The Skein of Lament

Free The Skein of Lament by Chris Wooding

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Authors: Chris Wooding
Tags: antique
raised his head, and the radiance of Nuki’s eye fell across the face beneath the hood. The True Mask of Weave-lord Kakre was that of a gaping, mummified corpse, a hollow-cheeked visage of cured skin that stretched dry and pallid over his features. Mos had found his predecessor unpleasant enough, but Kakre was worse. He would never be able to look at the Weave-lord without a flinch of distaste.
    ‘I know of the reports,’ Kakre said, his voice a dry rasp.
    ‘Yes, I thought you would,’ Mos said poisonously. ‘Very little goes on in this Keep without you finding out about it, Kakre; even when it’s not your concern.’
    ‘Everything is my concern,’ Kakre returned.
    ‘Really? Then why don’t you concern yourself with finding out why my crops fail year after year? Why don’t you do something to stop the blight that creeps through the soil of my empire, that causes babies to be born Aberrant, that twists the trees and makes it dangerous for my men to travel near the mountains because the gods know what kind of monstrosities lurk there now?’ Mos stamped across to where a table held a carafe of wine and poured himself a generous glassful. ‘It’s almost Aestival Week! Unless the goddess Enyu herself steps in and lends us a hand, this year is going to be worse than the last one. We’re on the edge of famine, Kakre! Some of the more distant provinces have been rationing the peasants for too long already! I needed this crop to hold out against the damned merchant consortium in Okhamba!’
    ‘Your people starve because of you, Mos,’ Kakre replied venomously. ‘Do not apportion blame to the Weavers for your own mistakes. You started the trade war when you raised export taxes.’
    ‘What would you have preferred?’ he cried. ‘That I allowed our economy to collapse?’
    ‘I care little for your justifications,’ Kakre said. ‘The fact remains that it was your fault.’
    He drained the glass and glared balefully at the Weave-lord. ‘We took this throne together ,’ he snarled. ‘It cost me my only son, but we took it. I fulfilled my part of the deal. I’ve made you part of the empire. I gave you land, I gave you rights. That was my half of our agreement. Where is yours?’
    ‘We have kept you on your throne!’ Kakre replied, his voice rising in fury. ‘Without us, your ineptitude would have seen you deposed by now. Do you remember how many insurrections I have warned you of, how many plots and assassination attempts I have unearthed for you? Five years of failing harvests, crumbling markets, political disarray; the high families will not suffer it.’ Kakre’s voice fell to a quiet mutter. ‘They want you gone, Mos. You and me.’
    ‘It’s because of the failed harvests that this whole damned mess has come about!’ Mos cried, choking on his frustration. ‘It’s this spirit-cursed blight! Where is the source? What is the cause? Why don’t you know? ’
    ‘The Weavers are not all-powerful, my Emperor,’ croaked Kakre softly, turning away. ‘If we were, we should not need you.’
    ‘There he is!’ grinned the Empress Laranya, slipping away from her fussing handmaidens and hurrying across the small chamber to where Mos had just entered. She swept into the Emperor’s arms and kissed him playfully, then withdrew and smoothed his hair back from his face, her eyes roaming his.
    ‘You look angry,’ she said. ‘Is anything wrong?’ She smiled suddenly. ‘Anything that I could not fix, anyway?’
    Mos felt his bad mood evaporate in the arms of his lover, and he bent to kiss her again, with feeling this time. ‘There’s nothing that you couldn’t fix with that smile,’ he murmured.
    ‘Flatterer!’ she accused, darting out of his grasp with a flirtatious twist. ‘You’re late. And your clumsy paws have ruffled my dress. Now my handmaidens will have to put it right. Everything must be in order in time to receive my brother.’
    ‘My apologies, Empress,’ he said, bowing low with mock

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