Title: Rights of Passage
Summary: "You're my very own pezon, right Locke?"
Length: 1,991 words
Disclaimer: Everything belongs to Scott Lynch
Author's Notes: This was originally written for Yuletide 2008. DuckieNicks and one of my brothers were kind enough to beta this for me. Any lingering mistakes are my own.
Rights of Passage
Jean frowned, eyeing Locke in his robe critically. "It won't work."
Returning the frown, Locke said, "Look, I know I don't exactly have the willowy form you're used to working with, but it's a robe for Perelendro's sake. Chains had a pot belly you could bounce a solari on but you'd never know it from his-"
"Not the robe, Locke!"
"Oh you mean my ill conceived plan to screw Capa Barsavi at the behest of the Grey King, survive said screwing with innards intact, then stick it to said Grey King and his pet Bondsmage. That plan?"
"No, the other ill conceived plan."
Bug walked into the Wardrobe, an apple in hand. "Locke got us another plan?"
"Who needs another plan when I already have the perfect one," Locke tossed over his shoulder.
"So he hasn't got another one."
Since trying to talk reason into Locke once he'd gotten an idea was like trying to talk the Camorri nobility out of their white iron--a slow and delicate process that required more time and patience than any of them had--Jean went back to his work. If Locke wasn't willing to go with their plan (to run away with a carriage full of gold in small, easily transportable bundles) then the least he could do was make sure this plan worked. He couldn't remember a time when the situation had been quite this tight for them. The Grey King had them by the balls, him and his pet Karthaini Bondsmage--the Capa, half of all of Camorr's Right People were about to be after them. Plus there was the game to consider.
Of course every other time they got in a serious bind it seemed like the worse bind they'd ever got into, and they'd gotten out of every one. Usually because of Locke's ideas.
As if he could hear what Jean was thinking, Locke turned slightly, tugging at the fabric out of Jean's hand, and looked over his shoulder. "It's going to be all right," he muttered, conscious of Bug still standing in the entranceway, still eating his apple. "Better than all right. We're going to get the Grey King and his pet back for what they've done to us and ours. And then Capa Barsavi and all the Right People will love us and put up a statue in our honor."
Bug screwed up his face. "He's joking, right? About that last bit."
Scratching his chin, Locke replied, "Don't think I can get the Capa to put a statue up in our honor?"
"Don't get him started," Jean warned around a full mouth of pins. "Don't give him ideas."
"Of course that would mean telling Barsavi that we knew. About the Grey King. Before Nacza died."
Silence filled the Wardrobe. Even Bug had stopped his crunching. He'd sat in wide-eyed disbelief when Locke had returned from the Floating Grave, back to their Elderglass home, with the story of the youngest Barsavi's death. A death that they could all see haunted Locke particularly. He'd known about the Grey King and had said nothing to anyone except the other Gentlemen Bastards. His guilt didn't care that the Grey King and his pet Bondsmage had proved that Locke was little match for them--at least on his own. It kept telling him that if he'd at least whispered a rumor of the Grey King roaming about the city then maybe Nacza wouldn't have gone out. Maybe she would still be on the Floating Grave, holed up behind it's worn wooden walls and Barsavi's guards. Maybe he wouldn't be standing in the Wardrobe while Jean tailored his robe. Maybe he wouldn't be practicing funeral rites--real, high ceremony that you rarely had time to actually use in service to the Crooked Warden--between trading flippancies and reasurances with Jean and Calo and Galdo and Bug.
"Is he wallowing again?" Calo asked, appearing behind Bug.
He turned. "No."
"Come up with a better plan?"
"Locke's come up with a better plan?" Galdo asked, appearing behind his brother and pushing Bug into the Wardrobe. He stumbled toward Jean and Locke and tossing his half-eaten apple toward the twins as he did. Galdo caught it, took a bite, then tossed it to Calo who finished it off.
"Don't know," Calo answered, between apple-bites. "Have you?"
"Don't think my idea's good enough?"
"No," four voices answered in unison: one in amusement, one distinctly wet, one sullen, and one around a mouthful of pins.
"If we hadn't already had this argument, I would have thought you'd been conspiring behind my back," Locke replied, sounding rather sullen himself.
"Why conspire when we can just argue you down?" Galdo said sounding far too pleased.
"If only it'd work," Jean muttered. He silently indicated for Locke to turn. The robe was almost done. Its alterations weren't that serious, and Locke had the impression that Jean was stalling. Sure he'd gained some weight, but there were only a few stitches that needing loosing. It was a robe, after all, and his comment about Chains hadn't been much of an exaggeration. All the stalling could only be for Jean's own sake. Nacza's funeral was tomorrow, early, long before Capa Barsavi's plan to stop take down the Grey King. To take down Locke.
"Won't it be strange," Bug began, breaking into everyone's thoughts, "that Locke's perfectly all right for the services but sick as a Silent Hill orphan with the runs just before the fight?"
Calo snorted. "Been over this, Bug. Maybe if it was someone else--"
Locke snorted. "These days don't count on it," he said, thinking of the atrocities he'd witnessed Barsavi perform on some of his most loyal pezon.
"Basically we have the perfect cover," he went on. "And alibi. The Grey King saw to that. And I will be sick as a Silent Hill orphan with the runs. Sicker. Hopefully sick all over whomever Barsavi sends up to fetch me and Jean when we don't show."
He was saying it, but in his head he wasn't rehearsing the things that he and Jean would say--or how best to aim his hopefully projectile vomit. In his head he saw himself and Nacza, climbing those same treacherous stairs.
"You're my very own pezon, right Locke?" A youthful Nacza turned from watching the bar and her father's men in it to look at Locke himself. Locke had been watching Calo and Galdo shadow Father Chains, while he had been cornered by Nacza and ordered to stay her side on pain of kicking. Since he had a bet going with Calo and Galdo to see who could go longest without getting a spiked heel inthe shin, there hadn't been a whole lot of choices.
"You're first one," he reminded her.
"So you have to listen to me, right?" She asked it as if it wouldn't have been true even if Locke hadn't made his hasty, and probably ill conceived, pledge to her about a year ago.
"I would obey your every word even if I hadn't pledged myself to you."
Nacza made a face and turned away. After a long moment she shuffled her feet and clasped her hands behind her back. "I need someone I can trust at my back," she said finally.
Looking at her strangely, Locke pointed out that it was unlikely anyone at the bar would even think of harming her. She was Capa Barsavi's baby girl. And the spikes on her boots were truly wicked.
Grinning, she twisted her feet so she could get a better look at the spikes for herself. "You don't know how much be-- maneuvering it took to get these out of the Capa. But I'm being serious. I want to go upstairs."
Locke frowned. "No offense, Nacza, but it's really not so bad that you need someone to watch your back just going to the second lev--"
Nacza punched him and she punched him hard. But she didn't kick him with the spikes. "Not up to the second level." She turned and spat. "I want to go upstairs upstairs."
"Outside you mean?" Locke didn't bother hiding his incredulity. Nacza's life was worth a lot more than his own. Father Chains wouldn't even need the stone he still wore around his neck to kill Locke. The Capa would do it with his own hands.
Grinning again, Nacza nodded, her hair swinging around her face. "And I need someone behind me--"
"Just in case you fall?"
"Uh huh. It's a long way down and I need to land on something soft and giving."
Locke frowned. "I don't think the Right People are supposed to be soft or giving."
"They'd probably kick you out of Camorr if you were."
He was pretty sure he'd never heard of the Camorri people being soft or giving either, let alone the Right People.
"But it doesn't count for me."
She had a point.
"And it will be an adventure."
An even better point.
"Particularly making it so no one notices we're gone. We might need a distraction or something."
"Hmm..." Locke looked up suddenly, and into the knowing smile on Nacza's face.
"You're going to be one of Daddy's garristas one day. I can tell. You have that look."
"What look?" he asked warily.
"Of someone with a plan. Now, how are we going to get up there?"
"How far do you want to go?"
Nacza grinned, grabbing at Locke's hand and leading him to the stairwell. "To the very top."
Locke didn't know what they'd done to get the smell of horse piss out of her skin and her hair, but Nacza was cleaner now than she probably had been since the day she was born. All throughout the long ceremonies he'd had trouble not noticing it. The memory of her.... And then he would wrench his mind back to the tasks at hand, to the lengthy ceremonies that he and others of his priesthood so rarely got to perform due to the generally dubious nature of Camorri life.
"Crooked Warden...," he intoned, speaking the last of the rites, "Nameless Thirteenth...here before you lies your very own servant, murdered before she could truly fulfill your holy mandate that thieves should prosper. But she was no stranger to you. She who had the Right People of Camorr at her beck and call was your very own pezon first. Honor her, Crooked Warden, not as a petty gutter snipe but a true follower of your holy mandates. Speed her way into the hands of your sister, Aza Guilla, and speak kindly for her. Forgive those who could not protect her as they would, and rain your underhanded fury on those who have brought her thus."
Into each of her hands he placed a piece of white iron. He moved away so that two others could close her hands into fists, then two others to cross her arms over her chest. He stood back, his heart beating hard and slow in his chest, as her body was covered with a burial shroud. The ceremonies had been done while her father and brothers had made ready for war, but now soonn they would attend the private burial.
For a moment Locke considered Calo's and Galdo's and Jean's and Bug's plan to simply disappear. His priestly duties were done. There didn't even need to be anything said over the grave. Heck, they hadn't needed the three hour ceremony in the first place, but no one had even thought of saying that out loud. Now it was over. Locke and the other Gentlemen Bastards weren't needed for Barsavi's war, while on the other hand they needed their own skins very dearly.
But Locke had a debt to pay: to the Grey King, to that Karthani Bondsmage...to Nacza. Their lives should be death offering enough, he thought.
As soon as he worked out exactly how.