11-8

Raulin returned with the rest of the quartet in tow on Saturday and waited until most of the crowd had poured out of the tent before making his way inside. Kazi was prepared for their arrival, having tea and scones prepared. His room was cramped with four extra chairs in addition to the desk, vanity, and hammock, but it was serviceable and private.

He interviewed Al for a few minutes, Anladet for a half-hour, Tel for close to an hour and a quarter. Kazithu was particularly interested in hayinfal, asking a plethora of questions about that particular part of his culture.

“Have you ever met a hayinfal?” Kazi asked.

“Raulin is a hayinfal,” he told the actor.

“How?” Kazi asked.

“I don’t know, but he was confirmed by my people.”

“So, he’s supposed to bring great change to the world, or discover something groundbreaking?”

“So they say,” Raulin said. “Personally, I’d just like to make it to the boat leaving Gheny.”

“Seriously,” Kazi said. “I’m interested. Telbarisk, how do you feel Raulin will fulfill his hayinfal…ness?”

Tel thought about this for a few moments. Al interrupted. “He’s killed enough people. I’m sure one of them must have set off a chain of events that changed things dramatically.”

“That is not what it means to be a hayinfal,” Tel said. “We call that a vraskin, but that is not a person. That is the happening. A hayinfal is someone who deliberately sets out to make change.”

“You know I’ve always thought it was a fluke,” Raulin said. “I have no intention of doing anything grandiose. I do my job and that’s it.”

“It is interesting, though,” Kazi said, “that skilled people feel otherwise. What if you were stuck in a position where you had to make a choice, like leading an army or watching all the soldiers die?”

“Well, I would hope someone else, anyone else, was available. But, if not, I’d do it if I had to.”  He thought back to the trirec hunt and realized that being a leader had come naturally to him.  At least in that situation.

“Interesting. You know, audiences love a reluctant hero; it reflects the same apprehension they hold in their own hearts. I think your story would make a great play, Raulin, if you ever answered a damn question I asked you.”

Raulin crossed his arms. “You know its for your own protection, especially being in so public an arena. If you wrote a play containing secrets Arvarikor would kill to keep quiet, you and I would both be dead men.”

“I’m not talking about that,” he said, leaning forward. “I can work around it, make it something completely different. No one would suspect I’m talking about trirecs. What I want to know is your life. Who were you before you became a trirec? What did you want to be when you got older?”

“I was going to help with the family business, so to speak.”

“You’ve said that, but what was it?”

“Kazi, are you done? You wanted to interview Anla, Al, and Tel. I wasn’t part of the deal.”

Kazithu sighed and looked at the others. “Tell me I’m not the only one he walls.”

“We’ve reached an agreement,” Anla said. “He doesn’t want to talk about his past, plus several other things, so we don’t ask and he doesn’t tell.”

“But that must be infuriating!”

“Everyone has their secrets,” she said.

“But…” He stretched out his fingers. “All right. I’m not going to win today. Tell me you’ll consider telling me some day.”

“I’ve considered it for many people. It’s not like I want to keep secrets. I just know its best for everyone all around. But, if the day comes that I’m not a trirec, I will tell you everything.”

“Yeah, and that won’t happen. At least I have plenty to work with. I thank you four for your help and participation. I’ll be in touch, Raulin, if I can return the favor.”

* * *

The days leading up to Kazi’s interviews had essentially been a small respite from Raulin’s work. They took in the theater, ate dinner together, helped Telbarisk with his research, and browsed some shops to keep up pretenses. But, when Sunday morning rolled around, Raulin found himself busy collecting information and discovering what other contacts he could tap into for his work. He had lost his list of Ghenian influencers in the shipwreck and spent several hours trying to remember the names of everyone he had met during his last trip.

On Monday, he started making his rounds, attending open social functions where some of those people might attend. Marin Liasorn never pressured people to give to him; he planted the seeds of generosity and explained what he would do with charitable donations, but Raulin oddly didn’t like taking from people when it was his own fingers doing the filching.  Still, he couldn’t keep his charade and not take money if they insisted, and some people liked to insist, loudly or quietly.  One week’s worth of galas, balls, luncheons, and society meetings left him with several hundred gold, which he deposited immediately into his bank.

While he waltzed and dined, he put Anla and Al to work on the West Schoolinghouse Inc. issue. It was marked as covert, so he couldn’t make an appearance as a trirec, anyway, so this gave them something to do while he attended his functions in parallel.

WSI was a very large company of over two hundred employees, profiles across several industries, and with some major issues in and with the company. It was reported that there was potential embezzlement and employee fraud, blackmail, and a mole selling information to rival companies, the last two confirmed and the first two highly suspected. Again, it would make sense for the Cumber or a private investigator to take this case, but WSI seemed highly paranoid when it came to discovery. They wanted a neutral party with no potential ties and no leaks getting around society. As well, Raulin remembered a note in the margin that the president wanted get those “rat bastards” and see them behind bars. It seemed betrayal was a little personal to some.

Even extended through Al and Anla, Raulin felt impatient to cover WSI, the Kiinvar kidnapping, the Akistle theft, and to look into the Cumber.  A week’s worth of smiling and dazzling had begun to fray his patience.  He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, kicking back onto his bed and looking up. He had allotted two months for six contracts, which was already faster than what Arvarikor recommended. And, yes, he had finished the first two much faster than he had anticipated. But that didn’t mean he was going to finish them all quickly, even with help. He had to think things through and organize his activities, and his team’s as well.

He was given a few minutes to do so before there was a knock on the door. Guessing it was Al and Anla, he invited them in, sitting up to greet them. They sat on the edge of the bed and handed him their initial week’s report, which he browsed. “So, essentially, nothing stood out to you and you received information from the president that I could have gotten through the mail.”

“We’re sorry, Raulin,” Anla said. “It’s very large and there were a bunch of people…”

He held up his hand to interrupt. “I’m sorry if my tone came across harshly, that’s not what I meant. With the stalking case, we lept through many steps. I already mentioned that I had estimated about two-and-a-half weeks for that case and Al broke it in a few hours. We were lucky. I don’t see that happening again. Which means, I want you two to take your time and be thorough.”

“How much time do we have?” Al asked.

“After New Wextif, my next contract is in Whitney, then in Baradan. I’d prefer to be heading south before the first snow flies, which means about two months in New Wextif, give or take a few days. And if we run over, I can reverse the order.”

“I can help with those,” Al said. “I know both of those cities well and maybe some of the people you’ll need to contact.”

“I’ll accept any and all help you can give, Wizard, but I feel you might change your mind once you learn the objective of those contracts.”

“Oh,” he said.

“Here’s what I plan on doing. I need to continue to attend events as Marin as well as tour both WSI and the Kiinvar estate.” He turned to face Anla. “I’m going to pull you from WSI; you’re free to attend with Al and assist how you normally would, but I want him to lead that investigation. I want you to join him to do an appraisal of the Kiinvar estate, but your focus will be to do what you can through the Mesh to get information on the Cumber. I know who they are and that they operate somewhere in New Wextif, but other than that, I’m blind. I need a location, security information, suppliers, floor plans; nothing too difficult,” he finished, with a sarcastic tone.

“I’ll also get on ramming down Amanstri Gate with a toothpick,” she said, returning the joke.

“Well, that’s optional. In your free time.”

“Might be easier for you, if the Cumber is located in Shingden,” Al said. “There are four options into Shingden: through one of the twelve churches, through one of the highly regulated gates for commoners, through the Amanstri Gate for blooded nobles, or up and over a twenty-one foot high wall.”

“That’s true. Another thing to work on, but only if we need to.”

“So, I have access to Schoolinghouse?” Al asked. “I can go there whenever I need to?”

“Yes, but I think a cover’s going to be wise. You have to be conspicuous or else any guilty parties will grow suspicious and behave legally. I’d suggest speaking to the president about getting a job there that would allow all over access, like a go-fer or secretary.”

“I’ll get right on it,” he said and left.

Anla stayed behind. “Mezzem?” he asked.

“I just wanted to thank you. I know how much of a risk it is for you to share your responsibilities with us. I appreciate you letting us in on your contracts.”

“You’re welcome. If we can manage to leave here by Ap Kisard’s Day, I’ll consider it worthwhile.”

She stood and stopped before she left the room. “If you ever decide you want practice before you tell your tale to Kazithu, let me know. I’m a good listener.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” he said, coolly, but thought, She is a dangerous woman. I’m afraid I might do that by the end of our time together.

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