The Magnificent Showboats

The Magnificent Showboats by Jack Vance Read Free Book Online

Book: The Magnificent Showboats by Jack Vance Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jack Vance
Tags: SF
way?” He walked over to the case, picked it up and lifted the cover. “You exaggerated the difficulty of the act.”
    Zamp made no response. He took the case and lifted forth a rectangle of thin bright metal, inscribed with a message in clear black characters.
B E IT KNOWN TO ALL PERSONS THAT M ASTER A POLLON Z AMP, WITH HIS VESSEL MIRALDRA’S ENCHANTMENT AND THE MEMBERS OF HIS CREW, ORCHESTRA AND ENTERTAINMENT TROUPE ARE INVITED TO PARTICIPATE IN THE G RAND F ESTIVAL AT M ORNUNE COMMENCING ON THE THIRTEENTH DAY AFTER THE SUMMER SOLSTICE OF THIS YEAR. S UCH BEING THE CASE THEY ARE GRANTED AN ABSOLUTE SAFE-CONDUCT THROUGH THE M ANDAMAN G ATES, ACROSS THE B OTTOMLESS L AKE, AND AT THE TOWN M ORNUNE DURING THE PERIOD OF THE FESTIVAL, AND FOR SUCH TIME THEREAFTER AS MAY BE REQUIRED FOR EASY AND SAFE DEPARTURE:
    O RDAINED THROUGH AND BY THE POWER OF W ALDEMAR, K ING OF S OYVANESSE.
    “Ah yes,” said Zamp. “I expected something of this sort.” He handed the plaque to Ashgale, who read the message with a placid gaze.
    “My congratulations,” said Ashgale. He hefted the plaque and glanced absent-mindedly toward the river; Zamp hastily recovered the silver rectangle. He heaved a deep breath, and somewhat grudgingly said: “The morning is fine; would you care to take a cup of tea?”
    “I accept with pleasure,” said Ashgale. The two strolled aft and climbed to the quarter-deck. Zamp arranged a pair of wicker chairs beside the massive chart-table; the two men relaxed and stretched out their legs, while Chaunt served tea and biscuits.
    “I was unable to attend your performance last night,” said Ashgale. “We had an exasperating accident which caused considerable inconvenience. I understand that your show was up to usual standards: a clever concoction of froth, nudity and nonsense. Some day when I have exhausted the immediate urgencies of my intellect I might relax and play a season or two of farce and phantasmagoria, if for no other reason than variety.”
    “Excellent!” declared Zamp. “The field is difficult, because it demands a peculiar quality of exactness and subtlety which cannot be taught and cannot be learned. Naturally, I will help you as well as I can, but I warn you, I am a martinet.”
    “We shall see, we shall see,” said Ashgale negligently. “I have several months to form my plans, as I intend to return to Coble and give my ship a re-conditioning.” Ashgale sipped his tea. “What of yourself? The Mornune competition is still two months in the future.”
    Zamp gave the silver plaque a disdainful tap. “This is an amusing trophy, but I doubt if I will give it much heed. A pity I cannot transfer it to someone who truly wants such a trinket.”
    Ashgale made a dubious grimace. “Mornune is far upstream. I doubt if many sensible folk would want to pursue a will-o’-the-wisp quite so far.”
    Zamp signaled to Chaunt. “Bring up the River Index .” To Ashgale he said: “I am curious; let us see exactly what the journey entails.”
    Chaunt set the heavy brown volume on the table and Zamp flicked over the vellum pages. “‘Mornune: a rich town on Cynthiana Bay at the north end of Bottomless Lake, established by Merse Hawkmen from the Great Airy Plain north of Dragonsway, West-central Lune XXII. From Coble, Mornune may be best approached on the summer monsoon, which provides sufficient wind to counter the Vissel current. Departure conversely is most easily effected in the fall calms or during the winter monsoon. Eighteen to twenty-two days are required for the voyage in either direction. Along the Vissel will be found towns and villages of more or less importance, such as Prairie View, Idanthus, Port Venable, Garken, Port Wheary, Orangetown, Cockaigne City, Oxyrhincus. Some of these places are fortified against the Tinsitala tribes; others are open and the inhabitants when beleaguered take to their boats or hide in the marshes.
    “‘Important tributaries to the Vissel are the Murne at Wigtown,

Similar Books

The Summer of Me

Angela Benson

Royal Assassin

Hobb Robin

Twice Buried

Steven F. Havill

THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER

Gerald Seymour