INIGO CHUCKLED TRIUMPHANTLY, planting a kiss on the note from Natia Verrule and dismissing the surprised Master Percale to despatch his reply. He hustled that worthy from the room, clutching response and coin, eager to hear no more of the mysteries of ergopathy. As he sprang back to his drawing-board, his emotions refreshed by the thought of the amorous Mistress Verrule pining for his company, he fancied he heard a faint shriek from below, as his landlord passed the first landing: but the footsteps continued downwards, and he unpricked his ears. As to which of the two neighbours over whom his rooms extended might have caused the shriek, he could not say.
In truth, what could be better than to be Carivelli, on a day such as this? At the peak of his art, master of love, shaping life - this was being, indeed! He bent over his drawings, pencil skittering freely over the smooth paper.
THE REST OF the day passed in something of a haze. All Inigo was conscious of was the mighty Work taking shape under his hands. With each drawing he completed, adding to the growing stack to his left, another aspect, another plan, another detail was nailed down firmly to that great Edifice. While the hard, fixed, rigorous parts of his mind engaged themselves with the business of tracing the Emproium's lineaments, its higher members - his very Role - soared freely through the building as it would be when complete, diving in and out of the traceried window inlets, circling the minarets, bidding good-day to the sombre elephants who supported each twisted palm-tree column, and drinking in the marvelling awe of the citizens of Sahela as they flocked through its ponderous doors into the airy space within, all laid out and bedecked with the finest goods Kufra had to offer, redolent with the spices of the South.
He was vaguely aware of Master Percale sliding a few pieces of bread under the door, towards the end of the day, and he supposed he must have eaten them, for they were no longer there when he awoke, yawning mightily, the following morning. First of all he staggered to the desk - yes! It had not been a fevered dream, as he had half-feared - the Work was complete, in every particular. Let Severin bat his eyes and shriek with excitement!
He doused his head, blinking, and noticed a scrap of blue paper peeking under the door. It was the latest Mimer's Well, no doubt provided by Master Percale's kindness. Flicking through it idly, he frowned to see a report of his exchange with Darkev. So much for the secret brotherhood of the Green Room! One there must have blabbed the tale to this Chirk fellow. Ah well, the city would know soon enough, when - less than a week, now - he left Darkev gasping on the chill dawn grass of Sanzio Gardens, having created a large enough hole to allow some of that bloated pomp to seep out!
SEPTIMUS SEVERIN'S HOUSE was a hive of activity this morning, workers rushing in and out like so many busy insects carrying huge bales of silk on their backs. Presumably a shipment had just come in, or something of the sort. As Inigo lounged against the statue of a tree-nymph, awaiting his appointment, he caught sight of Rachel Trube striding across the foyer: she waved cheerily, making an expressive face and shrugging her shoulders as she followed a fustian-clad fellow into one of the inner rooms.
Severin himself was in a clear, light room, with a large table, which he must have selected for the purpose of better viewing the drawings. Cheered by this thought, Inigo proceeded to unveil his creation, laying one sheet at a time onto the surface to allow his patron to gradually gather in the full effect of the whole. That done, he clasped his hands, awaiting the praise he knew was his meed.
Severin said nothing at first, returning to one of the grand plans and studying it carefully, then comparing it with the corresponding elevations. He frowned. 'This is good work, Master Carivelli, I'll give you that. 'Tis clear you were well taught and have a good grasp of your Art. But there are things here that will not do, I'm afraid.'
Inigo ground his teeth silently, his face flushing, but he was determined not to make a scene. 'What might those be, sir?' he forced out.
'See - here - this façade will receive no light nine months of the year. We cannot light such a large chamber purely internally: it would be prohibitive. It demands skylights, or at least a high gallery of windows running thus.' He indicated with his finger.
Feeling slightly sick, Inigo peered, and saw that Severin was quite right. He had forgotten that to the north-west of the site was a large warehouse belonging to the Guild Council, which would block light unless it came in high. He had pencilled the warehouse in on the early drafts, but at some point in the copying it had been omitted, and he had not missed it.
'Now, what about these elephants - they're bearing a tremendous weight, are they not? Do you think it wise to allow people to pass between their legs? What stone do you propose for this?'
'Why, sir, I was thinking of granite, or dolomite, with marble cladding.'
'Hmph! Very well, if you say so, but nonetheless I would prefer to see these particular doors kept shut for the most part. I know what folk are like - fiddle, fiddle, tamper, tamper! Now, this is where the cranes are to be mounted, yes? We'll need iron stanchions here. And this aperture must be larger: a Filly bale is five cubits across, and we mount them nine to a pallet.'
'On the subject of cranes,' Inigo put in, keen to rescue some of the initiative, 'I thought it might be possible to retain the naval cranes that currently throng the site - they could be most useful for the construction work.'
'Good idea!' Severin raised his head, looking at Inigo with something resembling favour. 'I'll brief Mistress Trube to that effect at once.' He softened somewhat. 'Don't take my criticisms to heart, Master Carivelli: you've done a fine job here, and I mean to confirm the contract, construction to start under your authority as soon as the site is clear. These small changes - and I may spot a few more in the next day or so - will not take a man like you long to incorporate, I'm sure. If, that is, your other commitments don't drag you away from my work.'
Here he frowned fiercely, and Inigo was worried for a moment that he was referring to the water-fountain for Trimble. But then Severin's face cracked into a grin, and he clapped Inigo on the back. 'You're a brave fellow for taking on Darkev, and I'm pleased you've got spirit - I'd have done the same! One's honour is all one has to defend, sometimes! I gave you the contract because I thought you'd do a better job than Darkev - some sad business with his daughter, he can't keep his mind on the job these days - and my guess is you'll outmatch him with the sword, as well. Why, I was just saying to Etta the other day, what a fine shoulder you have...'
'Your daughter, Miss Etta Severin?' Inigo leapt at this conversational opportunity, only belatedly realising that it had been presented to him rather artlessly.
Severin's whole demeanour changed, his fists clenched, his brows beetled, and he seemed considerably taller. His voice was cold. 'Yes, my elder daughter. She is very precious to me, Master Carivelli. Since her mother's death I have been most judicious about her social contacts. Do you take my meaning? I see you do. Bear these words in mind, for at present you have a powerful friend in me.'
INIGO WAS LITTLE daunted by his employer's minatory mien, truth to tell, and there was a spring in his step as he hied himself to the Bone Castle, to inspect its suitability. He was pleased to find it one of the city's most pleasant hostelries - how different from the spit-and-sawdust affairs favoured in Samarinda! He could quite accustom himself to the decadence of the south - with a number of salons privées. He left the maître d' with something to remember him by, and progressed on, his feet drawing him into the maze of streets surrounding the University, where the better class of young folk were wont to gather of an evening. After peering into a couple of bars, he entered the third, named Gathric's, which was decorated along the lines of a Riberan stube - all wheat-sheaves and trails of hops around the walls. Here he swiftly fell in with a fast company - students, for the most part, young scions of the merchant families who controlled the city's wealth. When he introduced himself, he found his fame had gone before him.
'So, you're the chap's agreed to take Darkev down a peg or two?' drawled one blade, resplendent in scarlet silks. Inigo himself was rather conscious that his appearance did him few favours at the moment.
'Aye, sir, that's right: I anticipate a salutary result.'
'Well said! Gretchen, a drink for our brave fellow! My name's Threlfall - Rogier Threlfall.' He offered his hand. Inigo could not keep the recognition from his eyes, and Threlfall winced. 'Heard the name, eh? Well, I can guess in what context, given your current patron! Hah - women! I tell you, friend, I'm having no more of'em - from now on it's whores only for me! Gretchen - another one for me, too! Actually, make it two each, and save yourself the trouble!'
MUCH LATER, THE spring sunlight streaming weakly over the rooftops, Inigo staggered home, winding his way from one lamp-post to the next. He had reckoned himself a capable drinker, but Rogier Threlfall set new standards in endurance. If he had indeed been turned to the drink by Etta Severin's rejection of him, then her inconstancy was the brewers of Sahela's boon. He had little good to say of her - describing her as a flighty minx, tempestuous jade, mettlesome filly and other such endearments - but Inigo had left with the picture that for all his brave words Threlfall had bitten off more than he could chew in Etta. From the sounds of it, young Peter Pike would last no longer - a studious youth, he had been appearing increasingly drawn and haggard of late, according to his deposed rival.
Threlfall had also been informative on the six girls attacked by the blood bat. Apparently he was acquainted with Doctor Farley Grimes, who had treated five of them. The bat's bite induced lassitude and weakness, but nothing worse than that: when denied its attentions, all had started on the road to recovery, although having lost a great deal of blood this was a slow process. Darkev's only daughter Varria was one of the six - perhaps what Severin had been referring to. Neither Severin nor Trimble were on the Guild Council, Threlfall had said, amused at the notion. 'They're too busy running the city for that!' It seemed that instead they retained a number of Councillors, of both factions, to do their bidding in the Guild Council chamber. Both factions were effectively controlled by the mercantile interests, it seemed.
Inigo reached Master Percale's house and, fishing out his key, struggled manfully with the lock. However he tried, he could not seem to fit the key in: it was bending away from the hole, or some such phenomenon, no doubt readily explained by the magnetic humours in the air at this time of day, or some such. He heard a faint scraping noise above his head, then a whistle. Glancing up, he saw to his surprise that one of the second-floor windows was open, and leaning from it was the dark, bushy head of a man, no more than a few years older than Inigo, his beard and moustache covering so much of his face as almost to merge with his hair - presumably Master Foxx. He was wearing a small red woollen cap, and in his hands he held a small crossbow. It was pointed straight downwards at Inigo. His voice was husky and croaky, as though little used. 'Burglar, are yez? Away with yez, or I'll give yez what for, straight between the eyes my lovely, see if I doesn't!'
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