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worked so seldom. And he suspected that passions at the Makuraner assemblage,
if not inflamed now, would be soon.
Hardly had the thought crossed his mind when a great, furious roar arose
somewhere near the center of Across. He could make out no words in it, but
found himself less annoyed than he had been before. He did not think that
angry baying had any words in it, anymore than a pack of hounds cried out with
words when they scented blood.
On and on went the roar, now getting a little softer, now rising again to a
new peak of rage. Rhegorios chuckled. "What do you want to bet they're reading
through the whole list Abivard came up with?" he said.
"You're likely right," Maniakes answered. "When they shout louder it must be
because they've just come across some especially popular officer."
Abivard had come up with more than three hundred names. Reading them all took
a while. At last, silence fell. A moment later, fresh outcry broke out. Now,
for the first time, Maniakes could make out one word, shouted as part of a
rhythmic chant: the name of the Makuraner King of Kings.
"If that's not 'Dig up Sharbaraz's bones!' in Makuraner, I'm a shave-pated
priest,"
Rhegorios exclaimed.
Maniakes nodded. "Aye, that's the riot call, no doubt about it." He did
several steps of a happy dance, right there on the deck, and slammed his fist
into his open palm. "By the good god, cousin of mine, we did it!"
Where he was uncharacteristically delighted, Rhegorios was as
uncharacteristically restrained. "We may have done it," he said. "We've done
part of it, anyhow. But there are still thousands of boiler boys sitting right
here next to the
Cattle Crossing, only a long piss away from Videssos the city. Getting the
buggers out of the westlands and back where they belong is going to take a
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deal of doing yet."
A Makuraner burst out from among the buildings of Across and ran along the
beach. He utterly ignored the presence of the
Renewal not far offshore and well he might have, for three of his countrymen
were at his heels, their caftans flapping about them like wings as they ran.
The swords in their hands glittered and flashed in the sun.
The fleeing Makuraner, perhaps hearing them gaining on him, turned at bay,
drawing his own sword. As with most fights of one against three, this one did
not last long. He lay where he had fallen, his blood soaking the sand.
"Maybe their whole army will fall apart," Rhegorios said dreamily. "Maybe
they'll have their civil war here and now."
"Maybe," Maniakes said. "I don't think enough Makuraners will stay loyal to
Sharbaraz to make much of a civil war, though."
"Mm, something to that," Rhegorios admitted. "For so long, though, we've got
less than our due that I don't think the good god will be angry with me if I
hope for more than our due for a change." He shifted from theology to
politics, all in one breath: "I wish I knew which side the dead man was on,
and which the three who killed him."
Maniakes could not grant that wish, but the three Makuraners did, almost as
soon as it was uttered. They waved to the
Renewal, and bowed, and did everything they could to show they were well
inclined to Videssos. One of them pointed to the body of the man they had
killed. "He would not spit on the name of Sharbaraz Pimp of
Pimps!" he shouted, his voice thin across the water of the Cattle Crossing.
"Sharbaraz Pimp of Pimps." Now Maniakes, echoing the Makuraners, sounded
dreamy, his mind far away across the years. "When Sharbaraz was fighting
Smerdis, that's what his men called the usurper: Smerdis Pimp of Pimps. Now it
comes full circle." He sketched Phos' sun-sign, a circle itself, above his
heart.
"We have the rebellion," Rhegorios said. Solemnly, he and Maniakes and Thrax
clasped hands. As Rhegorios had said, success seemed strange after so many
disappointments.
The Makuraners on the beach were still shouting, now in bad Videssian instead
of their own language: "You Avtokrator, you come here, we make friends. No
more enemies no more." "Not yet," Maniakes shouted back. "Not yet. Soon."
A little breeze flirted with the scarlet capes of the Halogai and Videssians
of the
Imperial Guard as they formed three sides of a square on the beach near
Across. The sun mirrored off their gilded mail shirts. Almost to a man, they
looked wary, ready to fight: all around them, drawn up in far greater numbers,
stood the warriors of the
Makuraner field force.
The waters of the Cattle Crossing formed the fourth side of the square.
Sailors decked out in scarlet tunics for the occasion rowed Maniakes and
Rhegorios from the
Renewal to the shore. One of them said, "Begging your pardon, your Majesty,
but I'd sooner jump in a crate full of spiders than go over there."
"They won't do anything to me or the Sevastos." Maniakes kept his voice
relaxed, even amused. "If they do, they'll have our fathers to deal with, and
they know it." That was true. It was, however, the sort of truth that would do [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]