The Prophecy Con (Rogues of the Republic) (10 page)

BOOK: The Prophecy Con (Rogues of the Republic)
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“Checking now.” Desidora tapped the panel. “Very little crossover, but . . . here.
Ruminations upon the Unutterable by the Queen of the Cold River
.”

“Well, that sounds promising,” said Hessler.

“Come on.” Desidora set off down the stacks. “It’s not far.”

Pyvic and Hessler followed her through the dim stacks. Their boots echoed on the bare stone floor, and the rich smell of old paper and leather grew stronger as they went on.

“I didn’t even know there
were
books by fairy creatures,” Pyvic said.

“Most of them don’t care enough to learn how to read,” Hessler said, “which leads human-centric institutes of learning to overlook their philosophy and culture, although to be fair, they
could
make the effort to learn new methods of communication . . .”

“It’s a small field,” Desidora said, “but the ones who do publish works are usually the oldest and wisest of the creatures. Some of them were formed just after the ancients left this world.”


Kutesosh gajair’is,”
Ghylspwr said.

“Yes, yes, after fighting the Glimmering Folk and leaving the world so as to shut them out as well,” Hessler said, “although honestly, I don’t know that you need to remind
us
about it . . .”

“Kutesosh gajair’is,”
Ghylspwr said again.

“Wait,” said Desidora.

“I don’t see that you need to make
threats
about it,” said Hessler. “I’m all for teaching the history of the ancients and their battle against the Glimmering Folk, but since you have a vocabulary consisting of three phrases, I doubt that . . .”

“Wait!” Desidora said more sharply this time.


Kutesosh gajair’is!”
Ghylspwr said for the third time, very emphatically.

Everyone stopped.

And as they did, Pyvic heard what Ghylspwr had been warning them about.

At first, it sounded like a rustle, like coins rattling in a mostly full pouch. Then, as though his hearing had slid into focus, Pyvic made it out.

It was the sound of countless crystals clicking on the bare stone floor.

And the sound was coming toward them.

 

Six

N
IGHT FELL ON
Ajeveth. Craftsmen headed back to their homes after a good day’s work and a fine dinner at one of the city’s gourmet restaurants, miners stopped by the bars for a celebratory drink after another day with no accidents, and guards patrolled the streets, carrying cheery lanterns and greeting fellow citizens by name.

On the rooftop of an expensive inn, Loch, Kail, Icy, and Ululenia looked across the street at
Irke’desar
, the Bounty of the Past.

Loch had gotten a room on the fifth story of the inn, which was terraced like all the other major buildings in the city. At this height, standing atop the fourth story’s roof, they could look across the street to the
second-story
rooftop of the museum, which ended in a wall with a window that looked into the fairy-creature room, right next to the room with the damn book.

The window was wider at the bottom than at the top. With a bit of wriggling, someone of modest size
should
be able to squeeze through.

“Have you got the shot?” she asked Tern.

“Think so.” Tern was squinting through a series of lenses on her crossbow, which was resting on the edge of the rooftop. “Can’t risk a hook through the window, not with the rooftop still trapped with pressure sensors.”

“The earth-daemons bound to service cry out against their imprisonment,” Ululenia confirmed.

“Right, that. So I’m going with a daemonfire bolt. It’ll burn clean through the window and should punch into the stone. Cools in a minute or so, and once it does, it should be solidly embedded in the wall.”

“And it’ll support Icy’s weight?” Loch asked.

“Hopefully!” Tern said cheerfully. “That’s if the daemonfire bolt keeps enough speed after punching through the window,
and
if it doesn’t burn hot at the back end and light the rope on fire,
and
if the window I’m shooting through is actually dwarven crystal and not glass, so that the bolt burns though it instead of just shattering it and sending shards of glass clattering down onto the pressure plates.”

“As long as we’re all confident in the plan,” Kail said.

Loch nodded. “Whenever you’re ready. Kail, eyes on the ground.”

Tern slid down to one knee, still looking through the lenses. She made a single infinitesimal adjustment to her crossbow, a finger’s gentle pressure on one side. Then she took two slow, deep breaths. On the third, she fired.

The bolt hissed an angry red as it sizzled across the street, over the rooftop, and cleanly through the window, a thin line of white silk rope trailing behind it. A moment later, the sound of the hissing pop reached her ears. “Nice shot. Kail?”

“All clear on the street.”

“Ululenia?”

“I sense no fear or anger from the guards inside.”

“Tern?”

“Fourteen, fifteen, sixteen . . .”

“Got it.”

Loch watched the rooftop across the street, and the little line of white silk swaying gently in the night breeze. After a bit, Tern quietly said, “One hundred,” and carefully unlatched her crossbow from the rope. It dangled slightly, and then the hook securing it to the rooftop caught, and it held. “Hang on. Let me tighten it a bit. Icy, if it leaves you dangling too close to the rooftop, freeze and give me a sign, and I’ll tighten it some more.”

“I believe I will be fine,” Icy said as Tern worked a tiny crank on the hook, grunting with the effort until finally it couldn’t be tightened any further. “One moment,” he said, and stepped calmly onto the rope.

“Oh, of course, can’t just
hang
from it, you big show-off,” Tern muttered as Icy walked across the rope. From where Loch watched, the thin silk rope seemed to dig into his soft slippers, but Icy showed no sign of discomfort, walking with his arms extended at a brisk pace. “Fall of a hundred feet or so, but gods forbid he go hand-over-hand like some amateur second-story man.”

Icy was over the other rooftop now, the silk line just a foot or so off the ground as he made his way toward the window.

“He gonna make it?” Kail asked.

“He hasn’t signaled.”

“Not what I asked, Tern.”

Icy was halfway across the roof, and the rope bowed down, just inches from the rooftop. He paused for a moment as a gust of wind whistled through the night air, and looked back at them.

Then he turned, crouched, and leaped lightly the last ten feet, catching himself on the lip of the window with his feet tucked up just above the ground.

Loch let out a breath.

“I forgot just how good he was,” Kail said, shaking his head.

“He requests my assistance,” Ululenia said, and without waiting for a response, shifted into the form of a small white bird. She flapped through the night sky as Icy braced himself, gently traced the edges of the window, and then laid his fingers on the window as though holding an invisible ball in his hands.

At such a distance, Loch couldn’t see exactly what he did. What she
did
see was that his hand moved, and with a faint pop, the window snapped cleanly from its frame, all in one piece and hanging from the white rope by the hole that Tern had shot through it, like a bead on a string.

“Look at that.
Look
at that. Imagine what he could do if he was allowed to
hit
stuff,” Kail said under his breath.

“He swore an oath,” Tern said.

“Why would anyone do that? That would be like me swearing an oath not to pick locks or talk about people’s mothers.”

Icy lifted himself up without evident effort and slid forward through the window. Ululenia flapped in after him and perched on the windowsill.

“Okay, Ululenia,” said Tern, “what does he see?”

After a moment, she added, “Okay, good. The third one down.”

She followed it up with, “Down relative to the ground. Come on, Icy, how am I supposed to know which way you’re facing? Yes. Third one down
from the ceiling
. Twist it to the left, and it should come right out.”

“Do they even
need
us?” Kail asked Loch. “You’ve got an acrobat, a mind-reading shapeshifter, and Tern, who can disable security in rooms she isn’t even in.”

“We’re all part of the team, Kail.” Loch grinned. “You flew the airship.”

“Okay, point taken.” Kail raised an eyebrow at her. “Do we need
you
?”

“Hey!”

“I’m just saying, the fewer ways we split the take, the more for each of us.”

“There’s no take, Kail. We’re saving the Republic again.”

“Right. Damn.”

“Okay, Icy’s disabled the motion sensors inside the room,” said Tern. “He’s working on the floor plates now. The door to the room with the book is closed, he says. Looks like a manual lock.”

“Guess it’s my turn, then.” Kail looked at the rope. “Pardon me if I just crawl awkwardly while hanging from it instead of doing handsprings or whatever he did. He and Ululenia are sure the window’s big enough for me to squeeze through? ‘Cause I’m bigger than Icy.” He paused. “Oh, hey, unicorn lady. In my head the whole time, huh? No, please don’t. I’m really not big on heights, and I’m going to need to focus on not freaking out while I do this climb.”

He swung out, arms and legs both wrapped around the rope, and began to scoot across.

“Hey, Kail?” Loch called softly.

“Yes, Captain?”

“Don’t fall a hundred feet to the ground and die.”

“Thanks, Captain.”

“That’s why you need me, Kail. To remind you of these things.”

She grinned as he shot her a dirty look, then kept scooting.

“I have to say,” Tern said beside her, “it’s actually kind of a nice change to have a plan go smoothly enough for everyone to give each other grief instead of screaming and flailing the whole time.”

“Isafesira de Lochenville,” came a call from behind them.

“Your fault,” Loch said to Tern.

“I know.”

“You don’t talk about how the job is going until the job is done,” Loch said.

“I am very sorry.”

They turned around slowly.

Imperial Princess Veiled Lightning stepped gracefully through Loch’s window out onto the rooftop, her lavender-and-violet dress shining silver in the moonlight.

Lightning crackled in her hand.

“Everybody back, now!” Pyvic barked, looking back and forth as the sound of thousands of tiny crystal legs clicking on the stone floor of the lower stacks grew closer.

“We can’t!” Desidora drew Ghylspwr. “Whatever these are—”

“Spiders,” said Hessler. “I’m assuming they’re spiders.”

“—they’ve never been here any of the other times I’ve come.”

“You think they showed up because we were searching for the book?” Pyvic asked.

“Possibly?” Desidora gave him a helpless look.

“Which means if we run, we’re likely lose any chance to get the book.”

“But we also don’t get killed by spiders!” Hessler added.

The clicking grew louder still, and then they poured around the corner: hundreds of crystal crabs the size of housecats.


Almost
spiders,” Hessler said, and lifted a hand. A wave of fire slashed out and burned through the first few ranks. “Hah! See that? Not just illusion magic anymore! I’ve been studying a few other branches of the arcane arts!”

“Fire. In a library.” Pyvic turned to run and saw crabs coming in from the other direction as well. They were red and purple, and at the joints in the legs and the spots where the legs met the body, little pinpricks of thin blue light crackled. “Everybody up onto the shelves!”

He grabbed the nearest shelf and started climbing. Beside him, Desidora and Hessler did the same. A crab clung to Desidora’s dress, and Pyvic whipped his blade out and slashed down. It chopped through the crab, shattering it into thousands of tiny fragments, and Pyvic scrambled the rest of the way up, taking in his surroundings with the quick self-preservation instincts from years in the Republic scouts.

The ceiling was high enough that they didn’t have to duck, even while standing atop shelves that were ten feet high, and the shelves were wide enough that nobody was likely to teeter and fall off.

Hessler gestured down from the top of the bookshelf, and a flare of fire sizzled through more of the crabs as they tried to climb the bookshelf.

“I thought you could only do illusions,” Pyvic said. The crabs that hadn’t been charred to blackened husks were still trying to climb the shelves. They’d only gotten as high as the second shelf so far, but they were still coming, and there seemed to be hundreds of the things. There was no more ground visible around the shelves, just endless ranks of purple and red crabs.

“I’ve been practicing,” Hessler said. “Summoning elemental fire is a very simple daemonic conjuration, and given our past adventures—”

“I really hoped that was illusory fire,” Pyvic said, “since it appears that you’ve started a fire among the books.”

“Yes, well—”

“Now, the question is, do we try to escape, or do we go for the book?”


Kun-kabynalti osu fuir’is!
” Ghylspwr said.

“That means
escape
,” Hessler said, looking at the crabs—as well as the smoke billowing out from the bookshelf where his blast had lit things on fire.

“Got that, thanks.”

“We have to go for the book,” Desidora disagreed.
“Triggering this means we’re getting close to something worth worrying about.”

Pyvic nodded. “All right. We’re going to be jumping either way.” The crabs were jumping as well, crawling over each other in an attempt to get higher. They seemed to have abandoned their attempts to climb the shelves and were now just swarming around them. “Which way?”

Desidora pointed, and Pyvic nodded, took a few running steps, and launched himself from the end of the bookshelf across the gap to the next one. Said gap was about seven or eight feet, long enough that he wouldn’t have wanted to try it without a running start. As it was, he landed on the next shelf, slid awkwardly on the smooth, dust-coated surface, and caught himself with his free hand just before pitching off the side.

BOOK: The Prophecy Con (Rogues of the Republic)
13.36Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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