The Hidden Coronet

The Hidden Coronet by Catherine Fisher Read Free Book Online

Book: The Hidden Coronet by Catherine Fisher Read Free Book Online
Authors: Catherine Fisher
fanatics.”
    Solon smiled at him. “Excuse my friend. He is something of an unbeliever. But still I have to say I don’t understand how you could do all this.”
    Galen looked at him sidelong. “When we get to Sarres, I’ll explain everything. Not before. We may still be captured.”
    “Sarres!” Solon’s eyes went wide with intense curiosity.
    “Sarres is a lost place! A place in legend!”
    Galen smiled a wolfish smile. “That’s what you think,” he said.

Mardoc’s Ring

7
    Artelan traveled. He never knew how long or how far. He never knew how he was brought to the hidden island.
    Artelan’s Dream

    C ARYS PUT THREE CARDS DOWN carefully. “Crescent,” she muttered.
    Sitting cross-legged opposite her on the grass the Sekoi smiled. Its seven fingers plucked out an Emperor and pushed it carelessly into the last gap in the ring.
    “Circle,” it said smugly.
    Carys swore. “You can’t have!”
    “I have.” The creature smirked, its yellow eyes bright. With both hands it gathered the great pile of withered chestnuts toward itself. “So all these are mine. I make that four thousand gold marks exactly that you owe me.”
    Disgusted, Carys flung the cards down. “You were cheating. You had to be cheating!”
    “Prove it.”
    “You deal too fast.”
    “Skill,” the creature said, crunching one of the nuts.
    “And these.” It waved its fingers at her.
    Carys leaned back against the calarna tree, folding her arms. “You know you’ll never see the money.”
    “I live in hope. But I would have thought that a Watchspy would have been able to teach me a few tricks in card-sharping. What do you people do in your time off?”
    “There isn’t any.” Carys brushed the blown hair from her eyes irritably. She didn’t want to think about the Watch, let alone discuss it. But she said, “And I’m not a Watchspy. Not anymore.”
    “Ah.” The Sekoi looked over the smooth lawns of Sarres to the house, and the strange green hill beyond. Geese wandered under the trees, pecking at grass. “My people have a saying. ‘Darkness is a stain that will not wash away.’”
    Carys’s eyes went hard. “Meaning?”
    Idly it stroked the tribemark on its furred face. When it looked at her again its eyes were sly. “I think you know I’ve never been quite sure of you, Carys,” it said quietly.
    She laughed bitterly. “Only too well. What do I have to do to convince you? Isn’t it enough to be on every death-list for miles?”
    The Sekoi lounged elegantly on the grass. “Ah, but I know the Watch. Anyone can be on a list. Anyone can seem to be an outlaw, and still be working undercover.”
    “Galen trusts me. And Galen—”
    “Is the Crow. I know. He is also a man wholly possessed by his faith. Sometimes I think that makes him blind to danger. Certain dangers.”
    They looked at each other in silence, Carys hot with annoyance. In the stillness the birdsong seemed louder. The endless ripple of the hidden spring, Artelan’s Well itself, bubbled from under the yew trees.
    When she spoke again her voice was spiteful. “Time will tell.”
    The Sekoi closed its eyes against the sun. “Indeed. I will be watching.”
    “So will I, Graycat. Because the Sekoi would sell their only sons for a bent button. That’s an old saying too.”
    As it opened one eye and stared at her, surprised, the door of the house flew open and Felnia ran out, racing wildly over the grass, her short hair flying. She flung her arms wide.
    “They’re coming! The Guardian says they’re coming!”
    Carys scrambled up, the Sekoi tall beside her. “Now?”
    “Soon. Any time!” The little girl was breathless with delight, her face somehow smeared with soil from the gardens. Behind her the Guardian, Tallis, came slowly, in her old-woman shape, wiping her hands on her dress. She looked uneasy, her face tense with worry. “They’re not alone,” she said as she came up.
    Instantly Carys was wary. “Who’s with them?”
    “I don’t know. More

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