Coda considered what his man inside had told him. If Guest was right, the only thing to do was kill the man and the woman. If he moved now, he knew an assassin who could get the job done before they reached Moshi. Unlike the agents, Coda was supremely confident in his abilities and his money. He was thus unaware of the eyes that followed him, noted his actions and withdrew to consider the next action.
The sound of torrential rainfall awakened the sleeping man. Water splashed in the gutters over the deep set windows, splashing onto the mosaic surface of the balcony outside to sluice dust and the dirt of many passing feet away until the rain hit the plaza below. He stretched, the play of muscles under his lightly tanned skin revealing scars of long healed injuries. Tossing aside the light covering he lay under, he moved to the window and stared out at the rain, his gaze finally falling to the plaza where the huge block of basalt in the center was now decorated with a woman's nude body.
Shock ran through his system as he stared, eyes widening. What was her name? Tha'kala, that was it. Last night she shared his bed, welcoming his embrace, sporting with him in joy. Now her body, throat slashed open, lay chilling in the rain that washed away whatever blood there had been. Why? The question beat at him. Why kill her? Why not just keep her away from him if he had transgressed by knowing her? Or her by … His head pounded as the headache returned, blurring his vision.
He blinked and shook his head, like an angry lion. When his vision cleared he knew why she died, because knowing him, she could be used by no other. Stupid custom. Especially when he had not indicated he did not desire her for more than one night of coupling. What if he had decided upon her? Was a descended god not allowed to sample before he made his choice?
Anger rose up, this time directed at the priest. How dare he slaughter one the great Gilasham chose without consulting him first? He strode across the room, catching a glimpse of himself as he passed a bronze mirror polished until it provided a good reflection. Gilasham froze in mid movement. Who was this pale stranger? Tall, well formed, scarred; but he did not know those scars on the faintly gilded frame. Dark eyes under straight brows, a finely chiseled face stared back at him, framed by dark hair only just becoming shaggy from a short period of growth. Who the hell was this? What had that never sufficiently damned priest done to him?
Agony slashed through his brain, driving him to his knees, hands pressed to his temples as though to suppress the pain. Was this death come for him? He dove into the welcoming blackness.
Napoleon Solo knelt panting on the cold stone of the floor, the beauty of the inlaid mosaic lost on him as he came to himself. Time had passed. He was in the stone city, his third awakening here. His gaze traveled to the mirror, his image reflected in wavy confusion. Slowly he regained his feet. Naked, he was lightly tanned everywhere, from toes to face the golden sheen was his skin, not the tint of the mirror.
Quickly he examined himself for damage. Aside from his knuckles, skinned from some conflict, he was whole. In an uncharacteristic gesture, he ran his hands through his hair, noting the length. Some time had passed. His usual cut was shaggy although clean. A faint smile curved his mouth. Illya would have something to say when he saw him.
Illya. Quick images of the slightly built Russian slammed through his mind. Where was Illya? Where was he? A short kilt and wide leather belt lay across a wooden bench next to a low table. He pulled them on with sure fingers, ignoring the alien quality of the movements before returning to the windows. Shadows of his activity the night before danced through his muddy thoughts. The body below brought clarity. He was in a city, a huge, monolithic city near a massive single mountain. Snow topped the heights. The name of the place sheltered in the shadows of his mind, just out of reach.
Ki'imajalla, the forever shaking mountain.
There was another name, but he could not find it. The city was Osh'ki'milatta where dwelt the rulers of the mountain and surrounding land. The Shadow Warriors of the great … the great … another name tantalizingly out of reach. When Illya arrived, he would have the information.
Which left him with the question again of where his partner was and why he wasn't here … yet?
A whisper of sound alerted Napoleon to the arrival of his jailer. Paga'lat was not a large man; time had taken the straightness of his youth and bent the frame only slightly. He dressed simply, a woven kilt held in place by a woven belt decorated with golden images stitched in place. A sash divided his chest from right shoulder to left hip, also decorated with struck golden icons. In his long fingered right hand the priest gripped a staff of dark wood, faintly phallic in design, inlaid with stones and silver. His feet were bare, thickly calloused with much walking. Medium brown hair streaked with gray framed his face, tapering into a long braid down his back. Most speaking were his eyes, not the dark chocolate of most of the people, but a deep gray, sunken and brooding. He smiled, his mouth turning up but leaving his eyes unchanged.
"What do you want?" Napoleon snapped. For a moment he wondered where his usual calm and cool demeanor had gone. The memory of the body told him as anger churned forward again. He struggled to regain control of the emotions churning through him. "I haven't had breakfast yet," he continued.
The priest gestured. Two women, no, two slaves, naked save for broad bands hung low on their hips with draped fabric falling between their legs, entered with trays bearing food and drink. They set the items on the table and then knelt beside it, waiting. He could feel the fear rolling off them.
"Get out," he ordered, his voice harsh. Slaves. Fear. He hated both of them while knowing that this was the reality here. They ran past him and the priest leaving the two men to stare into each other's eyes.