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."Taeros sank into the nearest chair."How could anyone draw such conclusions from a few humorous verses?""This wouldn't be the first time swift and foolish words have been used to sway small minds and herd crowds like cattle.You call for a dynasty; what man does that, but to advance his own line? Even if no one accuses us of ruling ambitions, many will likely ponder the wisdom of allowing any one family so much control over men of the sword-the hiring of which is, may I remind you, the family business?"Taeros sat in silence for a long moment."My rebuke is well deserved," he said quietly.His father nodded curtly."I don't need your apologies, Taeros, I need you to think." He picked up a scroll and added, in a softer voice, "This came for you."The seal was broken.Taeros decided not to comment on that breach of privacy.It was a swiftly written notice announcing that Malark's funeral would be held that very day."You were right about Lord Goldbeard," he told his father wearily."The Kothonts are ashamed of Malark's death, though he died a hero.His last act was helping a servant girl.He died trying to save her."Lord Hawkwinter's expression was unreadable."Is that a hero to you, or is this?" He waved the ruined broadsheet."Dragonslaying, royal blood…"Taeros stared at the crumpled parchment."I… I don't know."Lord Eremoes Hawkwinter sighed, massive shoulders rising and falling."You might have less sense than the gods gave to sheep, son, but at least you're honest." He waved a hand."Go then, and honor your friend as best you can."CHAPTER TENThe last rays of the sun were slanting through the trees, bathing the City of the Dead in warm, golden light.Walking in its serenity, Taeros Hawkwinter couldn't deny the Deadrest's beauty, even in his current mood.No other spot in all Waterdeep had been so touched by artists.The finest sculptors of many lands had crafted wondrous statues and adorned the flanks of soaring monuments with intricate carvings.The inside walls of many tombs were painted with vast and lush scenes, and there were living artworks, too: small floral bowers and ponds full of bright fish.Beautiful pavilions beckoned not only those who came to mourn or contemplate but also folk who sought green pleasantness for outdoor dining or trysts.Children were wont to run and play among the tombs, their voices hushed by awe and by subtle enchantments… and the rare druid arriving in Waterdeep would be drawn to the old trees and quiet groves.Pixies and sprites were rumored to dwell here.As were other, darker creatures.The high, magic-mortared cemetery walls weren't just to keep out vandals and tomb-robbers.They also, it was whispered, kept in night-hunting monsters and unquiet dead.The gates in those walls would be closed at twilight, so there was little time for a full funeral.Malark Kothont, noble of Waterdeep and blood-kin to royalty, would be laid to rest with only slightly more ceremony than that afforded a favorite hound.Taeros glanced at the western sky.Sunset was already approaching; the burial would be swift indeed.His gaze fell on a familiar face: a small, slender lass with snapping brown eyes, walking with another girl.Who-ah, yes, the maidservant of Dyre's pretty daughters.Named for a bird Raven? Wren? Lark-yes, Lark.He fell back a pace, waving his friends to walk on."I'd not thought to find you here, Mistress Lark."She regarded him thoughtfully."Nor had I expected an invitation.""From?"Lark nodded at the backs of the four Gemcloaks Taeros had been walking with."Lord Helmfast came this afternoon to the Rearing Hippocampus.I serve betimes in the dining hall there.He asked me to find the woman your friend saved." She smiled reassuringly at the wan, fragile-looking lass clasping her arm.Taeros also gave the timorous girl a faint smile, wondering what Beldar would make of this.Usually such timely gestures were his doing… but perhaps the youngest Lord Roaringhorn was as much unsettled by Malark's death as a certain Taeros Hawkwinter."He seemed a good man, your friend," Lark said quietly.Taeros looked at her, startled."You knew Malark?""We shared words at a revel.Very fond of women, he was, but less obnoxious about it than most."He snorted."Thus you define a 'good man'?""I haven't met many who were better," was the flat reply.Taeros nodded in full agreement, though he suspected he and the maid saw different meanings in those words.They walked together in silence the rest of the way to join the mourners gathering at the Kothont tomb.Some noble families had their own crypts at country mansions or beneath their city villas, but deceased Kothonts slept in the City of the Dead, in a small fortress of white marble hung about with banners of Kothont green.A constellation of silver-plated stars, echoing the Kothont arms, gleamed on its domed roof in a grand, even ostentatious display that Malark had poked sly fun at in life.All stood silent as the plain oak casket was carried to the threshold of the open tomb.By custom, final tributes would be said at the door.Long moments passed, and no one spoke.Alauos Kothont- known to all Waterdeep as Lord Goldbeard-stood with head bowed and tears running unchecked into his famous red-gold beard, a beard not quite as long or luxuriant as his son's had been.How often had the Gemcloaks teased Malark about this family affectation, calling him a long-legged dwarf and more? Never once had their good-natured friend taken offense.He was a good man, the best of them all! Why would no one say so?Taeros swallowed.Why couldn't he say so?The silence became strained.Grim looks passed between Korvaun and Beldar.Taeros watched them both.It had always been Beldar who spoke and Korvaun who quietly arranged.Longstanding habits were not easily broken.Finally Korvaun stepped forward and put his hands on the polished oak."The measure of a man," he said in a raw voice, "is often found in the worth he accords those around him [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]