Jimmy the Hand Part 33
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I suppose she's helped butcher a lot of pigs, Flora thought.
The men went down, twitching and moaning. Lorrie stood panting, the bloody sword in her hand.
The last mercenary stood watching his friends burn, and the sword dropped from his hand. His mouth worked as he backed away from the two women; then he turned to run.
His shins hit Kay's back at precisely the right height, and he catapulted forward and struck the flagstones with his face. From behind Kay, Mandy stepped forward, a poker in her hand; behind her Neesa came with a candlestick, and Rip with another, heavier one.
I'm getting tired of this, Jimmy thought.
The twin points glittered as they moved. Skinny had a slight bleeding cut over one knee, but it just seemed to make him madder. 'My gold,' he wheezed, as he came forward again.
'I'll handle him,' Jarvis Coe said, stepping in beside him.
Skinny and Jimmy both glanced aside. Rox lay slumped against the wall, legs straight out in front of him, looking down as he clutched at his belly with both hands. Blood flowed out between his fingers.
'You get the sacrifice free!' Coe barked. 'Goddess, this is like trying to block four holes with one plug!'
Skinny screamed something and attacked; Jimmy skipped aside willingly.
It was a big room, and the one beyond it was even bigger. Jimmy needed six paces to reach the magician who stood at the foot of the table, hands raised. There was a crawling nimbus about him, more like darkness in a man's shape than anything else. He leapt forward in an immaculate long-lunge.
Can't chant with two feet of steel through his lungs, he reasoned.
One of the upraised hands moved. Light exploded behind Jimmy's eyes, and he screamed in anguish.
'No!' Bram howled, as the lad with the rapier staggered backward. 'No, no, no!'
The old man raised his curved knife, and the magician chanted. Bram could feel a wind blowinga wind of rage, and suddenly of air as well. There was a rushing, a woman's scream that came from everywhere and nowhere.
'Now!' the magician thundered. 'Now! Strike!'
And the silk flew from Bram's face. He looked up into the wrinkled face of the man who would kill him, and snarled defiance.
The knife dropped, despite the magician's howls. 'Zakry?' he whispered.
Who? Bram wondered, suddenly shocked out of his fear and anger. He'd never seen such pain as that on the age-scored face above him: the man's features writhed, and tears trickled down the cheeks. Bram wondered, suddenly shocked out of his fear and anger. He'd never seen such pain as that on the age-scored face above him: the man's features writhed, and tears trickled down the cheeks.
'Zakry! Zakry's son. It was true! Elaine, you whore! You bitch!'
'She's dead,' another voice sighed. 'Oh, damnation. You waited too long.'
I am dead!
That rang through Bram's head like the tocsin of a great bronze bell. There was a figure standing before the lord now. He could hear its voice, not so loud, but echoing as if it made his bones vibrate in sympathy.
Seventeen years dying! Seventeen years, dying every minute. You killed me! You killed my Zakry, my darling, the father of my son! You tried to kill my child, too, but I stopped you, you monster!
'Whore,' the old man wheezed. 'Seventeen years I lived for nothing save to bring you back, and now I see Zakry told me the truth. You were his lover and this was his child! How I hate you!' He raised the dagger and struck at the insubstantial figure before him.
Its mouth gaped, emitting an endless dolorous wail that made Bram want to smash his own head against the stone table beneath him, if only that would stop it. The knife flashed again, and again.
Jimmy the Hand wheezed with a pain so great that he couldn't even scream. There was a scream going on, and it blew through him like a wind, like the agony of death stretched out to years. His vision had cleared a little, though, and he knew that he'd feel no more painor anything else, ever againif he didn't move in the next moment.
There. The glitter of steel. He turned and lunged. The glitter of steel. He turned and lunged.
The effort hurt, but it cleared his head. He saw Baron Bernarr dodge, leaping backward to avoid the point of the rapier. That took him nearly to the window.
The window had been made as an archer's position: the man-width slit at the outer edge of the wall had sloping sides on all edges of the inner, so that the bowman could shoot to either side. The sill caught at his heels and he toppled backward, the knife glittering as he dropped it so that it landed point-down in the floorboards. But that allowed him to grip the smooth slanted stone and hold himself there with the friction of his palms. Then he struggled to get a leg behind himself and push his body upright.
Something came between the Baron and Jimmy. Jimmy thought it was a woman, but his head was still hurting too much to be sure; and he also thought he could see the Baron through it.
It screamed, and Jimmy dropped his sword to clutch at his head. He saw the older man's hands fly up likewise, and the O of his mouth as he fell backward and out of the window with a long scream, smashing through the fragile, costly glass and tumbling away into the lightning-shot night.
'Fifty feet down, onto stone,' Jimmy wheezed, bending and scrambling for the hilt of his rapier.
A huge weight seemed to have been lifted from his shouldersor from the inside of his head. The night blew in through the shattered glass, and the black candles flickered out. Ten feet away Skinny goggled at him, and then slipped backward. Blood spurted as he pulled his throat off the point of Jarvis Coe's sword.
A sigh cut through the silence.
The magician at Bram's feet shook his head, and tucked his hands into the sleeves of his robe. 'It seems I must seek another patron for my...art,' he said, his voice whimsical and light. He raised his hand and suddenly he was gone.
Coe looked at the space the magician had occupied a moment before and swore. Jimmy didn't recognize the language, but the tone was unmistakable.
Behind him, Flora came into the room, supporting Lorrie; but the farmer's daughter shook herself free and hobbled toward Bram with her brother dancing behind her.
Bram raised his head and looked at all of them. 'Will someone please cut me loose?' he asked plaintively. 'And get me some breeches!'
Jimmy the Hand reined in and looked back down the road. There were enough people around the doors of the manor for the buzz of their voices to be audible even half a mile away. He shook his head ruefully and patted the hilt of the rapier slung at his saddlebow. 'So much for minstrels,' he said, taking a deep breath of the cool spring air.
Gulls flew through the air above, reminding him of home with an ache whose pain surprised him.
He and Coe rode, while Flora drove the dog-cart. Lorrie had elected to stay with Bram and the children, who were going to travel to Land's End in an old wagon from the Baron's stable. They had taken enough time for Jimmy to explain to Flora who Coe really was, while hiding the truth from the others. Jimmy felt Flora needed to know the whole truth, but decided against mentioning Coe's real identity to Bram, Lorrie and the others. He didn't know why, except it seemed the Mocker's way to keep things from outsiders.
'Minstrels?' Flora said.
Jimmy cocked an eye: evidently she'd watched how Lorrie handled the reins, because she was managing the dog-cart with easy competence.
Jarvis Coe chuckled. 'I think young Jimmy is thinking of how the hero gets the girl, the gold and half the kingdom,' he said.
'Instead of which, Bram Blockhead does,' Jimmy said. Flora sighed, and he rolled an eye at her. 'What sort of baron do you think he'll make?' he asked Coe.
Coe shrugged. 'Better than the last, if the court and the Duke find for him. There are plenty of witnesses that he's Baroness Elaine's lost sonand it'll be convenient to have a local man, after the way Bernarr ran the holding into the ground and neglected his duty. Duke Sutherland paid no heed because he spends most of his days in Rillanon, rather than the western court, and the Baron paid his taxes on time. I think with Guy du Bas-Tyra in Krondor, a more critical gaze will settle on Land's End. Great Kesh is close: a strong man's needed here. Young Bram might have the makings of a hero.'
Jimmy shrugged. 'Some hero,' he said. 'Oh, he looks the partbut what did he do? Get knocked on the head, get tied up, and get rescued by...'
'By a pair of boys, four girls, a thief, and a witch-finder who officially doesn't exist,' Flora said tartly. 'Still, I think Bram's sweet.'
'Girls,' Jimmy said, and then laughed. 'Maybe I'm a hero-in-training, then.'
'Or a witch-finder,' Coe suggested. 'You show a lot of talent, Jimmy. I could use an apprentice...'
Jimmy shuddered and raised a hand. 'Oh, thank you, but that's far too much of an honour. I respect your goddessand look forward to meeting her, many many years from now.' years from now.'
'Well, if you change your mind, send word to the Temple. I have to go looking for that magician, and could use some help.'
'Where do you think he is?'
'Out there somewhere,' answered Coe. 'Getting ready to cause trouble.' He glanced at Flora, who was watching Jimmy, then said to the boy, 'There are things in the world, my young friend, you may never appreciate. Like the distant war with the Tsurani in the west. You might hear about them, and they may have some bearing on your life, but you may remain blissfully ignorant of most of what occurs. But you also may find yourself confronting some aspect of a struggle that I can't begin to imagine myself, let alone tell you about.
'That magician, that Lyman Malachy, was no chance visitor to the manor on the night Bram was born. Why he was here, at this place, on that night, may forever be a mystery, but I can tell you this much.
'He or someone else like him will return to cause more evil. At the end, I sensed dark spirits in that house. Whatever the Baron thought would happen, I fear something else far more dire would have occurred. I think perhaps there was another agent of evil waiting to possess the Lady Elaine's body at the critical moment.
'There are dark forces loose in the world, my friend; dark forces which benefit from blood, murder and chaos. We could use a bright lad such as yourself in facing that evil.'
Jimmy laughed ruefully. 'Thanks, but I think I'll stick to something a little less dangerous, like stealing gold from under the nose of sleeping dragons.'
'You could stay with m-with us, Jimmy,' Flora said.
The young thief cocked an eyebrow, and she blushed.
'I don't think I'm cut out to be your...foster-brother,' he said cheerfully. 'And if I stayed, you'd have me helping old ladies across the street, and slaying demons, and Ruthia knows what else! Besides, what would your aunt's Captain Karl find for me to do? Cabin-boy, puking up my guts watch after watch?'
Flora and Coe laughed at that.
'What will you do, then?' Jarvis asked curiously.
'Go back to Krondorand by land!' Jimmy said.
Coe laughed. 'Then turn your horse around, my friend, because you're heading in the wrong direction.'
Jimmy blinked like an owl caught in lantern-light. Then he laughed. 'I knew that!' he shouted, and clapped his heels to the horse as he turned it around. 'Fare well, friends! If you ever get back to Krondor, Flora, you know where to find me!'
She halted the dog-cart and stood up, waving. 'That I do, Jimmy the Hand!'
'And no offence, Master Coe, but I will sleep better if we never cross paths again!'
Coe laughed. 'Fare thee well, youngster!'
They both stared after him for a long time, as the hooves faded into the distance, beating a tune that echoed back from cliffs to sea. 'Do you think he'll get home safely?' asked Coe.
Flora laughed. 'And with gold in his pockets, too, I'll guarantee.'
Urging the horse forward, she grinned. 'He'll dodge Bram and Lorrie and the kids in the wagon, circle around through the woods, then revisit the manor on his way back home. If Bram returns to find a silver candlestick or any of Lady Elaine's jewels still there, then I don't know Jimmy.'
Jarvis Coe laughed and moved his horse in beside the cart. 'I hope that boy finds a different calling in life. It would be a shame to see him end his days at the end of a rope.'
Flora laughed again. 'That'll never happen, Master Coe. I don't know what will happen to him, but I'll wager my life that no hangman will ever get his rope around the neck of Jimmy the Hand!'
They rode on.
Krondor The Daymaster looked up.
A half-sized doorone which most members of the Mockers didn't know aboutswung open. It was hidden in the stonework, disguised by the dark edges and the dim light, one had to know it was there to find it.
A small figure loomed up out of the darkness. The corner of the huge basement under the brothel known as Mother's or Mocker's Rest was reserved for the Daymaster or Nightmaster and their immediate subordinates and given wide berth by most other Mockers until they were called in.
The Daymaster suppressed a chuckle. 'Well, young Jimmy the Hand,' he observed, 'back so soon?'
'I had cause,' Jimmy said. 'Enough time has passed, hasn't it?' he added, taking a wooden chair across the table from the Daymaster.
'That depends,' said the Daymaster. 'There's still a swarm of crushers out and about looking to find out who did what over at the castle. Duke Guy is back in triumph from routing the Keshians in the Vale of Dreams, and no one has heard of the crew of the Royal Griffin, Royal Griffin, so must be thinking ol' Jocko Radburn got himself drowned, if that's not a pipe-dream. Del Garza has managed to shift most of the blame for everything on to Radburn.' He lowered his voice, as if not wishing to be overheard, which was somewhat theatrical, since they were alone deep in the bowels of Mother's. 'Rumour is Prince Erland lies dying and Guy was fit to be tied learning that the Prince had been tossed in the dungeon, but del Garza laid that one at Jocko's feet, too, so it looks as if no one will suffer much for it. Except the Prince, of course. So, things are a bit quieter, but you'd still better have something for the Upright Man to salve his anger, given all the trouble you caused at the castle.' so must be thinking ol' Jocko Radburn got himself drowned, if that's not a pipe-dream. Del Garza has managed to shift most of the blame for everything on to Radburn.' He lowered his voice, as if not wishing to be overheard, which was somewhat theatrical, since they were alone deep in the bowels of Mother's. 'Rumour is Prince Erland lies dying and Guy was fit to be tied learning that the Prince had been tossed in the dungeon, but del Garza laid that one at Jocko's feet, too, so it looks as if no one will suffer much for it. Except the Prince, of course. So, things are a bit quieter, but you'd still better have something for the Upright Man to salve his anger, given all the trouble you caused at the castle.'
Jimmy reached into his tunic and pulled out a small pouch. 'Two hundred gold sovereigns,' he said nonchalantly. 'Will that help?'
The Daymaster nodded so that his jowls jiggled as he spoke. 'That's a right good start. It'll keep him from tossing you in the bay, I suspect, but you'd better have something more to add to the kitty else you're still going to the Bashers for coming back early.'
Jimmy sat back in the wooden chair and beamed.
The Daymaster couldn't help but return the infectious grin. 'There's something up that sleeve of yours, young Jimmy, I have no doubt. Let's have it.'
'Remember Gerem the Snake?'
Jimmy the Hand Part 33
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Jimmy the Hand Part 33 summary
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