Edited by Robert Lynn Asprin. Cover art by Gary Ruddell. Cover: Hanse Shadowspawn at Eaglenest. Thieves' World The plot thickens Thieves' World Offutt Epilog by Robert Lynn Asprin. About the Author :: Robert Asprin. Links Robert Asprin. The inside was dark. No one in there to light it Just go on.
But go first. The pair of them stood in front of him.
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Mradhon calculated his chances, slipped his own knife into its sheath and went, with a prickling sensation at his nape-a short step up to the floor with the man at his back, a flash of the eye about the single room, the tattered faded curtain at the end that could conceal anything; the woman; a single cot this side, clothing hung on pegs, water jugs, pots and pan-. The woman was the finer image of the man, dark hair cropped close as his, like twins-brother and sister at least. He turned. The brother shut the door behind him with a push of his foot.
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The man wore one. There was some clothing, not abundant. He fingered the cloak, letting them follow his train of thought, and looked at them again, folded his arms and leaned back against the wall. I work cheap-to start. Room and board. But times change. Better days might come. For all of us.
She sat down on the cot, and that put their hands on different levels, at different angles to his vision. He recognized the stalking and the angle the man occupied between him and the door, the curtain at his shoulder, so he moved again a couple of paces along the wall, slipped his hands both into his belt but the one not far from his knife and shrugged with a wry twist of his mouth. What coin? Not likely the Hell Hounds or any of that ilk. My last hire turned sour, and a post in the guard-no.
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Not with your complexion-or mine. No better service I can think of-than a man who might be building back from a little difficulty. But one of those hawkmasks might suit me. Then the curtain moved, and a darkskinned man in a hawkmask stood there with a sword aimed floorward in his hand.
It served, when it was convenient. He gripped the knife and let it go again. She tucked her feet up within her arms. He sat down on the edge of the firepit, making himself easy when his instincts were all otherwise.
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What the deal is for. From days before the trouble. I dealt with a man named Stecho.
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He shrugged. Possibly someone talked. Or someone knew a face. Not now. And the end of that would be very bad. Go back to your lodgings. For now, go there. The woman uncurled from the cot, fished a bit from the purse she wore and offered it to him. He took it, snatched it from her fingers without a look, and strode for the door. Mor-am got out of his way and he opened it, stepped out into the foul wind and the dark and the reek of the alley, and walked, out onto the main way again. Doubtless one of them would follow him. His mind seethed with possibilities, and murder was one.
He sensed that. But there was the chance too that the hire was real: their casualties were real, and they could not get too many offers now. He padded as quickly as he could toward his own territory down the main road, down which the last few stragglers moved, homeless and searching, muddle-minded, some, which kleetel left of one when its use had been too long; or moving with purpose it was unwise to stare at. He strode along in a world of faceless shapes and lightless buildings, everything anonymous as himself.
Hooves sounded in the dark, moving in haste, and in a moment the streets were clear, himself among the lurkers that hid along the alleys: a. They were gone in a moment and life poured back onto the street.
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He wanted out-desperately he thought of Garonne-if he had had the funds. But they hunted spies. War with Nisibis was on them. Something in him shivered, remembering the hire he had just accepted, pay which had set him against the new occupants of the estate. The alleyways unwound, almost home territory now. A dry spitting attended his lack of charity. Then for one heart-stopped moment he heard a sound behind, and turned, but there was nothing but the moon on a muddy alley and the tilt-walled buildings leaning together like some fever dream of hell in the dark.
Followed, he thought. He walked into that alley and Tygoth was there, to his relief, a hulking stick-carrying shadow making his rounds. Tygoth rapped against the wall with his stick. Mradhon laid the nightly fee in the huge palm, and the sturdy fingers closed. With greatest care he went inside and set it in its place. Mradhon looked after that shambling shadow, then went in and barred the door.
So he had a bit of silver to bolster his dwindling coppers, and a bar on the door for the night, but it was in his mind that this Mor-am and Moria would change their lodgings tonight and not show up again. He hoped. It was more surety than he had had the day before. In the safety of his room he pinched out all but the nightwick and lay down to his sleep, hoping for sleep, but knowing that there would be dreams.
There always were. He dreamed her walking the streets of Downwind this time, her black robes unsullied, and the stench became the musk that surrounded her, like the smell of blood, like the smell of dead flowers or old, dusty halls. He waked in sweat, more than once. He lay awake and stared into the dark: the draft had put the wick out. It always did. He reminded himself that there was the silver; he felt it in the dark, like a talisman, proving that that meeting had been real.
He needed anonymity and gold. He needed power that could put locks on doors. He put fanatic hope in this Jubal, who had once had both.
Whenever he shut his eyes he dreamed. Eichan occupied the cot, crosslegged, arms wrapped about his huge chest, his dark head lowered, uncommunicative. What could be done had been done. They waited. And finally the scurrying came in the alley outside, which brought heads up and got Moram and Moria to their feet: no attack, not likely. Two of their own were on the street now, watching. Keep on it. She trembled with rage, whether at Eichan or at her brother. He towered, difficult to conceal if one suspected it was Eichan. You live in it. And watch yourselves. The latch dropped. The lampflame waved shadows round the walls.
Moria turned round and looked at her brother, a burning stare.