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It sped true.
Lol spurred on swiftly, as we had agreed, and I ran in after him, hurdling the fallen men, for the Fristles
may have cat-faces, but they are men and can prove it. Inside the gateway the wooden walls stretched,
and ahead showed shadows under brickwork, arches and galleries. That looked promising and so I ran
 fast, you may be sure  expecting an arrow to float silently down any mur and knock my brains out.
I reached the brick, gray with age and round-edged, and ducked into the shadows. A totrix snuffled and
Lol said,  All clear.
 Well done. Now let us get on.
From previous experience of the uniquely Kregen architecture of palace and castle I expected us to be
able to move about with comparative freedom provided no alarm was raised. The alarm was going to be
raised in no uncertain fashion the moment the first of the Fristle guards was discovered. So we must tailor
our cloth to suit the narrowness of our movements.
This rat s warren of Trakon s Pillars turned out to be something of a surprise, in the end, for we
ventured through courts of moldering brick and past colonnades of gilded wood where every motif
shrieked of one thing and one thing only.
Jikaida.
Our bedraggled appearance which had served to give us time to fell the Chuliks had vanished with the
donning of their guard uniforms provided by Jhansi. We moved smartly, with that unmistakable swagger
of the mercenary drawing swift, half-averted glances from serving wenches, free and slave alike. For a
space we could proceed unmolested. The totrix was like to be a hindrance but we were loath to part
with the steed against his immediate and urgent need in the near future. Past tumbled ruins, past
brand-new buildings, freshly lime-washed, we went, seeking always to come to the center. There, we
both felt, lay the answers to our dual questions.
We skirted several courts laid out as Jikaida boards of various sizes. Not one was in use this early in the
morning. An ob-Deldar moved bulkily out of an arched doorway and bellowed at us, and we ignored
him and marched on as though about the kov s business. Later on we were accosted again, this time by a
thin-nosed and supercilious Hikdar. His misfortune was that he snapped at us in an alleyway between
ochreberry bushes, and so had no protection from inquisitive eyes as we clapped him down in his cape
and sat on him. He struggled like a landed fish.
 Dom, I said, very friendly.  Tell us where the captives are stowed away and you may live.
He started to bluster and then to yell as soon as Lol took his clamping hand away. Lol tapped him
alongside the skull, gently, put his fist back over the fellow s mouth, and, leaning down with a fierceness
that perfectly complemented my apparent gentleness, said,  If you do not instantly tell us what we wish to
know, and do so quietly, you will miss  Well, what he would miss would make him miss a lot of life
hereafter. The Hikdar was happy, most happy, to tell Lol what he wanted to know.
Leaving the Hikdar stuffed under the ochreberry bushes we led the totrix through ways advised us until
we passed a neat little pavilion reflected in a goldfish pool. Past a tall yew hedge a gravel path led to a
small wicket set in a creeper-bowered brick wall. Here the sentry eyed us as Lol, most officiously, said:
 We have news for the kov, dom. You had best not keep him waiting.
The guard  one of that nameless band of heroes whose sole function, as I have pointed out before,
seems to be to stand all puffed in gold and silver finery, with a spear, and to be knocked on the head 
was inclined to argue. He was also incautious enough to open the wicket to make his point with great
vehemence. Lol hit him, whereupon he ceased to be an obstacle and we were able to pass inside.
 Now where?
 We must ask again, and keep asking, until we get the answer we seek.
 You have, majister, I think, said Lol,  done this before.
 On and off, I said.  On and off.
But, the truth is, and will remain, that no two occasions are ever the same. And, every time, the old
gut-tightening sensations afflict you and you have to keep a damned sharp lookout behind you. Damned
sharp.
The bustle of the place was refreshing after the dolorous dragging down effect of the bogs. Slaves and
servants and guards moved about and we were able to make our way forward. A swod with purple and
green sleeves told us that, he thought, the prisoners were confined in dungeons where the rasts nested
and the schrafters sharpened their teeth on the bones of corpses.
 The lady prisoner, cramph!
The swod rolled his eyes down, trying to focus the dagger pressing into his throat.  In the Lattice
House, he squeaked.
So we went to the Lattice House.
This turned out to be a brick-built structure whose bricks were still sharp-cornered, and whose roof was
tile rather than wood or thatch. We stopped by the corner of a gravel path, where brilliantly plumaged
arboras strutted, and took in the prospects of breaking in. Lol was shaking.
 Easy, Lol. We are almost there.
 Aye. I haven t even thought of getting out.
 One thing at a time. [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]