The night angel trilogy, p.89
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       The Night Angel Trilogy, p.89

           Brent Weeks
 

  “Gnasher,” Logan said.

  “Gnasher? Oh, the big guy? Uh, he doesn’t look like he likes water much, Logan.”

  Logan couldn’t see Gnasher. It wasn’t just dark down here. It was utterly black. There wasn’t even lighter blackness. It was a single, unalleviated, embracing darkness. It was hot, wet, heavy, oppressive darkness that seeped into his very lungs. He had no idea how Kylar was seeing Gnasher, but Logan wouldn’t leave him here.

  “Will you… come back and get him?” Logan asked.

  There was a long silence.

  “Yes, my king,” Kylar said finally.

  “I’m… I’m ready.”

  “You just count. I got through in about a minute. It might take us a little longer together.”

  A minute?

  “Before we go… I’m sorry, Logan. I’m sorry for all of this and for how much of it’s my fault. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you what I was. I’m sorry that I didn’t kill Tenser when I had the chance. I’m… just sorry.”

  Logan said nothing. He couldn’t find the words and the strength to give Kylar what he deserved.

  Kylar didn’t wait. He began taking great breaths and Logan followed his example. A moment later, they plunged into the water together. Logan leaned close to Kylar’s body, trying not to get in the way of his arms, trying to make his body streamlined in the water.

  The water was hot, stinging hot, and clearly Kylar didn’t mean for this to be a leisurely swim. Logan felt them turn upside down, and then Kylar must have been grabbing on to rocks to pull them down, because they were moving fast. In fact, they were moving faster than Logan thought was possible underwater. He knew Kylar was strong: he’d wrestled and sparred with him, but the speed they were moving shouldn’t have been possible with the mass Kylar was pulling through the water.

  Ten. Eleven. The water was pressing on every side, tight and constricting. Some part of Logan marveled that Kylar had done this already, alone, without any sure idea that the tunnels did connect, or how long of a swim it would be. At fourteen seconds, Logan’s lungs were already burning.

  He held on, trying not to hold on too hard, trying to preserve his strength. The pain was nothing, he told himself.

  It was twenty seconds before he felt them level off. His back scraped against rock. It felt different, though he couldn’t have said what sense told him so. He thought they had entered a tunnel, and from how Kylar was moving, it was a narrow tunnel.

  Forty. Forty-one. Now the pain was undeniable. The air was pressing its way up his throat, begging for release. It hammered at him. Just a little release, just a little.

  At fifty, they got stuck. Abruptly, all forward motion ceased. The shock of it made Logan open his eyes. Hot, sour water attacked his eyes and he coughed. An enormous bubble of life-giving air rushed from his lungs.

  Kylar pulled and pulled. Logan felt something tearing, whether it was his ragged tunic or his skin, he didn’t know, but then they were moving again.

  He had less than half a lungful of air. Kylar was moving at incredible speed again, but they still weren’t heading upward.

  Then Logan felt Kylar turn, but his friend didn’t push upward. Instead, in a frenzied motion illuminated with blue magical light, he drew a short sword from his belt. Logan was thrown this way and that as Kylar slashed and stabbed at something flashing like silver lightning in the water.

  There was no way he could take any more. Kylar started moving upward, but Logan couldn’t make it for another twenty seconds. He couldn’t hold on that long.

  At sixty-seven seconds, he let the last of his air go.

  They were moving up so fast he felt it play against his face as they shot up. They passed the bubble.

  His lungs burned. He surrendered and breathed.

  Scalding water poured into his lungs—followed by air. Logan coughed and coughed and the hot, acrid stuff shot from his nose and mouth. It seared his sinuses, but a moment later, sweet cool air replaced it.

  Kylar untied him and lowered him gently to the ground. Logan lay on his back, just breathing. It was still dark, but high overhead, up the metal tubes up the stacks, he saw the twinkle of distant torches. After the black waters, it felt like stepping into a universe of light.

  “My king,” Kylar said. “There’s something in the water. Some giant, terrible lizard. If I go back, I don’t know if I’ll return. You’re in no shape to make it out alone. Without me, you’ll die here. Do you still want me to retrieve the simpleton?”

  Logan wanted to say no. He was more important to the kingdom than Gnasher. And he was afraid to be left alone. Life was suddenly so close, and he didn’t want to die.

  “I can’t abandon him, Kylar. Forgive me.”

  “You’d only need forgiveness if you’d asked me to leave him,” Kylar said, and then he dove into the water.

  He was gone for five agonizing minutes. When he broke the surface of the water, he was swimming at such great speed that it carried him into the air. He landed on his feet. He’d made a harness of the rope and had pulled Gnasher behind him. Now he grabbed the rope and pulled it in rapidly.

  Gnasher virtually flew clear of the water. He took a deep breath and smiled at Logan. “Hold breath good!” he said.

  Kylar swept Logan into his arms as something huge broke through the water behind them. Something slapped into Kylar and sent all three of them sprawling.

  Then the chamber was lit with iridescent blue light that came from Kylar himself. He was darting about, flipping from stalagmite to stalagmite, using them to change direction unpredictably. Fear clamped down on Logan’s throat. Whatever Kylar was fighting, it was huge. Enormous webbed hands crashed through stalagmites like they were twigs. Rocks rained down everywhere as Logan curled into a ball. Great gusts of air burst from a maw visible only as the teeth and eyes reflected Kylar’s blue fire. Silvery-green light blinked on and off.

  The most terrifying thing was being unable to see. The battle raged mere paces away, and Logan could do nothing, not even observe it. He heard clanging and guessed it was Kylar’s sword ringing off of the creature’s hide, but had no idea. He had no idea how Kylar was fighting it at all in this pitch black, and no hope of fighting it for himself. He didn’t even know how big it was, or what it looked like.

  He lost sight of Kylar—or Kylar disappeared, because even the beast paused and snorted. It began sniffing the air, its huge head weaving back and forth.

  Suddenly, it shot toward Logan and Gnasher. Logan threw his hands out and felt slimy hide rush past his fingers. Stalagmites crashed down everywhere. Then it pulled back and turned its head. A light as silvery cold as the moon bloomed in its green-marbled eyes and then the great snuffling head turned.

  The slimy snout slid past Logan’s cheek as the beast’s head turned. It sniffed and sniffed. Logan’s fingers brushed a broken chunk of stalagmite and he grabbed it. The motion attracted the creature. It pulled back and the light from its eye illumined Logan like torchlight. The great cat’s eye turned to him and came into focus.

  Logan buried the jagged rock into that great eye and ground it back and forth. Luminous green-silver light spilled on Logan with the creature’s blood. The eye went out like a blown candle and a howl filled the chamber, echoing back from the great distances all around. A moment later, a dark figure blurred past Logan and attacked the blind eye.

  The creature shrieked again and thrashed backward. An enormous splash sounded, and then all was quiet.

  “Logan,” Kylar said, his voice shaking with the aftereffects of adrenaline, “was that… was that Khali?”

  “No. Khali’s… different. Worse.” Logan laughed uncertainly. “That was just a dragon.” He laughed again like a man set free from his senses.

  Then all light faded.

  When he woke, the three of them had been fitted with harnesses, and Kylar was hoisting them all by a rope that must have been attached to a pulley high above. They were ascending the central shaft of the Stacks. It was a huge metal tube, thirt
y paces across, and all of the enormous fans had been stopped. How did Kylar manage that?

  The trip took several more minutes, and the whole time, Logan was aware of his arm burning and tingling where the creature’s eye blood had spilled on him. He didn’t have the courage to look at it.

  “We have a man inside who helped me,” Kylar said. “The Sa’kagé is now one of your most important allies, my king. Maybe your only ally.”

  A few minutes later, they reached a section where the pipes turned horizontal. With great care, Kylar untied Logan and then Gnasher. He cut the ropes and let them fall into the abyss. The pulley followed. He led them down the narrowing horizontal section until they reached a door. Kylar tapped on it three times.

  The door opened and Logan found himself face to face with Gorkhy.

  “Logan, meet our inside guy,” Kylar said. “Gorkhy, your money is—”

  “You!” Gorkhy said. His face showed the same disgust Logan felt.

  “Kill him,” Logan croaked.

  Gorkhy’s eyes bulged. He grabbed at the guard’s whistle he carried on a lanyard around his neck. Before it reached his lips, though, his head spun free of his body. The corpse dropped without a sound.

  It was that fast, that easy. Kylar dragged the body down the tunnel to drop it into the shaft and returned a minute later. Logan had just ordered his first kill.

  Kylar didn’t ask for an explanation. It was an eerie, awesome, awful thing. It was power, and it felt disconcertingly… wonderful.

  “Your Majesty?” Kylar said, opening the door out of the shaft, out of the nightmare. “Your kingdom awaits.”

  54

  When Kaldrosa Wyn and ten of the other girls from the Craven Dragon emerged from Momma K’s safe house, the Warrens were changed. There was a nervous excitement in the air. The Nocta Hemata had been a triumph, but repercussions were coming. Everyone knew it. Momma K had told the girls they needed to leave her subterranean safe house because the secret of its existence had leaked. Somehow, the Night Angel had saved them all from being slaughtered by Hu Gibbet.

  Kaldrosa had heard rumors of the Night Angel before, right after the invasion, but she hadn’t believed them. Now they all knew he was real. They’d seen Hu Gibbet’s body.

  Momma K had told them she would smuggle them out as quickly as possible, but moving three hundred women out of the city was going to take time. They had ways to get around or under the Godking’s new walls, but it wasn’t easy. Kaldrosa Wyn’s group was supposed to go tonight. Momma K had told them that if they wanted to stay in the city, if they had husbands or boyfriends or family to go back to, all they had to do was not show up at the rendezvous tonight.

  The Warrens were quiet, expectant, as the women made their way to the safe house. They were conspicuous, of course, all of them still dressed in their rich whoring clothes. Master Piccun’s designs seemed obscene in the broad daylight, in the context of open streets. Worse, some of the girls’ costumes were stained with brown-black smears of dried blood.

  But the women passed no guards, and it was soon clear that the Khalidorans didn’t go into the Warrens now. The residents who saw them looked at them strangely. One alley they tried to traverse was blocked by a building that must have been knocked down during the Nocta Hemata itself, and it forced Kaldrosa Wyn and the others to walk straight through the Durdun Market.

  The market was busy, but as the former whores passed through it, a wave of silence preceded them. Every eye was on them. The girls set their jaws, ready for the derision their clothing would surely evoke, but nothing happened.

  A stout fishwife leaned over her stall and said, “You done us proud, girls.”

  The women were caught off guard. The approval hit them like a slap in the face. Everywhere it was the same. People everywhere nodded in greeting and acceptance, even the women who a week ago would have sneered at rent girls even as they envied their good looks and easy lives. Even as the Rabbits waited for the Godking to crush them, as they knew he must, they shared a unity forged of persecution. The Rabbits had surprised themselves with their own bravery that night, and somehow, the whores bore their standard.

  The gloriously solitary two-day ride to Cenaria had only one problem. There was no irritating child. No domineering hag. No verbal sparring. No humiliation. But the time gave Vi an opportunity to see how flimsy her plans were.

  The first plan was to go to the Godking. It had seemed great for about five minutes. She’d tell him that Kylar was dead. She’d tell him Jarl was dead. She’d ask for her gold and she’d leave.

  Right. Sister Ariel’s musings about the spell on Vi were far too specific to be guesses. They were also far too plausible. Vi would either have a short leash or a long leash, but she’d have a leash. Garoth Ursuul had promised to break her. It wasn’t the kind of promise he’d forget.

  In truth, Vi felt broken already. She was losing her edge. It was one thing to feel bad for killing Jarl. Jarl had kept her alive. He’d been a friend and someone who would never demand the use of her body. He hadn’t been a threat, physically or sexually.

  Kylar was a different matter altogether, and yet even now, riding slowly through the streets of Cenaria, her hood close around her face, Vi couldn’t stop thinking about him. She was actually sorry he was dead. Maybe even sad.

  Kylar had been a damn good wetboy. One of the best. It was a shame he’d been killed with an arrow, probably from hiding. Not even a wetboy could stop that.

  “That’s it,” Vi said aloud. “Could happen to anyone. Makes me realize my own mortality. It’s just a shame.”

  It wasn’t just a shame. That wasn’t what she felt, and she knew it. Kylar had been kind of cute. If you could think “kind of cute” with a mental sneer. Kind of charming. Well, not that charming. But he did try.

  Really, it was Uly’s fault. Uly had talked and talked about how great he was. Fuck.

  So maybe she’d entertained a whim that Kylar could be the kind of man who could understand her. He’d been a wetboy, and somehow he’d left it and become a decent person. If he could do it, maybe she could, too.

  Yes, he was a wetboy, but he was never a whore. You think he could understand that? Forgive it? Sure. You go ahead with your little crush, Vi. Bawl your eyes out like a little girl. Go ahead and pretend you could have been an Elene, making a little home and having a little life. I’m sure it would have been great fun to suckle brats and crochet baby blankets.

  The truth is, you didn’t even have the courage to admit you had a crush on Kylar until you knew he was safely dead.

  All the things Vi had always hated about women were suddenly showing up in herself. For Nysos’ sake, she even missed Uly. Like some sort of fucking mother.

  Well that was nice. Boo hoo. Do we feel better now? Because we still have a problem. She sat on her horse outside Drissa Nile’s shop. The Bitch Wytch had said the weaves were dangerous, but Drissa might be able to free Vi from the Godking’s magic. Looking at the modest shop, Vi thought the smart money was on the Godking.

  The Godking would make her a slave. Drissa Nile would either free her or kill her.

  Vi went inside. She had to wait half an hour while the two diminutive, bespectacled Niles took care of a boy who’d been splitting firewood and buried an axe in his foot, but after his parents took him home, Vi said that Sister Ariel had sent her. The Niles closed shop immediately.

  Drissa seated her in one of the patient rooms while Tevor drew back a section of the roof to let sunlight in. They looked alike, baggy clothes over short, lumpy bodies, graying brown hair as straight as sheaves of wheat, spectacles, and single earrings. They moved with the easy familiarity of long partnership, but Tevor Nile clearly deferred to his wife. They both appeared to be in their forties, but scholarly Tevor seemed perpetually befuddled, while Drissa left no doubt that she was aware of all things at all times.

  They sat on either side of her, holding each other’s hand behind her back. Drissa rested her free hand on Vi’s neck, and Tevor laid his
fingers on the skin of her forearm. Vi felt a cool tingle in her skin.

  “So, how do you know Ariel?” Drissa asked, her eyes sharp through her spectacles. Tevor seemed to have completely sunk into himself.

  “She killed my horse to keep me from going into Ezra’s Wood.”

  Drissa cleared her throat. “I see—”

  “Gwaah!” Tevor yelled. He jerked backward and fell off his stool, smacking the back of his head against the stone of the fireplace.

  “Don’t touch anything!” As fast as he fell, he was on his feet again.

  Vi and Drissa stared at him, baffled. He rubbed the back of his head. “By the hundred, I nearly incinerated all of us.” He sat down. “Drissa, look at this.”

  “Oh,” Vi said. “Ariel said it was trapped in some interesting ways.”

  “Now you tell me?” Tevor asked. “Interesting? She calls this interesting?”

  “She said you were the best with small weaves.”

  “She did?” Tevor’s demeanor changed in an instant.

  “Well, she said Drissa.”

  He threw his hands up. “Of course she did. Damn Sisters can’t admit a man might be good, not even for a second.”

  “Tevor,” Drissa said.

  He was abruptly calm. “Yes, dear?”

  “I’m not seeing it. Can you lift it—”

  She exhaled all at once. “Oh my. Oh my. Yes, don’t lift it.”

  Tevor didn’t say anything. Vi turned to see what his expression was.

  “Please hold still, child,” Drissa said.

  For ten minutes, they worked in silence. Or at least Vi thought they worked. Aside from something like feather brushes on her spine, she felt nothing.

  Finally, Tevor grunted as if satisfied.

  “Are we done?” Vi asked.

  “Done?” he said. “We haven’t started. I was inspecting the damage. Interesting? I’ll say it’s interesting. There are three side spells protecting the primary spell. I can get them. Breaking the last one is going to hurt, a lot. The good news is that you came to us. The bad news is that by touching the weave, I’ve disrupted it. If I can’t break it in perhaps an hour, it will blow your head off. You might have said it was a Vürdmeister who put the spell on you. Any other surprises?”

 
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