The Monster War: A Tale of the Kings' Blades

The Monster War: A Tale of the Kings' Blades by Dave Duncan

Book: The Monster War: A Tale of the Kings' Blades by Dave Duncan Read Free Book Online
Authors: Dave Duncan
mustn’t tell you any more. That is why I have already told you far too much.”
    “I don’t see—” Suddenly she did see. It was like a shutter being thrown open to let daylight into a cellar. “ Bait ? Spirits! You set me up as bait !”
    Wart muttered, “Oh, vomit!” under his breath.
    “Arrogance!” she said. “Cold-blooded arrogance! You worked out that if the conspirators’ masking spells are good enough to fool their own White Sisters but not all the Sisters at the palace, then what they need is more Sisters to help them. And the best place to find White Sisters is Oakendown, so you guessed that they would be snooping around there. Snake !” she shouted. “Sir Snake! You mentioned that you’d met him, but you made it sound like a long time ago. I bet the last time you saw Sir Snake wasn’t any longer ago than the day you met me or the day before—was it?”
    Wart stared straight ahead, not speaking. His face looked ready to burst into flames.
    “And you got Mother Superior to—No, Sir Snake got Mother Superior to expel me! That was the only reason for the spider, wasn’t it? You provided a sorcerer to create that spider and frighten me and six children out of their wits. I was trapped, wasn’t I? Used! You had me thrown out with no money. Shamed, humiliated. You left me hanging around the gatehouse for days, hoping the traitors would be on the lookout for vulnerable White Sisters. I suppose you even spread rumors of my disgrace around town.” She was so indignant she could hardly speak. “ Bait ! You used me as bait!”
    Wart glanced at her miserably. “It wasn’t my idea.”
    “But you helped. You’re guilty too. You sold your soul to that precious Sir Snake and his Old Blades.” Mother Superior was another and must have been helped in the deception by a fair number of senior Sisters. “How much did they pay you? Just the archlute? Is that your reward? And that gold you were flashing around so freely at the inn, I expect. I hope you enjoy your ill-gotten wealth, because it would choke me if I’d earned a penny than way. So Murther and Skuldigger are the first nibble? What happens now? If I’m the bait, then where’s the hook?”
    Wart stood up to peer over the horse and then look back over the barrels.
    “Speak up!” Emerald shouted. “You’ve told me enough that you can’t stop now. I don’t have a baby to protect. I know not to try and lie to a White Sister—if they do have traitor Sisters on their team, which I don’t believe. Tell me. I’ll keep quiet.”
    Wart looked down at her. “Keep quiet? Will you keep quiet if they nail your hand to a bench and start cracking your fingers with a hammer?”
    She shuddered. “I’ll think of you when they do it. Come on! You wouldn’t just trail bait without a net or a hook of some kind.” Magic? No, if Wart had any magic up his sleeve she would have detected it right away. “Tell me! What happens now?”
    “What happens now,” Wart said harshly, “is that the armed men up ahead stop us and keep us there until the coach coming behind us arrives. Then you get carried off, I expect. You’re valuable. You’re what they want. If you behave yourself you should be all right, at least for a while. I’m no use to anyone, so the odds are that I get my throat cut. That’s what happens now.”


    I T WAS A BEAUTIFUL SITE FOR AN AMBUSH. THE trail ran along a very gentle ridge, a stony swell on the landscape; and the dips on either hand were marshy, with reeds and bulrushes. Saxon could not haul the wagon across a swamp, no matter how narrow. Furthermore, the next ridge to the east was slightly higher and the one to the west bore a mane of thorny scrub along its crest, so the site was hidden from any distant onlookers. Perfect.
    Wart hauled on the reins; the wagon rattled to a halt.
    About a hundred paces ahead, a line of men-at-arms blocked the road. Five of them were busily moving their arms as if working a pump or a

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