The Wicked Day

The Wicked Day by Christopher Bunn Read Free Book Online

Book: The Wicked Day by Christopher Bunn Read Free Book Online
Authors: Christopher Bunn
Tags: adventure, Fantasy, Magic, Hawk, epic fantasy, wizard, thief
happen: the whisper of a knife as it flipped end over end through the air. Surely he would hear it now. But there was only the drum of his own heart in his ears, and Jute slunk down the steps, down into the safety of deeper darkness. He stumbled at the bottom of the stairs, expecting another step, and reached out to steady himself on the wall.
    “Careful,” said the ghost.
    It was impossible to see. Jute had a vague memory of a landing at the second floor. Several doors on the right. Or were they on the left? Where was the staircase leading down into the inn’s common room? And where was Declan?
    Jute crept along the wall. One door. A second door. Someone snoring behind it. A third door, and then an empty space. The stairs. Behind him, something creaked. He froze. The creak was unbearably loud in the silence. He strained his ears, listening to the inn. It was a quiet building, as far as buildings went. Houses built of wood tended to sigh and creak continuously, particularly at night, but stone buildings were mostly silent. The inn was built of stone with a slate roof.
    Jute waited for the pounding of his heart to subside. The slight sounds of the inn came whispering to him. The sounds of sleep. Someone turning uneasily on their bed. The wind sighing in the eaves outside, sighing and waiting for whatever it was that would be coming that night. And then, right when he had breathed a sigh of relief, there came a sudden thump of running feet from upstairs, a thud and a shout, and then the ringing clash of steel against steel on the stairs. Jute turned and stumbled down through the darkness, feeling his way step by step.
    “Watch out!” said the ghost.
    “What?” said Jute, and then he tripped over something (a mop and bucket) and, with a tremendous clatter, fell flat on his face at the foot of the stairs. He jumped up. A dim light shone from the embers in the common room fireplace. A figure appeared in the kitchen door, wrapped in a dressing gown. Esne. She said something—her mouth opened and he saw her eyes filled with shadows and sleep—but he did not hear her, for he was already dodging around the tables and running for the door.
    The handle whispered under his hand. He flung himself to one side as the ward in it quivered into life. There was a brief, soundless flash of light and heat and then the room was plunged back into shadow. Jute blinked and rubbed his eyes. Glaring white spots danced before his vision.
    Something rolled thumping down the stairs and came to rest in a dark clump on the floor. Esne shrieked. A man leapt down the stairs with a sword in his hands. Declan. He whirled and beat back a wave of figures that dashed down the stairs after him. Iron shone in the dim light.
    “Get the boy too!” shouted someone. “Esne! Get him, if ye know what’s good for ye!”
    “Oh dear,” said the ghost.
    Esne strode across the room, her nightgown flowing out behind her. But her face was weary and she clutched at Jute in a half-hearted manner. He ducked under her hand and darted into the kitchen. The glowing coals on the hearth revealed the face of the potboy yawning on his bed of rags by the fire. His eyes widened at the sight of Jute, and he fumbled for the poker hanging on the hearth wall. Jute hurtled past him. The poker hissed through the air behind him.
    Jute cringed as he grabbed the handle on the back door, but it wasn’t warded; it was only stiff with rust. He flung it open and shot out the door. Footsteps splashed toward him across the muddy yard behind the inn. He did not wait to see who it was (or what it was, a voice in his mind pointed out) and darted away through the night and the rain.
    For a sickening moment he was disoriented. There was only the rain and the darkness and the muddy streets twisting in and out of the jumbled houses. A dog barked close by. But then Jute heard the rumble of the waterfall somewhere further away in the night. The footsteps pounding along behind him did not slow up.

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