Thraxas / Траксас: Дванадесета глава

Английски оригинал Перевод на български

Chapter Twelve


I present a desperate figure as I march into Quintessence Street. The stink from my disgusting sewage-encrusted clothes is unbearable and I'm obsessed with the desire to be clean and to wash the terrible experience out of my system. Down a small alleyway is the public baths. I know the manager well but that doesn't mean she's pleased to see me striding in looking like an apparition from hell.


"Need a wash," I say as I march past her, ignoring her protests and admonitions for me not to go anywhere near her pool in my condition. Bathers scatter like the rats in the sewer as I make my appearance. Mothers grab their small children out of the water in panic as I walk fully clothed into the water. People scream abuse. There are calls for someone to fetch the Civil Guard to protect them from the plague carrier who's just poisoned their bath.


Ignoring them all, I sink under the warm water and roll around, rubbing the filth from my skin and my clothes. As I let the heat take away some of the tension, I feel some gratitude towards the King. He doesn't do much for the miserable poor of Twelve Seas, but at least he built us a good bathing house.


Some time later I emerge clean, my clothes in my hands. I wrap my now sadly bedraggled cloak around my frame and march out, still ignoring the abuse poured on me from all directions.


"Thanks. Pay you tomorrow," I grunt at the manager, Ginixa, who is loudly promising a law suit against me for ruining her business.


Makri gapes as I appear at the Avenging Axe. "What happened to you?"


"Bad day in the sewers," I reply, grabbing a thazis stick on the way up to my rooms. I'm still high on shock and fear, and the effects of my using the sleep spell are starting to show. Spell casting is a tiring business. Even without the subsequent pursuit, putting those Society men to sleep in the alleyway would have taken it out of me. The episode in the sewers has completely worn me out. I need to lie down and sleep, but I'm too worked up to relax. I smoke the thazis in three long draws. Makri arrives with a beer, and in between gulps I finish off the last of my klee. The strong spirit burns my throat as it goes down.


Probably there are healthier methods of calming down than thazis, beer and klee, but none so quickly effective. By the time I've gone next door and dressed myself in some dry clothes I'm starting to return to my normal jovial self.


"Who was it?" enquires Makri.


"The Society of Friends. With a Sorcerer."


"They still think you've got the magic Cloth?"


I nod. There's a knock on the outside door. I answer it with a sword in one hand and a knife in the other. Outside is Karlox, the enforcer from the Brotherhood.


"What the hell do you want?"


"We hear you found the Cloth. Go a long way towards paying off your debts—" he begins.


"I don't have the damned Elvish Cloth!" I yell, slamming the door in his face.


"This is preposterous, Makri. Two Elves are paying me to find the stuff, and everyone else thinks I have it already. It's getting confusing. When I smoked that thazis I swear for a moment I started believing it myself. I'll kill that damned Kerk, it's all his fault. He spread the rumour that I stole it from Attilan."


I notice that Makri is no longer listening. The mention of the Elves has put her in a bad mood. I'm not certain why it's bothering her so much. Makri has experienced plenty of prejudice against her in the city, with customers downstairs always commenting on her Orcish blood. She doesn't like it but it doesn't usually make her unhappy for long. Often forgets it almost right after hitting the customer. What seems to make matters worse is the fact that it involves Elves. I guess Makri, being one third Elvish, and speaking their language, and detesting Orcs quite as much as they do, finds rejection by them particularly galling. I don't bother trying to cheer her up. Karlox's visit has put me in a pretty bad mood myself.


We light up some more thazis. Our mood improves a little.


"I think the Cloth is still in the city."


Makri points out that only yesterday I said this was impossible.


"I changed my mind. I don't know how, but that Cloth is in Turai. I can sense it."


"Very astute, Thraxas. Though I suspected as much myself when all these people started trying to kill you."


I tell Makri about the alligator.


"You're joking. There aren't really alligators in the sewers?"


I assure her there are. A wave of fatigue rolls over my body.


"I'm going to rest. The Society of Friends probably won't risk another open attack on me down here in Brotherhood territory, but if a Sorcerer with a sore leg comes looking for me, tell him I'm not in."


It's dark when I wake. A few thoughts of sewers and alligators come to mind but I banish them.


More important business calls, namely I'm hungry. Really, really hungry. I launch myself downstairs to investigate Tanrose's cooking. It's now late evening, and drinking at the Avenging Axe is in full swing.


Gurd is regaling some off-duty Civil Guardsmen with tales of the time he and a group of fellow mercenaries were trapped south of Mattesh and had to fight their way back to Turai through hundreds of miles of unknown terrain and whole armies of ferocious enemies. It's a true story actually, though I have noticed it does tend to grow in the telling.


Makri, chainmail bikini more or less in place, is gathering tankards and scooping up what looks like a fairly handsome tip from a group of sailors just back from the Southern Islands and full of the wonders they saw among the Elves. I head straight for the side of the bar where Tanrose sits selling her wares and cast a greedy eye over her food.


"Evening, Tanrose. I'll have a whole venison pie, a large portion of each vegetable and three slices of your apple pie with cream. No, better make that four slices. Tell you what, just give me the whole pie.


And you'd better give me a bowl of beef stew as well. Stick a few yams on the side will you? What's in the pastry? Pork and apple? Give me two of them, and I'll take six pancakes to mop up the sauce. No, make that eight pancakes and four pastries. Any cake? Pomegranate? Good, I'll have a slice to finish with. A large slice. No, larger. Okay, I'll take the whole cake."


"Had a busy day?" grins Tanrose, piling up a tray.


"Terrible. Couldn't stop for a bite to eat anywhere. Better make that two venison pies. If I don't eat


them Gurd'll only finish them off."


Vast tray of food in hand, I pick up a special "Happy Guildsman" jumbo-sized tankard of ale at the bar and retreat to a corner to eat. I have a powerful appetite. Satisfying it gives me intense pleasure.


"One whole venison pie feeds a family of four," comments Makri, passing with a tray.


"Not if I get there first," I reply, moving on to the pork and apple pastries, one of Tanrose's specialities. By now the beef stew has cooled sufficiently to let me mop it up with my pancakes, and I wash it all down with the rest of my ale, calling Makri over to bring me a second giant "Happy Guildsman" tankard to accompany my apple pie.


Some time later, pomegranate cake finished to the last crumb, third "Happy Guildsman" resting invitingly in front of me, I reflect that life is not so bad. Okay, you might get chased around sewers by the Society of Friends, but there's always Tanrose's cooking and Gurd's ale. Make a man glad to be alive.


Makri appears beside me during her break. She makes a few snide comments about my appetite, but I wave them away benevolently.


"You have to stay slim, Makri. You need a good shape under that bikini to earn tips from sailors.


Me, I need something more substantial. You can't solve crimes and face dangerous criminals with only a few morsels inside you. When people see me coming they know they've got a problem on their hands."


Makri grins. As usual she's carrying a purse on a long string over her shoulder for holding her tips, though I notice that today she has a new one, slightly larger than normal.


"Tips increasing?"


Makri shakes her head. "Same as ever. I'm using this to carry round some other money I've been collecting. Don't want to risk leaving it in my room."


"What money?"


"Contributions to the fund."




"You know. The fund for raising money to buy a Royal Charter for the Association of Gentlewomen."


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