The Alderman’s Inn…
Peino Starhand laughed as Captain Lafitte stood up from the table at last. Rising as well, he returned the bow with an equally deep and elegant one of his own.
“My brother’s keep?” he said with a sly grin. “Sir, my brother keeps a country house in Ilaroc. As for bearings, it’s…” Peino paused to orient himself and then pointed roughly eastward, “that way. The Isles of the Grand Navigators. You’ll find them marked on any chart. If you will insist on going your own way, good voyage to you, Captain, and a good night, as well. Thank you for the cards.”
The Prince of the Navigators bowed again, and his officers all stood and bowed too, as Lafitte and his wizard and first mate walked away. When they were well gone, the selkies resumed their seats.
“What an ass,” said Tahain o’th’Farwind.
“The manners of a pig,” remarked the grizzled bos’un Vaet Longblade. “I came near to striking the blaggard, save for the company, milord captain.”
“He’s probably a great duelist,” said the one-eyed quartermaster Alaiss Greyboar with obvious sarcasm. “He’d have to be with such tact.”
“I doubt we’ve seen the last of them. Did you mark how the mate glared at us all?” said the wizard Nyora Watersinger.
“Aye,” answered Vaet, “a right killer, that one, taking the measure of our shrouds.” Long years working together, as well as the fact that they all, but for Tahain, were attached by blood or marriage to the House of Ereon, made the officers free to talk so openly in front of their captain. “Little better than pirates,” Vaet concluded.
“Like most privateers,” said Peino. He gazed across the smokey tavern in the direction Lafitte and his people had gone, a thoughtful frown creasing his caramel brow as he thought of the eagerness of the odd eorman, first to give up the enchanted cards and then to chase after more of them. Something about that did not make sense. He did not doubt that Nyora Watersinger was right, and they would be seeing more of Captain Lafitte and La Danse Calinda before long. But for now, he lightened those thoughts with a wink and a smile.
“I love my brother,” he said, “but not so much that I’d hesitate to let that one be his headache instead of mine. Let’s retire, shall we? Moonwood,” to the wounded navigator resting his head on the arm not wrapped tight in bandages and slung to his chest, “you look about gutted. Let your wife take you up to bed. All of you, get your rest and be at the docks no later than three bells.”
“I have the next watch,” said Longblade, taking a last swig of mead, “so with your permission, sir, I’ll be off.”
Peino nodded. “Take care, Vaet.” The bos’un caught the significance in his tone, and nodded seriously as he left.
In a few minutes more, the bill was settled with the barman, and the party broke up, climbing the tight, cramped stairs up to the rooms they had let for the night. Peino stripped down to his plains and lay in his hired bed under the eaves of the roof. The room was as snug and close as a ship’s bunk, little more than a box for a bed and a chair, but the bedding was clean, and the room had a window through which Peino could watch the moon and stars spinning over the glittering sea. That was all he needed for his comfort.
He lay on his back, listening to the music two floors below, and the night-time sounds of the nearby harbor. A cool sea breeze slid over his body, and Peino sighed with it, as he laid his hand over the bundle that contained the summoner’s cards tucked inside his shirt. On the corner of the headboard hung his sword, and its dagger mate lay beneath his pillow, as he watched the moon, and thought.
The Night Marshall of the Guardians of Kledy, a grim-faced, broad-bodied dwarf the upper half of whom seemed a solid mass of reddish beard, scowled brutally at the skinny young selkie, Ionas Farseer Ymuin.
“Pirate captain?” he growled. “You mean that lot the Daughter dragged in? Oi,” he yelled over his shoulder at someone drinking tea in the room behind the entry desk, “are those scum allowed visitors?”
After a brief pause, a grumblesome elf emerged from the shadows, muttering something that sounded like “look it up yourself,” and walked over to the large chalk board, also in shadow.
“It doesn’t say not,” he announced.
The Marshall snorted derisively and nodded his head towards a large book on the desk. “Sign in.”
The disgruntled elf, wearing a gray uniform without his coat, took up a big ring of keys and unlocked a heavy wooden door that led to the cells. He led Ionas into the converted stone warehouse that was the Kledy Guardians Keep, the huge open space sectioned off by lofts and pillars and walls of iron bars into two floors of big cells. The pirates of the Reputation were the only inmates at the moment, and they had been divided between two of the large, communal cells. There they sat on cots, playing tossers and one-two-three and smoking their pipes, awaiting lights out and then the dawn and their arraignment.
“Which did you want?” said the guardian to Ionas, “the captain?” He stepped up under a lantern hanging from a beam. “Boneshred! A visitor for you.”
Every eye in the jail turned towards Ionas, and every voice fell silent with the staring. The guardian stood stolidly nearby. Ionas was clearly no lawyer and so did not rate the privilege of privacy. After a few awkward moments, the hard, heavy figure of Bom Boneshred, with his bone-studded jaw and bandaged lumps on the other side of his head, stepped up to the bars. He looked Ionas up and down.
“Oh, aye? Who might you be, then, and what in a thousand hells d’ya want?”
In Sesus, a Richer Jail But Not Very Different…
Aeto Arrowwise dutifully noted all the facts recited by her new client, Lotye O’Tulvar, adding small check marks next to the ones she believed. To her surprise, there were quite a few checks on the page, though all the usual points remained unmarked, when the recital was completed with the usual question.
“Can you help me, Attorney Arrowwise?”
“I shall do my best, Mistress O’Tulvar,” replied the attorney, “and that best will be improved if you are truthful with me. I’ll be blunt, if you don’t mind. I find it hard to believe that a traveling saleswoman would just find enchanted cards at random and then unknowingly stumble past a cordon and accidentally lead the guardians a merry chase, as it says you did on the arrest board. If I were you, I wouldn’t bet on a jury finding it easier to believe than I do. However, aside from your real occupation and how you came by the cards, there are several points in your favor. Particularly that you are a citizen of Farind. That might be useful to us. I assume your passport is among your effects taken by the guardians? If not, I’ll send to Farind for proof of your status. Also, the accidental nature of the summoning — we may need the statement of an expert on that, but it shouldn’t be too difficult to find one.”
She quickly scribbled more notes.
“Now, Mistress O’Tulvar, what I’d like you to do is rest, eat your supper when it comes, and say nothing to anyone but me. You understand? I am your representative, so you just send anyone who has a question to me. Use your time tonight to think, Mistress, long and hard. Let me give you a point to think upon: the origin of the cards and the magic behind them. You are the bone they’ve got to gnaw on, but what if you could give them a meatier one, hm? Think on it, and let me know if you wish to amend your tale.”
Aeto Arrowwise closed up her writing kit and slid it back into her satchel. She stood, tucking the heavy satchel under her arm and kicking the stool back to its corner.
“Oh, by the way, in Raurugia, our meetings here in the keep and in the court, as well as my work at trial, if it comes to that, are paid by the state. We’ll discuss ancillary costs later, when I’ve had a chance to compose a strategy. I’ll return on the morrow. Fear not, you’re in good hands.”
And with a sharp and fleeting grin, Attorney Arrowwise headed down the stairs, leaving Lotye in her cell. Before she left the keep, she would gather copies of the written reports of all her new clients to compare against the tales they told themselves.