Almost the entire outer wall of Bruckin was an airship dock of some kind, with vessels coming and going day and night, casting their shadows on the dwellings outside the walls and offloading cargo or picking up materials to deliver elsewhere in the valley. The wall was split into separate zones, with industrial traffic sent to one section while diplomatic passengers disembarked in more grandiose fashion. Roldan Stryke moved through the streets inside the walls, the inner edges of the docks occasionally visible high above where they jutted out into space, or connected via walkway to taller buildings. He was near to where he and Martoc had arrived on their previous visit, in the winding streets and alleys below the mail depot. Trade continued as ever, despite the growing presence of the king's army on the horizon. Jokes were made about how the king was taking military exercises very seriously these days, or noting that the army must have been especially disoriented to be so far from Treydolain; the unspoken understanding was that conflict was inevitable and would become a reality soon, but in the meantime the ships came and went as ever, flying high above the massed forces on the expansive, grassy plains.
Roldan had his target in sight. It had taken over a week to track him down, a process made altogether simpler by the cooperation of the Bruckin security forces. Garrus Lief had been exceedingly pleased with the news he'd delivered on his arrival. Roldan hadn't enjoyed sharing knowledge of the King's Eyes movements within Bruckin but it had been a necessary divulgence; besides, the King's Eyes were gone - the cell which remained in Bruckin was isolated, caught in the in-between of the looming conflict.
The hooded man up ahead had paused to examine the contents of a street-side food stall. It was a ploy, Roldan knew, to test whether he was indeed being followed. The man had one arm near his side, presumably ready to draw a weapon.
Roldan approached and stood next to the man. "How are you?" he asked. He pointed at the food frying in a pan before them. "Can I buy you lunch?"
Turning his head, Michels face was neutral and expressionless. After a few seconds he shrugged and turned his mouth up ever so slightly.
They sat on rickety chairs around an unstable table below the overhang of a tall building while the food was prepared. Roldan stared across at Michels, the former head of the local King's Eye intelligence group.
"I've got people all around here," Michels said. "They will not hesitate, not for a second, if they think you're going to try to take me in."
"I've got my own people now," Roldan said.
"We know. You've been keeping strange company, Stryke."
"You heard what happened?"
They fell silent as plates of hot, steaming meat and vegetables were deposited onto the table. The cook fussed over them for a few moments, then realised that he was unwanted and returned to his kiosk.
"A lot has happened," Michels noted. "Are you referring to anything in particular?"
Sitting back in his chair, wondering in the back of his mind whether it would continue to hold his weight, Roldan kept his eyes on the other man. "King's Eyes are gone."
Michels nodded. He took a bite of the meat, holding it in his hands, appreciated it slowly, then put it back on the plate. "That's why I heard. I also heard you were there. That you were the only survivor."
Spreading his arms wide, Roldan smiled. "I'm still here, aren't I? I'd already got out. Lucky, really. They killed everyone."
"Who did it?"
"I wasn't able to get any real information. I can only assume that Guijus ordered it."
"He wouldn't do that."
YOU ARE READING
The Mechanical CrownFantasy
An explorer, a princess, a slave and a sword. A belief that the world can be better. The Mechanical Crown is an epic adventure full of intrigue, mystery and romance. When Tranton Seldon becomes the first to cross the mountains in hundreds of years...