The night angel trilogy, p.68
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       The Night Angel Trilogy, p.68

           Brent Weeks
 

  It still felt like madness, to be looking at rings that cost two or three thousand gold. He should have asked Grand Master Haylin about the rings this afternoon. The Grand Master would have known if they were legitimate. But Kylar’s heart was light. He’d already sold his birthright. He was committed. Now it was just a matter of finding the perfect ring to please the woman he loved, the woman who was saving him from becoming the bitter wreck Durzo Blint had become.

  Really, the magic in the rings didn’t matter. What mattered was letting Elene know what she was worth to him.

  “There was one set, I swear it was in this box,” Kylar told Capricia. “What were those ones you put away?”

  “Those were just a display set—well, not actually a display set. The queen got furious with a gem merchant who wouldn’t sell her some jewels a decade ago and she outlawed display sets. So it’s not technically a display set, but it’s not really for sale. We have other drawers; it might have been in one of those.”

  “Just show me the ones I asked about,” Kylar said. He was suddenly skeptical. Was this a sales ploy? He’d seen it done before—a pretty girl tells a guy, “Here, this is very nice,” as she sets aside something ridiculously expensive and pulls out something cheap, and the man instantly says, “What about those?” to prove his manhood.

  But Capricia didn’t come across like that. She seemed genuine. She pulled out the rings and set them in front of him. Just looking at them, Kylar could see the size of his shop’s inventory shrinking.

  “Those are the ones,” he said. The design was seductively simple and elegant, a bare half-twist of silvery metal that somehow sparkled gold in the light when he picked up the larger one.

  Capricia gasped and raised a hand as if he were going to break it. He gazed into one of the shop’s mirrors and held up the earring by his left earlobe. It looked kind of effete, but then, apparently none of the thousands of men he’d seen around the city worried about looking effete.

  “Hmm,” he said. He moved the earring up higher on his ear. That looked a little more masculine. “What’s the most painful place a woman can nail a guy?”

  “Right about,” she leaned forward and pointed, but he couldn’t see it in the mirror. He moved and her finger touched his ear. “Oh!” she said. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to touch—”

  “What?” he said. Then he remembered. “Oh, no, it’s my fault. Seriously, where I come from, ears are no big deal. Did you say right here? So it goes over the top?” He checked the mirror. Yes, definitely more masculine, and it would hurt like hell. For some reason, that made him feel better.

  He picked up the smaller earring and—being careful not to touch her—held it up to Capricia’s ear. It was beautiful.

  “I’ll take them,” he said.

  “I’m really sorry,” she said. “We don’t have anything exactly like that for sale, but Master Bourary could make something that looks almost identical.”

  “You said there were no display items,” Kylar said.

  “Not technically. After the queen proclaimed the law—well, everything’s for sale. They just put ridiculous prices on what they don’t want to sell.”

  “And these are one of those?” Kylar asked. Now the house was getting smaller.

  “These are actually the rings I was telling you about earlier. The ones Master Bourary’s great-great-great grandfather made, mistarille over gold with diamonds?” She smiled weakly. “I’m sorry. I’m not trying to embarrass you. They weren’t even supposed to be in this case.”

  “How ridiculous a price are we talking?” Kylar asked.

  “Ridiculous,” she said.

  “How ridiculous?”

  “Totally ridiculous.” She winced.

  Kylar sighed. “Just tell me.”

  “Thirty-one thousand four hundred queens. Sorry.”

  It hit Kylar in the stomach. It was a coincidence, of course, but… Elene would call it the divine economy. He’d sold Retribution for exactly what it would cost to marry her.

  With nothing left over? Elene, if this is your God’s economy, you serve a niggardly God. I don’t even have enough left to buy a wedding knife.

  “On the bright side,” Capricia said, forcing a chuckle, “we’d throw in a wedding knife free.”

  A block of ice dropped into Kylar’s stomach.

  “I’m sorry,” she said, mistaking the stricken expression on his face. “We do have some lovely—”

  “You get paid a commission on your sales?” he asked.

  “One-tenth of anything over a thousand in sales a day,” she said.

  “So, if you sold these, what would you do with—what?—more than three thousand queens?”

  “I don’t know—why are you—”

  “What would you do?”

  She shrugged and started to answer, stopped, and finally said, “I’d move my family. We live in a pretty rough neighborhood and we keep having trouble with—oh, what does it matter? Believe me, I’ve dreamed about it ever since I started working here. I thought about selling those rings and how it would change everything for us. I used to pray about it every day, but my mother says we’re safe enough. Anyway, the God doesn’t answer greedy prayers like that.”

  Kylar’s heart went cold. They’d move away from that vengeful, arrogant little Shinga. Kylar wouldn’t have to commit murder to keep them safe.

  “No,” Kylar said, pocketing the mistarille earrings and grabbing a wedding knife. “He answers them like this.” He heaved the chest onto the counter and opened it. Capricia gaped. Her hands shook as she unfolded note after note. She looked up at Kylar, tears filling her eyes.

  “Tell your parents your guardian angel said to move. Not next week. Not tomorrow. Tonight. When I saved you, I embarrassed the Shinga. He’s sworn revenge.”

  Her eyes stayed huge, but she nodded imperceptibly. Her hand popped up like an automaton’s. “Gift box?” she asked in a strangled voice. “Free.”

  He took the jewelry box from her hand and walked out the door, locking it behind him. He tucked the earrings in the decorative box, and dropped it all in a pocket, suddenly as poor as a pauper. He’d sold his birthright. He’d given away one of the last things he had to remember Durzo by. He’d traded a magical sword for two metal circles. And now he didn’t have a copper to his name. Thirty-one thousand four hundred queens and he didn’t even have enough left over to buy Uly a birthday present.

  We’re finished, God. From now on, you answer your own fucking prayers.

  23

  Are you and Elene going to be all right?” Uly asked. They were working together that evening, Uly fetching ingredients while Kylar brewed a draught that reduced fevers.

  “Of course we are. Why?”

  “Aunt Mea says it’s fine you fight so much. She says that if I’m scared I just have to listen and if I hear the bed creaking after you fight, I’ll know things will be all right. She says that means that you’ve made up. But I never hear the bed creaking.”

  Blood rushed to Kylar’s cheeks. “I, well, I think… You know, that’s a question you should ask Elene.”

  “She said to ask you, and she got all embarrassed too.”

  “I’m not embarrassed!” Kylar said. “Hand me the mayberry.”

  “Aunt Mea says it’s wrong to lie. I’ve seen horses mating at the castle, but Aunt Mea says it’s not scary like that.”

  “No,” Kylar said quietly, mashing the mayberry with a pestle, “it’s scary in its own way.”

  “What?” Uly asked.

  “Uly, you are way too young for us to have this conversation. Yarrow root.”

  “Aunt Mea said you might say that. She said she’d talk to me about it if you were too embarrassed. She just made me promise to ask you first.” Uly handed him the knotted brown root.

  “Aunt Mea,” Kylar said, “thinks about sex too much.”

  “Ahem,” a voice said behind Kylar. He flinched.

  “I’m going out to check on Mistress Vatsen,” Aunt Mea s
aid. “Do you need anything?”

  “Um, uh, no,” he said. Surely she couldn’t have that bland look on her face if she’d heard what he just said.

  “Kylar, are you all right?” she asked. She touched his hot cheek. “You look strangely flushed.” She rummaged through the newly organized shelves—it seemed to take her longer than when they had been a mess—and tucked a few things in her basket. When she walked past Kylar, who was bent over the potion as if it took all of his concentration, she pinched his butt.

  He practically hit the ceiling, though he strangled back a shout. Uly looked at him quizzically.

  “You’re right,” Aunt Mea said at the door. “But don’t you get any ideas. I’m too old for you.”

  Kylar flushed brighter and she laughed. He could hear her continuing to laugh heartily even as she walked down the street.

  “Crazy old coot,” he said. “Noranton seed.”

  Uly handed him the vial of flat, purplish seeds, and screwed her mouth into a tight line. “Kylar, if things don’t work out with Elene, will you marry me?”

  He dropped the entire vial into the mixture.

  “WHAT?”

  “I asked Elene how old you were and she said twenty. And Aunt Mea said her husband was nine years older than her and that’s even further apart than you and me. And I love you and you love me and you and Elene fight all the time but you and me never fight…”

  Kylar was confused at first. He and Elene hadn’t fought for more than a week. Then he realized that Uly had been spending her nights over at one of her new friend’s houses—probably because Kylar and Elene’s fighting had upset her so much. Now Uly had an eager, scared look on her face that told him how he answered her could break her heart. Specifically, the first thought that popped into his head—I don’t love you like that—was not going to be a good choice.

  How did I get into this? I’ve got to be the first father in Midcyru to ever have to explain sex to his daughter while still a virgin myself.

  What was he supposed to say? “I’m not actually married to Elene yet, so when we fight we can’t make up the way I’d like. In fact, if we could make up the way I’d like, we probably wouldn’t fight in the first place”? Kylar couldn’t wait until he actually married Elene. All their conflicts about sex would finally be behind them. What a relief!

  In the meantime, Uly was staring at him, waiting, big eyes wide, uncertain. Oh no, that looked like a lip quiver.

  The opening door saved him. A well-dressed man stepped inside, a house crest embroidered in the chest of his tunic. He was tall and spare, but his face was pinched, making him look like a rodent.

  “Is this Aunt Mea’s?” he asked.

  “Yes, it is,” Kylar said. “But I’m afraid Aunt Mea just stepped out for a while.”

  “Oh that’s fine,” the man said. “You’re her assistant, Kyle?”

  “Kylar.”

  “Ah, yes. You’re younger than I expected. I’ve come here for your help.”

  “Mine?”

  “You’re the man who saved Lord Aevan, aren’t you? He’s been telling everyone who will listen that you did with one potion what a dozen physickers couldn’t with months of treatment. I am the head steward of High Lord Garazul. My lord has gout.”

  Kylar rubbed his jaw. He stared at the bottles lining the walls.

  “I can return later if you wish,” the steward said.

  “No, it won’t take a minute,” Kylar said. He started grabbing bottles and giving orders to Uly. She was the perfect helper, quick and silent. He soon had four bowls mixing simultaneously, two over heat, two cold. In another two minutes, he was done. The steward looked utterly fascinated by the whole process. It made Kylar think that Grand Master Haylin was onto something in showing off the creation process. He knew in that moment that if he ever had a big shop, he’d set it up in exactly the same way—give people a show along with their potions. It was an oddly satisfying little dream.

  “Here’s what you need to do,” Kylar said. “Give him two spoonfuls of this every four hours. I’m guessing your master is fat, hardly ever gets out? Loves his drink?”

  The steward said, “He’s got a little extra… well, yes, fat as a leviathan, in fact. Drinks like one, too.”

  “That potion will take care of the pain in his feet and joints. It will help the gout a little, but as long as he’s fat and drinks a lot of wine, he’ll never get better. He’ll need to buy this same potion every time his gout flares up for the rest of his life. You tell him if he wants the gout gone, he needs to stop drinking. If he won’t, which I’m betting will be the case, start putting two drops of this—” Kylar handed the man the second vial, “in every glass of his wine. It will give him a terrific headache. Make sure you do it every time he takes wine. While you’re at it, you can give him this each morning and night for his bad stomach. And feed him less. Give a little of this last one with each meal, it should help him feel full sooner.”

  “How’d you know he had a bad stomach?”

  Kylar smiled mysteriously. “And take him off everything else the physickers have ordered, especially the bloodletting and the leeches. He should be a new man in six weeks, if you make him lose weight.”

  “How much?” the steward asked.

  “Depends on how fat he is,” Kylar said.

  The steward laughed. “No, how much do I owe you?”

  Kylar thought about it. He did some math of what the ingredients had cost and doubled it. He told the steward.

  The mousy man looked at him, astonished. “A bit of advice, young man. You should get a shop on the north side, because if this works, there’s a lot of noble business that’s going to be coming your way. And another thing: if this even helps a little, you should charge twice that. If it actually does what you said, you should charge ten times that—otherwise the nobles won’t believe it’s real.”

  Kylar smiled, warmed just to hear someone speak to him as if he knew what he was doing—which he did. “Well then, you owe me ten times what I said before.”

  The steward laughed. “If Lord Garazul gets better, I’ll do better than that. Here’s all I’ve got on me in the meantime.” He tossed Kylar two new silver coins. “Good day, young master.”

  Watching the man go, Kylar was surprised how good it felt. Maybe it was better to heal than to kill. Or maybe it was just good to feel appreciated. How had Durzo done it? He’d been a dozen different heroes over the ages—maybe scores of different heroes. Hadn’t he ever wanted to just announce himself? Tell everyone who he was, and have them show the proper awe? Here I am, adore me.

  But Durzo had never come across like that. Kylar had grown up with him and had never had a clue that his master was the Night Angel, much less any of the other identities he’d had. Why not? Durzo had seemed arrogant in certain parts of his life. He’d certainly shown a huge disdain for most wetboys and most of the Sa’kagé, but he’d never equated himself with the great heroes of history.

  The pang of loss cut Kylar again. Gods, Durzo had been dead three months—and despite the passage of time, it wasn’t getting any better.

  Kylar felt the little box in his pocket. He died so I could have Elene. Kylar tried to push Durzo from his mind with that thought. Let’s just get through Uly’s birthday, and then I can ask Elene to marry me. Then Uly can hear more creaking than she’s ever imagined.

  “Kylar,” Uly said, jerking him out of his reverie. “Are you going to answer my question?”

  Ah, shit. “Uly,” he said gently. “I know you don’t feel like it, and you’re certainly as smart as someone a lot older, but you’re still a…” He furrowed his brow, knowing the next part wasn’t going to go over well. “You’re still a child.” It was true, dammit.

  “No I’m not.”

  “Yes, you are.”

  “I just had my first moon blood this week. Aunt Mea says that means I’m a woman now. It really hurt and it scared me at first. My stomach got real sore and my back and then—”

  “Ah!
” Kylar waved his hands, trying to make her stop.

  “What? Aunt Mea said it was nothing to be embarrassed about.”

  “Aunt Mea’s not your father!”

  “Who is?” Uly asked, quick as a whip.

  Kylar said nothing.

  “And who’s my mother? You know, don’t you? My nurses always treated me different from the other children. The last one always got scared whenever I got hurt. When I got a cut on my face once, she was so afraid it would be a scar that she didn’t sleep for weeks. Sometimes a lady would watch us play in the gardens, but she always wore a cloak and hood. Was she my mother?”

  Mute, Kylar nodded. It was exactly what Momma K would have done. She had doubtless stayed away for Uly’s safety as much as she could bear, but every once in a while, the defenses would have broken down.

  “She’s important?” Uly asked. Every orphan’s wish. Kylar knew.

  Kylar nodded again.

  “Why’d she leave me?”

  Kylar blew out a breath. “You deserve the answer to that, Uly, but I can’t tell you. It’s one of the secrets I know that don’t belong to me. I promise I’ll tell you when I can.”

  “Are you going to leave me? If we got married, I could go with you.”

  If anyone thought children couldn’t suffer pain as deeply as adults, Kylar wished they could see Uly’s eyes now. For all he loved her, he’d been treating her as a child rather than as a human being. Uly’s brief life was a history of abandonment: her father, her mother, one nurse after another. She just wanted something solid in her life.

  Kylar hugged her. “I won’t abandon you,” he swore. “Not ever. Not. Ever.”

  24

  Vi rode into Caernarvon as the sun set. In her weeks on the trail, she’d decided her strategy. Surely Kylar would be known to the Sa’kagé here. If he was at all like Hu Gibbet, he wouldn’t like to go long without killing. If he had taken any jobs, the Shinga would know him. Such a skilled wetboy wouldn’t pass without notice.

  On the other hand, if Kylar hadn’t taken any work, chances were still good that the Sa’kagé’s eyes and ears would know he had come to Caernarvon. Vi had heard precious little praise for Caernarvon’s Sa’kagé, and if Kylar were truly committed to hiding himself, Vi would never find him, but it had been three months. Criminals always went back to their crimes, even if they had plenty of money, if only because they didn’t know what else to do with themselves. What was a wetboy without killing?

 
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