Bleak Seasons

Bleak Seasons by Glen Cook

Book: Bleak Seasons by Glen Cook Read Free Book Online
Authors: Glen Cook
    Croaker examined my prizes. “Tell it.”
    I told it. “But I missed Narayan. I was this close. That bastard has a guardian angel. There’s no way he should have slipped Goblin’s sleep spell. We chased him for two days but even Goblin and One-Eye couldn’t hang onto his track forever.”
    “He had help. Maybe from his guardian demon. Maybe from his new buddy the Shadowmaster, too.”
    “How come they went back to the grove? How did you know they would be there?”
    I thought he would say a big black bird told him.
    They are less numerous these days but the crows still follow him everywhere. He talks to them. Sometimes they talk to him, too. So he says.
    “They had to come someday, Murgen. They are slaves to their religion.”
    But why this particular Festival of Lights? How did you know?
    I did not press. You don’t press Croaker. He has grown cranky and secretive in his old age. In his own Annals he did not always tell the whole truth about personal things, his age especially.
    He kicked the shadowweaver. “One of Longshadow’s pet spook doctors. You’d think he wouldn’t have enough left to waste them anymore.”
    “I don’t reckon he expected us to jump them.”
    Croaker tried to smile. He produced a nasty, sarcastic sneer instead. “He’s got lots of surprises coming.” He kicked the Deceiver. “Let’s don’t hide them. Let’s take them to the Palace. What’s the matter?”
    Ice had blasted my back, like I was out on the wind of the Grove of Doom again. I didn’t know why but I had a grim sense of foreboding.
    “I don’t know. You’re the boss. Anything special you want in the Annals?”
    “You’re the Annalist now, Murgen. You write what you have to write. I can always bitch.” Unlikely. I send everything over but I don’t think much gets read. He asked, “What was special about the raid?”
    “It was colder than a well-digger’s ass out there.”
    “And that walking sack of camel snot Narayan Singh got away from us again. So that’s what you write. Him and his kind are going to get back into our story before we’re done. When we’re roasting him, I hope. Did you see her? Was she all right?”
    “All I saw really was a bundle that Singh carried. I think it was her.”
    “Had to be. He never lets her out of his sight.” He pretended he did not care. “Bring them to the Palace.” That chill hit me again. “I’ll make sure the guards know you’re coming.”
    Thai Dei and I exchanged looks. This might get tough. People in the streets would recognize the prisoners. And the prisoners might have friends. And for sure they did have enemies by the thousand. They might not survive the trip. Or we might not.
    The Old Man said, “Tell your wife I said hello and I hope she likes the new apartment.”
    “Sure.” I shivered. Thai Dei frowned at me.
    Croaker produced a sheaf of papers rolled into a tube. “This came in from Lady while you were gone. It’s for the Annals.”
    “Someone must have died.”
    He grinned. “Bang it around and fit it in. But don’t polish it so much she gets all righteous again. I can’t stand it when she flays me with my own arguments.”
    “I learned the first time.”
    “One-Eye says he thinks he knows where he left his papers from when he thought he was going to have to keep the Annals.”
    “I’ve heard that one before.”
    Croaker grinned again, then ducked out.

    Four hundred men and five elephants swarmed around an incomplete stockade. The nearest friendly outpost lay a hard day’s march northward. Shovels gnawed the earth. Hammers pounded. Elephants swung timbers off wagons and helped set them upright. Only the oxen stood around, lazing in their harnesses.
    This nameless post was barely a day old, the newest point in the relentless Taglian leapfrog into the Shadowlands. Only its watchtower was complete. The lookout there scanned the southern horizon intently. There was an electric urgency in the air, a heaviness like the smell of

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