[Gentlemen Bastards 02] Red Seas Under Read Skies

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Auteur: Scott Lynch

[Gentlemen Bastards 02] Red Seas Under Read Skies
 
    PROLOGUE
    A Strained Conversation
    1
    Locke Lamora stood on the pier in Tal Verrar with the hot wind of a burning ship at his back and the cold bite of a loaded crossbow’s bolt at his neck.
    He grinned and concentrated on holding his own crossbow level with the left eye of his opponent; they were close enough that they would catch most of each other’s blood, should they both twitch their fingers at the same time.
    “Be reasonable,” said the man facing him. Beads of sweat left visible trails as they slid down his grime-covered cheeks and forehead. “Consider the disadvantages of your situation.”
    Locke snorted. “Unless your eyeballs are made of iron, the disadvantage is mutual. Wouldn’t you say so, Jean?”
    They were standing two-by-two on the pier, Locke beside Jean, their assailants beside one another. Jean and his foe were toe-to-toe with their crossbows similarly poised; four cold metal bolts were cranked and ready scant inches away from the heads of four understandably nervous men. Not one of them could miss at this range, not if all the gods above or below the heavens willed it otherwise.
    “All four of us would seem to be up to our balls in quicksand,” said Jean.
    On the water behind them, the old galleon groaned and creaked as the roaring flames consumed it from the inside out. Night was made day for hundreds of yards around; the hull was crisscrossed with the white-orange lines of seams coming apart. Smoke boiled out of those hellish cracks in little black eruptions, the last shuddering breaths of a vast wooden beast dying in agony. The four men stood at the very end of their pier, strangely alone in the midst of light and noise that was drawing the attention of the entire city.
    “Lower your piece, for the love of the gods,” said Locke’s opponent. “We’ve been instructed not to kill you, if we don’t have to.”
    “And I’m sure you’d be honest if it were otherwise, of course,” said Locke. His smile grew. “I make it a point never to trust men with weapons at my windpipe. Sorry.”
    “Your hand will start to shake long before mine does.”
    “I’ll rest the tip of my quarrel against your nose when I get tired. Who sent you after us? What are they paying you? We’re not without funds; a happy arrangement could be reached.”
    “Actually,” said Jean, “I know who sent them.”
    “Really?” Locke flicked a glance at Jean before locking eyes with his adversary once again.
    “And an arrangement has been reached, but I wouldn’t call it happy.”
    “Ah…Jean, I’m afraid you’ve lost me.”
    “No.” Jean raised one hand, palm out, to the man opposite him. He then slowly, carefully shifted his aim to his left—until his crossbow was pointing at Locke’s head. The man he’d previously been threatening blinked in surprise. “You’ve lost me, Locke.”
    “Jean,” said Locke, the grin vanishing from his face, “this isn’t funny.”
    “I agree. Hand your piece over to

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