Thomas Farrier had a natural air of command which made others obey him before they even paused to think. Irritatingly, Llelas had fallen into that trap himself. He had not even questioned why Thomas involved himself until they were on the road to Jenesetta.
Llelas knew Thomas did not suspect him in this mess, despite evidence to the contrary. There was no logical reason for him to want Ellis dead. Therefore, in Thomas’ mind it could not be a possibility. Thomas would not have yet worked out the uglier possibilities; how it could have been laid at his door after all. Thomas would not have heard the rumors.
Thomas came along to keep him in check. Even without instruction, he did Carmeyon Dantreon’s bidding. Thomas would cling like a tick every step of the way. He was that tenacious sort, much like Ellis.
His presence had its advantages, though. Thomas had hired a private compartment on the train. He would not have thought of that himself, nor did he have the money to pay for it. Money did have its uses, and Thomas Farrier came from a wealthy family.
Llelas stared out the window at the early dawn light, suppressing a sigh of frustration. They would be crossing the Laksitya River Gorge Bridge soon. He had never seen it. A turn in the tracks supposedly allowed passengers on the right side of the train a full view of the bridge as they approached it. Llelas kept his gaze fixed out the window, hoping to catch the sight.
Sandrine slipped away on either side now, and Llelas could only look out the window. They had passed by Stone Point Station before dawn—the station the Sandrine Trust had arranged to have built—not stopping. No traffic there yet. He had not even the chance of a glimpse of it anyway, since it lay on the other side of the train.
The green lowlands stretched away to the south into North Mornacassan, Thomas’ home. Thomas slept on, though, pragmatic in all things. Of course, Thomas had seen his home only a few months ago.
I am starved for the sight of Sandrine. Llelas sighed. It had been eight years now since he left.
They would still have four hours into Perisen once they crossed the bridge. Llelas cast a glance forward to see if the bridge was near, but then closed his eyes. I have time.
Ellis was always the easiest for him to find. She was waking the other girl who now shared her room, a light hand to the shoulder. Ellis wore another old nightshirt, a man’s style, with her hair loose. Llelas suspected it never quite dried. The few times he remembered having touched her hair, it always felt cool and damp.
The girl Merielle woke with a start, likely not accustomed to rising after dawn. She wore a more feminine nightdress, although it too looked worn and yellowed. Her pale hair was braided back, and her wide-set hazel eyes seemed bewildered. She did not recognize where she had woken. A substantial change in status, going from a housemaid to a companion, but Jerin’s family would still never allow him to marry her.
Llelas turned his thoughts north. Oddly, Lieutenant Sidreiyan already rode toward Jenesetta as if demons rode behind him, his horse lathered. He could not have received the message yet, Llelas reckoned, so it must be fortunate coincidence.
Sovre paced about his office. Books cluttered the office, piles of legal texts Llelas knew he would never understand. Sovre rubbed a hand across his dark face and leaned against the desk.
The Duke of Perisen still lay abed. A maid slipped in to build up his fire and then backed out again. Anton Marisi slept on, oblivious to the danger that had just walked in and out of his room, foolishly certain that none of his servants would ever harm him.
Hessien Marisi was neither asleep nor awake, being in the place between where only pertret could take him now. He laid tangled with the body of a woman—more a girl actually—his eyes staring out into that place where dreams did not follow. Llelas remembered that seductive calm. He had been there often enough himself. Soon or late, it would catch up to Hessien.
The Duke of Sandrine, Llelas’ father, slept in a small apartment within the ducal palace in Perisen, the poor relation kept in submission. Llelas watched him for a long time as he slept. Not opium this time, just sleep. Evidently Anton Marisi had decided the opium dens were too dangerous and had sequestered him in the Marisi palace. Llelas dreaded what he saw in his father. His hair looked whiter than before, only a few patches of dark left. At fifty-two, he was still a handsome man, the premature whiteness of his hair only accenting the olive tone of his skin. His lips had a blue tint that spoke of a weakening heart, though, and his breathing labored even in sleep.
Somewhere in this palace, Grandfather is hiding. Llelas sought Grandfather in his mind, thinking of how he always recognized the aras. The Old Man smells of earth, like a garden after a summer rain. His thoughts run like a maze, twisted, and intertwined. He calls me little boy.
In a white-paneled room, a lone chambermaid crouched to light a fire in the grate—a sitting room, perhaps, or a lady’s office. She rose and dusted off her gray skirt briskly, then picked up the coal scuttle. She had olive skin and bright blue eyes, her hair hidden under a lace edged cap. She looked to be only about sixteen. Aelis.
The chambermaid paused in the middle of the room and then slowly turned to look to where Llelas’ spirit-self waited. “Little boy,” she whispered. “Is that you?”
“Grandfather?” he began to ask.
Thomas leaned back against the seat with his legs crossed at the ankles, wondering when his companion would wake. Llelas dreamed, a sad frown flitting across his face in his sleep. Thomas reached across and touched his shoulder. When that failed to wake him, Thomas grabbed the shoulder of his coat and shook him.
Llelas’ eyes snapped open. The immediacy of his focus made Thomas wonder if the other man had been asleep at all, or merely ignoring him. “Bridge,” he offered.
Llelas’ eyes immediately went to the window to search the road ahead.
Thomas had to concede the bridge was impressive. It rose out of the trees, spanning the Laksitya River Gorge, a slender curve of cast iron supporting the trusses of the rail line. It was painted a deep red, something he’d not realized when he saw etchings of it in the papers. He must have skimmed over that part of the description.
After a moment he sat back, having seen enough of Jerin’s amazing bridge. Llelas watched it a while longer, and then turned his eyes back on Thomas.
“You cannot go where I am to go,” Llelas told him.
Llelas had started this argument on the road from Amiestrin, trying the same tact over and over, as if hoping to wear him down.
“We’ve had this argument,” Thomas reminded him. “Don’t bother trying to convince me.”
Llelas fell silent, probably devising a way to ditch him, short of bodily violence. He wore his battered old civilian clothes, but Thomas didn’t have any. Those he still owned were at his father’s house in North Mornacassan, and he’d grown since then. His old shirts and jackets would barely fit. He hoped Uncle Gabriel could lend him something less conspicuous than a guardsman’s uniform.
He’d made himself a different person while he lived in Perisen, taking on a new name and identity—Kadahn. Many people had even believed him to be Cantreidian by birth. Llelas fidgeted with his worn coat, worrying at one of the bone buttons. The cuffs had frayed, making it seem as if he were destitute. It made an excellent disguise for a man planning to visit the lower end of the Cantreidian Quarter.
A man like Thomas would know the upper streets of Perisen, not the city’s darker areas where he would have to go. It worried Llelas. Thomas was too pure to be walking the back streets of the Cantreidian quarter of Perisen.
He would almost rather have Jerin with him. Jerin would not understand much of what he saw. Thomas would understand everything. Thomas would comprehend every slur thrown at them. He would know exactly what the men and women in the streets sold. Llelas did not want to be responsible for corrupting Thomas Farrier. Then again, Jerin would want to stop and help every person he saw. Thomas had sense enough to realize the futility of that. Jerin could not help his nature; he would see these people as his responsibility. Llelas chased his worries about his cousin around in his mind until the train pulled into Perisen hours later.
A wind pulled the smell up from the river, a dank, fetid smell, the sewage problem still uncorrected, Llelas decided. The city’s sewers dumped into the river and caught in eddies that kept the poisonous air and filth near the poorest district of town. Anyone who could afford to moved farther into the city. Soot darkened the walls here and the factories continued to belch out more. Not the best location for visitors to see as their first sight of Perisen, he thought.
“I’ve never been down to this station before,” Thomas said.
No, Llelas thought, he has never been near this part of the city.
Thomas stepped down onto the planks of the platform, drawing attention; guardsmen usually rode horses into town. One who rode the new railway must be either important or wealthy. Llelas knew better than to think his own anonymity would last. He pulled his hat down over his forehead anyway.
A coach waited for them, Thomas having sent ahead the planned time of their arrival. Thomas got in, and Llelas followed. It was probably the best-sprung coach in which he had ever ridden. Of course, no Farrier could be expected to ride in anything meaner, so he should not be surprised. Fortunately, it was a plain vehicle, free of adornment that would identify the owners. Looking at the leather of the seats and the sheen of the wood, Llelas decided it was made for quality, not flash. The Duke of Perisen would never be caught in such a unadorned vehicle.
They made their way through the crowded streets, slowing as they rounded Green Park. The fashionable made their early calls at this hour and would stop in the middle of the road to talk, causing snarls in the traffic. The driver made good time, though, going around the edge of the park and then down a side road. Llelas resisted the urge to look outside, wondering if they drove down High Street or if they had turned onto Dayes Street.
The ducal palace was on High Street, and Llelas decided they moved away from it now. They did not go far, though. They stopped before a large house in the better part of Dayes Street, which ran all the way down into the slums. Not one he’d noticed before, large and expensive, but not in any way standing out from its neighbors. The red brick façade looked much like the others. An architect had probably designed all these houses at once.
Thomas jumped down from the carriage almost before it stopped, holding the door for Llelas. He thanked the coachman by name, and then the carriage pulled away, leaving them on the steps of number 507.
Llelas followed Thomas up, wondering what it must be like to walk up these stairs as if he owned the place. Someday he would own a decrepit, half-burned out manor house, out of which his father had sold every stick of furniture. Compared to this, the prospect seemed grim.
An older man opened the door for them, giving Llelas a careful inspection as if he considered tossing him back into the street. The man glanced at Thomas, his eyes accusing him of making friends in low places
“Kalana,” Thomas said, “this is Llelas Sevireiya. He’ll be staying here while I’m in town. Mr. Sevireiya, this is Kalana Kitina, our House Master.”
Kitina looked Llelas over again, still displeased. “Gabriel is working in his study. You may go on down there, Thomas.”
Thomas shot Llelas a perplexed look, likely uncertain what to do with him. Llelas gave him a smile in return. “I will not steal anything.”
Thomas ignored that. “If there are any arrangements you need to make, Kalana can take care of them for you,” he promised and disappeared down the hall.
Llelas raised an eyebrow. The House Master continued to watch him. Kalana Kitina was a large man of obvious Cantreidian birth, making it clear where Thomas gained his easy command of Cantros. The coachman had spoken it as well. The Farriers evidently hired Cantreidians, something many well-to-do households would not.
“Would it be possible,” Llelas asked in Cantros, “to send a message to someone in the Cantreidian quarter?”
“Could I then have something with which to write, to send a few notes?”
The big dark man led him into a small parlor and showed him a desk with ample writing supplies as if their guests always asked for such things.
“Also,” Llelas added before Kitina slipped out of the room, “some people might come seeking me whom I would advise you not to admit to the house, particularly the Dukes of Sandrine and Perisen.”
Kitina gave him a withering glance, as if to imply that Llelas could not possibly attract such visitors.
“My father and my cousin,” Llelas offered.
Kitina considered him for a moment longer, weighing his words, a frown flitting across his dark face. Now the man would not look at him as merely noxious and shabbily dressed, but as a problem.
Which I am. “I am dangerous to this house, Mr. Kitina.”
Kitina inclined his head to one side in acknowledgment.
“I will do my best to see that no harm comes to Mr. Farrier,” Llelas said, “but I do not think he will allow me to leave.”
Kitina gave a half-bow. “What Thomas wants to do, he will do,” he said finally and withdrew from the room.
Someone all too familiar with Thomas Farrier’s stubbornness. Kitina had probably been with Thomas’ family a long time. He spoke of Thomas not as a master, but more a boy he helped raise.
Llelas settled at the desk and began to write. His letter to Denrisa only warned him that he’d arrived in town; Sovre’s uncle deserved that courtesy. Llelas doubted he would have time for social calls on this visit. The letter to Orana took more delicacy. Sovre would end up paying for Orana’s services as long as Llelas stayed in the city.
Llelas stared at the next clean sheet, wondering what he could possibly say to his father.
The carpet in the room was Cantreidian, a very expensive import, tasteful and subtly patterned, as were the settees. He reached a hand down and touched the carpet, pleased by the silky feel of the wool. In the Versh style, they probably walked on this with shoes on, a regrettable habit. A carpet this fine was made to be felt by one’s feet.
A crystal vase on the desk held a bouquet of spring flowers, hothouse grown, he decided. The crystal came from Kelnist Makers in Comhi. He recognized the distinctive floral pattern. Again, very tasteful and very expensive. Llelas hoped Kitina watched the people whom he let into this house.
He ran a hand over the mantel, watching the burled oak mantle clock’s pendulum swing back and forth. When Thomas walked into the room a few minutes later, Llelas was still staring at the clock. He had thought of nothing yet to write to his father.
“Kalana says you needed to write a message,” Thomas said quietly. “Will you need it delivered as well?”
Thomas had changed clothing. He looked strange. It took Llelas a moment to recall he had never seen Thomas Farrier out of uniform. The younger man still wore his uniform boots, but most people would not recognize those as the Guard’s pattern.
“Actually, I wrote two messages,” he answered. “Could they be delivered, or should I do so myself?”
“Kalana will take care of it.”
Thomas was annoyed, his nose white around the edges. Llelas indicated the notes on the desk, each with an address written on the back, but not sealed. That would save Kitina the effort of prying them open.
Thomas picked up the letters, not glancing at the names. “Kalana doesn’t need to be told, Llelas, whom to admit to this house. He can’t accept orders from you, so please refrain from giving them.”
Llelas smiled. He had expected Kitina to repeat the message. “It was not an order. It was advice. If my cousin comes here, he will try to marry at least one of your sisters. I promise you do not want that. If my father comes here, he will steal from you. And you do not want to meet my former friends.”
“Isn’t that what we’re here to do?” Thomas asked in a colorless voice. Without waiting for an answer, he left the room, taking the letters out to the waiting and likely eavesdropping Kitina. He returned after a moment. “So, in which order should we approach these witnesses?”
Llelas settled onto one of the settees. “Verdriana Canata first,” he answered, naming the boot maker. “He is the most capable of fleeing.”
Thomas remained standing. “So shall we go, then?”
“No. Verdriana sews in the afternoon. If we were to go to his home now, we would not find him there.”
Thomas simply continued to look at him. “Where would we find him now?”
“This time of morning? We could tour the whorehouses. I do not know which he is favoring at the moment.”
For just a second, Thomas seemed shocked. “So we have to wait?”
“If we are at his home when he arrives, he will flee. We must allow him time to get comfortable there. Three o’clock,” Llelas decided.
“Then we should go to the jeweler’s,” Thomas said in a reasonable tone.
Thomas could find the jeweler on his own, Llelas knew. Elerin and Sons was a reputable firm and their address could be found in any newspaper in which they took out advertisements. “If we go to the jeweler’s, it could get about that I am here. I do not wish to warn Canata.”
“Then I will take advantage of the time we do have and rest,” Thomas said after a moment. “Kalana can take you up to one of the guest rooms.”
Llelas calculated the time his stalling bought. Four hours. That would give Orana four hours to arrange what he needed.
The younger man left the small sitting room, and Llelas followed him out into the hallway. Kitina loomed just outside the door. Llelas inclined his head, a gesture of respect among the Cantreidians and Kitina smiled, showing white, but uneven, teeth.
Kitina gestured for him to follow and Llelas capitulated, seeing no point in antagonizing the man. They went up to the second floor and down the hallway to a handsomely appointed room with a large cherry-wood bed and brass wall fixtures Llelas recognized as gas lamps.
Kitina paused, filling the doorway. “Is it true that the Duke had you arrested?” he asked, recalling an old scandal.
Llelas smiled. “Only jailed. I was never charged.”
“It is good, then, that you had friends,” Kitina observed, then closed the door on his way out.
The door was not locked but might as well have been. He had no chance of escaping from this house—not without Thomas knowing.