World-Ripper War (Mad Tinker Chronicles Book 3) (7 page)

BOOK: World-Ripper War (Mad Tinker Chronicles Book 3)
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The walk through the palace was harrowing. Madlin had the impression of great riches in tapestries and gilded architecture, but she was in no position to appreciate it. She was dragged past everything at a slow walk, shaking with the effort of keeping still enough that the knife did not dig into her mouth. The stairs were a labor of fear and balance. The only small grace was that the guard’s grip was sure; she found herself unmindful of the pain in her scalp since a looser grip might have let her jostle, and the guard at least knew his trade in delivering sorcerers.

On the fourth floor, they traversed hallways that must have crossed between towers. When they reached a door at the end of the hall, one of the other guards knocked and stepped away. The door opened of its own accord. Madlin’s escort removed the knife from her mouth and the hand from her hair. She was shoved through the door, with Jamile pushed through right after.

The room was stark, just bare walls with windows, no furniture or decoration. At the center of the room, a green-clad figure sat facing away from them, legs crossed. The figure’s hair was pale brown, pulled together and tied off at the top of his head and falling in a horse’s tail. The door slammed shut behind them.

“Anzik?” Madlin ventured.

“You are fortunate I warned them a foreign woman might come seeking me,” Anzik replied, not turning. He spoke Acardian. “Bringing the Taklish woman was foolish.”

“I’m sorry,” said Jamile. “It’s not her fault. I insisted.”

Anzik stood and turned. The resemblance to the son of Denrik Zayne was minimal, but there. It was like seeing a beggar and a prince from the same father. The cold, stoic look of Denrik’s son Jadon could have been mistaken for idiocy or shyness. On Anzik, it seemed royal. He stared at them with impassive eyes, no hint of curiosity or surprise in evidence. His features were pale, smooth, untroubled.

With a whiff of smoke, Madlin was suddenly aware that her hands were freed from the rope that bound them. She pulled them in front of her and rubbed the raw skin where the rope had bitten in to grasp her; her fingers came away sooty.

“I came because of your note,” Madlin said.

Anzik watched her, but did not reply.

Madlin glanced to Jamile, who shot her a worried look in reply. Jamile’s hands were free as well, Madlin saw. Whatever Anzik was up to, he saw no threat from them.

“I ... I was hoping to discuss terms of a deal,” Madlin said when the silence showed no sign of breaking on its own. “Magic in return for dealing with Dan ... maybe I can throw in some weapons.”

“Have you worked out a plan?” Anzik asked.

“No, not yet,” Madlin admitted. She swallowed and looked around the room. She could not bring herself to keep looking into that face.
He’s not blinking. Same as Jadon
. The silence grew again. “Well, the thing is, he’s saved our lives—all our lives—but he’s just ... dangerous. I worry that one day he’ll take something I say wrongly, and I’ll be dead before I know it.”

“He’s like his uncle,” said Anzik. “But there is no force within Kadrin to oppose him. Rashan Solaran had Brannis to keep him in check, and eventually kill him. You can count on no such internecine strife to do in Danilaesis Solaran. There is even less chance of finding a suitable foe for the twin. You’ll simply have to do.”

“Do?” Jamile asked.

“What do you mean?”

“I’ll teach you what you need to kill him,” Anzik said. “The twin. There is no hope that you could deal with Danilaesis.”

Madlin frowned and cast a skeptical eye at Aznik. “I saw him fight when the Korrish force came to destroy Tinker’s Island. Dan is an army all to himself.”

Anzik smiled. It was a small, forced thing that barely moved the muscles of the young sorcerer’s cheeks and came nowhere near his eyes. “I can see Sources. I have seen both him and his twin. I am sure Dan seems quite strong to you, but here he would be just a curiosity—a weakling warlock, all bluster and little bite.”

“What kind of world are we in?” Jamile asked in a whisper meant for Madlin.

“A world ruled by dragons and demons, with humans taking the scraps left between their realms,” Anzik replied.

“But Dan said his people ruled half the world,” said Madlin.

“Half a continent, but they consort with demons.”

“Danilaesis?”

“In manner, if not in fact,” Anzik replied. “He was taught by the demon warlock Rashan, an ancestor of his.”

“He’s descended from demons?” Jamile asked. A puzzled frown had worked itself onto her face and stuck there.

Anzik closed his eyes, the most true emotion he had shown since they arrived. “There is no time to explain the vagaries of Kadrin’s twisted past. You will help us against them, but for now, you must be going. There will be no lesson today. When you seek me next, come to this room and no place else. Your twin is waiting with the portal entrance. You may leave.”

Madlin blinked. “You can
see
it?” She knew in the back of her mind that Rynn had followed their short journey within the palace. The awareness of her twin was comfortably secondhand once more with a separation of worlds between them.

“My aether-vision is keener than most. Have a care where you send your machine in this world. There are others who see better than even I.” To demonstrate the truth of his claim, Anzik stepped aside and swept an arm toward the waiting viewer. Rynn obliged by opening the world hole just where he indicated.

Madlin nodded to the young sorcerer—though he was probably near her own age, she felt older of late. “Thank you.”

Jamile nodded her agreement. There was no reply from Anzik. The two of them stepped through the world hole, and Rynn closed it behind them.

Once safely back aboard the
Jennai
, Jamile let out a long breath, ending in a slouch. “Next time, you can go on your own. That was awful!”

“That was power.”

“Dan’s still asleep,” Jamile reported. “Let’s clean this up and get out of here.”

“Kuduks aren’t going to know what hit them,” Rynn muttered as Madlin pulled the panel to reattach the lunar tracker.

“As you see, gentlemen,” Kezudkan said, his bass voice rumbling across the assembled kuduk troops. “This new venture, of which you are now a part, will make us as rich as bankers. I don’t just mean myself, or Mr. Draksgollow, but each and every last one of you.” There was a stirring in the ranks as the hired soldiers muttered amongst themselves about the implications. “This machine is the key to it all. It is a one of a kind, irreplaceable, indispensable. We must all guard it with our lives.”

The new Venterad Deep workshop was cleaned and refitted. Equipment gleamed with fresh chrome and wax, polished brass and brightsteel. Few of the new recruits paid any of it the least attention. Standing in orderly rows in their bland, store-bought uniforms, all heads turned toward a single point in the room, and it wasn’t Kezudkan. They all looked through the viewing frame of the world-ripper as Draksgollow worked the controls, giving them a breathtaking view of the Veydran countryside. Yellow fields stretched miles wide, and forests had trees that the Lumberlands could only envy. The wood from just a few of those could set a man up for years.

“This land is not even upon the face of Korr but another world entirely. It seems much to swallow, but I promise you wonders you have not yet begun to imagine. Tomorrow you will assemble here, and you will actually go through this hole between worlds.”

There were more mumblings among the troops, and they sounded worried. One soldier spoke up, putting words to the concern shared by many. “Will we have to climb down a rope?”

Kezudkan put a hand over his eyes. “Mr. Draksgollow, if you please...”

The airship’s view of the landscape drifted down to a more comfortable level, twisting until it faced sideways instead of straight down. Draksgollow settled in among a grove of trees the size of thunderail cars and even with the ground.

“And open it, please.”

Draksgollow obliged, and a pungent odor of rotting leaves and pitch wafted into the workshop. Kezudkan stepped through the world-ripper and back. “Just like that. No trick to it at all. Well ... no trick on your parts at least. I had a puzzle of a time getting the machine to do that.” He chuckled and a chorus of nervous chuckles answered him from the ranks.

“I will see you all tomorrow morning at six, same spots you’re in now, armed and armored. Dismissed.”

Kezudkan and Draksgollow watched the soldiers disperse, picking their ways through the workshop and into the barracks area beyond. “Where did you dig these up?” Kezudkan asked. “Dull as eggs, the lot of them.”

“I thought you’d prefer them a bit simple. The last smart ones I hired mutinied on us. Or don’t you remember?”

“Well, so long as the machinists in the Telluraki shop are sharper than these. I don’t want to trust my travels to imbeciles.”

“The machinists know what’s what,” Draksgollow said. “I had to tell them otherwise when they worked it out on their own; they’d have had grounds to turn on us as well.”

“I
told
you not to let anyone else know! If they know there are more machines, they might think to take one for themselves.”

Draksgollow shook his head. “I told them we had countermeasures in place. So long as we make them rich, I think we’ll be fine.”

“Well, we’d better find some deep veins then. Treasuries, vaults, and the like. We’ve made a lot of promises.”

“Well, we always have the machines none of the others know about.” Draksgollow smiled.

Three men and a lad sat together in a private booth of one of Marker’s Point’s better known and oft avoided taverns. The lamps created more shadow than light, and a three-piece musician’s troupe played a lively melody that kept conversations from spilling far from the tables where they belonged. It was a place for doing business more than making merriment, and were it not for the flow of ale and liquor into the patrons, there might have been little good humor within its walls.

“Can’t believe I’m selling
you
a ship, Zayne,” said a thick, neckless man in a grubby leather vest and three days’ beard. He hoisted a tankard the size of a pitcher and offered a solitary toast before downing a huge swallow. His companion was slim and quiet, keeping his hands below the table and rarely touching his drink.

“We all have our days, Sanson. Besides, how many of you lot can claim to have sunk one of the Mad Tinker’s smoke ships?” Zayne replied. He had replaced his wardrobe since arriving in Marker’s Point. His shirtsleeves gleamed white, and the jacket that hung from a peg at the tableside was starched and pressed immaculately.

“Ya got me there,” Sanson replied. “A lesser man, I’d say he’s full ‘o piss, but the likes of you ain’t got nothin’ to prove.”

“How soon will she be ready?”

“Soon as you get me my price.”

“I’ll have it this evening. We’ll make the exchange on deck.”’

Sanson’s partner narrowed his eyes. “You ain’t thinkin’ anything, Cap’n, are you?”

“Why Jimmony, I was scarcely aware you remembered,” Zayne said, breaking into a smile. “No, this will be nothing like my acquisition of the
Fair Trader
. If nothing else, I never expect the same trick to work twice. Besides, I have no quarrel with you and coin in plenty to pay for it.”

“You’ve always been good as your word, Zayne,” said Sanson. He stuck a meaty hand across the table. “It’s a deal.”

BOOK: World-Ripper War (Mad Tinker Chronicles Book 3)
9.8Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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