Home > Fate's Edge (The Edge #3)(6)

Fate's Edge (The Edge #3)(6)
Author: Ilona Andrews

Nancy Virai. The head of the Mirror. They had never met - he had not been given that honor, poor Edge rat that he was - but she hardly needed an introduction.

He'd spent the last two years doing small assignments, challenging but nothing of great importance. Nothing that would warrant the attention of Lady Virai. Anticipation shot through Kaldar. Something big waited at the end of this conversation.

Lady Virai approached and stopped at the desk four feet away. Dark eyes surveyed him from a severe face. Her irises were like black ice. Stare too long, and you'd veer off course and smash into a hard wall at full speed.

"You are Kaldar Mar."

"Yes, my lady."

"How long have you worked for me?"

She knew perfectly well when he had started. "Almost two years, my lady."

"You have open warrants in two provinces, which we quashed when you were hired, and an extensive criminal record in the Dukedom of Louisiana." Nancy's face was merciless. "You are a smuggler, a conman, a gambler, a thief, a liar, and an occasional murderer. With that resume, I can see why you thought the Mirror would be the proper career choice. Just out of curiosity, is there a law that you haven't broken?"

"Yes. I never raped anyone. Also, I never copulated with animals. I believe Adrianglia has a law against that."

"And you have a smart mouth." Nancy crossed her arms. "As per our agreement with your family and the condition of extracting the lot of you from the Edge, you are now a citizen of Adrianglia. Your debt is being paid in full by the efforts of your cousin Cerise Sandine and her husband, William. You are allowed to pursue any profession you may like. Yet you came to work for me. Tell me, why is that?"

Kaldar smiled. "I'm grateful to the realm for rescuing my family. I possess a unique set of talents that the Mirror finds useful, and I don't want to rely on my lovely cousin and William for the repayment of my debt. William is a nice chap, a bit testy at times and he occasionally sprouts fur, but everyone has issues. I would feel rotten being indebted to him. It would be taking advantage of his good nature."

Nancy's cold eyes stared at him for a long second. "People like you love taking advantage of others' good nature."

He laughed quietly under his breath.

"You lie with no hesitation. The smile was particularly a nice touch. I imagine that face serves you quite well, especially in female company."

"It has its uses."

Lady Virai pondered him for a long moment. "Kaldar, you are a scoundrel."

He bowed with all the elegance of a blueblood prince.

"You were born smart but poor. You view me as a spoiled, rich woman born with a gold coin in my mouth. You feel that I and those of my social standing don't appreciate what we have, and you delight in thumbing your nose at aristocracy."

"My lady, you give me entirely too much credit."

"Spare me your bullshit. You revel in sabotaging the system, you hate orders, and you break the law simply because it's there. You can't help yourself. Yet two years ago you came to me with a bridle and a set of spurs, and said, 'Ride me.' And in two years, your record has been strangely law-abiding. You've been good, Kaldar. Within reason, of course. There was that business with the bank mysteriously catching fire."

"Completely accidental, my lady."

Lady Virai grimaced. "I'm sure. I need to know why you're going through all this trouble, and I don't have time to waste."

The problem with honesty was that it gave your opponent ammunition to use against you. One simply didn't hand a woman like Nancy Virai a loaded gun. Unless, of course, one had no choice. If he played coy now or tried to lie, she would see through him and order him out of the room. He would continue his rotation of small-time assignments. He had waited two years for this chance. He had to be sincere. "Revenge," Kaldar said.

She didn't say anything.

"The Hand took people from me." He kept his voice casual and light. "My aunts, my uncles, cousins, my younger brother. There were thirty-six adults in the family before the Hand came to our little corner of the Edge. There are fifteen now, and they are raising a crop of orphaned children."

"Do you want the Hand's agents dead?"

"No." Kaldar smiled again. "I want them to fail. I want to see despair in their eyes. I want them to feel helpless."

"What is driving you? It's not all hate. People driven by hate alone are hollow. You have some life left in you. Is it fear?"

He nodded. "Most definitely."

"For yourself?"

In his mind, he was back on that muddy hillside drenched in cold gray rain. Aunt Murid's body lay broken on the ground, her blood spreading across the brown mud in a brilliant scarlet stain. He was sure that's not what he actually saw. Back in that moment, he didn't have time to stand and watch the blood spread. He was too busy cutting into the creature that killed her. This memory was false. It came from his nightmares.

"What are you thinking of?" Lady Virai asked.

"I'm remembering my family dying."

"How did you feel when they were killed?"

"Helpless."

There. She had pulled it out of him. It hurt. He didn't expect it to, but it did.

Lady Virai nodded. "How well can you handle the Broken?"

"I swim through it like a fish through clear water."

She gave him a flat look.

"The Edge is very long but narrow," he told her. "The Mire, where my family lived, is boxed on two sides by impassable terrain. There are only two ways out: to the Weird and the Dukedom of Louisiana, or to the Broken and the State of Louisiana. The Dukedom uses the Mire as a dumping ground for its exiles. They murder any Edger who approaches that boundary. So that border is closed, which leaves only one avenue of escape, to the Broken. Most of my family had too much magic to survive that crossing, so it fell to me to procure supplies and other things we needed. I've traveled through the Broken since I was a child. I have contacts there, and I've taken care to maintain them."

Lady Virai pondered his face.

Here it comes.

"So happens that I can use you."

Aha!

"A few hours ago a group of thieves broke into the Pyramid of Ptah in West Egypt." Lady Virai nodded at the map, where the peninsula that was Florida in the Broken thrust into the ocean. "The thieves stole a device of great military importance to the Egyptians. The Hand likely commissioned this theft. To make matters worse, the thieves were supposed to hand off their merchandise to the Louisianans, and they chose to do it in Adrianglian territory. Their meeting didn't go as planned, and now Adrianglia is involved, and the Egyptians are threatening to send the Claws of Bast into our lands to retrieve the object."

   
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