Lafitte gave something halfway between a smile and a scowl at the Prince’s comments. He had known this moment was coming, but he’d had time to calm down, get ale in him, and now he found himself not quite ready for what surely would’ve been a fight not a few hours earlier.
“I understand the concerns,” he began, downing the rest of the ale, “but I don’t think it’s as bad as all that, no one recognized us.” And it wouldn’t matter if you lot hadn’t bungled things up, he thought sourly, though he didn’t show it. “Hell, I’m even in a different get-up now.”
Peino cracked a wry smile. “You’ll forgive my doubt, Captain, as I have not told you what my concerns are, but aside from that, your clothes are not the only matter at issue. That crossbow–” Peino shook his head, at a loss for words for a few seconds. “That was an error of judgment, sir. For that bolt, you will surely be hunted by the friends of that woman. Trouble will follow you in Sesus much as Mr. Farseer’s storm does, and Captain, I cannot have that trouble attached in any way to me or to any officials or agencies of my government — at least not until my business in the High Court is completed tomorrow. I need you out of sight and your trouble quieted until then.”
“How will they hunt for me if they do not recognize me, masked and dressed as I was? You may not question where those clothes came from, but surely you know it was not here,” Lafitte began, taking a sharp breath as his own pulse was rising.
Living as he did on the Calinda, he’d seldom needed to become accustomed to the ways and culture of Aeldreth, save for the occasional foray into a port for collection of bounty or to get recruits. The High Seas were, for all intents and purposes, a lawless frontier.
“Do you think your clothes will make much difference, here in the City of Masks?” said Peino. “How do you think anyone recognizes anyone in Sesus? You are measured here by the cut of your figure, more than your clothes, and by what you carry. Setting aside that distinctive coat and hat will serve you little so long as you continue to be a tall, dark man armed with pistols.” The selkie’s dark eyes darkened yet more as he scowled. “By now the call for the one wielding those weapons will be out on every street, and if the gangs are in a lather over something, the guardians and the Royal Guard will know it. You will have so many eyes, hands, and seers upon your person, you may as well join the Guild of Courtesans, along with anyone else shaped like you. Even a warded bag will raise suspicion. And if you are caught out, how soon after will it be whispered into King Iviar’s ear and grant him the chance to warm his heart by embarrassing the Duchy? Rumor flies faster than a pixie in this town. Those ill-advised weapons, Captain, may be your undoing if you wish it, but I shall not let them be mine, if you please.”
Jeneyeru had been nervously watching the exchange between Peino and the eorman, and the tension rising between them. Now he leaned forward from his relaxed posture on the couch next to Peino and interposed himself between them.
“Gentlemen, do let’s be gentle,” he said waving a languid hand, as if he could ease the looks they gave each other by his own looseness. “Brother, do we need to keep the man hidden, or merely the evidence against him? Would it not serve all needs if Captain Lafitte made use of our security to hide his pistols? What say you, Captain, would you be willing to leave them in our care, to be returned to you when the coast is clear?”
Lafitte’s train of thought now once again fled to his being out of place in this society. One of the reasons he hardly came ashore when his crew were selling their wares was exactly because it was generally obvious he didn’t belong. For his whole life, he’d never gone without his pistol — no one did in New Orleans — and though he had skill with the machete, it wasn’t his weapon of choice. He’d even had his own guns converted to make better use of this world’s arms.
He sighed. The Prince was right about that though, the pistols were clear evidence against him. “Yes, Lord Nightwise, I believe I’ll have to,” he said. “Though leaving them makes me feel like I’ve left my wallet, or what have you, they’ll definitely be a clear give-away. Take them if you must.”
With a conciliatory, and relieved smile, Jeneyeru turned to Peino who was still eyeing Lafitte bitterly. But he was also listening and thinking, and he nodded to both of them.
“It will suffice,” he said, bowing his head to Lafitte. “Thank you, sir.”