Thraxas and the Ice Dragon / Траксас и леденият дракон: Двадесет и първа глава

Английски оригинал Перевод на български

Chapter Twenty-One


Next morning I set off early. With no strong leads and not much to go on, it's time to start bothering people. I'm intending to talk to anyone who might know anything about Baron Mabados's family. I spend the next six hours doing precisely that. In the main I talk to servants, but also question the messenger who delivers letters to Mabados's mansion, an apprentice at the saddler where he has his horses outfitted, and a woman who's been hired to provide flower arrangements for his son's wedding. It costs me some bribe money but that can't be helped. Servants don't just gossip to strangers for free.


The saddler's apprentice introduces me to a another apprentice at the coach repair shop, where I manage to inspect the carriage that killed Alceten, which was damaged in the collision. It's a medium-sized phaeton, similar to the one Kublinos has lent to Lisutaris. These phaetons aren't very grand, and while there's a cover to provide shelter from the elements, they're quite open at the front. I'm not certain anyone could remain concealed while driving. There is a tall foot-guard. It might be possible to lie behind that, if you were small enough. Merlione did say that visibility was poor. I leave the repair shop unconvinced either way.


Thanks to Lisutaris, I've managed to secure an appointment with Daringos, the King's Chief Steward. He's too busy to spare me more than five minutes, but when I meet him by arrangement at the Assembly House, he's friendlier than I anticipated. He goes so far as to tell me he can understand why there might be suspicions about Alceten's death, as it was such a shocking and unexpected event.


"But I looked into it thoroughly, and it was an accident. Someone stole the carriage from Baron Girimos's grounds the night before. We haven't been able to find out the culprits, though it was probably some revellers from out of town. Elath can be boisterous during the tournament. Whoever took it abandoned it in the street. The horses were probably nervous, and they bolted. Probably startled by dogs, there are quite a few strays down there.


"Can you be sure it wasn't deliberate?" I ask.


"There was nothing to suggest it was. The senior record keeper, Zinlantol, saw it happen. She's a reliable witness."


"You don't think there could have been someone driving the carriage?"


"Of course not. Zinlantol would have seen him. Besides, why would anyone kill that poor young woman? I've investigated quite a few misdeeds in my time, and there's always a motive. No one had a motive for killing the Record Keeper's daughter. She didn't have an enemy in the world. I'm sure of that, I know the family."


"If the carriage was empty, could someone have startled the horses deliberately?"


The King's Chief steward is surprised at the suggestion, but retains his polite composure. "I suppose that would be possible, but again, someone would have seen it."


"Did you ask the local Sorcerers to look into it?"


"That's not really the sort of work our Sorcerers do," replies Daringos. "Especially with all the war preparations going on."


I can't find much fault with this. Back in Turai, the authorities probably wouldn't have investigated the matter any more thoroughly than Daringos has. Not for someone as unimportant as the Record Keeper's daughter. I've realised by now that I'm not going to learn anything here. I depart, feeling that I haven't made any progress. By the time I arrive back at Arichdamis's house I'm weary and looking forward to a rest before Makri's first fight in the late afternoon. I find her in the garden with Lisutaris, in the warm sun.


"I hope you're not giving any of that thazis to Makri. She has to fight today. Besides, I need it." I join them on the grass, with my back to the wall of the house.


"Busy day investigating?" asks Lisutaris.


"I asked questions all over town." I inhale from Lisutaris's thazis stick.


"What did you learn?"


"Mabados's saddler doesn't like him. He's late paying his bills."


"That's it?"


"Just about. I've never met such a bunch of poorly-informed servants and shopkeepers. Hardly a scrap of decent information. Although Mabados not paying his bills was a recurrent theme."


"Aristocrats are always like that," says Makri. "They're always late paying tradesmen."


"True. The saddler doesn't like Baron Vosanos either. He owes them a lot of money even though he's the richest man in town." I turn to Lisutaris. "I need your help." I describe the recent attack on Merlione.


"I wondered why Merlione was here last night," says Makri. "I thought it might be some sort of secret liaison."


"Very amusing Makri."


"Well, you fascinated her mother. If you sleep with the daughter as well, isn't that some sort of crime against the Gods?"


"You don't believe in our Gods. And could you abandon your attempts at humour? You've been sarcastic ever since you found out about me and Baroness Demelzos. I don't think it's that strange we had an affair."


"Everybody else does."


"Are you hoping I can look back in time," says Lisutaris. "To catch a glimpse of the crime?"


"Something like that."


"The kuriya has been unresponsive. I've already tried to find out who took Arichdamis's plans. I got nowhere. I knew the moons were going into a bad alignment but it's happened much quicker than I expected. I think my Guild's astronomical charts may be flawed."


"Could you find out who fired this?" I ask, showing Lisutaris the arrow. She studies it for a few moments, then shakes her head.


"Sorry, it's been touched by too many people. Iron-tipped arrows never retain much information about their past."


I shake my head in frustration. "Is there anything you could do?"


"Like what?"


"Something brilliant, worthy of the Head of the Sorcerers Guild. If I could just find out what Alceten was working on in the Royal Record House everything might fall into place."


Lisutaris rolls herself another thazis stick and thinks for a few moments. "When she was at the Record House, was she usually in one place?"


"She was working in one of the upstairs rooms. But it's a large room, and there are so many different documents in there I can't tell what she was doing."


"I might be able to narrow it down for you. Do you have anything that belonged to her?"


"Merlione gave me this." I take out a small, lace handkerchief. It looks incongruous in my large hand.


"Good," says Lisutaris. "This might be a help. Lace does retain a lot of information."


It's the first I've heard of it. Sometimes I think these Sorcerers just make it up as they go along. "If we leave soon we can visit the Record House before Makri's fight. We need to leave enough time for the bookmaker as well."


"How is our betting going?" asks the Sorcerer.


"Well. We had over 2,700 gurans. I had to use some for bribes today. And I'll keep back a little for our expenses. It still leaves us 2,500 for betting on Makri. Feel free to congratulate me on the brilliance of my gambling strategy."


"Congratulations on your brilliance," says Lisutaris. She doesn't really sound like she means it.


Outside a group of children are hanging around. They yell when we appear. "There she is!" The children stare at Makri, but when she takes a step forward they scream and run off.


"That was annoying," says Makri.


"At least they weren't throwing stones."


The children aren't the only ones interested in Makri. As we drive slowly through the town, pedestrians, catching sight of her, nudge their companions, and point.


"I'm starting to feel self-conscious."


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