My arm ached as I worked it back into its sling. The healers had done their work, but the soreness hadn’t quite passed. I’d been reassured that while the dislocation wouldn’t leave any lasting damage the fractures could impact me permanently if I didn’t give myself the time I needed to recover. It was a warning I had taken seriously – I needed the rest and I couldn’t allow Tatianna to jeopardise my future.
It had gotten dry over the last few days, much to my relief, the heavy rain giving way to an endless drizzle and finally subsiding entirely into afternoons of pleasant heat. I had always thought it an old wives’ tale that broken bones hurt worse in the damp, but the warm sea breeze wafting in through my cabin’s open window gave some testament to the fable.
I disliked the smell of the sea and cared even less for the pungent vapours that floated in from Lion’s Arch’s harbour and its insufferably loud inhabitants, both sentient and otherwise, but it had been tolerable during my recovery. I feared I was becoming used to this wretched city’s filth.
For all that and the endless drumming of the sea against the hull, I was almost as comfortable as I had been in the manor. The Amarress was as large as The Cloven Maiden had been, and I had found it pleasantly steady in the water. Somewhat to my surprise, I had been given a cabin that was almost pleasing – not quite worthy of a captain, let alone someone of my true station, but a successful merchant might have considered it luxurious.
Given Tianne’s attitude, I had expected her to have holed me up in some tiny cubicle, but by the first morning I realised she was doing what she could to keep me confined in a more subtle way. Had the lightbringer ordered me into some dank corner of the ship, I knew I’d have spent as much time as possible out of it where I might have caught the eye of interested parties.
More than a few forces in the city were looking for Baen and I, and it would not be difficult for them to obtain solid descriptions of our appearance. Twice the Lionguard had come aboard, and twice Tianne had dealt with them without once dropping her cover or making it seem like she was anything more than the wealthy merchant wife, owner of The Amarress. The recent string of unusual activity including the sinking of a ship in the harbour, the witnesses chattering about a monster in the streets, the burning of an absent merchant’s manor house, and the deaths of some of their own had the Lionguard on high alert. They were looking for someone to blame, and it didn’t surprise me in the slightest that Tianne hadn’t simply revealed her identity to them – conflict between the city and Order wasn’t something she wanted to encourage.
I had seen Fotti, Syman, and Laissa only once through the eyes of their guards when I’d wandered a little too far into the depths of the ship and they’d come into my range. The three survivors of The Covenant’s crew remained imprisoned below decks, and though Baen had gone to speak with them several times I’d decided to keep my distance. I didn’t know how they felt about me, and I didn’t particularly care, but it was a potential conflict I’d rather avoid. I did ask Tianne what was going to be done with them, curiosity winning over my apathy, but she’d merely shrugged and told me she hadn’t decided yet.
The lightbringer seemed constantly preoccupied, and it rapidly became apparent that her frequent complaints about the Order being shorthanded were more than just professional whining. I frequently saw nondescript citizens of the city appear and disappear from the ship at the most unusual hours of night. Whisper Agents, I assumed, dozens of them, all handled by Tianne and I understood the operational hierarchy within the Order well enough to know that there should be less than half that number under her direct supervision.
Generally, the only time the lightbringer had gone out of her way to speak to me was when she was telling me to keep out of sight or, as happened often, instructing me to go over my report again with some underling of hers. Most questions concerned what I had seen and learned of the Undermarket, the pirate operation, and, of course, The Misericorde herself. There was an equal degree of interest in her supposed ingeniously organised network and her apparently unprecedented powers as a necromancer. The latter, it turned out, had come as a complete surprise to the Order.
More than the rest, I found that topic to be an unpleasant one. I’d have to explain again and again what I had witnessed regarding Tatianna’s transformation, her power, and her abilities in combat. I went over the discovery of Fiegrsonn’s corpse, the massacre of Levaunt’s crew, our attempts to stop the necromancer’s transformed state as we chased her through the city, Ingesbror’s death, and my own humiliating defeat a dozen times. It left a sour taste in my mouth, and when an especially persistent asuran agent pushed the issue I came within a breath of threatening the smug wretch with violence.
Where Tatianna herself had been taken I did not know. The Amarress was large enough that I couldn’t see through every eye aboard the ship at once, but from the few times I had wandered through the vessel I saw no sign that she’d been smuggled aboard. Given that it had been days since Halleston had carted her off, I suspected she’d already been brought to whatever secret destination they’d had in mind for her “reeducation”, as Tianne put it.
I wasn’t sure if I’d ever meet the necromancer again, but since the Order was planning on raising her to prominence in Lion’s Arch it seemed a distinct possibility. A leader in the underworld, just as she had been before, but this time with the Master of Whispers pulling the strings. But she would never forget, no matter if she played along with their game, and I strongly suspected that Tatianna Aurcattio was the sort to hold a grudge.
She and I had both been cheated out of a true resolution, and I doubted she would let that go any more than my dreams and involuntary fantasies had. I dreamt of her, imagined what our reunion might be like and would wake up in the dead of night wondering if I could even begin to match her in the head on confrontation I ached for.
In a moment of weakness I had asked Baen if she felt the same way, if she wanted to finish the fight as badly as I did. She’d shaken her head and berated me for thinking that this was a story. Real life, she’d explained in that infuriatingly sardonic tone of hers, didn’t always have cut and dried endings. Sometimes things just happened.
But it wasn’t enough for me. I couldn’t live knowing that Tatianna was out there and more than a match for me. I needed more. I needed to face her again. I needed a resolution to these memories.
Tatianna screaming as she tackled the Lionguard to save me. Tatianna withdrawing her bloody first from Coalpaw’s ribcage. Tatianna leaning in, her breath on my lips. Tatianna closing her hand on my throat as I lay, helpless, threatening to snap my neck.
I felt a dash of irritation as the voice interrupted my musings. I had almost forgotten about the cabin girl that had been assigned to act as my eyes. She was young and apparently somewhat enamored by the idea of serving an actual noblewoman – a fact that I was surprised Tianne had decided to share with the waif. She’d taken to her tasks well enough once things had been explained to her, and I had to admit it was pleasant to once again have someone waiting on me, even if it were a peasant child rather than a trained lady like Maei had been. “It’s bright out, milady.” She looked pointedly out the window, where the gulls cried out over a sunlit sea, and held up the off white parasol.
“It is, isn’t it?” I said, more to myself than anyone else, rising slowly to my feet from where I had been sitting on the bed and inspecting myself in her eyes. The light washing in through the porthole window made my pale face look almost sickly, and the bruises on my cheek and throat were still a dull yellow-brown. It wasn’t what I had hoped for – a little worn, a little less than I what I should have been, but I was healing, and tired was better than finished.
She led the way, passing through the door and opening the parasol against the afternoon’s glare before turning back to let me use her eyes.
I breathed out slowly.