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8.

We finish the bottle, Zelin and I. Halfway through the last mug each, Fenric and Jan appear and pull up chairs to our tiny table.

“If we’re going to get another bottle,” I say, “I’ll need a nap to clear my head before we head back.”

“They have a place,” says Jan, “there’s a room where you can crash out for a few hours.”

“Is it actually safe though?”

“I’ll go sit next to you,” says Zelin. “You know, we of the fair folk don’t need sleep, we just wander in dream under the skies or whatever.”

“You,” says Fenric, “are the most self-conscious Elf I’ve ever met. It’s always, ‘we of the fair folk’ and ‘well, I’m an Elf, so—!’ But how is it that you’re also the least typical Elf I’ve ever met? I’ve never even seen you with other Elves.”

“I really don’t like them,” she says.

“Because they live forever,” says Fenric, “while we’re mortals, and since you really don’t like people of any kind, the shorter they live the better. Right?”

“Fenric,” says Jan.

“No,” says Zelin, “it’s a fair question, and okay, there’s some of that in there. But I actually like you, Fenric, you’re very, um, genuine, you are a genuine thief and you have no illusions about it. And I liked Daisy from the moment I met her. I like you, Father, I really do. It’s very easy to overthink this.”

“Call me Father a few more times,” says Jan, “and you’re my best friend. But I’m still only a vicar.”

“In any case,” says Fenric, “we have some info you might find useful. Trust a cleric and a thief to get info, you know.”

“About?” says Zelin.

“A certain thing you might put in a lock.”

“Source?”

“Asked a couple people,” says Jan. “Overheard a couple more.”

There’s been an increasing commotion from the next room, and at this point it overcomes our ability to ignore it. There’s shouting and swearing and glass breaking and the thud of fists and elbows and boots and knees into other parts of bodies. And then there’s an Amazon obscenity, and then a sort of bellow and then, with some more noises and a crash, a large red-haired object lands near us and slides over to our table.

Lali, lying on the ground with a bruise on her cheek, looks up at me and says, “This is the place, man, I love this place! Where’s Gurth?”

“Right here,” says Gurth. He helps her up and she gives his butt a feel, which appears to embarrass him. He looks at me and Zelin and says, “I guess we better hit the road, huh? Before Lali gets beat up any further?”

“Aah, you baby,” says Lali. “I note you have no bruises. Except where I left ‘em, and you guys don’t see those ones.”

“By all means,” says Fenric, “let’s hit the road, but: onward, I mean downward, or upward?”

Gurth looks around, then says, “You know Eleanor and Unwin already left.”

“They what??” I ask.

“They left. They joined up with that guy Gregorio and some higher-grade warriors and that sorcerer who was with us, you know, Z, when we came down that time? Bohemund.”

“They jumped ship?”

“The faithless bastards,” says Lali.

“Oh yes,” says Zelin. “Unwin and Eleanor were taken aback, I think, by the danger and, you know, the concussions. It’s unfortunate but unsurprising. Do you still feel the need to rest before we go?”

“No, I guess not,” I say. “But seriously, just leaving us?”

“Don’t blame them. They aren’t going to be any help to us in seeking this thing that goes in a lock, you must see that.”

“Maybe it’s just us,” says Jan.

“Although,” says Zelin, “you have to admit, adding another mage would be prudent. Next time, I mean.”

“Oh jeez,” I say. “Okay. Fine. Let’s be prudent.”

 

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