Dedicated to Y. E. Zhigulsky
Nikto, Prince Arel, Vitor Kors, Lis, Karina and habir Verniy returned to the Fort from the Limit. They entered the main chamber of the tower, and Tol, who was sitting at the table with Dick Nedwill, jumped up joyfully, knocking over the jug, which, fortunately, was already empty.
“How glad I am to see you!” He shouted. “Finally! I already miss you!”
He ran up to them heavily, raking Lis into an armful:
“Al! Has Nik cured you?”
“Yes,” said Lis somehow not very cheerfully, gently pushing tall and powerful Tol away from him.
“Great!” Tol didn’t catch the tension and joyless mood of his friend, froze for a moment:
“Al, what’s with your head?! What's with your hair?”
“I made it darker,” Nikto answered for Lis, seeing that he was not at all inclined to chat with Tol. Nikto removed the mask to reveal his painted face, and Tol froze, staring at him. Kors saw that at first blatant surprise flashed in Tol’s eyes, but very quickly it was again replaced by joyful delight:
“Nik, bugger me! What the war paint! Ten out of ten! I barely recognized you!”
Nikto laughed, showing black teeth and a shiny ring resting on them.
“Nik! How did you hook the ring to your teeth?!” Tol roared with delight. “I want such one too!”
“I'll show you later, okay? There under the upper lip there is a place where to hook it,” Nikto smiled.
Kors also took off his mask, in the end, he shouldn't have been embarrassed by Tol and his commoner assistant, who had the nickname Coal. Tol immediately glanced at his jewelry and the hook that wrapped around his chin. Kors clearly understood that Tol liked it very much, but he was ashamed to voice it and turn to Kors. He still considered Kors a stranger, not one of them, and was wary of him.
“Let's drink to your return!” Tol began to pour wine into mismatched and not very clean goblets and glasses piled on the table. The first goblet, apparently out of old habit, he handed to Prince Arel, who silently, without changing his haughty expression, took it. Then, according to the rules of etiquette, Tol handed the cup to the lady, Karina.
“You can open your face and have a drink,” Lis told her. Karina has already, in general, learned how to drink and eat, only slightly raising the upper part of the cape and slipping a mug or piece of food under a hard front apron, but if Lis allowed, why bother. She immediately lifted the cloth and took the glass from Tol. Everyone drank, and Lis, lifting the bottom of the mask, too. Having drunk, Tol happily and involuntarily raised his hand to his lips, intending to wipe his mouth with his sleeve, pulling it up a little, but at the last moment something stopped him, he froze, and, lowering his hand, took out a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his lips with it. Kors chuckled.
“Al, why don't you take off your mask?” Tol asked, pouring wine over the second round without a pause.
“I can't yet, Nik is still treating me,” said Lis, shaking his head, and turning, looked with his yellow eyes with black edges, glistening in the slits of the mask, at Nikto. He looked, as it seemed to Kors, with some resentment.
“Yeah,” Tol drawled in some confusion, but immediately cheered up, overshadowed by another thought:
“And I have a new tattoo!”
And he began to unbutton his jacket and shirt under it with passion, showing them his next tattoo. On Tol’s chest was now a naked and very curvy woman who was lying on her back with her raised legs wide apart. On top of it, instead of a lover, a large black panther perched on its mouth in a fierce grin.
Seeing the beauty’s breasts, huge and round, like balls, Vitor Kors quickly turned away to cover his mouth with his hand and not laugh out loud. Nikto seemed to have said absolutely sincerely:
“Tol, how cool! Who was inking you? Unclean Shukul?”
“Very cool! I want such one too!”
“Tol, how many days have passed in the Fort since we left?” Lis interrupted their enthusiasm sharply.
“What day is it?”
“How should I know!” Obvious notes of anger and irritation appeared in Lis’ voice.
Tol looked at him in confusion.
“You have been gone for three days, sir Atley Alis,” Dick Nedwill intervened quickly and defused the situation.
And Lis, turning to Nikto, looked at him SO…
“No need to burn me with a glance,” Nikto immediately reacted. “Desmod and Marbas have not come yet, and without them there is no point to hit the road.”
“When will they come?!”
“Soon! And let the wounded recover, we will have more people.”
“While we wait here for your unclean and heal the wounded, Kudmer will call for help from other cities!”
“And if not? Let's wait for word from Samer from the Marmer squad. He will scout out what is happening in Ore town and its environs.”
“While he scouts, Kudmer will have ten thousand help! Speed and surprise were our trump cards, we had to not let them come to their senses! Now, no. Now everything has gone to shit!”
“Lis, go fuck yourself!”
“Fuck, I do it more often than go out in the fresh air!”
“This… this Kudmer has time to gather anyone, you panic again!”
“No, well, of course, Kudmer is a fat, self-confident fool, but not to such degree!”
“It is an additional concern for him, to wait for you and to feed the foreign army of many thousands. He will only send for help when he sees us!”
“Well, okay, suppose he is confident in the inviolability of his walls, and this is so. We will storm them, and the army that has come to his aid will grab us by the ass!”
“Don't run ahead of the horses, Lis!”
And Nikto, as if looking for support, looked at Kors. He was taken aback, he clearly didn’t expect that Nikto would turn to him for help in a conversation. Because, according to Kors, Nik himself did a good job of “ransoming”, all the more, doing it in the style of those with whom he argued. But it seemed that he wanted some clever arguments in his support. Kors froze, and Lis, as luck would have it, also looked at him:
“Well, speak! Don’t stand in my throat, fall further!”
“Alis, slow and steady wins the race,” Kors hardly uttered, “and haste makes waste.”
Kors was terribly ashamed of what nonsense he had just said. But, having felt the emotions of Nikto, he realized that he was quite pleased with him, and diligently memorized the expressions, while correctly putting them on the shelf to the phrase: “business before pleasure”.
“We will capture this Ore town just like that edge Fort across the river, remember?” Nikto told Lis.
“Only you and I will change places.”
“Are you nuts? We got fucked up in that Fort!”
“Under Ore town all the land is dug for many kilometers. I and my unclean ones will go to their very heart through holes through which no man can crawl. We will take over the city from the inside. And you will be outside!”
Lis fell silent, considering the words of Nikto:
“Nik, this is too risky.”
“When was it different with us?”
Lis, seeming to calm down a little, turned to Tol.
“Well, have you done anything?”
“You bet!” Tol was delighted, seeing that the tension had subsided. “Come on, I'll show you how I put things in order here. You know, Lis, I have an ideal here!”
Lis just shook his head in annoyance.
They went out into the yard. Kors and Nikto put on masks again, and Karina covered her face with a cape.
Kors with disgust, since the mask hid the expression on his face, looked at the naked, torn corpse of Tishka. On the body, the softest and, apparently, the tastiest parts were eaten off by the wolf. The face was eaten, there were no eyes, lips, cheeks. The genitals were eaten away, the soft tissues on the forearms and thighs had bite marks from powerful jaws. The abdomen and chest were opened, but the entrails were not touched, the predator ate only tender liver and the boy’s heart. The mutilated corpse of Tishka, exposed for all to see, looked reproachfully at the living with empty eye sockets. On a board nailed above his head, it was written: “Went AWOL to the lake” and was painted a lake with blue paint and a huge figure of a grinning wolf with black paint. It was drawn very well. It could be said, intelligibly.
“There's a wolf walking by the lake,” Tol explained. “Here, they found a boy from the militia on the same day as you left. I don’t let anyone go there anymore.”
“How well it is drawn,” Kors couldn’t resist.
And Tol was delighted:
“Some freak used to work with Lila in the theater, he sculpted all sorts of decorations, and when the theater closed, he stayed on the street. So he came to us.”
“Yes,” agreed Kors, “it is a very correct decision. There are many illiterate among your soldiers, and the pictures explain everything clearly. That you can't go to the lake with wolves,” he looked at Nikto, because of the mask it was completely incomprehensible whether he was angry with Verniy or he didn’t care. Moreover, Verniy was standing nearby in his dog’s helmet, looking at the drawing on the board and did not look tense at all, his posture was still calmly relaxed. “Nothing will happen to him,” Kors suddenly thought with some inner confidence. Nikto didn’t even turn his head to Verniy, didn’t even look at him. He stood, looked at the body of unfortunate Tishka, torn apart by his beloved pet, and said nothing. And did he look at all? Did he see what the dog has done? Due to the black inserts covering his eyes, it is impossible to say with confidence. Or was it really a wolf and not Verniy at all?
“What's this? Why is this red here?” Lis said.
And everyone was distracted from the corpse of Tishka and looked at the red one, hanging next to on a rope tied around his neck.
“This is red Almer, he said a lot of unnecessary things about you, intimidated newcomers and was also constantly stoned. This is not how things should be.”
“Clear. Well, why did you hang this one?” Lis looked at the next corpse.
“Is he not a sorcerer?” Tol asked in surprise. “You see, Al, he has the same thing on his face, uh-uh… glasses, like the blind man you killed and whom we found buried along the road. You killed him? I decided not to risk and also got rid of the four-eyed!”
Kors froze. Tarmer! That’s where he disappeared! He looked at Lis, damn, he killed Tarmer to spite Kors! For some reason Kors was sure of this, but he was looking for this red. And everyone was silent. He asked Karina, and she said that she knew nothing, although she probably knew everything perfectly well. She deceived Kors! Her father! Everyone around knew where Tarmer had gone, except him. And they were silent. He looked at his daughter, but her face was covered with a cape. They were all closed, all the people of the Demon had masks: Nikto, Verniy, Lis, Karina, and Kors himself because of his jewelry and painted face. All were fenced off from the world of people by a barrier that made them faceless, and it was not clear now what Karina and Lis felt, because Tol, unwillingly, unwittingly revealed his act to Kors.
“Tol, are you going to hang every red in glasses?” Said Lis as if nothing had happened. “There are plenty of them, and this is not witchcraft.”
“Really?” Tol was surprised. “Well, okay.”
“What’s this?” Lis took a couple of steps and stopped at the corpse of a naked red maid. Her face was blue and swollen, but her fair white body, smooth, with large breasts and a fluffy bright red triangle of soft hair on a slightly convex elastic pubis, was beautiful.
“Such a funny red girl, let them admire her. In general, it's not me. These are the mercenaries of Zagpeace, they say, she began to talk with the prisoners and said something bad about us.”
“We have no prisoners,” said Lis.
“Well, yes… well, those that have just come over to our side. Zagpeace said she talked a lot, said, said… maybe she was a spy! Here it is!”
And now Lis looked skeptically at Kors:
“It’s the same song. Will your mercenaries hang every woman who has flown in?”
“They’re not mine anymore,” Kors replied quickly, but he was hurt and unpleasant. No, the black warriors couldn’t repeat this cruel trick again, and so he tried to justify them:
“I don’t think Zagpeace ordered a private case to be put on public display. He is usually very scrupulous about such matters. Surely she was really talking too much.”
Lis turned away and walked on. There were a few more hanged soldiers, the former theater artist also provided them with intelligible drawings, which reflected their faults.
“What? Fell asleep at the post? Jumped up not fast enough at the sight of the commander?! Tol, if everyone is hung up, we will run out of soldiers! I don’t have such a large army to spend like that!”
“They won’t end,” Tol muttered, and Lis looked at the scaffold being put together, where a few more nooses were being prepared.
“I'm not an executioner! I’m a warlord! Yes, I send people to their death, this is my profession, and I have been given this right. But then death itself decides who to pick up and who not! Tol, all executions have to be only with my approval. A pillory and a whip, this is enough for punishment!”
“They are disciplinarians,” Tol said, but not too confidently.
“Alis doesn’t care too much about discipline in the ranks,” remarked Kors, “for him it is of paramount importance that the soldier fights bravely, and in peacetime he can do whatever comes into his head.”
“I’m fine with discipline!” Lis raised his voice. “And you don’t consider these measures inappropriate in a situation where we have every military unit on the account?”
“The warriors of Ram Murh are an illiterate rabble from Lower, I don't know how best. You say that you are not an executioner, and about the waste of people, but I heard how you executed every fifth after the capture of the Fort across the river.”
“They chickened out and fled in battle, that's different! They failed the offensive!”
“Sometimes it is smart to back down. You were not ready to storm the Edge Fort. I will not argue, you are just the only one who saved the situation at that moment, with your extraordinary and courageous act.”
“No! I will not back down under any circumstances! And those who do this will face the death penalty. Retreat is your tactic, Kors, and I know perfectly well how you surrendered Vlas by retreating.”
“I led people out of the imminent cauldron!”
Kors didn't think Lis knew about his past military achievements or failures, and he was hurt. Yes, Kors didn’t have high-profile victories behind his back, but he was not considered a coward, a bad commander who was only capable of retreating. He made the right decision then under this small town, and now Alis poked his nose at this retreat near Vlas, as if he screwed it up.
“You'd think you wouldn't have backed down then. There was a desperate situation there,” he said displeased.
“Me not!” Lis immediately answered, and Kors believed him, he would not back down. He would have sent all the soldiers to death in this cauldron, but he would not have retreated, and maybe he would have won. You never know. And Kors didn’t take risks and a thoughtless waste of human resources then, and no one reproached him for that, but here…”
“Do you think I'm a weakling? A cabinet warrior?”
“I didn't say that. Moreover, I consider you a good commander. A stable average. And those towns that you managed to recapture: Nira, Ples, Meadow village, remained yours. You did everything reliably. You don’t have the talent of a commander-in-chief, but as a performer of specific combat missions without initiative, you are not bad. No great shakes, economical and prudent in resources.”
“Have you studied my entire combat biography, damn it?”
“Of course! Crassus hammered us in his studies with the heroic history of the black people and the endless war with the red. And your careful multi-moves as an example of a brilliant strategy. Then I realized that I would never do that when I became a commander.”
“And you were sure that you would become him?”
“Yes. Either everything or nothing. As if I was born with this, you cannot understand. I'm the chosen one.”
“I am also the chosen one!”
“Well then, all the more so why are you upset?” Lis turned to Tol. “Tol, better gather everyone in the square. We will reward those who have distinguished themselves and set them up for the trip, and take this shit off!”
Tol frowned, but nodded.
“Yes, sir,” he said, saluting Lis.
“There are still a lot of things to do with packing up,” said Lis, “so nobody must sleep!”
“You are the commander-in-chief, you don’t have to delve into loading supplies and check every soldier,” Kors said.
“No, Kors, you don't understand. I am the source of this fire, and I am setting this whole thing on fire. From my attention and participation, it will flare up. It will go out without me.”
“Okay, Alis, can I help you with something, although I don't have any more subordinates?”
“Tell me what to do?”
Kors knocked and entered Lis and Karina’s room. He saw that Lis was alone, he was sitting at the table with his head in his hands. The papers on the table were scattered around, and several were scattered on the floor. Lis raised his face at the sound of the door being opened, he was still shamefully painted: vertical black stripes under his eyes, a red tip of his nose and a sloppy red mouth from ear to ear. The dye faded a little, but was still very visible. When Lis lifted his head from his folded hands, the bell in his nose tinkled out of tune, too big, it almost lay on his lips, covering them.
“Good evening, Alis.”
“Ah-ah, Kors,” drawled Lis, grimacing slightly, and in an unconscious gesture reached for his mask, which was lying next to him on the table, but at the last moment, as if having changed his mind, he didn’t bring it to his face to close it, but, annoyed, he threw the mask aside, onto the bed, only the clasps clinked loudly.
This involuntary gesture of understanding his shameful appearance, embarrassment and shame from this did not hide from Kors, he grinned.
And Lis immediately reacted to his grin:
“Kors, confess, you get a boner at the smell of shit, right?”
“Alis… well, I came in an amicable way!”
Kors “heard” that Lis was literally shrinking inside, and all his insolence was now, in fact, a mask, because no matter how Lis hid behind it, in his heart he still considered Kors better than himself, higher, nobler. It was hammered into his head since childhood – to experience admiration for the black masters. Lis was tough, but at heart he remained a “fucking half-blood”, no matter what he did. He convinced others of this, and they considered him an excellent warrior and strategist, respected and loved him, regardless of appearance and origin. But Atley Alis couldn’t convince himself, and just as Kors himself internally considered himself superior to mere mortals, Lis internally considered himself shit, unworthy and wretched. But only deep inside, and this was despite the fact that Nikto, having ennobled his appearance, greatly raised his self-esteem, but still not to such an extent that Lis found comfort. To do this, Nikto needed to make him a true black, tall, long-liver. Such as Arel, such as Kors. Kors felt sorry for Lis. Consumed by his passions, he suffered, everyone else seemed better to him. On the one hand, Kors was flattered, but on the other, he understood Lis more and more, and considered the punishment too cruel both then and now. Not only did they put him down in the Limit, they continued to do so in the Fort, not allowing him to pull the shameful bell from his nose and erase the clown makeup, mocking him day after day. Kors knew that Prince Arel took Lis to the bathroom several times and beat and fucked him there. Kors was in the room with Nik when Arel did it in front of them. Arel brought Lis, tearing him away from business, and he, lowering his head and not looking at anyone, silently followed the prince. Very soon Kors heard from behind the door the muffled sounds of blows, the discordant ringing of a bell and the prince’s groans full of pleasure. And not a sound from Lis. Kors felt uncomfortable and he left, and maybe after he left, Nikto and Arel continued and together tortured their victim. But Alis was the commander of their army, and he had to do business and solve many different issues. But it seemed that this didn’t bother anyone, and Lis was forced to wear a mask and endure total humiliation from the mad prince. Kors now firmly decided that he would ask for him, ask Nikto to cancel this stupid and inappropriate punishment, in which there was no point.
Lis got up, and Kors noticed how his face involuntarily distorted. He winced as the bell tinkled with every movement he made.
“Alis,” Kors suddenly thought that the poor fellow didn’t even have a normal surname, and instead of it there was the female name of his whore mother. And Kors, calling him by his last name, called him by a female name. How did it feel to respond to a whore’s name?
“Lis… I came to make peace. And to say that I am very sorry, I sympathize you and I think that what is happening now is unfair.”
“I don’t care,” said Lis, and the bell tinkled with every word he said.
“Where is Karina?”
“You let her go?!”
“She’s tired of me and she’s closed.”
“You know,” Kors hesitated, but immediately resolutely continued, “I forgot what you did with Karina. You are her husband. And I will ask Nik and Arel to stop torturing you.”
“I don’t need a protector,” Lis said sharply, “and your smirks. Get out!”
Kors handed him a neat stack of papers.
“It's called logistics. Here is the logistics for the march, it is compiled on the basis of the audit. If you strictly follow this plan, then we will not have hunger.”
And Lis took the sheets:
“Thank you,” he said.
“Eh… Lis, how old are you?”
“Thirty-two, maybe a little less or a little more. But about thirty-two.”
Lis shook his head.
“No, I remember. Daniel Crassus asked my mother. And then, my father told me too.”
“And when is your birthday?”
“Well, I don’t know the exact number, of course. What? Doesn’t look like it?”
“Honestly, no offense, but no. You look older. And you are a little older than Karina, and you were very young when you met.”
“Yes,” said Lis, “but I fought on the side of the reds for several years then.”
“I thought you were at least thirty-five. It turns out that if not for Nik, you would not have lived to be thirty-five. I would just die of tuberculosis or ulcers.”
“Or died in battle. Kors, what's the difference, only my mother tried to kill me three times and couldn’t, and also Karina. And the red ones. And the blacks wanted to hang me not so long ago. I've been walking on the edge all my life.”
“You really have nine lives!”
“Yeah, and each is crappy.”
“I don’t argue, you have experienced a lot of humiliation and suffering, and they didn’t make you better, but only embittered you. I'm sorry. But you had your father's respect. You had the power and you were the winner.”
“Yes, I had no less than you, Kors.”
“Again you are measuring against others. What a habit – to constantly compare yourself with others! To each his own. You know, Nik and Arel also despise people, they don’t care how great a person is, for them he is still a leather bag of shit. And for you, all people are better than you. Maybe you should learn from the Demon and stop considering others so glorious, stop trying to prove to people that you are no worse than them?”
“When will you stop teaching? Read your lectures on how who should behave? You teach all the time. Is this your support?”
“I will ask for you! Even if I get punished for it. I'm already painted and decorated as well as you.”
“Yes,” said Lis, “the game was equal, two pieces of shit played it.”
“Stop it! Lis!”
“Why did you stop calling me Alis?”
“I don’t want. This is your mother’s name, it is… as you say… ignominy.”
“Your mother… she began to engage in this activity, falling into difficult life circumstances, and where was your red father?”
“Kors, he just played with the black girl and forgot about her.”
“She went back to blacks, and they punished her?”
“Was she in jail?”
“Where were you at that time?”
“I was with her, women are often imprisoned with their young children, you know. Then we were released.”
“But she was shamefully marked as a whore and made indelible arrows on her eyes, right?”
“What do you think?” said Lis.
“I can't imagine how it feels…”
“Really? You have them drawn on you too.”
Kors swallowed the mockery:
“I seem to be getting used to your unrestrained language. And you know, the name Atley really doesn’t suit you. And the name Sigmer – it is too alien, unusual, this is the name of the reds. Your nickname really suits you best, and even Karina calls you that,” Kors smiled.
And Lis smiled back at him. Seeing his triangular teeth, Kors couldn’t restrain himself and shook his head.
“I now understand that I acted biased. That I was tactless and rude. But you never crushed me in full force, endured. You only hurt me through my daughter.”
“I love her. You began to understand something, but you still didn’t understand about Karina and me. I endure in this relationship! She is my weakness. She will die and I will die!”
“But why, then, are you dragging her everywhere you go and pushing her to the front line?!”
“Yes, because I can’t live without her for a minute!”
“That’s what gives you the strength not to love the Demon, you have Karina! But she also loves you, don’t doubt, I know,” Kors said confidently and remembered about Nija. And about Prince Arel, and Nikto, and Zaf, yeah…
And Lis took a cigarette and silently lit it.
Kors entered the room with the bear on the wall.
Nikto was lying on the bed without moving.
But Kors was determined to ask for Lis with a firm intention to stop this chaos at last.
Nikto didn’t answer or move.
“Nik, is everything all right?” Kors asked cautiously, something was wrong, and he felt it.
Nikto rose heavily, his face was covered by a mask, black empty eyes “looked” at Kors from the cracks. He just sat with his head turned towards Kors and was silent.
“Where are Arel, Verniy?”
“I sent them to the stable, and what?” nevertheless, to the relief of Kors, Nikto answered.
“Why don’t you ride your horse too?”
“I don’t want.”
“Why? You love him so much.”
“I don’t want anything,” Nikto said, and fell back on the bed.
“Every day you don’t take off your mask and sleep in it.”
“I glued it to my face.”
“Why?! In order not to do anything else with this face! Not to spoil it even more.”
“Gods, no,” Kors whispered, “you can’t make it worse, everything is already ruined there!”
“I know that no, so I glued this fucking mask to my face,” Nikto shouted, and suddenly, quite unexpectedly and very quickly, grabbed his knife and stuck it into the thigh of his lame leg with all his strength.
Blood splattered in different directions.
Kors’ face changed:
“A-ah! Stop it! Stop it! Leave this body alone! Stop mutilating this body!”
“Damn, I’m going to cut off this fucking leg! Stay away, Kors! Better don’t come!”
Kors rushed out of the room, he ran after Lis, it seemed to him that Lis knew Nikto better, and knew better how to handle him and extinguish his seizures:
Lis ran into the room, Nikto was sitting on the floor, fortunately, he didn’t have time to cut anything of his body. And Lis, to Kors’ amazement, quickly approached and kicked Nikto with a foot, right to say, kicked him in the gut, and then with a fist in the temple, and Nikto seemed to lose consciousness from a blow to the head.
Lis turned to dumbfounded Kors:
“This is how these seizures are removed. He needs to be hit and distracted. It is better to blow him down immediately. He blown down, then comes to his senses more or less normal. He will not punish you for this, don’t be afraid. And if you don’t do that, you don’t extinguish him, he will disperse, and it will only get worse, then you will not calm it down at all.”
“Are you crazy?! You hit him too hard!”
“Crazy? Are you fucked up?! Who is normal here? Who?! You spend so much time with them, have you seen your normal Nik well?” Lis eloquently looked at the leg of Nikto, blood continued to flow from the deep cut.
“Did you see him stoned? When he is stoned and having fun? His favorite pastime is to get hold of Arel’s cock or ass or of his own, and drive everything that comes to hand into it. Or fuck Arel for several hours without a break. You have a bad idea, Kors, about the whole degree of douchebaggage of him and Arel, and what they are doing. When Nikto collapses into insanity, he mutilates Arel and himself, and he doesn’t give a damn that scars remain. This is his only favorite pastime. Have you seen his body, his face?”
Kors covered his ears:
“Gods, why can’t you do without such an abundance of obscene words!”
“Because what they are doing can’t be named in another way!”
Nikto stirred with a soft groan:
“Li-i-is, where are your handcuffs?” Nikto held out his hands. “Close me.”
“Maybe you should be attached to the pipe?”
“I'll rip it out, probably,” Nikto raised his impersonal face to Lis, “Lis, I allow you to erase the jester’s mask and pull out the bell. Your soldiers need you. Be what I made you in the Limit.”
“Silver fox?” Lis grinned, he took out his handcuffs, with which he never parted, but was in no hurry to close Nikto’s hands.
“Silver fox is more expensive than an ordinary fox…”
“Are your unclean ones coming soon?”
“They have about one day left to get to Riverside.”
“Maybe you should go to meet them? You will wind down, do something and take your mind off your madness?”
“Yes,” Nikto agreed.
And Lis looked at Kors and said:
“Thanks,” and left.
“But I haven't had time to ask for you yet, oh devil!”
Black water chomped loudly over the side of the ferry raft. Nikto was sitting with his back against the side, his legs bent at the knees and his straightened arms resting on them, his head was lowered. He wasn’t moving.
Kors looked at him closely.
“Nik, are you high?”