With a short bewildered look, she took the Prince’s arm. At first, Lotye felt inclined to refuse his courtesy in order to show her independence, just as she had done at the dock. But linking arms with him wouldn’t hurt her, it was just a simple courtesy and why shouldn’t she show a little bit of that herself? Also, she found herself strangely drawn to the idea of walking arm in arm with him. Not because she felt attracted to him, at least not more attracted than to any other good looking selkie, but because touching someone as famous as him in public seemed to be just as adventurous and forbidden as stealing apples from fruit stands. Above all that, there also was a completely rational reason for why it made sense to take his arm: Two pairs would arouse much less attention than four people questioning the festival goers, especially if one of the pairs walked arm in arm. That way, they would simply blend in with the crowd.
And then there also was something completely different. She realised it as she looked up to Prince Peino. The eyes behind his mask, they smiled, more so, they almost laughed aloud. For a second, Lotye thought about whether she should feel hurt, but quickly dismissed the thought. She had probably done enough to warrant the mockery of a nobleman. Instead, she decided to play along and her own eyes began to gleam even more mischievously. While the darkening sky heralded the coming storm, her eyes could have told the prince that there was something else he should beware of.
In front of them, Captain Lafitte turned around and asked about the seller of the cards. Once again Lotye had to admit that she didn’t remember much, compass aside. At the day when she had stolen the cards, there hadn’t been anything special about the man. He had just been another one of her victims and she remembered just as much about him as about any other man she had stolen from that day, which was to say, very little. Without letting go of Peino’s arm, she turned towards the Captain:
“I can’t tell you much. The man, if it even was a man, wore a dark cloak, brownish, probably. I didn’t really have the time to focus on him. As far as I can tell, he had no special features, other than a purse full of gold.”
“Come, let’s start over there.”, she turned back to Peino after shrugging her shoulders. Nearly dragging the bigger man after her, she took the lead and headed straight for the dwarfish clothier. The enchanter she ignored, not wanting to be reminded of all her own things she had lost to the guardians. Of course her products had been fake, but that didn’t mean that she had not invested any money into them. Also, the clothier was more convenient for what she had planned. Lotye had been part of enough markets to know that the market women often liked to sweeten their time with a little bit of gossip.
At the small shop, she pulled Peino a little bit closer to give the woman behind the counter the impression of a couple shopping together. Her free hand began to dance over the fabrics of the cloaks and tested the stability of the handles of some of the umbrellas as she feigned interest in the goods in front of her.
“Those are fine works. I’m sure he would be very pleased with a bumbershoot like this, don’t you think, …” You wanted to play and now I’ll play, she thought and laid special emphasis on her next word as she looked at Peino with the sweetest possible smile on her face. “… honey?”
Now that she was sure to have the full attention of the shopkeeper, she turned back to the dwarf, still with a blissful smile:
“You know, we’re looking for a gift for a friend. I’m sure he would like something like this.” Her hand rested on a ornate wooden handle. “But actually we have come here for something else. I walked through this street two days ago and there was a vendor selling artfully painted playing cards. Much too dark and gruesome pictures for a person like me, but our friend has a strange passion for obscure novelties and I think those would have been perfect for him.”
“But today, the vendor does not seem to be here.”, she continued with a slightly disguised voice, “He had his table around here, wore a cloak, not unlike those you sell here, but of course not as fashionable. I don’t know, but he seemed kind of shady, not completely trustworthy, if you know what I mean. To be honest, that is why I brought my strong man here with me.”
With that, Lotye pressed herself even closer against Prince Peino Ereonis. A distant thunder echoed through the streets of Sesus. If anybody finds out that this is the Prince of the Grand Navigators, the papers certainly will have a lot to write about. They’re not so different from the market women with their gossips.