come to love Davillon as well. And to see the two of them at odds ate away at him, body and soul.

He was a large man, but far narrower of girth now than when he'd arrived. His thinning hair and thickening beard, previously an even salt-and-pepper mix, was now entirely gray save for a smattering of dark patches. It seemed to him that even his white cassock of office had grown dim and discolored, though he knew, in his less emotional moments, that this could only be a trick of the mind.

Bishop Sicard kissed the tips of his fingers and held them up toward the largest of the stained glass windows, then spun on his heel and moved toward the nearest stairway. His footsteps echoed back to him as he plunged downward, a rhythmic counterpoint to the rapid beating of his heart. Through a heavy doorway and along plush carpeted halls he strode, into the small suite of chambers that were his own home here in the basilica.

Here, he paused for only a few moments, long enough to swap out his cassock and miter for the simple tunic and trousers of a commoner-a sort of outfit he'd had little cause to wear in over a decade-and to gather a satchel of yellowed parchments and old, cracked, leather-bound books.

He did not pause to question what he was about to do. Those concerns he had made peace with long ago.

Then he was off once more, through the halls and out into the Davillon streets. A number of sentinels-both Church soldiers and City Guard-stood watch around the property, just another testament to the growing rift between the sacred and the secular. Yet these men and women, though skilled at their duties, were watching for vandals and other angry threats from without; not a one of them thought anything strange of an old man leaving midnight mass, assuming they even noticed him at all.

Once clear of the basilica, Sicard took a moment to orient himself. In the months that he'd been here, he'd done precious little traveling on his own. Always with an entourage, usually inside a coach, he'd had scant reason to learn the layout of the city's streets. He'd certainly never traversed the city in the dark, alone.


A frisson of worry coiled around Sicard's spine like a hungry snake, but he swiftly shook it off. He'd been to the house once before, had memorized the route. He wouldn't get lost, not so long as he paid attention to his surroundings.

As for robbers or other hazards of the city? Well, either he'd make it to the Dunbrick District or he wouldn't; either the gods approved of his actions, or they didn't.

And either the rather disreputable individuals with whom he was supposed to meet would keep their promise of safe treatment, or they wouldn't.

After the relative silence of the cathedral, the hustle and bustle of the city, even so late, was something of a shock. Scattered merchants carried goods across town, making ready for the next morning's custom; somewhat less legitimate vendors hawked stolen, illicit, or simply socially unacceptable wares from dim venues. Sicard grinned briefly in morbid amusement, wondering what some of the dealers, fences, and streetwalkers would think if they knew they were propositioning the city's new bishop.

His route took him only briefly by the Market District or other crowded quarters, so he was bothered only sporadically by Davillon's nocturnal population, troubled only momentarily by the stale sweat, dried horse manure, and other lingering odors of the past day.

Sicard thought, as he walked, of William de Laurent. The archbishop had been one of his teachers and mentors in the seminary, and-though they'd never been that close-a friend. He'd survived a lifetime of laboring on behalf of the Church; two wars; half a dozen attempts on his life; and decades of the political infighting that plagued the clergy despite their best efforts to squelch it.

He'd survived everything the world could throw at him, until Davillon.

William would never have approved of what had happened in Davillon since he died; of this, Sicard was absolutely certain. He could only hope that the venerable archbishop would have understood what Sicard had to do to make things right.

The house, when he reached it, was-well, a house. Old but sturdy, small but comfortable, with once-fine paint only slowly starting to peel from the facade. A mundane, commoner's home in a mundane, commoner's neighborhood, it was one of many properties the Church owned throughout Davillon-one that had been left to them in the last will and testament of a devout parishioner, back when the city was on better terms with its shepherds.

A quick glance either way was enough to convince Sicard that he hadn't attracted any undue attention, and then he was across the street and through the door. The carpet and the sofas were thick with dust, save for those spots where the small group awaiting his arrival had seated themselves.

He didn't explain himself; if they were here, they already knew why. He didn't introduce himself; he'd never heard their names, and he had zero intention of telling them his. No, Bishop Sicard removed the old parchments from his satchel-parchments that were very clearly not liturgical or sacred in nature-and then, after a simple, “Does everyone know what's required of them?” began to read.


The chiming in the distance, resounding from the intricate clock tower atop the city's Hall of Judgment, informed Widdershins that her long wait had finally ended at four hours past midnight.

Her hopes that the evening might go even vaguely according to plan ended perhaps four minutes after that.

“Here we go, Olgun,” she announced in a whisper, rising from a crouch and taking a moment to stretch a few stiffening limbs. “Remember,” she continued-even though he already knew all of this, perhaps reminding herself of the objective-“we're just looking for loose coin. The marquis was certain to have money on hand in case something went wrong at the ball. Should be more than enough to cover…” She trailed off, uncomfortable giving voice to her current problems.

With nothing more than a single deep breath, Widdershins broke into a sprint. Her feet came down with an impossible speed and grace on the shingles of the roof and made not a sound. Thanks to both her own ingrained talent and the aid of her divine partner, a cat made of cloud would have surely been louder. The edge of the roof came up fast, frighteningly fast, and Widdershins didn't so much as slow. A gazelle-like leap, propelled by what felt like invisible fingers interlaced beneath her feet, and she soared across the gap to the next building.

Where she landed with a faint scuffle and a brief stumble-neither sufficient to draw the slightest attention, but enough to make the young thief blush in humiliation.

“Wow,” she whispered. “Maybe I'm a little out of practice.” Then, “If I get even the slightest hint of ‘I told you so,’ I'm trading you in for a boyfriend!

“What? I don't know where. Look how many gods Galice has! I'm sure there's a bazaar somewhere that trades in divinity. I just have to find-Oh, figs.”

From her new vantage, on a rooftop nearer the northern end of the property, Widdershins could see what might otherwise have escaped her notice. A band of figures-perhaps six or seven of them, little more than silhouettes in the shadows-were scaling the outer wall of the Ducarte estate. They were good, very good; if Widdershins hadn't already been a master of all the tricks herself, and had her night vision not been ever so slightly enhanced by Olgun's power, she would have missed them.

And if they were that good, that stealthy, it could only mean one thing: She wasn't the only member of the so-called Finders' Guild planning to take advantage of Clarence Rittier's party.

“Olgun?” It was almost a whimper. “Things actually do go right for some people, yes? I mean, it's not just a foolish dream I have, is it?”

She was fairly certain that the god more or less shrugged inside her mind.

Widdershins's first instinct was just to leave. She had no real authority to make them go away; there were more of them than her; and she was somewhat unpopular with several factions within the community of Davillon's thieves, thanks to a minor misunderstanding some months ago that had resulted in the deaths of about a dozen Finders. It hadn't been her fault-not really-and the guild's leader, the enigmatic Shrouded Lord, had cleared her of

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