Ch. 158. Playing One’s Hand

“It seems that the tavern is taken care of.”, Lotye said with a nod towards the tavern, where she was still able to make out the figures of their two companions. Her mask didn’t hide the amused smile on her face, brought about by her little ruse. It’s not that bad, after all. “So why don’t we get some grilled fish for ourselves?”

With a new bumbershoot in one hand and a silvery cloak wrapped around her shoulders, she took the Prince’s arm again and moved towards the fish-stand. Peino had been right and the cloaks would certainly be worth their money. First drops started falling, warning even the people most engrossed in their dealings of the coming storm. Soon they would be followed by thousands upon thousands of their wet brethren splatting onto the cobblestone street. Lotye could nearly feel how the narrow alley was more and more plunged into shadows the closer the clouds came.

Still, the city had seen storms before and at least for now, life continued around them. It was the Feast of the Triumvirate, after all, and there was no time to lose because of a bit of bad weather during this celebration of commerce. The closer the pair came to the fish-griller’s kiosk, the stronger the appetizing smell became. The meals handed out there were simple and cheap, made for people walking by without much time, but that didn’t mean that they were bad. On the contrary, using only a few herbs, salt and fish fresh from the port, the elf behind the counter was able to produce a fragrance that made Lotye hungry, even though she had eaten a good breakfast not too long ago, not to speak of an apple on the way.

This time she did not intend to behave as a couple. Prince Peino’s reactions had shown her that he had rather enjoyed her little play. Not that she really objected to getting a bit of attention, but she would have preferred him to at least be a little bit startled or staggered. So there was no point in doing it again, as it hadn’t worked all that well with the one questioned on the other hand. Maybe the thrill of the hunt was also beginning to get her, too. Nevertheless, she had take his arm again without even realising it at first, for reasons she couldn’t really tell herself. Luckily, the line in front of the small kiosk was quite short and so they didn’t have to wait very long.

“I’ll take a small portion of the broiled angler-fish, please. And … What do you want?” Lotye looked up to Peino to make his order.

The Merrow threw some new pieces on his grill and flipped over some others. Somehow, Lotye felt reminded of her father watching him work. It wasn’t his appearance, as both men clearly belonged to different races. There was little similarity on the outside, other than that her father had liked to smoke his pipe too. Partially, it probably was the look on his face, the look of a man who knew the sea and the weather and the hardships both brought with them. But most of all, Lotye soon realised, it was the food on the grill in front of him. The smells reminded her of the home she had left behind, where fish had been part of the menu nearly every day, similarly, but even simpler, prepared. Just like her father had liked it. Now, I can’t all sentimental, not because of that kind of stuff. It was unusual for her to think about home like this. But the smell of grilled fish filled the air with memories of the cliffs and coasts of her home country, with pictures of the small boats riding out over the waves and returning with nets full fish.

Shaking off this short daydream, Lotye returned her attention to the here and now. The fish-griller didn’t look very chatty at all. Long stories most likely just would have annoyed him, so she chose a direct approach:

“Excuse me sir, but we are looking for someone. Do you remember a man selling very interesting cards around here two days ago?”

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