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."They're Houses of fighters, not palaces for potentates," Garth replied."The old Houses were different but things have changed of late and these new ones went up.""Still, there is such a thing as taste."Garth started walking toward the House of Kestha, Hammen hurrying to keep pace with him."You know, this is really rather foolish of you," Hammen sniffed."You're a wanted man around this city.""So much the better."As they walked toward the House of Kestha Garth slowed, turned, and looked toward the fifth side of the Plaza.The Plaza was lined with squat shops, eateries, and several small palaces of what were most likely well-heeled merchants.Garth turned and walked toward the buildings and then came to a stop at the edge of the Plaza and looked around."This is where the fifth House used to be," Hammen said quietly.Garth turned and looked back at Hammen."The fifth House?""Turquoise.Twenty years ago there were five Houses.""I know that.""Then you know that the other Houses, led by the old Grand Master and his assistant, Zarel, massacred the House of Oor-tael on the evening of the last day of Festival.They fell upon them in the night, burned the House, and murdered nearly all the fighters.""Nearly all you say.""Some supposedly escaped," Hammen replied.The raggedy man paused and looked up at Garth."You were most likely too young then even to care," Hammen snapped, an edge of anger to his voice.Garth said nothing, looking at the corner of the Plaza, which looked so out of place with the grandeur of the other four sides."And the last Grand Master," Garth said, his tone more of a statement than a question."Kuthuman? That bastard," and he whispered the imprecation."Who the hell do you think the Walker is? Where do you think he stole the mana that opened the portals to other worlds.Turquoise was the most powerful of the five and refused to help him in his quest."Hammen nodded back over to where the House once stood."So they killed the Master of Oor-tael, his entire family, damn near everyone, and took their mana.""What about Zarel?""Why are you interested?""He's interested in me, isn't he?"Hammen shook his head."Some say that it was Zarel's hatred of the Master of Oor-tael that triggered it all and Zarel who suggested the idea and the Walker finally went along with it, even though Cullinarn, the Master of Oor-tael, was an old friend who had once saved Kuthuman's life.""So why did he do it?""I said before I wasn't sure if you were damn good or simply a fool," Hammen replied."Sometimes I think it's the latter of the two.When it comes to power, friendship is usually the first thing to die.Kuthuman wanted the power of a Walker; Zarel knew that if he helped him, he would then ascend to being the new Grand Master once Kuthuman left.So Zarel organized and led the assault, the mana of Turquoise was used to pierce the veil between worlds, Kuthuman left, and Zarel came to power.With him all things changed.The Masters of the other Houses had either helped or stood aside while their own was murdered and the bribes afterward flowed like crap out of a force-fed goose."The lost treasury of Turquoise paid for that monstrosity of a palace," and Hammen nodded toward the pyramid, and the new Houses."Everyone profited from the deal."Garth stood in silence for a moment and then turned away, pressing through the throng that now flooded the Plaza.Approaching the House of Kestha, he finally started to slow when the flagstones beneath his feet changed color from the limestone that paved most of the Plaza to a dark gray slate.Garth paused and looked up at the six towering statues of fighters that dominated the front entryway into the House.Garth shook his head with disdain and started forward.A hand reached out and grabbed him."Just what is it that you want here?" Hammen pressed."If you don't have the stomach for it, go home, old man," Garth hissed, shaking Hammen's grip loose.The crowds were no longer by his side, as if an invisible barrier marked the line in which they could press no closer to the Houses of fighters.Garth strode across the semicircle of gray stone that denoted the boundaries of the Gray House, moving with a casual ease.He heard hurried footsteps behind him and looked back over his shoulder to see that Hammen was struggling to catch up, his staff clattering on the pavement.From out of the shadows of the great statues half a dozen fighters emerged.They were dressed in gray tunics and trousers, their capes made of the finest leather and decorated with mystical signs and runes.Dangling from ornate sashes that went from their left shoulder to their right hip were golden satchels for their amulets, spells, and tiny silken packages of earth that contained the mana they controlled from distant lands.The bundles of earth aided the fighter in creating this psychic link back to the power of the land from which his magic grew.They moved toward Garth, walking with a casual, haughty ease and stepped in front of him to block his path."Go away, beggar.You walk on our property here," one of them hissed and, placing his hand on Garth's chest, gave him a shove.Garth stepped back a foot and did not turn away."I said go away!""I've come to join this House," Garth said calmly.The six looked back and forth at each other with exaggerated expressions of surprise."A one-eyed scarecrow followed by a beggar," the man who shoved him roared."You insult our House by tracking your filth on our walkway.You'll scrub it with your tongue for your arrogance.But first I want to see your teeth on the ground."The man stepped forward to punch Garth [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]