The voice is low, but insistent.
“Arq? Wake up!”
I open my eyes. My room is dark. Only a little light filters in from the silent Hall. It is nighttime then. My eyes adjust to the darkness. It is Enturi who has woken me.
He breathes a sigh of relief.
“Good.” He stares down at me, uncertain. The hell? Is he planning an escape? Ugh, I hope he isn’t here to try to seduce me.
“What is it? How did it go tonight?”
“It went well. I think we may pull this off.” He falls silent again.
“But?” I prompt.
“But something happened. We went to Lainath last. Rien was tired by the end of it and once he was satisfied that Lainath would help, he stopped paying attention as closely. So I asked Lainath why he killed Bolin.”
“He swears he didn’t order Bolin killed. He was as upset about it as we were. Bolin was an important part of the smelter operation. He needed him alive.”
“How do you know he was telling the truth?” After all, that’s the kind of lie I would tell in Lainath’s position.
Enturi shakes his head. “You don’t understand, Arq. This was after I convinced him to help us. He was under a compulsion. He shouldn’t have been able to lie to me. And if he had overridden my charm, I would have known it.” He shakes his head again. “But if he didn’t kill Bolin, who did? Who killed Bolin, Arq?”
My brain is foggy from sleep. I try to shake it off, with little success.
“I don’t know, Enturi,” I respond in irritation. “Does it really matter now?”
“Yes,” his voice overflows with certainty. “It does matter.”
We stare at each other through the darkness.
“It does,” he repeats.
I nod sleepily. “Okay, you’re right. It does matter. But can we figure it out in the morning?”
Enturi nods. As I roll over to go back to sleep, he returns to his room.
Bolin is not the outsider. Bolin was murdered and I was framed. Who did it and why? My muddled mind can’t come up with the answer. I will have to figure it out tomorrow.
When I am woken by Mýldir before dawn, Enturi is still sleeping. The pretty boy and I’ll have to puzzle through Bolin’s murder later. I’m relieved that Bolin didn’t murder Alvar and his friends. In spite of being annoying as hell, he was growing on me. He made good armor. And he was kind.
Mýldir assures me that the incendiaries aren’t dangerous until the volatile mixture is added to the shallow bowl on top of the pot, but I am taking no chances. I carry each one more carefully than a flame through the rain. We take them one at time from the underground Hall to each predetermined detonation location.
It takes us several hours. When we are done, Mýldir tells the two enforcers accompanying us to return to the Hall. Once they’ve gone, I raise an eyebrow at him. He smirks.
“I think we’ve earned a bit of fun before we unleash hell, buddy,” he says. “Come on.” He leads me through the rain to the Bouncy Tart, which seems to have resumed operations. I hesitate at the entrance, but the herbseller grabs me and pulls me through the door, past the guard who glances briefly at us. I don’t recognize the guard, or the new elf behind the bar. Some other ward boss has already moved in, it seems. My companion orders an ale for each of us, strong and dark. He pays with silver, and then hands more silver to Nana Milya, who sits amongst several of her girls in the tap room. He picks the prettiest whore in the room, which isn’t saying a lot, and heads up the stairs.
“Pick whatever one you want, Arq,” he calls back as he disappears. “It’s on me today!”
The other girls look toward me hopefully. I sip my ale. Somehow, it doesn’t seem right. Later tonight, these women won’t be whores any more, just refugees like everyone else, fleeing along the coast. Or maybe they will, I think, selling themselves for food or favors along the way home. Are there whores in the homelands? Somehow I doubt it. How will these girls adjust to a life where sordidness is unnecessary?
I take another look at the girls. I suppose it would be discourteous to waste the money the herbseller has already spent on my pleasure.
Another whore comes down the stairs, stopping abruptly when she sees me. It is the girl I scared when I came on too strong that morning we were here to solve Norien’s murder. Guess she couldn’t stay away. She is definitely the most attractive girl here. Her expression reveals that she recognizes me.
“Well, well, well,” she says, moving to join me at the bar and slipping her arm through mine. “If it isn’t big bad Arq, back from the dead.”