well have been devoured by the earth herself.

  Or, the sliver of Logan that wasn’t rage thought as a peculiar smell assaulted his senses, maybe it was called The Maw for different reasons. Fumes were constantly escaping from the north side of Vos Island and filling the air of the prison with the smell of brimstone before finally finding the open air.

  Neph Dada paused before an iron gate while one of the men guarding Logan fumbled for a key. Neph glared at the man and waved a hand in front of the lock, the tendrils of black on his arm not quite moving in time with his arm. The lock clicked.

  The guard produced the correct key and smiled weakly.

  “I’ve other matters to attend to,” Neph said. “Can you handle him by yourselves from here?”

  “Yes, sir,” the guard said, looking at Logan nervously.

  Logan’s heart smiled. Fighting two armed men while naked wasn’t exactly good odds, but with Neph’s magical bonds holding his arms motionless and giving his legs barely enough space to shuffle, there was nothing he could do.

  “Good. The bonds will hold for ten minutes,” Neph said.

  “Plenty of time, sir,” the guard said.

  With a snort, Neph left them. The big-nosed guard locked the iron gate, giving Logan time to adjust to the dim room. To the right and left were heavy doors with iron-barred windows.

  “In case you’re wondering,” Nose said. “These are the nicest suites in the place. Real sweet places. For nobles. Not for you, though.” He chuckled.

  Logan looked at the man flatly.

  “Ramp up there goes to the surface. Not for you, either.”

  The weasel-faced guard looked at Nose, “You always taunt dead men?”

  “Always,” Nose said, stuffing a finger up his nose. “What?” he said as Weasel looked at him. “I was scratching.”

  “Shut up,” Weasel said. “We down on three?”

  “Yeah, all the way to the Howlers. Let’s make it quick.” Nose tapped on the fourth door as he passed it. “I’ll be right back for ya, sweetheart!”

  There was a little cry from the cell, but the woman inside didn’t look up.

  “That bitch makes me hot,” Nose said. “You seen her?”

  Weasel shook his head, so Nose continued, “Got more scars on her face than a highlander’s got fleas, but who needs to look at her face, huh?”

  “The prince will rip your throat out if you touch her,” Weasel said.

  “Ah, how’s he gonna know?”

  “He’s coming down tonight. Wants to free our Sa’kagé boys and check on that wench and some little kid they dragged in,” Weasel said.

  “Tonight? Hell, she won’t take me five minutes,” Nose said. He laughed.

  They wended their way through two levels of manmade tunnels, the smells of massed humanity thickening and mingling with potent brimstone, sewage, and other smells Logan couldn’t identify. He tested his bonds periodically, but there was no change. He was barely mobile. Nonetheless, he kept his eyes open for his chance. Simple escape wouldn’t be good enough. He had to kill both guards, get the keys, and remember the way out.

  The Howlers were on the third floor, but as they came into the natural caves, merely widened with tools, Logan heard no howling.

  “We don’t want to go no further,” Nose said, pausing in front of a double-banded iron door. “These bastards here will do all we need. I’m not gonna even try to get him out of the Hole. I don’t go near those animals.”

&nbs
p; “The Hole?” Logan asked.

  Nose leered, but seemed eager to terrify him. “Hell’s Asshole. For the rapists, killers, and twists so bad that hangin’s too good for ’em. They drop ’em in there and let ’em devour each other. They hafta get their water off the rocks, and the guards never throw in enough bread. Sometimes they piss on it first.”

  “So who’s going to… you know?” Weasel asked, drawing his blade awkwardly. “Those bonds won’t hold forever.”

  “Who’s going to what?” Nose asked.

  “You know. Cut ’em off.”

  Logan tested the bonds, but they were still strong. His arms were locked at his sides, his torso held ramrod straight, and his feet could only move a few inches at a time—and the guards knew it. Oh gods. He was running out of time.

  “I’ll do it,” Nose said with a snarl. He grabbed a catchpole and draped the noose over Logan’s neck, then handed the pole to Weasel. “You hold him. We can’t take any chances. Gimme that.”

  Weasel handed his knife to Nose. It was just an ordinary knife, but Logan’s eyes fixed on it. Fear began to mix with rage, and he felt that ice thawing. Melting. They’re going to do it. Gods, no. He thrashed, thrashed his arms and legs like an animal. But no matter how he shook or twisted or turned, he barely moved an inch.

  Nose laughed, and Weasel just tightened the rope on his throat until Logan was turning purple. He didn’t care. Let them kill me now. Oh, gods! Nose said, “It’s too bad you haven’t worked with me longer.”

  “Why’s that?” Weasel asked, nervously holding the catchpole with both hands.

  Nose rammed the knife into Weasel’s eye. The man stood up on his tiptoes and twitched violently, then fell.

  “Because I would have tried to cut you in, instead of cutting you off,” Nose said. He laughed to himself and cut the noose off Logan’s neck. Logan stared at him, stunned to silence, his rage and fear slow to fade.

  Nose didn’t pay him any attention. “When you can move, put these on. Sorry they didn’t send someone more your size,” Nose said, stripping the clothes off Weasel’s corpse.

  “Who the hell are you?” Logan asked.

  “Don’t matter,” Nose said, throwing Weasel’s breeches at Logan. “What matters is who I work for.” He lowered his voice so the prisoners wouldn’t overhear him. “I work for Jarl. A friend of a friend of yours.”

  “Who?”

  “Jarl said to say he’s the friend of a friend.” Nose cut away Weasel’s underclothes with the knife. “I’m just telling you what I was told to—”

  “What the hell are you doing?” Logan interrupted.

  “Cutting his sack off.”

  “Oh, shit!” Logan shut his eyes, and would have turned away if the magical bonds had allowed it.

  Nose ignored him and cut. “Damn! Well, it ain’t pretty, but it’ll do. Good for us his hair’s the same color as yourn, eh?” He stood and shook a piece of flesh at Logan. “Look, pretty boy, this wasn’t my idea. But if Roth finds this sack after you and I are conveniently ‘killed during the uprising,’ we might both stay alive. Understand?”

  “No.”

  “Too bad. We don’t have time. That shite I was talking about on our way down here was true. There’s a woman and a little girl up in the first set of cells. Jarl wants us to get ’em out. He wants to know why Roth wants ’em. Looks like those bonds are weakening. Grab a leg.”

  Logan found he could move his arms if he pushed hard enough, and his feet were almost loose. He grabbed one of Weasel’s feet—avoiding looking at his crotch—and started dragging him with Nose.

  “So you said all that just so I’d know it?” Logan asked.

  Nose scowled at the long iron bars set over a dark gap in the floor. The Hole was deep enough that in the meager torchlight Logan couldn’t see the bottom of it. Nose grabbed a key and unlocked a small grate at the near side of the bars. Snuffling noises and grunts that Logan would barely call human drifted up from the Hole.

  “And to see if he knew anything I didn’t before I killed him,” Nose said. “Help me dump him in. Don’t worry, it’s plenty deep and the sides are sheer.”

  Logan moved forward reluctantly to help. He still couldn’t move enough to squat to grab the grate, so Nose dragged it open and Logan shoved Weasel into the Hole.

  Demonic cries of glee pierced the air and a fight promptly broke out below.

  Shivering, Logan stepped away from the Hole. “What’s the plan now?”

  “The plan?” Nose looked down into the darkness and shook his head. “We get the hell out. If Roth wins tonight, he’ll be hot to find you. Jarl will have several men report seeing your body. Someone else will have seen me dead and will finally admit to having looted my body. He’ll show your ‘coin purse’ to Roth.”

  “That’s pretty thin,” Logan said. “Will you shut that damn grate?”

  “There’s hundreds of men dying upstairs. Trying to find out what happened to any one of them will be impossible. Roth knows that. Anyway, it’s the best we can do and keep your head on your shoulders at the same time. Jarl will have to decide if the ‘coin purse’ bit is too much.”

  Nose stared back into the Hole, where the unmistakable sounds of feeding could be heard. He turned to Logan and smirked. “Kinda makes ya wonder, don’t it?”

  Logan shook his head, sickened. He looked back at Nose in time to see a thin lasso sail out of the Hole. It dropped neatly over Nose’s shoulders.

  In a blink, Logan saw that the rope was braided of sinews and he had an inane thought: What animal down here is big enough that they could make a rope of its sinews?

  Nose’s eyes filled with terror, then the lasso jerked tight and yanked him off his feet. He smacked full-length across the open grate and spread his arms and legs to keep from falling in. But raising his arms brought the noose off his shoulders and around his neck. A wild cackle sounded from the Hole. Logan staggered forward, moving faster than he had for half an hour, but he was too slow.

  Nose’s eyes bulged as pressure mounted on the rope around his neck. There must have been five men pulling it. His arms weakened as he blinked at Logan, eyes bulging grotesquely.

  Then his arms folded and he slid into the Hole.

  Logan tried to grab for the man. Instead, he stumbled, tripped against the last vestiges of his bonds and found himself rolling toward the Hole himself.

  He gripped the bars and found himself staring down. He could vaguely make out the forms of men in a knot, limbs rising and falling, screeching and tearing at each other and Nose, who was flailing and screaming.

  For a full minute, Logan was stuck there, unable to move his arms and legs far enough to push himself away. Nose gradually stopped shrieking and the dark forms retreated from each other to feed.

  Then one of the men saw Logan and shouted.

  Logan flung himself to the side as hard as he could. He felt the weakened magic strain and snap. He flopped on his back on the jagged stones, then sat and flipped the grate closed.

  The key had fallen out of Nose’s hand when the rope had jerked him from his feet, but Logan was shaking too badly to lock the grate. Unsteadily, he got to his feet and walked up the hall.

  Logan pulled on Weasel’s clothes, stretching them over his taller, more muscular body. He was lucky that the man’s clothing had been baggy or it wouldn’t have fit him at all. After pulling on boots that pinched his feet terribly, Logan stood.

  He tried to find the strength to go back and lock the grate. If he never saw a prison again, he knew he would still have nightmares of this day for the rest of his life. The last thing he wanted was to go back down the long hallway to the Hole.

  But he couldn’t let animals like that have even the slimmest chance of escape.

  He walked down the long hall carefully, slowly, even though he knew he should hurry. Several paces from the grate, he stopped. It was undisturbed, but he could still hear the sounds of men tearing meat. He wanted to vomit.

  The sound of approaching voic
es came to Logan from above. The long rock halls carried their words.

  “Hey, you!” a voice with a Khalidoran accent demanded.

  One of the men in the last set of cells before the Hole answered, but Logan couldn’t distinguish his words.

  “Did a couple of soldiers and a prisoner come this way?”

  Logan froze as the prisoner murmured something.

  “See?” the voice said. “They didn’t come this way. And believe me, you don’t want to go down to the Hole.”

  Logan silently blessed the prisoner who’d lied probably more out of the habit of lying to authorities than to save him.

  “And you think a prisoner is going to tell you the truth?” a man with a cultured Khalidoran accent asked. “The prince demanded confirmation that Logan Gyre is dead. All your men are cooperating and searching the rest of this dungeon. Are you trying to hinder us?”

  “No, sir!”

  An unnatural, unflickering red light illuminated the long hallway.

  A wytch! Oh shit, where can I go?

  In the feeble torchlight, Logan examined the hallway again. But there were no niches, no crawl spaces. It was a dead end.

  Have I been spared from death so many times just for this?

  Logan considered a mad rush at the men. With only a knife, it would be tight, but if he could kill the wytch first he might have a chance.

  “This is a place of power; I feel dizzy with it,” a different voice said.

  “Indeed,” the first wytch answered, “I’ve not felt so much evil in one space since—well, since I last met with our liege.”

  For some reason, they found that humorous. Logan’s heart broke as he heard at least six men laughing.

  Six men. Maybe five wytches. At least two. Even if it were two wytches and four soldiers, Logan was lost. And the red light was growing brighter; they were only steps away.

  With dread, Logan looked down at the grate. It was the only way. Count Drake had told him that life was precious, that suicide was a coward’s way out, a sin against the God by flinging his gift back in his holy face.

 
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