The Lies of Locke Lamora (78 page)

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The Salvaras stared at her, saying nothing.

“Oh, don’t look so glum,” she said. “Your real punishment for getting involved in this mess has not yet begun. Come back to Amberglass with me, and let’s talk about the penalty.”

“Our punishment, Doña Vorchenza?” said Lorenzo hotly. “Our punishment was nearly seventeen thousand crowns! Haven’t we been punished enough?”

“Not nearly,” said Doña Vorchenza. “I’ve decided who’s to inherit the title of Countess Amberglass when it’s my time to pass on.” She paused for just a moment before continuing. “Or, should I say, Count
and
Countess Amberglass.”

“What?” Sofia squeaked like a girl of eight. A particularly squeaky girl of eight, much accustomed to squeaking, loudly.

“It’s no blessing,” said Doña Vorchenza. “It comes with a job.”

“You can’t be serious,” said Don Lorenzo. “There are two dozen families on the Alcegrante with more rank and honor than ourselves; the duke would
never
name us to Amberglass before them.”

“I believe I know Nicovante somewhat better than you do, young man,” said Doña Vorchenza. “And I believe the inheritance is mine to dictate.”

“But…the job,” said Doña Salvara. “You can’t mean…”

“Of course I do, Sofia. I can’t live forever. Each time something like this affair lands in my lap, I suddenly recall that I don’t
want
to live forever. Let someone else play the Spider; we’ve deceived everyone for all these years letting them think the office was held by a man. Now let’s deceive them further by passing it on to
two
individuals.”

She put her arm through Reynart’s and allowed him to help her back toward the carriage.

“You’ll have Stephen to help you, and to run your operations; he’ll serve as the link between you and the Midnighters. You both have acceptably malleable wits. Given just a few more years, I’m sure I can whip the two of you into something resembling the shape I require.”

“And then?” asked Doña Sofia.

“And then, my dear, all these gods-damned crises will be
yours
to deal with.” Doña Vorchenza sighed. “Old sins will never be buried so deep that they cannot rise again when least expected. And so you’ll pay for the good of Camorr with the coin of your own conscience, parceled out year after year, until that purse is empty at last.”

3

“MASTER LAMORA,” cried Ibelius, “this is
entirely
unacceptable!”

The sea at Falselight was a surging field of gray and green; the waves rolled and crashed around the galleon
Golden Gain
—one of only two vessels that had bothered to put out from Camorr that evening, bound for Talisham and thence to Tal Verrar. The wind wailed in the shrouds and sails of the elderly vessel, and sailors in oilcloaks hurried here and there on the decks, muttering private prayers to Iono, Lord of the Grasping Waters.

Locke Lamora lay on a pile of tarp-covered crates on the galleon’s raised stern deck, bundled in blankets within oilcloths within tarps, like a sausage roll. Nothing of him was visible but his abnormally pale (and heavily bruised) face, poking out of the layers around him. Jean Tannen sat at his side, bundled against the rain, but not to the point of immobility.

“Master Ibelius,” said Locke in a weak voice, made nasal by his broken nose, “each time I have left Camorr, I have done it by land. This is something new…. I wanted to see it, one last time.”

“You are very near death, Master Lamora,” said Ibelius. “It is foolish for you to be larking about on deck in this weather.”

“Ibelius,” said Jean, “if what Locke is doing were larking about, corpses could get jobs as acrobats. Can we have a moment’s peace?”

“From the attentions that have sustained his life this past day? By all means, young masters. Enjoy your sea view, and on your heads be it!”

Ibelius stomped off across the rolling deck, sliding in this direction and that, quite unaccustomed to life at sea.

Camorr was diminishing behind them, fading gradually between shifting curtains of rain. Falselight rose up from the lower city like an aura above the waves; the Five Towers shone ghostly beneath the churning skies. The wake of the galleon seemed to gleam with phosphorescence—a roiling Falselight of its own.

They sat on the stern deck and watched the dark horizon swallow the city behind them.

“I’m sorry, Locke,” said Jean. “I’m sorry I couldn’t be more useful to you, at the end.”

“What the hell are you talking about? You killed Cheryn and Raiza; I could never have done that. You pulled me out of the Floating Grave. You hauled me back to Ibelius and got another lovely fucking poultice smeared all over me. What do you have to apologize for—besides the poultice?”

“I’m a liability,” he said. “My name. I’ve been using my real name all my life, and I never thought it’d come to anything bad.”

“What, the bondsmage? Oh, gods, Jean. Take a false name wherever we end up. Tavrin Callas is good. Let the bastard pop up all over the place; the order of Aza Guilla will have a surfeit of miracles to cherish.”

“I tried to kill you, Locke. I’m sorry…. I couldn’t do anything about it.”

“You didn’t try to kill me, Jean. The Falconer did. You
couldn’t
do anything about it. Gods, I’m the one with his arm slashed open and his shoulder punched in, and you’re over there moping. Enough!”

Thunder rumbled in the clouds overhead, and there was the sound of shouted orders from the forward deck of the ship.

“Jean,” said Locke, “you are a greater friend than I ever could have imagined before I met you; I owe you my life too many times over to count. I would rather be dead myself than lose you. Not just because you’re all I have left.”

Jean said nothing for several minutes; they stared north across the Iron Sea as the whitecaps lashed one another with an increasing tempo.

“Sorry,” said Jean. “Mouth sort of ran away with me. Thanks, Locke.”

“Well, cheer up. At least you’ve got more mobility than a fucking tadpole on dry land. Look at my little oilcloth castle.” Locke sighed. “So this is winning,” he said.

“It is,” replied Jean.

“It can go
fuck
itself,” said Locke.

They passed another few minutes in silence and rain.

“Locke,” said Jean at last, hesitantly.

“Yes?”

“If you don’t mind my asking…what
is
your real name?”

“Oh, gods.” Locke smiled weakly. “Can’t I have any secrets?”

“You know mine.”

“Yeah, but you’ve only got the one anyway.”

“Not a fair point.”

“Oh, fine,” said Locke. “Get over here.”

Jean stumbled over to the pile of crates on which Locke was lying, and bent down to put his ear near Locke’s mouth. Locke whispered five syllables, and Jean’s eyes widened.

“You know,” he said, “I’d have gone with Locke in preference to that, myself.”

“Tell me about it.”

The galleon rode south before the winds of the storm, and the last few glimmers of Falselight faded behind them. The lights drew down into the darkness, and then they were gone for good, and the rain swept in like a wall above the surface of the sea.

Afterword

A CHUNK OF incredible good fortune fell right out of the sky and landed on my head when this novel was picked up for publication. I owe many thanks to Simon Spanton, Gillian Redfearn, Krystyna Kujawinska, Hannah Whitaker, and Susan Howe at Orion Books, not to mention Anne Groell at Bantam.

It takes a village to keep a first-time author’s ego stoked (or in check, as necessary). I couldn’t have asked for more patient or generous supporters than my parents, Jill and Tom Lynch—nor would anything have been the same without a certain energetic crew of online miscreant-savants: Gabe Chouinard, Matthew Woodring Stover, Kage Baker, Bob Urell, Summer Brooks, M. Lynn Booker, Chris Billett, Gabriel Mesa, Alex Berman, Clucky, Mastadge, Shevchyk, Ariel, and all the rest—including the readers and players of the role-playing game Deeds Not Words.

Thanks also to friends near and far—Jason McCray, Darren Wieland, Cleo McAdams, Jayson Stevens, Peg Kerr, Philip Shill, Bradford Walker, J. H. Frank, Jason Sartin, Abra Staffin-Wiebe, Sammi and Lewis, Mike and Becky, Bridget and Joe, Annie and Josiah, Erik and Aman, Mike and Laura, Paul, Adrian, Ben and Jenny Rose, Aaron, Jesse, Chris and Ren, Andy Nelson, and last but not least Rose Miller, who’s not tall enough to ride the ride just yet, but we let her on anyway.

New Richmond, Wisconsin

September 16, 2005

Biography

SCOTT LYNCH was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1978 and currently lives in Wisconsin with his fiancée and a small menagerie of household critters. He moonlights as a game designer and volunteer firefighter. This is his first novel.

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