They said she was Suhuy's first lover, but I doubted that.
She was older than dirt, and she knew most things, and by the
Tooth, the was a cold woman. I didn't buy the lover bit, nor that she was
his mother, or that she was actually Oberon's older sister. I figured she
was just the Devil. It wasn't any less likely, and hell, it was easier to
She'd been an institution in the black market forever, in one
niche or another. She traded mostly in information, but every once in a
while she'd come up with truly bizarre merchandise - usually when demand
exceeded supply by a huge margin.
Most recently, she had sold information about the Chaosite war
effort to a diplomat from a border nation. Good dirt - she didn't sell
anything else. Dirt so good that I stood to make a lot of money by
conveying Official Displeasure to her.
I knew she'd be protected, and I took my time. I talked to people
who dealt with her, and I bought a little something myself. I checked out
her magical defenses and slipped through them. I shapeshifted into whole
reams of innocuous forms. And then...I waited in her office for a chance
to strike without the slightest chance that her bodyguards would notice.
It came unexpectedly. She sent the bodyguards away, after doing
her books one night. She looked right at the wall I was hiding in and
said, "You might as well come out, boy, before we all die of old age or
And I did, because shit, if you act surprised, people think you're
a lightweight. I dropped the spell that kept my edges in shadow and
crawled out of a crease in the wall, assuming my favorite humaniform as I
did. I was holding a very long, very sharp knife.
"So, they've tired of my old bones at last, have they?"
"The Army takes very poorly to treason, old woman."
"But they hired you to come here, ex-Hendrake. What do you care
for their treasons?" Not that she expected me to turn around - I think
she was just curious.
"I don't. I don't even know your name. But there's money in it
for me if I take you out, and a man needs to eat."
"Then have you at me, boy. I see death in your eye, and I think
my guards would die if they stood up at you. But I don't think I'll die
poorly, if it's all the same to you."
Which it was, and although she was tougher than old leather and
meaner than a dyspeptic Fire Angel, I was younger and faster. And for
some reason, she wasn't pulling any tricks. She just wasn't dying easily.
I didn't really understand until I'd already stuck her. With her
life's blood on her lips, she whispered into my ear. "You may think you
killed the Devil, boy, but I ain't that, and I don't care. The Devil's
still out there - and he looks after his own. You take that for good or
ill. And now the coup, if you please."
I found three different poisoned or drugged weapons on her body.
She could have taken me - but she knew there was no point. She was just
tired. The only thing I didn't get was what she meant about the Devil - I
hadn't told her my take on it. The Devil looks after his own? Then why
was I able to kill her?
It was years later that I realized that I was able to kill her
because I was even worse than she was. The Devil just likes me better.
Seeing what passes for crime in Amber, and remembering that old
woman, I wonder how these people delude themselves into thinking that
they're nasty. They're just hoods. Mine for the taking.
If the Devil really does look after his own, then the Devil has
come to Amber.
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