I was able to use Baen’s eyes and the one glance Sahir threw over his shoulder to navigate well enough to follow him into the alley. I saw him kick open the nearly horizontal door that led to another cellar. But inside, in the near pitch blackness where he sought to hide, he could see almost nothing and I had no time to orient myself with what little he was seeing when he tackled me.
My pistol was knocked from my hand and I brought my arms up to shield my face as I felt his hands pull my head down to meet his rising knee. I took the first blow on my forearms, which smacked up into my face and my ruined spectacles cracked and fell from my face in pieces. I pushed the second knee aside, grabbing a hold of his leg and upending him with a shout.
He grunted, and I though I could hear when he rolled to his feet his leg sweep caught me completely off guard and sent me down. I snarled, clones flickering into view with a thought and rushing at him, but before they reached him he grabbed at something in the dark and a loud creaking filled the air. I realised what he was doing, but too late, and tucked by body into a fetal position to shield my head with my arms as the heavy shelf crashed down onto me.
Pain blossomed in my side and arms, and my concentration was shattered. The clones dissolved into nothing before they could reach him, and after a moment our laboured breathing was the only sound.
“Gods of Tyria, Kaede, you’re a lot tougher than you look.” He panted. “Didn’t think you’d keep up with me, much less find me in here.” I didn’t answer, focused on trying to determine just how much damage I’d taken through the haze of pain. “That one of your mesmer tricks?” There was a small note of laughter in his voice. “Got to say I’m impressed.” I heard rather than saw him crouch beside me. His eyes were starting to adjust to the gloom, picking up on the faint light trickling in from the broken hatch. “Well, you don’t look seriously hurt, but I’d suggest you stay down for now and listen. Don’t worry, I’m not going to kill you or anything.”
“Oh, now you want to talk?” I managed to wheeze, realising that the pressure on my side was the heavy shelf pinning me down. My right arm was twisted awkwardly beneath me, pinned, and though I strained at the weight my left just wasn’t strong enough to free myself.
“Nearly having my face ripped off tends to inspire me.” He muttered dryly. “Those things back there, you know what they were, don’t you?”
“Undead…” I answered, trying to free myself.
“Necromancer’s pets.” He said, casually resting his hand on the shelf and applying just enough pressure to keep me trapped. “Necros are rare, not as rare as you mesmers, but we do have a few of them running around.” His tone, now that he’d caught his breath, was almost conversational. “I’ve never worked with one, seeing as they’re not much use on a ship.”
“Wouldn’t surprise me if Levaunt hired one to take you out then” I said. “He’d get someone who’s not part of the crew so you wouldn’t know where to start looking.” The pressure was making it difficult to concentrate, but I knew that if I had to I could have half a dozen illusions on him in a heartbeat. In the meantime, if he wanted to talk maybe I could pull something more out of this disaster of an interrogation. And, of course, Baen would arrive at any moment.
“Levaunt isn’t that creative.” Sahir snorted. “And he values loyalty, which is more than I can say for Tatianna. What I told you back there was true. Levaunt wants her back for The Covenant and for her mind.” He said. “You don’t realise it, but she’s the smartest person you’ve ever met and will probably ever meet.” There was the slightest note of bitterness in his voice. “And I get the feeling that you’re as much a patsy in this as anyone.”
“You love the sound of your own voice, don’t you?”
“Well yes, but that’s besides the point.” He gave a short, pained laugh, then his tone grew sober again. “I pegged you two as hired professionals. The way you two move, the way you tracked Fiegrsonn and the way you chased that monster? You’re obviously not common thieves. Figured you might have been hired by Tat to take out Levaunt.” He shook his head. “But what happened today changes things, given that you two fought the minions. Did you notice anything weird about them? They didn’t attack you or your friend. They went straight after me. Why do you think that is?”
“You’re just that likeable, I guess.” He snorted again, but I pressed. “Someone didn’t want you telling us what you knew; Levaunt seems like the most logical candidate, and he’s got every reason to suspect you. You’re a killer, and you’re the one that stands to benefit the most if he dies.” He was silent for a long moment, and when he spoke his voice was cold.
“Just some friendly advice, but you might want to take a closer look at who you’ve formed your alliance with and maybe you’ll reconsider our offer. You’re in way over your head and you don’t know how the currents flow here.” He got to his feet, but planted his boot against the shelf to pin me down. “Tatianna is a wild animal and she’ll turn on you the second it suits her purposes. She murdered her own father, did you know that? Not a pretty death, either. Folks still talk about it, and no-one knows what happened to the rest of her family. They just disappeared one day.” He pressed down with his boot a little, then sighed and relented. “Listen, I’ll keep your special little talent a secret, but the offer still stands.” His tone was reasonable, almost soothing. “With your abilities price for your services goes up. Think about it, Kaede. The door’s still open for you and your friend, and you’d be surprised at how much we can forgive.” He made his way to the stairs, climbing it with a few pained groans. He hesitated at the top, turning back to look at me as I began pushing the shelf off of me. “I have the feeling I’ll be-” A new set of eyes came into view, and there was a hard cracking sound and a yell. Sahir’s vision faded to true black as he tumbled down the stairs and landed in a heap next to me.
“You’re a gods dammed idiot, Varr.” Tianne said, scorn thick in her tone as she came down the stairs. “But we all knew that already.”
“You two have made a mess of things.” Tianne’s tone was harsh, and though it rankled I couldn’t deny that she had a point. Without her intervention, we would have lost Sahir and blown at least part of cover – namely some of the finer points of my abilities.
The Lightbringer had known where were staying and the altercation at The Gilded Anchor hadn’t have escaped her attention. It didn’t surprise me that she’d known where to find us, but it still grated that we had needed her at all.
She’d led us through a labyrinth of alleys, both Baen and I limping along behind her and collapsing against a wall in relief when she finally stopped at junction the Lightbringer found suitable. She gave us a quick, cursory, look and seemed content in the knowledge that neither of us were bleeding to death before we’d begun with our report.
We explained what had happened, forming our report quickly in the manner we’d been taught. Tianne arched an eyebrow at our vague description of the creature that had killed Fiegrsonn, and I thought I detected a faint smile at our telling of our encounters with Levaunt, seeming somewhat amused by the pirate’s interest in Tatianna.
I found myself oddly reluctant to tell Tianne about what Sahir had told me in the basement. Eventually I glossed over it, saying simply that Sahir had told us not to trust the crew of The Covenant and repeated Levaunt’s offer to recruit us. To my relief, Baen didn’t bring up her thoughts on that particular subject. Whatever difference of opinion she and I had, it was reassuring to know that against a shared pain like Tianne Moravel we were united.
“Stay the course. It was a mistake of you two to capture Sahir, given that one way or another he’d kill your chances of working with Levaunt. I thought Elsif would have taught you better than that – don’t burn a bridge until you’re sure you won’t need it.” Tianne said when we were finished.
“Actually he maintained that the offer still stands.” I said.
“Irrelevant.” She snapped. “It could just as easily have gone the other way, and for now you’re to work as though it had – Sahir is coming with me we’ll take care of the rest of the interrogation. Maybe we can find a more suitable place for him than roaming the streets. Point is, Levaunt will assume you killed him if he disappears, so congratulations on your new threat.” She shrugged. “Stay low, see if maybe you can find lodging with this Tatianna. Now that you’ve come under attack it’d be a valid request. Your orders haven’t changed.”
“What about the undead?” I asked.
“They fell apart – quite literally – after you ran off. I had a look at some of them, they’re cobbled together out of pieces of dead things, not actually walking corpses, which is a relief. They fit the description of mere minions, as you say a necromancer’s servants.” She said. “We can rule out Risen, but I’ll have a team take a closer look at what we can recover. Can’t be too careful. If there were dragon minions showing up on the docks of Lion’s Arch we’d have far bigger problems than The Misericorde.” She brushed her hair back from her face, her expression pensive. “It does, however, mean a pretty damn talented necromancer is in play if they summoned not only minions that were that hard to put down but also the creature that killed Fiegrsonn.” She went on. “We’ll assume they’re working for either The Misericorde or Levaunt, but beyond that they’re just another environmental factor. I’ll investigate some possibilities, but it doesn’t change your orders in the slightest. It’s just one more thing for you two not to screw up.” The Lightbringer studied me for a long time in silence then, focusing on my blank, milky eyes, then pulled a hood up over her head and nodded tersely at Baen. “Get her eyes covered up.” She said, nodding in my direction. “You’re about as a subtle as a midday parade.”