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The Chronicles of Chheechkaduni (Continued)
(© Biswapriya Purkayastha)

Page 2

"But since he hasn’t come..." I rubbed my face, which was moist with sweat in the oppressive heat of the tiny and noisome room. "My Lord, how long can we wait for him?"

"We can’t wait forever, certainly." My Lord looked round at Opodartho, who was sitting on the bed by the wall, running a bone comb through her hair. "What do you think?"

"I don’t think he’ll come." Opodartho continued to comb her hair, as though any amount of combing could bring it under control or make her beautiful. "You remember that I said he didn’t look as though he had the courage to follow through, despite all the promises he made."

I suppressed a snort. The stupid woman regularly said things that she "knew", and if once in a while they came true it was almost always by accident. I did have to admit that I, too, hadn’t really been impressed by the monk Põcha Pantabhat when we’d met him earlier in the evening.

I think, in the rush of writing the many adventures that had befallen us between the Affair of the Aggressive Assassin of Agagora and our arrival at Thoger Tandob, I neglected to describe this meeting.

We had gone down to the inn’s smoky little back dining room, and Onek Mangsho had left us to sit over thin and overdone steaks of slave haunch, while he, as he said, mingled with the patrons in the front room and tried to spy out the scene. Opodartho and I had sat gnawing at the terrible food, waiting for him to come back.

"You know, Chheechkaduni," Opodartho said suddenly, "I do believe that Onek Mangsho is beginning to take too many risks."

I preserved a frosty silence. Of course she was right, but that was the last thing I was going to admit, or she’d never get over it. But the stupid trollop would not take the hint.

"Coming here was risk enough," she said, leaning over her plate and murmuring into my ear, "since it’s a trading town and there may be people who have heard of us in our, uh, former lives, though considering the state of our finances I suppose it had to be done. But I don’t see how we can get our hands on the treasure inside that pile of stone there without far too much risk."

"I think our Lord knows best," I said.

"Do you really? I hope you’re right." Opodartho glanced towards the door to the outer room. "Here he comes now, and he’s not alone."

The man with Onek Mangsho was young, scarcely more than a boy, and so weedy that he seemed almost to bend with each step. He was dressed in the yellow and dull orange robes of the monks of Thoger Tandob, of which we’d seen so many in the street since we’d arrived in this town. I might have wondered what a monk might be doing in a tavern, but I’d realised by then that, being the people who controlled the finances of the town, they went everywhere.

"This is the honourable monk Põcha Pantabhat," Onek Mangsho said, dragging up a heavy wooden stool for the young man. "I’ve just been talking to him. He knows so many things interesting to strangers such as ourselves."

Põcha Pantabhat smiled weakly. He had a thin, triangular face with no hair except a round patch in the centre above his forehead. Onek Mangsho had told me that the monks’ rank was indicated by their hair, and the more senior they were the more they were allowed to grow. By that standard, Põcha Pantabhat must have been near the bottom. "You’re too kind," he said.

"Will you have some food with us?" Without waiting for an answer, Onek Mangsho reached across the table, took my plate of meat and Opodartho’s mug of wine and put them down in front of the monk. "We’ve come a long way, and we’re eager to know all about your lovely city."

Opodartho and I exchanged glances. Thoger Tandob might be many things, but what it most certainly could not be called was a "lovely city". In the course of our travels, we’d seen few less attractive sights than its narrow, winding lanes paved with stone and lined with refuse, its noisome marketplace, and the earthen walls lined with jagged stakes like rotting teeth. Still, apparently beauty was in the eye of the beholder, because Põcha Pantabhat seemed to expand with happiness at the flattery.

[ Continue to page 3 ]

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Genre:General Horror
Type:Long story
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