Shadow of the Lords

Aztec Mysteries (Volume 2)

Simon Levack

Minotaur/Thomas Dunne Books

Shadow of the Lords
ONE DEATH
1
'Listen!' my brother cried. Mamiztli - 'the Mountain Lion' - was staring across the lake towards the island and city of Mexico. 'Yaotl, what was that noise?'
'Daybreak', I said shortly.
For the first time in an eventful night, I noticed that the water surrounding us was no longer black. The lake's surface had caught the deep blue of an early morning sky. It was going to be a crisp winter's day, hailed by a yellow-white radiance spreading through the thin haze that veiled the eastern horizon. Mist blanketed the mountains surrounding the valley, and swirled around the countless temples in front of them, softening their harsh, angular forms.
Birds twittered and flapped among the sedges at the water's edge, but the sound my brother had drawn my attention to had come from one of the temples, and as we gazed towards its source it came again, drifting lazily towards us over the still water: the call of a trumpet, hailing the dawn.
Another followed it, and soon the air around us was alive with them, both from the city itself and the many little towns behind us on the lake's western shore, until it felt as if the boat we stood on was the only place on Earth where priests were not blowing lustily into conch-shells. It was strange to hear them from a distance, over the water. Perhaps that was why my brother had not recognized their sound. It felt as if they werecalling to us alone, instead of proclaiming to the World at large their relief and delight that the Sun had come up one more time, and that today at least he would not desert his people.
For us, every morning was a struggle whose outcome could never be known in advance. Every time the Sun rose, he reenacted the birth of our War-God, Huitzilopochtli, and his terrible battle with his half-sister, the Moon Goddess, and his half-brothers, the Stars. Like the War-God, the Sun always won, but we could never escape the thought that he might not, and that we owed every day to the favour of the gods.
I shivered, and it was not from the chill of the early morning air. After such a night as had just passed, I could well believe that nothing, not even the Sun's rising in the morning, was certain. I had come out expecting to face an old enemy and found instead my own child, a son I had never known I had, and then watched him slip away and vanish, as fugitive as a fiery spirit on the lake.
As the last of the trumpet calls died away I felt an urge to do something that, in the days when I had been a priest, I had done out of habit: to offer the gods my blood, the nourishment the Sun needed for his day's journey.
Finding a sharp edge was easy. There were several slivers of obsidian scattered around my feet. They had been struck off blades set into the wooden shaft of a sword, at the moment when it had been driven into a man's skull. A weeping woman crouched over his prone body. I stepped delicately around her, avoiding the corpse and the other things - some of them human, none of them alive - that were scattered around it. I stooped to pick up one of the hard, glittering shards with one scrawny hand while the other reached up to my temple to tug a mass of long, tangled hair out of the way. Then I quickly cut into one of my earlobes.
With no bowl or paper to collect the blood, I let the warm fluid run down my hollow cheek and the side of my bony jaw, staining and matting the grey-streaked hair that lay over them. I stood and looked towards the city and the glowing sky beyond it and offered up a wordless prayer, remembering how it had once been every morning, the smell of incense and the vain fluttering of the quails we had sacrificed and our voices appealing to the Sun to do his work.
The woman's brittle voice shattered my reverie.
'Haven't you spilled enough blood for one night?'
 
The woman's name was Oceloxochitl, which meant Tiger Lily. The dead man was her son, a young merchant named Ocotl - the word for a pine torch or, as we thought of it, a Shining Light. A more vicious, treacherous, murderous youth would have been hard to find, although you would not have known it from the way his mother wept over his body, cradling it and shaking it as if to try to wake him up again, while his blood soaked her skirt, blouse and mantle and trickled along her bare arms.
'I didn't kill him, Lily,' I said. 'I told you how it was.' I appealed to my brother. 'Lion, you were here too.'
Lion's name normally suited him. He was a big, muscular man, every inch a warrior, but this morning he looked anything but fierce. He avoided my eyes, fixing his own on the city taking shape in the mist. He scowled. He hated lies and told them badly.
'It all happened like you said, Yaotl,' he said mechanically. 'What do you want me to say? Momaimati here ...'
'Don't involve me,' growled the fourth person on the boat, a stolid commoner whose name meant One Skilled with His Hands or, in other words, 'Handy'. 'I didn't see anything.'
Which was true, if unhelpful. I looked desperately down atthe bereaved mother, wondering what I could say to her now. The anguished face she turned up towards me had had twenty years' worth of lines etched on it in a single night. I had seen it looking very different once, very close and flushed with passion, black hair with its intriguing silver strands flowing from it like a spray of feathers from a fan as I pressed her down on a sleeping-mat. A lot had happened to us both since then, but I could not help wishing for something - some word of comfort, if not from me then from anyone else - that could make a start at smoothing away those lines. I watched as her hand strayed automatically towards the young man's blood-matted hair, before drawing back sharply as it brushed the blades set into the sword's flat shaft. My own fingers twitched in sympathy. I was about to lean forward, to reach out to her, even though I knew I would almost certainly be rebuffed, when another voice made me freeze.
It was the voice of an ancient man, hoarse with exhaustion and strain, but still clear and powerful. My master, Lord Feathered in Black, had not attempted to climb out of the canoe he had arrived in, and was still reclining in its stern, looking up at us as his craft bobbed gently beside the much larger boat I stood on.
'In case you've all forgotten,' he snarled, 'the man and the boy who did all this are still out there.' His glance swept over the carnage on the bigger craft. 'I want them alive and conscious. They're not getting away with what they've done, do you hear? I'll make an example of them. As soon as we get back to the city I'm sending warriors out here to start searching. Handy and Yaotl, you're to wait here, with the boat, until they arrive.'
Handy was a retainer of my master's - not a slave, but a common man who hired himself out by the day. I had no thought for his position now, though. All I could see was whatmy master was telling me to do. Then I imagined myself in the midst of his hunting party, and pictured its quarry, seeing the terrified, stricken face of a young man whose real identity the Chief Minister could never have guessed at.
'My Lord! I can't! You can't ask me ...'
For a moment my master was speechless.
'"Can't"?' He was shrill with indignation. 'What do you mean, "can't"? Who are you to tell me what I can and can't do, slave?'
At that sharp reminder of what I was, I recollected myself, feeling like a man running blindly towards a cliff-edge who realizes only just in time what is in front of him.
'I ... I am sorry, my Lord. I didn't mean to be impertinent. It's just that ...'
I could not tell him. It would have meant death for me as well, to admit to Lord Feathered In Black, the Cihuacoatl, the Chief Minister, Chief Priest and Chief Justice of the Aztecs, the second-most powerful man in the World, that the boy he blamed for killing Shining Light, and for so many other things besides, was my own son.
 
I had lied about the night's events, both to Lily, to save her from the truth, and to my master, to save my own skin.
The big boat I was standing on had belonged to Lily's son, Shining Light - the same young man whose corpse she was weeping brokenly over now. He had been a merchant, a member of the class of long-distance traders known as Pochteca, who earned their fortunes and renown through long, often hazardous journeys into distant lands. Shining Light had found an easier path to riches, however. Unknown to the rest of his family, he had hoarded their wealth on this boat and used it to finance an illegal gambling operation, taking secret bets on the sacred Ball Game.
Deceiving and stealing from his own mother and grandfather had not been Shining Light's only crime. He had depraved tastes, particularly when it came to boys. Once, in one of the marketplaces, he had picked up a rootless but resourceful young man, an orphan named Quimatini, or 'Nimble'. Nimble had no place in Aztec society. He had sprung from a brief, illicit liaison I had had with a pleasure-girl. He had been brought up among the Tarascans, beyond the Mountains to the West, and had drifted back into Mexico as a youth. Shining Light had adopted him, in his own perverted fashion, and the lad had posed as his lover's son while he ran errands and collected bets from his customers.
One of those customers had been my own master, Lord Feathered in Black. Shining Light had double-crossed him, though. Many others were caught up in his treachery, and some of them lay on the boat around us, murdered. My son had been his unwitting accomplice.
Lord Feathered in Black had finally caught up with Shining Light and Nimble on the night that had just passed; but he had not learned the truth about either who they were or what they had done. My master, my brother, Shining Light's mother Lily, the commoner Handy and I had gone in search of them, setting out across the lake in two canoes. As it happened, the canoe with my master and Lily in it had been deliberately run ashore by its boatman, who had panicked and run away, and only Lion and I had confronted the pair. We were the only ones to learn that the man who had betrayed my master was indeed Lily's child, and that the young man he had in his thrall - who was in the end virtually his prisoner - was my own son.
My brother had had to kill Shining Light. We had set Nimble free, and when my master, Lily and Handy finally reached us, we had lied to them. We had let them think Lily'sson had been held captive by the man he had pretended to be, and killed by him, and that that man and Nimble had escaped.
They appeared to have believed us; but even so, old Black Feathers was not going to let the matter drop. Nimble and his lover had seen and heard things that could imperil his life if the Emperor learned of them. Moreover, he had been duped. My master's was not a forgiving nature. He wanted revenge.
 
I was babbling, saying anything that came into my head if I thought it might help persuade Lord Feathered in Black to relent.
'I might let you down. I'm weak, my Lord. I've lost blood, the precious water of life. I might not be able to guide a search party ...'
My master laughed out loud.
It was a strange noise, a prolonged hoarse cackle, ending in a series of harsh dry coughs. Then he cleared his throat and his ancient face settled into a grin.
'Oh, don't you worry yourself about that, Yaotl. So you might let me down - so what? It'll be so much the worse for you!' He threw a significant glance across the water towards the nearest of the temples. 'Right now you're probably worth more as a sacrifice to the gods than as a slave!'
My heart sank at this further brutal reminder of my position.
'You find the boy and his father,' my master went on relentlessly, 'and no excuses! If you don't, it'll be the worse for you!'
My master had no idea that he was telling me to deliver up my own child, but I knew that if he had known it would have made no difference.
Then Handy spoke up.
'My Lord, I am sorry, but you can't send Yaotl after Telpochtli and the boy.'
I stared at him. Terror made my stomach churn. I wonderedwhat he had really seen and heard. He had been knocked into the water early in the fight with Shining Light, before Lion and I had found out who he and Nimble really were. Surely, I told myself, Handy could not know?
Then the commoner spoke again and, realizing what he meant, it was as much as I could do not to laugh out loud from sheer relief.
'Have you forgotten what day it is?' he went on wretchedly.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw my master's face, the taut muscles and bulging eyes seeming to collapse inward as his expression changed from fury to comical bemusement.
'Yaotl is a slave,' the commoner reminded him. 'He's sacred to Tezcatlipoca. My Lord, this is Tezcatlipoca's name-day You can't give Yaotl orders today, it would offend the god. We're in the middle of the lake - what if he stirs up a storm?'
I saw my brother start at that, and then squint suspiciously at the sky. He had always been more god-fearing than I was. 'He's right, my Lord.' He looked down at my master, whose eyes had now closed in an expression of resigned exasperation.
'After all, you're in a little open canoe. It wouldn't do to take the risk - not on a day like One Death.'
 
Of all the gods there was none we Aztecs feared more than Tezcatlipoca. The Mocker, we called him, the Enemy on Both Hands, He Whose Slaves We Are. All those titles suited his character - untrustworthy, whimsical and dangerous. You could feel his influence whenever your affairs depended on chance. The merchant who set out on a long trip with his canoe richly laden with trade goods and ended up on a mountainside with vultures picking at his bones was a victim of Tezcatlipoca's caprice. So was the Lord who sat down in his reserved seat in the front tier overlooking the Ball-Court, with his stake laid out before him, only to watch helplessly while asmall rubber ball flew and bounced from one player's hip to another's and reduced him to penury.
I had been no less a victim of the Lord of the Here and Now. Despite being the son of a commoner, from a poor family of farmers and paper-makers from one of the meaner parishes at the southern end of Tenochtitlan, I had found myself among the privileged few allowed to train for the priesthood; but I had ended up as a slave.
For a little boy, who just happened to have been born on an auspicious day, to be thrust into the care of the sinister, black-robed, bloodstained masters of the school we called the House of Tears had hardly felt as if a god were smiling upon him. Twenty years later, though, the man the boy grew into was to feel Tezcatlipoca's malice even more keenly, when for a minor and meaningless offence he was thrown out of the Priest House and trampled into the mud at the lake's edge by the men who had been his friends and colleagues.
My expulsion from the priesthood was only the start of my misfortunes. To the misery of knowing what I had lost - not just my status as a priest, recognizable at once by my long hair and black face-paint, but also the daily round of penances and observances that had given my life its meaning - was added the ignominy of being picked up and taken home by my family. They had tolerated me, but never let me forget how I had let them down: how I had thrown away a chance my brothers and sisters had never had, not to mention whatever it had cost my father to secure my admittance to the House of Tears.
I had sought refuge from their taunts and reproaches inside a drinking-gourd. I hoped the sour taste of sacred wine would take away the bitterness of my loss. Instead it doubled my humiliation, getting me arrested for the crime of public drunkenness.
I ought to have died then. For priests and nobles, thepenalty for being found drunk without lawful excuse was to be cudgelled to death. In some ways the alternative was worse. My life was spared, but all my hair was shaved off, in the plaza in front of the Emperor's palace, before a laughing, jeering crowd. How he wore his hair mattered to an Aztec, whether he had it piled up on his head like a pillar of stone to show he was a successful warrior or left it unkempt, bloody and matted as the mark of a priest. Having your head shaved was like being told you were nobody. It was what we did to a war-captive before sacrificing him, as a sign that, whatever he may have done in life, now he was just a corpse.
I had endured it only because I had known I was going to get blind drunk the moment I was set free.
I had paid for my next gourd full of sacred wine, and many more after that, by selling myself into slavery.
Slavery was not all bad. An Aztec could sell himself to cover his debts or provide for his family when times were hard or, as in my case, to keep himself in drink for a little longer. The deal had to be struck openly, in the market, before four witnesses. Then the law allowed the slave his freedom during the time it took to run through the money he was given, before he had to surrender himself to his master and do his bidding.
After that, his master owned his time but not his life. A slave's property was his own, not his master's. His master had no rights over his family or his children. A slave could not be ill treated or killed or even sold without good reason - although once he had given his master cause to get rid of him he might well find himself being bought by the priests as a cheap sacrifice.
There were worse fates than slavery that could befall a man, so long as he had no self-respect. A slave could not glorify and enrich himself by going to war and dragging home captives, or pay his debt to his city by giving his labour to some greatpublic work, as it was not his to give. In the eyes of my people, I counted for nothing more than an extension of the Chief Minister's right arm.
 
 
'What's so funny?' my brother demanded.
We were standing on the Tlacopan causeway, the broad road connecting the island of Mexico with the lake's western shore.
Handy had put us all ashore, ferrying us in relays to the small town of Popotla. There my master and the woman had found canoes to take them home, leaving Lion and me to walk. Ordinarily Lion could easily have hired a boat himself, but he had no money with him, and in his present state no one would have taken him for the distinguished and wealthy man he was.
Now he and I found ourselves in the middle of a dense, jostling crowd. In the northern part of the city the great market of Tlatelolco alone drew at least forty thousand men, women and children every day: buyers and sellers of everything from feathers and jewels to slaves, building materials and human dung to spread in the fields. Most of the bulky items, such as hides or tree trunks or stone from the quarries, came in by canoe, but there was enough traffic left over to jam the roads. Lion had just avoided having his eye pecked out by a live turkey slung over a farmer's wife's shoulder, and his snarl as he recoiled and caught my involuntary grin reminded me that this was not what he was used to.
My elder brother's origins had been as humble as mine, naturally, but his career had been no less remarkable. Unlike me, he owed his advancement to his own prowess rather than the day of his birth. Like almost any commoner's child he had gone to the House of Youth as a boy and learned all the skills needed to fit a man or woman for life as an Aztec. In the caseof boys that meant rudimentary instruction in song and dance, medicine, history and polite speech, and advanced and intensive training in physical fitness, tactics and weapon handling. Lion had excelled at his studies, and then, when turned loose on our enemies, had fought his way to fame and fortune, dragging home more distinguished captives than he could count himself, and winning one of the highest ranks a commoner could attain: Atenpanecatl, Guardian of the Waterfront. With his rank had come the marks of distinction and high office: the yellow cotton cloak with the red border, the cotton ribbons that bound his hair, the distinctive earplugs and the special sandals with oversized straps that he was allowed to wear within the city's limits.
'What's funny?' I echoed his question. 'Why, this. I mean, look around us. Tezcatlipoca has really surpassed himself this time, hasn't he?'
Lion's retort was choked off as he lurched forward involuntarily. Someone had barged into him from behind. He was a porter, probably on the last leg of a long journey from one of our tributary provinces. He had not been looking where he was going, probably because he had his head bowed against the weight of the bale hanging from his brow by a tump-line. From the faintly resinous smell about him I guessed the bale was full of copal incense.
The man muttered something that might have been apologetic in his own language, and my brother's outraged rebuke died in his throat. Lion turned on me instead.
'If you mean having me rub shoulders with peasants and barbarians is Tezcatlipoca's idea of a joke, brother, then perhaps you could tell your patron god that I don't get it!'
If he was trying to sound belligerent then he spoiled the effect by sending a hasty glance skyward, as if anxious that he might have said too much.
'I didn't mean you,' I assured him, although I could easily imagine the god laughing at the picture my brother presented now: the illustrious warrior with his hair hopelessly tangled, his cloak torn and bloody and one of his sandals missing. 'I was being purely selfish. Look at me: I was born on this day, remember? On One Death: Tezcatlipoca's name-day. I was always going to achieve everything or nothing. So our father got me into the priesthood, no doubt expecting me to end up as the Keeper of the God of the Mexicans or something similarly illustrious, and what do I find myself doing? Celebrating the god's name-day, and mine, as one of his own creatures - a slave. You have to admit, that is funny.'
'It was your choice. You didn't have to sell yourself. You could have come back home.'
'And done what? Spend my days with a digging-stick, stirring shit into the soil?'
'Honest labour in the fields was good enough for our father. I suppose you thought all that was beneath you. Well, brother, let me remind you ...'
'Don't!' I could guess what was coming: a resume of my downfall, culminating in the moment when I had had my head shaved, and sparing no detail - especially my brother's role in wielding the razor himself, after he had persuaded the judges to spare my life. 'I didn't need your lectures then and I don't need them now. Didn't you think I'd suffered enough?' Seeing a gap in the throng in front of me, I plunged into it, hoping to shake off both my brother and the things he made me remember.
The crowd had parted to make room for a raucous quarrel between two pleasure-girls. No doubt it had begun as a trivial dispute over who was going to ply her trade from what spot in one of the city's many markets, and so far they had not got much beyond cracking chewing-gum in each other's faces,but it had potential. I found myself grinning at the thought of what my stiff-necked, pious brother would run into if he followed me: black hair flying around him, fleshy, tattooed arms, stained pale with yellow ochre, reaching out to him with wickedly long fingernails, the air heavy with the vanilla scent of cheap perfume and ringing with inhuman shrieks from those vivid red mouths ...
I forgot that there was more to being a great warrior than brute strength. The hand that tugged sharply at my cloak's hem and almost wrenched the garment from my shoulders reminded me that Lion was more agile than I was and there was almost nothing I could get into or out of faster than he could.
'I don't suppose it ever occurred to you,' he shouted, trying to make himself heard over the cries behind us, 'that your family might have helped?'
'I'd had your help,' I said shortly. 'Sorry, brother, but it came at too high a price.'
'And the disgrace? What about the shame you brought on yourself?'
'On you, you mean! Don't try and kid me, Lion. That's what this was always about, isn't it - keeping me busy digging over some weed-infested mud-patch somewhere, safely out of sight, so I wouldn't blight your precious career!'
To my surprise, the mighty warrior did not fly into a rage. He looked briefly, sadly, at our feet - his with the one precious sandal that was what remained of his dignity, mine bare as always - and mumbled: 'No, it's not that.' Then he looked up again, his face wearing as thoughtful an expression as I had seen on it. 'Look, your antics over the years haven't helped - but I've overcome that; all of us have. Except you. Are you really going to be a slave for the rest of your life? No one lives for ever, Yaotl, not even slippery characters like you. The bestyou can hope for is to leave a good name behind. Maybe it didn't matter before, when you thought you had no children, but now you know you've got a son. Don't you want to leave him anything, beside the knowledge that his father died a slave? If you won't exert yourself for your own sake, what about his?'
It was a long speech for him, delivered softly, with none of the hectoring tone his lectures were usually couched in. In the awkward pause that followed I reflected that it must have cost him a lot of effort. I wondered whether he had been saving it up, rehearsing it.
I turned away from him. The crowd flowing around us suddenly seemed distant. I tried looking into the busy, preoccupied faces that were hurrying past me, but for some reason it was hard to bring them into focus. I wished he had not mentioned Nimble.
Eventually I muttered: 'If my son has any sense, he'll be on the far side of the mountains by nightfall. He'll never know me.'
'Maybe he'll be back, some day.'
I shook my head furiously, to clear it. 'Anybody would think I had a choice!'
'You could run away. It's One Death - you could do it today.'
'Only if I happened to be in the marketplace.' I knew about the custom he was alluding to, the tiniest chink of an opening that was offered to slaves on Tezcatlipoca's special day. 'And then only if I managed to reach the Emperor's palace without being caught first. Oh, and the rule is I have to tread in a turd on the way, remember?' I had always suspected this last twist revealed the custom's true purpose: to give the bystanders a good laugh. What could be funnier than watching a man running through the market with soiled heels, with his cursing master behind him, stumbling in his efforts to avoid steppingin his slave's footprints? 'Do you think I'm likely to be let near the marketplace today? It's a fairy tale, Lion. Nobody ever really escapes that way - not unless he's more trouble than he's worth and his master lets him go just to spare himself the expense of feeding him.'
'Buy your freedom.'
I laughed out loud. Startled faces turned towards me, and even the piercing cries of the girls still squabbling behind us dried up, as if they had realized that their audience's attention had wandered.
'Buy my freedom?' I hissed, abruptly feeling the need to be a little bit discreet. 'You must be joking! With what?'
Lion looked ruefully down at the tattered remains of his cloak. 'I'm still the Guardian of the Waterfront, even if I don't look like it! What did old Black Feathers pay you for your liberty - twenty cloaks? I can double that. I can offer more if it isn't enough.'
'And how would I pay you back?'
His answer caught me unawares. He said nothing. Instead, he lunged at me with both arms outstretched and his palms, held out flat in front of him, slammed into my chest with all of a hefty, muscular warrior's substantial weight behind them.
I was a pace or two from the edge of the causeway, with my back to the water. With a shout of alarm, I staggered back under the force of the blow until there was nothing under my heels but empty space. For a moment my arms whirled frantically as I tried to keep my balance, and then I fell, breaking the surface with so much force that the breath burst from my lungs as a glistening cloud of bubbles.
By the time my head was in the air again, with water streaming from my mouth and nose, I had got the joke. I gathered he had explained it to the bystanders, judging by the laughter that greeted my reappearance.
'Happy birthday!' he cried.
'Very funny,' I gasped, as my fingers sought a purchase among the rough stones lining the causeway's side. 'It would be funnier still if you'd help me up!'
'Going Through the Water', we called it: the traditional ducking your friends and family would give you on your name-day. 'I suppose I'm supposed to provide you with a feast,' I muttered, as I scrambled back on to the road. 'Sorry, Lion, but you're out of luck there!'
'All right,' he replied mildly, 'I'll let you off. But as for paying me back - I'm offering you the chance to buy your freedom as a present, you idiot!'
For a moment I felt light headed with relief.
I had a day ahead of me when I could pretend to be my own man; but that was only because I belonged to Tezcatlipoca, and on his day, that one day in every two hundred and sixty, nobody dared lay a finger on a slave. Tomorrow, I would be returned to my duties, and the first of them would be to hunt down my own son.
Yet my brother was saying that this need not happen. I could be free every day of my life. I could be free of old Black Feathers's arbitrary and often murderous will, with a new beginning that somehow cancelled all the shame and misery I had known since the day I left the Priest House. The prospect was like the best sacred wine I had ever tasted: it made me feel almost giddy but still sharp, and even as I was about to embrace it - as I was about to embrace my brother, for the first time since we were children - I saw the fatal flaw in the scheme.
'Forget it,' I said brusquely, forging ahead into the crowd.
'Forget it?' For a moment Lion could only stand still, echoing my words incredulously. Then he dashed after me, rudely shouldering aside a couple of men who had strayed into hispath. 'What do you mean, forget it? Are you mad? Don't be so stubborn, Yaotl. Listen to me!'
I kept looking for gaps between the broad backs blocking the way ahead - anything rather than meet my brother's confused, anxious, angry eyes.
'I'm not being stubborn, brother,' I said at last. 'It's Lord Feathered in Black we're talking about - the Chief Minister. You could offer him twenty times my worth and it wouldn't matter. He's the second-richest man in the World. He doesn't need your money, or anyone else's. If he keeps me on, it's because he still has a use for me - and the moment he doesn't I'm dead, and nothing you can offer will make the slightest difference.'
For a moment Lion looked as hurt as if I had struck him. Then the streak of bloody-mindedness that was possibly the only trait we had in common took over, and I saw his face freeze into an impassive mask.
'If that is how you feel, Yaotl,' he said stiffly, 'then all I can say is, I hope you enjoy your holiday!'
SHADOW OF THE LORDS. Copyright © 2005 by Simon Levack. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y 10010.