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【书籍搬运】A Dance in Fire, v2 火中舞——第二章

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原文地址:http://www.uesp.net/wiki/Lore:A_Dance_in_Fire#Chapter_2

作者:沃金·贾斯

翻译:花溪流萤

商队损失非常惨重。仅仅数分钟间,几乎所有值钱物什不是被卡萨-纳洗劫一空就是被其毁坏殆尽。Decumus Scotti原本指望卖给波兹莫人的那车木材先被付之一炬,之后马车更是一头栽到了悬崖下头(应该是马受惊,呼应前文)。身上衣物以及所带空白契约(偷委员会那些)也被撕烂,被强盗们任意弃置在地面污泥以及撒漏酒水之上。等到旭日初升之时,所有香客,商人,以及冒险家们清点自身所带物品之后,纷纷悲从中来,大哭一场。

“我最好还是别说自己那本Mnoriad Pley Bar翻译笔记至今完好无缺”诗人Gryf Mallon悄声说道。“他们会嫉妒的。”

出于礼貌,Scotti虽然认为那些笔记其实一文不值,但是并未直说。相反,他数了数自己包中金币,还剩三十四枚。对于新创业者实在杯水车薪。

嗬!”林中传来一阵叫喊。随后一撮身穿皮甲,手持武器的波兹莫从灌木丛间现身。“是敌是友?”

“非敌非友”卫队首领没好气的说。

“你们肯定都是帝国人吧,”一位身材清瘦颀长,虽然年轻但是一脸精明,看来像是小队头目的年轻人笑道。“我们早就知道你们要来,毫无疑问,我们的敌人也很清楚。”

“我还以为战事早结束了,”商队之中一位破产商人抱怨着咕哝道。

哪位波兹莫又笑了:“根本不是战争,只是边境一些小小摩擦。你们一行是要前去法林纳斯提吧?”

“我不去了,”卫队首领摇了摇头。“就我而言,我的职责已尽。当下既没有马,也没有车,再送下去可是赔钱买卖(商队已经无钱可付)。”

众人将其团团围住,使尽浑身解数希望他能继续上路,但再怎么抗议,威胁甚至乞求,卫队首领始终不为所动,绝不踏入瓦伦林地一步。他还声称,自己宁愿回去参加一场战争,也不希望“和平”时期踏足瓦伦林地。

Scotti则另辟蹊径,径直同波兹莫搭起话来。参照自己在委员会时与急躁木匠交涉语气,他用威严但是不失友好的口吻对波兹莫说道:“虽然我不认为你们都够护送我到法林纳斯提,但我是位来自帝国要害部门—阿特利乌斯建筑委员会的代理人,来此是为帮助你们行省修缮战争之中遭遇虎人破坏建筑,缓解你们所受损失。若你爱着自己家园,那么—”

“二十金币,如果还剩什么行李,请你自己搬着”波兹莫简短回应道。

Scotti自嘲的想,跟之前同那些顽固木匠交涉一样,这次交涉结果仍然差强人意。

听到这些,六位身上还剩金币的人连忙赶来付钱,想要被捎一程。但是诗人身上并没有钱,所以前来向Scotti求助。

“Gryf,非常抱歉。我身上就剩十四金币了,等我到了法林纳斯提,这点钱还不够租上一间像样房间。如果我能帮忙,我会不遗余力的帮,但…”Scotti解释道,努力要使对方相信自己。

随后,六人小队在波兹莫护送之下,沿着崖边一条石路下了悬崖。不出一个小时,便已深入瓦伦林地密林之中。无边无际的黄绿色树冠遮天蔽日,脚下堆积千年,厚厚一层落叶腐败之后,遍地都是虫子。烂泥当中行进数里之后。之后换上一条巨树枝桠横生,如同迷宫一般绕来绕去的路。

在这期间,波兹莫人一直不知疲倦的快速行进着,赛瑞迪尔诸人只得费尽全力跟随方才不会掉队。一位短腿小个红脸商人途中不慎踩上一条腐烂树枝,险些陷了进去。同伴慌忙将它拉出。波兹莫人并未因此过多停留,很快继续快速前行,过程当中更是不是留意树梢阴影。

“他们是在紧张什么?”一位脾气暴躁的商人喘着粗气怨道。“难道还有卡萨-纳?”

“别犯傻了,”波兹莫人笑着否认。“虎人深入瓦伦林地腹地?在这和平时代?他们永远不敢来这。”

等到小队逐渐远离沼泽,腐臭气味消失不见之后,Scotti忽然觉得饥肠辘辘。他早过惯了赛瑞迪尔一日四餐的生活。对于一位薪资优渥的高级职员来讲,连续工作数小时后,不吃上些东西根本不合养生之道。他有些神志不清的想着,自己到底已在林中走了多久。十二小时?二十小时?还是两周?时间在密林间根本难以估量。毕竟仅有微弱阳光穿透茂密树冠洒下几缕斑驳,树木以及腐土所发磷光才是主要光源。

“我们不能停下休息,然后吃些东西么?”他向前方引路人诉苦道

“我们就到法林纳斯提了,”对方应道。“那里不缺吃的。”

接下来数个小时,众人穿越一片横有不少断木的林地,沿着树干拾阶而上(树干当独木桥)。等到众人转过一个长长拐角之后,方才发现自己中途需要攀爬一条高达一百多英尺的瀑布,众人深一脚浅一脚的匍匐攀援在石崖之上,早已没有力气抱怨。波兹莫人(爬的很快)早已消失于视线之外的浓雾之中,但Scotti 毫不气馁,努力爬上了崖顶。之后,他擦干身上的汗以及眼中河水之后,放眼远眺。

此时,他的眼中满是法林纳斯提的宏伟身姿。这座浩大橡木城市主城横跨河流两岸,周围环布由小片树木组成的卫星城市,(这些卫城)如同簇拥皇帝一般环抱主城。走近以后,方才发现组成这座移动之城的树木相当与众不同:树木足有一英里高,半英里粗,金色同绿色交织的绚丽树冠盘根错节,互相掩映,藤条直垂地面,树液更是熠熠生光。这是Scotti生平所见最为壮观景象。若非现下腹中空空,定要放声歌颂一番。

“我们到了”波兹莫人头目说道。“一点不远,走路过去就行。你该庆幸现下正是冬令。夏令之时,这座城市将会迁到大陆南端。”

面对眼前高大都市之中,熙熙攘攘如同蚂蚁穿行的人流,Scotti忽然觉得难辨方向,一时有些不知所措,只得求助队长。

“你知不知道一个旅店,名叫…呃”他顿了一下,并从包中取出居鲁斯的信函。“名字大概叫做‘Paskos大娘旅店’。”

“Pascost大娘?”波兹莫长官脸上再次挂起往常一般的轻蔑笑容。“你不会想住在那吧?旅行者们通常住在树干顶端的雅栖旅馆。那里虽贵,但是非常舒适。”

“我去Pascost大娘旅店是要见人。”

“若你执意去哪,先乘升降机到Havel Slump,然后打听具体方向。不过,千万别在西边十字路口迷路或者睡着。”

这条揶揄让波兹莫小队众人乐不可支,Scotti不再理会众人嘲笑,径直越过蜿蜒庞杂的根系来到法林纳斯提城下。地上满是落叶以及废料,并不时有玻璃或者骨头自高处落下。所以一路之上,他都歪着脖子留意天上,以免被其砸中。粗壮藤条垂系着的诸多平台(应该是指上下左右传送平台,参考电梯)构成一张错综复杂的网络,上上下下,优雅穿梭于光滑树干之间,牵引劳工个个手臂宛如牛肚一般粗壮(滑轮?)。Scotti走近位于距离最近的一个平台之上,正在抽着一支奇怪玻璃烟斗的工人问道。

“请问,您是否能带我去 Havel Slump。”

精灵点头答应,数分钟后,Scotti已经到达位于两根主干之间,二百英尺高的空中。青苔顺着树藤网格不住延伸,遮住数片低矮建筑。前方甬道(因有青苔做顶,所以应该不见天空)之内只有寥寥数人,但从前方转角之处,隐约可以听到人声以及音乐。Scotti付给城市摆渡工人(拉升降台的)一枚金币,向他问起Pascost大娘旅店位置。

“先生,请您径直往前,但是那里不会有人。”劳工指着声音源头,并解释道。“ 星期一时,所有人员都在Havel Slump狂欢。”

Scotti小心翼翼的走在狭窄街道之上。虽然脚下木材如同帝都石质街道一般坚硬踏实,但是光滑树木中间还是有些裂纹,缝隙下面就是湍急河流,不慎跌落肯定必死无疑。中间他还小坐片刻,一来为了休息,二来适应一下高度。今天天气还真不错,但是胡思乱想仅仅持续了几分钟,他便惶然起身。因为发现自己脚下溪流之中,一叶系泊小舟位置数分之内竟然移动了数英尺,但是小舟本身并未移动。是他动了,与此同时自己周遭物体也在移动。毫无疑问:法林纳斯提城在移动,相对这座城市规模来讲,这种移速已经不慢。

Scotti站起身后,从转角处,开始传来阵阵香气。他的一生当中,从未闻过如此美味,因此这位文书瞬间忘记恐惧,开始奔跑起来。

摆渡劳工之前提到过的“狂欢”举行地点位于一张固定在树梢的巨大平台之上,面积比任何城市的广场都大。Scotti见所未见的怪异人中摩肩接踵,齐聚一堂。有些正在大快朵颐,有些正在和着高处枝桠上的琴师以及歌者翩翩起舞。他们多数都是穿着五颜六色皮革以及骨针做成的民族服饰的波兹莫,其间也有少数兽人。以及不停旋转起舞,互相咆哮致意的类人猿族。其中有些生物个头明显高人一等,起初Scotti认为那是一些高个,但是随后发现那是半人马族。

“不来点儿烤肉?”一位正在滚烫岩石之上烧烤巨大野兽的苍老消瘦的精灵问道

Scotti立即掏出一枚金币给他,换来一只兽腿。吃完之后不饱,便又买来一条。当被一枚软骨卡到之时,老头咯咯笑着递来一杯冒着泡沫的白色饮品。喝下之后,自觉四肢百骸似是被人呵痒,竟是说不出的受用。

“这是什么?”Scotti问道

“Jagga,一种发酵猪奶。再付一枚金币,我就给你一壶,外带送你一些烤肉。”

Scotti取出金币付款,狼吞虎咽吃完烤肉,提起奶壶滑入狂欢人群当中。但是遍寻不见哪位请求自己前来瓦伦林地的合伙人,里奥德斯·居鲁斯。奶壶喝去四分之一之时,他已停止寻找。喝完二分之一之时,他已同狂欢人群打成一片,早已忘记树干之上还有缝隙以及破洞。待得喝干四分之三的奶,他已经和语言不通的外族生物开起了玩笑。整壶喝完之后,他已疲惫不堪,倒在狂欢人群周围沉沉睡去。

次日清晨,半睡半醒之间Scotti仿佛觉得有人亲他。 他刚想笑脸相迎,胸口忽然传来火辣辣的剧痛。他蓦地睁开眼来,发现一只牛犊般大小的虫子正压在他身上,它用钉子一般的腿将他牢牢压紧,并用螺旋刀片一般锋利的前唇撕咬着他的衬衫。他哭叫着拍打对方,但是这只强壮虫子丝毫不为所动。不肯轻易放弃到嘴美食。

这次完了,Scotti绝望的想着,我不该离开家的,我应该待在帝都,也许能在Vanech爵士那里谋份差事。我可以从低级文员做起,逐步晋升到高级职员。

突然,怪物松开了嘴。身体一颤,吐出一滩黄色胆汁,死了。

“打到一只!”从不远处传来一声叫喊。

Scotti并未立即起身,他的头因为恐惧正在不停悸动,胸口更是火烧火燎一般疼痛。忽然,眼睛余光瞥到另外一只更大怪物正朝自己爬来。他挣扎着想要爬出(身上压着一条大虫),但是尚未逃脱,拉弓声响再次破空而来,第二只虫亦被一箭射死。

“好箭法!”另外一人大赞。“给第一条虫子补上几箭!我见它刚才动了一下。”

这次,Scotti清晰察觉有支箭矢射入虫子体内。不禁叫出声来,但是声音被虫子身体阻挡,难以传出。他小心翼翼的伸出一只脚来,想要翻起身来。但是这一举动明显让弓手们认为虫子仍还活着。所以更多箭矢招呼过来,野兽身体也被射成刺猬,浑身上下,血流如注,虫血夹杂着受害者的人血统统流到Scotti身上。

Scotti青年时期,曾经醉心竞技运动,常前往帝都竞技场观摩搏击。他忽然想起当自己问起一位伟大斗士他的获胜秘诀之时,哪位大师的回答,“当我拥有一面盾牌,并且不止下步如何去做之时,我都会藏于盾后。”

Scotti谨遵教导,紧紧躲在虫体后面。一小时后,再也没有箭矢射来,他忙丢下剩余虫体,连滚带爬迅速起身站直。只见八位弓手正齐刷刷的将箭头对准这里,随时准备射击。等到他们看清是他之后,众人随即笑了。

“难道没人告诉过你别在西十字路口睡觉?有你们这些白痴舍身喂虫,我们怎么能够根除hoarvors巨虫?”

Scotti摇了摇头,重又走回平台之上,转弯来到Havel Slump。此时他已浑身是血,衣衫褴褛,筋疲力尽,并因喝下太多发酵猪奶浑身难受。现在他只想找地方躺下休息。他缓步踏入Pascost大娘旅店当中,这里相当阴暗,四周布满粘滞潮湿树液,闻来更有一种霉味。

“我的名字叫做 Decumus Scotti,”他说。“希望你这儿有个名叫居鲁斯的人。”

“Decumus Scotti?”胖胖的老板Pascost大娘思考片刻说道。“我听过这个名字。哦,那个家伙留的纸条一定是给你的。我来看看是否还能找到。”

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It was a complete loss. The Cathay-Raht had stolen or destroyed almost every item of value in the caravan in just a few minutes' time. Decumus Scotti's wagonload of wood he had hoped to trade with the Bosmer had been set on fire and then toppled off the bluff. His clothing and contracts were tattered and ground into the mud of dirt mixed with spilt wine. All the pilgrims, merchants, and adventurers in the group moaned and wept as they gathered the remnants of their belongings by the rising sun of the dawn.

“I best not tell anyone that I managed to hold onto my notes for my translation of the Mnoriad Pley Bar,” whispered the poet Gryf Mallon. “They'd probably turn on me.”

Scotti politely declined the opportunity of telling Mallon just how little value he himself placed on the man's property. Instead, he counted the coins in his purse. Thirty-four gold pieces. Very little indeed for an entrepreneur beginning a new business.

“Hoy!” came a cry from the wood. A small party of Bosmer emerged from the thicket, clad in leather mail and bearing arms. “Friend or foe?”

“Neither,” growled the convoy head.

“You must be the Cyrodiils,” laughed the leader of the group, a tall skeleton-thin youth with a sharp vulpine face. “We heard you were en route. Evidently, so did our enemies.”

“I thought the war was over,” muttered one of the caravan's now ruined merchants.

The Bosmer laughed again: “No act of war. Just a little border enterprise. You are going on toFalinesti?”

“I'm not,” the convoy head shook his head. “As far as I'm concerned, my duty is done. No more horses, no more caravan. Just a fat profit loss to me.”

The men and women crowded around the man, protesting, threatening, begging, but he refused to step foot in Valenwood. If these were the new times of peace, he said, he'd rather come back for the next war.

Scotti tried a different route and approached the Bosmer. He spoke with an authoritative but friendly voice, the kind he used in negotiations with peevish carpenters: “I don't suppose you'd consider escorting me to Falinesti. I'm a representative for an important Imperial agency, the Atrius Building Commission, here to help repair and alleviate some of the problems the war with theKhajiit brought to your province. Patriotism --”

“Twenty gold pieces, and you must carry your own gear if you have any left,” replied the Bosmer.

Scotti reflected that negotiations with peevish carpenters rarely went his way either.

Six eager people had enough gold on them for payment. Among those without funds was the poet, who appealed to Scotti for assistance.

“I'm sorry, Gryf, I only have fourteen gold left over. Not even enough for a decent room when I get to Falinesti. I really would help you if I could,” said Scotti, persuading himself that it was true.

The band of six and their Bosmer escorts began the descent down a rocky path along the bluff. Within an hour's time, they were deep in the jungles of Valenwood. A never-ending canopy of hues of browns and greens obscured the sky. A millennia's worth of fallen leaves formed a deep, wormy sea of putrefaction beneath their feet. Several miles were crossed wading through the slime. For several more, they took a labyrinthian path across fallen branches and the low-hanging boughs of giant trees.

All the while, hour after hour, the inexhaustible Bosmer host moved so fast, the Cyrodiils struggled to keep from being left behind. A red-faced little merchant with short legs took a bad step on a rotten branch and nearly fell. His fellow provincials had to help him up. The Bosmer paused only a moment, their eyes continually darting to the shadows in the trees above before moving on at their usual expeditious pace.

“What are they so nervous about?” wheezed the merchant irritably. “More Cathay-Raht?”

“Don't be ridiculous,” laughed the Bosmer unconvincingly. “Khajiit this far into Valenwood? In times of peace? They'd never dare.”

When the group passed high enough above the swamp that the smell was somewhat dissipated, Scotti felt a sudden pang of hunger. He was used to four meals a day in the Cyrodilic custom. Hours of nonstop exertion without food was not part of his regimen as a comfortably paid clerk. He pondered, feeling somewhat delirious, how long they had been trotting through the jungle. Twelve hours? Twenty? A week? Time was meaningless. Sunlight was only sporadic through the vegetative ceiling. Phosphorescent molds on the trees and in the muck below provided the only regular illumination.

“Is it at all possible for us to rest and eat?” he hollered to his host up ahead.

“We're near to Falinesti,” came the echoing reply. “Lots of food there.”

The path continued upward for several hours more across a clot of fallen logs, rising up to the first and then the second boughs of the tree line. As they rounded a long corner, the travelers found themselves midway up a waterfall that fell a hundred feet or more. No one had the energy to complain as they began pulling up the stacks of rock, agonizing foot by foot. The Bosmer escorts disappeared into the mist, but Scotti kept climbing until there was no more rock left. He wiped the sweat and river water from his eyes.

Falinesti spread across the horizon before him. Sprawling across both banks of the river stood the mighty graht-oak city, with groves and orchards of lesser trees crowding it like supplicants before their king. At a lesser scale, the tree that formed the moving city would have been extraordinary: gnarled and twisted with a gorgeous crown of gold and green, dripping with vines and shining with sap. At a mile tall and half as wide, it was the most magnificent thing Scotti had ever seen. If he had not been a starving man with the soul of a clerk, he would have sung.

“There you are,” said the leader of the escorts. “Not too far a walk. You should be glad it's wintertide. In summertide, the city's on the far south end of the province.”

Scotti was lost as to how to proceed. The sight of the vertical metropolis where people moved about like ants disoriented all his sensibilities.

“You wouldn't know of an inn called,” he paused for a moment, and then pulled Jurus's letter from his pocket. “Something like 'Mother Paskos Tavern'?”

“Mother Pascost?” the lead Bosmer laughed his familiar contemptuous laugh. “You won't want to stay there? Visitors always prefer the Aysia Hall in the top boughs. It's expensive, but very nice.”

“I'm meeting someone at Mother Pascost's Tavern.”

“If you've made up your mind to go, take a lift to Havel Slump and ask for directions there. Just don't get lost and fall asleep in the western cross.”

This apparently struck the youth's friends as a very witty jest, and so it was with their laughter echoing behind him that Scotti crossed the writhing root system to the base of Falinesti. The ground was littered with leaves and refuse, and from moment to moment a glass or a bone would plummet from far above, so he walked with his neck crooked to have warning. An intricate network of platforms anchored to thick vines slipped up and down the slick trunk of the city with perfect grace, manned by operators with arms as thick as an ox's belly. Scotti approaches the nearest fellow at one of the platforms, who was idly smoking from a glass pipe.

“I was wondering if you might take me to Havel Slump.”

The mer nodded and within a few minutes time, Scotti was two hundred feet in the air at a crook between two mighty branches. Curled webs of moss stretched unevenly across the fork, forming a sharing roof for several dozen small buildings. There were only a few souls in the alley, but around the bend ahead, he could hear the sound of music and people. Scotti tipped the Falinesti Platform Ferryman a gold piece and asked for the location of Mother Pascost's Tavern.

“Straight ahead of you, sir, but you won't find anyone there,” the Ferryman explained, pointing in the direction of the noise. “Morndas everyone in Havel Slump has revelry.”

Scotti walked carefully along the narrow street. Though the ground felt as solid as the marble avenues of the Imperial City, there were slick cracks in the bark that exposed fatal drops into the river. He took a moment to sit down, to rest and get used to the view from the heights. It was a beautiful day for certain, but it took Scotti only a few minutes of contemplation to rise up in alarm. A jolly little raft anchored down stream below him had distinctly moved several inches while he watched it. But it hadn't moved at all. He had. Together with everything around him. It was no metaphor: the city of Falinesti walked. And, considering its size, it moved quickly.

Scotti rose to his feet and into a cloud of smoke that drifted out from around the bend. It was the most delicious roast he had ever smelled. The clerk forgot his fear and ran.

The “revelry” as the Ferryman had termed it took place on an enormous platform tied to the tree, wide enough to be a plaza in any other city. A fantastic assortment of the most amazing people Scotti had ever seen were jammed shoulder-to-shoulder together, many eating, many more drinking, and some dancing to a lutist and singer perched on an offshoot above the crowd. They were largely Bosmer, true natives clad in colorful leather and bones, with a close minority of orcs. Whirling through the throng, dancing and bellowing at one another were a hideous ape people. A few heads bobbing over the tops of the crowd belonged not, as Scotti first assumed, to very tall people, but to a family of centaurs.

“Care for some mutton?” queried a wizened old mer who roasted an enormous beast on some red-hot rocks.

Scotti quickly paid him a gold piece and devoured the leg he was given. And then another gold piece and another leg. The fellow chuckled when Scotti began choking on a piece of gristle, and handed him a mug of a frothing white drink. He drank it and felt a quiver run through his body as if he were being tickled.

“What is that?” Scotti asked.

“Jagga. Fermented pig's milk. I can let you have a flagon of it and a bit more mutton for another gold.”

Scotti agreed, paid, gobbled down the meat, and took the flagon with him as he slipped into the crowd. His co-worker Liodes Jurus, the man who had told him to come to Valenwood, was nowhere to be seen. When the flagon was a quarter empty, Scotti stopped looking for Jurus. When it was half empty, he was dancing with the group, oblivious to the broken planks and gaps in the fencework. At three quarters empty, he was trading jokes with a group of creatures whose language was completely alien to him. By the time the flagon was completely drained, he was asleep, snoring, while the revelry continued on all around his supine body.

The next morning, still asleep, Scotti had the sensation of someone kissing him. He made a face to return the favor, but a pain like fire spread through his chest and forced him to open his eyes. There was an insect the size of a large calf sitting on him, crushing him, its spiky legs holding him down while a central spiral-bladed vortex of a mouth tore through his shirt. He screamed and thrashed but the beast was too strong. It had found its meal and it was going to finish it.

It's over, thought Scotti wildly, I should have never left home. I could have stayed in the City, and perhaps found work with Lord Vanech. I could have begun again as a junior clerk and worked my way back up.

Suddenly the mouth released itself. The creature shivered once, expelled a burst of yellow bile, and died.

“Got one!” cried a voice, not too distantly.

For a moment, Scotti lay still. His head throbbed and his chest burned. Out of the corner of his eye he saw movement. Another of the horrible monsters was scurried towards him. He scrambled, trying to push himself free, but before he could come out, there was a sound of a bow cracking and an arrow pierced the second insect.

“Good shot!” cried another voice. “Get the first one again! I just saw it move a little!”

This time, Scotti felt the impact of the bolt hit the carcass. He cried out, but he could hear how muffled his voice was by the beetle's body. Cautiously, he tried sliding a foot out and rolling under, but the movement apparently had the effect of convincing the archers that the creature still lived. A volley of arrows was launched forth. Now the beast was sufficiently perforated so pools of its blood, and likely the blood of its victims, began to seep out onto Scotti's body.

When Scotti was a lad, before he grew too sophisticated for such sports, he had often gone to the Imperial Arena for the competitions of war. He recalled a great veteran of the fights, when asked, telling him his secret, “Whenever I'm in doubt of what to do, and I have a shield, I stay behind it.”

Scotti followed that advice. After an hour, when he no longer heard arrows being fired, he threw aside the remains of the bug and leapt as quickly as he could to a stand. It was not a moment too soon. A gang of eight archers had their bows pointing his direction, ready to fire. When they saw him, they laughed.

“Didn't anyone ever tell you not to sleep in the western cross? How're we going to exterminate all the hoarvors if you drunks keep feeding 'em?”

Scotti shook his head and walked back along the platform, round the bend, to Havel Slump. He was bloodied and torn and tired and he had far too much fermented pig's milk. All he wanted was a proper place to lie down. He stepped into Mother Pascost's Tavern, a dank place, wet with sap, smelling of mildew.

“My name is Decumus Scotti,” he said. “I was hoping you have someone named Jurus staying here.”

“Decumus Scotti?” pondered the fleshy proprietress, Mother Pascost herself. “I've heard that name. Oh, you must be the fellow he left the note for. Let me go see if I can find it.”

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