Thraxas Under Siege / Траксас под обсада: Осемнадесета глава

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Chapter Eighteen


Gurd is still ill, and the news about the card game doesn't make him feel any better.


"Makri's the stake? That's a terrible risk."


"I wouldn't say that. I'll chase Horm from the table and everyone else as well. By tomorrow morning I'll probably be the richest man in Turai. And we'll have the Ocean Storm. I'll have saved the city. You think they might put up a statue of me?"


Gurd doesn't share my enthusiasm. Probably because he's too sick.


"What about the dolphins?"


This makes me frown. The winter malady can bring on some dementia, but even so, you don't like to hear a sensible man like Gurd talking about dolphins.


"What about them?"


"Dandelion. When she brought me medicine. She said the dolphins said the Orcs were already in my tavern."


"They were talking about Horm. Samanatius and Lisutaris have already discussed it."


"Samanatius? The philosopher?"


"The same. Apparently he's a repository of knowledge on the subject. No surprise really. Anyone foolish enough to teach philosophy in Twelve Seas might as well spend his time talking to dolphins. God knows why Lisutaris was wasting her time with him. Anyway, it's out in the open now. Horm's probably been popping in and out regularly while Lisutaris has been sick. He's good with his concealment spells, unfortunately."


There's a delicate knock on the door. Moolifi comes in, once more carrying a tray with medicine. Gurd struggles to raise himself in his bed. I help him up, and he puts the beaker to his lips. He thanks her, in his polite Barbarian way, and she departs.


"She's been a help," he whispers. "I wouldn't have expected her to."


"Me neither. Fancy singer that she is. Didn't expect to see her slinging herbal potions to the masses. Maybe she's taken a shine to us all since hooking up with old Rallee."


Gurd grins.


"Rallee. How often did we all fight together?"


"Plenty of times."


Gurd lies back down.


"We'll do it again. When I'm better."


"We will. The Orcs will be sorry they showed their faces. You don't take on Thraxas, Gurd and Rallee without regretting it quickly enough."


Gurd suddenly frowns.


"This game tonight. With Horm. Don't lose Makri. And don't let anything happen to the tavern."


"I won't."


I leave Gurd to sleep. Upstairs my office is still full of people. Sitting around my desk are Cicerius, Hansius, Lisutaris, Coranius, Tirini, Anumaris, Hanama, Makri, and Samanatius. Lisutaris still has a blanket draped round her shoulders, though Hanama appears to be well on the way to recovery. A hearty fire is burning in the hearth. There's a bottle on the table and each of them has a small silver cup in front of them.


"Thraxas. Join us for a drink."


I stare at the bottle suspiciously.


"The Abbot's Special Distillation? Makri, have you been stealing drink from my supply?"


"Certainly not," declares Makri. "Although as I'm about to be gambled away as bride of Horm, I wouldn't have thought you'd begrudge me it."


"I took it," says Lisutaris. "You should know it's no use trying to hide alcohol from a Turanian Sorcerer. We were just about to drink to your success tonight."


"Really?" I feel quite flattered. It's not every day the Deputy Consul drinks to my success.


The inside door opens, revealing Captain Rallee and Moolifi.


"Moolifi told me what's going on. You're gambling with Makri?"


"Yes," says Cicerius. "We're drinking to Thraxas's good fortune."


The Captain walks over and parks himself at the desk, squeezing himself and Moolifi in at the corner.


"He'll need it. There's a lot of good players coming here tonight."


It's true, there are. I'm expecting to vanquish them all, but in terms of my bargain with Horm, I don't need to. I just need to beat him. Whichever one of us lasts longest at the table wins our bet. It's quite possible that after I've taken all Horm's money, forcing him out of the game, I could then lose to Praetor Capatius, or General Acarius, but even if that happens, it won't affect the deal regarding Makri and the Ocean Storm.


Captain Rallee raises his glass.


"Good luck," he says, and we drink.


"I'm still working on some way to get the Ocean Storm out of Horm's hands," says Lisutaris. "He's got a lot of magic protecting it, but I'm sure we can come up with something."


"So try not to lose too quickly," says Coranius.


"I'm not going to lose at all."


I brandish my illuminated staff.


"You see this? I won it from an Elf lord, on a boat in the middle of the ocean while I was sharing a cabin with Makri. About as stressful a situation as a man could face, and I still came out on top."


At that moment Dandelion arrives, with potion. She's concerned to find Lisutaris and Hanama drinking klee.


"Stop fussing," says Lisutaris. "We're getting better. But thanks for looking after us."


"Indeed," says Hanama. "Thank you."


I'm quite startled to hear the Assassin saying thanks. Maybe the bout of the malady has brought her a little humility. No bad thing, though she'll probably be back to killing people in a day or two.


The door bursts open again. There was a time when my office was a private place. Now it's busier than the senate. It's Sarin the Merciless. She's not looking healthy, and she's not displaying any humility either, though at least she's not pointing a crossbow at anyone.


"What's this I hear about Thraxas playing cards with Horm for the Ocean Storm?" she demands.


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