Arcanum

Arcanum by Simon Morden

Book: Arcanum by Simon Morden Read Free Book Online
Authors: Simon Morden
isn’t some counting thing like a banker would do. I know this boy’s uncle.” Irritated, Büber ripped a handful of grass out of the ground and threw it at Nadel’s horse. “Hey, you old nag. Wait your turn.”
    “Any ideas?”
    “Not a clue.” He wasn’t going to tell Nadel about the unicorns any more than he was going to tell Kelner. “Just hope they all turn up alive one day.”
    Büber got to his feet and rescued the mash bucket, carrying it over to his own horse and setting it down in front of her.
    Nadel looked off into the distance, and wisely changed the subject. “So these Teutons: how does His Majesty want it played?”
    “They’re expected to stay north. Where they cross the Alps is up to them, but if they come into Carinthia, they’ll be slaughtered.”
    “Harsh but fair.”
    “Danzig was an arsehole. Remember what happened last year?”
    Nadel cupped his balls. “I remember.”
    “I’ll follow them on the Carinthian side until they’ve cleared our borders. If they turn south sooner, I’ll get a message back to the White Fortress so that Gerhard can do whatever it is he wants to do to them.” Büber wrestled the bucket away from his horse, and brought what was left over to Nadel’s. “That’s what I still plan to do, but what I could really do with is going to talk to the Bavarians and getting them to hurry the Teutons along. I’ve got better things to do than watch them crawl along for two weeks.”
    “I can watch them for you. Doesn’t bother me how long they take.” Nadel got up and stretched again. “You go and talk to Leopold’s men.”
    Büber weighed up the suggestion. He got on well enough with Nadel, who could be crass and coarse but was otherwise a decent enough man. Trustworthy, up to a point – but the prince had said that he, his huntmaster, should do it.
    “I don’t know.” Then he came to a decision. “I’ll go and see the Bavarians once the Teutons have started east. You keep an eye on them, and I’ll catch you up. If they behave, good. If they don’t, one of us can take the message while the other shadows them.”
    “Done. It’s been a long, hard winter, and it’s good to be outside.” Nadel caught his horse, who was busy kicking the last of the mash out of the bucket. He began to strip the tack away.
    Büber nodded and thought about doing the reverse. “This side of the river only. Doesn’t bother me if they see you – it’s probably better that they do, but the water’s narrow in places. Easy enough to sling a quarrel into your chest.”
    “I’ll stay out of bow-shot.” Nadel looked down into the valley. “Fires are going out. White smoke, being doused.”
    “Better get going, then.” Büber picked up the saddle and blanket, and advanced on his horse, dressing it quickly and efficiently. It stood there and took it, occasionally turning its head to see what its rider was doing. Büber patted its neck and quietened the beast at the appropriate moments. He liked horses well enough, and they suffered him being on their back, but he wasn’t a natural. Not like the prince.
    Horse ready, he packed his bags and hung them across the saddle. Sword, crossbow, seal of authority: the tools of his trade.
    The steam from the quenched fires was dissipating, the thinning cloud stretched and fading over the town. Now that it was clearing, he looked beyond for the Bavarian army camp, and could see nothing.
    “Maybe they struck earlier,” he said to himself, but Nadel heard and answered.
    “That’s unlikely. Bavarians are lazy bastards at the best of times.”
    Büber checked the tack one last time, then put his foot in the stirrup, heaving himself up and on. The horse shuffled its feet and champed on its bit as he took up the reins.
    “Stay alert,” said Büber. “I’ll see you in a day or so.”
    He nudged the horse into a walk and slowly made his way down the hill to the bridge. The first barges of the day were leaving the Simbach quays and heading

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