Son Of The Black Sword – Snippet 36
Grand Inquisitor Omand was stuffed. Say what you would about his not-so-gracious host, but among his household servants was one of the best chefs in the Capitol. “Thank you the wonderful dinner, Durmad, but I’m afraid I really must be going. I’ve got a long journey ahead of me tomorrow.”
The Lord Archivist was terrified but trying not to show it. Having the leader of the Inquisition show up unannounced at your estate for dinner tended to have that effect on people. “Where are you going?”
“I have business in the north. Vadal lands.” Omand waved his hand dismissively. “As you know, an order’s work is never done.”
His host sat on the cushions, staring at the nervously picked at plate of food in front of him. The food was excellent, so Omand was sad it was going to waste. It would be rude to ask to finish Durmad’s plate, and besides, Omand was getting a little soft around the waist as he reached middle age. The lady of the house had already made some excuses and fled at the earliest opportunity. Even the servants were scared to come into the room to clean their plates.
“Well, it has been a pleasure to see you again, Omand…” the Lord Archivist said, hopeful that the Inquisitor was actually leaving now.
“Always. My only regret is that your eldest daughter was unable to join us.”
The Lord Archivist looked up and swallowed hard. “My daughter?”
“Yes, Radamantha, I believe is her name. I’ve been told she’s quite the lovely girl, takes after her mother. You truly have a beautiful family, Durmad. Don’t worry. I’m sure she’s just working late and she’ll be home soon.”
“She’ll be home soon?”
“Yes, that is what I said, isn’t it?”
The Lord Archivist, wide-eyed, nodded. Omand noted that there were crumbs in Durmad’s beard.
“Important work, preparing all those reports for the judges. I look forward to reading her findings on the casteless question. It will be good to have such an important topic presented by someone so respected for her thoroughness. See to it she finishes them in a timely manner. Take care of that girl of yours, Durmad, for I foresee a bright future ahead of her.” Omand stood up, adjusted his mask, and then gave his host a polite bow. “I’ll see myself out.”
Omand took his time strolling down the hall, admiring the artwork and the excellent wood carvings. The Lord Archivist stayed planted there, staring and sweating until Omand was out the door. Omand had no doubt that the instant he was out of sight the old man would send a runner to the library to make sure his precious daughter was still in one piece.
I love my job.
His driver, Inquisitor Taraba, was waiting outside the estate, standing next to the carriage, holding the door open for his superior. “How was your evening, sir?”
“Excellent. Finest spiced duck I’ve had in years, steamed in some sort of chewy leaf I’m not familiar with. Absolutely delightful. Find out who their chef is and steal him,” Omand ordered as he climbed into the carriage. Taraba closed the door behind him, and sure enough, waiting within the shadows was Sikasso.
He was sprawled across the carriage’s opposite seat as if taking a nap. Sikasso wasn’t a member of the Inquisition. Quite the contrary, he was a leader of an organization that wasn’t supposed to exist anymore, but if it did, would surely be an enemy of the Inquisition. The assassin was an average-sized, unassuming man, somewhere between the age of twenty and forty, with a completely forgettable face. Tonight he was dressed like a junior librarian, tomorrow he’d appear to be something else. Neither of them spoke until Taraba had whipped the horses and the carriage was rolling through the Capitol.
“It is done,” the magically enhanced killer said, revealing that he’d not been napping after all. “The girl at the library won’t be a problem.”
“Not a problem dead, or not a problem compliant?” He had, after all, insinuated she was still alive to the girl’s father, and he’d hate to have gotten it wrong. Omand had a reputation to keep up.
“Alive as requested. I’m not one of your masked thugs, out there carelessly breaking knees and thumbs. My people are artists. Besides, intimidating the firsters is easy. Most of them are so insulated from violence that even the suggestion of it makes them fold. She’d probably never been threatened before in her whole life. I’d have your men keep an eye on her, but I don’t think she’ll talk to anyone. All that easy living makes firsters soft.”
“I’ve found that to be true myself.” Over the years Omand had tortured confessions out of members of every social strata, from the lowest casteless scum to chief judges. Everyone cracked eventually, but the ones who were the least used to sweating and bleeding usually cracked first. “A fantastic evening all around then. Better her respected name on the report than some drunken fool who the judges will mock.” Omand reached into his robe and pulled out Sikasso’s payment. He tossed over the pouch. “Are you ready for our journey to Vadal?”
“I look forward to it,” the assassin said as he opened the pouch and studied the contents. If his Inquisitors had a smile as unnerving as Sikasso’s then there would be no need for them to wear masks. Satisfied that the black steel fragment was of the agreed upon weight, the pouch vanished from Sikasso’s hands. “When the Protector’s sword shatters, then we get the pieces.”
“When,” Sikasso stated. “The road you’re sending him down can only end in dishonor, and we’ll be there when it does. The fragments are mine.”
“That is fair.” An entire ancestor blade worth of magical black steel shards was worth a fortune, but so were the services of Sikasso’s organization. “You know my expected timeline.”
“I think your schedule is optimistic at best. I’ve killed more than my fair share of Protectors over the years, but I’ve always wanted to fight a bearer.”
Omand chuckled. “If everything goes according to my plan, you won’t need to.”
“You assume he’ll still do as he’s told. No man is that devoted to the Law, Inquisitor.”
“On the contrary, Wizard, from what I’ve learned of this Ashok, you might be surprised.”