Gods and Warriors: The Crocodile Tomb (Book Four)

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9780141339337: Gods and Warriors: The Crocodile Tomb (Book Four)

'If an Outsider wields the blade, the House of Koronos burns . . .' A country at the edge of the world. A hidden tomb. A buried secret. Hylas and Pirra have found their way to the mysterious land of Egypt in pursuit of the dagger of Koronos, only to find that the Crows have got there first. Led by Hylas's deadly enemy, Telamon, they are determined to recover the legendary blade, by any means necessary. But the dagger now lies buried beyond the reach of mortals. If Hylas and Pirra want it back, they will have to make the most dangerous journey of all - into the realms of death itself . . . 'Spellbinding' Telegraph The fourth novel in the bestselling Gods and Warriors series by Michelle Paver.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Michelle Paver was born in Malawi in 1960 and moved to England when she was three. After gaining a degree in biochemistry from Oxford, she became a partner in a City law firm, but gave that up to write full-time. To research her stories about animals and the distant past, she has travelled in the Arctic, the Mediterranean and Egypt, swum with dolphins and killer whales, and encountered bears, boars and wolves. She is the author of the internationally bestselling Chronicles of Ancient Darkness, the final book of which won the 2010 Guardian Children's Fiction Prize.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Also by Michelle Paver

Title Page

Copyright

Map

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Author’s Note

About this Story

About the Author

The leopard lay on the floor with its eyes shut and its thick tail curled around one leg of the ebony chair. The monkey crouched above it on the roof beam, torn between terror of the sleeping monster and desire for the green glass bowl on the table, which was heaped with pomegranates, figs, and dates.

Nervously baring its teeth, the monkey stretched out one scrawny arm, but couldn’t reach the fruit. The monkey drew back, champing its teeth in frustration. The leopard twisted one ear to catch the sound, and went on pretending to be asleep. The monkey didn’t notice. All it saw was the fruit.

This time, the monkey gripped the roof beam with one foot and swung down with both arms extended—and the huge cat struck. A blur of black and gold, a shriek, a crunch—and it was over.

Alekto laughed and clapped her hennaed hands. “But it didn’t last long enough!” she complained to the fat Egyptian nobleman seated beside her. “It hardly suffered at all! Can we find another one?”

She looked extremely beautiful and very un-Egyptian in her spiked gold diadem and her tight-waisted robe of yellow silk, and Kerasher bowed low. “Anything, my lady,” he said in heavily accented Akean.

“My lord Kerasher, we have no time,” snapped Telamon as he paced up and down. “You said they’re bringing the prisoner?”

The Egyptian inclined his head in assent, and Alekto gave Telamon a mocking bow. “How masterful you are, nephew!”

Telamon glared at her. She was only a few years older than him, but she loved calling him “nephew,” as it made him sound like a boy. “This prisoner,” he said to Kerasher. “You’re sure it’s him?”

“So my men tell me,” said the Egyptian with slightly forced politeness. “But only you, my lord Telamon, know the face of the man you seek, so it will be for you to say.”

Telamon went on pacing. “When?”

“Soon.”

“It’s always ‘soon,’” muttered Telamon.

He hated Egypt. The heat, the swampy River, this fat brown man with his jeweled collar and his green eye-paint that was starting to run in the heat. Kerasher had been sent by the Perao Himself, the god-king of Egypt, to help them find the dagger, but Telamon could feel the disdain behind his smiles. What made it worse was that the Egyptian was so horribly womanish, with his elaborate plaited wig and his painted, beardless face. He even had his slaves shave the hair off his legs.

It’s Hylas’ fault that I’m here, Telamon thought savagely. Hylas and Pirra together. If they hadn’t stolen the dagger—if Pirra’s slave hadn’t brought it to Egypt . . .

Alekto snapped her fingers at her new plaything. The leopard left its kill and padded over to her, and laid its blood-stained head on her knees. “What else can we feed it?” she murmured. “And this time, Lord Kerasher, make it last!” Bending her lovely head to the beast’s bloody muzzle, she put out her little pointed tongue and licked it.

Kerasher’s eyes were glazed and his mouth was hanging open. Practically dribbling with lust, thought Telamon in disgust.

Alekto caught his eye and grinned. He didn’t grin back. He hated her too. She was always laughing at him and belittling him in front of his warriors. For the hundredth time, he wished his uncle Pharax had been with him, instead of her.

But then, he reminded himself, it would be Pharax in command of this mission, not you. And you are in command, Telamon, whatever Alekto might think. You are the grandson of Koronos, High Chieftain of Mycenae. He sent you to Egypt because he knows you will succeed.

Footsteps outside, and a clink of armor.

The leopard twitched its tail, and Alekto gripped the arms of her chair.

“At last,” said Telamon.

They’d flung the prisoner face down at Telamon’s feet: a young man in a dusty kilt with his arms pinioned painfully behind his back. One of the guards yanked him into a kneeling position, and Telamon caught his breath. “It’s him! Did he have it? Did they find the dagger?”

“He had this,” said Kerasher. Another guard held out a knife with a cheap bone hilt and a copper blade.

With a snarl, Telamon flung it aside. “That’s not it!”

Kerasher permitted himself a small sigh. “Then I will question him—”

“No,” cut in Telamon. “I’ll do it, he speaks Akean.” Then to the prisoner, “Where’s the dagger?”

No reply. The prisoner was watching the leopard tearing at the monkey’s blue guts.

“Look at me!” barked Telamon. “Where is the dagger of Koronos?”

Like many Egyptians, the prisoner had a shaven head and black-rimmed eyes. It was a handsome face, striving for blankness. The dark gaze met Telamon’s and he shook his head.

“He knows where it is,” said Alekto, watching the prisoner with the fixity of a snake with its prey.

“I will have him beaten like a strip of papyrus,” said Kerasher. “If he does not tell . . .” One fat bejeweled hand indicated his men’s crescent-moon axes and copper-tipped whips.

Alekto drew back her lips from her teeth and gave a little shiver of excitement. “Oh, I think we can do better than that.”

For the first time since they’d left Mycenae, Telamon was glad she was with him. He disliked torture, but Alekto loved it. She would make the prisoner talk.

Soon they would have the dagger. Telamon’s heart quickened as he remembered the long, vicious sweep of its blade, and the feel of his ancestors’ strength surging through him as he gripped the hilt . . .

“Let’s make a start,” said Alekto. Her cheeks were flushed, her beautiful lips parted.

“Not yet,” Telamon said coldly. Squatting on his heels, he showed the prisoner the little amethyst falcon on his wrist. The slave’s face twisted with pain and grief. The sealstone had belonged to Pirra.

“Userref,” Telamon said quietly. “Tell me where you hid the dagger and I’ll give you a painless death. Your people will bury you with the proper rites and your spirit will join your ancestors. But refuse—and we will make you tell. Then we will fling your body to the crows and your spirit will be lost forever. So. Take the easy way.”

Again Userref’s eyes met his. Again he shook his head. Telamon was surprised that a mere slave could be so brave.

Behind him, Kerasher stirred. “Let us take him back to—”

“No,” said Telamon. “We’ve wasted enough time.” Rising to his feet, he glanced at Alekto. He was gratified to see that she was waiting for him to give the word. He was in command. The gods were with him. Soon the dagger of Koronos would be his—and this time, neither Hylas nor Pirra could stop him, for they were far away in Keftiu. Nothing could stop him now.

Putting his hands on his hips, he squared his shoulders. “Let’s get started,” he said.

“This is like no land I’ve ever seen,” muttered Hylas. “There’s nothing here.” Only the Sea lying stunned beneath the Sun, and this vast shimmering plain of endless red sand.

“It’s nothing like Egypt, either,” said Pirra. “Userref said Egypt’s got a huge river down the middle, and fields and villages and temples along the banks. He said . . .” She licked her lips. “He said that on either side of it there’s only endless red sand. He called it—deshret.”

“Desert,” said Hylas.

She met his eyes. “It’s where they bury their dead.”

Deshret.

The Sun was fiercer than he’d ever known, the air so hot it was like breathing smoke. Squinting in the glare, he scanned the quivering plain. No villages, no river. Just the odd clump of rocks and dusty scrub, and a twist of windblown sand whirling like a demon over the ground.

Far out on the Sea, their ship had dwindled to a speck. “They never intended to take us to Egypt,” he said bitterly. “They stole our gold and dumped us here to die.”

“They could’ve killed us and chucked us overboard,” Pirra pointed out. “And they did leave us our weapons.”

“What, so we’re lucky?”

“No, but we’re alive.”

She was right—but he wanted to rage and fling curses at those filthy, lying Phoenicians. For over a moon, he and Pirra had hidden in the Keftian hills with Echo and Havoc, desperately waiting for a ship bound for Egypt. When at last they’d found one willing to take them, it had been blown off course, and the crew had blamed them. “Foreigners bring bad luck,” the captain had declared. And who could be more outlandish than an Akean boy with strange tawny hair and a young lioness at his side, and a Keftian girl with a crescent-moon scar on her cheek and a falcon on her wrist?

Havoc padded past Hylas, then glanced back at him for reassurance. She still behaved like a cub, as if she hadn’t yet realized that she was nearly full-grown. After days of sea sickness, she was gaunt and bedraggled, and now besieged by flies. She stood panting, miserably twitching her ears.

Hylas untied the neck of the waterskin and poured a little into his cupped hand; and she slurped it up with a rasping lick that nearly took the skin off his palm. “Sorry I can’t give you more,” he told her. The waterskin was only half full. It wouldn’t last long.

“Maybe Egypt’s not far away,” said Pirra. “Rivers flow into the Sea, don’t they? If we walk along the coast, we might find it.”

“Unless we go the wrong way and end up heading deeper into the desert.”

Echo, soaring overhead, suddenly wheeled off across the plain. “Maybe she knows where it is,” said Pirra, watching the falcon fly.

Hylas didn’t reply. Echo could fly for days without water. They couldn’t. He could see Pirra thinking the same thing. “Come on,” he said. “Let’s dig a hole, see if we can find anything to drink.”

A searing wind flung grit in his eyes as they trudged up the shore. Sweat trickled down his back, soaking the coil of rope slung across his shoulder. He felt the ground burning through the soles of his rawhide sandals. Around him the heat danced, so that his shadow seemed to be moving on its own. There was a throbbing pain in his skull. He prayed that was only the glare, and not the ache he always got before a vision.

Fifty paces in from the Sea, they knelt and started digging with their hands. They dug as far as they could. Soon, moisture seeped into the bottom of the hole. Hylas tasted it—and spat it out. “Salt,” he said in disgust.

Pirra cast about her. “Berries on that bush over there. Can we eat them?”

Hylas blinked. He was an Outsider who’d grown up in the wild; he knew every plant in Akea. But he’d never seen this one. “I don’t know,” he said uneasily. “We can’t risk it, it might be poisonous.”

Havoc padded over to the bush and slumped down in its pitiful strip of shade, batting at the flies with her forepaws.

The bush gave an angry hiss.

Havoc scrambled to her feet and backed away.

Before Hylas or Pirra could take in what was happening, a snake shot out from under the bush. But instead of slithering off, it turned and rose up on the end of its tail—it swayed its flat black head from side to side, and spat at Havoc. She dodged. The jet of venom missed her eye and hit her nose instead. Hylas threw his knife. It struck just behind the head, pinning the snake to the sand. As it twisted and thrashed, Pirra finished it off with a rock.

A shaken silence.

Havoc sneezed and rubbed her muzzle in the sand. Hylas retrieved his knife and hacked off the snake’s head.

“Have you ever seen a snake do that?” panted Pirra.

“No,” he said curtly.

They exchanged glances. Killing the first creature they met had to be a bad omen. And for all they knew, this snake was sacred to whatever strange gods ruled this land.

Havoc was patting the carcass with a curious forepaw. Hylas pushed her aside and wiped the last of the venom off her nose with the hem of his tunic.

“D’you think we can eat it?” said Pirra.

“I don’t know,” he muttered. Anger tightened his throat. “I don’t know!” he cried, lashing out at the bush with his knife. “I don’t know these plants or these creatures! I don’t know if we can eat these berries, and I’ve never seen a snake stand on its tail and spit!”

“Hylas, stop it, you’re frightening Havoc!”

The young lioness had retreated behind Pirra’s legs, and was staring at him with her ears back.

“Sorry,” he mumbled.

Havoc came over and rubbed her furry cheek against his thigh. He scratched her big golden head, as much to reassure himself as her.

“When I first met you,” Pirra said levelly, “we were stuck on an island with no food and no water. But we survived.”

“That was different.”

“I know, but if anyone can survive out here, it’s you.”

Echo swept down onto Pirra’s shoulder and gave a lock of her dark hair an affectionate tug. Pirra touched the falcon’s scaly yellow foot with one finger.

Havoc was gazing up at him, her great golden eyes full of trust.

“Right,” he said. “We’ve got half a skin of water, two knives, my slingshot, a coil of rope, and a dead snake. If we can eat it.”

“Animals know if something’s poisoned, don’t they?” said Pirra. “If Havoc and Echo think it’s all right . . .”

Hylas nodded. “Let’s find out.” Cutting a chunk off the tail, he tossed it to Havoc, then gave a smaller piece to Pirra, who held it in her fist. Echo hopped onto the rawhide cuff Pirra wore on her forearm, ripped the meat to shreds, and gulped it down. Havoc was already crunching hers messily to bits.

“Looks like it’s all right,” said Pirra.

“And there might be fish in the Sea,” said Hylas.

She gave him a wry smile. “And the Phoenicians didn’t get all the gold. I hid a necklace under my tunic—so if we can find someone selling food, we’ll be fine!”

He snorted a laugh.

It was nearly noon. The heat was unbearable.

“Havoc had the right idea,” he said. “We’ve got to get out of this sun.”

Pirra pointed up the coast, where a rocky outcrop shimmered in the distance. “Might be a cave among those rocks.”

“Let’s go.”

Hylas felt a bit better. But as they started toward the rocks, he realized that finding Egypt, and Userref, and the dagger of Koronos, no longer mattered.

First, they had to stay alive.

They’d cut strips off their tunics and wet them in the Sea, then wound them around their heads. The sopping cloth had been wonderfully cool, but it soon dried, and now Pirra could feel the Sun hammering her skull. Her eyes were scratchy...

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Book Description Penguin Books Ltd. Paperback. Book Condition: new. BRAND NEW, The Crocodile Tomb, Michelle Paver, 'If an Outsider wields the blade, the House of Koronos burns .' A country at the edge of the world. A hidden tomb. A buried secret. Hylas and Pirra have found their way to the mysterious land of Egypt in pursuit of the dagger of Koronos, only to find that the Crows have got there first. Led by Hylas's deadly enemy, Telamon, they are determined to recover the legendary blade, by any means necessary. But the dagger now lies buried beyond the reach of mortals. If Hylas and Pirra want it back, they will have to make the most dangerous journey of all - into the realms of death itself."Spellbinding." (Telegraph). The fourth novel in the best-selling Gods and Warriors series by Michelle Paver. Bookseller Inventory # B9780141339337

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Book Description Penguin Books Ltd, United Kingdom, 2015. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 4 ed.. Language: English . Brand New Book. If an Outsider wields the blade, the House of Koronos burns . . . A country at the edge of the world.A hidden tomb.A buried secret.Hylas and Pirra have found their way to the mysterious land of Egypt in pursuit of the dagger of Koronos, only to find that the Crows have got there first. Led by Hylas s deadly enemy, Telamon, they are determined to recover the legendary blade, by any means necessary.But the dagger now lies buried beyond the reach of mortals. If Hylas and Pirra want it back, they will have to make the most dangerous journey of all - into the realms of death itself . . . Spellbinding TelegraphThe fourth novel in the bestselling Gods and Warriors series by Michelle Paver. Bookseller Inventory # AAZ9780141339337

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Book Description Penguin Books Ltd, United Kingdom, 2015. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 4 ed.. Language: English . Brand New Book. If an Outsider wields the blade, the House of Koronos burns . . . A country at the edge of the world.A hidden tomb.A buried secret.Hylas and Pirra have found their way to the mysterious land of Egypt in pursuit of the dagger of Koronos, only to find that the Crows have got there first. Led by Hylas s deadly enemy, Telamon, they are determined to recover the legendary blade, by any means necessary.But the dagger now lies buried beyond the reach of mortals. If Hylas and Pirra want it back, they will have to make the most dangerous journey of all - into the realms of death itself . . . Spellbinding TelegraphThe fourth novel in the bestselling Gods and Warriors series by Michelle Paver. Bookseller Inventory # AAZ9780141339337

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