2nd of 4…
A brief silence followed Lotye’s assertive recommendation, as everyone in the embassy apartment salon stopped to look at her. Lord Jeneyeru was the first to break the spell.
“My very thought,” he declared with a smile. “Thimble! The embassy keeps a selection of Sesan masks just in case. No traveler wishes to be caught unawares by the local fashions.” Thimble appeared with a stack of hatter’s boxes, each containing several masks. “Please, help yourselves. Brother, Captain, Milady Arrowwise?”
“Ah,” said the blue-robed attorney, rising and bowing, “Your Highness, Your Lordship, I regret I must appear in court. If you will excuse me?” A round of bowing followed Jeneyeru’s acquiescence. “Now, milord, you understand the terms of Mistress O’Tulvar’s release into your custody?”
“Yes, yes, certainly.”
“And you have my card? Excellent.” The lawyer squeezed her client’s arm reassuringly. “Lotye, you have my card as well. If you need me, any runner in the city will find me at any time. Now just do what the Lord Magus tells you and stay out of trouble. I will see you again in a few hours.”
With yet more courtesies and gestures, the attorney left.
“Are these really necessary?” said Peino, poking at one of the boxes.
“You heard Mistress O’Tulvar,” Jeneyeru replied. “She is our expert on the behavior of thieves, after all. Here, try this one.” The wizard handed to the prince a mask or pearlescent white that would cover his face like the visor of a war helm. “That will suit you, I think. It’s austere, like your suit.”
“At the very least, it will fit under my hat.”
“And for Mistress O’Tulvar, hm… something lacy, perhaps?” Lord Jeneyeru continued to flip through the collection of masks. “And for you, Captain, something forceful, I think, yes? Come, come, you two, don’t be shy. Choose your faces.”
One way and other, the party was soon outfitted, each with a mask and whatever other accoutrements they might be carrying. For himself, Peino carried a light rapier, such as any fashionable gentleman of the elven tribes might, and its companion dagger in the knife loop on his waistcoat. A blue tricorn that matched his coat completed, together with the white mask, the covering of his face. Jeneyeru had opted for a mask encrusted in small seashells of colors to coordinate with his clothes as well, and with the ebony and bone Staff of Ghosts in hand, and the Box of Nothing secured under guard in the embassy, he led the way down the elegant stairs of the embassy. But he did not take them to the street, rather to the back of the building, where a small private dock let out onto the Grand Canal, and a hired town-boat waited, the oarsman standing in the rear, hand upon the steering oar.
“All aboard, everyone,” said Lord Jeneyeru. “Our challenge is to follow Mistress O’Tulvar’s memory, even though she doubts it herself. This man will take us back to the square where the Gibberers appeared. Along the way, perhaps we can test the lady’s recollection.”
He jumped nimbly aboard the narrow, wobbly boat and took one of the low, cushioned seats along the sides.
Peino held out his hand to Lotye to help her to step aboard, if she needed it. He was quite curious to see what this chestnut-haired beauty was going to do or how his magical brother would make use of her. Remarks such as “expert in the behavior of thieves” and “terms of her release” had piqued his curiosity quite a bit. He had to remind himself that their object on this expedition was a dangerous one. His attention should probably not be entirely given to a pretty woman.
When all had settled themselves in, the town-boat, one of the long, narrow taxis that plied the inner city canals of Sesus, pushed off and glided off the Grand Canal and into the tight, twisting water lanes.