The Dragon's Path
love of the stage?”
Master Kit raised his eyebrows in an unspoken question. Off the stage and out of makeup, he was an interesting-looking man. He had a long face and steel-grey hair. The deep olive tone of his skin reminded Marcus of the Firstblood men who lived in the deserts across the Inner Sea, andhis eyes were so dark, Marcus suspected there might be Southling blood in his heritage somewhere not too far back.
“The prince wants to press me into his army,” Marcus said.
“I understand that,” Master Kit said. “We lost two of our company that way. Sandr’s our understudy. He’s been getting up before the sun reciting lines.”
“I’d rather not work for the prince,” Marcus said. “And as long as I have a legitimate contract, the issue won’t arise.”
“Refusing a press gang ends you up on the field or in a grave. And I’m not going in the field for Vanai.”
Master Kit frowned, great brows curving in like caterpillars.
“I hope you’ll forgive me, Captain. Did you just tell me this is a matter of life and death for you?”
“You seem very calm about that.”
“It’s not the first time.”
The actor leaned back in his chair, fingers laced over his flat belly. He looked thoughtful and sober, but also interested. Marcus took a swig of the beer. It tasted of yeast and molasses.
“I don’t think I can hide both of you,” Master Kit said. “You, perhaps. We have ways of making a man not seem himself, but a Tralgu this far west? If the prince knows to look for you, I’m afraid keeping with your friend is like hanging a flag on you. We’d be caught.”
“I don’t want to join your troupe,” Marcus said.
“No?” Master Kit said. “Then what are we talking about?”
At the other table, the long-haired woman stood on her chair, struck a noble pose, and began declaiming the Rite ofSt. Ancian in a comic lisp. The others all laughed, except Yardem, who smiled amusedly and flicked his ears. Cary. Her name was Cary.
“I want your troupe to join me. There’s a caravan to Carse.”
“We call ourselves a traveling company,” Master Kit said. “I think Carse is a good venue, and we haven’t been there in years. But I don’t see how putting us in your ’van helps you.”
“The prince took my men. I need you to replace them. I want you to act as guards.”
Master Kit laughed and shook his head.
“We aren’t fighters,” he said. “All that onstage is dance and show. Faced with a real soldier, I doubt we would acquit ourselves very well.”
“I don’t need you to
guards,” Marcus said. “I need you to
as them. Raiders aren’t stupid. They calculate their chances just the way anyone would. Caravans fall because they don’t have enough bodies in armor or they’re carrying something that makes it worth the risk. If we put your people in leather and bows, no one is going know whether they can use them. And the cargo we’re hauling isn’t worth a fight.”
“Tin and iron. Undyed wool. Some leatherwork,” Marcus said. “A man in the Old Quarter called Master Will put together an association of merchants to send out their goods as near the battle as they can and hope the fighting’s over before payment comes. It’s small and low-risk. If I were a raider, I wouldn’t look at it twice.”
“And the pay is good?”
“Very good,” Marcus said.
Master Kit crossed his arms, frowning.
“Well, it’s decent,” Marcus said. “For what it is. And it will get your people out of harm’s way. Even soft little gentlemen’s wars like this spill some blood, and you have women in your troupe.”
“I think Cary and Opal can look after themselves,” Master Kit said.
“Not if the city’s sacked. Princes and empires don’t care if a few actors get raped and killed. People like you are beneath their notice, and the foot soldiers know that.”
The actor looked at the larger table. Several conversations seemed to be going on simultaneously, some of the actors taking part in all of them. The older man’s gaze softened.
“I believe you, Captain.”
They sat in silence for a moment, only the roar of the fire in the grate, other voices raised in conversation, and the chill evening wind rattling the doors and windows. The chimney draw was poor, and it belched occasional puffs of smoke into the rooms. The actor shook his head.
“May I ask you something?” Master Kit
Weitere Kostenlose Bücher