The apostate pressed himself into the shadows of the rock and prayed to nothing in particular that the things riding mules in the pass below him would not look up. His hands ached, the muscles of 26 страница Главная страница сайта Об авторах сайта Контакты сайта

The apostate pressed himself into the shadows of the rock and prayed to nothing in particular that the things riding mules in the pass below him would not look up. His hands ached, the muscles of 26 страничка


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“Good morning, Magistra,” the keeper said as her eyes adjusted to the gloom. “Back already?”

“Seems I am,” she said, fishing the silver coins back out of her pocket. “I’ll take what this buys.”

The keeper took the coins, lifting and dropping his hand as he estimated their weight.

“Your boys know how to go through wine,” he said.

“They don’t drink it,” she said, grinning. “It’s all for me.”

The man laughed. It was a new kind of lie she’d only just discovered, telling the bleak truth lightly and letting everyone around her mistake it for a joke. They don’t drink it; it’s all for me. Come winter, I’m as likely to be in the stocks as free. Nothing I do matters.

He came back with two dark bottles of wine and a small tun of beer. Cithrin tucked the tun under her arm, took a bottle in either hand, and waited as he opened he door for her. Now the wind was at her back, pushing her on like it wanted her to get back home. The sky was blue above her with a skin of white clouds high in the air, but it smelled like rain. Porte Oliva autumns had a reputation for rough weather, and summer was in its last days now. A little cloudburst now and again hardly seemed worth complaining about.

She didn’t go back into the main rooms, heading for her own door instead. Maneuvering up the stairs was hard with the tun still under her arm. She hit the corner of the wall at the top with her elbow. The impact was enough to leave her fingers tingling, but she didn’t drop the bottle.

She’d forgotten about the puddle of piss, but she was feeling well enough now to open her window and pour the night pot’s contents into the alley. She swabbed up the rest with a dirty shift, then threw that out the window too. She’d eaten a link of gristly sausage and a heel of black bread the day before. She knew she ought to be hungry, but she wasn’t. She pulled off her carter’s boots, pulled open the first of the wine bottles, and lay back on her bed, her back against the little headboard.

The wine was sweeter than she was used to, but she could feel the bite of it. Her stomach rebelled for a moment, twisting like a fish on a fire, and she slowed down to sips until it calmed. Her head throbbed once, the beginning of an ache. The wind paused, leaving her in silence. She heard the voices of the two Kurtadam guards rising from below her.

The woman—Enen—laughed. Warmth and calm slid into Cithrin’s blood. She took one last, long drink straight from the bottle’s neck, turned, and set the wine on the floor. The darkness behind her eyes was comfortable and deep. The roar of the wind kicking back up seemed to come from a great distance, and her mind, such as it was, sparked and slipped. Connections came together in unlikely, unrepeatable ways.

She had the sense that Magister Imaniel had left her something for Captain Wester. She thought that it had to do with the canal traffic in Vanai connecting to the docks in Porte Oliva, and also with herbs and spices packed in snow. Without drawing a line between awake and dozing or dozing and asleep, Cithrin’s consciousness faded to darkness. Time stopped, started when she became vaguely aware of angry voices, very far away, and stopped again.

“Get up.”



Cithrin forced her eyes open. Captain Wester stood in the doorway, his arms crossed. The light was dim, the city in twilight and cloud.

“Get out of bed,” he said. “Do it now.”

“Go away,” she said.

“I told you to get out of that God damned bed!”

Cithrin pushed up on one arm. The room shifted, unsteady.

“And do what?” she said.

“You’ve missed five meetings,” Marcus said. “People are going to start talking, and when they do, you’re done. So stand up and do what needs doing.”

Cithrin stared at him, her mouth slack with disbelief and a rising anger.

“Nothing needs doing,” she said. “It’s done. I’m done. I had my chance, and I lost it.”

“I met Qahuar Em. He’s not worth pouting over. Now you—”

“Qahuar? Who cares about Qahuar?” Cithrin said, sitting up. She didn’t remember spilling wine on her tunic, but it tugged where dried wine had adhered to her skin. “It was the contract. I tried for it, and I lost. I had the world by the hair, and I lost. I failed.”

“You failed?”

Cithrin spread her arms, gesturing at the rooms, the city, the world. Pointing out the obvious. Wester stepped closer. In the dim light, his eyes seemed bright as river stones, his mouth as hard as iron.

“Did you watch your wife and daughter burn to death in front of you? Because of you?” he asked. When she didn’t answer, he nodded. “So it could have been worse. You aren’t dead. There’s work that needs doing. Get up and do it.”

“I’m not permitted. I had a letter from Komme Medean that I’m not allowed to trade in his name.”

“So instead you curled up in a mewling ball in his name? I’m sure he’ll be thrilled. Get out of bed.”

Cithrin lay down, pulling her pillow to her chest. It smelled foul, but she held it anyway.

“I don’t take orders from you, Captain,” she said, making the last word an insult. “You take money from me, so you do what I tell you. Now go away.”

“I won’t let you throw away everything you’ve worked for.”

“I worked to keep the bank’s money safe, and I’ve done it. So you’re right. I win. Now go away.”

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“You want to keep it.”

“Stones want to fly,” she said. “They don’t have wings.”

“Find a way,” he said, almost gently.

It was too much. Cithrin shouted wordless rage, sat up, and threw the pillow at him as hard as she could. She didn’t want to cry anymore, and here she was, crying.

“I told you to get out!” she screamed. “No one wants you here! I am canceling your contract. Take your wages and your men and lock the door behind you.”

Wester took a step back. Cithrin’s chest went hollow, and she tried to swallow back the words. He bent down, picked up her pillow between thumb and finger, and lobbed it back to her. It landed on the bed at her side with a soft sound like someone being punched in the stomach. He nudged one of the empty wineskins with the toe of his boot and took a long, deep breath.

“Remember that I tried to talk you back to your senses,” he said.

He turned. He walked away.

She had anticipated the pain, braced herself for it, so it wasn’t the anguish of knowing he would leave her that surprised. The surprise was that even knowing, even being ready for it, the despair could still swamp her. It felt like something had died halfway between her throat and her heart, and was curled there inside her body, rotting. She heard him walking down the stairs, each step quieter than the one before. Cithrin snatched up her filthy pillow and screamed into it. It felt like days, just screaming, her body shaking from hunger and exhaustion and the poison of wine, beer, and ale. The muscles in her back and belly were threatening to cramp, but she could no more stop screaming and weeping than she could choose not to breathe.

There were voices below her. Marcus Wester and Yardem Hane. She heard Yardem rumble something that she recognized form its cadence as Yes, sir though the syllables before and after it were a confusion. Then a smaller, higher voice. Roach, perhaps.

They’d all go. All of them.

It didn’t matter.

Nothing mattered. Her parents were dead so long ago she didn’t remember them. Magister Imaniel and Cam and Besel, all dead. The city of her childhood was burned and broken. And the bank, the one thing she had ever made for herself, would be taken from her as soon as the auditor arrived. She couldn’t bring herself to think that a few guards leaving early could matter.

But it did.

Slowly, very slowly, the storm within her stilled. It was full dark now, and tiny raindrops tapped against the window like fingernails. She reached for the wine bottle beside the bed and was surprised to find it empty. But there was still the other bottle. And the tun of beer. She would be all right. She only needed to get her strength back. A few more minutes were all she needed.

She hadn’t quite roused herself when the footsteps came. First the steady tramp at the base of the stairway, and then, before it even reached the top, heavier thudding. Something hit the wall of the house, and Yardem grunted. There was a wet sound that might have been rain pouring off the roof, but seemed nearer than that. A light glowed. A lantern in Wester’s hand. And behind him, Yardem Hane and the two Kurtadam guards struggling with a copper basin easily four feet long.

“We should have brought it first and filled it later,” Enen said, her voice straining.

“We’ll know next time,” Marcus said.

Through her doorway, she saw the three guards put down the basin. It was as tall as Marcus’s knee and it sloshed.

“What are you doing?” Cithrin asked, her voice smaller and weaker than she’d expected it to be.

Ignoring her, Yardem handed a round stone jar to the captain and started lighting the candles and lamps in the main room. The two Kurtadam saluted and went back down the stairs. Cithrin sat up, steadying herself with one hand. Marcus walked toward her, and before she could stop him, he grabbed her by the hair and dragged her off the bed. Her knees hit the floor with a thud and a stab of pain.

“What are you doing?” she shouted.

“I tried talking first,” Wester said, and pushed her into the basin. The water was warm. “Take those rags off or else I will.”

“I am not going to—”

In the growing light of the candles, his expression was hard and implacable.

“I’ve seen girls before. I’m not going to be shocked. I’ve got soap here,” he said, pressing the stone jar into her hand. “And be sure to wash your hair. It’s greasy enough to catch fire.”

Cithrin looked at the jar. It was heavier than she’d expected, with a tight-fit lid. She didn’t know the last time she’d washed herself. When he spoke again, his voice was resigned.

“Either you do it, or I will.”

“Don’t watch,” she said, and as she did, she realized that she was agreeing to a contract whose terms she didn’t yet know. All she felt was relief that they hadn’t left her.

Marcus made in impatient sound, but turned to face the stairway. Yardem coughed discreetly and stepped into the bedroom. Cithrin pulled off the carter’s clothes and knelt in the basin. The air felt cold against her skin. A carved wood bowl floated beside her, and she used it to rinse herself. She hadn’t realized how filthy she’d felt until she didn’t anymore.

A familiar voice came from the stairway.

“Is she there?” Cary asked.

“She is,” Marcus said. “Just toss it up for now.”

The actor grunted, and Marcus moved forward, catching a bundle of rope and cloth out of the air.

“We’ll be downstairs,” Cary said, and Cithrin’s street door opened and closed. Marcus untied the rope and passed a length of soft flannel out behind him. Cithrin took the towel from his hand.

“Got a clean dress here too,” he said. “You say when you’re decent.”

Cithrin stepped out of the bath shivering and dried herself quickly. The water in the basin was dark, a scum of suds floating on the top. Shrugging on the dress, she recognized it as one of Cary’s. The cloth smelled of face paints and dust.

“I’m decent,” she said.

Yardem came out of her bedroom. He’d fashioned her blanket into a sack and filled it with empty wineskins and bottles. The tun and her remaining bottle were in with the dead. She reached out, ready to tell him to leave those, that she wasn’t done with them. The Tralgu cocked an ear, his earring jingling. She let him pass.

“I’ve got food coming,” Marcus said. “You have all the bank’s records in here?”

“I’ll send someone. I am posting a guard at the foot of the stairs and under that window. No drink stronger than coffee comes in. You stay in here until you figure out what we’re going to do to keep your bank for you.”

“There isn’t anything,” she said. “I’ve been forbidden from any more negotiation or trade.”

“And God knows we wouldn’t want to break any rules,” Marcus said. “Whatever you need, you say the words. Everyone gets a good self-pitying drunk now and again, but it’s over. You stay sober and you do what needs doing. Understood?”

Cithrin stepped in close and kissed him. His lips were still and uncertain, the stubble around them rough. He was the third man she’d ever kissed. Sandr and Qahuar and Captain Wester. He stepped back.

“My daughter wasn’t much younger than you.”

“Would you have done this to her?” she asked, gesturing at the basin.

“It will be closed by now. It’s night.”

“I’ll have an exception made.”

“Then yes.”

He nodded and went back down the stairway. Cithrin sat at her little desk. The sound of rain above her mixed with the voices below. There was nothing to be done, of course. All the best efforts and intentions in the world couldn’t change a single number inked in her ledgers. She looked anyway. Yardem and the two Kurtadam came and hauled the basin away again. Roach appeared with a bowl of fish-and-cream soup that tasted of black pepper and the sea. A mug of beer would have gone with it perfectly, but she knew better than to ask. Water was good enough for now.

Her mind felt fragile, a thing that might fall apart at any little jostle, but she tried to imagine herself as the auditor from Carse. What would he see when he looked at all this? She went through the initial listing of inventory that she’d made. Silk, tobacco, gems, jewels, spices, silver, and gold. The pudgy Antean at the mill pond had stolen some, and her estimate of the loss was included, the numbers in black strokes against the cream-colored paper. So there was the beginning. Now to what she’d done with it.

Turning the pages had a sense of nostalgia. The dry hiss of the paper, and here was another artifact of the golden age that had just passed. The contract and receipt from when she’d bought the rooms from the gambler. The onionskin permit and seal that had marked the opening of the bank. She traced her fingertips over it. It hadn’t been a full season since she’d begun. It seemed more than that. It seemed a lifetime. Then the agreements of consignment from the spicer and the cloth merchants. Her valuation, theirs, and the final income from sale. The jewelry had always been the problem. She found herself wondering if there might have been a better way to be rid of it than the one she’d chosen. Maybe if she’d waited until the ships from Narinisle had come in. Or placed them on consignment with a trading house with a heavy export trade. Then she wouldn’t have been flooding her own market. Well, next time.

Distant thunder rolled softly through the steady tapping of rain. Roach, soaked to his scales, brought up the lockbox from the cafposure.

The best trade she’d worked had been the horizontal semi-monopoly with the brewer, cooper, and taphouses. Each person in the chain of production was in business with the bank, and so as soon as the grain and water arrived at the brewery, every trade benefited her, and put her in the position to guarantee business to the next link. If she could make arrangements with a few farmers for dedicated access to their grain crops, it would be a locked-in gold-producing mechanism.

But that would be for the next person, whoever they were. Cithrin sipped at her coffee. It had been a good thought, though, and well performed. In a year, when the remnants of her parents’ investment in the bank came to her, she would have to see if there was some much smaller version of the same plan. It would be painful, she thought, going from Magistra Cithrin bel Sarcour to the bank’s ward again for that last year. But once she reached her naming day, and could enter into business for herself…

The skin on her arm puckered, the fine hairs standing up. Her neck prickled. A feeling of cold fire lit her spine. She closed the books she’d written, shoved them aside, and went back to the older ones, written by other hands now dead. The records of Vanai. The small red-inked notation that marked her arrival at the bank. She closed the book with trembling hands.

Captain Wester had been right.

There was a way.

I won’t hear it,” King Simeon said. The months hadn’t been kind to him. His skin was greyer than it had been, his lips an unhealthy blue. Sweat beaded his brow though the room wasn’t particularly warm. “God, Dawson. Listen to yourself. You’re back from exile for one day—one—and already you’re back at it.”

“If Clara’s right and Maas is plotting against Aster’s life—”

Simeon slapped his palm to the table. The meeting chamber echoed with it, and the silence that followed was broken only by the songs of finches and the babbling of the fountain outside the windows. The guards around the back wall remained impassive as always, their armor the black and gold of the city, their swords sheathed at their hips. Dawson wondered what they would have said, had they been asked. Someone must be able to talk sense to Simeon, though it clearly wasn’t him.

“If I’d listened to your advice,” the king said, “Issandrian would be leading a popular revolt against me right now. Instead, he was here yesterday, bending his knee, asking my forgiveness and swearing on his life that the mercenary riot wasn’t his plan or doing.”

“If it wasn’t his, it was someone’s,” Dawson said.

“I am your king, Baron Osterling. I am perfectly capable of guiding this kingdom safely.”

“Simeon, you are my friend,” Dawson said softly. “I know how you sound when you’re frightened to your bones. Can you put it off until next year?”

“Put what off?”

“Fostering your son. Naming his protector. The closing of the court is three weeks from now. Only say that the events of the season have distracted you from the decision. Take time.”

Simeon rose. He walked like an old man. Outside the window the leaves were still green, but less so than they had been. The summer was dying, and someday very soon the green would fade, red and gold taking the field. Beautiful colors, but still death.

“Maas has no reason to wish Aster ill,” Simeon said.

“He’s in contact with Asterilhold. He’s working with them—”

“You worked with Maccia to reinforce Vanai. Lord Daskellin danced with Northcoast. Lord Tremontair is keeping assignations with the ambassador from Borja, and Lord Arminnin spent more time in Hallskar than Antea last year. Shall I slaughter every nobleman with connections outside the kingdom? You wouldn’t live.” Simeon’s breath was fast and shallow. He leaned against the windowsill, steadying himself. “My father died when he was a year younger than I am now.”

“I remember.”

“Maas has allies. Everyone who loved Issandrian and Klin turned to him when they left.”

“Mine turned to Daskellin.”

“You don’t have allies, Dawson. You have enemies and admirers. You couldn’t even keep Palliako’s boy near you when he was the hero of the day. Lerer sent him off to the edge of the world rather than let him take another revel from you. Enemies and admirers.”

“Which are you, Majesty?”

“Both. Have been since you flirted that Cinnae girl away from me at the tourney when we were twelve.”

Dawson chuckled. The king’s smile was almost abashed, and then he was laughing too. Simeon came back and collapsed into his chair.

“I know you don’t approve,” he said. “But trust me that I’m doing the best I can. There are just so many things to balance, and I’m so tired. I am unbearably tired.”

“At least don’t give Aster to Maas. I don’t care if he is the most influential man at court just now. Find someone else.”

“Thank you for your advice, old friend.”

“Simeon—”

“No. Thank you. That’s all.”

In the antechamber, the servants gave Dawson back his sword and dagger. It seemed years since Simeon had insisted on the old formality of coming to private audience unarmed. This was how far they had all fallen. Dawson was still adjusting the buckle when he stepped outside. The air was warm, the sun heavy in the sky, but the breeze had an edge to it. The soft, pressing air of summer was gone. The seasons were changing again. Dawson turned away the footman’s assisting hand and climbed into his carriage.

“My lord?” the driver asked.

“The Great Bear,” Dawson said.

The whip cracked, and the carriage lurched off, leaving the blocky towers and martial gates of the Kingspire behind. He let himself lean back into the seat, the jolts and knocks sending jabs of pain up his spine. First the journey back from Osterling Fells and then the better half of the day waiting for his majesty to clear an audience for him had worn him down more than it once would have.

When he’d been a young man, he’d ridden from Osterling Fells to Camnipol, stopping only to trade horses, arrived just before the queen’s ball, and spent the whole evening until the dawn dancing. Mostly with Clara. It seemed like a story he’d heard told of someone else, except that he could still see the dress she’d worn and smell the perfume at the nape of her neck. He turned the memory aside before his wife’s younger incarnation aroused him. He wanted to walk upright when he reached the club, and while he was old, he wasn’t dead.

The Fraternity of the Great Bear rose up, its faundred hooves. Dawson toyed with the idea of getting out here and walking in just to escape, but it was beneath his station, so he made do with abusing the driver for his slowness and incompetence. By the time the footmen of the club hurried out with a step for him, he almost felt better.

Within, the club was a fabric woven from pipe smoke, heat, and music ignored in favor of conversation. Dawson gave his jacket to a servant girl who bowed and scurried away. When he entered the great hall, half a dozen men turned toward him, applauding his return with varying degrees of pleasure and sarcasm. Enemies and admirers. Dawson cut a bow that could be read as acknowledgment or insult depending on who it was given to, scooped up a cut crystal glass of fortified wine, and stalked to the smaller halls on the left.

A wide, round table sat in the center of one hall, a dozen men around it, many of them talking at once. In among the press of bodies and wit, Issandrian’s long hair and Sir Klin’s artless face. Issandrian caught sight of him and stood. He nodded to Dawson rather than bow. It might only have been a trick of the light, but the man seemed lessened. As if his exile had actually humbled him. The others at his table began to grow quiet, becoming aware that something was happening around them even if they were too dim to know what. Dawson drew his dagger in a duelist’s salute, and Issandrian smiled in what might have been approval.

At the back of the hall were private meeting rooms, and the least of these was hardly larger than a carriage itself. The dark leather couches ate what little light the candles gave. Daskellin sat in a corner where he could see whoever entered. His back was to the wall, and his sword was undrawn, but near his hand.

“Well,” Dawson said, lowering himself to the couch opposite, “I see you’ve squandered everything we had in my absence.”

“Pleasure to see you too,” Canl Daskellin said.

“How do we go from successfully defending Camnipol from foreign blades to riding behind Feldin Maas? Can you answer that?”

“Do you want the long answer or the short?”

“Will the long be less annoying?”

Daskellin leaned forward.

“Maas has backing, and we don’t. I had it. Or I thought I did. Then a balance sheet changed or some such, and Clark lit out for Birancour.”

“It’s what you deserve for working with bankers.”

“It won’t happen again,” Daskellin said darkly.

It was as close to an apology as Dawson expected to get. He let the matter slide. Instead, he drained his glass, leaned to the door, and rapped against it until a serving girl appeared to refresh his glass.

“Where do we stand, then?” Dawson asked when she’d gone.

Daskellin shook his head, breath hissing out through his teeth.

“If it comes to the field, we can hold our own. There are enough landholders who still hate Asterilhold that it’s easy enough to rally them.”

“If Aster dies before he takes the throne?”

“Then we fervently pray his majesty’s royal scepter’s still in working order, because a new male heir is the best hope we have. I’ve had my genealogist look through the blood archives, and Simeon has a cousin in Asterilhold with a legitimate claim.”

“Legitimate?” Dawson asked, leaning forward.

“I’m afraid so, and you can’t guess this. He’s a supporter of the principle of a farmer’s council. We lose the quarter of our support with more sense that guts. The others rally around Oyer Verennin or possibly Umansin Tor, both of whom can also make a claim. Asterilhold backs its man with the help of the group Maas and Issandrian have gathered, we fight a civil war, and we lose.”

Daskellin clapped his hands once. The candle above him sputtered. In the halls of the club, a serving girl shouted and a man laughed. Dawson’s fortified wine tasted more bitter than it had when he started it, and he put the glass down.

“Could this have been the scheme all along?” Dawson asked. “Was Maas using Issandrian and Klin and all that hairwash about a farmer’s council just for this? We may have been aiming at the wrong target all this time.”

“Possibly,” Daskellin said. “Or it might have been a chance he saw and decided to take. We’d have to ask Feldin, and I suspect he might not tell us the truth.”

Dawson tapped the lip of his glass with a finger, the crystal chiming softly.

“We can’t let Aster die,” Dawson said.

“Everything dies. Men, cities, empires. Everything,” Daskellin said. “The timing’s the question.”

Dawson took his dinner with the family in the informal dining hall. Roast pork with apple, honeyed squash, and fresh bread with whole cloves of garlic baked into it. A cream linen cloth on the table. Ceramic dishes from Far Syramys and polished silver utensils. It could as well have been ashes served on scrap iron.

“Geder Palliako’s come back,” Jorey said.

“Really?” Clara said. “I don’t remember where he’d gone. Not to the south, certainly, with so many people having friends and family in Vanai. You can’t expect a decent reception when you’ve killed a person’s cousin or some such. Wouldn’t be realistic. Was he in Hallskar?”

“The Keshet,” Jorey said around a mouthful of apple. “Came back with a pet cunning man.”

“That’s nice for him,” Clara said. She rang for the serving girl, and then, frowning, “We don’t need to throw another revel for him, do we?”

“No,” Dawson said.

He knew, of course, what they were doing. Jorey bringing up odd, trivial subjects. Clara burbling on about them and turning everything into a question for him to answer. It was the strategy they always used in dark times to lift him up out of himself. Tonight, the burden was too heavy.

He’d considered killing Maas. It would be difficult, of course. A direct assault was impossible. In the first place, it was expected and so would be guarded against. In the second, failure meant an even greater sympathy for Maas in the court. The idea of challenging him to a duel and then allowing things to go wrong appealed to him. He and Maas had been on the dueling grounds often enough that it wouldn’t be an obvious convenience, and men slipped all the time. Blades went deeper than intended. He had to ignore the fact that Feldin was younger, stronger, and had lost their last duel only because Dawson was cleverer. The idea was still sweet.

“Fact is,” Barriath said as the serving girl came in, “this boat is sinking, and we’re bailing it out with a sieve.”

“Meaning what?” Jorey said.

“Simeon’s my king and I’ll put my life down at his word, the same as anyone,” Barriath said, “but he’s barely his own master anymore. Father stopped the Edford Charter madness, and now we’re looking at plots from Asterilhold. If we stop that, there will be another crisis after it, and another after that one.”

“I don’t think that’s appropriate talk for the dinner table, dear,” Clara said, accepting a fresh glass of watered wine from the servant.

“Ah, let him talk,” Dawson said. “It’s what we’re all thinking about anyway.”

“At least wait until the help is gone,” Clara said. “Or who knows what they’ll think of us in the small quarters.”

The servant girl left blushing. Clara watched the door close after her, then nodded to her eldest son.

“Antea needs a king,” Barriath said. “Instead it’s got a kindly uncle. I hate to be the one to bring the bad news, but it’s all through the navy. If it weren’t for Lord Skestinin encouraging the captains to lay on the lash and drop troublemakers for the fish, we’d have had a mutiny by now. At least one.”

“I can’t believe that,” Clara said. “Mutiny’s such a rude, shortsighted thing. I’m certain that our men in the king’s navy wouldn’t stoop so low.”

Barriath laughed.

“Mother, if you want truly inappropriate dinner conversation, I can tell you something about how low sailing men stoop.”


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