Kings of Morning

Kings of Morning by Paul Kearney Page A

Book: Kings of Morning by Paul Kearney Read Free Book Online
Authors: Paul Kearney
Tags: Fantasy
the King in the gardens. I was held responsible. That’s all, I swear it!’
    ‘Even I have heard of the Silima,’ Roshana said. She dropped her komis and stepped closer to Auroc. ‘And if I have heard of it, then it is no secret.’
    ‘It is the fastest way down to the streets,’ Auroc persisted. He wiped his brow. ‘It is a busy thoroughfare, yes, but all the easier to lose yourselves in.’
    ‘Auroc,’ Kurun whispered. He was weeping. ‘I meant no harm to you.’ His voice rose. ‘Masters, I know a better way.’
    ‘Shut your mouth –’ Auroc raged, and cocked his fist.
    ‘You will not strike him again,’ Roshana told the kitchen-master evenly. She turned to Kurun. Those beautiful eyes were hard as sunlight on snow. ‘Are you sure of this?’
    ‘Lady, you can kill me if I am wrong. But I know that you cannot leave the ziggurat by the Silima – there are guards at every junction. Folk of your caste are never seen there – you cannot go unnoticed, not all the way to the bottom. Auroc is sending you wrong.’
    ‘Is that it, my friend?’ Rakhsar asked softly. The scimitar-point never wavered. ‘Did Kouros dig the truth out of you?’
    ‘My – my prince,’ Auroc stammered, ‘I am your faithful servant.’
    ‘I bought you – that is as far as your faith goes. Now tell me, Auroc, what have you told Kouros of our excursion?’
    Auroc looked as lost as a landed fish. No words came. Rakhsar nodded grimly. ‘You see, Roshana, why I trust no-one? As long as loyalty can be bought by the deepest purse, Kouros will always outbid us.’
    Auroc finally collected himself. He glared down upon Kurun, in despair and sudden fury. ‘You stupid little fool. I was trying to help you. You would have risen under me, Kurun. We would have served under the sun together. Now you have killed us both.’
    ‘Not him. Me,’ Rakhsar said, and he thrust the scimitar into the kitchen-master’s throat.
    The tall Kefre stood there, eyes wide, hands flapping like wounded birds. His knees began to bend but the sword-blade held him upright. Blood gurgled out of his neck, the rent in his flesh widening around the steel of the scimitar. Then he sank, still upright, and slowly slid off the blade to collapse like a boneless heap of rags on the ground. Under him, the black pool opened out like the quickened blossoming of a flower.
    Rakhsar stepped back from it to save his shoes. He wiped clean his blade on the kitchen-master’s robe, then turned to Kurun with a face like an ivory mask. ‘You had better be right, boy, or I will make an end of you less neat than this.’
    Kurun’s tongue seemed frozen to the roof of his mouth. He squirmed, but the giant Ushau held him fast. Roshana was still looking at him, something desperate in her face now.
    ‘Kurun,’ she said gently. ‘Now you must tell us where to go.’
    T HEY TROD THE narrow corridors of the slave-city, mazing their way through the intestines of the ziggurat. They drew stares wherever they went; it was impossible to disguise the high-born nature of Rakhsar and Roshana. It was in their eyes, in their clothes, in the very way they walked. Resourceful though the twins might be, they had no real experience of life below the summit, and took it as no more than their due when the lesser inhabitants of the undercity drew back to let them pass, staring open-mouthed.
    Kurun was in the lead, still clasped in the arms of the ebony giant. He muttered directions to Ushau, picked a convoluted path towards the less inhabited regions of the undercity. In doing so, he steered close to the cliff of his knowledge of the place, taking the company down little-used tunnels and passageways. As they descended, so they began to hear through the very stone the rhythmic thump of the waterwheels far below, upon which thousands toiled to water the gardens of the Great King. The sound was like the ceaseless beat of some enormous heart.
    Here, the denizens of the dark ways were even more wary than

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