Thraxas Under Siege / Траксас под обсада: Петнадесета глава

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Chapter Fifteen


In the early hours of the morning I'm slumped on the floor, my back against the bar, exhausted.


"That was one of the worst nights of my life."


"I told you it's not so easy serving beer," says Makri.


She takes a sip from a glass of klee and winces. Klee is a fiery spirit at the best of times, and Gurd's is not of the highest quality.


"Why do I drink this stuff?"


"It has reviving properties," I reply, and pour some for myself. I've always liked the spirit's dark gold colour. Warms a man before it even hits the throat.


"How did this happen?" I muse.




"Everything. One day I was a Sorcerer's apprentice, the next day I was a mercenary, then I was an Investigator at the Palace and now I'm serving drinks to mercenaries. You couldn't say I've gone up in the world."


Makri shrugs.


"You're serving drinks because everyone else got sick. As for the rest, who knows? Anyway, do you want to go up in the world?"


"I'd like to get out of Twelve Seas."


"That might happen soon."


I sip some more klee, and wash it down with beer.


"True. If the Orcs swarm over the sea wall I'll probably have to move."


"I'm not moving an inch," declares Makri. "We ran away last time. I'm not doing that again."


Makri didn't really run away. She helped shepherd some important Sorcerers back into the city after our troops were defeated. If we hadn't saved Lisutaris we'd have even less hope of survival than we do now. Makri doesn't exactly see it that way.


"I'm making my death stand here."


I don't argue the point. She won't be the only one making their death stand, if only because there will be nowhere to run. I look over at her.


"Why did you want to find Tanrose's gold?"


"To pay for the university. In case there's a university left."


Makri looks depressed. She doesn't mind dying in battle but it's annoying that all her hard work at the Guild College will be wasted. It wasn't so long ago that she marched into the tavern with her arms aloft, celebrating her triumph in the exams, where she finished top of her year.


"If we could just find the Ocean Storm," I say, "the city would have a lot better chance of surviving. The Sorcerers Guild could still hold the Orcs off."


"Do you have any idea where it is?" asks Makri.


"No idea at all. Whoever finally ended up with it is powerful and smart. No one's picked up the slightest trace."


I haul myself to my feet.


"Time to get busy."


"What? Where are you going?"


"The harbour. Looking for whales, gold, and the Ocean Storm."


Makri leaps to her feet.


"I'm coming too."


I shrug.




"I get to share the gold if we find it."


"I'll consider it."


"I have plenty of ideas about what 'under the whale' might mean."


I raise my eyebrows.




"No," admits Makri. "None at all really. But I might think of something. If we find it I can pay for the university. If we find the Ocean Storm too we can save the city."


"It's all starting to sound simple. We'll be heroes."


My bedroom is still full of Sorcerers. They've been cloistered in there for hours. I slip into my office, pick up both my magic warm cloaks, and hand one to Makri. We hurry down the outside steps then stride along Quintessence Street, which is cold and deserted. The oil lamps at the corners cast a feeble light, barely sufficient to navigate by. I speak a small word of power to light up my illuminated staff.


We pass a night-time Civil Guard patrol. They stare at us suspiciously before recognising us as familiar Twelve Seas characters. They walk off, swords at their hips, marching in an untidy fashion. Not for the first time it strikes me that our Civil Guards are not the most imposing bunch of men. Hardly enough to strike terror into the hearts of marauding Orcs. The King has some good troops, and there are some experienced mercenaries in the city. But for the most part, our defenders are poorly trained rabble. There was a time when every man in Turai, no matter what his profession, had undergone enough military training to take up arms at a moment's notice. Everyone could fight like a proper soldier. That's no longer the case. Back in those days there wasn't such inequality in the city. Now there are incredible riches at the Palace, and terrible poverty in the slums. In between the people and the King, our senate has become powerless and corrupt. Money, crime, corruption and drugs have ruined our fighting spirit.


"When's the card game?"




"So really you're only out investigating in the middle of the night in a last desperate attempt to raise the money? As opposed to saving the city?"


"You're sharp as an Elf's ear, Makri."


Makri shrugs.


"It's a relief really. The notion of you becoming heroic was quite worrying."


We walk all the way down to the harbour. There's a watch tower at the end of the city wall, with a lookout post and a beacon on top. Great chains hang from the walls, covering the entrance to the harbour. I can sense the sorcery that's laid over the chains, strengthening them against assault. Since Cicerius sent more protection to the south of the city the whole area reeks of magic.


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