Both of the Ereonis brothers blinked at Jean Lafitte. With an uncertain look to Peino, who could only shrug, Jeneyeru took a stab at answering.
“I beg your pardon, Captain — Tayliana? Is that your wizard perhaps? Why would Mr. Farseer need to appease her?”
Lafitte’s parted lips and raised eyebrow mirrored the lips and eyebrows of the equally confused elves.
“There is no theory about it, sir,” Jeneyeru continued. “The one who took the idol that was given to another must atone to the god who granted it — in this case, Manawydden of the Winds — lest the blessing become a curse. There is no second way around it. I am sure your wizard would have told Mr. Farseer the same.”
At that moment, a small fuss erupted with a knock at the door — answered by Thimble. An embassy footman entered. Then, a bit of to and fro, announcing, going to fetch, etc., all ending with the entrance of Attorney Aeto Arrowwise into the salon.
“Your Highness. My Lord Magus.” The dark-haired merrow bowed and gratefully accepted the invitation to sit, handing off her rain cloak to Thimble and shaking the water off her leather satchel. She took a seat next to Lotye.
“Lyr’s tears, what weather,” she said. “A wild night brewing, I’ll warrant.”
Peino cleared his throat to forestall any unguarded responses to that. “Would you care for a drop to warm your bones, Milady Attorney?”
“Oh, thank you kindly, Your Highness. A glass of mead would be most welcome.” She smiled through her obvious fatigue as the Prince of the Navigators himself poured the draft into a delicate goblet, and smiled even more as the golden liquid went down her throat. “Lovely,” she sighed. “Now then, noble sirs, how went the day, and how fares my client?”
“Both very well, milady,” said Jeneyeru, whereupon he began recounting the day’s adventure, followed by each of the others telling their bits in their turn. Only a few details were left out, and of those the only one that mattered was the one about the crossbow shooting.
Peino Starhand gave Lafitte a grave and significant look as the tale came to a close. He could only hope this lunatic eorman would show more restraint with his tongue than he did with his weapons.
“This situation seems quite serious,” said Aeto when the tale-telling was done. “If I understand you correctly, Mistress O’Tulvar was able to lead you to the place where these stolen summoning cards were being sold, and that she was then instrumental in your escape from an armed attack? That is excellent.” The attorney beamed at her client and patted her knee. “It will go far in showing that you were not involved in any mischievous plans connected to these cards. However,” she turned back to Jeneyeru, “the rest of your account is rather concerning. You say you were attacked by a gang led by one Ashcat? That name sounds vaguely familiar.”
“So far as I know, no one saw his face, but the enchanter described him as a hob-elf from the Furnace District, wherever that is.”
“Oh, I know the place. It makes sense. The hobgoblin gangs in this city are great traffickers in stolen goods and contraband. But if, as this gentleman reports,” Aeto nodded towards Ionas, “the gang’s fence was murdered by their client, that carries the matter to a higher level. There will be blood vengeance in it now, sirs.”
“Milady, may we engage you to look a bit into the matter for us?” said Peino. “It occurs to me that, if the name Ashcat is familiar to you, perhaps you have encountered its owner in the keeps or courts. Perhaps you might find records regarding him and his gang. If we can know who we are dealing with, it may be easier to learn who he has been dealing with.”
The attorney considered it and nodded. “I shall make a few inquiries. Identifying that miscreant will certainly help Mistress O’Tulvar. I will need to have all this written, of course.”
“Oh, ‘tis done. Thimble, is it done?”
The statement and letter were handed over to Jeneyeru, who handed them to Aeto, who nodded appreciatively as she read them over.
“Excellent, milord Nightwise, excellent. Oh, and a Letter of Service. Thank you most especially kindly, Your Highness. It is exceedingly gracious of you. But then there is the matter of the additional cards that were acquired. The prosecutor will consider them evidence.”
“Ah, but whose and in which case?” said Peino. “I can attest that two of those cards are the property of the Sovereign Duchy, two are connected to Mistress O’Tulvar’s case, and another two are connected to a murder having nothing to do with her.” And all are in our possession, so sod your prosecutor, he added in his thoughts.
“Additionally,” said Jeneyeru, “I believe that the original crime, in which this Ashcat person is most likely involved, was done outside Sesus entirely, probably in northern Raurugia.”
“Where the Guild of Wizards and Magi have their house?” said Aeto.
Aeto shook her head and accepted a second draft of mead. “What a weed tangle you stumbled into, my dear Lotye. Well, milords, this is the messy part of the matter, and as such, it is the part of which the least said will be the soonest mended. I have no brief for the murder, the gang, or the cards. I will inquire as to Ashcat and restrict my report for the prosecutor to the concerns of my client. However…”
She paused to drain her glass. “I do not wish to alarm anyone, but although it seems that Mistress O’Tulvar has completed her service to you as promised, I am hesitant to bring her back to the keep.”
“Why because you were attacked and the fence is killed. There will be blood vengeance in it, and the hob gangs here are ruthless in making examples of those who cross them. You all are innocent of killing their man, of course, but the situation is convoluted enough that it may make no difference. There are few places where it is easier to be got at by a criminal than in a jail. Yet the agreement is plain. She is to be returned to the keep when you are done with her.”
“Then we are not done with her,” Peino said immediately. Eyebrows rose again. “It’s simple enough. This is a fortified location not already full of criminals. She can stay here under our watch until her case is cleared. Then she will be free to leave Sesus and get well away from any feuds or vengeances. She wears the tethering bracelet, so it’s not as though they won’t know where she is.”
Aeto Arrowwise considered and nodded again. “A fair point. I believe I can make the prosecutor accept it. Lotye, do you understand what this means? You will remain in the custody of Lord Jeneyeru at least over night. You must behave yourself. You understand?”
“I’m sure she does,” said Jeneyeru.
“Very well, then. My lords, my day’s labors have left me fairly gutted and scaled. If we are agreed as to the disposition of Mistress O’Tulvar, I will away to my home.” Again, she patted the young Lotye’s knee. “Don’t worry, my dear, soon you will no longer be handed about like a parcel nor tethered like a goat. Do as the Lord Magus tells you another night and possibly a day. Tomorrow, I shall present all of this to the prosecutor.”
Of course, being technically a prisoner, Lotye O’Tulvar had no choice in the matter. Another brief fuss ensued during which the Statement and Report of Jeneyeru Nightwise and the Letter of Service from the Prince of the Grand Navigators were signed and witnessed by the others present, thanks were exchanged for promises, and Aeto Arrowwise took her leave.
Jeneyeru told Thimble to make up a bed in one of the apartment’s spare rooms for the young lady. Peino leaned back in the spot from which he had watched her earlier and said to Lotye, “So, you stay.”
Finally, he smiled at her, but soon enough, his gaze slid over to Lafitte.
“And you stay, too, Captain. My apologies, but I must insist upon it. I cannot have you leave this building — not tonight at least, and perhaps not tomorrow, either.”
He poured himself a mead to chase the two shots of stone-fruit liquor and relaxed back upon the couch. Lightning flashed and thunder thumped the walls as he watched for Lafitte’s reaction.