Luke Reviews concludes its preview of Triumff: Her Majesty’s Hero by Dan Abnett, and out from Angry Robot Books. Helpful Links: Reviews of other Dan Abnett works here at Luke Reviews, Angry Robot Books, Parts One, Two, Three, and Four of Triumff: Her Majesty’s Hero.
NOTE: TRIUMFF: HER MAJESTY’S HERO CONTAINS SOME LANGUAGE NOT APPROPRIATE FOR YOUNGER READERS.
A Fourth Chapter
“Oh bollocks,” said Triumff, and resumed his thrashing attempt at escape. Water churned from his milling limbs. The swordsman ploughed after him.
Almost at once, Triumff realised things weren’t getting any better. A second line of bubbles was arcing around in front to cut off his flight. A moment later, another submarine assassin rose from the depths.
“Give gim gis gay! Gile gop gis gloogy ged goff!” the second attacker instructed his partner.
“Garden?” asked the first.
Triumff stopped and looked back.
“He said…” he began, but then he paused. “Why the bastard am I bothering to explain it to you?”
He set off again, breasting the flood, churning up sheets of spray, breaking off perpendicular to the pincer manoeuvre of the snorkel-blowing killers.
Five yards from the pool-side, he pursed his lips and whistled the first two bars of the song about the Guinea Coast.
Something flat, hard and fundamentally aerodynamic choppered out of the colonnade shadows like a startled grouse. It struck the second assassin square in the visor with a painful, metallic clang. The assassin crashed backwards into the water as if he’d ridden a steeplechaser full-pelt into an overhanging branch.
The flat, hard, aerodynamic thing whirled around, back the way it had come, still making the sound of someone thrumming their lips with their finger whilst they exhaled hard. It landed neatly in Uptil’s outstretched hand. It was Uptil’s “come-back”, a traditional hunting weapon of the Beach folk. It was essentially a flat stick with an elbow, but in the hands of a trained caster it could not only do serious hurt, but also reload itself into its owner’s hand for another go.
Triumff reached the edge of the pool, grabbed his towel and shook the Couteau Suisse out of its folds. He pressed the trigger and got to the rapier by way of only a pencil sharpener and an egg spoon. He flourished the long blade twice to enjoy the bee-buzz it made as it cut the air, and then raised the hilt to eye-level in a salute.
“Vivat Regina,” he hissed, and threw himself at the remaining assassin.
The assassin had never, in all his long days as a paid cut-throat and hit-man, been attacked by a naked man with a rapier before. Come to that, he had never been asked to take on a contract wearing swimming trunks and part of a brass band on his head. The hooded man who’d hired him and his mate in a Cheapside tavern had paid well, in advance, and so he hadn’t really questioned the details at the time.
Now his mate was floating face-down in the municipal baths with blood clouding the water around his crumpled visor-work after a collision with what appeared to be a flying shelf bracket, and he had his hands full with what was known in the trade as a “contrary client”.
There was only one thing he could do, and thankfully (for his sake) it was something he was very, very good at.
He would have to fight him and kill him.
The rapiers flashed against each other in a series of blinding strokes, the cutlery percussion of the blows ringing around the gloomy hall. Almost from the first riposte, Triumff knew he was up against a professional swordsman. He just hoped that the odd venue (four feet of warm water) would be on his side.
It was an ungainly fight. Their upper bodies flew and twisted above the waterline, their hips and legs paddled like spoons in syrup to keep up. It was remarkably easy to outrun your lower body, and therefore fall over, and therefore die. Triumff did his very best not to do any of those three things.
It might be noted at this point that when either sober or desperate, Sir Rupert Triumff was a considerable swordsman in his own right. Currently, he was both. It was even money, whichever way you looked at it.
Uptil looked on, aghast, from the vantage of the bath-side. He yelled encouragement, advice, and a few of the ruder words in his considerable vocabulary, unable to do anything else of use, since the fighters were too close for him to risk another cast of his come-back.
Something caught Uptil’s eye. Something was moving in the shadows further down the colonnade. Fearing a third assassin, he tore himself away from the blistering duel and moved in to investigate. He raised his come-back, catching a glimpse of a robed figure scurrying away towards the bath-house exit, too far away to get a clean cast. Uptil ran after it.
Uptil didn’t like leaving Rupert at such a crucial juncture, but something forced him to give chase, something like a lingering impression that the robed figure had possessed the head of a cat.
Uptil didn’t know much about cats, since they didn’t have them in Beach. He was pretty sure, though, that cats weren’t generally six feet high, and wearing a silk doublet and a cape.
There was no sign of a robed figure in the entrance hall, feline or otherwise. The front doors were bolted shut, and the three bath attendants were bound, gagged and unconscious on the floor of the ticket office. Uptil checked along both sides of the hall, his come-back poised for launch. There was no sign of an intruder.
Someone started hammering at the bolted doors. Uptil walked forward, and drew back the bolts. As the doors swung open, he nearly exclaimed loudly. At the last moment he remembered the Ploy, and settled for a hasty yelp of inarticulate fear.
In the pool, Triumff parried low against the assassin’s backhand, and then struck in, slicing the end off his assailant’s snorkel. The man made a noise like an un-bled radiator, and rained several more blows at Triumff, who backed and parried again deftly.
“You in the water! Stop fighting! At once!”
The words rang out in booming echoes across the Bath House. Out of the corner of his otherwise intently occupied eye, Triumff saw Lord Gull, standing at the head of a detachment of the City Militia at the pool edge. The soldiers were all big, armoured dreadnoughts from a SHAT unit (Special Halberds And Tactics), one of the Militia’s Anti-Affray Departments. Gull looked more furious than usual. If they wanted the fight stopped, Triumff knew that they would be able to do it with just two or three strokes of a skilled pike-arm.
“You want me to stop the fight?” bellowed Triumff, side-slicing with his darting sword, “You want me to stop it? No sooner said…”
He punched up, driving his basket-guard into the assassin’s visored face, and then raked downwards, the length of the man’s torso, with a slick blow that was almost surgical. The assassin collapsed messily into the water, which changed colour rapidly.
“…than done,” Triumff finished, slooshing away from his dead foe, waist-deep in the water. “That’ll teach him to call me a gastard. Afternoon, Callum. How’s the ear?”
A long row of pike-heads pointed down off the pool-side at him, each one ready to thrust. Gull stepped forward between the hafts, and glanced disdainfully down at the carnage in the water. Triumff, smiling up at his captors, could see Uptil, crouching nervously at the back of the colonnade under the watchful eye of a SHAT team member.
“I’m not going to allow our personal differences to get in the way, Triumff, you piece of worthless offal,” said Gull. “As Captain of the Guard, I’ve a job to do, and that involves arresting you for Causing An Affray In A Public Place and Participating In A Breach Of The Peace. Not to mention what looks like a double charge of manslaughter.”
“They were knifemen. Look at them. Paid to do me in. You know that damn well, Gull.”
“Perhaps,” said Gull, with what was almost a smile. “We’ll ascertain that after the Coroner’s been in and Forensic Physic have poked about. Until then, Rupert Triumff, you’re coming with me to The Yard for questioning. You men, haul him out.”
Huge, mailed hands reached down. With a resigned curse, Triumff allowed himself to leave the water.