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Pathfinder Tales: Liar’s Bargain: A Novel

Pathfinder Tales: Liar’s Bargain: A Novel

Author: Tim Pratt

Publisher: Tor Books


Publish Date: June 7, 2016

ISBN-10: 0765384310

Pages: 320

File Type: epub,mobi,lrf,lit,htmlz,pdb,azw

Language: English

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Book Preface

What I don’t understand is why you believed her,” Hrym said.

Rodrick shifted around, trying to find a more comfortable position on his belly under the bush, which was difficult, given all the roots and rocks beneath him and the scratching branches pressing down from above. “We’ve been over this. She said she forgave me. I thought she was doing me a good turn.”

“‘Go to Lake Encarthan,’ she said. ‘Nirmathas,’ she said. ‘The shores are thronged with wealthy idiots!’ And you believed her.”

Rodrick squinted. Were those feet over there? If they were feet, were they the feet of mere passing foresters of no consequence, or the feet of people who wanted to beat him to death with sticks—or whatever people in Nirmathas beat dishonest gamblers to death with? He shouldn’t assume it was sticks. That was probably his city-dweller’s prejudice talking. Maybe they used barrel staves, or threw clods of dirt. “I admit my trust in her was misplaced. What can I say? I never took her for the vengeful type.”

Hrym chortled. “I am a talking sword, barely capable of telling humans apart, and even I knew she was the vengeful type.”

“Fair enough. I didn’t think she was the subtly vengeful type. I thought she might stab me in my sleep, not smile sweetly and send me into the wilderness. You must admit, her argument was plausible.”

“It’s not my job to judge plausibility.”

“What is your job, exactly?”

“Dazzling the rubes, and saving your life from rubes who are insufficiently dazzled.”

“She said there was gold here. New mines discovered every day, people striking it rich with picks and shovels—she said Nirmathas was full of the new rich, who are so much less suspicious and more poorly guarded than the old rich. Of course I believed her. Gold must come from somewhere. Why not the shores of Lake Encarthan?”

“I did like the parts about gold,” Hrym said. “How long are we going to hide under this bush?”

“Until I believe the threat has passed.”

“Rodrick. I am a wondrous talking sword of magical living ice, and you are a half-competent swordsman. A few months ago we bested a rakshasa in battle. Half a dozen sawmill workers—”

“And a foreman.”

“—and a foreman aren’t likely to pose any great difficulty.”

“I don’t want to kill them, Hrym. They aren’t demonic monsters. They’re just people. Killing them would be murder.”

“They want to kill you. I think they call it self-defense in that case.”

“I doubt the magistrates would see it that way. Besides, if I killed everyone who wanted to kill me, the world would be a far less populous place.”

“We could freeze them in place, then. My magic isn’t inherently lethal.”

“If we froze them out here in the dark, they’d be eaten by … forest monsters. Wolves. Bears. Whatever they have here.”

“So? Doesn’t the moral burden fall on the forest monsters in that case? You baffle me.”

“We’ll make it through the night, Hrym, and then head out in search of better prospects. We’re not so far from Cheliax, really. That place is full of rich people.”

“Not naive people, as a rule, though.”

“True. But at least many of them are evil. We were going to focus on stealing from the evil, whenever possible.”

“That was your idea, not mine,” the sword said. “I don’t much care where the gold comes from. I don’t suffer from guilt. I’m a sword.”

“There’s a pragmatic aspect to preying on the villainous, though. The evil are more likely to have lots of money, since they aren’t scrupulous about how they get it, and once they have it, they don’t go around giving any of it to charity, and so forth. They keep it.”

“Excellent. So the current plan is, we hide under this bush until you, a person with demonstrably terrible judgment, decide it’s safe to leave, and then we start hiking in the general direction of Cheliax?”

“We’ll probably steal a horse, rather than hike,” Rodrick said. “Since our old horse is in the hands of an angry mob.”

Hrym went hrmm. “Seven gamblers don’t count as a mob. The horse is probably worth more than you cheated them out of dicing tonight anyway. Why are they still chasing us? They should be glad of their good fortune. A free horse! Why bring violence into it at all? Wait, don’t tell me. Morals again, right?”

“Something like that. Or setting a bad precedent. Or beating a stranger to death with sticks counts as an unusually good night’s entertainment in this gods-blighted wilderness.”

“Wait, you want to steal a horse? Isn’t that evil? Or is it an evil horse? Or an evil owner?”

“I am prepared to be flexible regarding the horse’s moral alignment, so long as it’s fast. Or even slow. Just as long as it’s faster than walking, honestly.”

“Honesty is very important—”

“Over there!” someone shouted, which was how you could tell they were workers in a sawmill and not hunters, because hunters knew better than to startle their quarry with shouts.

Rodrick rolled out from under the bush, Hrym in his scabbard digging painfully into his thigh in the process, then leapt to his feet and set off running in a direction that seemed to lead away from the voice.

He was so busy concentrating on not tripping over roots or rocks, and avoiding all the tree branches that hung inconveniently just at head height, that he was quite surprised when he fell into the river.

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