Rone stepped through the small kitchen into the sitting room and launched himself backward, flinging Charlotte to the ground behind him. Sitting in one of the chairs facing him, drinking a cup of tea, was the man from the inn.
Rone scrambled, dropping his bag and trying desperately to pull his pistol or his dagger and cursing himself for thinking he was safe. He found his pistol in his belt, but as he drew, the hand of Getty settled on his arms and chest.
“No need for that! Nobody is here to shoot!” He said. A gun barrel popped out from beside Rone’s hip. Charlotte was kneeling, the long gun shouldered and aimed at Farthow.
The man held up his left hand in a gesture of surrender. “I’m here to help! I give you my word.”
“I know you booked passage on a Golician ship bound for the Northmarch. The captain is a man named Johnny, and old freebooter, though he will certainly claim otherwise. That ship is leaving at dawn, yes?”
Rone frowned at him.
“Tell your girl to put her gun down, by the dreamer!” Getty said.
“Don’t shoot unless you need to,” Rone said, glancing down at Charlotte.
“Perhaps I should give myself a more proper introduction. I am Farthow Bitterwheat, of clan Bitterwheat in the Southern Greenbacks. I give you my word that I am not here to do harm to you, Rone Stonefield. I do work for Count Harec, I swear by the dreamer that I will help you, and the Lady Charlotte, escape from Sarthius Catannel, if I can.”
“Any man can name a clan,” Rone said.
“But can any man name you, I wonder? I can draw the runes for you, but that would still require trust. I am Somniatel, and that means my word is true.” Farthow leaned forward. “Now, I have named what I know, which means others know it. One man in particular, Vindrel, who I think you know, probably also knows it.”
“How are you going to help?” Charlotte said. She had lowered her gun and worked herself back to standing.
“I have a few things in mind, but you must trust me,” Farthow said. He stood up and put his tea down. He held his left forward, palm up. “The armed man is to be feared.”
“But the open hand is to be held,” Rone said, and completed the other half of the ritual, pushing the back of his left hand against Farthow’s palm. “I will trust you today. May oblivion take you if you lie.”
Farthow nodded. He looked to Charlotte. “Now that the unpleasantness is behind us, let us consider our predicament.”
“You have another ship for us?” Rone asked.
Farthow shook his head. “The count cannot afford to be that overt. I think if we can get you on your own ship and get it out to sea that would be best. There might be a corporate liner going someplace else tomorrow, but I have no idea without heading down to the docks myself, which of course I cannot do.”
“You have anything in mind?” Rone said.
“It’ll be trouble,” Farthow said.
“No different than tonight, then,” Charlotte said.
Farthow cocked an eye to Charlotte. “Rumor carries that you’re from the deep country and used to shooting and hunting.”
“I am,” Charlotte said.
Farthow smiled. “Then perhaps I have a good rifle for you. Better than that old smoothbore. Should be handy.”
“What’s a rifle?” Charlotte said.
“It’s a type of gun, technically forbidden of course, used a great deal by sharpshooters and the like.” Farthow walked to the corner and produced a flintlock long gun with a heavy steel barrel. “This belongs to my best man, Dem, but I can buy him another.” He handed it to Charlotte. “If you feel the muzzle you will notice something. Those grooves are called rifling, and they’re rather hard to make. They twist up the barrel, and when the bullet is getting pushed out it causes it to spin, which stabilizes it. You’ll need a different sort of ball. I have some.”
Charlotte frowned as she looked the gun over. “You said it was forbidden; why is someone working for the count able to keep something like that? Wouldn’t the count be angry?”
Rone chuckled. “Despite being a noble lady you seem to know precious little about the technology trade.”
“Despite your condescension I have yet to be answered.”
Rone looked down with a smile. “In the world of politics, faith is nothing. Power is everything. Apostasy can make a lord more powerful.”
“When he can get away with it,” Farthow said. He smiled. “Of course, I make sure we always get away with it.” He shrugged. “Everyone considers me a heretic anyway. Now, you think you can handle that?”