Writing > Threads Part 1

Chapter 34


Chapter 34

In a flicker of motion, the letter was pushed through the threads and let go. The hand pushing it vanished back into the threads as fast as an eye could blink. Carefully positioned, it flipped several times before hitting the ground about a span from the edge. Both dwarven guards looked towards it curiously, and one of them approached slowly. One look at the writing on the vellum cover was enough to widen his eyes. He snatched it up and hurried downstairs to tell his captain.


Almost four hours after they’d left, Jaas saw Arico and Endu limping back down the stairs into the Hauld’s audience chamber. She gasped, covering her mouth. Both of them looked like they’d been through a three-day battle! Any number of cuts and scrapes covered their skin, and their faces and hair were singed. A livid bruise was forming on Endu’s left cheekbone. The Hauld stepped forward and called for a healer to join them at once.

Despite his apparent injuries, Arico didn’t seem to have lost any of his energy. “The meeting was a trap, sir,” he said immediately, waving off a helping hand from one of the dwarves. “Did your navigators get all the patch leaders and aides out in time?”

The Hauld nodded. “Aye, tha lads picked ‘em all up jus’ where ye said.” He turned and pointed down one the adjoining hallways. At the end of it and past a handful of guards, the various patch leaders and their aides were clustered together. Jaas doubted they were in a very good mood, not just because they were being detained, but because it was dwarves doing it.

“They won’t be safe here for long, sir,” Arico continued, glancing down the hallway. “If the Council finds out they’re here, they won’t hesitate to strike.” He hesitated, looking over at Endu. “We sorta… pissed them off a little. They’ll be looking for revenge.” Jaas wondered what he meant by that. As usual, Endu’s face was unreadable.

The healer arrived and reached up to apply ointment to some of Arico’s cuts. “See to her first,” he insisted, directing her to Endu instead. They both took a seat as their wounds were tended to, but Arico didn’t seem any happier for their safe escape. “We were set up, sir. I’m sure of it.”

The Hauld also glanced down the hallway towards the detainees. As they watched, each one was led away to a different room. “How can ye be sure, tho? Ascendan’s coulda been watchin’ any one o’ those patches.”

“But then they wouldn’t have known where we’d gone! It only makes sense if one of those people tipped off the Council before we ever showed up. Then they waited for us all to gather in the same place, and tried to snag us all at once. If it hadn’t been for your secret tunnel, and for Endu’s… planning, it would have worked, too!”

Again, Jaas wondered what could have happened back there. Still, it could wait. Arico’s logic was sound—the only way they could have been ambushed like that was if the Ascendants had gotten inside information.

“What about Kandiu?” Endu put in softly. “He seemed pretty hostile during the meeting. Pretty sure we didn’t stand a chance against the Sustained.”

Arico grimaced. “For all we know, it could be Bloodeye himself, or his advisor Velya, or even more than one person! I’m sure the Council would pay the Deathwatchers handsomely if they could deliver me and expose my connection to the dwarves.”

Jaas had seen Velya taken in with the others. She opened her mouth to defend her… ally, but then closed it. What could she say to convince them without putting Velya under scrutiny, after all? Certainly neither Velya nor the rest of the Thornes would appreciate that, and it was unlikely the dwarves would punish anyone without proof of duplicity, anyway.

The medics, their task complete, made their way back upstairs. The rest of them sat in silence for a few moments, each pondering their current shared dilemma. “Hauld!” A guard quickly descended the stairs, brandishing a letter as if it was some kind of flag. He came to a respectful stop at the entrance to the chamber, and the Hauld waved him forward. By his uniform, he was one of the captains in charge of the keep defenses. “This jus’ arrived a’ tha threads, sir. Addressed ta her,” he looked at Jaas hesitantly, as he put the letter down on a table next to them.

“No one saw who lef’ it, Hauld,” he explained before anyone could ask. “Tha guard on duty jus’ saw it flutter down on tha ground.”

Jaas reached for it, but all three of the others moved to stop her at the same time. “Wait!”

The Hauld excused the guard and turned back to her. “Jaas, lass, some poisons can kill by touch. If ye open tha’, it could be a death sentence.” They all stared down at it for a few seconds in silence. The name ‘Jaas’ was simply inscribed on the envelope, with no other words or symbols they could see in evidence.

“We never told the Sustained her real name. They only know her as the Harbinger,” Arico reasoned aloud.

“But she’s been teaching people in a dozen patches how to read and write, using her own name all along,” Endu added. “We know at least one of them is a traitor. Maybe he told his magistrate her name as well. There’s no way to know for sure.” Their words seemed to fade into the distance for Jaas, as they continued to speculate on its origin. The letter itself looked innocuous enough.

She retrieved the magnifying glass from her pack. It was an extremely primitive version of the medical device built by Endu, but good enough for reading script at least. Unfortunately, it didn’t look like the glass would be any help. This was looking more and more like a matter of faith.

Jaas took a deep breath. Faith had never been of much use to her, even after she’d come to Patchwork. She’d always trusted in the rules of the world—first her parents’ gentle guidelines, then the more strict code required in the Academy, and finally the similarly rigid rules of both magical and scholarly study.

Still, sometimes none of that could help, and faith was all that was left. Before anyone could react she grabbed the letter off the table and started opening it, ignoring their surprised objections. She smiled. At least they cared. Maybe they didn’t see her as just a security risk after all.

Inside was a single page, covered in a light and free-flowing hand. To my most trusted friend, greetings in haste, she read aloud for the others.

I regret the crude form of delivery, but I’m sure you would agree that these are strange times, and require strange methods.

Apologies as well for the strained hand in which this comes to you. A rosebush has such treacherous stems, and I’m afraid I wasn’t careful enough retrieving my husband’s anniversary gift this year.

I wished to inquire as to your lessons with the youngsters. I heard you’ve been having problems recently, with some of their parents. Sadly, they disapprove of some of your methods, which is of course ridiculous. Perhaps you should consult the Tun-pra text I sent you last year, for methods in convincing them. I think you’ll find that reading aloud the passage concerning ‘open and transparent methods’ will be most helpful.

In any case, I hope the New Day has been treating you well. Mine has been dreadful, to tell the truth.

Health and hope,

Lady Erevos Cutter, Bassos patch.

Jaas lowered the letter, wondering what all that could mean. “Cutter…” Arico mused aloud. “I haven’t heard much about that House. One of the smaller ones, with little or no power, from what I’ve heard.”

“D’ye know what it means, lass?” The Hauld looked at her.

Jaas thought about it for a moment, before giving them a triumphant smile. “Actually, I think I might.”


Gritting his teeth in preparation for what he was sure would be an unpleasant reaction, Arico unlocked the last of the cells hidden away underneath the Enclave’s fortress. Predictably, Bloodeye had been pacing back and forth; to such a degree he’d left a line of polished stones in his cell.

“It’s about time!” He grunted irritably. “You kept me here long enough!”

“I’m sorry, Drakos,” Arico said as soothingly as he could. “We had to make sure everyone was interviewed before we could release anyone. You understand.”

“I take it you believe me now?” He brushed past Arico, heading upstairs in a huff.

Arico nodded accommodatingly. “We have our traitor now, and it’s not you.”

That brought Bloodeye up short for a moment. He eyed Arico suspiciously, before nodding and moving again, this time more slowly. Arico hid a smile as best he could. Naturally all of their ‘prisoners’ had claimed to be innocent, and the Hauld would have had a tough time proving which one had betrayed the rest. Until that letter had arrived, that was.

Arico still could only guess at who Jaas’ mysterious benefactors were, but it seemed they’d hit the mark. Not only had they known about the traitor even before the Hauld had, but they’d even provided the means of uncovering him.

Jaas had noticed that the letter’s vague reference to ‘Tun-pra’ had been emphasized especially. She recognized it from an earlier list she’d been given: Boss Pratun of Tsobba patch. He was one of the twelve leaders that Arico had been meeting with in Atsekka. Later when Arico was interviewing Pratun, he’d reacted to the phrase ‘open and transparent methods’. Not much, but enough to incriminate himself a little later on.

Once Pratun had cracked, it hadn’t taken long to get the whole story. He’d contacted his patch’s magistrate about a week before, hoping to turn in the ‘rebels’ as proof of his loyalty to the Sustained Council. His aide, a young man named Dapalos, apparently had no idea what he’d done, and Arico was a little grateful for that.

As he brought Drakos into the Hauld’s audience chamber, Arico could see the others talking quietly amongst themselves. Despite their many differences they clumped together, eyeing their dwarven hosts with deep suspicion. Arico grimaced. So much for shared hardship enhancing trust.

Jaas was there as well, standing a few spans from the collected leaders. Due to the help her ‘friends’ had just given, the Hauld had decided to bring her in on this, and hear any advice she might have to offer. Arico was grateful for that, as well. Her mysterious benefactors remained just that—mysterious—but they seemed to be on the side of the dwarves for now. Maybe Jaas could keep it that way. Somehow, her friends had known not just what had happened in Atsekka patch, but how to help. That suggested at least one of these very people was working for them. Arico pondered for a moment who it might be.

“You’re all free to go,” he said just as he and Bloodeye joined them. “Pratun was the one who sold us out. He’s still in a cell downstairs, as I’m sure the dwarves will have more questions to ask him.”

“But you didn’t know there was a traitor at first, did you?” Kandiu demanded dramatically, gesturing at the others. “What gave you the right to imprison us like that?”

Arico opened his mouth to respond, but Bloodeye cut him off. “Oh, shut your yap, Kandiu. If it hadn’t been for the kid we’d all be in the Council’s hands right now, and Aquun only knows what they’d end up doing to our patches.” He lowered his voice, glancing at the guards at the other end of the hall. “I for one am grateful the dwarves didn’t just cut our throats to be done with it.” A few of the others nodded their agreement.

Enough was enough. “That’s it,” Arico said firmly. “All of you should remember that it was the dwarves who rescued you from Atsekka patch! That was a dwarven tunnel you used back there, and it was dwarven navigators who brought you here. If you’re still interested in teaching your people how to read and write, or digging a well in each of your patches, it’ll be dwarven teachers who teach you, and dwarven builders who dig them!”

He gave them a few breaths to think about that. “They’re not what you’ve been told. I should think recent events are proof of that, don’t you?” Perhaps he’d gone too far. These were proud people after all: leaders each in their own right. But that didn’t mean Arico was willing to just stand there and listen to them belittle his friends and allies.

“In the Outside world, people are often raised to hate and fear groups they’ve never even met,” Jaas put in quietly. “Tell me. Had any of you even seen a dwarf before today? And all those stories you’ve heard about them… who came up with them? The Council? The Ascendants? The very people who want you to be divided and fearful! And they want the same for the dwarves.” She looked over at the attendants, the Hauld, and now Chanul who had just arrived. “Tell me, do these people look violent or evil to you?”

Arico couldn’t tell if his or Jaas’ words had made any impact on them. At the very least they stopped badmouthing the dwarves for the moment. Perhaps feeling the awkwardness of the moment, Aldwith spoke up. “What about Pratun, then? Are we taking him with us when we go?”

“The Hauld has made it clear to me that what happens to Pratun is up to you,” Arico assured him. “You were the ones he betrayed, after all. As leaders of your respective patches, you’re the only people who have a say in this matter.”

“Just kill him and thread his body,” Bloodeye said immediately, his eyes narrowing. “The Ascendants will never know what happened to him, and the rest of us will be safer for it.” A few others nodded their heads in agreement.

Arico felt his gut twist. Summary executions were commonplace for the Deathwatchers, and it seemed Drakos was happy to carry on the tradition. For once though, Arico was inclined to agree. Keeping Pratun alive was a security risk to the entire movement! Still, Arico was no patch leader. He simply had no authority to weigh in here.

“I’m sure that’s what the Ascendants would do,” Kandiu answered pointedly, “but maybe we should consider something a little less… permanent. If we keep him locked up, safely away from the Sustained, then when the fighting’s over we can hold a trial.”

At first, his suggestion was met only with silence. ‘Trial’ was an unusual word, here in Patchwork. As part of her history lessons, Jaas had told people about criminal trials in other countries and in old Vasiriah, which was possibly where Kandiu had gotten the idea. “Think about it,” he urged the others. “Back before the Threading, the Vasiri Empire had a time-tested way of dealing with situations like this. The old Emperors knew they could never rule fairly if they controlled the courts, so they had the people appoint arbitrators to hold trials. Real arbitrators, not political puppets like the ones the Sustained have watching over us. If we truly wish to be better than the Sustained, why not start here, by proving that justice actually means something to us?”

Arico privately admitted Kandiu might have a point. Arico was a soldier, unlike these Bosses and Mayors. As such he’d been trained to think about the threat first, and the diplomatic solution second. Perhaps Kandiu’s idea did have merit. After a moment, Mayor Jandyo spoke up “You say that like we’re guaranteed to win this ‘trial’,” he pointed out sourly. “What if we lose? Would he just get away with what he tried to do to us?”

“No justice system is perfect,” Kandiu admitted. “But we have to at least try, or we might as well be just like the Sustained—accusing people of a crime, and then executing them for it, without giving them any chance to defend themselves!”

“There’s another thing to consider,” Arico said slowly. He wasn’t sure what to make of it, really, hence his hesitation. “Once he realized his guilt was clear, Pratun offered to swear ta’sana to me. For… the rest of his life. I refused of course, but I’m sure he’ll make the same offer to you. You know, provided you don’t kill him and toss his body into the threads,” Arico nodded at Bloodeye.

For a handful of moments, the entire group was silent. It had been an hour since the offer had been made, and Arico still felt the same shock they did. He’d heard about ta’sanas being offered and accepted before, but it was so rare he’d never expected to see it happen during his lifetime, much less be the person receiving that offer!

Jaas gave him a confused glance as the leaders began talking it over, so Arico sidled up next to her. “Ta’sana is a kind of blood oath,” he explained to her in an undertone. “Once given and accepted, the ta’sana compels the oathgiver to obey and serve the oathtaker. There’s a long list of rules—the oathtaker has to guarantee the oathgiver’s safety from everyone but himself, for example—but it’s considered the highest oath anyone can give.”

“I’d like to see those rules,” she responded predictably, as she watched the others’ conversation with great interest. “It sounds a lot like some of the Vasiri traditions I read about before coming here, though.”

Arico shrugged. “That’s probably where we got the idea. But it is a rare thing, even today. Pratun basically offered to become my property, if I could spare his life. Though it usually has a time limit of a few weeks, or a few years at most. He offered his entire life. He must be terrified of what they’ll do to him.”

Something in his voice must have stood out, because Jaas kept staring at him despite the voices nearby. The other patch leaders seemed caught up in their own conversation and didn’t need any input from them, so she leaned close again. “There’s more to it, though, isn’t there?”

He grimaced slightly. “I… may have been responsible for his ta’sana offer. I threatened to kill him back there.”

Arico had expected her to look frightened, or disappointed, or angry, but her expression didn’t change at all. “Was it part of your interrogation?” Her voice remained steady as well.

“No,” he admitted, somewhat confused. He’d expected to have to defend his actions to her, and was just now realizing he couldn’t really defend them to himself.

But she would want to hear his reasons anyway, so he swallowed hard and continued, barely remembering to keep his voice low. “I told Pratun that I didn’t have the authority to kill him right then and there, but that I would try to convince the other leaders to have him executed right away. It wasn’t revenge for him setting us up, I’m sure of that. I wasn’t even angry about nearly getting killed back in Atsekka patch. I wanted him dead—and I still do—because it’s the safest thing for the movement.”

Jaas glanced back at the others still waging their verbal war over what to do. Her brow furrowed slightly. “Isn’t your movement all about being better than the Sustained and their Council, though? About doing the right thing, while they would just make him disappear?”

“You don’t need to tell me, Jaas,” he said tiredly. “I know I should feel guilty about wanting him dead, but I really don’t. The movement is on a knife’s edge right now. Any one of those two dozen people over there could destroy us by turning us in. And Pratun wants to! Or wanted to, anyway. It’s safer to put him down now, rather than risk him being recovered by the Ascendants later on!”

“You won’t do it, though,” she said softly. Her tone was finally echoing some feeling again, and Arico nodded. It wasn’t a command, but a statement; he could tell that much. She knew him well enough to know he wouldn’t do anything to Pratun without permission from the other leaders. No matter how much he wanted to.

To his relief, Jaas let the matter go, at least for the time being. But she wasn’t done, in typical scholarly fashion. “So what happens if he breaks this… ta’sana oath?”

“It’s never happened before, to my knowledge,” Arico admitted. “According to city laws if you break a ta’sana, from either side of the oath, your life is forfeit. Any rights you had as a citizen are stripped away. All your property immediately falls to your closest relative or your spouse. And it becomes legal to kill you. Anyone, stra’tchi or Sustained, can just cut you down in broad daylight in front of everyone.”

“That sounds a bit harsh.” Jaas looked back down the hallway to where Pratun was being held.

“Like I said, it’s never happened before. But then, I’ve only heard of four or five ta’sanas actually being offered and accepted, and that’s over hundreds of years. That’s one of the reasons people want as many witnesses as possible to make sure everyone knows it’s genuine. If they accept, they’ll probably bring in several hundred people to watch it happen.”


They ended up debating it for over an hour, during which time the dwarves set up a small meal for them in an adjoining room. Arico was encouraged to see that most of them ate the food without suspicion. Perhaps they were just too busy arguing to care.

In the end they decided to just leave Pratun in the Enclave, and discuss what to do with him at some other time. Arico supposed that was the best he could expect, given the circumstances. He promised himself that he would be involved in whatever follow-up discussions happened, ta’sana or not. This was too important a decision to make lightly.

Once they’d seen Pratun’s accommodations (and Arico had made sure they were humane enough), the rest of the leaders were returned to their own patches. Pratun’s aide Dapalos was allowed to leave as well, on Jaas’ advice.

At first Arico had hesitated, and the Hauld had openly objected. He’d changed his mind eventually, when Jaas reminded them that anyone else from Tsobba patch who was considering betraying them would have to wonder how Pratun had been caught in the first place. Jaas’ mysterious allies had been able to identify him without any trouble, and even get him to incriminate himself. That meant they had positions in the sifters and the Ascendants themselves. Any other traitors would think twice before trying what Pratun did.

Arico still had no idea who these allies of hers really were. Obviously Sabra was connected to them, but Arico could only guess how. Apparently Sabra was just one of many, and they had navigators of their own. He had shared his suspicions with the Hauld, but they’d both agreed not to ask her directly. Clearly her allies wanted to stay in the shadows for now, and by their actions they were more ally than enemy. They could certainly use every ally they could get right now.

As for this Lady Cutter, Alzhi had been able to tell them a little about her when he’d gotten back. She was a minor noble, just like they’d expected, who had lived in Bassos patch for at least eight years. No place on the Council, no major connections to the Aquunites or the Ascendants. Basically the perfect position for someone who was pretty much never noticed by anyone. As to whether she was one of Jaas’ allies or just a convenient patsy, that was anyone’s guess.

Besides, Alzhi had been a little distracted upon getting back. After telling him how she’d killed Tenlor, Endu explained her actions to the Hauld directly. It was only them, Arico, and the Hauld in the room.

“It was more than six years ago. Just before we decided to join you, Hauld,” she said quietly, gripping Alzhi’s hand in both of her own. “Satya was almost three, and I knew they would take her away soon. Of course I didn’t tell anyone that Alzhi was her father. That could have gotten them both killed. But I knew she was a navigator; Alzhi told me how to test her, and I did.” She gave an uncharacteristic sniff at the memories.

Arico resisted the urge to put a hand on her shoulder. Killing Tenlor must have opened her up, at least a little, to these painful memories.

“I told myself again and again that it wouldn’t be goodbye. Alzhi would help me see her in secret, so she would always know I was nearby. So when they finally took her, I was ready for it.” She looked up at her husband, who continued for her.

“I asked a friend of mine who works in Penntu patch to find out where she would be sent. A household in Sustained territory, or so he told me,” he said darkly. “But when I got there, all I found was an abandoned warehouse. It had to be a mistake, I told myself. Some kind of clerical error. I knew the navigator who’d been sent to test her, so I went to him first. He told me he’d handed her off to Tenlor Fisher, just as he’d been ordered to do, in Gullas patch.”

Alzhi’s voice cracked. “I—I navigated there. To the edge of Gullas. I opened up a window in the threads… just in time to see it.”

Even though he knew approximately what came next, Arico couldn’t help feeling dread rise up inside him. The way Alzhi described it, and the heaviness in his voice, drew people in as if they had seen it with him.

“Tenlor was there, alongside his two favorite bodyguards. He was holding her hand just on the edge of the threads. It was so casual to him. So… ordinary. He just… unsheathed that sword of his and ran her through! There was no hesitation at all. He might as well have been swatting a fly!”

His voice was thick with anger now, and Arico could see his knuckles going white as they gripped Endu’s hand. “Then he tossed her into the threads and just turned away. I navigated there as quick as I could, and jumped out the other side. She was still alive!”

Alzhi looked down at the floor, obviously overcome with emotion. Endu continued for him without pause. “He must have thought she had died instantly, and would have been threaded, leaving no evidence. Still, she didn’t last long. She just stared up at him as her breathing slowed and stopped. I wasn’t there to say goodbye, Hauld! I just hope that none of you ever have to hold your child in your arms as they slip away like that. I could barely handle hearing about it, and she was my daughter!”

There was a long silence. All this time, Arico had believed that little Satya had died from an infection in her arm after the Rejoining. The fault of the Council, yes, but somehow better than the truth. But they hadn’t just killed her with negligence. There was no way Tenlor would have executed a little girl without the permission of his father and the rest of the Council. This wasn’t stupidity or apathy; it was calculated murder!

Before he could even ask it though, Endu was speaking again. “Hauld, we don’t have any proof yet, but I believe they killed our daughter because they didn’t need her. They already have plenty of navigators born every year in Sustained territory. Why bother raising a stra’tchi navigator when you’ve already got enough of your own? They didn’t want her, and they couldn’t send her back to the stra’tchi, not if she was a navigator. So they killed her. Just to tie up an inconvenient loose end.” Endu took a deep breath, as if cleansing herself of something foul within.

Arico thought back to Endu’s confrontation with Tenlor. Not that he didn’t believe her now—Tenlor had all but admitted his crime back in Atsekka patch. Arico had also studied Tenlor’s history, along with that of his father and sister, as part of his research on the Sustained Council. He’d pieced together stories passed around Sustained territory during the years before Jaas had shown up, and they painted a pretty graphic picture of Tenlor’s past.

He’d been a military man, devoted to serving his father and leading the Ascendant Guard in their duties. Arico had also heard of Tenlor’s many conquests, but not on the battlefield. It seemed he’d had a woman in many different patches across the city. In addition to his wife, of course. His Sustained mistresses seemed to have been treated well, from what Arico had gleaned, but the stra’tchi ones hadn’t been so lucky. Each time a stra’tchi woman had caught Tenlor’s eye, the stories often ended the same way: with her disappearance. At first, Arico had thought he was just hiding them away somewhere, but now… it was pretty clear they were all dead.

Given what had happened to Satya, it was also clear why. Tenlor couldn’t afford any of his bastards being born to a stra’tchi, not if there was a chance they could be a navigator. He wasn’t the only Ascendant who’d been known for taking a stra’tchi mistress, either. Some women even volunteered for such a duty. It meant an easier life for them, in some ways, than they’d have in a stra’tchi patch.

Arico had shared his findings with the Hauld a long time ago. It was one of the reasons they’d decided the Sustained Council had to fall. This new information just made it even more necessary.

“Alzhi did more research after that, after we started sending you information, Hauld,” Endu continued intensely. “He never found any written records, but there are many more children who just disappeared after the testing, never to be seen again. The Sustained are killing them, just like they killed her!”

The Hauld took a deep breath and leaned forward, elbows on knees. “Why did ye lie ta us abou’ this, Endu? Alzhi?” He asked grimly, looking from one to the other. “Why na jus’ tell us, an’ ask fer our help?”

Endu shared a glance with Alzhi. “I wanted revenge, Hauld. We both did. If you knew about this, you might keep us from doing missions that would take us near him, and neither of us wanted that.”

Her blunt honesty resonated through the small chamber. Arico had suspected something like that, ever since they’d gotten back to the Enclave. Still, he hadn’t expected her to just say it aloud.

“There’s more to it, though,” she continued suddenly, almost desperately. “If word got out of what Tenlor was doing, he would do whatever it takes to bury the evidence. We needed proof before we could tell you, or anyone else!”

“Proof tha’ died with Tenlor,” the Hauld grunted irritably. “Now we may never know jus’ how many kids ‘e killed!”

“She had no choice, sir,” Arico spoke up quickly. “Yes, it’s true she was already planning on killing him, but in this case it saved both of our lives! We never would have gotten away if it hadn’t been for her.”

The Hauld waved a hand. “Ach, it dinnae matter now, anyway.” He turned to Endu and Alzhi. “I can understan’ yer need ta get vengeance, better’n most. Ye’r not tha only people ta lose family ta that bunch. Bu’ ye’r both part o’ somethin’ greater now, ye hear? I cannae have two o’ me mos’ trusted people doin’ stuff behind me back!”

He speared them both with harsh looks. “Arico, give us tha room, would ye? Tha three o’ us are gonna stay here fer quite a while, talkin’ abou’ anythin’ else they been keepin’ from me.”


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