Authors: Scott Lynch
The crowd of red-faced revelers parted as the strange procession swept through the gallery. Reynart strode up to the blackjacket standing beside the glittering pyramid of wineglasses. “This end of the bar is temporarily closed. Make it so,” he said. Turning to his other soldiers, he said, “Cordon this area off fifteen or twenty feet back. Don’t let anyone else get close, in the name of the duke.”
Doña Sofia ducked under the velvet rope and crouched beside the sculpted pyramid, which was about three feet tall. The soft lights continued to flash and shift behind the glass windows set into its faces.
“Captain Reynart,” she said, “you had a pair of gloves at your belt, I seem to recall. May I borrow them?”
Reynart passed her a pair of black leather gloves, and she slipped them on. “It’s rarely wise to take too much for granted. Contact poisons are child’s play,” she said absently, and ran her fingers across the surface of the sculpture while peering at it closely. She shifted position several times, her frown deepening with each new examination.
“I can’t see any breach in the casing,” she said, standing up again. “Not so much as a seam; the workmanship is very good. If the device is intended to issue forth smoke, I can’t imagine how the smoke would escape.” She tapped a gloved finger against one of the glass windows.
“Unless…” She tapped the window again. “This is what we call ornamental glass; it’s thin and fragile. It’s not commonly used in sculpture, and we never use it in the laboratory, because it can’t take heat….”
Her head whirled toward Locke; her almond-blonde ringlets spun like a halo. “Did you say there were pots of fire-oil in this device?”
“So I heard,” he replied, “from a man very eager not to lose his tongue.”
“That might be it,” she said. “Fire-oil could generate a great deal of heat inside a metal enclosure. It would shatter the glass—shatter the glass and let out the smoke! Captain, draw your rapier, please. I should like to use it.”
Concealing any qualms he might have had, Reynart drew his rapier and carefully passed it to her, hilt first. She examined the silver butt of the weapon, nodded, and used it to smash in the glass. It broke with a high-pitched tinkle. She reversed the rapier and used the blade to sweep away the jagged fragments from around the edges of the window, then passed it back to Reynart. There were mutters and exclamations from the watching crowd, who were barely being kept in check by Reynart’s thin arc of apologetic blackjackets.
“Careful, Sofia,” said Don Lorenzo.
“Don’t teach a sailor to shit in the ocean,” she muttered as she peered into the window, which was about eight inches wide at its base, tapering slightly toward the top. She reached in with one gloved hand and touched one of the shifting alchemical lights; she twisted her wrist and drew it out.
“Not even attached to anything,” she said as she set it on the ground beside her. “Oh, gods,” she whispered when she peeked back into the window without the light in her way. Her hand came up to her mouth and she stumbled back to her feet, shaking.
Doña Vorchenza stepped up directly beside her. “Well?”
“It’s Wraithstone,” said Doña Salvara with disgust. “The whole thing is full of it. I can see it in there—so much of it I can smell the powder.” She shuddered, as some people might when a large spider scuttles across their path. “There’s enough in just this one sculpture to do for the whole tower. Your Capa Raza wanted to be thorough.”
Doña Vorchenza stared out through the glass at the vista north of Camorr; the sky was noticeably darker than it had been even when Locke had been dragged past the bar for his second visit with Doña Vorchenza. “Sofia,” said the Countess Amberglass, “what can you do about these things? Can you prevent their ignition?”
“I don’t believe so,” said Doña Salvara. “I couldn’t see the alchemical fuses; they must be under the Wraithstone. And it’s also possible they might ignite if they’re interfered with. Trying to disable it might be as bad as letting it burn in the first place.”
“We need to get them out of the tower,” said Reynart.
“No,” said Sofia. “Wraithstone smoke rises; it’s lighter than the air around us. I doubt we can get them far enough away by Falselight. If they go off at the bottom of Raven’s Reach, we’ll still be standing in the column of smoke as it rises. The best thing to do would be to drown them; Wraithstone is rendered impotent by the admixture of water, after a few minutes. The fire-oil would still burn, but the white smoke wouldn’t rise. If only we could fling them into the Angevine!”
“We can’t,” said Vorchenza, “but we can drop them into the Sky Garden’s cistern; it’s ten feet deep and fifteen feet wide. Will that do?”
“Yes! Now we just need to get them up there.”
“Stephen—,” said Doña Vorchenza, but Captain Reynart was already in motion.
“My lords and ladies,” Reynart bellowed at the top of his voice. “Your assistance is urgently required, in the name of Duke Nicovante. Nightglass, to me; I require a clear path to the stairs, my lords and ladies. With all apologies, I will not be gentle with anyone in our way.”
“We need to fetch these damn things off the galleries and haul them up to the Sky Garden,” said Reynart. He grabbed one of his men by the shoulder. “Run up to the embarkation terrace and find Lieutenant Razelin. Tell him to clear the Sky Garden, on my authority. Tell him I don’t want a single child up there five minutes from now. He’ll know what to do. Act now, apologize later.”
“Free my hands,” said Locke. “Those things are heavy; I’m not terribly strong, but I can help.”
Doña Vorchenza looked at him curiously. “Why did you come back to warn us, Master Thorn? Why
you simply make good on your escape?”
“I’m a thief, Doña Vorchenza,” he said quietly. “I’m a thief, and maybe even a murderer, but this is too much. Besides, I mean to kill Raza. If he wanted it, I had to foil it. Simple as that.” He held out his hands, and she nodded slowly.
“You can help, but we must speak afterward.”
“Yes, we must—hopefully without needles this time,” said Locke. “Conté, be a friend and get rid of these ropes.”
The lean bodyguard slashed through Locke’s bonds with one of his knives. “If you try to fuck around,” he growled, “I’ll put you in the cistern and have them drop the sculptures on top of you.”
Locke, Conté, Reynart, Don Salvara, and several blackjackets knelt to lift the sculpture; Sofia watched for a second or two, frowning, and then shoved her way in beside her husband to take part of his edge.
“I shall find the duke,” said Vorchenza. “I shall see that he’s notified of what’s going on.” She hurried away across the gallery.
“Well, this isn’t so bad with eight of us,” said Reynart, “but it’s going to be awkward as all hell. We’ve got quite a few steps to go up.”
Stumbling along together, they hauled the sculpture up one flight of stairs. More blackjackets were waiting on that gallery floor. “Find all of these sculptures,” Reynart yelled. “Eight men to each of them! Find them and carry them up to the Sky Garden. In the duke’s name, give a good shove to anyone who gets in your way—and by the gods, don’t drop them!”
Soon multiple parties of struggling, swearing soldiers were hauling sculptures up in the wake of Reynart’s party. Locke was panting and sweating; the others around him weren’t much better off.
“What if this thing goes off in our arms?” muttered one of the blackjackets.
“First, we’d burn our hands,” said Sofia, red-faced with exertion. “Then we’d all fall over senseless before we could take six steps, and then we’d be Gentled. And then we’d feel very silly, wouldn’t we?”
Up to the last gallery and beyond; they left the feast in their wake. Guards and servants leapt aside as they stumbled along service passages. At the very top of Raven’s Reach, a wide marble staircase wound its way up to the Sky Garden, spiraling along the inside of the smoky-transparent exterior walls. All of Camorr whirled around them as they went up spiral after spiral; the sun was just half a pale medallion, sinking below the curved western horizon. Strange dark shapes hung down from above; Locke had to stare at them for several seconds before he realized they were the dangling vines of the Sky Garden, swaying in the wind outside.
Dozens of children were running down past them, shouting, chased by blackjackets and scolded by servants. The staircase opened onto the rooftop garden, which really was a forest in miniature. Olive trees and orange trees and alchemical hybrids with rustling emerald leaves rippled in the warm wind beneath the cloudless purple sky.
“Where’s the damn cistern?” asked Locke. “I’ve never been up here.”
“On the eastern edge of the garden,” said Lorenzo. “I used to play up here.”
Beneath the dangling tendrils of a weeping willow they found the cistern—a circular pond ten feet across, as Doña Vorchenza had promised. Without preamble, they heaved the sculpture into the water; a great splash sprang up in its wake, dousing two of the blackjackets. It sank rapidly, trailing a milky white cloud in the water, and struck the bottom of the cistern with a heavy clank.
One by one the other three sculptures were tossed in on top of it, until all four were beneath the surface of the now-milky water and the Sky Garden was crowded with blackjackets.
“Now what?” Locke panted.
“Now we should clear the roof,” said Doña Sofia. “That’s still a great deal of Wraithstone; I wouldn’t want anyone near it, even with it underwater. Not until a few hours have passed.”
Everyone else on the roof was only too happy to comply with her suggestion.
FALSELIGHT WAS just beginning to rise when Doña Vorchenza met them on the top gallery of Raven’s Reach. The scintillating streamers of ghostly color from the Elderglass towers could just be seen through the tall door to the embarkation platform. The gathering was in an uproar around them; blackjackets were running to and fro, uttering apologies to dons and doñas as they stumbled against them.
“It’s as good as war,” she said when the Salvaras, Locke, Conté, and Reynart gathered around her. “To try something like this! Gods! Nicovante’s calling up the Nightglass, Stephen; you’re going to have a busy night.”
“Midnighters?” he asked.
“Get them all out of here,” said Vorchenza, “quickly and quietly. Assemble at the Palace of Patience; have them ready for a scrap. I’ll throw them in wherever Nicovante decides they can do the most good.
“Master Thorn,” she said, “we are grateful to you for what you’ve done; it will earn you a great deal of consideration. But now your part in this affair is over. I’ll have you taken over to Amberglass under guard. You’re a prisoner, but you’ve earned some comforts.”
“Bullshit,” said Locke. “You owe me more than that. Raza’s mine.”
“Raza,” said Doña Vorchenza, “is now the most wanted man in all Camorr; the duke intends to crush him like an insect. His domains will be invaded and the Floating Grave thrown open.”
,” cried Locke. “Raza isn’t commanding the Right People, he’s fucking using them! The Floating Grave is empty; Raza’s escaping as we speak. He didn’t want to be Capa of Camorr; he just wanted to use the position to get Barsavi and wipe out the peerage of Camorr.”
you know so much about the affairs of Raza, Master Thorn?”
“Raza forced me to help him fox Capa Barsavi, back when Raza was still calling himself the Gray King. The deal was that he’d let me go after that, but it was a double cross. He killed three of my friends and he took my money.”
money?” said Don Lorenzo, curling one hand into a fist. “I daresay you mean our money!”
“Yes,” said Locke. “And everything I took from Doña de Marre, and Don Javarriz, and the Feluccias. More than forty thousand crowns—a fortune. Raza stole it from me. I wasn’t lying when I said I didn’t have it anymore.”
“Then you’ve nothing of further value to bargain with,” said Doña Vorchenza.
“I said I didn’t have it anymore, not that I didn’t know where it was,” said Locke. “Raza’s got it mingled with Barsavi’s fortune, ready to smuggle out of the city. It was meant to be used to pay for his Bondsmage.”
“Then tell us where it is,” said Doña Vorchenza.
“Raza’s mine,” said Locke. “I get sent back down to the ground and I go free. Raza killed three of my friends, and I mean to cut out his fucking heart; I’d trade all the white iron in Camorr for the chance.”
“Men are hanged in this city for stealing a few pieces of silver,” said Doña Vorchenza, “and you propose to go free after stealing tens of thousands of full crowns? I think not.”
“It’s a moment of truth, Doña Vorchenza,” said Locke. “Do you want the money back? I can tell you where it is; I’ll tell you right where to find it, along with Barsavi’s fortune, which has to be considerable. In exchange, all I want is Raza. I go free and I kill the man who tried to wipe out you and all your peers. Be reasonable! Now that you all know my face and my voice, I can hardly return to my old career, at least here in Camorr.”
“Did the Spider of Camorr prevent Capa Raza from filling Raven’s Reach with enough Wraithstone to Gentle the whole fucking city? No, that was the
of Camorr, thanks very much. Every man and woman and child here tonight is only alive because
have a soft fucking heart, not because you were doing your job. You owe me, Vorchenza. You owe me, on your honor. Give me Raza and you can have the money, too.”
She gave him a stare that could have turned water to ice. “On my honor, Master Thorn,” she said at last, “for services rendered to the duke and to my peers. You may go free, and if you beat us to Raza, you may have him, though if you do not, I shall not apologize. And should you resume your activities, and our paths cross again, I will have you executed without trial.”
“Seems fair. I’m going to need a sword,” said Locke. “I nearly forgot.”
To his surprise, Captain Reynart unbuckled his rapier belt and tossed it to Locke. “Get it wet,” he said. “With my compliments.”
“Well,” said Doña Vorchenza as Locke strapped the belt around his waist, over Meraggio’s excellent blue breeches. “Now the money. Where is it?”