Authors: Scott Lynch
“Of course,” said the Falconer, “we already know your last name is a sham. But I don’t need a full name; even a fragment of a true name will be quite enough. You’ll see, Locke. I promise that you’ll see.” His silver threads disappeared; he dipped his quill once again and wrote briefly on the parchment.
“Yes,” he said. “Yes. You may move again.” And as he spoke, it was so; the paralysis lifted, and Locke twitched his fingers experimentally. The Bondsmage wiggled his silver thread once more; Locke felt a strange
seem to form in the air around him, a sort of pressure, and the parchment glowed again.
“Now,” said the Falconer. “I name your name, Locke. I name your given name, the truthful name, the name of the spirit. I name your name, Locke. Arise. Arise and take up Jean Tannen’s hatchets. Arise and
kill Jean Tannen
Locke pushed himself up to his knees and rested on his hands for a moment.
“Kill Jean Tannen.”
Shaking, he reached out for one of Jean’s hatchets, slid it toward himself, and crawled forward with it clutched in his right hand. His breathing was ragged; Jean Tannen lay at the Bondsmage’s heels, just three or four feet away, on his face in the plaster dust of the hovel.
“Kill Jean Tannen.”
Locke paused at the Falconer’s feet and turned his head slowly to stare at Jean. One of the big man’s eyes was open, unblinking; there was real terror there. Jean’s lips quivered uselessly, trying to form words.
Locke pushed himself up and raised the hatchet; he bellowed wordlessly.
He jabbed up with the heavy ball of the hatchet; the blow struck home right between the Falconer’s legs. The silver thread and the parchment fluttered from the Bondsmage’s hands as he gasped and fell forward, clutching at his groin.
Locke whirled to his right, expecting instant attack from the scorpion hawk, but to his surprise the bird had fallen from its perch and was writhing on the hovel floor, wings beating uselessly at the air, a series of choked half screeches issuing from its beak.
Locke smiled the cruelest smile he’d ever worn in his entire life as he rose to his feet.
“It’s like that, is it?” He grinned fiercely at the Bondsmage as he slowly raised the hatchet, ball-side down. “You see what she sees; each of you feels what the other feels?”
The words brought him a warm sense of exultation, but they nearly cost him the fight; the Falconer managed to find concentration enough to utter one syllable and curl his fingers into claws. Locke gasped and staggered back, nearly dropping the hatchet. It felt as though a hot dagger had been shoved through both of his kidneys; the sizzling pain made it impossible to act, or even to think.
The Falconer attempted to stand up, but Jean Tannen suddenly rolled toward him and reached up, grabbing him by the lapels. The big man yanked hard, and the Falconer crashed back down, forehead-first, against the floor of the hovel. The pain in Locke’s guts vanished, and Vestris screeched once again from the floor beside his feet. He wasted no further time.
He whipped the hatchet down in a hammer-blow, breaking Vestris’ left wing with a dry crack.
The Falconer screamed and writhed, flailing hard enough to briefly break free from Jean’s grasp. He clutched at his left arm and hollered, his eyes wide with shock. Locke kicked him in the face, hard, and the Bondsmage rolled over in the dust, spitting up the blood that was suddenly running from his nose.
“Just one question, you arrogant fucking
,” said Locke. “I’ll grant the Lamora part is easy to spot; the truth is, I didn’t know about the apt translation when I took the name. I borrowed it from this old sausage dealer who was kind to me once, back in Catchfire before the plague. I just liked the way it sounded.
“But what the
,” he said slowly, “ever gave you the idea that
was the first name I was actually born with?”
He raised the hatchet again, reversed it so the blade side was toward the ground, and then brought it down with all of his strength, severing Vestris’ head completely from her body.
The sound of the bird’s suddenly interrupted screech echoed and merged with the screams of the Falconer, who clutched at his head and kicked his legs wildly. His cries were pure madness, and it was a mercy to the ears of Locke and Jean when they died, and he fell sobbing into unconsciousness.
THE FALCONER of Karthain awoke to find himself lying spread-eagled, arms and legs out on the dusty floor of the hovel. The smell of blood was in the air—Vestris’ blood. He closed his eyes and began to weep.
“He is secure, Master Lamora,” said Ibelius. When the dog-leech had awoken from whatever spell the Bondsmage had flung at him, he’d been only too eager to help tie the Karthani down. He and Jean had scavenged some metal stakes from the other side of the structure; these were pounded into the floor, and the Bondsmage was lashed to them by long strips of bedding, tied tight around his wrists and ankles. Smaller strips had been tied around his fingers and had been used to pad between them, immobilizing them.
“Good,” said Locke.
Jean Tannen sat on the sleeping pallet, looking down at the Bondsmage with dull, deeply shadowed eyes. Locke stood at the sorceror’s feet, staring down at him with undisguised loathing.
A small oil fire burned in a glass jar; Ibelius crouched beside it, slowly heating a dagger over it. The thin brown smoke curled up toward the ceiling.
“You are fools,” said the Falconer between sobs, “if you think to kill me. My brethren will take satisfaction; think on the consequences.”
“I’m not going to kill you,” said Locke. “I’m going to play a little game I like to call ‘scream in pain until you answer my fucking questions.’”
“Do what you will” said the Falconer. “The code of my order forbids me to betray my client.”
“Oh, you’re not working for your client anymore, asshole,” said Locke. “You’re not working for your client
“It’s ready, Master Lamora,” said Ibelius.
The Bondsmage craned his neck to stare over at Ibelius. He swallowed and licked his lips, his wet, bloodshot eyes darting around the room.
“What’s the matter?” Locke reached out and carefully took the dagger from the dog-leech’s hand; its blade glowed red. “Afraid of fire? Why ever should that be?” Locke grinned, an expression utterly without humor.
“Fire’s the only thing that’s going to keep you from
bleeding to death
Jean rose from the sleeping pallet and knelt on the Falconer’s left arm. He pressed it down at the wrist, and Locke slowly came over to stand beside him, hatchet in one hand and glowing knife in the other.
“I heartily approve, in theory,” said Ibelius, “but in practice I believe I shall…absent myself.”
“By all means, Master Ibelius,” said Locke.
The curtain swished, and the dog-leech was gone.
“Now,” said Locke, “I can accept that it would be a bad idea to kill you. But when I finally let you slink back to Karthain, you’re going as an object lesson. You’re going to remind your pampered, twisted, arrogant fucking brethren about what might happen when they
with someone’s friends in
The blade of Jean’s hatchet whistled down, severing the Bondsmage’s little finger of his left hand. The Falconer screamed.
“That’s Nazca,” said Locke. “Remember Nazca?”
He swung down again; the ring finger of the left hand rolled in the dirt, and blood spurted.
“That’s Calo,” said Locke.
Another swing, and the middle finger was gone. The Falconer writhed and pulled at his bonds, whipping his head from side to side in agony.
“Galdo, too. Are these names familiar, Master Bondsmage? These little
to your fucking contract? They were awfully real to me. Now this finger coming up—this one’s Bug. Actually, Bug probably should have been the little finger, but what the hell.” The hatchet fell again; the index finger of the Falconer’s left hand joined its brethren in bloody exile.
,” said Locke, “the rest of your fingers and both of your thumbs, those are for me and Jean.”
IT WAS tedious work; they had to reheat the dagger several times to cauterize all the wounds. The Falconer was quivering with pain by the time they’d finished; his eyes were closed and his teeth clenched. The air in the enclosed room stank of burnt flesh and scalded blood.
“Now,” said Locke, sitting on the Falconer’s chest. “Now it’s time to talk.”
“I cannot,” whispered the Bondsmage. “I cannot…betray my client’s secrets.”
“You no longer have a client,” said Locke. “You no longer serve Capa Raza; he hired a Bondsmage, not a fingerless freak with a dead bird for a best friend. When I removed your fingers, I removed your obligations to Raza. At least, that’s the way I see it.”
,” the Falconer spat.
“Oh, good. You’ve decided to do it the hard way.” Locke smiled again and tossed the now-cool dagger to Jean, who set it over the flame and began to heat it once again. “If you were any other man, I’d threaten your balls next. I’d make all sorts of cracks about eunuchs; but I think you could
most men. I think the only thing I can take from you that would truly pain you to the depths of your soul would be your
The Bondsmage stared at him, his lips quivering. “Please,” he croaked hoarsely, “have pity, for the gods’ sakes. Have pity. We had a contract. I was merely carrying it out.”
“When that contract became my friends,” said Locke, “you exceeded your mandate.”
“Please,” whispered the Falconer.
“No,” said Locke. “I will cut it out; I will cauterize it while you lay there writhing. I will make you a mute—I’m guessing you might eventually be able to conjure some magic without fingers, but without a tongue?”
“Then speak,” said Locke. “Tell me what I want to know.”
“Gods,” sobbed the Falconer, “gods forgive me. Ask. Ask your questions.”
“If I catch you in a lie,” said Locke, “it’s balls first, and then the tongue. Don’t presume on my patience. Why did Capa Raza want us dead?”
“Money,” whispered the Falconer. “That vault of yours; I spied it out while I was first making my observations of you. He’d intended just to use you as a distraction for Capa Barsavi; when we discovered how much money you’d already stolen, he wanted to have it—to pay for me. Almost another month of my services. To help him finish his tasks here in the city.”
“You murdered my fucking friends,” said Locke, “and you tried to murder Jean and myself, for the metal in our
“You seemed the type to hold a grudge,” coughed the Falconer. “Isn’t that funny? We figured we’d be better off with all of you safely dead.”
“You figured right,” said Locke. “Now Capa Raza, the Gray King, whoever the fuck he is.”
“That’s his real name? Luciano Anatolius?”
“Yes. How did you know?”
“Fuck you, Falconer, answer
questions. Anatolius. What was his business with Barsavi?”
“The Secret Peace,” said the Bondsmage.
“What about it?”
“The Secret Peace was not achieved without a great deal of bloodshed…and difficulty. There was one rather powerful merchant, with the resources to discover what Barsavi and the duke’s Spider had put together; not being of noble blood, he was rather upset at being excluded.”
“And so…Barsavi killed him?” said Locke.
“Yes. Avram Anatolius, a merchant of Fountain Bend. Barsavi murdered him and his wife, and his three younger children—Lavin, Ariana, and Maurin. But the three
children—they escaped with one of their master’s maids. She protected them, pretending they were her own. She took them to safety in Talisham.”
“Luciano,” said Locke. “Luciano, Cheryn, and Raiza.”
“Yes…the oldest son and the twin sisters. They have been rather consumed with the idea of vengeance, Master Lamora. You’re an amateur by comparison. They spent twenty-two
preparing for the events of the past two months; Cheryn and Raiza returned eight years ago, under an assumed name; they built their reputations as
and became Barsavi’s most loyal servants.
“Luciano, on the other hand…Luciano went to sea, to train himself in the arts of command and to amass a fortune. A fortune with which to purchase the services of a Bondsmage.”
“Capa Raza was a freighter captain?”
“No,” said the Falconer. “A buccaneer. Not the ragged sort of idiot you find down on the Sea of Brass; he was quiet, efficient, professional. He struck rarely and he struck well; he took good cargo from the galleons of Emberlain. He sank the ships and left no one alive to speak his name.”
“Gods damn it,” said Jean. “Gods
it; he’s the captain of the
“Yes, the so-called plague ship,” chuckled the Falconer. “Odd how easy it is to keep people away from your ship when you really want to, isn’t it?”
“He’s been sending his fortune out to it as ‘charitable provisions,’” said Jean. “It must be all the money he stole from us, and everything he took from Capa Barsavi.”
“Yes,” said the Bondsmage sadly. “Only now it belongs to my order, for services rendered.”
“We’ll just see about that. So what now? I saw your master Anatolius at Raven’s Reach a few hours ago; what the fuck does he think he’s doing next?”
“Hmmm.” The Bondsmage fell silent for several moments; Locke prodded him in the neck with Jean’s hatchet, and he smiled strangely. “Do you mean to kill him, Lamora?”
“Ila justicca vei cala,”
“Your Throne Therin is passable,” said the Bondsmage, “but your pronunciation is excrement. ‘Justice is red,’ indeed. So you want him, more than anything? You want him screaming under your knife?”
“That’d do for a start.”
Unexpectedly, the Falconer threw back his head and began to laugh—a high-pitched noise, tinged with madness. His chest shook with mirth, and fresh tears ran from his eyes.