Sethra Lavode (Viscount of Adrilankha) (6 page)

BOOK: Sethra Lavode (Viscount of Adrilankha)
7.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

“How, it would not?” said Röaana.

“It is impossible.”

“You had already thought of this means of operating, hadn’t you?” said Piro, admiringly.

“Well,” said Ibronka, “I had never intended to be a road agent, but it seems to me that, if I am to be one after all, I may as well be a good one.”

“You are adorable,” said Piro.

“And yet,” said Iatha, “I wish to hear why this would not work.”

“My lords and my ladies,” said Lar, “I beg to be permitted to observe that your breakfast is now ready.”

Each took his messkit and formed a queue: Piro being served first, then Ibronka, followed by Röaana, Kytraan, Grassfog, Iatha, Ritt, and Belly. They presented their empty plates to Lar and Clari, who served out the breakfast with great solemnity and even a certain touch of ceremony, after which service the Teckla retired to wait for whatever might be left.

After receiving the food, our friends sat down on the ground and ate, all of them in turn giving Lar a thousand compliments on the food and its preparation, compliments to which Lar responded first with a bow, and then with the murmured word “coriander.”

As they ate, Iatha said, “I continue to be curious, Ibronka, about why you say that we cannot use teleportation, should we learn it, in order to assist our efforts.”

“I beg your pardon, good Iatha,” said Piro. “But you know the rule: there will be no business conversations during meals. We must, after all, maintain a certain degree of civilization, don’t you think?”

“Oh, certainly,” said Röaana. “Indeed, in my opinion, the more time we spend in the wilderness, the more important is civilization.”

“This is only barely the wilderness,” observed Ritt.

“Well, but it is living out-of-doors,” said Röaana, “which is tolerably close.”

“I could not agree more, my dear Röaana,” said Kytraan. “Lar, more klava.”

“Coming, my lord.”

“But do you know,” said Grassfog contemplatively. “It is inherent in our line of work that it is sometimes difficult to say what is business and what is not.”

“That is true,” said Belly.

“He speaks!” cried Röaana, laughing.

Belly graced the Tiassa with a look that we must identify as a friendly glare, if the reader can imagine such a thing, after which he went on to say, “For example, should I wish to discuss those three merchants of yester-day, one who became ill upon his own shoes, well, would this be business, or merely amusement?”

“Why, I think that might be considered amusement,” said Grassfog.

“Although unsuitable for dinner conversation for other reasons,” said Ibronka.

Belly flushed slightly, which led Röaana to say, “Ibronka, my dear, we must wait a week between each comment of our good Belly, and then, when he does venture to speak, you chastise him. The Gods, it will now be a year before he dares open his mouth again. For shame.”

“You are right, my dear, and good Belly, I tender my apologies.”

“Besides,” said Röaana, “I like hearing him speak. Every time he pronounces an ahr it sounds as if his tongue is turning upside down, and when he makes the el he does so with his whole body and soul, as if committing to it fully. It amuses me.”

“Röaana, you are embarrassing him,” chided Ibronka.

Indeed, Belly was now extremely flushed, but was doing his best to devote himself to his food. Piro caught Kytraan’s eye and said, “They are cruel, aren’t they?”

“Exceedingly,” said Kytraan.

“Well,” said Röaana, “how else am I to get Belly’s attention? I have been looking at him from beneath my eyelashes for a year, and it is as if I addressed a wall.”

“Bah,” said Grassfog, shrugging. “Enter his tent some night. I promise you will get his attention.”

“Ah, sir, you are rude,” said Röaana.

“I am without artifice,” said Grassfog.

“It comes to much the same thing,” observed Iatha, who was, for her part, doing everything possible to keep from breaking up into peals of laughter at poor Belly’s expense.

“Well then,” said Röaana, “how should I induce him to speak to me?”

Piro said, “As to that, ask him about—”

“Oh, oh! You are hardly the one to explain,” teased Ibronka affectionately.

“Well,” said Piro, turning slightly red in his turn, “there is something in what you say.”

“Pah,” said Kytraan. “It is easy enough. Ask him how he became a highwayman.”

“Well, in fact,” said Röaana, “I confess that I have a certain curiosity about this. Come, Belly, if you can manage to bring your head up long enough to say two words, tell me how you happened to fall into your profession.”

Belly did manage to raise his head, and, with some difficulty, he said, “Oh, it was a girl.”

“How, a girl?” said Röaana, leaning forward.

“Certainly.”

“Then, she rejected you?”

“Well, yes, but not immediately. That is, the rejection came well after I had turned bandit.”

“Well now, you perceive, you must certainly tell me this story,” said Röaana, “because I declare to you that I will die if you stop now.”

“There is little to tell,” said Belly. “I was born into the House of the Iorich, to a family of some property. This was, you perceive, a hundred and forty-three years before the Disaster. When I reached the age of one hundred and twenty, I became apprenticed to my uncle, and read law under his tutelage. At a certain time, he was engaged to defend a young lady of the House of the Tsalmoth. She was a lovely girl, with black, piercing eyes, and she carried her head like a Dzurlord.”

“Ah, well, go on,” said Röaana. “You must believe this conversations interests me exceedingly.”

“I will be laconic. She was accused of stealing money from her employer. I fell in love with her, and when she was found guilty and sentenced to the galleys, I bribed one guard and struck another a good knock on the head to help her escape from the justicers; you must understand that being apprenticed to her advocate, I was permitted to see her, which not only helped in no small measure, but meant that I was unable to conceal my own rôle. And so, after I helped her to escape,
there was nothing either of us could do except to leave the city and set up as bandits.”

“Well, but were you good at it?”

“I think so. She had something of a knack, and I, well, I must say that I took to it rather well.”

“I understand. And then?”

“We gradually drifted west, and, shortly after the Disaster, we met with Wadre, who convinced us to join his band. The Disaster drove us even further west, and well, here I am.” He punctuated this tale with an eloquent shrug.

“Well, but you perceive you have not finished.”

“How, what have I left out?”

“My dear, have you no romance in you?”

“Tolerably little.”

“Well, what became of the girl?”

“Oh, we remained together for nearly a hundred years, which is not so short a time. But then, she is a Tsalmoth, and they are sufficiently changeable. She became weary of me at last.”

“How, did she?”

“She claimed I had no romance in me.”

“Ah, that is sad.”

“Not too sad,” said Belly. “You perceive, she and I are still friends—are we not, Iatha?”

“Oh, certainly we are, my good friend.”

“How,” cried Röaana, “it was you?”

“Indeed it was,” said Iatha.

“And was his tale true and complete?”

“So much so, my dear Tiassa, that I have no need to tell you my own history.”

“Well, but—”

“Yes?”

“There is one thing I must know.”

“What is it? If I know, I will tell you.”

“Had you, in fact, stolen from your employer?”

“No, I had not. He kept his savings in a tin box hidden in a secret compartment in the floor of his shop. And, well, I would have stolen it, only someone else got there first; I don’t know who.” She shrugged.

“A delightful tale, upon my honor,” said Piro.

“And,” added Kytraan, “I am now done eating.”

“As am I,” said the others.

This announcement was greeted with no small joy on the part of Lar and Clari, whose empty stomachs had been performing a duet ever since they had finished serving the repast—they now accordingly set in to devour what was left with an urgency in direct proportion to the delay; filling up the lack with good toast when the fowls had been quite picked clean.

“Do you know,” remarked Clari in a low voice, “you ought not to cook so well. If you were not so skilled with the skillet, why, there would be more left over for us.”

Lar did not reply, being too engrossed in using a piece of toast to gather every drop of sauce he could scavenge.

In the meantime, Iatha raised her black eyes to Ibronka and said, “And now, my dear, as we have finished our repast and so it is no longer forbidden to touch on matters of business, I hope you will be so good as to explain to us why this plan of teleporting away from the scene of our activity is not a good one. For my part, I confess I find the idea entrancing, and so I warn you, if your explanation is not a good one, well, I will argue with it.”

“Oh, I assure you my logic is tolerably sound—so much so that I venture to guarantee that, once you have heard it, you will never again raise the suggestion.”

“If it is that good, it must be a powerful argument indeed.”

“You will judge for yourself.”

“Very good. Let us hear it, then.”

Ibronka reached out her hand. Piro placed his own in it, and they exchanged the tenderest of looks as she said, “Do you remember when we first came to Dzur Mountain?”

“Nearly,” said Kytraan. “Röaana and I were biting our lips until they bled trying to find ways to bring the two of you together.”

“And we are more than a little grateful that you succeeded, my friend,” said Piro, smiling.

“Bah, we should have gone mad otherwise,” said Röaana.

“That is true,” said Kytraan. “The Viscount never raised his eyes off the floor.”

“And,” added Röaana, “Ibronka would vanish for hours at a time, to be found in some corner with her eyes red.”

“Ah,” said Ibronka, “but you do not know what I was doing during those hours I was gone. I give you my word, it was not all spent in tears.”

“How, it was not?” said Ibronka.

“Not in the least. You must understand, I was nearly out of my senses, not knowing if I dared to speak to the Viscount, and so—”

“Well? And so?”

“I thought to distract myself. After all,” she added, with a significant look at Röaana, “I could not remain in your company for more than a minute without you beginning to practice upon me.”

“Ah, my love,” said Röaana, “it was with the best of intentions, I assure you.”

“Oh, I give you my word, I do not doubt that in the least, my dear.”

“But,” said Piro, still looking at her in the fondest way, “what did you do to distract yourself? Because, as for me, I had Kytraan who nagged like a fishwife, and being vexed at him was sufficient distraction for me.”

“Ah, Piro!” cried Kytraan.

“Well, but what is the answer?” said Röaana.

“I made a friend of—”

“Of whom?” cried Piro, prepared to be jealous.

“Of the Sorceress in Green.”

“Of her?”

“Certainly.”

“But, why?”

“Because, my dear, she pretends to have not the least interest in love, and therefore her conversation was a comfort to me.”

“Well, I understand that,” said Piro.

“As do I,” said Röaana, “only what did you talk about?”

“Sorcery,” said Ibronka. “I considered devoting myself to its study. And, indeed, I would have, only—”

“Yes?”

“Shortly thereafter I became diverted.”

“Well,” said Piro, now blushing.

“To be precise, then, the Sorceress in Green and I carried on a conversation about teleportation, which she pretended was the most remarkable thing to come from the improvement of the Orb.”

“Do you think she is wrong?” said Röaana.

“Oh, I do not feel qualified to have an opinion on this matter. But she and Sethra the Younger had been studying it, and, indeed, had branched off into different aspects of the art. To be precise—”

“Oh yes,” murmured Iatha. “By all means let us be precise.”

“Sethra the Younger concerned herself with how to
prevent
a teleport—that is, with finding ways to be certain no one could enter or leave a certain place.”

“My House of the Iorich will be much interested in that,” observed Belly.

“Whereas the Sorceress in Green had become interested in the thaumaturgic marks left by a teleport.”

“Thaumaturgic marks?” said Piro. “But, what is meant by this term? I give you my word, I have never heard of such things before.”

“It refers, my true love, to traces that linger in the ether after a teleport has taken place, and other traces that appear along with the individual or object that has been teleported.”

“Are there such?” asked Kytraan.

“Indeed there are. And they linger,” added Ibronka.

“How long?”

“When I spoke to the Sorceress, she had not yet determined this, but she had found traces that were more than two days old. And—”

“Well, and?”

“And she was able to use these to determine the destination of the teleport.”

“Ah, ah!”

“But,” said Piro, “is there no way to teleport without leaving these marks.”

“Oh, as to that,” said Ibronka, “no means has been discovered yet. You perceive, if one is found, well, that will change everything.”

“Yes,” said Röaana, “well, I understand. If we should attempt to escape by teleporting, well, we will lead the agents of the law directly to us. It will be worse than attempting to outrun them on good horses and hide among the hills and forests.”

“That is my opinion.”

“Oh, I am in complete agreement,” said Röaana.

“And my argument, is it convincing?”

“Perfectly,” said Iatha, bowing.

“So then,” said Piro, “we have only a few years left of living this
life that I, for one, find so excellent, before it is taken away from us by the teleport.”

“Exactly,” said Ibronka.

“And, moreover, we cannot, ourselves, use this means for own purposes, in order to escape those who would interfere with our delightful life.”

BOOK: Sethra Lavode (Viscount of Adrilankha)
7.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Destined by Viola Grace
Aces by Ian Rogers
On Fire’s Wings by Christie Golden
Kissing the Demons by Kate Ellis