Authors: Scott Lynch
“North of the Teeth of Camorr, there are three shit-barges at the private docks. You know the ones; they haul all the drek and excrement out of the city and take it north to the fields.”
“Of course,” said Doña Vorchenza.
“Raza’s been having his fortune hidden on one of them,” said Locke. “In wooden chests, sealed in layers of oilcloth, for obvious reasons. After he slips out of Camorr, his plan is to meet the barge up north and offload the treasure. It’s all there, underneath those heaps of shit—begging your pardon.”
“That’s ridiculous,” said Doña Vorchenza.
“I didn’t say my answer was going to be pleasant,” said Locke. “Think about it. What’s the last place anyone would
to look for a cache of coins?”
“Hmmm. Which barge?”
“I don’t know,” said Locke. “I just know that it’s one of the three.”
Vorchenza looked over at Reynart.
“Well,” said the captain, “there are reasons the gods saw fit to invent the enlisted man.”
,” said Locke, swallowing a lump in his throat.
Make this good,
Make this very good.
“Doña Vorchenza, this isn’t over.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Boats, barges, escape. I’ve been thinking. The Falconer made all sorts of strange jokes when he was under my knife. He was taunting me with something; I didn’t have a chance to figure it out until now. That plague ship.
You have to sink it.”
“And why would that be?”
“It belongs to Anatolius,” said Locke. “According to the Falconer, Anatolius was a pirate on the White Iron Sea, building up his fortunes so he could hire a Bondsmage and return to Camorr for his revenge. The
is his ship. But Anatolius isn’t planning to escape on it—he’s leaving the city to the north, going up the Angevine.”
“The Falconer was dropping hints about a backup plan,” said Locke. “That plague ship
the backup plan. It’s not full of corpses, Doña Vorchenza. It has a token crew—men who’ve survived exposure to Black Whisper, like the duke’s Ghouls. A token crew and holds full of animals—goats, sheep, donkeys. I thought the Falconer was just trying to be irreverent…but think about it.”
“Animals can carry the Whisper,” said Reynart.
“Yes,” said Locke. “It doesn’t kill them, but they can sure as hell give it to us. Sink that fucking ship, Doña Vorchenza. It’s Raza’s other stroke. If he finds out he failed to wipe out the peers, he may attempt to take his revenge on the entire city. His last chance.”
“Madness,” Doña Vorchenza whispered, but she looked half-convinced.
“Anatolius already tried to wipe out every last peer of Camorr, down to the children. He
mad, Countess Amberglass. How well do you think he’ll react to frustration? All his men have to do is beach that ship against the quay and let those animals out. If they get under way, you might not be able to stop them in time. Or maybe they’ll just toss a few sheep into the city with a catapult.
Sink that fucking ship.
“Master Thorn,” said Doña Vorchenza, “you have a curiously tender heart, for a thief of your appetites.”
“I’m a sworn brother of the Nameless Thirteenth, the Crooked Warden, the Benefactor,” said Locke. “I’m a
. I didn’t save the people in this tower just to see my entire city die. For propriety’s sake, Doña Vorchenza,
for propriety’s sake
—sink that gods-damned ship. I beg you.”
She stared at him over the edges of her half-moon optics, then turned to Reynart. “Captain,” she said slowly, “go to the lantern station on the embarkation platform. Flash messages to the Arsenal and the Dregs.”
She folded her hands over her stomach and sighed. “On my authority, in the name of Duke Nicovante, sink the
and shoot down any survivor who tries to reach shore.”
Locke sighed with relief. “Thank you, Doña Vorchenza. Now—my elevator?”
“Your elevator, Master Thorn.” She actually ground her teeth together for a second. “As promised. I’ll have one made ready for you without delay. If the gods should give you Capa Raza before my men find him…may they give you strength.”
“I’m going to miss you, Doña Vorchenza,” said Locke. “And you as well, my lord and lady Salvara—all apologies for getting most of your fortune buried under shit. I hope we can still be friends.”
“Set foot in our house again,” said Sofia, “and you’ll become a permanent fixture in my laboratory.”
BLUE LIGHT flashed from the embarkation platform of Raven’s Reach; even against the shifting glimmer of Falselight, it stood out well enough to be seen at the relay station atop the Palace of Patience. In moments, shutters were falling rapidly open and closed over signal lanterns; the message passed through the air over the heads of thousands of revelers and arrived at its destinations—the Arsenal, the South Needle, the Dregs.
“Holy mother of shit,” said the watch-sergeant in the tower at the very tip of the South Needle, blinking to clear his eyes, wondering if he’d counted the signal flashes right. He slipped his illicit Day of Changes wineskin beneath his chair with pangs of guilt.
“Watch-sergeant,” said his younger companion, “that ship’s up to something awful funny.”
Out on the water of Old Harbor, the
was slowly turning to larboard; sailors could just barely be seen atop the yards of the main and foremasts, preparing to unfurl topsails. Dozens of small dark shapes were moving on deck, doubly lit by the glow of yellow lamps and the glare of Falselight.
“She’s casting, sir. She’s going to make for sea—where’d all those people come from?” said the younger watchman.
“I don’t know,” said the sergeant, “but the signal’s just gone up. Merciful gods, they’re going to sink that yellow-lit bitch.”
Pinpoints of bright orange light began to erupt around the periphery of the Dregs; each little engine-tower had emergency oil lamps that served to signal when they were both manned and ready for action. Drums beat within the Arsenal, and whistles sounded from across the city, above the low echoing murmur of the Day of Changes crowds.
One of the engines on the Dregs’ shore loosed with an echoing crash. The stone was a blurred shadow in the air; it missed by yards and raised a white fountain on the frigate’s starboard side.
The next engine to let fly hurled an arc of orange-white fire that seemed to hang in the sky, a hypnotic banner of burning light. The South Needle watchmen stared in awe as it crashed down onto the
’s deck, spraying hot tendrils in every direction. Men ran frantically about on the deck, some of them obviously on fire. One leapt from the vessel’s side, plunging into the water like a burning cinder thrown into a puddle.
“Gods, that’s fire-oil,” said the younger watchman. “It won’t stop burning even down there.”
“Well, even sharks like cooked meat,” said the sergeant with a chuckle. “Poor bastards.”
A stone crashed against the side of the frigate, shattering wooden rails and sending splinters flying. Men whirled and screamed and fell to the deck; the fire was rising into the sails and rigging, despite the frantic efforts of the
’s crew to control it with sand. Another fire-barrel exploded against the quarterdeck; the men and women at the wheel were engulfed in a roaring nimbus of white flame. They didn’t even have time to scream.
Stones battered the ship and tore through her few fluttering sails; fires burned out of control at her bow, her stern, and amidships. Fingers of orange and red and white capered about the decks and rose into the sky, along with smoke in several colors. Under the arc of a dozen throwing-engines, the unarmed and nearly motionless frigate never had a chance. Five minutes after the signal had flashed forth from Raven’s Reach, the
was a pyre—a mountain of red-and-white flame reaching up from the water that rippled like a red mirror beneath the dying ship’s hull.
Archers took up position on the shore, ready to shoot down any survivors who tried to swim for it, but there were none. Between the fire and the water and the things that lurked in the harbor’s depths, arrows were unnecessary.
LUCIANO ANATOLIUS, the Gray King, the Capa of Camorr, the last living member of his family line, stood alone on the upper deck of the Floating Grave, beneath the silk awnings that fluttered in the Hangman’s Wind, beneath the dark sky that reflected the eerie waver of Falselight, and watched his ship burn.
He stared into the west with the red fire rippling in his eyes, and he did not blink; he stared north, to the glowing tower of Raven’s Reach, where flashing blue and red lights could be seen, where no cloud of pale white smoke was rising against the sky.
He stood alone on the deck of the Floating Grave, and he did not cry, though in his heart he desired nothing more at that moment.
Cheryn and Raiza would not have cried. Mother and Father would not have cried. They
not cried, when Barsavi’s men had kicked in their door in the middle of the night, when his father had died trying to defend them all long enough for Gisella to bundle him and the little twins out the back door.
burned before his eyes, but in his mind he was running through the darkness of the gardens once again, thirteen years old, stumbling over familiar paths with branches lashing his face and hot tears streaming down his cheeks. In the villa behind them, knives were rising and falling; a small child was crying for her mother—and then that crying suddenly stopped.
“We’ll never forget,” Raiza had said, in the dark hold of the ship that had carried them to Talisham. “We’ll never forget, will we, Luciano?”
Her little hand had curled tight inside his; Cheryn slept uneasily against his other side, murmuring and crying out in her sleep.
“We’ll never forget,” he’d replied. “And we’ll go back. I promise you, someday we’ll go back.”
He stood on the deck of Barsavi’s fortress, in Camorr, and he had the power to do exactly nothing as his ship turned the waters of Old Harbor bloodred with its death.
There was a hesitant voice behind him; a man came up through the passage from the galleries below. One of the Rum Hounds, from the extravagant gambling circle that had grown in his throne room. He turned slowly.
“Capa Raza, this just got brought in…one of the Falselight Cutters, Your Honor. Says a man in Ashfall gave him a tyrin and told him to get this to you right away.”
The man held out a burlap sack; RAZA was scrawled on it in rough black letters—the ink still seemed to be wet.
Luciano took the bag and waved the man away; the Rum Hound ran for the passage and vanished down it, not at all pleased with what he’d seen in his master’s eyes.
The Capa of Camorr opened the bag and found himself staring down at the body of a scorpion hawk—a headless scorpion hawk. He turned the bag upside down and let the contents fall to the deck; the head and the body of Vestris bounced against the wooden planks. A folded, bloodstained piece of parchment fluttered down after them. He grabbed at it and opened it:
Luciano stared down at the note for an unknown interval of time. It might have been five seconds; it might have been five minutes. Then he crumpled it in his hands and let it fall. It hit the deck and rolled to a rest beside Vestris’ glassy, staring eyes.
If they were coming, they were coming. There would be time enough for escape when this last personal debt was discharged.
He went down the passage to the gallery below, into the light and the noise of the ongoing party. The smell of smoke and liquor hung in the air; his booted feet made the boards creak as he hurried down the stairs.
Men and women looked up from their cards and dice as he stalked past. Some waved and shouted greetings or honorifics; none of them received any response. Capa Raza threw open the door to his private suite of apartments (formerly Barsavi’s) and vanished inside for several minutes.
When he emerged, he was dressed as the Gray King, in his old fog-gray leather vest and breeches, in his gray sharkskin boots with the tarnished silver buckles, in his gray swordsman’s gloves creased at the knuckles from use, in his gray cloak and mantle with the hood raised. His cloak fluttered behind him as he moved forward; the lights of the Floating Grave gleamed on the naked steel of his drawn rapier.
The party died in an instant.
“Get out,” he said. “Get out and stay away. Leave the doors open. No guards. Get out while I’ll still give you the chance.”
Cards spiraled down to the deck; dice rattled across the wood. Men and women jumped to their feet, dragging drunk comrades with them. Bottles rolled and wine pooled as the general retreat progressed. In less than a minute, the Gray King stood alone at the heart of the Floating Grave.
He strolled slowly over to a bank of silver cords that hung down from the ceiling on the starboard side of the old galleon. He pulled on one and the white lights of the chandeliers died; he pulled another and the curtains over the room’s tall windows were pulled back, opening the throne room to the night. A tug on a third cord, and red alchemical globes came to life in dark niches on the walls; the heart of the wooden fortress became a cave of carmine light.
He sat upon his throne with the rapier balanced across his legs, and the red light made fires of his eyes within the shadowed hood.
He sat upon his throne and waited for the last two Gentlemen Bastards to find him.
AT HALF past the tenth hour of the evening, Locke Lamora entered that throne room and stood with one hand on his rapier, staring at the Gray King, seated thirty yards away in his silent audience chamber. Locke was breathing hard, and not merely from his journey south; he’d covered most of the distance on a stolen horse.
The feel of the hilt of Reynart’s blade beneath his hand was at once exhilarating and terrifying. He knew he was probably at a disadvantage in a straightforward fight, but his blood was up. He dared to imagine that anger and speed and hope could sustain him for what was coming. He cleared his throat.