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Показать все книги автора/авторов: Cook Glen
 

«She Is The Darkness», Glen Cook

The wind whines and howls with bitter breath. Lightning snarls and barks. Rage is an animate force upon the plain of glittering stone. Even shadows are afraid.

The scars of cataclysm disfigure a plain that has known only an age of dark perfection. A jagged fissure lies like a lightning slash across its face. Nowhere is that fissure so wide that a child could not step across but it seems bottomless. Trailers of mist drift forth. Some bear a hint of color. Any color clashes with the thousand blacks and greys.

At the heart of the plain stands a vast grey stronghold, unknown, older than any written memory. One ancient tower has collapsed across the fissure. From the heart of the fastness comes a great deep slow beat like that of a slumbering world-heart, cracking the olden silence.

Death is eternity. Eternity is stone. Stone is silence.

Stone cannot speak but stone remembers.

 

1

The Old Man looked up. His quill twitched, betraying his irritation at being interrupted. "What is it, Murgen?"

"I went for a walk with the ghost. That earth tremor we felt a while ago?"

"What about it? And don't give me none of that around-the-bush crap One-Eye's always handing out. I don't have time for it."

"The farther south you go the worse the destruction is."

The Old Man opened his mouth, closed it to think some before he said anything else.

Croaker, the Old Man, the Captain of the Black Company, the right-now-by-god military dictator of Taglios and all its tributaries, dependencies and protectorates, does not look the part. He is in his middle fifties, possibly closer to sixty. He stands more than six feet tall. He has grown slightly heavy during four years spent mainly in garrison. He has a high forehead with a feeble crop of hair farther back. Lately he has been affecting a beard on his chin. It is grizzled. So is what hair still lurks upon his head. His icy blue eyes are deeply set, giving him a hard, scary look, like some kind of psychopathic killer.

He does not know. Nobody ever told him. Sometimes he is hurt because people back off. He does not understand why.

Mostly it's his eyes. They can be really spooky.

He considers himself just one of the guys. Most of the time.

If he understood it he would use his impact to its limit. His belief in the value of creating illusions in the minds of others borders on religious conviction.

He stood up. "Let's go for a walk, Murgen."

In the Palace it is always best to be moving if you want to keep your conversations your own. The Palace is vast, a honeycomb networked with a labyrinth masking countless secret passageways. I have been mapping those but could not winkle them all out in a lifetime even if we were not heading south any day.

The point is, there is always a chance our friends will be listening to anything we say.

We have been very successful at driving our enemies out beyond arm's reach.

Thai Dei picked us up at the doorway. The Old Man grimaced. He has no personal prejudice against my bodyguard and brother-in-law but he abhors the fact that so many Company brothers have acquired similar companions, none of whom are bound to his direct command. He does not trust the Nyueng Bao. He never has, never will and cannot explain clearly why.

He does understand that he was not there in hell's forge when the bonds were hammered into existence. He will stipulate that. He has done his time in other hells. He was suffering one at that time.

I made a small gesture to Thai Dei. He dropped back a step, symbolically acknowledging our need for privacy rather than actually accepting it. He would hear everything we had to say anyway.

So every word we said would be spoken in the dialect of the Jewel City Beryl, which lies six thousand miles beyond the edge of any world Thai Dei can even imagine.

I wondered why Croaker bothered walking when he was going to use an alien tongue. No Taglian would understand a word. "Tell me," he said.

"I walked with the ghost. I went south. I made the routine checks. I was just following the daily ritual." I understood his desire to walk. Soulcatcher. Soulcatcher understood the Jewel Cities dialects. She would have more trouble eavesdropping if she had to find us first.


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