Chapter no 69: Wind or Women’s Fancy

The Name of the Wind

OVER THE NEXT TWO span my new cloak kept me warm on my occasional walks to Imre, where I was consistently unsuccessful in finding Denna. I always had some reason to cross the river: borrowing a book from Devi, meeting Threpe for lunch, playing at the Eolian. But Denna was the real reason.

Kilvin sold the rest of my emitters, and my mood improved as my burns healed. I had money to spare for luxuries such as soap and a second shirt to replace the one I’d lost. Today I had gone to Imre for some bassal filings I needed for my current project: a large sympathy lamp using two emitters I’d saved for myself. I hoped to turn a tidy profit.

It may seem odd that I was constantly buying materials for my artificing over the river, but the truth was merchants near the University frequently took advantage of the students’ laziness and raised their prices. It was worth the walk for me if I could save a couple of pennies.

After I finished my errand I headed to the Eolian. Deoch was at his usual post, leaning against the doorway. “I’ve been keeping an eye out for your girl,” he said.

Irritated at how transparent I must seem, I muttered, “She’s not my girl.”

Deoch rolled his eyes. “Fine. The girl. Denna, Dianne, Dyanae…whatever she’s calling herself these days. I haven’t seen hide nor hair of her. I even asked around a little, nobody’s seen her in a full span. That means she’s probably left town. It’s her way. She does it at the drop of a hat.”

I tried not to let my disappointment show. “You didn’t have to go to the trouble,” I said. “But thanks all the same.”

“I wasn’t asking entirely on your account,” Deoch admitted. “I’ve a fondness for her myself.”

“Do you now?” I said as neutrally as I could manage.

“Don’t give me that look. I’m not any sort of competition.” He gave a crooked smile. “Not this time around at any rate. I might not be one of you University folk, but I can see the moon on a clear night. I’m smart enough not to stick my hand in the same fire twice.”

I struggled to get my expression back under control, more than slightly

embarrassed. I don’t usually let my emotions go parading around on my face. “So you and Denna…”

“Stanchion still gives me a hard time about chasing after a girl half my age.” He shrugged his broad shoulders sheepishly. “For all that, I am still fond of her. These days she reminds me of my littlest sister more than anything.”

“How long have you known her?” I asked, curious.

“I wouldn’t say I really know her, lad. But I met her what, about two years back? Not that long, maybe a year and little change….” Deoch ran both of his hands through his blond hair and arched his back in a great stretch, the muscles in his arms straining against his shirt. Then he relaxed with an explosive sigh and looked out at the nearly empty courtyard. “The door won’t be busy for hours yet. Come give an old man an excuse to sit and have a drink?” He jerked his head in the direction of the bar.

I looked at Deoch: tall, muscular, and tan. “Old man? You’ve still got all your hair and your teeth, don’t you? What are you, thirty?”

“Nothing makes a man feel older than a young woman.” He laid a hand on my shoulder. “Come on, share a drink with me.” We made our way over to the long mahogany bar and he muttered as he looked over the bottles. “Beer dulls a memory, brand sets it burning, but wine is the best for a sore heart’s yearning.” He paused and turned to looked at me, his brow furrowed. “I can’t remember the rest of that. Can you?”

“Never heard it before,” I said. “But Teccam claims that out of all the spirits, only wine is suited to reminiscence. He said a good wine allows clarity and focus, while still allowing a bit of comforting coloration of the memory.”

“Fair enough,” he said, picking through the racks before drawing out a bottle and holding it up to a lamp, peering through it. “Let’s view her in a rosy light, shall we?” He grabbed two glasses and led us off to a secluded booth in the corner of the room.

“So you’ve known Denna for a while,” I prompted as he poured each of us a glass of pale red wine.

He slouched back against the wall. “Off and on. More off, honestly.” “What was she like back then?”

Deoch spent several long moments pondering his answer, giving the question more serious consideration than I’d expected. He sipped his wine. “The same,” he said at last. “I suppose she was younger, but I can’t say she seems any older now. She always struck me as being older than her years.” He frowned. “Not old really, more…”

“Mature?” I suggested.

He shook his head. “No. I don’t know a good word for it. It’s like if you look at a great oak tree. You don’t appreciate it because it’s older than the other trees, or because it’s taller. It just has something that other younger trees don’t. Complexity, solidity, significance.” Deoch scowled, irritated. “Damn if

that isn’t the worst comparison I’ve ever made.”

A smile broke onto my face. “It’s nice to see I’m not the only one who has trouble pinning her down with words.”

“She’s not much for being pinned down,” Deoch agreed and drank off the rest of his wine. He picked up the bottle and tapped the mouth of it lightly against my glass. I emptied it, and he poured again for both of us.

Deoch continued, “She was just as restless then, and wild. Just as pretty, prone to startle the eye and stutter the heart.” He shrugged again. “As I said, largely the same. Lovely voice, light of foot, quick of tongue, men’s adoration and women’s scorn in roughly equal amounts.”

“Scorn?” I asked.

Deoch looked at me as if he didn’t understand what I was asking. “Women hate Denna,” he said plainly, as if repeating something we both already knew.

“Hate her?” The thought baffled me. “Why?”

Deoch looked at me incredulously, then burst out laughing. “Good lord, you really don’t know anything about women, do you?” I would ordinarily have bristled at his comment, but Deoch was nothing but good natured. “Think of it. She’s pretty and charming. Men crowd round her like stags in rut.” He made a flippant gesture. “Women are bound to resent it.”

I remembered what Sim had said about Deoch not a span ago. He’s managed to get the most beautiful woman in the place again. It’s enough to make you hate a man. “I’ve always felt she was rather lonely,” I volunteered. “Maybe that’s why.”

Deoch nodded solemnly. “There’s truth to that. I never see her in the company of other womenfolk, and she has about as much luck with men as…” He paused, groping for a comparison. “As…damn.” He gave a frustrated sigh.

“Well, you know what they say: Finding the right analogy is as hard as…” I put on a thoughtful expression. “As hard as…” I made an inarticulate grasping gesture.

Deoch laughed and poured more wine for both of us. I began to relax. There is a sort of camaraderie that rarely exists except between men who have fought the same enemies and known the same women. “Did she tend to disappear back then, too?” I asked.

He nodded. “No warning, just suddenly gone. Sometimes for a span.

Sometimes for months.”

“‘No fickleness in flight like that of wind or women’s fancy,’” I quoted. I meant it to be musing, but it came out bitter. “Do you have any guess as to why?”

“I’ve given some thought to that,” Deoch said philosophically. “In part I think it is her nature. It could be she simply has wandering blood.”

My irritation cooled a bit at his words. Back in my troupe, my father occasionally made us pull up stakes and leave a town despite the fact that we were welcome and the crowds were generous. Later, he would often explain his reasoning to me: a glare from the constable, too many fond sighs from the young wives in town….

But sometimes he had no reason. We Ruh are meant to travel, son. When my blood tells me to wander, I know enough to trust it.

“Her circumstances are probably responsible for most of it,” Deoch continued.

“Circumstances?” I asked, curious. She never talked of her past when we were together, and I was always careful not to press her. I knew what it was like, not wanting to talk too much about your past.

“Well, she doesn’t have any family or means of support. No long-standing friends able to help her out of a tight spot if the need arises.”

“I haven’t got any of those things either,” I groused, the wine making me a little surly.

“There’s more than a little difference there,” Deoch said with a hint of reproach. “A man has a great many opportunities to make his way in the world. You’ve found yourself a place at the University, and if you hadn’t you would still have options.” He looked at me with a knowing eye. “What options are available to a young, pretty girl with no family? No dowry? No home?”

He began to hold up fingers. “There’s begging and whoring. Or being some lord’s mistress, which is a different slice of the same loaf. And we know our Denna doesn’t have it in her to be a kept woman or someone’s dox.”

“There’s other work to be had,” I said holding up fingers of my own. “Seamstress, weaver, serving girl…”

Deoch snorted and gave me a disgusted look. “Come now lad, you’re smarter than that. You know what those places are like. And you know that a pretty girl with no family ends up being taken advantage of just as often as a whore, and paid less for her trouble.”

I flushed a bit at his rebuke, more than I would have normally, as I was feeling the wine. It was making my lips and the tips of my fingers a little numb.

Deoch filled our glasses again. “She’s not to be looked down on for moving where the wind blows her. She has to take her opportunities where she finds them. If she gets the chance to travel with some folk who like her singing, or with a merchant who hopes her pretty face will help him sell his wares, who’s to blame her for pulling up stakes and leaving town?

“And if she trades on her charm a bit, I’ll not look down on her because of it. Young gents court her, buy her presents, dresses, jewelry.” He shrugged his broad shoulders. “If she sells those things for money to live, there’s

nothing wrong in that. They are gifts freely given, and hers to do with as she pleases.”

Deoch fixed me with a stare. “But what is she to do when some gent gets too familiar? Or gets angry at being denied what he considers bought and paid for? What recourse does she have? No family, no friends, no standing. No choice. None but to give herself over to him, all unwilling….” Deoch’s face was grim. “Or to leave. Leave quickly and find better weather. Is it any surprise then that she is harder to lay hands on than a windblown leaf?”

He shook his head, looking down at the table. “No, I do not envy her her life. Nor do I judge her.” His tirade seemed to have left him spent and slightly embarrassed. He didn’t look up at me as he spoke. “For all that, I would help her, if she would let me.” He glanced up at me and gave a chagrined smile. “But she’s not the sort to be beholden to anyone. Not one whit. Not a hairsbreadth.” He sighed and dribbled the last drops of the bottle evenly into our glasses.

“You’ve shown her to me in a new light,” I said honestly. “I’m ashamed I didn’t see it for myself.”

“Well, I’ve had a head start on you,” he said easily. “I’ve known her longer.”

“Nevertheless, I thank you,” I said holding up my glass. He held up his own. “To Dyanae,” he said. “Most lovely.” “To Denna, full of delight.”

“Young and unbending.” “Bright and fair.”

“Ever sought, ever alone.”

“So wise and so foolish,” I said. “So merry and so sad.”

“Gods of my fathers,” Deoch said reverently. “Keep her always so: unchanging, past my understanding, and safe from harm.”

We both drank and set down our glasses.

“Let me buy the next bottle,” I said. It would tap out my slowly hoarded line of credit with the bar, but I found myself increasingly fond of Deoch and the thought of not standing my round with him was too galling to consider.

“Stream, stone, and sky,” he swore, rubbing at his face. “I dare not. Another bottle and we’d be slitting our wrists into the river before the sun goes down.”

I made a gesture to a serving girl. “Nonsense,” I said. “We’ll just change to something less maudlin than wine.”

I didn’t notice I was being followed when I returned to the University. Perhaps my head was so full of Denna that there was little room left for anything else. Perhaps I had been living civilized for so long that the hard-

earned reflexes I’d picked up in Tarbean were starting to fade.

The blackberry brand probably had something to do with it as well. Deoch and I had talked for a long while, and between us drank half a bottle of the stuff. I had brought the remainder of the bottle back with me, as I knew Simmon had a taste for it.

Small matter why I didn’t notice them, I suppose. The result was the same. I was strolling down a poorly lit part of Newhall Lane when something blunt struck me on the back of the head and I was bundled off into a nearby alley, half-senseless.

I was only stunned for a moment, but by the time I had re-gathered my wits, I had a heavy hand clamped over my mouth.

“Alright, cully,” the huge man behind me spoke into my ear. “I’ve got a knife on you. You struggle, I stick you. That’s all there is to it.” I felt a gentle prod against my ribs under my left arm. “Check the finder,” he said to his companion.

A tall shape was all I could see in the dim light of the alley. He bowed his head, looking at his hand. “I can’t tell.”

“Light a match, then. We have to be sure.”

My anxiety began to blossom into full-blown panic. This wasn’t some simple back-alley coshing. They hadn’t even checked my pockets for money. This was something else.

“We know it’s him,” the tall one said impatiently. “Let’s just do this and have it over with. I’m cold.”

“Like hell. Check it now, while he’s close. We’ve lost him twice already.

I’m not having another cock-up like in Anilin.”

“I hate this thing,” the tall man said as he went through his pockets, presumably looking for a match.

“You’re an idiot,” the one behind me said. “It’s cleaner this way. Simpler. No confusing descriptions. No names. No worrying about disguises. Follow the needle, find our man, and have done with it.”

The matter-of-fact tone of their voices terrified me. These men were professionals. I realized with sudden certainty that Ambrose had finally taken steps to ensure I would never bother him again.

My mind raced for a moment, and I did the only thing I could think of: I dropped the half-full bottle of brand. It shattered on the cobblestones and the night air was suddenly filled with the smell of blackberries.

“That’s great,” the tall man hissed. “How about you let him ring a bell while you’re at it?”

The man behind me tightened his grip on my neck and shook me hard, just once. The same way you would do to a naughty puppy. “None of that,” he said, irritated.

I went limp, hoping to lull him, then concentrated and muttered a binding

against the man’s thick hand.

“Tough tits,” the man replied. “If you stepped in glass it’s your own damn faaaaaah!” He let out a startled shout as the pool of brand around our feet caught fire.

I took advantage of his momentary distraction and twisted away from him. But I wasn’t quite quick enough. His knife tore a bright line of pain across my ribs as I pulled away and began pelting down the alley.

But my flight was short-lived. The alley dead-ended against a sheer brick wall. There were no doors, no windows, nothing to hide behind or use to get a leg up on the wall. I was trapped.

I turned to see the two men blocking the mouth of the alley. The large one was stamping his leg furiously, trying to extinguish it.

My left leg was burning as well, but I didn’t spare a thought for it. A little burn would be the least of my problems if I didn’t do something quick. I looked around again, but the alley was distressingly clean. Not even any decent garbage to use as a makeshift weapon. I frantically ran through the contents of my cloak’s pockets, desperately trying to form some sort of plan. Some pieces of copper wire were useless. Salt, could I throw it in their eyes? No. Dried apple, pen and ink, a marble, string, wax…

The large man finally beat out the flames and the two of them began to make their slow way down the alley. The light from the circle of burning brand flickered across the blades of their knives.

Still going over my countless pockets, I found a lump that I didn’t recognize. Then I remembered—it was the a sack of bassal shavings I had bought to use for my sympathy lamp.

Bassal is a light, silvery metal, useful in certain alloys that I would be using to construct my lamp. Manet, ever the careful teacher, had taken care to describe the dangers of every material we used. If it gets hot enough, bassal burns with an intense, white-hot flame.

I hurriedly untied the pouch. The trouble was, I didn’t know if I could make this work. Things like candle wicking or alcohol are easy to light. They just need a focused flash of heat to get them going. Bassal was different. It needed a great deal of heat to ignite, which is why I wasn’t worried about carrying it around in my pocket.

The men came a few slow steps closer and I flung the handful of bassal shavings in a wide arc. I tried to get it close to their faces, but didn’t hold much hope. The shavings had no real heft, it was like throwing a handful of loose snow.

Lowering one hand to the flame licking at my leg, I focused my Alar. The wide pool of burning brand winked out behind the two men, leaving the alley in pitch darkness. But there still wasn’t enough heat. Reckless with desperation, I touched my bloody side, concentrated, and felt a terrible cold

tear through me as I pulled more heat from my blood.

There was an explosion of white light, blinding in the dark of the alley. I’d closed my eyes, but even through my lids the burning bassal was piercingly bright. One of the men screamed, high and terrified. When I opened my eyes I could see nothing but blue ghosts dancing over my vision.

The scream faded to a low moaning, and I heard a thump as if one of the men had stumbled and fallen. The tall man began to babble, his voice little more than a terrified sobbing. “Oh God. Tam, my eyes. I’m blind.”

As I listened, my vision cleared enough for me to see the vague outlines of the alley. I could see the dark shapes of both men. One was kneeling with his hands in front of his face, the other was sprawled motionless on the ground farther down the alley. It looked like he had run headlong into a low rafter beam at the mouth of the alley and knocked himself unconscious. Scattered around the cobblestones, the remnants of bassal were sputtering out like tiny blue-white stars.

The kneeling man was only flash-blind, but it would last for several minutes: long enough for me to get well away from here. I moved slowly around him, being careful to step quietly. My heart leapt into to my throat as he spoke up again.

“Tam?” The man’s voice was high and frightened. “I swear Tam, I’m blind. The kid called down lightning on me.” I saw him go down on to all fours and begin to feel around with his hands. “You were right, we shouldn’ta come here. No good comes of meddling with these sort of folk.”

Lightning. Of course. He didn’t know a thing about real magic. It gave me a thought.

I took a deep breath, settling my nerves. “Who sent you?” I demanded in my best Taborlin the Great voice. It wasn’t as good as my father’s, but it was good.

The big man gave a wretched moan and stopped feeling around with his hands. “Oh sir. Don’t do anything that—”

“I am not asking again.” I cut him off angrily. “Tell me who sent you. And if you lie to me, I’ll know.”

“I don’t know a name,” he said quickly. “We just get half the coin and a hair. We don’t know names. We don’t actually meet. I swear…”

A hair. The thing they had called a “finder” was probably some sort of dowsing compass. Though I couldn’t make anything that advanced, I knew the principles involved. With a piece of my hair, it would point toward me no matter where I ran.

“If I ever see either of you again, I will call down worse than fire and lightning,” I said menacingly as I edged toward the mouth of the alley. If I could get hold of their finder I wouldn’t have to worry about them tracking me down again. It had been dark and the hood of my cloak had been up. They

might not even know what I looked like.

“Thank you, sir,” he babbled. “I swear you won’t see hide or hair of us after this. Thank you…”

I looked down at the fallen man. I could see one of his pale hands against the cobblestones, but it was empty. I looked around, wondering if he had dropped it. It was more likely that he’d tucked it away. I moved closer still, holding my breath. I reached into his cloak, feeling for pockets, but his cloak was pinned under his body. I took gentle hold of his shoulder and eased him slowly…

Just then, he let out a low moan and rolled the rest of the way onto his back under his own power. His arm flopped loosely onto the cobbles, bumping my leg.

I would like to say I simply took a step away, knowing that the tall man would be groggy and still half-blind. I’d like to tell you I remained calm and did my best to intimidate them further, or at the very least that I said something dramatic or witty before I left.

But that would not be the truth. The truth was, I ran like a frightened deer. I made it nearly a quarter mile before the darkness and my dazzled vision betrayed me and I ran headlong into a horse tether, crumpling to the ground in a painful heap. Bruised, bleeding, and half-blind, I lay there. Only then did I realize I wasn’t being chased at all.

I dragged myself to my feet, cursing myself for a fool. If I’d kept my wits about me, I could have taken their dowsing compass away, ensuring my safety. As it was, I’d have to take other precautions.

I made my way back to Anker’s, but when I arrived all the inn’s windows were dark and the door was locked. So, half drunk and wounded I made my way up to my window, tripped the latch and tugged…but it wouldn’t open.

It had been at least a span of days since I’d come back to the inn so late that I’d been forced to use my window route. Had the hinges rusted?

Bracing myself against the wall, I drew out my hand lamp and thumbed it on to its dimmest setting. Only then did I see something lodged firmly into the crack of the windowframe. Had Anker’s wedged my window shut?

But when I touched it, I realized it wasn’t wood. It was a piece of paper, much folded over. I tugged it free and the window came open easily. I clambered inside.

My shirt was ruined, but when I stripped it off I was relieved by what I saw. The cut wasn’t particularly deep—painful and messy, but less serious than when I’d been whipped. Fela’s cloak was torn too, which was irritating. But, everything said, it would be easier to patch that than my kidney. I made a mental note to thank Fela for choosing a nice, thick fabric.

Stitching it up could wait. For all I knew the two men had recovered from the little scare I’d given them and were already dowsing for me again.

I left through the window, leaving my cloak behind so as not to get any blood on it. I hoped the lateness of the hour and my natural stealth would keep me from being seen. I couldn’t begin to guess what rumors would start if someone saw me running across the rooftops late at night, bloody and naked to the waist.

I gathered up a handful of leaves as I made my way to the roof of a livery overlooking the pennant courtyard near the Archives.

In the dim moonlight I could see the dark, shapeless shadows of leaves swirling over the grey of the cobblestones below. I ran my hand roughly through my hair, ending up with a few loose strands. Then I dug at a seam of tar on the roof with my fingernails and used some to stick the hair to a leaf. I repeated this a dozen times, dropping the leaves off the roof, watching as the wind took them away in a mad dance back and forth across the courtyard.

I smiled at the thought of anyone trying to dowse for me now, trying to make sense of the dozens of contradictory signals as the leaves swirled and spun in a dozen different directions.

I’d come to this particular courtyard because the wind moved oddly here. I’d only noticed it after the autumn leaves began to fall. They moved in a complex, chaotic dance across the cobblestones. First one way, then another, never falling into a predictable pattern.

Once you noticed the wind’s odd swirlings, it was hard to ignore. In fact, viewed from the roof like this, it was almost hypnotic. The same way flowing water or a campfire’s flames can catch your eye and hold it.

Watching it tonight, weary and wounded, it was rather relaxing. The more I watched it, the less chaotic it seemed. In fact, I began to sense a greater underlying pattern to the way the wind moved through the courtyard. It only looked chaotic because it was vastly, marvelously complex. What’s more, it seemed to be always changing. It was a pattern made of changing patterns. It was—

“You’re up studying awfully late,” said a quiet voice from behind me.

Startled out of my reverie, my body tensed, ready to bolt. How had someone managed to get up here without my noticing?

It was Elodin. Master Elodin. He was dressed in a patched set of pants and a loose shirt. He waved idly in my direction and crouched down to sit cross-legged on the edge of the roof as casually as if we were meeting for a drink in a pub.

He looked down into the courtyard. “It’s particularly good tonight, isn’t


I folded my arms, ineffectually trying to cover my bare, bloody chest.

Only then did I notice the blood on my hands was dry. How long had I been sitting here, motionless, watching the wind?

“Master Elodin,” I said, then stopped. I had no idea what I could possibly

say in a situation like this.

“Please, we’re all friends here. Feel free to call me by my first name: Master.” He gave a lazy grin and looked back down toward the courtyard.

Hadn’t he noticed the state I was in? Was he being polite? Maybe…I shook my head. There was no use guessing with him. I knew better than anyone that Elodin was cracked as the potter’s cobbles.

“Long ago,” Elodin said conversationally, not taking his eyes from the courtyard below. “When folk spoke differently, this used to be called the Quoyan Hayel. Later they called it the Questioning Hall, and students made a game of writing questions on slips of paper and letting them blow about. Rumor had it you could divine your answer by which way the paper left the square.” He pointed to the roads that left gaps between the grey buildings. “Yes. No. Maybe. Elsewhere. Soon.”

He shrugged. “It was all a mistake though. Bad translation. They thought Quoyan was an early root of quetentan: question. But it isn’t. Quoyan means ‘wind.’ This is rightly named ‘the House of the Wind.’”

I waited a moment to see if he intended to say any more. When nothing was forthcoming I got slowly to my feet. “That’s interesting, Master…” I hesitated, not sure how serious he had been before. “But I should be going.”

Elodin nodded absently and gave a wave that was half farewell, half dismissal. His eyes never left the courtyard below, following the ever-changing wind.

Back in my room at Anker’s, I sat on my bed for a long minute in the dark, trying to decide what to do. My thoughts were muddy. I was weary, wounded, and still a little drunk. The adrenaline that had kept me going earlier was slowly turning sour and my side burned and stung.

I took a deep breath and tried to focus my thoughts. I’d been moving on instinct so far, but now I needed to think things through carefully.

Could I go to the masters for help? For a moment hope rose in my chest, then fell. No. I had no proof that Ambrose was responsible. What’s more, if I told them the whole story, I would have to admit that I had used sympathy to blind and burn my attackers. Self-defense or no, what I’d done was unquestionably malfeasance. Students had been expelled for less than that just to preserve the University’s reputation.

No. I couldn’t risk being expelled over this. And if I went to the Medica, there would be too many questions. And word of my injury would get around if I went in to get stitched. That meant Ambrose would know how close he had come to succeeding. It would be better to give the impression that I had walked away unscathed.

I had no idea how long Ambrose’s hired killers had been following me.

One of them had said, “We already lost him twice.” That means they could know I had a room here at Anker’s. I might not be safe here.

I locked the window and drew the curtain before turning on my hand lamp. The light revealed the forgotten piece of paper that had been wedged into my window. I unfolded it and read:


Getting up here is every bit as much fun as you made it look. However, springing your window took some time. Finding you not at home, I hope you do not mind me borrowing paper and ink enough to leave this note. As you are not playing downstairs, or peacefully abed, a cynical person might wonder what you are doing at this late hour, and if you are up to no good. Alas, I shall have to walk back home tonight without the comfort of your escort or the pleasure of your company.

I missed you this Felling past at the Eolian, but though denied your company, I had the good fortune to meet someone quite interesting. He is a quite singular fellow, and I am eager to tell you what little I can of him. When next we meet.

I currently have rooms at the Swan and Swale (Swail?) in Imre. Please call on me, before the 23rd of this month, and we will have our lunch, belated. After that I will be about on my business.

Your friend and apprentice housebreaker, Denna,

pstscrpt—Please rest assured that I did not notice the disgraceful condition of your bed linens, and did not judge your character thereby.

Today was the 28th. The letter didn’t have a date, but it had probably been there for at least a span and a half. She must have left it only a few days after the fire in the Fishery.

I briefly tried to decide how I felt about it. Flattered that she had tried to find me? Furious that the note had gone unfound until now? As to the matter of the “fellow” that she had met….

It was far too much for me to deal with at the moment, weary, wounded, and still somewhat the worse for drink. Instead I quickly cleaned the shallow cut as best I could using my washbasin. I would have put some stitches in it myself, but I couldn’t get a good angle. It started bleeding again, and I cut off the cleaner pieces of my ruined shirt to fashion a makeshift bandage.

Blood. The men who tried to kill me still had the dowsing compass, and I’d undoubtedly left some of my blood on his knife. Blood would be vastly

more effective in a dowsing compass than a simple hair; that meant that even if they didn’t already know where I lived, they might be able to find me despite the precautions I’d taken.

I moved around my room quickly, stuffing everything of value into my travelsack, as I didn’t know when it would be safe to return. Under a stack of papers I found a small folding knife I’d forgotten about, after I’d won it off Sim playing corners. It would be worth next to nothing in a fight, but that was better than nothing at all.

Then I grabbed my lute and cloak and snuck downstairs into the kitchen, where I was lucky enough to find an empty Velegen wine pot with a wide mouth. It was a minor piece of luck, but I was glad for whatever I could get at this point.

I headed east and crossed the river, but didn’t go all the way into Imre proper. Instead I headed south a bit to where a few docks, a seedy inn, and a handful of houses perched on the bank of the wide Omethi River. It was a small port that serviced Imre, too small to have a name of its own.

I stuffed my bloody shirt into the wine pot and made it watertight with a piece of sympathy wax. Then I dropped it in the Omethi River and watched it bob slowly downstream. If they were dowsing for my blood, it would seem like I was heading south, running. Hopefully they’d follow it.

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