“Arkmar,” said Ryel, as she shut the door gently but firmly behind her. “Wake up.”
“Been reading,” he said, picking up the book off his face. “It’s been a bit weird tonight, actually. What?”
“Ele—eh, Elena,” she said, dropping as far as she could in volume and still be heard over all those water molecules out there.
“I saw you had a conversation with her,” Arkmar replied, sitting up and putting his big bare feet on the floor. They looked like they needed a good scraping. He went about pulling his boots on over them, no socks. He was still in his leather pants, but he had stripped down to his tee shirt. “Are you going to tell me what you talked about?”
“Sit down on the floor,” said Ryel, doing so herself. She pulled her pack over and got her own flask out—a fine leather thing with the cognac of Mirkwood in it. “There’s just about room.”
“Are you saying my ass is big?” asked Arkmar, plopping down in essentially the rest of the floor.
“Drink,” she said.
He did, and he raised his eyebrows and frowned happily. “It’s excellent, of course.” He handed it back to her. “So?”
“So,” said Ryel, “she’s been put here to watch. To watch for someone to come along trying to fill a list. Someone with powers.”
“All right,” said Arkmar, “stop there. Who put her here, what powers does she have, what powers would this someone have, how specific was she about the nature of the list, and, what was the other question? Oh yes. What powers do you have?”
“Weeeell,” said Ryel, and she took a little swig of her cognac. “I don’t know who put her here. She didn’t exactly say.” She looked up at Arkmar. “Who put you here?”
“Ha! My sainted mother. Now let’s get back on topic. Powers? I noted she said words to the sail.”
“She has a sort of magic. I’ve seen it before a few places but it’s not like what I’m used to. I just know how to talk to the wind and the trees and stuff.”
“I noticed. I did not know you could do that. And yet, when it’s bat-like bugs or bug-like bats, you have more difficulty.”
“There was quite the crowd of them,” said Ryel. “And they weren’t exactly in their natural environment.”
“Weren’t they? So what else can you do?”
“Not that much before I have to fall back on shooting people. And that would not have worked well against the bat-bugs. I don’t really have powers, I just have my words and my arrows.”
“And your gentle girly caresses,” said Arkmar, “but those wouldn’t have worked on that either. Now what I’m getting at, I guess, is, how sure are you that you are really the one she was put here to watch for? Is it you, and does she think it was you?”
Ryel took another swig. “I don’t know,” she said. “I’m not sure it isn’t me. But I’m sure not sure it is me. That she’s waiting for. Because someone told her to. But she thinks it’s me. She’s sure of it.”
“And what is this person supposed to do?”
“Save the fucking Dream World, actually,” said Ryel. She took another long swig.
“What, only that? From what are you saving the dream world?”
“She didn’t exactly say, but she’s some sort of junior member of a group, she said she was a journeyer or something, but she wouldn’t say any more. Anyway, they put her here to watch for someone who was putting together an item from scattered pieces. And she said,” and Ryel slowed down, took another drink and then another. “Got any of that smoke?”
“She said that?” asked Arkmar.
“She said that there would be people who wanted to put the same thing together in a bad way, see, but she would be able to tell the one who was putting it together in a good way. Arkmar. Do. You have. Any of. That. Smoke.”
“Sure, sure, of course, never without,” the dwarf replied. He pulled out his stubby pipe and filled it and gave Ryel the first light. “Now you were saying?”
She handed him the pipe. “So I don’t know if I’m that person. Valar. I’m only the hired gun here. I might be working for the bad guys for all I know.”
“So you are putting things together, you’re telling me that. Segments.” Arkmar looked as serious as Ryel had ever seen him.
“Yes. You know of jobs like this?”
“It’s the seventeen pieces,” said Arkmar, relighting the pipe. “That cylinder thing you picked up in Dylath. It’s a Piece.” The elf nodded. “So,” said Arkmar, “how worried are you really about your employers?”
“I don’t know.” She took a drag on the dwarf’s pipe. “She thinks I’m on the good side, though,” Ryel went on. “It was how I talked to the wind.” Ryel slapped herself on the forehead. “Of course. That’s it.”
“She wanted to really see inside me. She wanted to be sure about me. That’s why she kissed me?”
“And you can tell from just kissing? I might have to take this up myself.”
“No,” said Ryel with an doubtful smile. “Oh no. It takes a lot more than kissing to be really sure.” She took another swig, then one more light on the pipe. She thought about that for a few seconds, then repeated the process: it would have put even Arkmar in a mood to have surgery done. Ryel raised her eyebrows and said, “And Elena made sure.”