This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2018 by Robert Jackson Bennett
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Crown, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.
CROWN and the Crown colophon are registered trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available upon request.
Ebook ISBN 9781524760373
v5. 3. 2
As Sancia Grado lay facedown in the mud, stuffed underneath the wooden deck next to the old stone wall, she reflected that this evening was not going at all as she had wanted.
It had started out decently. She’d used her forged identifications to make it onto the Michiel property, and that had gone swimmingly — the guards at the first gates had barely glanced at her.
Then she’d come to the drainage tunnel, and that had gone…less swimmingly. It
Sancia hadn’t liked it, but she could handle it. That had not been her first time crawling through human waste..
But the problem with crawling through a river of sewage is that, naturally, you tend to gain a powerful odor. Sancia had tried to stay downwind from the security posts as she crept through the foundry yards. But just when she reached the north gate, some distant guard had cried out, “Oh my God, what is that
She’d avoided being spotted, but she’d been forced to flee into a dead-end foundry passageway and hide under the crumbling wooden deck, which had likely once been a guard post. But the problem with this hiding place, she’d quickly realized, was it gave her no means of escape: there was nothing in the walled foundry passageway besides the deck, Sancia, and the guard.
Sancia stared at the guard’s muddy boots as he paced by the deck, sniffing. She waited until he walked past her, then poked her head out.
He was a big man, wearing a shiny steel cap and a leather cuirass embossed with the loggotipo of the Michiel Body Corporate — the candle flame set in the window — along with leather pauldrons and bracers. Most troublingly, he had a rapier sheathed at his side.
Sancia narrowed her eyes at the rapier. She thought she could hear a whispering in her mind as he walked away, a distant chanting. She’d assumed the blade was scrived, but that faint whispering confirmed it — and she knew a scrived blade could cut her in half with almost no effort at all.
She had to get to the carriage fairways, which were probably only about two hundred feet away, behind the far wall. And she needed to get to them sooner rather than later.
She considered her options. She could dart the man, she supposed, for Sancia did have a little bamboo pipe and a set of small but expensive darts that were soaked in the poison of dolorspina fish — a lethal pest found in the deeper parts of the ocean. Diluted enough, the venom should only knock its victim into a deep sleep, with an absolute horror of a hangover a few hours later.
But the guard was sporting pretty decent armor. Sancia would have to make the shot perfect, perhaps aiming for his armpit. The risk of missing was far too high.
She could try to kill him, she supposed. She did have her stiletto, and she was an able sneak, and though she was small, she was strong for her size ...