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4.

But they’re wrong. I’m not in yet, not again. Whatever progress they might have made, Yanos just about loses it for them.

He swings by the shop the next morning. He acts as if he’s shopping for a strength potion, until he’s sure Mom’s not around: to my knowledge they’ve never met. Then he comes up to me where I’m at the counter pretending to read magic history while I watch him. He gets very close, not like he’s going to make love to me, but like he has some sort of secret.

“Daisy,” he says, “we need you, you’re our only enchanter. We are going back for the Circlet and this time we are going to get it.”

“Yanos,” I say, “you look like you haven’t slept in a month.”

“Daisy, maybe that’s because I—this thing’s really driving me—!” He stops, rearranges his face and says, “We know where it is. We have new information. We—!”

“New information. What new information?” He starts into that trust me series of gestures. He’s got in the weary smile and the half shrug, and he’s shifting to his innocent look when I say, “Be exact, Yanos. And use words.”

He rolls his eyes, then looks around, leans forward and says, in almost a whisper, “There’s this old chapel down on the fourth level down. There’s a series of old torture rooms and store rooms, and through the chapel and through the torture room next to it there’s, it must have been a barrack for the Old Order. They’re gone. Long gone.”

“Oh good,” I say. “Who’s taken their place?”

“Band of goblins, couple dozen. They’re in the pay of some sorcerer, but they have the Circlet in the old barrack’s special storage, I don’t think they even know what it is. Who knows what else they have in there? All we have to do is get through a bunch of goblins.”

“And maybe a sorcerer.”

“No, no, he never hangs out down there. You put the guards to sleep, we crash through the rest of them, grab whatever we find and get out. But we need you.”

“Yanos,” I say, “where on Earth would you get such specific information? If this circlet is so freakin’ important, and someone knows what drawer it’s in, why didn’t they just take it?” He hems and haws. “Yanos. Who told you all this? Or did you make it up?”

“Well,” he says, and he laughs. I’m glaring at him. He gulps and says, “Barbara. Barb, she told me. She had the telepathy spell. It’s two words, isn’t it?”

“Yes, yes, it’s a two worder.”

“So when we were scouting,” he says, “she said the spell, when we were sort of cowering around a corner. Sha something.”

“Yeah. Sha something,” I say. I know the words, but I don’t have the spell yet. That one sort of freaks me out. “Who did she use it on? A stray goblin came around the corner?”

“She sort of reached out, apparently, and I suppose goblins are easy reads. She was sort of whispering about it to me, ‘it’s in a store room, through the chapel, past the torture room and the barracks, it’s in a closet’ and so on. ‘They don’t have any idea what it is,’ she said, she said that.”

“The goblins? The circlet? You’re sure she wasn’t talking about a bathtub? They wouldn’t know what that was either.”

“No, no,” he said seriously, and then he laughed at my joke, which I thought was rather charitable, and said, “Barb actually said ‘circlet’ to start with. Got my attention.”

“And then you went and—?”

“Then we went and got into it with a sorcerer,” he said.

“Who’s never there.” He smiled apologetically and shrugged.

I’m frankly not sure what it is with me. I was so ready to go back, but then I’d get a twinge where I got shot in the stomach. Then Jan and Fen come see me and they know just how to manipulate me, so that they leave with those smirks on their faces, and right after I get over thinking there is no way I’m falling for that, I’m falling for that. I’m all ready to be manipulated. Except that on reflection, I hate being manipulated. I can remember my sarcastic rejoinders and they still make more sense to me than anything Jan and Fen said.

And then Yanos comes in here and tries to sell it to me, and all I can think of is that there is no way I’m going back in there with this guy.

I say so. He takes a second to think about it, and then he comes around the counter and starts trying to get sweet with me. He’s all “hey, now, sweet Daisy,” and a whole new set of little smiles and doe eyes. “Yanos,” I say, “do I need to slap you?”

“You just might,” he says, getting up against me, his hands along my sides, his face bending to be in my face. I sense his hands ready to take my wrists. He thinks he’s going to push me against the wall and do what he thinks I want him to do. So I stomp on his toes. Hard. He takes that as a no. He backs out of range, then sort of laughs and says, “You’ll come around. We need you.”

“Yeah, well,” I say, holding my position but getting my wand out, “I work today, I work tomorrow, I work the next day, and then I’m planning on working every day till Yule. It’s good money, you know. Love potions selling really well.”

“Come to that,” he says, still backing toward the door, “you wouldn’t make a break lock potion, would you?”

“A what?”

“Just an idea,” he says, and then he backs out the door, his smirk lingering behind him.

 

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