|Английски оригинал||Перевод на български|
We come to rest on a grey, shingled beach a little way west of the harbour walls. A few seabirds squawk noisily overhead as we arrive. It's a cold morning and the sky is dull. Though we're nearing the end of winter there's no sign of the temperature rising.
"We should find Kublinos," says Lisutaris.
We set off in search of the Harbour Sorcerer. The shingle crunches under our feet as we scramble along the shore. At the end of the beach we're faced with a problem. The harbour walls sweep up towards the cliffs, leaving no gap.
"How do we get in?" asks Makri, and looks towards Lisutaris as if the Sorcerer might levitate us over the walls.
Lisutaris purses her lips. "I'm not sure. Is there a gate?" She takes out her pouch of thazis and frowns as she rolls herself a small stick. "Just as well we reached civilisation. I've almost run out."
"I wouldn't get your hopes up," I tell her. "Thazis is illegal in Samsarina."
Lisutaris looks at me sharply. "I'm sure a supply will be forthcoming for the Head of the Sorcerers Guild."
"Maybe. Maybe not. Anyway, you probably shouldn't be smoking it when we arrive."
Lisutaris ignores me, and smokes her thazis stick as we walk along the foot of the walls. Finally we come to a small, locked door. Makri pounds on it. Nothing happens. Lisutaris frowns.
"I didn't cross the ocean in a leaky boat just to stand around on a cold beach for the rest of my life."
She raises her hand to cast a spell - which, I'm thinking, might not be the wisest thing to do, as no one likes having their harbour defences breached by strangers - when the door abruptly opens and a uniformed man stares at us suspiciously.
"Who are you?" he demands. Behind him I can see a few more guards with their weapons ready.
"Lisutaris, Mistress of the Sky, Head of the Sorcerers Guild," announces Lisutaris, grandly. "Take us to Harbour Sorcerer Kublinos."
To our surprise, the guard bursts out laughing. "You don't look like a Sorcerer." He turns his eyes on Makri, who, with her reddish skin, vast main of dark hair, pierced nose and man's tunic, does make for an unusual sight.
"What are you supposed to be?"
"Makri. Bodyguard to Lisutaris."
This produces further mirth. I shove my way to the front. "Do you have beer?'
Lisutaris turns her head towards me. "Could the beer wait for a moment, Thraxas?" she says, quite frostily. "Guards, take us to Kublinos. Turai has fallen and I must consult with your Sorcerers."
The guards let us through the gate, though they're still suspicious. Lisutaris is famous throughout the West, but I'm not sure that they believe the bedraggled figure at their gates really is her. I keep an eye out for beer as we're led through the walls and into a guard house. There's a long delay while soldiers and lieutenants come and go, asking Lisutaris questions, and sending off messages. Lisutaris comes close to losing her temper, and informs the lieutenant that if he doesn't hurry things along she'll prove who she is by causing his head to explode. As she's now looking angry enough to do it, he gets the message, and rushes off to fetch Kublinos.
Lisutaris grunts in annoyance. "I knew Samsarina would be like this," she mutters to Makri. "If you think women have a hard time in Turai, wait till you've been here a while."
I'm distracted by the sound of clashing swords. Several men are practicing their fighting technique in the courtyard below.
"Officers make you practice a lot?' I ask the guard who's been left with us.
"That's Basinos, sword fighting champion of the southern armies. He's getting ready for the tournament."
Of course, the great sword fighting tournament. I hadn't realised it was so close.
"Is he a favourite?" I'm always keen to pick up tips in case there's an opportunity for gambling.
"One of the best in Samsarina. But there are a lot of good fighters. I'd say Elupus the Simnian will win it again this year."
I've heard of Elupus, of course. He's won tournaments all over the West. Makri comes over to watch. After studying Basinos's combat technique for a few seconds, she makes a small sound of derision.
"His defence is weak," she says. "I'd send him packing soon enough."
The guard grins at me. Makri might be carrying two swords and an axe but he obviously doesn't imagine she knows how to use them. I grin back at him, because it's just struck me that while Makri is one of the most lethal sword-fighters ever to enter an arena, she's completely unknown in Samsarina. If she were to enter the tournament, no one would give her a chance. The bookmakers' odds would be immense. A man could make a fine profit by backing her.
Finally an officer arrives to take us to Kublinos. "Send ahead for beer," I tell him, but I don't think he's really paying attention. He leads us through narrow streets lined with fish vendors and sail-makers' shops. As we turn a corner he indicates a large, rather splendid looking building in the distance.
"Kublinos's official residence."
Lisutaris draws herself up as we approach. Bedraggled or not, she still exudes power and dignity as she strides through the gate of Kublinos's residence, where we're greeted by a uniformed attendant.
"Tell Kublinos that Lisutaris, Mistress of the Sky is here."
"And we need beer immediately," I add.
"Pardon?" The servant looks confused.
"We need beer. The head of the Sorcerers Guild has just survived a dangerous voyage across the ocean. I'm shocked that no one yet has offered us beer. Bring flagons."
Lisutaris purses her lips. "My eh… Chief Adviser Thraxas… is… " She shakes her head. "Just give him some beer. And take me to Kublinos."
Lisutaris and Makri disappear down the purple carpet that leads to the main staircase while I head downstairs with a kitchen servant.
"Does the Sorcerer require any particular sort of beer?" he enquires.
"Hard to say. Just bring them all and I'll sample them. And don't stint on the flagons, keep bringing them till I tell you to stop."
I will say this for the Samsarinans - they may be a bunch of rural bumpkins who spend most of their time plodding along in fields, but they do produce some fine beer. Dark and full of flavour. With six or seven flagons inside me, and the remnants of four loaves of bread on the table, I start to feel more like myself again. For the first time since I was forced to flee Turai, life seems not quite so hopeless.
"Of course," I say, quite loudly, to the servant who brings me my eighth flagon. "You can't blame a man for feeling hopeless if he's stuck on a boat with a crazy Orc, a depressed Sorcerer, and no beer. Stronger spirits than mine would have quailed. Do you have any more bread? A few yams maybe?"
I notice my flagon is empty. "What's the matter? Is there a beer shortage? The Head of the Sorcerers Guild isn't going to be pleased when she hears you've been stingy with the ale."
It seems to me that the servant is a little tardy in bringing my ninth large flagon, but I don't make a fuss. After all, I'm a guest in this country. To show my appreciation of their hospitality, I rise to my feet, fling my arm round his shoulder and draw him close.
"You Samsarinans are not as bad as everyone says. Fine beer you have. Clears a man's head. You know, when I was on that boat I thought of packing it all in. Just let the Orcs walk over us. But now - " I take out my sword. The servant, possibly misinterpreting this, attempts to wriggle free. " -I'll chase these damned Orcs all the way back to the dirt hills they came from. Right after you've brought me more beer. Try using a decent sized tankard this time. And more food, damn it, don't you know how to treat a guest in this country? Where's Lisutaris? I'm her adviser, I should be advising her."
The servant hands me another flagon of ale, then leads me back upstairs, where he shows me into a reception room and asks me to wait. I'm in no mood for waiting. I march swiftly through the large door in front of me, arriving in a stateroom containing Makri, Lisutaris, Kublinos the Harbour Sorcerer, and a few others.
"We've wasted enough time on these pointless discussions!" I cry, banging my sword on the huge ornate desk in the middle of the room. "It's time for action! We need to organise an army and march back to Turai."