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“So,” said Ryel once the three of them sat in a tiny booth behind a curtain, with three mugs and a bottle of dark wine. Thaeron sat on one side, Ryel on the other, and Arkmar pulled a stool over and sat on the end of the table just inside the curtain. “What brings you to the Isle of Oriab? Last place where you’re not under warrant for arrest?”

“On the contrary,” said Thaeron, “I am still free to come and go as I please in many places, such as the wood of the Zoogs, the upland moors of Fanark, and of course the many lovely abandoned cities of Dream World. And you? Why don’t you tell me why you’re here?”

“Because you haven’t told me why you’re here.”

“Or what your name is,” said Arkmar.

“Well,” said Thaeron, “speaking only to my friend the elf maiden here, and not because I do not love the dwarf races, rather due to my restraint in not wishing to fan the flames of—well, as I say, Ryel, it is not anything to do with certain items recently stolen from a certain kindred’s House in this fair city.”

“Honestly, you are so full of shit,” said Ryel. “Why I am here is my own business. You could say the exact same thing, so why don’t you? You don’t want to work with someone else. What bullshit. You wouldn’t even be talking to me if you didn’t want me to work with you somehow.”

“But that is the furthest thing from my mind,” said Thaeron. “Really, Ryel. I am a great liar but I am not in the habit of lying to you. You know perfectly well what I am here for, because you saw me studying it. Secondarily, now that you are here, for whatever mysterious reason you are here, I find I would rather like to make love to you. Naked, of course, so that neither of us can stab or steal from the other one, not easily at any rate. Neither of my goals, and those are my only goals aside from the usual ones of finding good food, good drink and the finest in entertainment, has anything to do with the heist that has the entire town talking.”

Ryel smiled at him for a long moment, and Thaeron held his firm expression, as if to underline his simplicity of intent. Then Ryel said, “Hark. I do hear the sound of many things, the songs of birds, the cries of the hawkers in the streets, the slow grinding of stone deep within the unquiet earth of Dream World. But oddly, one thing I don’t actually hear is people talking about the Chalice and the Knife or whatever.”

“The Knife and the Chalice,” said Arkmar.
“Yes, that’s how they usually say it,” said Thaeron.

“What happened.”

“Tell me first you do not think it was my doing,” said the thief.

Arkmar slowly stood.  He pulled out a fat heavy knife and set it on the table flat, as if in evidence. “If you did,” he said, “then I will see your guts scattered for the gulls to eat. I will use this knife, unless I find one even duller than this is.”

“Well,” said Thaeron, “again, you would be better off going to the House of your Kindred, and they would tell you all you need to know, except who did it, because that is not known. So I know one thing that they do not, and only one: that it was not me. In witness to that fact, I tell you that it was not a well done job. The thing was done from the sewers underneath the House, and the whole area stank of sewer gas for hours after. Do I stink of sewer gas? No,” he said before either of them could get in a cutting remark, “I stink of smugness and mistrust, but not of something so specific as rotting sewage. You see, the sewers of Baharna, the really bad ones I mean, not just the storm sewers—!”

“He likes to talk, doesn’t he?”

“He certainly does,” replied Ryel, “it’s one of the things he’s known for.”

“The sewers are kept sealed, and only opened if absolutely necessary, which makes them excellent for moving about unknown but unfortunately every time you surface, you make yourself very known. And these thieves, their bright idea was to come up out of the sewers and then return to the sewers, tracking their slime all the way into the House, into where the two aforementioned items are kept, and back out. So you see—!”

“They have slimed and defiled the Sanctum,” said the dwarf. He seized up his knife and said, “I will be back, Ryel. And you, if this is not sooth, in any one tiny detail, expect to get a good look at your own steaming entrails before tomorrow dawns.”

“Arkmar!” said Ryel. “He’s—!” But Arkmar was already gone. Ryel stood and stepped out from behind the curtain, but the dwarf had already disappeared out the door of the Tavern. She pushed past the curtain and sat back down. “You are an asshole, Thaeron.”

“Ah. Thank you, I think. I told him no lies. I told him much truth. And he did want to know, didn’t he?” He smiled, but she didn’t. He went on, “And now we are alone, we can have a nice little talk.”

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