Измайловский парк. Большой юмористический концерт [06х01-05] (2017-2018) WEBRip 720p
Уральские пельмени [01-97] (2009-2017) SATRip, WEBRip

Blind Shrike Page 17

Shrike was passing around cups and a thermos full of hot coffee. Spyder poured some and watched Primo at the front of the gondola operating a spider web of lines and pulleys, positioning the airship to catch the bay winds. Spyder took his cup and went to little man.

"Want some coffee?" Spyder asked.

"I don't drink stimulants, sir."

"Need any help with the ropes?"

Primo grinned. "Oh, no thank you. I'm fine." He pulled enthusiastically on one line and let another slide through his hand as they turned away from the coast and drifted toward the Golden Gate Bridge, steadily gaining altitude as they went.

"You look like the cat who ate the canary, after f**king it," said Spyder.

The little man nodded. "I'm doing what I love," he said. "I serve Madame Cinders because that is my duty. She gave my clan sanctuary centuries ago and we always honor our debts. But living sedentary in her palace isn't the happiest life for me."

"A ramblin', gamblin' man."

Primo laughed. "We Gytrash are travelers both by profession and by disposition. I grew up on horseback, in trading ships clad in gold and on endless overland treks through all three Spheres.

"This airship reminds me of one I was on many years ago. My clan landed on the island of Montes Lunae to make repairs on take on supplies. Montes Lunae is a rich, green island in the second Sphere which, back then, was ruled by Chashash, the Raven King. It was the hundred and fiftieth year of Chashash's rein and in keeping with Lunae tradition, he'd declared Jubilee."

"That some kind of party?" asked Spyder.

"It's much, much more than that, sir. During Jubilee, all laws are suspended, all slaves freed, all the lands won in battle are returned to their original owners. Jubilee is a time of renewal and madness. A time to burn the fields-both physical and metaphysical. Prisons became art galleries. Art galleries became bordellos. Bordellos became court houses. Then it all changes again over night.

"As time goes on, the laws of physics begin to fall apart. Mortals can fly…badly, in my experience. On Montes Lunae, many aeronauts cracked their skulls before they got the hang of it. And when they did learn the basics of flying, they'd still get air sick. It was a bad idea to enter some neighborhoods without an umbrella.

"There was a method to all this madness. Everyone who lived on the island, including visitors like us, were given tattoos with colored shapes-circles, triangles or squares, along with alchemical symbols. This complex combination of colors and symbols told you who you were in relation to everyone else on any given day. On my chest, I received an inverted red triangle with the symbol for quicksilver.

"The night my clan received its tattoos (each of us received a different combination of symbols), we had no idea of our place among the islanders or to each other anymore. We were saved when I saw a Captain from the Raven King's army. I had met the man earlier, but that night he prostrated himself before me. He was a slave, he told me, the lowest off the low in relation to those who carried my symbol. I had him explain the pecking order to my whole clan, so that we might fit in with the celebrations. When I saw the captain again a few days later, he was the lord and I was the slave. This is how it was during Jubilee. Anyone could be anyone else on any given night. Even the Raven King himself was, on occasion, both a prisoner and a slave. I know this because I, Primo Kosinski, of the Black Iron Gytrash, for three full days became king of the second Sphere.

"I was in prison when it happened. Everyone ends up prison during Jubilee. What I didn't know was that the Jubilee kings and queens were chosen in prison by a lottery. My lottery card bore the outline of a wolf's paw. This meant nothing to me since a number of other prisoners had similar symbol on their lots. But through a combination of the wolf, the configuration of the stars in the sky and my tattoos, I was declared king and taken to the royal palace high atop the World Poplar.

"I loved being king. Pretty girls-exotic dancers who were now the legislature-would bring me fruit and legal documents. I often signed the document without reading them, assuming I would learn what they were eventually.

"We passed new Jubilee laws constantly, then would make it illegal to enforce them. The laws were often deliberately ludicrous. It became illegal to carry an small dog while smoking a pipe. It was further illegal to attempt sexual relations with an animal while either party was on fire. No one could smile while wearing white, or frown while in the presence of a man in stripes. Those found guilty of these charges might find themselves banished to the sewers with nothing but a candle and a baseball bat. Or they might be made Archbishop.

"The only law that remained constant and coldly rational throughout Jubilee was simple: Everyone on Montes Lunae, resident or guest, must participate in Jubilee wholeheartedly while he or she was there. This was a hard thing for some people. It was a hard thing for my family.

"Eventually, my mother found herself subordinate to a man she didn't like, a marriage broker who was also a card cheat and a libertine-two things my mother couldn't abide. She refused to serve the man when it was her time. When the broker insisted, my father and brothers beat him. My family was arrested and bought before me. I was King. I had no choice. They had broken the most basic law of Jubilee.

"I executed them."

Spyder looked at Primo hard as the little man made subtle adjustments on the lines that controlled the airship's progress.

"But this isn't a sad story," Primo continued. "To honor my family's death, I prepared their bodies as a great feast on my last night as king. I invited all the citizens of the island to dine with me. Everyone ate and through the citizens' digestive tracts, my family became a part of every person on Montes Lunae. When those citizens had children, a tiny piece of my family was passed on to them. To this day, I am welcome in any home on the island, from the highest to the lowest, because, in a sense, every person on Montes Lunae is a blood relation."

Twenty Two

Bewitched

"It occurs to me that I have no idea where we're headed."

"To the desert. The Kasla Mountains," said Shrike. "They're our entrance to Hell."

Spyder and Shrike were in the galley below deck and she was mixing a strong tea fortified with red wine and spices. Spyder liked the smell and he enjoyed watching Shrike work, feeling with her small, sure hands for each utensil and ingredient as she prepared the brew.

"I've never heard of the Kaslas."

"They're on the island of Kher-aba in the Sunkosh Sea."

"This is going to be one of those places that regular people can't see, right? And I'm going to recognize f**k all."

"Chances are."

"Tell me how nice I am for coming along."

Shrike smiled. "You're an angel. A life saver. My prize pony."

The living quarters in the airship were like a flying palace, an equal, in miniature, of Madame Cinders' ornate quarters. The place smelled of cedar, mahogany and Shrike's herbal brew. Nearby, Lulu slept on a heavy Chinese fainting couch, delicately carved in the shape of an emperor dragon. Though smaller than his warehouse, the airship was easily the best place Spyder had ever lived.

"I'm the teacher here, school girl. You're not allowed to sexually harass me."

"You're missing your chance, Humbert. I was going to do my best Lolita for you."

"How is it that a princess who knows about Lolita has never heard of stuff like James Dean or a Porsche?"

"Sorry if I skipped Pop Culture 101 before we met. I've lived in this Sphere on and off and I've picked up a few things. TV I learned about from my old partner. He would describe the shows to me."

"You never told me much about him."

She shrugged. "He was a boy I met in the third Sphere, Ozymand Riyahd, a thief and the son of a swordmaker. He helped me train and perfect my skills. But it was dangerous for us. Soldiers from my kingdom were still looking for me. We bribed a wizard for the magic to get to the First Sphere. Neither swordsmanship nor magic helped, in the end. Ozymand was murdered. Is that what you wanted to know?"

"Sorry. I didn't mean to go all Jimmy Olsen on you. but I needed to know what it was between you two."

"Why?"

Spyder shrugged. "Because you have my interest. Because you're not like anyone I ever met before which, I know, is an understatement. I like you, but I don't want to go shaking my tail feathers where they're not wanted."

"Ozymand was my friend and will always own a piece of my heart. But he's gone now. We murderers are a practical bunch. Just like on TV. When the first Darrin left Bewitched, they got another."

"You know about Bewitched?"

"Uncle Arthur makes me laugh. But TV witches aren't much like the ones I've known."

Shrike finished preparing the tea and handed a cup to Spyder. It was warm and revived him after his sleepless night.

"Maybe you can get a job as a demon consultant in Holly-wood."

"I'll be a stunt person for all the famous blind female action stars," said Shrike. She laughed. "I liked Jean -Harlow. Is she still in movies?"

"Not for about 50 years."

"Oh. The way her voice sounded made her sound so beautiful."

"She was beautiful. Good guess."

"I told you: there's blind and there's blind."

"Which means what?"

"I'll explain later. Tell me about your friend. Is she an expert on Hell?"

"Not hardly. That's Lulu. She's a friend I couldn't leave behind."

"Can she fight? Can she find water in the desert? Navigate by the stars?"

"She can give you nipple rings and a nice labret."

"Then why did you bring her? You know where we're going. Every step of this journey is going to be over razor blades and landmines."

"Things back home are steel wool panties-somewhat uncomfortable and crawling up your ass. A demon's pissed at me, and now everyone thinks I'm Ted Bundy's cabana boy. If I'd a left Lulu behind, she would have offed herself or been offed by some solid citizen. You should understand about wanting to protect a friend."

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