Authors: Simon R. Green
Tags: #Forest Kingdom, #Hawk and Fisher
Other books by Simon R. Green
The Blue Moon Books
BLUE MOON RISING
BEYOND THE BLUE MOON
BLOOD AND HONOR
DOWN AMONG THE DEAD MEN
The Hawk and Fisher Series
HAWK AND FISHER
WINNER TAKES ALL
THE GOD KILLER
WOLF IN THE FOLD
GUARD AGAINST DISHONOR
NO HAVEN FOR THE GUILTY
The Deathstalker Series
The Search for Owen Deathstalker
Deathstalker Prelude (aka Twilight of Empire)
The Nightside Series
SOMETHING FROM THE NIGHTSIDE
AGENTS OF LIGHT AND DARKNESS
HEX AND THE CITY
PATHS NOT TAKEN
SHARPER THAN A SERPENT'S TOOTH
HELL TO PAY
THE UNNATURAL INQUIRER
JUST ANOTHER JUDGMENT DAY
THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UNCANNY
A HARD DAY'S KNIGHT
THE BRIDE WORE BLACK LEATHER (Forthcoming)
The Secret Histories
THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN TORC
DAEMONS ARE FOREVER
THE SPY WHO HAUNTED MEN
FROM HELL WITH LOVE
FOR HEAVEN'S EYES ONLY
The Ghost Finders Series
GHOST OF A CHANCE
GHOST OF A SMILE
DRINKING MIDNIGHT WINE
PIT OF DESPAIR
And author of the New York Times bestseller ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES
Praise for BEYOND THE BLUE MOON
“If they’re making fantasy adventure much better than this, I don’t know about it.”—
Science Fiction Chronicle
“Fans of Hawk and Fisher will particularly enjoy the revelations about the deadly duo’s background, and as always Green provides plenty of spectacular violence and some spectacular wonders.”—
First published by Roc, an imprint of New American Library, a division of Penguin Putnam Inc., in November 2000. Also published in the UK by Gollancz, an imprint of Orion Publishing Group.
Published by Jabberwocky Literary Agency, Inc. as an e-book in November 2010.
Copyright © Simon Green, 2000.
All rights reserved.
Cover art by Isaac Stewart.
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Haunted by the Past
It was spring in Haven, and no one gave a damn. Everywhere else in the world, it was a time for life and love and a joyful new start to all living things; but this was Haven, the infamous rotten apple of the Low Kingdoms. An independent city-state at the arse end of the Southern lands, where swords and sorcery, religion and politics, life and death, were just familiar coins in the everyday trade of a dark and twisted city. Set at the intersection of a dozen thriving trade routes, Haven had blossomed over the years, like the great gaudy bloom of a poisonous flower, and people and creatures of all kinds came in search of the city’s many secrets and mysteries. You could find anything at all in Haven, if you were willing to pay the price, which was sometimes gold and sometimes lives, but nearly always, eventually, your soul. Haven; the city of your dreams, including all the bad ones. A place of wonders and horrors and everything in between. Hungry eyes watched from shadowed side streets, not all of them human, not all of them even alive.
In Haven there were glories and mysteries, messiahs and abominations, pleasures and depravities in all their forms. Heroes and villains and a whole lot of people just trying to get through the day. And—just sometimes—a few good men and women, honorable and true, doing their best to hold it all together, punish the guilty and protect the innocent; or at least try to keep the lid on.
Two such were Hawk and Fisher, husband and wife and Captains in the city Guard, possibly the only honest cops left in Haven. They’d never taken a bribe, never looked the other way, and never once given a villain an even break. Unless it was to his arm or leg. They lost as many battles as they won, but they’d won a few big ones in their time, and even saved the whole damned city more than once. It didn’t win them promotions, or even much in the way of raises or commendations, because of the many influential enemies they’d made along the way, through their uncomfortable regard for truth and justice. But still they fought the good fight. Because that was who and what they were.
And if sometimes their methods were excessive, and overly violent, and if occasionally it seemed you could always tell where they’d been because they left a trail of bloody corpses behind them … well, this was Haven, after all.
Their beat was the North Side, the poorest, most desperate, and most dangerous part of the city; and the most dangerous things in that infamous quarter were quite definitely Hawk and Fisher. People tended not to bother them. In fact, people tended to cross to the other side of the street when they saw them coming. Hawk and Fisher had built quite a reputation during their years in Haven, all of it earned the hard way.
Hawk was tall, dark, and no longer handsome. He wore a black silk patch over the empty socket where his right eye had once been, and a series of old scars ran raggedly down the right side of his face, giving him a cold, sinister look. He wore a simple white tunic and trousers under a thick black cloak, his only touch of color a blue silk cravat at his throat.
But still, at first glance he didn’t look like much; lean and wiry rather than muscular, and building a stomach. He wore his dark hair at shoulder length, swept back from his forehead and tied at the back with a silver clasp. Thirty-five years old, he already had thick streaks of gray in his hair. It would have been easy to dismiss him as just another bravo, a sword for hire perhaps a little past his prime, but there was a dangerous alertness in the way he carried himself, and the cold gaze of his single dark eye was disturbingly direct and unwavering. On his right hip Hawk carried a short-handled axe instead of a sword. He was very good with that axe. He’d had a lot of practice.
Fisher walked at his side as though she belonged there, and always had. Thirty-two years old, easily six feet in height, her long blond hair fell to her waist in a single thick plait, weighted at the tip with a polished steel ball. She was handsome rather than beautiful, with a raw-boned harshness to her face that contrasted strongly with her deep blue eyes and generous mouth. She dressed in pure white and black, just like Hawk, without even the softening touch of a cravat. She left her shirt half unbuttoned to show a generous amount of bosom, mostly to distract her opponents. She wore her shirt sleeves rolled up above the elbow, revealing arms corded with muscle and lined with old scars. She wore a sword on her hip, as simple and unadorned as a butcher’s tool, and her hand rarely strayed far from it.
Some time ago something had scoured all the human weaknesses out of her, and it showed.
Hawk and Fisher; partners, warriors, reluctant heroes. Because somebody had to be. They tended not to get the ordinary, run-of-the-mill assignments. They got the hardest, weirdest, most dangerous cases, because Hawk and Fisher were who you turned to when you’d tried everything else, including closing your eyes and hoping it would just go away. Even so, the early hours of this particular morning promised an unusual case, even for them.
“I can’t believe they’re sending us to sort out a haunted house,” said Fisher, kicking moodily at some garbage in the street that didn’t get out of her way fast enough. “Do I look like an exorcist?”
“It would seem more a job for a priest,” said Hawk, just to keep the peace. “But if it means spending the coldest hours of the morning inside a nice warm mansion, with perhaps a nice cup of mulled wine and some civilized finger food close at hand, well, a man must go where duty calls. I can knock on walls and wave crucifixes around with the best of them. Ghosts always pick the biggest and most expensive houses to manifest in—have you noticed that?”
Fisher sniffed, staring straight ahead. “You’re the one who reads those stories. I’m not sure I even believe in ghosts. We’ve run up against more than our fair share of weird shit in our time, from vampires and werewolves to Beings of Power from the Street of Gods, but we’ve never come across a single haunting. Hell, considering the number of people we’ve had cause to kill over the years, if there were such things as ghosts, we’d be hip deep in them by now.”
“Well, whatever it is that’s upsetting the Hartley family, they’re apparently sufficiently well connected to put pressure on our superiors, so we get the job of sorting it out. Probably turn out to be nothing more than a few squeaky floorboards and a case of bad conscience, and we’ll just get to sit around in comfort waiting for something spooky to show up. Preferably while picking through a nice selection of cold cuts, and perhaps a little garlic sausage. In chunks. On sticks. I could really go for some garlic sausage right now.”
Fisher looked at him for the first time, and sighed heavily. “I don’t know why I bother putting you on diets. You never stick to them. You’ve no self-control at all, have you? I’ve seen hibernating bears with less of a paunch on them.”
Hawk glared at her. “It’s all right for you. You can eat anything you like, and never put on a pound. I only have to look at a chocolate cookie and my waistline goes out another inch. It was turning thirty that did it. I should have never agreed to it. It’s all been downhill ever since. I’ll be wearing slippers next.”
“And you wouldn’t even touch those nice nut cutlets I made specially for you.”
“Let us talk about the haunting,” said Hawk determinedly. “Suddenly it seems a far more profitable subject for conversation. The Hartley house is right on the edge of the North Side, where things become almost civilized. Proper street lighting and everything. Family made its money in ornamental boot-scrapers, and other similar useful items. If you’ve ever scraped shit off your boot in this city, you’ve put money in a Hartley’s pocket. The trouble started when the head of the family, one Appleton Hartley, finally and very reluctantly died of old age, and his heirs took over the family house and business. The ghost started acting up the moment they moved in. Spectral apparitions, unearthly noises—(though how those differ from earthly noises has never been clear to me)—and foul and appalling odors. If it was me, I’d just check the drains, but … Anyway, the disturbances have been going on nonstop ever since, and none of the Hartley family have been able to get any sleep for four nights running. This has apparently made them somewhat cranky, and very determined to find an answer for the haunting, which is where we come in. So, as well as everything else, we are now officially ghostbusters, licensed to kick ectoplasmic arse. Acting unpaid, of course.”
“Oh, of course.” Fisher sniffed again. She could put a lot of emotion into a good sniff when she had a mind to. “All right, lead me to the ghost. I’ll tie its sheet in knots, and then maybe we can get back to some real work.”
The Hartley house turned out to be a quiet, unremarkable, three-story house in good repair, not obviously different from any of its neighbors, and set halfway down Hedgesparrow Lane. The house was still in the North Side, and miles from anything even remotely like the countryside, but that was creeping gentrification for you. The street as a whole seemed calm and civilized, even modestly salubrious. Hawk and Fisher strolled down the well-lit street as though they owned it, and the few private guards in their special and highly colorful uniforms found pressing reasons to look the other way. They weren’t being paid enough to mess with Hawk and Fisher. In fact, there wasn’t that much money in Haven.
The current owners and reluctant occupiers of the Hartley house were standing outside the closed front door, waiting for them. Hawk and Fisher had been briefed on the current crop of Hartleys. Leonard and Mavis Hartley were both in their early forties, plumply prosperous and dressed to within an inch of what was currently fashionable. It didn’t suit them. Leonard was the taller, with a shiny bald head and a rather unfortunate attempt at a mustache. His hands jumped nervously up and down the buttons on his vest, unable to settle. His wife, Mavis, was shorter and stouter, with a fixed glare and a jutting chin that gave new meaning to the word
. Hawk had an uneasy suspicion that she might just dart forward and bite him somewhere painful if he was insufficiently courteous.
Their son, Francis, stood behind his parents as though embarrassed to be there. Tall and thin and more than fashionably pale, he wore his long stringy hair in curled ringlets, and was tightly buttoned inside an old-fashioned black outfit, trimmed here and there with black lace. There was just a hint of mascara around his eyes. Hawk knew his sort immediately. One of those decadent Romantics who wrote bad poetry about death and decay, and held private absinthe parties for his equally gloomy friends. Considered vampires the epitome of Romance (because he’d never met one), held secret seances, and thought himself frightfully daring and rebellious for dipping a toe into such dark waters.
An idiot, basically.
Hawk and Fisher strode up the path to the house, kicking gravel out of their way, and crashed to a halt in front of the Hartleys, who immediately fell back a pace and started looking around for their private guards. Hawk introduced himself and his partner, and the Hartleys’ faces became an interesting study in contradictions, as relief and alarm fought it out in plain view. Relief that the Guard had finally sent someone to help them with their problem, and alarm because … well, because it was Hawk and Fisher.
“You won’t break anything valuable, will you?” asked Leonard Hartley. “Only there’s a lot of really expensive items in this house. Irreplaceable items. Apart from the sentimental value, of course.”
“Expensive items!” snapped Mavis Hartley. “Tell him about the porcelain figures, Leonard!”
“Yes, the porcelain figures—”
“Are very fragile!” said Mavis. “And don’t even go near the glass cabinets. Those collections took years to put together. Any breakages will come out of your salaries.”
“Any breakages—” began Leonard.
“Tell them about the ghost!”
“I was just going to tell them about the ghost, Mavis!”
“Don’t raise your voice to me, Leonard Hartley! I remember you when you were just a milliner’s assistant! Mother always said I married beneath me.”
“I was a very
milliner’s assistant …”
This argument seemed quite capable of maintaining itself without any intervention from Hawk and Fisher, so they turned to the son, Francis. He goggled at them with his slightly protuberant eyes, folded his long slender fingers together across his sunken chest, and smiled dolefully.
“What can you tell us about the haunting?” asked Hawk, raising his voice to be heard above the ongoing fight between Leonard and Mavis.
“Oh, I think it’s all frightfully fascinating. Gosh! An actual intrusion from the worlds beyond. I’m one of the children of the night, you know. A lost soul, dedicated to act on all the darker muses. A seeker on the shores of Oblivion. I’ve published verses in some almost very well-known journals. You won’t hurt the ghost, will you? I’ve tried talking to it, but I don’t seem to be getting through. I’ve tried reading it my poetry, but it just vanishes. I think it’s shy. I wouldn’t mind being haunted myself, I mean, it’s just so empowering to be able to just casually drop into the conversation with the other children of the night that I have personally encountered a lost spirit of the night. … All my friends are
jealous. If only the ghost would just let me get some sleep. … I mean, I may be a night person, but there are limits.”
“Never mind him, Captain!” said Leonard Hartley, trying hard to sound authoritative, and not even coming close.
“Oh, Daddy, really!”
“That’s right, Leonard,” said Mavis. “You talk to them. Take control of the situation.”
“I am telling them, Mavis—”
“Well, get on with it! Be a man! You pay taxes …”
Hawk and Fisher looked at each other, and then strode past the Hartleys. Anything useful they got from these people would in all probability turn out to be not worth the trouble and time it took to extract it, so they might just as well get on with the job. The front door looked perfectly ordinary. Hawk turned the heavy silver door handle, and pushed the door open. It receded smoothly before him, without even a hint of a creaking hinge. So much for tradition. Hawk and Fisher strode forward into the main hall. Gas lights flickered high up on the walls. All seemed calm and still. There were wood-paneled walls, thick carpeting on the floor, delicate antique furniture waxed and polished to within an inch of its life, and a few noncontroversial scenes of country life hanging on the walls directly below the lights. Hawk shut the door behind him. The continuing raised voices of the Hartleys were cut off immediately, and it was suddenly, blessedly, quiet.