Despite the old axiom about innocent men fretting and guilty men sleeping peacefully in a cell, Raulin and Tel stayed awake while Al and Anla slept through most of the night. Or, Anla slept for some of the time, then laid awake as she listened to the soft banter between the other two.
Over the course of an hour or so, she listened as the trirec’s speech improved. He slurred less and began to speaking with a firmer rhythm. There were still pauses when he needed to think of a word and a few trips over his tongue, but mostly the conversation was easy and fluid.
More importantly, she listened to how Raulin spoke and not what he said. He and Tel were speaking in Grivfia, so she couldn’t understand it anyway, but hearing his tone and inflection gave her a glimpse into not just his personality, but people in general. She had been doing this subconsciously for some time, changing her piscarin readings based on what she gleaned from her clients, but she’d never realized that maybe this was a part of her magic. It was like detecting when someone spoke a lie, and whether that lie was boldfaced or from unsurity or partial. Only, she could begin to hear when a laugh was embarrassed or nostalgic, if a quote was done with self-deprecation or with respect.
At the moment, it didn’t serve a purpose other than to understand Raulin better. It was sorely needed. Thus far, he was nothing like she had imagined a trirec would act. He wasn’t cold or condescending, or mean, or silent. He was warm and friendly, diving into conversations with Telbarisk as if they hadn’t been separated for years. He was engaging, laughing with Tel or dipping his voice into sympathy with genuine feeling.
Anla would have been happy enough to let the trirec fight his own battles and just deal with his own way out. But, she was curious. Shortly after Telbarisk laid down and began to snore softly, she sat up and faced him. There was still some light from the rising quarter moon that she could see by. His mask glinted occasionally as he shifted his head. He was tapping his foot arthythmically, occasionally scraping his soft leather boot on the stone floor. Something about his countenance made him seem small and lonely, approachable.
“Can’t sleep?” she asked quietly.
He looked up and spoke. As she thought the during their first conversation, his voice was a surprising clear, albeit a hollow-sounding tenor, not a deep, gravely sound. “I’ve decided to quit sleeping, actually. Seems to rob the day of valuable time.”
“Ah, how droll. I wish I had thought of that before.”
“It’s a specialty of mine. I think of many things no one’s tried before. For instance: flying like the birds do. I’ve almost got the knack of it.”
“Well, the ground tends to get in the way before I get a good chance to try.”
“I see. I suppose it was a good thing I stopped you from trying last night.”
Raulin paused at this. “Yes. Um, do you mind if I ask how exactly you did that? I’ve known many types of magic from many places, but I’ve never known anyone who could bewitch another like that.”
It was her turn to pause and think of this for a moment. “I’m not someone with great advantages in life. I am small, I am poor, and I am a woman. By revealing my one defense, I lose any hope I have of protecting myself from a man who can fight against three swordsmen with just knives and come out the victor.”
“Well, I would hardly call myself ‘the victor’, seeing as I’m here in this jail cell, but I understand your point. And thank you.”
“You’re welcome. Might I suggest an exchange of questions then? Perhaps we can find some way of holding each other in check.”
“Ah,” he said with a light chuckle, “you are using my favorite form of currency. Information for information, then? I will say there are many things I will be unable to tell you, for your safety more than my neck.”
“I appreciate that you aren’t going to try to lie.”
“We’ve been there before. You seem to be able to tell when I’m lying. I have no need to vex you by lying.”
Anladet raised her eyebrows when she realized what his tone suggested. Raulin wasn’t making easy conversation with her; he was frightened of her, or at least her ability. She almost hadn’t caught the nervous supplication to his words. The process was easier when she didn’t have to translate, then. That was good to know.
“I will ask and when I’m satisfied with your answers, I will answer yours.”
“That puts me at a bit of a disadvantage.”
“You’re already at a disadvantage.”
He bowed from his neck. “True. You may begin when you’d like.”
“Did you convince the guards we don’t know each other?”
“I tried. I don’t think they were convinced.”
“All right. This complicates our situation.”
“I’m sorry. I was trying to put whatever obstacle I could in the way of the guards in order to escape. It’s different when you don’t know the aftermath.”
“I can sympathize. This does mean we need to discuss our temporary future together at some point. Which leads me to my first question…”
“First? I’ve answered one already.”
“Which was kind of you, but I haven’t begun yet. Now I am. What are your general skills?”
“Many things. What might help now is my skills with knife and saber fighting and my experience and expertise in infiltration and escape.”
“Tonight is an exception then?”
He gave a small, throaty chuckle. “Tonight was…complicated. I don’t consider it a failure until my head and my body have parted company. So far I’m winning.”
“I can appreciate your optimism, but I don’t share it just yet. What are your liabilities?”
“At the moment I’m recovering from a concussion. I have several cuts and bruises that aren’t serious, but are noteworthy. The worst is this,” he said, pulling at the tear in his shirt and exposing his wound. He tested it gently and held up his dark, wet fingers. “It’s still bleeding a little bit. Oozing, really, but it needs to be stitched. It’s also impeding my arm movement. I won’t be able to fight at full capacity.”
“Which means climbing will be hard, too.”
“Oh,” he said with some delight. “Are you thinking of a jailbreak?”
“I’d like to explore all options.”
“Unlike your husband. He seems the type to yell at four-leaf clovers for having the wrong number of petals.” When she didn’t respond to this,he stammered. “I apologize. I didn’t mean to insult him.”
Anla hadn’t responded because she had caught something in his tone. She was usually good about telling if a client found her attractive. Most people used the same gestures, whether or not they knew it or were even being kind about it. Raulin had no body language to read, and still she found herself knowing that his tone meant took a fancy to her. She wished she had taken the time to actually listen to people long ago.
Normally she would flirt a little more and maybe get a few more coins. She didn’t know what to do now. Did she even want to do anything? She had no need to use him, since she was in the same predicament he was in. She could test her theory. She moved a little closer to him, to get a better view since the light had shifted, but to also create more intimacy.
“Al isn’t terrible once you get to know him. He’s a conformist, but is quite congenial after a while. And also not my husband; I’m unmarried.”
“Ah,” he said, his delight not overwhelming, but definitely noticeable. “A cover, then. A good choice, if I may share my opinion. Society is not always understanding of a platonic work relationship between opposite genders. Unless you are lovers?”
“No, your first guess was correct. We only met perhaps a week ago when we formed our team to save a duke’s daughter from kidnapping.”
“No luck, then?”
“Actually, we did find her and brought her back to Hanala.” This tale took some time, but Raulin was patient and listened intently, making a few sounds to show he was paying attention. “I’ll have to ask Al if we can use our favor with Duke Frenrell to get out of this.”
“So, you’ve save a little girl and a grivven in the last week? And I thought my life was exciting.”
“It usually isn’t. I’ve had an interesting week.”
“Me, too. So, were you satisfied with my end of the bargain? May I ask my question?”
“Yes, I suppose. You want to know how my magic works?”
“Yes. What are you called? What are you capable of doing?”
“I’m a baerd. It means I can control sound in various ways. I don’t know how I do it or what I can do.”
“Why is that? What did your master teach you?”
“I had no master. I’ve taught myself.”
Raulin lifted his head slowly. “You…taught yourself? What about the other baerds?”
“I’ve never met one. We are exceedingly rare and illegal. I am a little hazy on Ghenian law, but I believe that if I am discovered, I will be put to death immediately. Therefore, I’m very careful about using my abilities and what evidence I leave behind.”
“So that wasn’t pity that made you release the spell.”
“Self-preservation,” she said.
“But we’re here in a jail cell where I’m sure the guards would be happy to find a dead trirec, or at least one that appears dead. I’m correct in assuming you can kill me with your powers.”
“Yes,” she whispered.
“Why haven’t you?”
She stared at Raulin for a few moments. There were times she forgot that people hadn’t lived her life and hadn’t seen it through her eyes. “We’re in a jail cell, yes?”
“I believe I just clarified that.”
“Why would I be here when I could be anywhere else?”
“I assumed that, since Al isn’t your husband, you owe him something or he is helping you.”
“He is, but a woman who could control anyone she wanted doesn’t need any help.”
“Then you choose not to for some reason?”
“That is correct. Maybe this makes no sense to a man in your profession, but I actually detest committing crimes.”
“Crime is all perspective,” he answered too quickly.
“I agree that here are instances when it is crueler to obey the law than to let someone die. But, there are far more times when I could make my life easier by forcing people to do things they don’t want to do. I choose when I use my magic carefully.”
“No rules of your order? No code? It’s not very reassuring.”
“I didn’t speak with you to reassure you. I spoke with you to get information. I could have forced you to tell me, but I didn’t. This was more enjoyable.”
Raulin shifted to straighten his back against the wall. “It’s not just a bodily thing? You can warp my mind to your will?”
“I can, but again, I choose not to.”
“I suppose not. Anyone in the company of that much self-righteousness would have done something by now. I don’t suppose you could…?”
“You can’t have it both ways, Raulin.”
“I was jesting.” He sighed, which made a hollow sound under his mask. “I can’t say I feel any better after our conversation.”
“Would it help to know that we want the same thing? We both want to escape. We will need the four of us to do it. You have my word that I won’t use my magic against you until our mission is finished.”
“Mission? Sounds important.” He laughed a little. “It’s just an escape. I’ve done dozens of them in harder climates.”
“You sound somewhat full of yourself.”
“I’m not a man to brag; I just know my strengths and weaknesses and of those strengths, which of them are a bit above average.” He leaned forward putting his hands on his legs. “There are two exits to this room. That’s two more than I’ve had. There are several guards watching us. That’s dozens less than the hardest escape I’ve done. The castle outside has gates and walls, but is still rather flimsy at protection and can be penetrated easily. I’m not concerned.
“What does concern me, honestly, are you three. I have Telbarisk’s loyalty, yes, but he seems very attached to you two. I believe you will help me. You are very perceptive and seem to understand how we can benefit from each other. Your friend, however, worries me.”
“I’ll do my best to convince him. Naturally,” she added, “not magically.”
“Well, it’s better than nothing.” He slowly laid on his right side. “I will need some rest, to sharpen my mind. It’s worth the risk now. I would appreciate if you could ask Tel to watch over me and make sure I don’t stop breathing while I sleep.”
“I will,” she promised. His breathing deepened into sleep quickly.
He wasn’t what she had expected at all. The street kids she had lived with came close to worshiping trirecs as the pinnacles of thievery and as masters of the shadows. Several had paid hard-earned money to touch a boot print left by a trirec or to hear a tale from a man who had seen one. Anla hadn’t ever been that close to obsession, but the allure of trirecs had been intriguing.
Now that she had spoken to one, it was as if the mists had burned away and she could see the landscape for what it was. This man was just a man, not a ghost or a demon. And while they would part after they escaped, he had given her reason to fear the night a little less.