The sounds of pursuit echoed through the dark tunnels.
Limm was nearly out of breath from attempting to evade those determined to kill him.The young thief prayed to Ban-ath, God of Thieves, that those who followed were not as knowledgeable about the sewers of Krondor as he was.He knew he could not outrun them or fight them; his only hope was to outwit them.
The boy knew that panic was the enemy, and he struggled against the terrible fear that threatened to reduce him to a frightened child, clinging to anything that might provide warm comfort while he huddled in the shadows, waiting for the men who would kill him.He paused for a moment at an intersection of two large channels and then took off to the left, feeling his way through the gloom of the deep sewers, his only illumination a small, shuttered lantern.He kept the sliding window closed to the narrowest setting, for he needed only the slightest light to know which way to go.There were sections of the sewer in which light filtered down from above, through culverts, gratings, broken street stones, and other interstices.A little light went a long way to guide him through the stinking byways under the city.But there were also areas of total darkness, where he would be as blind as one born without eyes.
He reached a narrowing of the sewer, where the circumference of the circular tunnel grew smaller, serving to slow the flow of sewage through this area.Limm thought of it as a "dam," of sorts.He ducked to avoid hitting his head on the smaller opening, his bare feet splashing through the filthy water which collected at the end of the larger sewer until the level rose up enough to funneldown the rough and rusty narrow pipe.
Spreading his legs, Limm moved in a rocking motion, his feet high up on the' side of the circular passage, for he knew that in less than ten feet a nasty outfall sent waste to a huge channel twenty feet below.Hard calluses kept the jagged build-up of sediment on the stonework from slicing open his soles.The boy shuttered the lantern as he intersected a tunnel with long lines of sight; he knew exactly where he was and was fearful of even the smallest light being seen by his pursuers.He moved by touch around a corner and entered the next passage.It was hundreds of feet long, and even the faintest spark would be visible from one end to the other.
Hurrying as best he could in this awkward fashion, he felt the tug of air as the water fell below him from a hole in the pipe he was in, splashing noisily.Several other nearby outfalls also emptied in this area, known as "the Well" to the local thieves.The sound of all the splashing water echoed in the small pipe, making its exact source difficult to locate, so he proceeded slowly.This was a place in which a six-inch misjudgment could send him falling to his death.
Reaching a point another ten feet further, Limm encountered a grate, almost bumping into it, so focused was he on the sound of those who came behind.He crouched, making himself as small a target as possible, in case a mirrored light was shone into the tunnel.
Within moments he heard voices, at first only the sound of indistinguishable words.Then he heard a man say, "--can't have gone too far.He's just a kid."
"He's seen us," said the leader, and the boy knew full well who the speaker was.He had the image of that man and those who served him etched in his memory, though he had only glimpsed them for a few seconds before turning and fleeing.He didn't know the man's name, but he knew his nature.The boy had lived among such men all his life, though he had known only a few who might be this dangerous.
Limm had no illusions about his own abilities; he knew he could never confront such men.He was often full of bravado, but it was a false courage designed to convince those who were stronger that he was just a little more trouble to dispose of than he was in actuality.His willingness to look death in the eye had saved the boy's neck on more than one occasion; but he was also nobody's fool: Limm knew that these men wouldn't give him the time to even try a bluff.They would kill him without hesitation, because he could link them to a horrible crime.
Looking around, the young fugitive saw a trickle of water coming from above.Risking detection, he briefly shone the barest light he could manage above him.The top of the grating didn't reach the roof of the tunnel, and just the other side of the grate was a passageway running upward.
Without hesitation the youth climbed up on the grate and pushed his free arm through, experience showing him how likely it was that he might pass through such a tiny passage.Praying to Ban-ath that he hadn't grown too much since the last time he had tried such a stunt, Limm pushed upward and turned.His head went first.Twisting it slightly, he thrust his face forward between the top bar and the stones above.Practice had taught him that his ears would suffer less if not bent backwards as he tried to pull his head through.A rising sense of urgency battled the pain he felt, as he sensed his pursuers clos-ing in.Yet the pain from his cheeks as he slowly pressed through the gap grew more intense.He tasted the salty, iron tang of blood and sweat and he continued to wiggle his head through the gap.Tears flowed freely, yet he held his silence as he cruelly scraped both ears, one against stone and the other against filthy iron. Krondor The Assassins
. Copyright © by Raymond Feist. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.