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Authors: Robert Asprin

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Wings of Omen - Thieves World 06

BOOK: Wings of Omen - Thieves World 06
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Wings of Omen - Thieves World 06
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Thieves World 06 [1]
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Science Fiction, Fiction - Science Fiction, General, Science Fiction - General, Fiction
Thieves' World Book #06

Wings of Omen

Edited by Robert Lynn Asprin

EDITORIAL CLARIFICATION

Recently, there have been various short stories and one novel published involving a Thieves' World(tm) character. While the characters appearing in the stories in these anthologies remain the property of the individual contributing authors, there is just one Thieves' World universe. The events which impact the city of Sanctuary are chronicled in these anthologies and authorized spin-off products only. Do not be confused by the appearance of familiar names or figures in other works.

We are endeavoring to have an authorized Thieves' World product banner such as the one which appears on the cover of this book printed on existing and future material relating to the Sanctuary universe. In the meantime, for your information, a full list of tie-in works includes:

Anthologies THIEVES' WORLD

Ace Fantasy Books

TALES FROM THE VULGAR UNICORN Ace Fantasy Books

SHADOWS OF SANCTUARY

Ace Fantasy Books

STORM SEASON

Ace Fantasy Books

THE FACE OF CHAOS

Ace Fantasy Books

WINGS OF OMEN

Ace Fantasy Books

SANCTUARY (hard cover)

Science Fiction Book Club

Novels

BEYOND SANCTUARY

by Janet Morris (coming in

May 1985 as a Berkley Trade

Paperback)

BEYOND WIZARDWALL

by Janet Morris

BEYOND THE VEIL

by Janet Moms

Games

THIEVES' WORLD

(fantasy Chaosium role playing)

TRAITOR

(FRP supplement)

FASA DARK ASSASSIN

(FRP FASA supplement)

FASA SPIRIT STONES

(FRP supplement)

SANCTUARY

(board game) Mayfair Games

CONTENTS

Introduction

Robert Lynn Asprin

What Women Do Best

Chris and Janet Morris

Daughter of the Sun

Robin W. Bailey

A Breath of Power

Diana L. Paxson

The Hand That Feeds You

Diane Duane

Witching Hour

C. J. Cherryh

Rebels Aren't Born in Palaces

Andrew J. Offutt

Gyskouras

Lynn Abbey

A Fish With Feathers Is Out of His Depth

Robert Lynn Asprin

A Special Note From the Editors

INTRODUCTION

by Robert Lynn Asprin

The birds of Sanctuary are black. From the hawklike predators to the small seedeaters the native birds are black as the heart of a thief. Hakiem, once the town's leading storyteller, had never paused to reflect on the coloration of the birds before. At moments like this, however, when the business of the Bey-sa's court was between members of the Beysib clans and conducted in their own incomprehensible tongue, there was little for the Empress's native adviser to do but fidget and reflect. Habits evolved during long years drinking at the Vulgar Unicorn had positioned him with his back to a wall and a clear path to the doors-coincidentally he had gotten himself an equally clear view out a window into the courtyard below. The movement of the birds caught his eye; he found himself watching their antics closely.

When the Beysib arrived in Sanctuary they brought, along with their gold and their snakes, a substantial flock of non-migratory seabirds they called the bey art-as they called their snakes beynit, their flowers beyosa and their goddess Mother Bey. Every day they threw bread and tablescraps into the courtyard to feed their winged allies. The birds of Sanctuary, who could not tell a palace courtyard from the back door of a Maze slophouse, swarmed to this easy feast and fought savagely among themselves-though the Beysib made sure there was enough for all. Some black birds cawed or shrieked to drive off new arrivals, while others took vengeful pursuit of any bird attempting to make off with a morsel too large to be consumed on the spot.

Two of the white beyari-the birds for whom the food was intended-soared majestically into the courtyard. In an instant all individual differences among the black birds were forgotten; they rose in a single, dark cloud to drive off the interlopers. No, not quite all, the storyteller observed. A few cleverer birds remained behind, hurriedly bolting food while their comrades and rivals were momentarily distracted.

The storyteller smiled to himself. From high to low everyone in Sanctuary behaved the same-even the birds.

A flicker of white on the roof across from the window caught Hakiem's eye. One beyari was perched beside a black bird half-again its size. There was an occasional flutter of wings and much head-bobbing, but neither bird was giving ground. The storyteller was no regular bird-watcher; it seemed unlikely that the two could mate-but they certainly weren't fighting. Perhaps"Hakiem!" He jerked his attention back to the court, discovering that the business had been concluded and the parties dismissed. Shupansea, Beysa of the Beysib Empire, had risen onto one elbow from the supine position in which she traditionally conducted state affairs and was staring at him with her large, amber, and inhumanly unblinking eyes. She was young, not past her mid-twenties, slender, and fair-skinned with thigh-length blonde hair that cascaded onto the pillows in a way that only the finest of silks could hope to imitate. Her breasts were bare, in the Beysib tradition, and so firm with youth that even when she moved the dark, tattooed nipples regarded him as steadily as her eyes. Of course, Hakiem was himself sufficiently advanced in age that such a sight left him unmoved-almost.

"Yes, 0 Empress?"

He gave a slight bow, cutting his thoughts, and his glance, short before either progressed too far. As a street storyteller he had always been polite to those who gave him a few coppers in return for his entertainments. Now, with the hefty stipend he was receiving in gold, he was a paradigm of courtesy. .

"Come, stand beside us," she said, holding out a dainty hand. "We fear we will need your advice in this next matter."

Hakiem bowed again and proceeded to her side with unhurried dignity. As he walked he took secret delight in the jealous stares directed at him from the other courtiers. During his short time at court, the storyteller and the Empress had developed a mutual respect for each other. More importantly, they found they liked each other, a condition which had brought Hakiem favored treatment. Privately he suspected that his elevated status was not so much a compliment to him as it was the Beysa's way of keeping her own clanfolk in line, but he reveled in the attention while he had it.

The next petitioners were ushered in and, dutifully, Hakiem directed his attention to the problems at hand. He did not know the three Beysib in the group save they weren't clan Burek aristocrats and therefore must be Setmur fishermen. The townspeople he recognized at once as the pillars of Sanctuary's fishing community: Terci, Omat, and the one everyone called the Old Man. Usually citizens of Sanctuary appeared at court in the company of Beysib clansmen when one group or the other had a serious grievance to air, but this group radiated no animosity at all.

"Greetings, Monkel Setmur, Clanchief," Shupansea intoned in the singsong pidgin Rankene which passed for a common dialect these days in the city. "Too long have you been absent from our presence. What matter have you brought before us today?"

The smallest, and perhaps the youngest, of the Beysib stepped nervously forward.

"Greetings, 0 Empress. We... we have come before you this auspicious day to seek your favor and blessing on a project."

The Beysa nodded thoughtfully, though Hakiem glimpsed puzzlement in her manner. It was clear enough to him: requests for money sounded the same in any dialect.

"Tell us more, Clanchief," she requested.

"It is well known that the arrival of our fleet has caused havoc among the local food sellers," the youth said carefully; he had plainly memorized his speech.

"As the nearby farmlands were already overworked, it has fallen to the fishing boats to provide enough food to feed not only us, but the townspeople as well...."

"Yes, yes," Shupansea interrupted. "But what of your project?" Monkel glanced at his colleagues for support, then straightened his shoulders.

"We-that is, clan Setmur and the Sanctuary fishermen-wish permission, and financial assistance, for building a boat."

"A boat?" The Beysa swiveled into a sitting position. "We have fifty-odd boats rotting at anchor in the harbor. Use one of them if you need another boat." The Clanchief nodded; he had expected this response. "0 Beysa, our boats were built for long sea voyages and the safe transport of passengers and cargo. They are ill-suited for chasing schools of fish. For months now we have put to sea in our scout-craft beside these native fishermen and learned much of the waters here. Our friends here, with their keelless boats, cannot chase the fish to deep water where they feed in greater numbers; our scout-craft reach the deep water, but have no holds for the fish. We will make a new type of boat-as big inside as a Sanctuary boat and as seaworthy as our scouts. We ask your permission to lay the keel... and, er, for your support."

"But why can't the big boats...?"

Hakiem cleared his throat noisily. Shupansea paused and waited for her adviser to speak. "The Beysa will require time to consider your proposal and will consult with Prince Kadakithis before making a decision. Return tomorrow for your answer."

Monkel looked at his Beysa with glazed eyes-totally shocked by the impropriety of a commoner speaking for the Avatar of Mother Bey-but she simply nodded and waved her hand in dismissal. "Thank you, 0 Empress," he stammered while bowing and backing away from her. The others of his party duplicated his actions. A short time later, after dismissing all the other courtiers, Shupansea patted the comer of her divan and called Hakiem to join her. "Tell us. Wise One," she said with a smile,"what do you see in this determination of the Setmur to build another boat that we do not see?"

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