Friday, June 01, 2007

Black Desert: Excerpt

Safina ma Raj had taken a flying leap off the minaret of Aludra’s central mosque, the Hagia Sarat, three days before Nyx drove into town.

Nyx got there in time for the blood arbiter’s dissemination of Safina’s possessions outside the same mosque, on the same stained stones where Safina’s body had burst like an overcooked blood melon. Safina’s twelve daughters and the beaten-up, battle scarred old man who passed for her husband had gathered in the square that morning for the reading, but the daughters were all tax clerks and the husband was deaf and blind, so though Eshe had some success trying to charm the clerks, none of the women had had contact with Safina in nearly a decade, and the husband was so grief stricken he merely put his hands over his face and sobbed.

Nyx walked with a cane, and had her hood up. She and her team lingered at the rear of Safina’s brood while the blood arbiter sorted through various daughters’ claims to their mother’s paltry wealth.

Yah Reza had given Nyx an extra long burnous with wide sleeves. It was also organic, which kept her a lot cooler, a good thing considering how much she had to cover herself up now. She was chewing sen, but the pain was still pretty bad, and her new skin itched like hell. Eshe stood next to her, looking anxious and girlish with his long hair and belled trousers. Suha sat on the lip of the fountain behind them, her hood up as well, pistols visible.

“So she’s dead,” Eshe said, passing Nyx a water bottle.

“Seems to be,” Nyx said. She shifted her weight to her right foot and leaned a little more on the cane. She hated the cane, but she figured she could always use it to bash somebody’s head in if she started feeling gimpy.

“You think the bel dames killed her?” Eshe asked.


“So now what?”

“Well, they did narrow our options.”

Nyx wished the bel dames had killed Safina before Nyx had Suha drive them all the way out to Aludra. It would have saved them a fistful of notes and some pretty precious time. The Queen’s “compensation” for Nyx’s appearance in Mushira had been generous, but the magicians in Faleen were asking for a trainload of bugs in return for her four days of reconstitution, and she wasn’t willing to work it all off at the morgues this time. The only reason Yah Reza had let her walk away was because she figured Nyx was still on good terms with the Queen, though what the hell gave her that impression, Nyx didn’t know. Maybe being alive after nearly assassinating the Queen’s security tech was enough.

“What happens if they killed the other bel dame too?” Eshe asked.

Nyx grinned and spit sen. “Oh no, they’re not going to kill the other one,” Nyx said. “Alharazad doesn’t die.”

Suha grunted. “You two should have a lot in common, then.”

“You wouldn’t believe,” Nyx said.

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