Dragonfly Falling

Dragonfly Falling by Adrian Tchaikovsky Read Free Book Online

Book: Dragonfly Falling by Adrian Tchaikovsky Read Free Book Online
Authors: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Tags: Fiction, General, Fantasy, Epic
men here. He had one eye still slightly open, enough to watch the door.
    ‘So what is going on?’
she demanded, and fortuitously it was Stenwold himself beyond the door to
answer her questions.
    She was reminded of the
Taverna Merraia, where she and her friends had been briefed by Stenwold the
first time, then sent off at short notice to Helleron and the first step in a
course of events that had brought her betrayal, slavery, love, and the stain of
a dead man’s blood on her hands.
    Balkus sat down by the
door and unslung his nailbow, taking up a filthy rag in a vain effort to clean
it out. Stenwold sat at a table with a mess of papers strewn across it. Beside
him was thorny Scuto and Sperra, a young Fly-kinden woman who was still
recovering from the injuries she received during the Pride battle. Across the table sat Achaeos, and Che went over to him instantly. She
was aware, as she was still always aware, of their eyes on her as she hugged
him. They certainly made an odd pair. Partly it was that she was broader than
he was, and not so much shorter, for the Moths were a slight kinden, but mostly
it was because Moths generally resented Beetles, despised them and loathed them
for their invasive technologies and their crass profiteering. In truth, Achaeos
was no different, for he had fought her race over the mines at Helleron. He
would make an exception for her, though, having already done many things and
travelled a great many miles specifically for her sake.
    ‘We move within the next
hour,’ Stenwold announced. ‘They’ve been watching me close enough but we’re in
the clear here, and when we leave it’ll be underground. By the time they pick
me up again, we’ll be in business.’
    ‘You’ve a plan,’ Achaeos
observed.
    ‘We’ve always got a
plan,’ Scuto agreed. ‘And just like before, last minute’s best.’
    ‘When we leave here,
Scuto is taking the rail to Sarn,’ Stenwold explained. ‘I will see the
Collegium Assembly soon enough, and if I have to tattoo the threat of the Wasp
Empire on every Assembler’s forehead to get my point across, I’ll do it. But
Collegium cannot stand alone. Sarn has been our ally now for just a little while,
but the Ants of Sarn have proved themselves faithful before. They came to
relieve the siege when Vek had us invested. We need them to rally to our flag
now too. Scuto, you’ve still got your contacts in Sarn, yes?’
    ‘Oh they’ve been quiet
enough.’ Scuto’s grotesque, thorn-pocked face wrinkled. ‘A decent shout in the
earhole’ll get ’em moving, don’t you worry.’
    ‘Then you’re to go shout
at them. I need you talking to the Royal Court at Sarn, or at least to someone
within it. Tell them about Tark. Tell them about Myna and Maynes. Tell them
about the Empire, most of all.’
    ‘They ain’t going to
want to see me,’ Scuto said. ‘Ain’t nobody wants to see me. I’ll get a
mouthpiece, though. I’ll get your message through.’
    ‘Good man. Take Balkus
and Sperra to help you.’
    Balkus cleared his
throat. ‘Excuse me, Master Maker, but you might just notice my skin-shade
here.’
    Stenwold looked at him
blankly, seeing only a Sarnesh Ant, larger than most, and wearing a glum
expression at that moment. Then he recalled another such: Marius, who had died
at Myna. They had both been considered renegades, and if an Ant turned from his
city there was no easy way of going back.
    ‘I suppose you won’t be
going back to Sarn any time soon,’ Stenwold admitted. Marius had left Sarn
because all those years ago his superiors would not listen when he warned them
about the Wasps. Yet he had left to better serve his city, while Balkus,
Stenwold was sure, had left for less noble motives. The outcome was the same.
    ‘I’ll be good just with
Sperra,’ Scuto said. ‘I ain’t no greenhouse flower, chief. You up for a trip,
Sperra?’
    The little Fly-kinden
nodded wearily.
    ‘You up to go speak to a
Queen for me?’ Scuto pressed.
    ‘Not on your

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