Deadhouse Gates (Excerpt)

PROLOGUE

          What see you in the horizon’s bruised smear
          That cannot be blotted out
          By your raised hand?
                                                       The Bridgeburners
                                                       Toc the Younger

1163rd Year of Burn’s Sleep
Ninth Year of the Rule of Empress Laseen
Year of the Cull

Deadhouse Gates (2000)

Bantam Press (UK)

     He came shambling into Judgement’s Round from the Avenue of Souls, a misshapen mass of flies. Seething lumps crawled on his body in mindless migration, black and glittering and occasionally falling away in frenzied clumps that exploded into fragmented flight as they struck the cobbles.
     The Thirsting Hour was coming to a close and the priest staggered in its wake, blind, deaf and silent. Honouring his god on this day, the servant of Hood, Lord of Death, had joined his companions in stripping naked and smearing himself in the blood of executed murderers, blood that was stored in giant amphorae lining the walls of the temple’s nave. The brothers had then moved in procession out onto the streets of Unta to greet the god’s sprites, enjoining the mortal dance that marked the Season of Rot’s last day.
     The guards lining the Round parted to let the priest pass, then parted further for the spinning, buzzing cloud that trailed him. The sky over Unta was still more grey than blue, as the flies that had swept at dawn into the capital of the Malazan Empire now rose, slowly winging out over the bay towards the salt marshes and sunken islands beyond the reef. Pestilence came with the Season of Rot, and the Season had come an unprecedented three times in the past ten years.
     The air of the Round still buzzed, was still speckled as if filled with flying grit. Somewhere in the streets beyond a dog yelped like a thing near death but not near enough, and close to the Round’s central fountain the abandoned mule that had collapsed earlier still kicked feebly in the air. Flies had crawled into the beast through every orifice and it was now bloated with gases. The animal, stubborn by its breed, was now over an hour in dying. As the priest staggered sightlessly past, flies rose from the mule in a swift curtain to join those already enshrouding him.
     It was clear to Felisin from where she and the others waited that the priest of Hood was striding directly towards her. His eyes were ten thousand eyes, but she was certain they were all fixed on her. Yet even this growing horror did little to stir the numbness that lay like a smothering blanket over her mind; she was aware of it rising inside but the awareness seemed more a memory of fear than fear now alive within her.
     She barely recalled the first Season of Rot she’d lived through, but had clear memories of the second one. Just under three years ago, she had witnessed this day secure in the family estate, in a solid house with its windows shuttered and cloth-sealed, with the braziers set outside the doors and on the courtyard’s high, broken-glass-rimmed walls billowing the acrid smoke of istaarl leaves. The last day of the Season and its Thirsting Hour had been a time of remote revulsion for her, irritating and inconvenient but nothing more. Then she’d given little thought to the city’s countless beggars and the stray animals bereft of shelter, or even to the poorer residents who were subsequently press-ganged into cleanup crews for days afterwards.
     The same city, but a different world.
     Felisin wondered if the guards would make any move towards the priest as he came closer to the Cull’s victims. She and the others in the line were the charges of the Empress now—Laseen’s responsibility—and the priest’s path could be seen as blind and random, the imminent collision one of chance rather than design, although in her bones Felisin knew differently. Would the helmed guards step forward, seek to guide the priest to one side, lead him safely through the Round?
     ’I think not,’ said the man squatting on her right. His half-closed eyes, buried deep in their sockets, flashed with something that might have been amusement. ‘Seen you flicking your gaze, guards to priest, priest to guards.’
     The big, silent man on her left slowly rose to his feet, pulling the chain with him. Felisin winced as the shackle yanked at her when the man folded his arms across his bare, scarred chest. He glared at the approaching priest but said nothing.
     ’What does he want with me?’ Felisin asked in a whisper. ‘What have I done to earn a priest of Hood’s attention?’
     The squatting man rocked back on his heels, tilting his face into the late afternoon sun. ‘Queen of Dreams, is this self-centred youth I hear from those full, sweet lips? Or just the usual stance of noble blood around which the universe revolves? Answer me, I pray, fickle Queen!’
     Felisin scowled. ‘I felt better when I thought you asleep—or dead.’
     ’Dead men do not squat, lass, they sprawl. Hood’s priest comes not for you but for me.’
     She faced him then, the chain rattling between them. He looked more of a sunken-eyed toad than a man. He was bald, his face webbed in tattooing, minute, black, square-etched symbols hidden within an overall pattern covering skin like a wrinkled scroll. He was naked but for a ragged loincloth, its dye a faded red. Flies crawled all over him; reluctant to leave they danced on—but not, Felisin realized, to Hood’s bleak orchestration. The tattooed pattern covered the man—the boar’s face overlying his own, the intricate maze of script-threaded, curled fur winding down his arms, covering his exposed thighs and shins, and the detailed hooves etched into the skin of his feet. Felisin had until now been too self-absorbed, too numb with shock to pay any attention to her companions in the chain line: this man was a priest of Fener, the Boar of Summer, and the flies seemed to know it, understand it enough to alter their frenzied motion. She watched with morbid fascination as they gathered at the stumps at the ends of the man’s wrists, the old scar tissue the only place on him unclaimed by Fener, but the paths the sprites took to those stumps touched not a single tattooed line. The flies danced a dance of avoidance—but for all that, they were eager to dance.
     The priest of Fener had been ankle-shackled last in the line. Everyone else had the narrow iron bands fastened around their wrists. His feet were wet with blood and the flies hovered there but did not land. She saw his eyes flick open as the sun’s light was suddenly blocked.
     Hood’s priest had arrived. Chain stirred as the man on Felisin’s left drew back as far as the links allowed. The wall at her back felt hot, the tiles—painted with scenes of imperial pageantry—now slick through the thin weave of her slave tunic. Felisin stared at the fly-shrouded creature standing wordless before the squatting priest of Fener. She could see no exposed flesh, nothing of the man himself—the flies had claimed all of him and beneath them he lived in darkness where even the sun’s heat could not touch him. The cloud around him spread out now and Felisin shrank back as countless cold insect legs touched her legs, crawling swiftly up her thighs—she pulled her tunic’s hem close around her, clamping her legs tight.
     The priest of Fener spoke, his wide face split into a humourless grin. ‘The Thirsting Hour’s well past, Acolyte. Go back to your temple.’
     Hood’s servant made no reply but it seemed the buzzing changed pitch, until the music of the wings vibrated in Felisin’s bones.
     The priest’s deep eyes narrowed and his tone shifted. ‘Ah, well now. Indeed I was once a servant of Fener but no longer, not for years—Fener’s touch cannot be scrubbed from my skin. Yet it seems that while the Boar of Summer has no love for me, he has even less for you.’

Deadhouse Gates (2000)

Tor (USA)

     Felisin felt something shiver in her soul as the buzzing rapidly shifted, forming words that she could understand. ‘Secret… to show… now…’
     ’Go on then,’ the one-time servant of Fener growled,’show me.’
     Perhaps Fener acted then, the swatting hand of a furious god-Felisin would remember the moment and think on it often-or the secret was the mocking of immortals, a joke far beyond her understanding, but at that moment the rising tide of horror within her broke free, the numbness of her soul seared away as the flies exploded outward, dispersing in all directions to reveal… no-one.
     The former priest of Fener flinched as if struck, his eyes wide. From across the Round half a dozen guards cried out, wordless sounds punched from their throats. Chains snapped as others in the line jolted as if to flee. The iron loops set in the wall snatched taut, but the loops held as did the chains. The guards rushed forward and the line shrank back into submission.
     ’Now that,’ the tattooed man shakily muttered, ‘was uncalled for.’
     An hour passed, an hour in which the mystery, shock and horror of Hood’s priest sank down within Felisin to become but one more layer, the latest but not the last in what had become an unending nightmare. An acolyte of Hood… who was not there. The buzzing of wings that formed words. Was that Hood himself? Had the Lord of Death come to walk among mortals? And why stand before a once-priest of Fener—what was the message behind the revelation?
     But slowly the questions faded in her mind, the numbness seeping back, the return of cold despair. The Empress had culled the nobility, stripped the Houses and families of their wealth followed by a summary accusation and conviction of treason that had ended in chains. As for the ex-priest on her right and the huge, bestial man with all the makings of a common criminal on her left, clearly neither one could claim noble blood.
     She laughed softly, startling both men.
     ’Has Hood’s secret revealed itself to you, then, lass?’ the ex-priest asked.
     ’No.’
     ’What do you find so amusing?’
     She shook her head. I had expected to find myself in good company, how’s that for an upturned thought? There you have it, the very attitude the peasants hungered to tear down, the very same fuel the Empress has touched to flame-
     ’Child!’
     The voice was that of an aged woman, still haughty but with an air of desperate yearning. Felisin closed her eyes briefly, then straightened and looked along the line to the gaunt old woman beyond the thug. The woman was wearing her night-clothes, torn and smeared. With noble blood, no less. ‘Lady Gaesen.’
     The old woman reached out a shaking hand. ‘Yes! Wife to Lord Hilrac! I am Lady Gaesen…’ The words came as if she’d forgotten who she was, and now she frowned through the cracked make-up covering her wrinkles and her red-shot eyes fixed on Felisin. ‘I know you,’ she hissed. ‘House of Paran. Youngest daughter. Felisin!’
     Felisin went cold. She turned away and stared straight ahead, out into the compound where the guards stood leaning on pikes passing flasks of ale between them and waving away the last of the flies. A cart had arrived for the mule, four ash-smeared men clambering down from its bed with ropes and gaffs. Beyond the walls encircling the Round rose Unta’s painted spires and domes. She longed for the shadowed streets between them, longed for the pampered life of a week ago, Sebry barking harsh commands at her as she led her favourite mare through her paces. And she would look up as she guided the mare in a delicate, precise turn, to see the row of green-leafed leadwoods separating the riding ground from the family vineyards.
     Beside her the thug grunted. ‘Hood’s feet, the bitch has some sense of humour.’
     Which bitch? Felisin wondered, but she managed to hold her expression even as she lost the comfort of her memories.
     The ex-priest stirred. ‘Sisterly spat, is it?’ He paused, then dryly added, ‘Seems a bit extreme.’
     The thug grunted again and leaned forward, his shadow draping Felisin. ‘Defrocked priest, are you? Not like the Empress to do any temples a favour.’
     ’She didn’t. My loss of piety was long ago. I’m sure the Empress would rather I’d stayed in the cloister.’
     ’As if she’d care,’ the thug said derisively as he settled back into his pose.
     Lady Gaesen rattled, ‘You must speak with her, Felisin! An appeal! I have rich friends-
     The thug’s grunt turned into a bark. ‘Farther up the line, hag, that’s where you’ll find your rich friends!’
     Felisin just shook her head. Speak with her, it’s been months. Not even when Father died.
     A silence followed, dragging on, approaching the silence that had existed before this spate of babble, but then the ex-priest cleared his throat, spat and muttered, ‘Not worth looking for salvation in a woman who’s just following orders, Lady, never mind that one being this girl’s sister-’
     Felisin winced, then glared at the ex-priest. ‘You presume-
     ’He ain’t presuming nothing,’ growled the thug. ‘Forget what’s in the blood, what’s supposed to be in it by your slant on things. This is the work of the Empress. Maybe you think it’s personal, maybe you have to think that, being what you are…’
     ’What I am?’ Felisin laughed harshly. ‘What House claims you as kin?’
     The thug grinned. ‘The House of Shame. What of it? Yours ain’t looking any less shabby.’
     ’As I thought,’ Felisin said, ignoring the truth of his last observation with difficulty. She glowered at the guards. ‘What’s happening? Why are we just sitting here?”
     The ex-priest spat again. ‘The Thirsting Hour’s past. The mob outside needs organizing.’ He glanced up at her from under the shelf of his brows. ‘The peasants need to be roused. We’re the first, girl, and the example’s got to be established. What happens here in Unta is going to rattle every nobleborn in the Empire.’
     ’Nonsense!’ Lady Gaesen snapped. ‘We shall be well treated. The Empress shall have to treat us well-
     The thug grunted a third time—what passed for laughter, Felisin realized—and said, ‘If stupidity was a crime, lady, you would’ve been arrested years ago. The ogre’s right. Not many of us are going to make it to the slave ships. This parade down Colonnade Avenue is going to be one long bloodbath. Mind you,’ he added, eyes narrowing on the guards, ‘old Baudin ain’t going to be torn apart by any mob of peasants…”
     Felisin felt real fear stirring in her stomach. She fought off a shiver. ‘Mind if I stay in your shadow, Baudin?’
     The man looked down at her. ‘You’re a bit plump for my tastes.’ He turned away, then added, ‘But you do what you like.’
     The ex-priest leaned close. ‘Thinking on it, girl, this rivalry of yours ain’t in the league of tattle-tails and scratch-fights. Likely your sister wants to be sure you-’
     ’She’s Adjunct Tavore,’ Felisin cut in. ‘She’s not my sister any more. She renounced our House at the call of the Empress.’
     ’Even so, I’ve an inkling it’s still personal.’
     Felisin scowled. ‘How would you know anything about it?’
     The man made a slight, ironic bow. ‘Thief once, then priest, now historian. I well know the tense position the nobility finds itself in.’
     Felisin’seyes slowly widened and she cursed herself for her stupidity. Even Baudin-who could not have helped overhearing—leaned forward for a searching stare. ‘Heboric,’ he said. ‘Heboric Light Touch.’
     Heboric raised his arms. ‘As light as ever.’
     ’You wrote that revised history,’ Felisin said. ‘Committed treason-’
     Heboric’s wiry brows rose in mock alarm. ‘Gods forbid! A philosophic divergence of opinions, nothing more! Duiker’s own words at the trial—in my defence, Fener bless him.’
     ’But the Empress wasn’t listening,’ Baudin said, grinning. ‘After all, you called her a murderer, and then had the gall to say she bungled the job!’
     ’Found an illicit copy, did you?’
     Baudin blinked.
     ’In any case,’ Heboric continued to Felisin, ‘it’s my guess your sister the Adjunct plans on your getting to the slave ships in one piece. Your brother disappearing on Genabackis took the life out of your father… so I’ve heard,’ he added, grinning. ‘But it was the rumours of treason that put spurs to your sister, wasn’t it? Clearing the family name and all that-
     ’You make it sound reasonable, Heboric,’ Felisin said, hearing the bitterness in her voice but not caring any more. ‘We differed in our opinions, Tavore and I, and now you see the result.’
     ’Your opinions of what, precisely?’

Deadhouse Gates (2000)

Bantam Press (UK)

     She did not reply.
     There was a sudden stirring in the line. The guards straightened and swung to face the Round’s West Gate. Felisin paled as she saw her sister—Adjunct Tavore now, heir to Lorn who’d died in Darujhistan—ride up on her stallion, a beast bred out of Paran stables, no less. Beside her was the ever-present T’amber, a beautiful young woman whose long, tawny mane gave substance to her name. Where she’d come from was anyone’s guess, but she was now Tavore’s personal aide. Behind these two rode a score of officers and a company of heavy cavalry, the soldiers looking exotic, foreign.
     ’Touch of irony,’ Heboric muttered, eyeing the horsesoldiers.
     Baudin jutted his head forward and spat. ‘Red Swords, the bloodless bastards.’
     The historian threw the man an amused glance. ‘Travelled well in your profession, Baudin? Seen the sea walls of Aren, have you?’
     The man shifted uneasily, then shrugged. ‘Stood a deck or two in my time, ogre. Besides,’ he added,’the rumour of them’s been in the city a week or more.’
     There was a stirring from the Red Sword troop, and Felisin saw mailed hands close on weapon grips, peaked helms turning as one towards the Adjunct. Sister Tavore, did our brother’s disappearance cut you so deep? How great his failing you must imagine, to seek this recompense… and then, to make your loyalty absolute, you chose between me and Mother for the symbolic sacrifice. Didn’t you realize that Hood stood on the side of both choices? At least Mother is with her beloved husband now… She watched as Tavore scanned her guard briefly, then said something to T’amber, who edged her own mount towards the East Gate.
     Baudin grunted one more time. ‘Look lively. The endless hour’s about to begin.’
     It was one thing to accuse the Empress of murder, it was quite another to predict her next move. If only they’d heeded my warning. Heboric winced as they shuffled forward, the shackles cutting hard against his ankles.
     People of civilized countenance made much of exposing the soft underbellies of their psyche—effete and sensitive were the brands of finer breeding. It was easy for them, safe, and that was the whole point, after all: a statement of coddled opulence that burned the throats of the poor more than any ostentatious show of wealth.
     Heboric had said as much in his treatise, and could now admit a bitter admiration for the Empress and for Adjunct Tavore, Laseen’s instrument in this. The excessive brutality of the midnight arrests—doors battered down, families dragged from their beds amidst wailing servants—provided the first layer of shock. Dazed by sleep deprivation, the nobles were trussed up and shackled, forced to stand before a drunken magistrate and a jury of beggars dragged in from the streets. It was a sour and obvious mockery of justice that stripped away the few remaining expectations of civil behaviour—stripped away civilization itself, leaving nothing but the chaos of savagery.
     Shock layered on shock, a rending of those fine underbellies. Tavore knew her own kind, knew their weaknesses and was ruthless in exploiting them. What could drive a person to such viciousness?
     The poor folk mobbed the streets when they heard the details, screaming adoration for their Empress. Carefully triggered riots, looting and slaughter followed, raging through the Noble District, hunting down those few selected highborns who hadn’t been arrested—enough of them to whet the mob’s bloodlust, give them faces to focus on with rage and hate. Then followed the reimposition of order, lest the city take flame.
     The Empress made few mistakes. She’d used the opportunity to round up malcontents and unaligned academics, to close the fist of military presence on the capital, drumming the need for more troops, more recruits, more protection against the treasonous scheming of the noble class. The seized assets paid for this martial expansion. An exquisite move even if forewarned, rippling out with the force of Imperial Decree through the Empire, the cruel rage now sweeping through each city.
     Bitter admiration. Heboric kept finding the need to spit, something he hadn’t done since his cut-purse days in the Mouse Quarter of Malaz City. He could see the shock written on most of the faces in the chain line. Faces above nightclothes mostly, grimy and filthy from the pits, leaving their wearers bereft of even the social armour of regular clothing. Dishevelled hair, stunned expressions, broken poses -everything the mob beyond the Round lusted to see, hungered to flail-
     Welcome to the streets, Heboric thought to himself as the guards prodded the line into motion, the Adjunct looking on, straight in her high saddle, her thin face drawn in until nothing but lines remained—the slit of her eyes, the brackets around her uncurved, almost lipless mouth—damn, but she wasn’t bom with much, was she? The looks went to her young sister, to the lass stumbling a step ahead of him.
     Heboric’s eyes fixed on Adjunct Tavore, curious, seeking something—a flicker of malicious pleasure, maybe—as her icy gaze swept the line and lingered for the briefest of moments on her sister. But the pause was all she revealed, a recognition acknowledged, nothing more. The gaze swept on.
     The guards opened the East Gate two hundred paces ahead, near the front of the chained line. A roar poured through that ancient arched passageway, a wave of sound that buffeted soldier and prisoner alike, bouncing off the high walls and rising up amidst an explosion of terrified pigeons from the upper eaves. The sound of flapping wings drifted down like polite applause, although to Heboric it seemed that he alone appreciated that ironic touch of the gods. Not to be denied a gesture, he managed a slight bow.
     Hood keep his damned secrets. Here, Fener you old sow, it’s that itch 1 could never scratch. Look on, now, closely, see what becomes of your wayward son.
     Some part of Felisin’s mind held on to sanity, held with a brutal grip in the face of a maelstrom. Soldiers lined Colonnade Avenue in ranks three deep, but again and again the mob seemed to find weak spots in that bristling line. She found herself observing, clinically, even as hands tore at her, fists pummelled her, blurred faces lunged at her with gobs of spit. And even as sanity held within her, so too a pair of steady arms encircled her-arms without hands, the ends scarred and suppurating, arms that pushed her forward, ever forward. No-one touched the priest. No-one dared. While ahead was Baudin—more horrifying than the mob itself.
     He killed effortlessly. He tossed bodies aside with contempt, roaring, gesturing, beckoning. Even the soldiers stared beneath their ridged helmets, heads turning at his taunts, hands tightening on pike or sword hilt.
     Baudin, laughing Baudin, his nose smashed by a well-flung brick, stones bouncing from him, his slave tunic in rags and soaked with blood and spit. Every body that darted within his reach he grasped, twisted, bent and broke. The only pause in his stride came when something happened ahead, some breach in the soldiery—or when Lady Gaesen faltered. He’d grasp her arms under the shoulders, none too gently, then propel her forward, swearing all the while.
     A wave of fear swept ahead of him, a touch of the terror inflicted turning back on the mob. The number of attackers diminished, although the bricks flew in a constant barrage, some hitting, most missing.
     The march through the city continued. Felisin’s ears rang painfully. She heard everything through a daze of sound, but her eyes saw clearly, seeking and finding—all too often -images she would never forget.
     The gates were in sight when the most savage breach occurred. The soldiers seemed to melt away, and the tide of fierce hunger swept into the street, engulfing the prisoners.
     Felisin caught Heboric’s grunting words close behind her as he shoved hard: ‘This is the one, then.’
     Baudin roared. Bodies crowded in, hands tearing, nails clawing. Felisin’s last shreds of clothing were torn away. A hand closed on a fistful of her hair, yanked savagely, twisting her head around, seeking the crack of vertebrae. She heard screaming and realized it came from her own throat. A bestial snarl sounded behind her and she felt the hand clench spasmodically, then it was gone. More screaming filled her ears.
     A strong momentum caught them, pulling or pushing-she couldn’t tell—and Heboric’s face came into view, spitting bloody skin from his mouth. All at once a space cleared around Baudin. He crouched, a torrent of dock curses bellowing from his mashed lips. His right ear had been torn off, taking with it hair, skin and flesh. The bone of his temple glistened wetly. Broken bodies lay around him, few moving. At his feet was Lady Gaesen. Baudin held her by the hair, pulling her face into view. The moment seemed to freeze, the world closing in to this single place.

Deadhouse Gates (2000)

Goldmann (Germany)

     Baudin bared his teeth and laughed. ‘I’m no whimpering noble,’ he growled, facing the crowd. ‘What do want? You want the blood of a noblewoman?’
     The mob screamed, reaching out eager hands. Baudin laughed again. ‘We pass through, you hear me?’ He straightened, dragging Lady Gaesen’s head upward.
     Felisin couldn’t tell if the old woman was conscious. Her eyes were closed, the expression peaceful—almost youthful -beneath the smeared dirt and bruises. Perhaps she was dead. Felisin prayed that it was so. Something was about to happen, something to condense this nightmare into a single image. Tension held the air.
     ’She’s yours!’ Baudin screamed. With his other hand grasping the Lady’s chin, he twisted her head around. The neck snapped and the body sagged, twitching. Baudin wrapped a length of chain around her neck. He pulled it taut, then began sawing. Blood showed, making the chain look like a mangled scarf.
     Felisin stared in horror.
     ’Fener have mercy,’ Heboric breathed.
     The crowd was stunned silent, withdrawing even in their bloodlust, shrinking back. A soldier appeared, helmetless, his young face white, his eyes fixed on Baudin, his steps ceasing. Beyond him the glistening peaked helms and broad blades of the Red Swords flashed above the crowd as the horsemen slowly pushed their way towards the scene.
     No movement save the sawing chain. No breath save Baudin’s grunting snorts. Whatever riot continued to rage beyond this place, it seemed a thousand leagues away.
     Felisin watched the woman’s head jerk back and forth, a mockery of life’s animation. She remembered Lady Gaesen, haughty, imperious, beyond her years of beauty and seeking stature in its stead. What other choice? Many, but it didn’t matter now. Had she been a gentle, kindly grandmother, it would not have mattered, would not have changed the mind-numbing horror of this moment.
     The head came away with a sobbing sound. Baudin’s teeth glimmered as he stared at the crowd. ‘We had a deal,’ he grated. ‘Here’s what you want, something to remember this day by.’ He flung Lady Gaesen’s head into the mob, a whirl of hair and threads of blood. Screams answered its unseen landing.
     More soldiers appeared—backed by the Red Swords -moving slowly, pushing at the still-silent onlookers. Peace was being restored, all along the line—in all places but this one violently, without quarter. As people began to die under sword strokes, the rest fled.
     The prisoners who had filed out of the arena had numbered around three hundred. Felisin, looking up the line, had her first sight of what remained. Some shackles held only forearms, others were completely empty. Under a hundred prisoners remained on their feet. Many on the paving stones writhed, screaming in pain; the rest did not move at all.
     Baudin glared at the nearest knot of soldiers. ‘Likely timing, tin-heads.’
     Heboric spat heavily, his face twisting as he glared at the thug. ‘Imagined you’d buy your way out, did you, Baudin? Give them what they want. But it was wasted, wasn’t it? The soldiers were coming. She could have lived-’
     Baudin slowly turned, his face a sheet of blood. To what end, priest?’
     ’Was that your line of reasoning? She would’ve died in the hold anyway?’
     Baudin showed his teeth and said slowly, ‘I just hate making deals with bastards.’
     Felisin stared at the three-foot length of chain between herself and Baudin. A thousand thoughts could have followed, link by link—what she had been, what she was now; the prison she’d discovered, inside and out, merged as vivid memory—but all she thought, all she said, was this: ‘Don’t make any more deals, Baudin.’
     His eyes narrowed on her, her words and tone reaching him, somehow, some way.
     Heboric straightened, a hard look in his eyes as he studied her. Felisin turned away, half in defiance, half in shame.
     A moment later the soldiers—having cleared the line of the dead—pushed them along, out through the gate, onto the East Road towards the pier town called Luckless. Where Adjunct Tavore and her retinue waited, as did the slave ships of Aren.
     Farmers and peasants lined the road, displaying nothing of the frenzy that had gripped their cousins in the city. Felisin saw in their faces a dull sorrow, a passion born of different scars. She could not understand where it came from, and she knew that her ignorance was the difference between her and them. She also knew, in her bruises, scratches and helpless nakedness, that her lessons had begun.