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.Light came from a street at one end, and the stars twinkled overhead.After the sewers and the pitch darkness, it seemed like a heaven made real.He slipped out of the alley and into the street.It was busy even this late at night, and full of an amazing array of characters.There were thugs and drunks, vendors and con men, performers and courtesans.There were folk of many lands, and of kinds other than human.There were no guards visible anywhere nearby.Lights hung from posts in front of dens of drinking, gambling, or worse.In this part of town, the city itself maintained no lights on the streets.Arjun was suddenly and acutely aware of his situation and appearance.He was on a filthy city street, barefoot, in robes that were rich but now dirty and tattered.His hair was wild, dirt and sweat shaping it to a crazed sort of halo around his head.But he had a bronze signet ring on his hand, and a fine bronze sword along with two beautiful bags on his back.Bags that he knew, and an astute observer could tell, were full of heavy and possibly valuable things.He probably looked like a madman, but potentially a rich madman.And he realized, painfully, how little he knew about life on the streets.Before too many eyes could take notice and focus on him, he ducked into the next alley.It was full of broken pottery and furniture.Arjun thought it might be next to a trash peddler’s shop, or maybe it was just a convenient place to stow unwanted things.An immense chest-high rain urn sat cracked diagonally along one side, about twenty feet in from the entrance.Arjun crept around behind it, cleared out a pile of rags there, and sat his back to the wall.He folded the tatters of his robe around him, and rested his sword across his knees, one hand gripping the handle tightly.He intended to wait things out until just before dawn, when even here, crowds would thin.Then he planned to make his way to an inn, some vile one around here where he hoped they wouldn’t ask questions, and get cleaned up.He might take the tatters of his robe and make a kilt, but as soon as he could, he would buy clothes and some sandals.Instead, he fell asleep in his hiding place, cheerless as it was.~Inina walked casually along the Street of Vipers in the predawn darkness, her shining black hair bouncing in three large braids down her back, and her hips swinging freely below her slender waist.A little bag was slung across her shoulder.It had been a good haul tonight.She turned the corner to the alley where the closest of her caches was hidden.There was the big urn, and behind it the loose tile under the comfy pile of rags she’d collected for the benefit of the drunken beggars that haunted the dens along this street.They slept off their drinking on any handy bit of softer-looking rubbish, and in doing so guarded or at least hid that spot from more observant eyes, the eyes of those with occupations like hers.If one was there at the moment, she’d move on to the next cache.No worries this early in a night’s work!There WAS someone there, but not like anyone she’d have expected!A young man, not much older than herself, sat there asleep with knees folded and his back against the wall.He was in the remains of what once would have been some very, very nice robes.He was filthy, but the filth looked recent and he didn’t smell.In fact, under it all, and even from a few feet away, she could detect perfume.For all its disarray, his wild hair looked like it had been washed and oiled at some point in the recent past.In his lap, dropped from a loose hand, was a very fine engraved bronze sword.Red stones studded the pommel and hilt.On a finger of that loose hand was a perfectly fitted signet ring of bronze, and on his half-bare chest was a heavy bronze amulet, carved with strange symbols.Who was he?Or, even more importantly, would he wake up if she reached for the sword?She stepped forward and leaned over him, far more tentatively than usual.Her hands reached toward the sword.This close, she noticed the spiced scent of him and saw the dark heavy lashes of his eyes.They fluttered, and opened.Too late and too hastily, she pulled back! Her feet skittered and slipped as he rose with lightning speed, the sword in his hand.~Arjun woke from dreams of death and endless cold darkness to see a beautiful girl before his eyes.The sun had not yet risen, and for a brief instant he thought he was still dreaming.Then, she pulled back and drew her hand with a slender gleam of obsidian.He started awake and rose to his feet with all the speed natural grace could muster.Dream or not, sleeping through the arrival of an obsidian dagger might mean he’d never wake up! He raised his sword and pointed it at her.Then he got a better look.She was around his age, or more likely a year or two younger, of average height, with a bare slender waist, rounded hips and high full breasts.She wore a light slip of a kilt around her hips, hitched up a bit too short for decency, at least as most people saw it, and had a band of decorated cloth around her neck and across her chest in common Zakran fashion.She had dark flashing eyes, full lips, and black hair in braids down to the small of her back.He decided she was one of the most beautiful girls he’d ever seen.She also had that obsidian dagger, drawn and at the ready [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]