“I don’t suppose it can wait?” Al asked.

“Yes, I know you really want to read that book, Wizard, but this is important. I promise not to take too much away from your damsel and prince.”

Al sighed dramatically, but placed the book down and feigned rapt attention.

Since everyone else was sitting on the floor, Raulin joined them. “It has been brought to my attention, several times, that you three might not be happy sitting around in hotel rooms while I do my work. True?”

“I have been leaving the hotel to watch people and write in my journal,” Tel said, holding up the book.

“Well, now that I have this book, I think I’m- ow!” Al said, jumping back from a pinched leg.

“And how long will it take you to read that book?” Anladet asked.

“A day, maybe two?”

“And after that?”

“After that? Well, I have two other books. So, maybe a week’s worth of reading. But, yes, okay, after that I will be bored again.”

“And at that point would you like to spend your hard-earned money on more books or would you like more opportunities to earn money and see the world?” Raulin asked.

“The latter.”

“All right, then. My initial dilemma still doesn’t change. If I were to invite you three in on my contracts, I still run the risk of Arvarikor discovering our setup and the punishment to be severe, for all of us. I don’t take that lightly. If we proceed, it will have to be with the utmost care.

“The main reason why I’ve decided to give you the choice to work with me or not is because the numbers look good. As I’ve said before, I rush through my contracts in order to get an extended vacation in a beautiful place to spend the money I earned throughout the year. Anything that gets me there faster with an acceptable amount of risk is okay in my book. Previous to arriving at New Wextif, I was about two days behind my schedule. Not terrible, and it was mostly due to the massive detour taken to avoid the hunters after Carvek.”

“You wouldn’t have had that problem if you didn’t kill him,” Al pointed out.

“Yes, true. If it makes you feel any better about our situation, that contract was forced on me. I didn’t want it.”

Al blinked a few times. “Forced?”

“Yes. I tried to take as few assassination contracts as possible, but one of the trivren, the retired trirecs that oversee the operations, forced me to take it. I knew I had to take a few, so I had four, but wound up getting six after his meddling.”

Al seemed very perplexed by this. Anla met Tel’s eyes briefly, then asked Raulin, “Why did you decide to reduce your killing contracts?”

“Being stranded in the middle of the ocean makes a man think. I promised Queyella a large donation and that I would take less assassinations if She rescued me. Whether it was Her or fate or coincidence, I was rescued, so I kept my end of the bargain.”

“I thought you liked killing,” Al said.

“No,” he said, chuckling. “There are some who do, but I’m not one. I’d rather just take spying contracts, but Arvarikor doesn’t like its trirecs focusing on one branch. It’s stupid, really, since…” He stopped. “That’s probably enough about that.”

“But you said you liked killing.”

“I’m pretty sure you said I liked killing. Unless you were goading me, in which case, I’m the bad guy and why try to change your mind about it.”

The two said nothing for a few moments, then Raulin continued. “Where was I? Ah, so we arrived in New Wextif roughly a week ago and I’ve finished two contracts in that time. I had planned for three weeks on the stalking one, since I suspected it was going to be a lot of monitoring of the house and waiting for the man to show himself. Al solved it in a few hours. Anla, of course, was instrumental in helping as well and did great at the libertine ball.

“I’m now considering inviting you to help with my future contracts. I’d first like to see what that would look like before I say ‘yes’.”

“No killing,” Al said.

“Yes, I think we’ve established that. I’m not going to involve you guys in anything you don’t want to do, which means I won’t even bother asking you to help with assassinations, Wizard.”

“No spying,” Telbarisk said.

Al turned to look at him. “No spying? Why not?”

“The spying that hurts people.”

When he didn’t elaborate, Raulin chimed in. “Grivvens feel it is very amoral for people to get involved in relationships between others. They will listen to all the griping one does, if they’re patient, but they would never step in and tell them how to deal with it. They wouldn’t even give information that proved the other party was innocent in a case of mistaken identity or understanding. So, no, Tel, I won’t make you help me in cases that are like that.”

“What about the case we just had with Lady Amirelsa?” Al asked.

“I would have explained to him the circumstances and he most likely would have declined to help.”

Al gave Telbarisk a curious look. Anla spoke up. “I’m still working on my magic, but I am willing to help with anything. I would prefer not to entrance people, though, if at all possible.”

“If I’m prepared well enough, I shouldn’t need people influenced at all. Your sound dampening is invaluable, as I’ve said before, and as well as your abilities to track sound and hear deviations.”

When she said nothing, nor did anyone else, Raulin pulled out his notebook and opened to a point a dozen pages into the journal. “Veri-Viscount Fietro Kiinvar, 19, five foot eight, thin build, dark brown hair and hazel-green eyes, of normal noble stock. Has been missing for about four months now. No ransom note, no signs of struggle from his bedroom, which was the last place he was seen. His family would like his safe return. Any thoughts?”

“He ran away?” Al asked.

“That would be my guess.”

“Hopefully there’s not a Magrithon cult involved,” Anla said dryly. She looked back at Raulin and cleared her throat. “Um, I likely couldn’t track him, especially if he went willingly, but I might be able to hear any conversations lingering near his room. If there’s anything sneaky going on with the family, I might be able to hear it in their voices.”


“My magic won’t help here. I can offer my education and apparent skills in deduction.”


He thought about this, then shook his head. “I think this is one that I wouldn’t want to help with.  Sorry, Raulin.”

“That’s okay. I was curious as to how you guys would approach it and, with the limited information, didn’t expect much. Let’s try another.” He turned the page. “This is a request from Earl Tribelta. His daughter, Gretza, is recently married and he suspects the secretary of her husband is plotting against her, noting a lack of heir and her unhappiness as reasons. Hmm, ” he said, looking up, “probably not something you want to be involved with, Tel.” He went back to reading. “It’s under ‘due diligence’, so you guys likely won’t help out with that.”

“What’s ‘due diligence’?” asked Al.

“When we are assigned questioning contracts, such as someone suspecting their spouse of infidelity, we aren’t going to trail that person until they do. That could be never. We offer due diligence instead; we follow the person and record their activities for two weeks or until the question is answered. In this case, I would tail the secretary for two weeks, especially anything he does with this earl she’s married to. I think Anla would be another good candidate. Perhaps I can get an invite to this man’s house and you can parse something out between them?”

She looked at him and blinked rapidly a few times. “Y..yes, I could do th..that,” she answered. “What’s his name?”

“They didn’t give the name of the earl; I would have written it down. The secretary’s name is…” He slumped his shoulders and let out a groan. “Corrin.”

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

“I knew her name sounded familiar. Gretza Tribelta and Corrin are the wife and secretary of my friend, Vanif Remint.”

“You have to spy on your friend?”

“Yes. Well, at least I’m already returning to his place tomorrow. Maybe I can get this due diligence done with quickly. I hate to do it, but there’s nothing going on there. I’ll clear his name quickly.” He felt confident in that, but he did worry.  What if there was something going on?

“I’ll continue to plan and let you three know when I need you.  Thank you,” Raulin said before leaving.

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