Wednesday, June 6, 249 H.E.
Mistress Trout’s Lodgings
Nipcopper Close, Corus
Ten of the evening.
We buried Holborn today.
The burying ground has no trees in it, no shade for us Lower City Dogs. Because most of us work in the dark, we want our bodies to lie in the sun. Stones decorate the graves, stones placed there for remembrance. Some graves are piled waist-high with them, signs that the Dogs who lie beneath were loved by family and guards both.
There were plenty of folk for Holborn. Rosto, Kora, Aniki, and Phelan had come from the Court of the Rogue. Even Rosto had learned to like Holborn this last year, for all that he was green jealous that Holborn was my betrothed. Kora and Aniki wept for me. My eyes were as dry as the ground of the boneyard. Everyone believed I’d wept so hard I had no tears left.
Holborn’s family came. The men left my shoulders damp with tears, my belly filled with razors of guilt because I had none to shed with them. They told me how sorrowed they were that I’d never become their daughter, their sister. They also tried to keep his mother back. Only when they turned to go did she break from them to come at me.
I saw her slap coming, but I did naught to stop it. Only when she went for a second blow did I grab her wrist.
“You cold, Cesspit trull!” she screamed. “My poor lad was forever trying to impress you. He wouldn’t be here if he hadn’t been trying to prove himself as good as you, and you led him to his death!”
My partner, Tunstall, took her and gently put her in the hands of her men. “He made a mistake, mistress,” he said gently in his hillman’s rumble. “Beka had naught to do with it.”
“She was there,” Holborn’s mother cried.
“She was not.” My sergeant, Goodwin, had come over. “Had she been there, she would have stopped him from running into a nest of slave guards all on his own. Your son got himself killed.”
The men of the family were all Dogs and knew that Tunstall and Goodwin were right. “Forgive her,” Holborn’s father whispered in my ear while his sons drew their mother out of the boneyard. “It is her grief talking.” He looked shamefaced as he followed his family.
Other Dogs were present, to stand for Holborn and for me. Holborn was a leather badge, a five-year Dog who’d transferred to Jane Street last year. His old friends and partner from Flash District attended, as well as the Jane Street folk. Goodwin, her man, Tunstall, and his lady, Sabine, were there, as well as my Jane Street friends. Standing with the cityfolk were my brothers, sisters, grandmother, as well as my merchant friend Tansy and her family. Beside them was my foster family from the days when I had lived at Provost’s House.
My informants among the city’s pigeons attended, to my surprise. None landed on the grave. Holborn’s ghost wasn’t riding among them, waiting to say farewell to me. Many a soul that’s been murdered rode a pigeon until he, or she, could settle old business, but not Holborn. In his last hours he’d only given my hand one more squeeze before he left me for the Peaceful Realms of the Black God of Death.
I listened to the folk murmur to each other as they waited for the priest and Lord Gershom to arrive. One mot was telling those around her that Holborn had saved her oldest lad when a game of dice went bad. The Dogs from his old district shared the tale that Holborn was known to jump on tables and stand on his hands when he’d had one cup too many. A dancer whose full purse he’d saved from rushers was there. It was she who set a cube of incense by the headstone.
A priest of the Black God said some words once Holborn went into the ground. So did Lord Gershom, before he gave Holborn’s medal to his father. Then came the placing of the stones, as all who chose to leave a token did so. Most of them who’d come went on to the Jane Street Guardhouse after that. There Holborn’s Day Watch fellows had laid out a funeral feast. Those closest to me stayed for a while. Eventually they came to tell me goodbye. I stood by the headstone as they approached.
My oldest friend, Tansy, clung to me and wept on my uniform, and left three chunks of crystal by the headstone. That done, her man Herun took her and the babies home. Then my lord Gershom and my district commander, Sir Acton of Fenrigh, said their farewells. I collected myself to bow to them. Others followed. Granny Fern, clinging to my youngest brother’s arm, my other brother, and my sisters all looked more broken than me. They had loved Holborn, who had wheedled until I was on good terms with my sister Dorine again. My foster aunt Mya, my foster uncle, and my other family from Provost’s House left with them. The hardest Dogs of Jane Street kennel, who had gone through so many street battles with me, trickled away, two and three at a time. I embraced my fellow Dogs, knowing they would not think me weak for doing so at a time like this.
Now and then Pounce, my cat, would rub up against my boots, or my hound, Achoo, would lick my hand. I’d give them a scratch to reassure them, until they settled again.
My remaining human friends took counsel of each other as we remained in the sun. Finally Aniki said, “She’ll come when she’s ready.” Most of them went on their way. They never would have left me entirely alone, not with the enemies I’ve made since I was a Puppy. I didn’t care. I was listening to the winds, in case they carried a scrap of Holborn’s voice, and to the talk of the pigeons, for the sheer comfort of their coos and chuckles. More and more birds assembled on the rooftops and the fence.
Copyright © 2011 by Tamora Pierce. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.