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4.

Fenric and I, not saying a word, retrace our steps from last night. I pick out the alley off Beaker Street, and we do a circuit: left up the alley, past the narrower alley (Zelin is not on her balcony, nor is she hanging from any ledges under or about that window), out onto Stonemason Street and left, and then left at the Brickman Square and onto Greens Lane, and thus back to Beaker. It all looks like nondescript buildings to me.

“There,” says Fenric, as we double back onto Greens Lane. “Grocer, shoemaker. And in between, a door down a few steps.”

Down a few steps?” I repeat. “But—?”

He makes his voice sound all mystical, and says, looking around with wide eyes, “I can see everything—all is revealed to me!” He looks at me. “I’m a thief. I know these things.”

He leads me down the five steps and in the unlocked, plain door. We’re in a small shabby room with a hall going off to the left and another plain door at the back. We go through that, and we’re at the bottom of a long straight flight of wooden stairs. Up those, and we’re in a more confusing labyrinth than the Valen Dungeon, although it has less goblins. At some point we’re in a hall, and Fenric walks me along it, talking to himself about the doors along the right side. “No that one,” he says, “not that one. Maybe? Yes. That one.” He indicates what to me looks like a door to a service closet. “That’s the door.”

“You’re sure?” I hiss at him.

“That door connects to that window on the alley,” he whispers. “Yes, I’m sure. Know what to do?”

“Distract him,” I say. “Why don’t I just put him to sleep or something? Why do I have to be the damsel in distress?”

“I have a plan,” he says, and smiles. Thus hypnotizing me, he turns and saunters back the way we came. Of course I have no idea how to get out on my own.

I go up to the door. I’m about to knock, but I stop. I try the door. It’s locked. I pull my wand from my sleeve and touch the door, muttering, “Rok!” It springs open an inch.

I push through as quietly as I can. It’s not an apartment as such, more a series of little spaces that were left when rooms and halls were cut out of them. But it’s lived in, and it’s as furnished as it reasonably could be. The first room is maybe six feet by five and contains a dresser and a bookshelf; the next is a narrow hallway with pegs holding coats. The first one is Yanos’s. There’s that ridiculous scarf.

I turn into the next room and find Yanos. He’s lying, possibly dead, on a mattress on the floor. His sprawl seems accidental, as if the murderer was carrying him over a shoulder and threw him down there. I’m standing over him, wand out. He suddenly starts, snorts and almost falls back asleep. Then he sees me.

“What the hell—!” are his first words.

“Yanos,” I say. “I thought you’d be in here somewhere.”

“How’d you—?”

“I have my ways.” Did I really say that? He grimaces at me as if he’s thinking the same thing.

“What do you want? Leave me alone. I need sleep.”

“Yanos. What happened after you got separated from us?”

“I got chased,” he says. “By goblins. Surprised? I can’t fight off fifty goblins at once.”

“Were you with Zelin?”

“Uh,” he says, and he sits up. He starts to stand, but I tap him on the head with the wand. “Got a new spell yet?” he asks. “Something more intimidating than the lock spell?”

“I believe I do,” I say. “So?”

“Yeah, yeah, I was with Zelin. We got out together, actually. She needed me to look after her. If you know what I mean. Now let me sleep.” He holds up his arm. His shirt’s torn and I see he’s got some sort of wound. “I need to rest and recover.”

“Yanos,” I say, “did you find out where the Circlet was?”

“No, Daisy, I did not. I have no idea where it is. It wasn’t where it was supposed to be. We couldn’t really check, of course. We were both wounded, and, you know, fifty goblins.” He sighs. “I don’t even care about it anymore. Screw the Circlet. Who needs that kind of aggravation?”

“Yeah.” I glare at him a little more. I look to my right, into the next room. There’s a window on the right wall. I’m not too surprised to see it sliding up very slowly. “Yanos,” I say, “I will let you rest on one condition.”

“What’s that?”

“You have to frickin’ show me the way out of this place,” I say. “Seriously. I am so lost in here. I feel like I tried every stinkin’ door before I found yours, and—!”

“How did you find my place?” he asks, getting up. I’m slightly happy, on balance, to see that he’s dressed.

“Ouija board,” I say. “Amazing things. But I left it at home. So?”

“So,” he says. He looks around, finds his boots and steps into them. “Happy to show you the way out, Daisy. No offense.”

“Who you hiding from in here?” I ask. “Us?”

“Sure,” he says. “I foresaw some embarrassing conversations, you know. Didn’t you?”

I keep what I foresaw to myself. He’s as good as his word: in a few minutes I’m at the top of the stairs down to the door at the bottom of the five steps. “Thanks, babe,” I say in as sultry a voice as I can manage.

“Daisy,” he says. There follow a series of very sincere-seeming gestures, frowns, sighs and head-shakes. “I mean,” he says, and goes into his sincerity routine.

“Yanos,” I say, gently touching his chest with my wand, “do you think you and I could still work together?”

“Definitely,” he says.

“Mmm,” I say. I almost kiss him, but no. I turn and flounce down the stairs. I come out onto the street, turn right and walk up Greens Lane to the square. I look around, then start across among the piles of bricks toward Stonemason Street. There at the corner is Zelin, with a tiny smile on her face.

 

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