Lapis ran her tongue over the roof of her pasty mouth, fighting not to count the heads again. Twelve. Twelve rats, standing in the late morning sun, eager for chaser training.
Rin, sure. She wanted him to work as a ‘keeper, learn the trade, slip him a few bits for the effort. That Lykas and Scand joined him did not surprise her; the three worked as a team, after all. But Gabby wanted to be a knight, not a chaser. Neither Nerik nor Jes and the other Wings previously expressed an interest in chasing, as far as she knew.
And Heran and Nilas? Yes, Heran desperately wanted to make up for staking her, but Lapis did not trust her, and that might affect the training she gave. How had the two even discovered that she planned to tutor rats in the fine art of the chase? Copper?
Snickers from behind prompted her to firm her lips before glancing over her shoulder at Guard Superior Fyor, who stood, with plenty of stake forms in hand, his eyes twinkling a merry brown, and Copper, whose proud grin split his face.
Had they expected the interest? They should have mentioned something!
Heran swallowed and looked steadfastly at her scuffed sandals, her dark brunette hair acting as a curtain against Rin’s glinting emerald glare. Nilas settled his hand on her back, returning the look, and Lapis cleared her throat, catching their attention before they said something nasty enough she kicked them out of the first training session. That was not the impression she wished to leave, with either the guard or the rats.
“I assume you all are here because you’re interested in chasing?”
Twelve heads nodded. She did not relish Patch’s keel-over laughter when she mentioned this to him.
“Good.” She settled her hands behind her back, clenching her fingers tight and hoping none of the kids noticed. Nervousness remained absent when she expected three. With twelve, she quaked. “These are the ground rules. You’ll all start off as ‘keepers. It’s an important job and an important skill set that will help you during stakes. As a ‘keeper working with me, you’ll be turning in stakes and filling out the stake forms, accepting the pay, and bringing it to me. Your cut will be stake-specific, and we’ll discuss terms before each one.”
They all nodded.
“Knowledgeable people will also speak with you about ‘keeping. How many of you knew Dachs was a ‘keeper?” Only the reading circle raised hands. “He made enough money from it to buy the Eaves.” That caught their interest. “I’ve asked Linz to talk with you as well. They’re currently working as a ‘keeper, and have some great insights into how to make yourselves attractive choices for chasers to work with.
“But before that happens, you’re going to learn the basics. I’m going to teach you how Patch taught me.” The excitement ricocheted around the Lells Guardhouse yard, as every rat perked up. Heran raised her head, intent on her and her words. “Sounds exciting, right?”
They grinned, wide and eager.
“I about died of boredom,” she informed them. “Because he believed I should learn fundamentals before completing my first stake. So I’m going to teach you how he taught me. If you decide to die of boredom, then haunt him, because it’ll be his fault.”
Fyor laughed and fizzy chuckling came from Copper and curious guards who wandered to the group. Did they have nothing else to do? Some shank to chase, some shopkeep to humor?
“Sir Armarandos said the same thing, about knight training,” Gabby said glumly.
“He’s right. Historically, knights kept two underlings; one was a younger lad at the start of his bid to be a knight, and one was a teen who had the basics down and who did mostly clerical work until he earned enough to purchase his own gear. Lucky you, chasing isn’t going to take a decade to save up for, but it will take a couple of years to get good at. That’s where the basics come in. Helping and protecting people is important, and if you don’t stand on a stable base, doing those things won’t be easy, and you’ll fail more often.” She met every pair of eyes staring at her. “Exciting chases are in your future if you finish this training. Unfortunately, the basics of here and now can be tedious.”
“If I finish this, will I have to do knight training, too?”
“Yes,” she and Fyor said together. Lapis swore even Gabby’s bouncy black curls wilted to a dull grey at the thought of boring knight training on top of boring chaser training.
“So, today, we’re going to start with the most basic thing a chaser needs to know; stake forms. There are a couple of different types, but there are two you’ll see all the time. The first is the form the person initializing the stake fills out. Those forms end up on the stake board, and you can select your chase from them. The second is the form chasers and ‘keepers fill out after the stake’s completed. Those forms are the primary way chasers bring their targets to justice. Don’t underestimate their importance. Magisters and guards use them to sentence criminals and decide on fines. If you screw them up, the criminal might get away without punishment, and justice isn’t served.”
She eyed each one, so they realized her seriousness. “Never forget, chasing is about helping those who can’t get justice any other way. There’s excitement and money to be had, but none of that matters if the criminals aren’t held accountable for their acts.” She held up her index finger. “If that doesn’t convince you, there’s another reason to fill them out properly. The more often a poorly filled out form leads to a magister tossing out the case and letting the criminal go free, the less reliable the guards will find you, and that will affect your pay. Do it right, and you’ll be making more than many seasoned chasers.”
A worried frown pulled down Nerik’s face, which he attempted to hide under a quick dip of his head, so his hat brim and brown bangs shielded his eyes. She needed to ask after him later—or send Rin to do it. The rat had a better track record in worming info from urchins than she.
“All right, you’re going to divide into pairs, one guy, one gal. Read the form first, then we’ll go over them together.”
She accepted the forms from Fyor and passed them to the rats. At least dividing up went easy; they were friends, with no animosity to overcome to work together—except for Heran. Lucky for her, she had Nilas, because Lapis doubted the other rats would willingly partner with her after the ill-thought stake she placed unwittingly targeted them.
Lapis reminded herself, if the rat did not want to overcome the fallout of her terrible decision, she would not be there. She wanted a better life, and hopefully the training paved the way for one.
Six pairs of heads bent over the long, milky sheets with the Jiy guard crest at the top. The capital’s form contained a few different sections from the Coriy or Vraindem ones, with separate documents for hunts, but she did not plan to expose the rats to those. If they wanted more information concerning the bloodier aspects of chasing, they could speak to Dagby about it, and only after she deemed them mature enough to handle the talk.
She almost grinned, remembering his blinking surprise when she asked if he minded answering questions. He did not expect any. He underestimated the interest of curious rats. What might Granna Cup do, when she showed up at her fire with several urchins in tow who wanted to speak with her grandson about his ex-profession?
At least Rin, Lykas and Scand did not complain about their familiarity with the forms. They listened to her explanation as she filled one out, right before the trouble happened at the Tree Streets Guardhouse. How much had they retained? The stress of pretending to do chaser work while shanks threatened the place might have proved a bit too much for decent remembrance.
“Now, this is the Jiy form,” she told them after giving them time to read through it. “Other cities have different ones. The basic info is the same, but there are location-specific things you need to pay attention to. For instance, Jiy has a section concerning the undermarket, a uniquely Jiy thing.” Fyor handed her six pens and ink, and she smiled in thanks. “We’re going to fill out the intro stuff together.”
She was thorough enough, even Rin looked grumbly by the end. And lucky them, they were going to hear it several more times if they stuck with her. She glanced at Fyor, then Copper; the latter nodded, and she bowed her head back.
“All right, your first assignment,” she stated. “You’re going to write down the descriptions of everyone who walked through the yard from the time we started until now.”
The rats blinked at her.
“Copper took a counting, so he knows who they were and what they were wearing. I very much doubt any one of you will get all of them. Know, though, during a chase, that might prove deadly. You not only need to pay attention to your stake, but the area around them. What if they have accomplices, and those accomplices are within helping distance? That’s why researching your stake is so important.”
The rats blinked at her.
“That’s not really fair,” Lykas pointed out, to murmured agreement and vigorous nodding of heads.
“Perhaps, but it has proven a point, hasn’t it?” Lapis asked. “Be thorough—Copper and Superior Fyor have graciously agreed to go over the forms when you all finish, to show you what guards and magisters look for.”
Gabby stabbed her lower lip over her upper, flared her nose, and dipped the pen in the ink with more force than necessary. The other rats glanced at each other, then followed suit. Lapis turned and regarded the humor-filled guards. “Thank you for the help.”
Copper laughed. “It’s for a good reason, Lady. Though I don’t think you were expecting twelve.”
She shook her head. “I wasn’t,” she admitted. “But if they’re willing to learn, I’ll teach them.”
“It’s an interesting method,” Fyor said. “Most chasers I know have no mentor. They start by taking a random stake off the board and hope for the best.”
“And they get their butts chewed, don’t they?” Lapis asked. “I was lucky Patch took an interest in me. And I was lucky he had someone interested enough in him to train him, before that.”
Fyor nodded. “Varr.”
“Yeah.” She produced a laughing sigh. She might have questioned how the guard superior knew that, but Varr loudly told the Black Hats he trained the famous chaser, and the Lells merchants eagerly overheard the declaration, giving him immediate cred in the market. “I’m glad I didn’t have to work with him,” she admitted. “He’s pretty tough, especially on those he cares for.”
“So Lord Krios says,” he murmured.
Lapis desperately wanted to ask after that but did not think an open conversation in a guardhouse yard about the true heir to the Jilvaynan throne was a good idea. He sparked her curiosity, however, and she wondered how to broach the subject—or if he would even speak on it. Yet he brought it up. Had he met Midir—Krios—through Lord Adrastos? That made sense.
She could not delicately delve into it; the rats finished their task, and she and the guards went over each form with the group, before Copper showed them his. As expected, not one pair identified all those who passed through the yard, though Rin and Jes came within two.
Gabby’s frown deepened as Lapis read the descriptions. “That’s not what I saw,” she firmly stated. “She was wearing a purple dress, not a blue one!”
“It was blue,” Jes disagreed. “And Rin agrees with me.”
As if Rin was an authority on color.
Before nastiness ensued, Copper, kindly enough, offered to buy the rats a midday meal, a not-subtle distraction. Fyor waved him on, and he cheerfully answered the pepper of questions flung at him as they vacated to the Lells.
An excellent lesson, in paying attention to details. Appearances mattered when all they had to go on was a description on a stake form. She would drive that home at the next training session.
“I’m very lucky, to have your aid,” Lapis said as quiet descended on the yard. Had the rats been that loud?
Fyor smiled widely as he shuffled the forms. “Lady, giving them a chance at a life outside a docks warehouse or syndicate is worth it.” He slipped an envelope onto the top and rolled the larger pages around it. “I’m happy to help, especially since I used it as an excuse to avoid Superior Seeza.”
Lapis raised an eyebrow. Fyor warned her about the woman during their first encounter, and she doubted it boded well for him that she wished for another meeting. “I’m sorry to hear that.”
“So am I.” He handed her the pages, a small, mischievous smile on his lips. “She has some worries about the stories Hoyt’s men are telling about Ambercaast.”
“Something about talking lizards. She . . . dislikes reptiles and is frantic in finding out if these tales are true.”
Lapis grinned back. “I promise, Superior Fyor, that come Fools and Ghouls Day, you will have the answer.”
“Just make certain you’re at the Lells. You’re not going to want to miss it.”
Lapis looked through the forms as she wandered to the sprawling Lells outdoor market, vowing to make the rats practice their handwriting during their training. Unintelligible meant the magisters would ignore the words.
Curiosity overtook her, and she opened the envelope. The blank folded outer page had Faelan’s name neatly written on it, by a hand other than Fyor’s. Did he realize her brother’s involvement with the rebels? Did his association with Sir Armarandos give him access to certain info denied other guards?
Why use her as a go-between?
She glanced at the sheets inside. Ah. A brief on Vivina. Requet had kidnapped her and taken her aboard the skyshroud, and not returned her to the palace guard before the airship made its sluggish departure from Jiy. Yes, she was the daughter of the ex-Jiy rebel headman, but surely the Dentherion realized she possessed little information to impart concerning them. She babysat children, with no interest in the rebellion outside that. She preferred balls and social activities to sneaking about collecting intel or, like her father, scamming money from all involved.
Problems had a way of sticking around and mucking life up, did they not.
She rubbed at her tummy as it rumbled. Well, the Lells sold plenty of cheap food and drink. Perhaps Patch had lingered, waiting for her to finish her first training, and they could have a nice meal together. He curiously awaited the results of her first few sessions. While he agreed to speak with her students, he wanted them to have a firm grip on ‘keeper basics before he did so. At least the rats could study with the realization an intimate chat with a famous chaser awaited them.
A tingle raced up her spine, and she scratched at the back of her neck as she entered Mimstone Square. During stakes, that warned her to retreat. She rolled the pages into a tight scroll as her eyes flicked about; the thick dread worried its way through her, but she saw nothing out of the ordinary. The bright seller stalls set near the sidewalks had their typical local patrons chatting with the keeps. Tourists meandered under the building awnings and peered into the shops blaring their wares on colorful signs. Customers hunted through the items being sold on blankets in the center of the square, all manned by people she knew. She perused a drink stand’s offerings, giving her a chance to glance behind, but no one triggered her suspicion.
Unfortunately, too many shop doors stood open to allow the minute breezes through stuffy stores, and the interiors were shadows and darkness, compared to the brightness of the midday streets. Someone might well hide within, and she could not see them.
She paid for a paper cup of cool tea and hustled across the paving stones and into the dirt of the central space. The warm afternoon sun had baked the rocks to the point they reflected the heat, and sweat beaded across her brow and wet her clothes. Uncomfortable and nervous. Not a good combo.
Several rats plied the square, and she smiled at Lyet, Phialla and Ness. They waved, but a family interested in their pottery had their attention. Their sales had improved after stamping everything, giving it an arty legitimacy tourists appreciated. She half-expected Brone near them, his hands thrumming on his drum, but she did not see him, though other street performers worked the crowds.
And no Patch, either.
Perhaps she should try the square with Fished Out. He loved that the owner always had a ready supply of wake juice in a head-sized container for him, without cream and sweetener, just the way he liked it. She shuddered; bitter drink was not her favorite, though it kept her awake on long, sleep-inducing chases.
A shadow, whisking behind a stout wooden beam holding up the permanent awning over a series of clothing stores. The fat support concealed the sneak too well, and nothing peeked out around the edges. She tried to tell herself that shanks and rats plied the market, but rats rarely hid in that manner because overt begging brought more bits, and shanks targeted richer tourists, trailing them and waiting for an opportunity. Or they hung around the busiest sellers, hoping to snatch their change box.
Her recent experiences with sneaky types featured rebels. Had Baldur sent someone after her? Or had Meinrad and Rambart ordered their flunkies to trail her yet again? That only proved their lack of skill in the chase. Maybe Perben decided to make another attempt on her life. Or, more likely, someone picked up Requet’s or Hoyt’s stakes and trailed her.
When in the non-existent gods had she acquired so many stakes on her head? Patch was the brash and talented chaser! She chased small-time criminals to help the most desperate, attracting little attention to her normal, everyday existence. What had changed?
Hmm. Her brother arrived in Jiy. Perhaps that was it, bad-luck Faelan.
She gulped the tea and tossed the cup in the nearest garbage bin before heading to the opposite end of the square. Should she take a busy street that would hide her pursuer but grant her some protection through numbers, or scurry into an alley and run?
She passed The Milk Maid, a decent corner bakery known for its frothy flavored milk, and skimmed the patrons lounging outside under bright yellow umbrellas. Too many sat in front of the glass windows, interrupting the reflection from showing her the square behind her.
Lady Thyra’s startled blue eyes met her gaze.
The woman with her turned, and she choked.
Lady Merika. Perben’s mother.
Thick betrayal with seething anger raced in vicious circles around her brain as Merika’s mouth dropped open in shock. The breeze picked up her soft golden curls, and they danced about her head, as stunned as she.
“Melanthe,” Lady Thyra began, rising, stressed, holding out a hand as if to prevent the obvious conclusion.
She shook her head; no. NO. How could she? How could she meet with the rebel traitor’s mother?
Lady Thyra shifted to fierce, and both her and Lady Merika’s gaze darted away from her. Before either screamed the warning, Lapis whipped out her gauntlet blade, whirled, and smashed it against the hand of the man sneaking up, holding a mean knife; the weapon clanged onto the short, yellow-painted railing delineating The Milk Maid from the square, and flipped over the top, to land with a clatter at a startled man’s shined shoes.
He hissed as blood splatted the paving stones and shoved his hand under his armpit. A guttershank, but a well-kempt one; precisely combed and oiled hair, rich green Dentherion shirt and navy-blue pant, wearing the shiny black pointed brogues without traction that a certain subset of syndicate shanks liked. That his teeth shone white against his deep tan meant he made enough bits to see a dentist, something the poor in the Grey and Stone Streets could not afford.
Racing footsteps clapped on the paving stones. She pivoted and struck; the man behind her arched away with a hiss as a third rushed her. She tossed her load at Lady Thyra’s feet and rolled from him, aiming for an empty section of street just off the square.
“Put down your weapon. We only wish to speak with you,” a calmly annoyed voice called.
Lapis snarled. Rambart, part of the noble duo who still supported Perben and his traitorous ways. What business had he with her? He halted stiffly next to the injured man and eyed her with a disdainful frown. He wore a stuffy dark red Dentherion suit with fluffy lace at cuffs and throat, an older court style to fit his older age, and completely inappropriate for the heat of the day. Sweat poured from his slicked greying brown hair, around his bushy eyebrows and down his sunken cheeks, to dampen his short beard. The water, undeterred, continued down his neck to the sodden lace.
Behind him, acting as guards, were eight younger men, several whom she recognized from her previous confrontation with Meinrad. None wielded overt weapons, but she suspected they all carried something with an edge.
Fury-inspired heat flared across her cheeks. The traitor dared set foot in the place he killed Miki? She fought for control, since leaping for his throat in the Lells would cost her. Deeper rage infused her when she realized that, while he held her attention, he ignored her. His distressed gaze locked with his mother’s furious glare.
Did Merika know Perben led Kale’s men into Nicodem? Her shock upon seeing a surviving Nicodem hinted that, while the Blue Council flock of traitorous rebel sheep trotted after him even after the revelation, she did not know her son’s dirty dealings. The lady Lapis knew before her family’s murder represented flowers in a sun-kissed meadow, free of spite and filled with kind spirit. It would devastate her, that the son she doted on had a hand in the deed.
“No harm will come to you,” Rambart said, drawing her wandering attention back to him.
“Like I’d believe that.” She focused on him, fighting nausea.
Lyet slipped past the antsy bodies and rushed to stand at her side. What was she doing? She needed to run away, not join the fight! Rambart’s eyes flicked to her, and she enthusiastically glared back.
“Lady, are they more men wanting money?” she asked.
“And who are you?” he asked, his nasal voice rising even higher in disdain.
“One from the Lady’s reading circle,” she stated firmly. “I was there when your buddy Meinrad broke into Rin’s room whining about being cut off.”
“He did no such thing!”
“Uh-huh, like you didn’t just send a shank to stick a knife in the Lady’s ribs,” she shot back. “He didn’t even try to hide it.”
“What do you want with Lanth, Rambart?”
Lady Thyra’s anger penetrated everybody in the vicinity; eaters vacated the tables and avoided crossing her line of sight, and the growing crowd retreated, uneager to face her. Rambart cleared his throat and swallowed; as a rebel leader, he should know the lady’s temper, when provoked, burned all within range. In her childhood, Lapis timidly anticipated her parents’ disapproval of her naughtiness, but she dreaded Lady Thyra’s punishments. The last one before Nicodem fell, when she ordered her and Neola to muck out the stables, and the horses had just eaten some contaminated feed and gotten sick all over the stalls . . .
“Lanth,” he sneered, though the muted, intense spat between Lady Merika and Perben overrode the remainder of his sentence.
“Mother, what are you doing here?” he asked, anxious.
“Why are you?” she countered. “Why are you targeting Melanthe?”
“I’m not targeting her. I’m just here with—”
“He had a knife, Perben. A knife!” She jabbed her finger at the shank.
Well, Merika thought he targeted her, too. And she had just outed him using his real name, but as a traitor in the sundered part of the rebellion, the tell meant nothing.
“If you’re so eager to get back into my brother’s good graces, you’re doing it exactly wrong,” Lapis said, keeping her weapon ready. And once Patch found out about this little confrontation, she doubted a city between them was enough distance to keep him from having a private chat with Rambart concerning his ill-advised hunt for her.
Lyet looked behind them but said nothing about being flanked. Good, because ten more opponents hastened across the square, a couple worried, one eyeing Rambart with undisguised disgust. She remembered him; the man who spoke about trust but held so little himself. Gerrit. Faelan kept him as a spy in the broken half of the rebellion, and she wondered if he would interfere if things got heated. No better way to out himself than support her.
Lyet growled. “That’s a lot of people, Lady.”
Yes. How many did he deem sufficient to take her out? Should that please or infuriate her?
She felt the tickle again.
Trailing the group of rebels was a tall man of self-satisfied stride and smug smile. He wore a long sword and knife, and a knee-length vest covering black hunter leathers with extra padding at the thighs, upper arms and chest. She seethed that Rambart and Meinrad whined about Faelan cutting them off from rebel wealth, then hiring an assassin to remedy that.
Hunters were never cheap.
He stopped three steps behind the younger lot, who eyed him with a mixture of unease and distrust. “I think finding a more secluded place to chat is in order,” he said. The words rolled off his tongue as if he savored speaking that phrase to his victims. She could not pull off nonchalant, but she did credible disgust as she eyed him.
“Sorry, I’m a bit busy at the moment.”
He chuckled. “I’ve heard about you, Lady Lanth,” he said. “All talk, no bite. I see why Patch hid you. It’s embarrassing, for a hunter to have such a weak partner.”
“Funny, the last hunter I faced was of the same mind. And Predi made a fine snack for the Pit lizards.”
His smile wavered, ever so slightly. “You took out Predi.”
“Surely you heard about the Tree Streets Guardhouse incident? They targeted Sir Armarandos, and my luck, I was there turning in a stake. I found out Predi wasn’t what he bragged.”
“Lady?” Lyet said, worried.
The crunch of boots came from the direction of her gaze; Dagby, who regarded the hunter with calm hate.
The biologist stared at the confrontation with humongous eyes. A bright pink flower held her curly black bangs from her face and matched her pristine makeup and soft, swirly dress glowing against her deep tan. Dagby wore a clean, though untucked, blue shirt and black pant of the type successful undershanks wore on a night out. He had brushed and drawn his hair back in a tight tail, keeping his shaggy brown locks in a semblance of order.
Were they on a date? She felt terrible, for the interruption.
The enemy snarled. “Where’d you run off to?” he asked, his confidence breaking.
“Granna Cup’s fire,” he said, as assured as Patch. He may have given up the chase, but he still retained the poise of a successful hunter. “Though I didn’t expect you to pull me back.”
“Lyet, go grab Cassa,” Lapis whispered.
“That’s Cassa? What’s she doing here?”
“I think she’s on a date with Dagby.”
“Rin thought they were getting along pretty well. Guess he was right.” She slipped behind Dagby and sidled up to the biologist.
“Leave,” the hunter said, a slight tremble in his voice. “This ain’t your business.”
“Leave?” Dagby asked, donning a lazy smile.
“It’s one against—”
“Lanth is very good with blades,” he replied. “So two. And if your company is anything like you, they’ll fall fast enough between us.”
Rambart’s eyes flicked back and forth, and the worry of those with him irritated her. They expected a quick kidnap and bully, but instead they faced an ex-hunter with a reputation and an underestimated chaser. What other mischief had they planned for her?
A flash of vicious rage crossed the hunter’s face, and he drew his sword.
“What are you doing?” Rambart shouted, outraged. “That’s not part of our deal!” The man ignored him as he rushed Dagby.
Present a hunter with a staked man, he would attempt a capture. She did not think that Hoyt had rescinded his want to find the ex-chaser, and if this ass caught her, too? Payday double.
Money blinded the willfully stupid.
Dabgy drew a knife from his waistband. “If you take the sword, I’ll do the rest,” he said before avoiding the strike.
The ask was pathetically easy to accomplish since the hunter turned his back to her, seeing Dagby as his only threat. He thought her a dead weight around Patch’s neck? She grinned with grim satisfaction as she slammed her boot into his rump and he screeched as he plummeted to the ground, losing his grip on the sword. She rushed in as he planted his hands on the hot paving stones and squealed in pain as they burned his palms, and kicked the weapon to Lyet and Cassa. The teen nabbed it and, with a quick word to the biologist, ran into the square with it. More rats surrounded the woman, including Brone, so if things went poorly, they could guide her to a safe spot.
The hunter surged to his feet, wringing his wrists and snarling at her before he remembered his first target. The lapse cost him; Dabgy sliced at his neck. A lucky stumble as he turned saved his hide, and he landed on his butt as his feet tangled with each other. The ex-chaser slammed his boot into his opponent’s cheek, and the crunch of bone split the air. Both Lady Thyra and Lady Merika smashed hands to their lips and turned away; Perben stepped in front and shielded his mother, a blade in his hand.
“He has two partners,” Dagby said. “The one in green behind you, the one in blue behind Cassa and the rats.”
“Green,” she said. So Perben had a reason for his stance. Even as despicable as he was, he had enough of a heart left to purposefully protect his parent. She doubted that would extend to Lady Thyra, so she needed to keep the hunter’s buddy busy. She confronted the nondescript man who held his right arm awkwardly behind his back.
Her opponent looked more like a typical Jiy shank, with a sheen of dirt on his skin and in his dark hair, but sporting cleaner linen clothing. She never would have guessed him a hunter, which likely served him well. Hiding in crowds, acting like just another downtrodden local before striking his target down, could prove very lucrative.
He lifted his lip. “Hoyt’s wantin’ you,” he said.
“Yeah, that’s not news.” What agreement had Rambart made with them? He never should have achieved a role as a major rebel player, as eager as he was to stake her and purchase the services of a hunter to complete it.
“Hoyt?” Rambart asked, frowning, befuddled.
Wonderful. Stupid sheep, leading the wolves to her.