Robert Salvatore: The Ghost King

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Robert Salvatore The Ghost King
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    The Ghost King
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The Ghost King: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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Don't miss the gripping conclusion to Salvatore's best-selling Transitions trilogy! When the Spellplague ravages Faerûn, Drizzt and his companions are caught in the chaos. Seeking out the help of the priest Cadderly-the hero of the recently reissued series The Cleric Quintet-Drizzt finds himself facing his most powerful and elusive foe, the twisted Crenshinibon, the demonic crystal shard he believed had been destroyed years ago.

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* * * * *

“My daughter fares well, I trust,” Marchion Elastul remarked. He sat in a great, comfortable chair at the heavy, ornately decorated table his attendants had brought from his palace in Mirabar, surrounded by a dozen grim-faced dwarves of Mirabar’s Shield. Across from him, in lesser thrones, sat Jarlaxle and Athrogate, who stuffed his face with bread, eggs, and all manner of delicacies. Even for a meeting in the wilderness, Elastul had demanded some manner of civilized discourse, which, to the dwarf’s ultimate joy, had included a fine breakfast.

“Arabeth has adapted well to the changes in Luskan, yes,” Jarlaxle answered. “She and Kensidan have grown closer, and her position within the city continues to expand in prominence and power.”

“That miserable Crow,” Elastul whispered with a sigh, referring to High Captain Kensidan, one of the four high captains who ruled the city. He knew well that Kensidan had become the dominant member of that elite group.

“Kensidan won,” Jarlaxle reminded him. “He outwitted Arklem Greeth and the Arcane Brotherhood—no small feat! — and convinced the other high captains that his course was the best.”

“I would have preferred Captain Deudermont.”

Jarlaxle shrugged. “This way is more profitable for us all.”

“To think that I’m sitting here dealing with a drow elf,” Elastul lamented. “Half of my Shield dwarves would prefer that I kill you rather than negotiate with you.”

“That would not be wise.”

“Or profitable?”

“Nor healthy.”

Elastul snorted, but his daughter Arabeth had told him enough about the creature Jarlaxle for him to know that the drow’s quip was only half a joke, and half a deadly serious threat.

“If Kensidan the Crow and the other three high captains learn of our little arrangement here, they will not be pleased,” Elastul said.

“Bregan D’aerthe does not answer to Kensidan and the others.”

“But you do have an arrangement with them to trade your goods through their markets alone.”

“Their wealth grows considerably because of the quiet trade with Menzoberranzan,” Jarlaxle replied. “If I decide it convenient to do some dealing outside the parameters of that arrangement, then … I am a merchant, after all.”

“A dead one, should Kensidan learn of this.”

Jarlaxle laughed at the assertion. “A weary one, more likely, for what shall I do with a surface city to rule?”

It took a moment for the implications of that boast to sink in to Elastul, and the possibility brought him little amusement, for it served as a reminder and a warning that he dealt with dark elves.

Very dangerous dark elves.

“We have a deal, then?” Jarlaxle asked.

“I will open the tunnel to Barkskin’s storehouse,” Elastul replied, referring to a secret marketplace in the Undercity of Mirabar, the dwarf section. “Kimmuriel’s wagons can move in through there alone, and none shall be allowed beyond the entry hall. And I expect the pricing exactly as we discussed, since the cost to me in merely keeping the appropriate guards alert for drow presence will be no small matter.”

“‘Drow presence?’ Surely you do not expect that we will deign to move further into your city, good marchion. We are quite content with the arrangement we have now, I assure you.”

“You are a drow, Jarlaxle. You are never ‘quite content.’”

Jarlaxle simply laughed, unwilling and unable to dispute that point. He had agreed to personally broker the deal for Kimmuriel, who would oversee the set-up of the operation, since Jarlaxle’s wanderlust had returned and he wanted some time away from Luskan. In truth, Jarlaxle had to admit to himself that he wouldn’t really be surprised at all to return to the North after a few months on the road and find Kimmuriel making great inroads in the city of Mirabar, perhaps even becoming the true power in the city, using Elastul or whatever other fool he might prop up to give him cover.

Jarlaxle tipped his great hat, then, and rose to leave, signaling Athrogate to follow. Snorting like a pig on a truffle, the dwarf kept stuffing his mouth, egg yolk and jam splattering his great black beard, a braided and dung-tipped mane.

“It has been a long and hungry road,” Jarlaxle commented to Elastul. The marchion shook his head in disgust. The dwarves of Mirabar’s Shield, however, looked on with pure jealousy.

* * * * *

Jarlaxle and Athrogate had marched more than a mile before the dwarf stopped belching long enough to ask, “So, we’re back for Luskan?”

“No,” Jarlaxle replied. “Kimmuriel will see to the more mundane details now that I have completed the deal.”

“Long way to ride for a short talk and a shorter meal.”

“You ate through half the morning.”

Athrogate rubbed his considerable belly and issued a belch that scared a flock of birds from a nearby tree, and Jarlaxle gave a helpless shake of his head.

“My tummy hurts,” the dwarf explained. He rubbed his belly and burped again, several times in rapid succession. “So we’re not back to Luskan. Where, then?”

That question gave Jarlaxle pause. “I am not sure,” he said honestly.

“I won’t be missing the place,” said Athrogate. He reached over his shoulder and patted the grip of one of his mighty glassteel morningstars, which he kept strapped diagonally on his back, handles up high, their spiked ball heads bouncing behind his shoulders as he bobbed along the trail. “Ain’t used these in months.”

Jarlaxle, staring absently into the distance, simply nodded.

“Well, wherever we’re to go, if even ye’re to know, I’m thinkin’ and talkin’, it’s better ridin’ than walkin’. Bwahaha!” He reached into a belt pouch where he kept a black figurine of a war boar that could summon a magical mount to his side. He started to take it out, but Jarlaxle put a hand over his and stopped him.

“Not today,” the drow explained. “Today, we meander.”

“Bah, but I’m wantin’ a bumpy road to shake a few belches free, ye damned elf.”

“Today we walk,” Jarlaxle said with finality.

Athrogate looked at him with suspicion. “So ye’re not for knowin’ where we’re to be goin’.”

The drow looked around at the rough terrain and rubbed his slender chin. “Soon,” he promised.

“Bah! We could’ve gone back into Mirabar for more food!” Athrogate blanched as he finished, though, a rare expression indeed for the tough dwarf, for Jarlaxle fixed him with a serious and withering glare, one that reminded him in no uncertain terms who was the leader and who the sidekick.

“Good day for a walk!” Athrogate exclaimed, and finished with a great belch.

They set their camp only a few miles northeast of the field where they had met with Marchion Elastul, on a small ridge among a line of scraggly, short trees, many dead, others nearly leafless. Below them to the west loomed the remains of an old farm, or perhaps a small village, beyond a short rocky field splashed with flat, cut stones, most lying but some standing on end, leading Athrogate to mutter that it was probably an old graveyard.

“That or a pavilion,” Jarlaxle replied, hardly caring.

Selûne was up, dancing in and out of the many small clouds that rushed overhead. Under her pale glow, Athrogate was soon snoring contentedly, but for Jarlaxle, the thought of Reverie was not welcomed.

He watched as the shadows under the moon’s pale glow began to shrink, disappear, then stretch toward the east as the moon passed overhead and started its western descent. Weariness crept in upon him, and he resisted it for a long while.

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