Farthow dropped off of the horse and pulled Dem to a sitting position on the street. He was conscious, but swooning, and gripped his head with his hands.
“Are you alright man?! Open your eyes!” Farthow held up his oil lamp and saw swift blinking.
“Which way did they go?”
“East. Probably toward the harbor.”
“What’s our status?”
“I caught up with Colby. They figured out independently that passage was booked on a cargo ship. Some freebooter from Golice.”
“Yes, you reek of it.”
“You and that woman’s man joke at the wrong times,” Dem said as he struggled to his feet.
“If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry.” Farthow lead the man back to his horse. “Let’s get you on and get you to a doctor, a proper one.”
“You mean an apostate.”
“Of course. I don’t want you dying of a skull bleed.”
“Thoughtful, but what about our quarry?” Dem groaned as he was pushed up into the saddle.
“I’ll catch up to them. I think this fellow has been here before, so I have a few ideas where to find him.”
“What if you don’t find him?”
“Then we’ll be in a spot of trouble, won’t we?” Farthow shrugged as he led the horse by the bridle, running alongside to get the beast into a slow trot. “Maybe we’ll have to pluck the girl from Vindrel if that happens.”
Charlotte dropped her bag and bent over, breathing heavily and waiting for the ache in her side to dull. They had slowed to a walk for what seemed like miles, but the run had winded her thoroughly. She took a deep breath, and caught herself nearly gagging from the smell of the sewage still clinging to the hem of her skirts. Rone, showing no signs of exertion from the flight, pounded on the heavy wooden door again.
“Damn it Getty! I know you’re in there!” He rasped. Even with the tone of a whisper his voice carried in the empty courtyard.
A board slid back revealing a peep-hole. Dim light flickered in the room beyond. A small square mirror appeared, revealing deep set dark eyes.
“Thought I was rid of you. My debt was paid with your slave.”
“Not too many around here know me as Getty.”
Rone grumbled. “Well, you have the opportunity now to turn those tables.”
The mirror shifted its angle. “Who’s the girl?”
Charlotte looked up and met the eyes, which narrowed on her.
“So that’s the rub.” The mirror disappeared and the eyes themselves appeared. “I’ll probably never get to collect on this debt, will I?”
They heard a scraping sound as the door was unbarred and opened, revealing a small room cluttered with books. A desk overflowing with papers sat against one wall, and a small passage opened into a sitting room with an iron stove. The eyes in the door belonged to a lanky older man, clean shaven with grey hair tied back. He wore a light coat over pants, but was barefoot. He had a pistol in his right hand.
“What exactly do you need at this hour? I can’t imagine it’s another forgery.”
“We just need to sit for a few hours. We’ll be out of here before dawn.”
The old man chewed his lip. “So the guard might be busting down my door, is that it?”
Getty sighed and walked to the sitting room. Rone put his pack down and nodded for Charlotte to follow. Getty sat down in one of four chairs. Beside it was a tall pile of books, with plenty of papers stacked between. A tea kettle sat on the stove, not yet whistling. Rone collapsed into one of the chairs and sighed.
Charlotte stood for a long moment looking at the remaining chairs, then sat down carefully in one of them. She buried her face in her hands and began to cry softly. Rone held out his hand to rub her back, but hesitated, let it hover for a moment, and withdrew it. She lifted her head up and wiped her tears, then fixed her face into a serious and relaxed stare.
Rone looked to Getty. “Sorry, things have been rough.”
“I can tell. I have a fresh pot brewing here. You’re welcome to the tea, but if you need rest, I have that extra bedroom up the stairs.”
Rone shook his head. “I don’t think I’ll be sleeping tonight, but I’ll gladly take some space to change clothes.”
Getty nodded as the pot began to whistle.