The night angel trilogy, p.81
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       The Night Angel Trilogy, p.81
 

           Brent Weeks

  “It’s a little late for that,” a voice said from the opening of the tent. It was Terah Graesin, in a lavish green dress and cloak lined with new mink. She was smiling a thin smile. “Why Durzo Blint, I haven’t seen you in ages.”

  43

  Usually Garoth summoned his concubines to his rooms, but sometimes he liked to surprise them. Magdalyn Drake had entertained him for a long time, but as always, his interest was beginning to wane.

  Tonight, he’d woken, hours past midnight, with the infernal itch and a headache and an idea. He would enter silently and wake Magdalyn roughly. He loved Magdalyn’s scream. He would beat her savagely and accuse her of plotting against him.

  If she begged and swore it wasn’t true like most frightened women would, he’d throw her off the balcony. If she cursed him, he would bang her, matching her defiance with an equal degree of brutality, and she would live another day. Before he left, he would hold her tenderly in his arms and whisper that he was sorry, that he loved her. Decent women always wanted to see something good in him. He shivered in anticipation.

  He extended the vir through the closed door, hoping to detect the even sound of her breathing in sleep. Instead he felt something different. She was awake.

  Garoth opened the door, but she didn’t notice him. She was sitting on her bed, facing the open door to her rail-less balcony. She was dressed only in a thin nightgown, but she didn’t seem to feel the cold air blowing in the open door. She was rocking back and forth.

  He swore loudly. She didn’t respond. He touched her skin and it, too, was cold. She must have been sitting like this for hours.

  Other concubines had pretended madness in an attempt to escape his attentions. Maybe Magdalyn Drake was the same. Garoth slapped her and she fell off the bed. She didn’t cry out. Grabbing a fistful of dark hair, Garoth dragged her onto the balcony.

  Coming right to the edge, he pulled her to her feet. He grabbed her throat in one thick hand and pushed her back until her toes were barely on the edge. His fingers wrapped almost all the way around her throat. He took care to choke her as little as possible, but if he released her, she would fall.

  Her eyes finally came into focus. The shadow of death tended to have that effect on people.

  “Why?” Magdalyn asked sadly. “Why do you do this?”

  He looked at her, confused. The answer was so obvious that he wasn’t sure he’d understood the question. “It pleases me,” he said.

  And strangely—but Magdalyn Drake had always been a strange girl, it was part of why she appealed to him—Magdalyn smiled. She pulled toward him, but not like a woman dangling off a precipice would pull toward her only hope of life.

  She kissed him. If it was an act, it was a damn convincing one. If her mind had broken, it had broken in an intriguing way. Magdalyn Drake kissed him, and Garoth swore it was with real desire. His arousal came back stronger than ever as she climbed him, her lean young legs wrapping around his waist.

  He thought of taking her back inside, but it was impossible to stay fully in control, about to make love with a woman who might be trying to kill him. She kissed her way to his ears.

  “I’ve been listening to you and Neph,” she said, washing her hot breath back in his ear.

  He usually didn’t let his concubines talk while he fucked them, unless they were cursing him, but Garoth didn’t want to destroy this fragile insanity.

  Magdalyn kissed him again, then pulled away. She leaned back. Holding him with her legs, she let go of his neck and leaned back. He grabbed onto her hips to keep her from plunging to her death. Upside down, she waved her arms above her head, looking over the castle and the city below, laughing.

  Garoth’s pulse pounded loud in his ears. He didn’t even care who might be watching. Whatever kind of madness this was, it was intoxicating.

  She shimmied her hips and said something again.

  “What?” he asked.

  “Let go,” she said.

  She seemed to have a tight grip with her legs, so he let go, ready to catch her with the vir if need be. He wasn’t going to let this end without taking his pleasure. Not now.

  Magdalyn tugged her nightgown free from where it was trapped between their bodies and stripped it off. She dropped it over the edge, laughing again as the flimsy cloth spun toward the flagstones below.

  Then she sat up and kissed Garoth again, pressing her young body against him. She stripped his robe back roughly. Then she burrowed into him, moaning as her skin touched his, warm against warm in the cold night air.

  She nuzzled his neck. “I heard you talking about the Night Angel,” she said. “Kylar Stern.”

  “Mmm.”

  “I want you to know something,” she whispered into his ear, making him shiver. What the hell was she saying? “Kylar’s my brother. He’s coming for me, you dirty fucker, and if I don’t kill you, he will.”

  She bit his carotid artery as hard as she could and tried to throw them both off the edge.

  The vir reacted before Garoth could, exploding at his neck. The vir lashed from his limbs, flinging him inside even as Magdalyn Drake spun out into space.

  He stood shakily and summoned Neph.

  The Vürdmeister found him standing on the balcony, looking at the ruin of the young woman crushed in the courtyard below.

  “Take care of her, Neph. Tell Trudana I expect the best,” the Godking said, greatly moved. “Hers was a great spirit.”

  “Shall I…” The Lodricari coughed his fake cough and Garoth hated him anew. “Shall I send in another concubine?” He pointedly didn’t look toward the evidence of Garoth’s continued arousal.

  “Yes,” Garoth said tersely. Curse you, Khali, yes.

  “If you’ll excuse us, Count Drake,” Terah Graesin said. “I have need of your quarters.”

  Count Drake limped out on his cane as several guards took up position outside the tent.

  Kylar was still reeling. Terah Graesin knew Durzo. That meant he was supposed to know her, and he didn’t. If she knew Durzo, that meant she knew Durzo through his work. That meant she had hired him.

  “So,” she said. “Logan’s alive. That’s… terrific.” Terah Graesin had a silky, low voice. It was reputed to be sexy, but then, everything about Terah Graesin was supposed to be sexy. Kylar didn’t see it. Oh, she was pretty. She had a wide mouth, full lips, and the kind of figure that was unattainable for the majority of noblewomen who spent their days doing nothing more strenuous than issuing orders to the servants. Maybe it was that she was a little too self-consciously good-looking. She wore lots of makeup—expertly applied and subtle, but lots—and had tweezed her eyebrows down to tiny lines. The truth was, she held herself like he ought to admire her, and it pissed him off.

  What pissed him off more was that to look her in the eye with his disguise, he had to stare straight at her admittedly perky breasts. Dammit, why were breasts so intriguing?

  “So who’s paying you to save Logan Gyre?” she asked.

  “You don’t really expect me to answer that,” Kylar said. The only card he had to play was that Blint tended to be blunt and secretive. If she knew him, she’d know that much.

  “Master Blint,” she said, seeming to come to a decision, but still speaking in that same consciously sexy voice, “you’re the only man I know who’s killed two kings. How much can I pay you to kill a third?”

  “What?! You want me to kill the Godking?”

  “No. Simply don’t save Logan Gyre. I’ll double whatever your employer is paying.”

  “What?” Kylar asked. “Why? You need all the allies you can get right now. Logan would bring thousands to your banners.”

  “The problem is… well, can you keep a secret, Durzo?” She smiled.

  “Would you trust a murderer with your secrets?”

  “I knew you’d say that!” she said triumphantly, almost giggling. “You said the same thing last time, remember?”

  “It’s been a while,” Kylar said, his throat constricting.


  “Well, I’m glad you remembered long enough to kill my father.”

  Kylar blinked.

  “Tell me, did you do it before or after you killed King Gunder?”

  “I’m paid to kill, not to talk about it.” Gods! Her own father?

  “And that’s why I can trust you. Though I will remind you that I’ve already given you money for not killing me—so you can’t do to me what I did to my father.”

  “Of course not.” It took him a second to puzzle it out. She must have met Durzo when the wetboy had taken a job for her father, Duke Gordin Graesin. Perhaps Gordin had hired Durzo to kill King Davin? Duke Graesin must have thought Regnus Gyre would become king after King Davin died, thereby making Gordin’s other daughter Catrinna a queen. Logan’s mother, Catrinna Graesin, had been Terah’s half-sister, though older than Terah by almost twenty years.

  “So why let Logan die?” he asked.

  “Because I don’t give up things that belong to me easily, Durzo Blint. As you know.”

  “Don’t you think you might want to worry about taking the throne from the Khalidorans before you worry about murdering your allies?”

  “I don’t need a civics lesson. Are you interested in making money for doing nothing, or do you wish to make me your enemy? I will be queen one day, and you’ll find me an implacable foe.”

  “Seven thousand crowns,” Kylar said. “How do I know you’re good for it? If the Khalidorans wipe you out, I’m not getting stiffed.”

  She smiled. “Now there’s the Durzo Blint I remember.” She pulled a fat ring off her finger with an even fatter ruby in it. “Please don’t pawn it. It belonged to my father, and it’s not worth even half of the eight thousand I’ll give you for it after I take the throne. There’ll be a bonus if you bring me proof of Logan’s death.”

  “Fair enough,” Kylar said.

  “I foresee some of my allies becoming… problematic in the future. I’ll have other jobs for you. That is, if you haven’t lost your edge.”

  “What’s that supposed to mean?”

  “When you didn’t answer my summons a month ago, I had to go elsewhere.”

  “You’ll never find anyone as good as me.” That, at least, was classic Durzo Blint.

  Terah Graesin licked her lips and her eyes filled with sudden hunger. Kylar didn’t recognize the look, but he didn’t like it, whatever it was. She smiled.

  What is she waiting for? Me to make a pass at her? The moment passed.

  “Well, then, good day,” she said in a level tone that didn’t tell Kylar whether he was right or wrong. She stepped close to him to kiss each of his cheeks. It put his real face right at level of her chest, but he was lucky. She didn’t lean close enough to touch either his real lips with her breasts or his phantom cheek with her lips. The illusion stayed intact.

  As soon as she was gone, he fled. He jumped on his horse and went north out of the camp, worried that Terah might have someone watching the western exit. He shifted his disguise so that Durzo’s face was where his own was, rather than above it so that he could see the guards’ expression. The guards let him out without question, however, and when he was a mile out, he began to let down his guard. His heart was still pounding as he thought about what this meant for Logan. Even if he got his friend out of the Maw, the road ahead wouldn’t be easy. At least now he would know who his enemies were.

  Kylar entered a thin stretch of trees when something whispered coolly in his mind: ~Duck.~

  “What?” he said aloud.

  An arrow drove through Kylar’s chest.

  It rocked him back in the saddle, but his horse kept walking, oblivious. Kylar coughed blood. He’d made so many mistakes. Durzo would never have forgiven him for his carelessness. Letting down his guard, going back to the path when he’d worried someone might have been sent after him, taking his own horse rather than stealing someone else’s. It only took one mistake to get you killed, and he’d made many.

  Gods, his lungs burned.

  ~I told you to duck.~

  A shadowy form stepped out from behind a tree and took his horse’s reins in one hand, holding a sword in the other.

  The wetboy let down his shadows—they weren’t nearly as good as Durzo’s, never mind Kylar’s. It was Scarred Wrable. “Well, son of a bitch,” the wetboy said. “Durzo Blint? Shit.”

  “Howdy, Ben,” Kylar said. Son of a bitch was right. He’d kept the Durzo disguise—and if he’d kept it at Durzo’s height, Ben Wrable would have shot his arrow right over Kylar’s shoulder.

  It was taking more and more effort to maintain the Durzo disguise, and Kylar was painfully aware that it was important he do so. If Terah thought she’d killed Durzo, Kylar could still come back. That had its own set of problems, but far fewer than revealing that he was both Durzo Blint and Kylar Stern and immortal.

  “Shit, Durzo! I didn’t even know it was you. That uppity Graesin bitch said ‘special job, easy, pay ya double.’ What the hell you riding on the path for, D?”

  “Just…” Kylar coughed. “Made a mistake.”

  “It only takes one, I guess. Shit, buddy. I woulda fought ya at least.”

  “I would have killed you,” Kylar said. He was stirred by a sudden panic. What if this was his last life? He had no guarantee that he would come back. The Wolf had never explained it. Gods, he’d been totally crazy when he’d let Baron Kirof kill him for money.

  “Probably.” Scarred Wrable swore again. He’d gained his nickname from the innumerable scars he had on his face. He’d come to Cenaria as a child from somewhere in Friaku and spent time as a slave. He was one of the few men who’d gained his freedom from the fighting pits. Kylar thought the scars were self-inflicted, but the man spoke without an accent. Whatever rituals he practiced he’d learned from rumors about the Friaki, not from observation. “How am I supposed to brag about this, Durzo? I just shot you with a goddam arrow. That’s no way to kill the world’s greatest wetboy.”

  “Seems to be working all right.” Kylar coughed.

  “Shit,” Ben said, disgusted.

  “Make something up,” Kylar said. He sprayed more blood again as he coughed. He’d forgotten dying was so much fun.

  “I can’t do that,” Wrable said. “It dishonors the dead. They haunt you if you do that.”

  “I feel really fucking sorry for you,” Kylar said. He was slipping out of the saddle. He hit the ground with a thump and smacked the back of his head on the ground, but whatever he’d done, the disguise held.

  Ben scowled. “Wait,” he said, working it out. Scarred Wrable had never been the brightest torch on the wall. “You mean, you mean it would honor you more if people thought you’d been killed in heroic combat?” Scarred Wrable asked. He liked the idea. “You’d let me say that and not haunt me? I’d make you sound good, I swear.”

  “Depends,” Kylar said. His vision was already beginning to white out. “Are you going to hack anything off my corpse?” That would be just his luck. He’d wake up without a head or something. How would that work? Would he die for real if someone took his head?

  “The bitch did want proof.”

  “Take her the ring. Take my horse, my clothes, whatever you need, but leave my body alone, say you’re superstitious or something and you can tell the story however you want. Just put my body…” Kylar lost the thought. His head was getting thick. He thought he could feel his heart laboring as blood spilled inside his chest.

  “Fair enough. You ready, friend?” Ben asked.

  Kylar nodded.

  Ben Wrable stabbed him through the heart.

  44

  I’ve been working on the web,” Sister Ariel said. “It’s trapped in some really interesting ways. Who put it on you again?”

  “How about if I tell you, you let me go?” Vi said. Not very subtle, are you, Bitch Wytch?

  They were heading back to the trail after taking a huge detour around the rebel camp at Havermere. Vi could tell that Sister Ariel had wanted to go into the camp but thought that it
would give Vi chances to escape.

  “Why are we going west?” Vi asked. “I thought the Chantry was northeast.”

  “It is. But I still haven’t finished what I was sent to do,” Ariel said.

  “What was that?” Uly asked. She was sitting on the cantle behind Vi right now, and both of them were leashed magically. Vi was glad that Uly asked the question. Sister Ariel answered Uly’s questions. That probably had something to do with Vi’s repeated escape attempts, which had left them both bruised and irritable.

  “I’m looking to recruit someone special, and I’m hoping I can find a woman who fits the bill in the rebel camp. Unfortunately, I don’t trust Vi as far as I can throw her.”

  “That’s pretty far,” Uly said.

  Vi scowled. Not only had Ariel left her with the scratches from where she’d landed in brambles, but afterward she’d spanked her. Life in the saddle was a sore life.

  “So I don’t count as someone special?” Vi said. “You already said I’m vastly talented. Or whatever.” She sneered as she said it, but she was curious—and, strangely, a little hurt that she didn’t measure up.

  “Oh, you’re both very special. But neither of you qualifies for what I need,” Ariel said. The bitch was enjoying being mysterious.

  “What do you mean, both of us?” Vi asked.

  “I’m taking you both to the Chantry, but neither of you can fulfill—”

  “Why are you taking us both?”

  Ariel looked at Vi, puzzled. Then she laughed. “Uly’s Talented, Vi.”

  “What?” Vi was incredulous.

  “Oh, it’s rare to find Talented women, I don’t deny it. But if only one woman in a thousand is Talented, that doesn’t mean that you only find two Talented women together once in a million times. You see?”

  “No,” Uly said. Vi didn’t either.

  “People with the Talent tend to feel an affinity for each other, even if neither of them knows why. We frequently find them together, which is great for us… usually. Perhaps you’re too young for this much truth, Ulyssandra, but that affinity is probably the only reason why an otherwise heartless murderer didn’t add you to her already overburdened conscience.”

 
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