The Infernal City

The Infernal City by Greg Keyes

Book: The Infernal City by Greg Keyes Read Free Book Online
Authors: Greg Keyes
Tags: Fantasy
    “I’m sorry, Chef.”
    Qijne nodded. “Yes, that’s how it is. And those of us in the kitchens don’t have the power to send them farther, or the incantations to bring them back here. Once the gatherers move very far from Umbriel, contact is lost.”
    This is good, Annaïg thought. I’m learning weaknesses already. Things that will help Attrebus.
    “So here we are,” she said.
    Annaïg looked at the table Qijne was indicating. It was littered with leaves, bark, half-eviscerated animals, roots, stones, and what have you. There was also a ledger, ink, and a pen.
    “I want to know about these things. I want you to list and describe every substance you know of that might be of use to me, and describe as well how to find them. You will do this for half of your work period. For the remainder of your shift you will cook—first you will learn how things are down here, then you will create original things. And they had better be original, do you understand?”
    “I don’t—it’s overwhelming, Chef.”
    “I will assign you a scamp and a hob and put a chef over you. That is far more than most that come here are given. Count your fortunes.” She waved at one of her gang, a woman with the gray skin and red eyes of a Dunmer.
    “Slyr. Take charge of this one.”
    Slyr lifted her knife. “Yes, Chef.”
    Qijne nodded, turned and strode off.
    “She’s right, you know,” Slyr said. “You don’t know how lucky you are.”
    Annaïg nodded, trying to read the other woman’s tone and expression, but neither told her anything.
    A moment later a yellowish, sharp-toothed biped with long pointy ears walked up.
    “This is your scamp,” she said. “We use the scamps for hot work. Fire doesn’t bother them very much.”
    “Hello,” Annaïg said.
    “They take orders,” Slyr said. “They don’t talk. You don’t really need it now, so you ought to send it back to the fires. Your hob—” She snapped her fingers impatiently.
    Something dropped through Annaïg’s peripheral vision and she started and found herself staring into a pair of large green eyes.
    It was one of the monkeylike creatures she’d seen on entering the kitchen. Closer up, she saw that, unlike a monkey, it was hairless. It did have long arms and legs, though, and its fingers were extraordinarily long, thin, and delicate.
    “Me!” it squeaked.
    “Name him,” Slyr said.
    “Give him a name to answer to.”
    The hob opened his mouth, which was both huge and toothless, so that for an instant it resembled an infant—and morespecifically looked like her cousin Luc when he was a child. It capered on the table.
    “Luc,” she said. “You’ll be Luc.”
    “Luc, me,” it said.
    “I’ll be back to get you when it’s time to cook,” Slyr said. “This you’ll do on your own.” She glanced askance at Glim. “What about him?”
    “He knows as much about these things as I do,” Annaïg lied. “I need him.”
    “Very well.” And Slyr, too, walked off to some other task.
    Annaïg realized that she and Glim were alone with Luc the hob.
    “Now what?” Glim asked.
    “They want—”
    “I didn’t understand the words, but it’s pretty clear what they want you to do. But are you going to do it?”
    “I don’t see I have much choice,” she replied.
    “Sure. No one is watching us at the moment. We could escape back to the Midden through the garbage chute and then …”
    “Right,” she said. “And then what?”
    “Okay,” he grumbled. “Use some of this stuff to make another bottle of flying stuff. Then down the chute, back away, gone.”
    “I thought we were agreed on this.”
    “But you’ll be helping them, don’t you see? Helping them destroy our world.”
    “Glim, I’m learning a lot, and quickly. Think about it—this is the perfect place for me. If I could have asked for a better chance to sabotage Umbriel, I couldn’t have thought of anything better. Given a little time, who knows what I can make

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