will all be bound to serve Four Moons House. To execute them will merely inflame their kinfolk to further rebellion. But if these discontented men drag their households into servitude with them, that will breed resentment among their own kin for their folly in fighting against the natural order and losing what freedom they have. With your permission, of course. They’re your subjects.”

“A wise course of action. That will make the radical agitators think twice.”

Blessed Tanit! His companion was the prince of Tarrant himself, the very man who ruled the principality centered around the city of Adurnam, on the Solent River, in northwestern Europa.

Really, I could think of no man I wanted to meet less than these two. As the soldiers mopped up the scene and the mansa and the prince sat in perfect amity at the center of the intersection, chatting about some man’s thwarted marriage prospects, I edged backward until I felt it safe to remove myself from the wall and hurry back to the alcove where Bee and Rory waited. I shoved in between them, trembling.

“What happened?” Bee whispered. “I heard shots. And then screams.”

“We have to backtrack. The mansa and the prince are with those soldiers.”

“Are they hunting for us? Does the mansa know we escaped?”

“I don’t think so. He said nothing of it. I still think his people won’t discover we’re gone until morning. Give me a moment.” I shut my eyes, the better to envision the map of Adurnam I carried in my head, with its winding streets, secluded alleys, and dangerous warrens.

“You’re shaking,” said Bee, putting an arm around me.

“Men just died. And it was a shock to see the mansa again. By law Four Moons House owns me. He has a legal right to recapture me. And if he catches us, he will find a way to own you, too.”

“I think we should go now while they’re busy eating the wounded and dying,” said Rory.

Bee stiffened. “You imbecile, we don’t eat people-”

“Hush. Rory’s right.” I stroked his arm, because he liked that, and he gave a rumbling sigh. “We need to go while they’re busy mopping up. I’ve got a better route. We’ll creep back to Old Temple and go along the river. We’ll be hard to follow if we cut through the goblin market.”

I slipped my cane back into its loop and picked up the bag. We crept back down the street as quickly as we could, but no scouts rode our way. If anyone inside the shuttered houses noted our passing, they called no alarm. Eventually we relaxed a little.

“Do you think these lawyers and radicals will really take us in?” Bee asked.

“We have to hope they will, Bee. I don’t know where else we can go otherwise.”

“I’m very cold, Cat,” said Rory. “I just want a warm fire and a nap.”

“Are there fires that aren’t warm?” muttered Bee as she strode along. Clearly, fear and anxiety had wound her tight. Even with our greater height and longer strides, Rory and I had trouble keeping up. “Winters that aren’t cold?”

“Men who don’t fall in love with your magnificent beauty at first sight?” I added, knowing she could not resist the bait.

I felt her grin by the way she struck a counterblow. “Why, dearest, I don’t think I’m the one who got fallen in love with at first sight.”

“I don’t need reminding about that!”

“What? Didn’t you like him a little in the end? Aesthetically, he is very handsome, despite the impressively arrogant personality. And you are the one who kissed him, after all.”

Fortunately, the night covered my blush. “I really don’t know what to think about him, Bee. And furthermore, I am not interested in having this conversation right now or possibly ever.”

“Hush! You two are so loud.”

Because Rory was right, we kept walking and stopped talking, but the exchange had restored Bee’s usual bloody-minded cheerfulness. She even dawdled in the long promenade of the goblin market, examining the stalls of knives. By the time the cocks crowed, we had staggered onto Enterprise Road, where all kinds of foreigners, radicals, technologists, and solicitors lived. Unlike in the other districts of Adurnam, every street and even the humblest lanes in this neighborhood were lit by gas lamps. Their glow illuminated the predawn traffic of men and trolls coming out of and going into coffeehouses and unlocking offices. A few cowled goblins hurried away to burrow into their daylight dens. A woman opening up a shop paused to watch Rory saunter past, for he had the kind of self-satisfied grace that attracted the eye, and he knew it and liked it.

“Stop smiling at people! You’ll draw attention to us!” I muttered.

“I see men looking at Bee, and even at you,” he retorted. “Why shouldn’t I get looks, too?”

Fortunately I spotted Fox Close, a lane tucked away between a tavern and a coffeehouse. By the time we turned down the lane and reached the law offices, dawn had come and the gaslights were being shuttered for the day. We halted on the stoop to look up at a newly painted sign. Pin-perfect orange letters shone against a feathery brown backdrop: Godwik and Clutch.

Who would ever have thought that two dutiful daughters raised in a quiet Kena’ani merchant household would throw themselves on the mercy of trolls and radicals?

“I hope this works,” Bee muttered as we dropped the bags on the steps.

I plied the knocker. As we waited, I untangled my cane where it had gotten caught in a fold in my skirts.

The door opened. A troll stared at us. It was hard to know whether trolls looked more like birds or lizards. They stood tall and lanky on hind legs in a way that made me think of human-sized upright lizards, yet what looked like scales was a covering of tiny feathers. The way this one cocked his head first to one side and then to the other to get a good look at us with each eye also reminded me of a bird. He wore a jacket in the human style, and its drab brown cloth set off a truly spectacular scarlet-blue-and-black crest of feathers that ran from his upper spine to the crown of his head.

“May the day find you at peace,” I said hastily. “My name is Catherine Hassi Barahal. This is my cousin Beatrice. And my brother Roderic. We’re here to see Chartji. The solicitor.”

“You’re that one. Chartji warned me: ‘Let her in quickly shall she come standing at the door.’” He hopped back, startling Rory and Bee. Seeing the two bags and their brass clasps, he bent forward to look more closely first at the clasps and then at my cane as if he could see the sword hidden beneath the magic that concealed it in daylight. “Oo! Things! Shiny things!”

A male voice came from inside.

“Who’s at the door, Caith?” A strikingly attractive man stepped into view, wiping his hands on a grimy cloth. Seeing us, he grinned most enchantingly, as if his day had just become utterly delightful. “Catherine! And your charming cousin Beatrice. And another companion, I see.”

“My brother, Roderic.”

“Well met, indeed! Did you tell them to come in, Caith? Please, step inside at once and close the door.” He nodded at Rory as we hustled in. “I’m Brennan.”

As we walked down the main passage, he explained the young troll Caith’s complicated kinship relationship to the solicitor Chartji. He showed us into what had once been the sitting room. There we found Maester Godwik seated at a desk with pen in hand.

The old troll looked up at once, his vivid black-and-green crest raising and spreading as he saw me. “The Hassi Barahal in her mantle! What an exceptionally pleasant surprise. Let me crow on the rocks at sunrise! And this…the cousin, I presume. And…” He studied Rory, who looked like an ordinary young man with golden, innocent eyes and thick black hair twisted into a single long braid. “Interesting. I’ve not seen one like you before. Well met. Please enter our nest.”

There was one other person in the room, a bespectacled woman sorting among the pieces of a shattered printing press. She looked up, so surprised at Godwik’s words that it was obvious she hadn’t noticed us come in. Yet her smile seemed genuine. “Catherine!”

Brennan set our bags down in the room as the solicitor Chartji walked in behind him. Because Chartji was female, her scale-like feathers were as drab as Caith’s jacket, and the feathers of her crest were only one color, a bright yellow. She was carrying a bowl of water cupped in one ink-stained three-fingered hand. “I thought you might come! Drink first. That’s the proper way. Then we’ll talk.”

Their manner was so very encouraging that I began to allow myself to hope we had made the right decision to come here. As we passed around the bowl, each taking a sip of water in the traditional Mande custom of welcome, a knock rattled the door. Caith pattered away down the hall. I heard the door open.

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