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.“Very well.”Vissbruck strutted to the parapet with an air of the greatest self-importance.He slowly raised his arm, then chopped it portentously through the air.Somewhere, out of sight below, whips cracked and teams of mules strained on ropes.The complaining squeal of wood under great pressure reached them on the battlements, then a creaking and a cracking as the dams gave way, and then an angry thundering as the great weight of salt water broke through and surged down the deep ditch from both ends, foaming angry white.Water met water just beneath them, throwing glittering spray into the air as high as the battlements and higher yet.A moment later, and this new ribbon of sea was calm.The ditch had become a channel, the city had become an island.“The ditch is flooded!” announced General Vissbruck.“So we see,” said Glokta.“Congratulations.” Let us hope the Gurkish have no strong swimmers among them.They certainly have no shortage of men to choose from.Five tall poles waved gently above the tramping mass of soldiers, Gurkish symbols glittering upon them in solid gold.Symbols of battles fought, and battles won.The standards of five legions, flashing in the merciless sun.Five legions.Just as the old man told me.Will ships follow, then? Glokta turned his head and peered out across the Lower City.The long wharves stuck into the bay like the spines of a hedgehog, still busy with ships.Ships carrying our supplies in, and a last few nervous merchants out.There were no walls there.Few defences of any kind.We did not think we needed them.The Union has always ruled the seas.If ships should come…“Do we still have supplies of wood and stone?”The General nodded vigorously, all eagerness.Finally adjusted to the changes in the chain of command, it seems.“Abundant supplies, Superior, precisely as your orders specified.”“I want you to build a wall behind the docks and along the shoreline.As strong, and as high, and as soon as possible.Our defences there are weak.The Gurkish may test them sooner or later.”The General frowned out at the swarming army of soldiers crawling over the peninsula, looked down towards the calm docks, and back.“But surely the threat from the landward side is a little more… pressing? The Gurkish are poor sailors, and in any case have no fleet worthy of the name—”“The world changes, General.The world changes.”“Of course.” Vissbruck turned to speak to his aides.Glokta shuffled up to the parapet beside Cosca.“How many Gurkish troops, would you judge?”The Styrian scratched at the flaky rash on the side of his neck.“I count five standards.Five of the Emperor’s legions, and plenty more besides.Scouts, engineers, irregulars from across the South.How many troops…” He squinted up into the sun, lips moving silently as though his head was full of complex sums.“A fucking lot.” He tipped his head back and sucked the last drops from his bottle, then he smacked his lips, pulled back his arm and hurled it towards the Gurkish.It flashed in the sun for a moment, then shattered against the hard dirt on the other side of the channel.“Do you see those carts at the back?”Glokta squinted down his eye-glass.There did indeed seem to be a shadowy column of great wagons behind the mass of soldiery, barely visible in the shimmering haze and the clouds of dust kicked up by the stomping boots.Soldiers need supplies of course, but then again… Here and there he could see long timbers sticking up like spider’s legs.“Siege engines,” muttered Glokta to himself.All just as Yulwei said.“They are in earnest.”“Ah, but so are you.” Cosca stood up beside the parapet, started to fiddle with his belt.A moment later, Glokta heard the sound of his piss spattering against the base of the wall, far below.The mercenary grinned over his shoulder, thin hair fluttering in the salt wind.“Everyone’s in lots of earnest.I must speak to Magister Eider.I’d say I’ll be getting my battle money soon.”“I think so.” Glokta slowly lowered his eye-glass.“And earning it too.”The Blind Lead the BlindThe First of the Magi lay twisted on his back in the cart, wedged between a water barrel and a sack of horse feed, a coil of rope for his pillow.Logen had never seen him look so old, and thin, and weak.His breath came shallow, his skin was pale and blotchy, drawn tight over his bones and beaded with sweat.From time to time he’d twitch, and squirm, and mutter strange words, his eyelids flickering like a man trapped in a bad dream.“What happened?”Quai stared down.“Whenever you use the Art, you borrow from the Other Side, and what is borrowed has to be repaid.There are risks, even for a master.To seek to change the world with a thought… the arrogance of it.” The corners of his mouth twitched up into a smile.“Borrow too often, perhaps, one time you touch the world below, and leave a piece of yourself behind…”“Behind?” muttered Logen, peering down at the twitching old man.He didn’t much like the way Quai was talking.It was no smiling matter, as far as he could see, to be stuck out in the middle of nowhere without a clue where they were going.“Just think,” whispered the apprentice.“The First of the Magi himself, helpless as a baby.” He laid his hand gently on Bayaz’ chest.“He clings on to life by a thread.I could reach out now, with this weak hand… and kill him.”Logen frowned.“Why would you want to do that?”Quai looked up, and smiled his sickly smile.“Why would anyone? I was merely saying.” And he snatched his hand away.“How long will he stay like this?”The apprentice sat back in the cart and stared up at the sky.“There’s no saying.Maybe hours [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]