Shadows Of The Apt [01] - Empire in Black and Gold by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Shadows Of The Apt [01] - Empire in Black and Gold by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Author:Adrian Tchaikovsky [Tchaikovsky, Adrian]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: Magic, Fantasy, Fantasy fiction, General, Fiction, Juvenile Fiction, War stories, Espionage, Transportation, Spy stories, Railroads & Trains
ISBN: 9781616141929
Publisher: Prometheus Books
Published: 2010-03-23T04:00:00+00:00

Hokiak’s Exchange was still there in the dingiest corner of the eastern plaza, just as Stenwold remembered it. Furthermore, so was Hokiak himself, although the intervening years had not been kind to him.

He was the oldest Scorpion-kinden that Stenwold had ever seen, perhaps the oldest there was. They were a ruthless, primal people in their desert home and a man did not live long amongst them once his strength began to wane, unless he possessed some edge over his fellows. Hokiak’s edge was a self-imposed exile. Even when Stenwold had known him, he had been too old to go home. Now he was positively decayed, his waxy skin folded into sallow creases and his once-yellow eyes faded to a dim sepia. His throat was as creased as a discarded shirt and the characteristic large frame of his breed had slumped to fat now, and even that was ebbing like a low tide, leaving his bare chest an unsightly ripple of wrinkles and old scars. One of his foreclaws was a jagged stump that had not regrown, and his jutting jaws revealed a ghastly thicket of rotting spurs on protruding gums. He sat on a wicker chair and smoked, and occasionally skewered candied insects from a box with a thumbclaw.

The Exchange itself was clearly faring better than its namesake. Stenwold and Totho pushed into a small room made smaller still by stacks of heaped boxes. The air was thick with spices, and the pungent, dizzying tobacco that Hokiak still smoked. His staff was hard at work prising the lids off crates, cataloguing their contents and then nailing them back. There were three youngsters engaged at the work: a pair of Fly-kinden around Totho’s age and a dark Mynan girl no older than thirteen. They were supervised by a Spider-kinden man who couldn’t have been much short of Hokiak’s own years. Spiders aged rather better, though. This one had long silver hair and a trace of an aristocratic demeanour, but was almost skeletally thin.

‘Stenwold, are you sure about this . . . this looks like a pirate’s den,’ Totho whispered as he took a glance at the place. He was right, too. Most of the commodities that were hanging from the rafters, or being hurriedly boxed, were exotic plunder from far parts of the world, and Stenwold knew that there would be a back room with the real contraband in it.

‘Our friend Hokiak,’ he murmured, ‘was a black marketeer – and is one still, unless I miss my guess. Now the sort of people we’re looking for will have good use for someone who can smuggle goods in and out. It’s all about contacts, Totho.’

‘Don’t just stand there letting the dust in,’ Hokiak suddenly complained in a surprisingly deep voice. ‘In or out, Master Beetle.’

Stenwold closed the door behind him. With Totho dogging his every step nervously. ‘Well now, Master Scorpion, how’s about finding a little work for a tramp artificer and his boy?’

‘You any good?’ Hokiak blinked rheumy eyes at him. ‘Always can find work for a good ’un.


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