Read Tales from the vulgar unicorn- Thieves World 02 Online

Authors: Robert Asprin

Tags: #Fiction - Science Fiction, #Fantasy, #General, #Anthologies, #Science Fiction, #Science Fiction - General, #Fiction, #Short Stories

Tales from the vulgar unicorn- Thieves World 02

BOOK: Tales from the vulgar unicorn- Thieves World 02
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Tales from the vulgar unicorn- Thieves World 02
Book Jacket
Series:
Thieves' World-2 [1]
Rating:
Tags:
Fiction - Science Fiction, Fantasy, General, Anthologies, Science Fiction, Science Fiction - General, Fiction, Short Stories

EDITORIAL REVIEW:

Fantasy Anthology sequel to Thieve's World.

Includes: Maps of Sanctuary; Introduction; and:

1. Spiders of the Purple Mage by Philip Jose Farmer;

2. Goddess by David Drake;

3. The Fruit of Enlibar by Lynn Abbey;

4. The Dream of the Sorceress by A. E. van Vogt;

5. Vashanka's Minion by Janet Morris;

6. Shadow's Pawn by Andrew J. Offutt;

7. To Guard the Guardians by Robert Lynn Asprin;

and Essay: The Lighter Side of Sanctuary. 299 pages.

THIEVES WORLD #2
TALES FROM THE VULGAR UNICORN

Edited by Robert Lynn Asprin

CONTENTS

EIDTOR'S NOTE

INTRODUCTION

SPIDERS OF THE PURPLE MAGE

Philip Jose Farmer

GODDESS

David Drake

THE FRUIT OF ENLIBAR

Lynn Abbey

THE DREAM OF THE SORCERESS

A.E.vanVogt

VASHANKA'S MINION

Janet Morris

SHADOW'S PAWN

Andrew J. Offutt

TO GUARD THE GUARDIANS

Robert Lynn Asprin

ESSAY: THE LIGHTER SIDE OF SANCTUARY

EDITOR'S NOTE

The perceptive reader may notice small inconsistencies in the characters appearing in these stories. Their speech patterns, their accounts of certain events, and their observations on the town's pecking order vary from time to time.

These are not inconsistencies!

The reader should consider the contradictions again, bearing three things in mind.

First, each story is told from a different viewpoint, and different people see and hear things differently. Even readily observable facts are influenced by individual perceptions and opinions. Thus, a minstrel narrating a conversation with a magician would give a different account than would a thief witnessing the same exchange.

Second, the citizens of Sanctuary are by necessity more than a little paranoid. They tend to either omit or slightly alter information in conversation. This is done more reflexively than out of premeditation, as it is essential for survival in this community.

Finally, Sanctuary is a fiercely competitive environment. One does not gain employment by admitting to being 'the second-best swordsman in town'. In addition to exaggerating one's own status, it is commonplace to downgrade or ignore one's closest competitors. As a result, the pecking order of Sanctuary will vary depending on who you talk to ... or more importantly, who you believe.

INTRODUCTION

Moving his head with minute care to avoid notice, Hakiem the Storyteller studied the room over the untouched rim of his wine cup. This was, of course, done through slitted eyes. It would not do to have anyone suspect he was not truly asleep. What he saw only confirmed his growing feelings of disgust. The Vulgar Unicorn was definitely going downhill. A drunk was snoring on the floor against the wall, passed out in a puddle of his own vomit, while several beggars made their way from table to table, interrupting the undertoned negotiations and hagglings of the tavern's normal clientele. Though his features never moved, Hakiem grimaced inside. Such goings on were never tolerated when One-Thumb was around. The bartender/owner of the Vulgar Unicorn had always been quick to evict such riffraff as fast as they appeared. While the tavern had always been shunned by the more law-abiding citizens of Sanctuary, one of the main reasons it was favoured by the rougher element was that here a man could partake of a drink or perhaps a little larcenous conversation uninterrupted. This tradition was rapidly coming to an end. The fact that he would not be allowed to linger for hours over a cup of the tavern's cheapest wine if One-Thumb were here never entered Hakiem's mind. He had a skill. He was a storyteller, a tale-spinner, a weaver of dreams and nightmares. As such, he considered himself on a measurably better plane than the derelicts who had taken to frequenting the place. One-Thumb had been missing for a long time now, longer than any of his previous mysterious disappearances. Fear of his return kept the tavern open and the employees honest, but the place was degenerating in his absence. The only way it could sink any lower would be if a Hell Hound took to drinking here. Despite his guise of slumber, Hakiem found himself smiling at that thought. A Hell Hound in the Vulgar Unicorn! Unlikely at best. Sanctuary still chafed at the occupying force from the Rankan Empire, and the five Hell Hounds were hated second only to the military governor. Prince Kadakithis, whom they guarded. Though it was a close choice between Prince Kitty-Cat with his naive lawmaking and the elite soldiers who enforced his words, the citizens of Sanctuary generally felt the military governor's quest to clean up the worse hellhole in the Empire was stupid, while the Hell Hounds were simply devilishly efficient. In a town where one was forced to live by wit as often as skill, efficiency could be grudgingly admired, while stupidity, particularly stupidity with power, could only be despised.

No, the Hell Hounds weren't stupid. Tough, excellent swordsmen and seasoned veterans, they seldom set foot in the Maze, and never entered the Vulgar Unicorn. On the west side of town, it was said that one only came here if he was seeking death ... or selling it. While the statement was somewhat exaggerated, it was true that most of the people who frequented the Maze either had nothing to lose or were willing to risk everything for what they might gain there. As rational men, the Hell Hounds were unlikely to put in an appearance at the Maze's most notorious tavern.

Still, the point remained that the Vulgar Unicorn sorely needed One-Thumb's presence and that his return was long overdue. In part, that was why Hakiem was spending so much time here of late: hope of acquiring the story of One-Thumb's return and possibly the story of his absence. That alone Would be enough to keep the storyteller haunting the tavern, but the stories he gained during his wait were a prize in themselves. Hakiem was a compulsive collector of stories, from habit as well as by profession, and many stories had their beginnings, middles, or ends within these walls. He collected them all, though he knew that most of them could not be repeated, for he knew the value of a story is in its merit, not in its saleability.

SPIDERS OF THE PURPLE MAGE

by Philip Jose Farmer

1

This was the week of the great rat hunt in Sanctuary. The next week, all the cats that could be caught were killed and degutted. The third week, all dogs were run down and disembowelled. Masha zil-Ineel was one of the very few people in the city who didn't take part in the rat hunt. She just couldn't believe that any rat, no matter how big, and there were some huge ones in Sanctuary, could swallow a jewel so large. But when a rumour spread that someone had seen a cat eat a dead rat and that the cat had acted strangely afterwards, she thought it wise to pretend to chase cats. If she hadn't, people might wonder why not. They might think that she knew something they didn't. And then she might be the one run down. Unlike the animals, however, she'd be tortured until she told where the jewel was.

She didn't know where it was. She wasn't even sure that there was an emerald. But everybody knew that she'd been told about the jewel by Benna nus-Katarz. Thanks to Masha's blabbermouth drunken husband, Eevroen. Three weeks ago, on a dark night, Masha had returned late from midwifing in the rich merchants' Eastern quarter. It was well past midnight, but she wasn't sure of the hour because of the cloud-covered sky. The second wife of Shoozh the spice-importer had borne her fourth infant. Masha had attended to the delivery personally while Doctor Nadeesh had sat in the next room, the door only half closed, and listened to her reports. Nadeesh was forbidden to see any part of a female client except for those normally exposed and especially forbidden to see the breasts and genitals. If there was any trouble with the birthing, Masha would inform him, and he would give her instructions. This angered Masha, since the doctors collected half of the fee, yet were seldom of any use. In fact, they were usually a hindrance. Still, half a fee was better than none. What if the wives and concubines of the wealthy were as nonchalant and hardy as the poor women, who just squatted down wherever they happened to be when the pangs started and gave birth unassisted?

Masha could not have supported herself, her two daughters, her invalid mother, or her lazy alcoholic husband. The money she made from doing the more affluent women's hair and from her tooth-pulling and manufacture of false teeth in the marketplace wasn't enough. But midwifery added the income that kept her and her family just outside hunger's door.

She would have liked to pick up more money by cutting men's hair in the marketplace, but both law and ancient custom forbade that. Shortly after she had burned the umbilical cord of the new-born to ensure that demons didn't steal it and had ritualistically washed her hands, she left Shoozh's house. His guards, knowing her, let her through the gate without challenge, and the guards of the gate to the eastern quarters also allowed her to pass. Not however without offers from a few to share their beds with her that night.

'I can do much better than that sot of a husband of yours!' one said. Masha was glad that her hood and the daricness prevented the guards from seeing her burning face by the torchlight. However, if they could have seen that she was blushing with shame, they might have been embarrassed. They would know then that they weren't dealing with a brazen slut of the Maze but with a woman who had known better days and a higher position in society than she now held. The blush alone would have told them that.

What they didn't know and what she couldn't forget was that she had once lived in this walled area and her father had been an affluent, if not wealthy, merchant.

BOOK: Tales from the vulgar unicorn- Thieves World 02
3.35Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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