- April 10, 2022
Raydorn: The War in the Black (Chapter 20)
“Some people can find their own way. Some people need to be pushed off the cliff.”
– Dynastan Ming of Susanna, 430 A.C.A.
“You kids are gonna love them,” Astrid said, easily heard across Lucy’s whole ship as she talked to the kids, “they have really cool fins, and shark teeth, fish mermaids are so-”
“They’re called shark mermaids!” Malum yelled from the opposite railing.
Astrid yelled back, “You can suck my dick!” then went to talk to the laughing kids as if nothing had happened.
Malum listened to her tell them about the shark mermaids that might be swimming under their boat before turning around. He looked out over the water as they enter the Icy Pearl Isles, still wading over the dark depths.
As they did, he noticed a black shadow move among the plateaus and the shining line that shined from it. Soon, another shined, and then another.
My shadows need another lesson in being inconspicuous, he thought himself, knowing that his assassins had just signaled his arrival. Sigma will be pleased to see me for approximately five minutes before I ruin it.
“Those were your assassins, weren’t they?” Quintus asked as he approached him from behind.
I like it better when I’m sneaking up on him.
Malum nodded his answer and looked back out over the sea as Quintus leaned against the railing beside him. Malum let the silence hang until he saw Quintus’s grin.
“Didn’t hear me coming?”
“I heard you come out the hatch,” Malum guessed.
Quintus wagged his finger at the assassin. “Lying does not become you, I was never below deck.”
“Herrr…” Malum growled to himself. At least it’s the man who doesn’t gloat.
“Then they went boom!” they heard Astrid say, prompting both men to turn around.
What the hell is she telling them about now?
“That’s when Lapis-”
Then Malum stopped listening.
Never mind, same old shit.
Quintus seemed to still listen for a little after Malum stopped, and turned to Malum.
“I know you had your misgivings about bringing the children home with us.”
Malum waved him off and continued to avoid meeting his eye. It was a strange tactic for a man who wore a mask.
“As long as you explain it to Andy, I’m perfectly capable of handing them off to Jack,” the assassin responded.
Quintus tilted his head, watching the assassin for a brief moment. “You do realize the metaphorical and the literal mask don’t have to go hand-in-hand?”
“Are you trying to have a lesson with me about identity?” Malum asked in response. There was a heavy drop in tone from Malum, one that Quintus did not bother to match.
“No, I just wanted to tell you to stop being a dick without saying ‘dick.’”
Malum tilted his head in thought, before shrugging it off. “Well, you gave up pretty quickly on that,” he said as he turned back towards the isles, now resting his chin on his hands, doing something human.
Quintus watched him for a moment, slowly growing this little smirk across his face. He patted Malum on the shoulder, and told him, “I guess I just got tired,” before leaving the assassin to stew.
They were nearly at the dock anyway, with it already in sight, along with their welcoming party. A woman was standing there, with a bit of white on her head. Malum was able to guess who it was before he could trust his eyes to properly tell him.
When they docked, Lucy walked down first. Andy tried to ask her, “How did it-”
Lucy interrupted her by throwing her hands in the air in frustration.
“-that’s not very inspiring.”
“As ominous as she may make it,” Quintus said, walking down the plank on his own, “we were successful getting some gold, which I’m sure you know what to do with.”
That was all Andy needed to hear.
“Don’t spend it on beer and prostitutes!” Malum called down to Andy where he stood still on the ship with Astrid. The kids and their panthers were just out of Andy’s sight.
Andy snorted and gave him the finger. She told Quintus, “You know I would never spend our money on beer and prostitutes.”
“I’m glad you wouldn’t spend it on prostitutes, but maybe rethink the no beer policy,” Quintus said, winking and poking her. She rolled her eyes. “How have things been since we’ve been gone? Are the Hotun and Icee still getting along?”
“Famously, the tribes have really taken to each other,” Andy said, crossing her arms and looking back at the tall plateau where the two tribes lived.
She seems proud that these people got along so well as if she had anything to do with it, Malum minded to himself.
“The language has been more of a connective tissue than an actual barrier,” she told him, balancing on her heel as she did.
Is he… is he gonna have a whole conversation before he tells her?
Quintus let Andy go on telling him about the Hotun and Icee. “A lot of them spend time together, hours even, just trying to figure out the same words as each other. I would not be surprised if the kids are bilingual in a year, and their languages combine in a way.” Then she noticed Quintus staring. “What?”
Quintus pursed his lip and shook his head. “Nothing, that was just really interesting and deep speculation about language. I never would have considered any of that.”
“Are you surprised I did?”
Quintus had this little smirk he was fighting to hold in. “A little bit, I did not know language interested you at all.”
“I do have that noble Rayne education you make fun-”
“Yeah, have you figured out why is your hair turning white?” Astrid interrupted her to ask, making the other woman bite her tongue mid-sentence.
“Yeah,” Malum agreed, “I didn’t want to say anything, but it’s really bothering me.”
Andy’s expression sunk into what could be described as a quiet, wrinkle-inducing rage. She grumbled so loud in response that it couldn’t possibly be a mutter. “My hair isn’t turning white, it’s always been white since I was a child, I’ve just been dying it.”
Quintus’s lip purse for a whole other reason as his eyes glanced back and forth between the scowling Andy, and the unfazed Susannans on the ship. He stuck his thumb out towards the boat and asked, “Did you want one of us to try and get more in Susanna?”
Andy facepalmed, and slowly wiped her hand down her face. “No, I…” she trailed off as she shook her head and tried to calmly tell him, “Thank you, Quintus, that’s okay, better I go and get it to make sure it matches.”
Astrid was scratching her head thinking about this. “Okay so you’ve always known… so why is it white?”
“Astrid,” Malum chided her, and it was hard to tell if he was mocking Astrid or Andy, “you can’t go around asking people why their hair is white. It makes them feel weird.”
“If you’re gonna make fun of me, do it for real,” Andy called him out.
Malum turned full-body towards her and started walking down the plank. His mask stared straight for Andy, his foot making heavy thuds that couldn’t be missed.
Quintus stood taller as the assassin approached, his expression tightening in anticipation. What could the assassin say to piss off Andy next? Home for only a few minutes and there was already someone fighting?
Malum stopped in front of Andy, bent his back, put his mask right in her face, and said, “I have no idea what you’re talking about. Also, Astrid and Quintus adopted some homeless kids, I’m going to my tent now.”
Andy turned to Quintus and yelled, “You did what?!”
As Quintus stumbled over his words, his hands mangling themselves in front of him. Then as he failed to figure out what to say, Astrid prompted all of the children to jump up and yell, “Surprise!”
Malum stayed a second longer to see Andy’s jaw drop and her eyes widening with this unflinching rage. Then one of the panthers put its front legs on the railing to let out a little roar.
“Are you kidding me?!” she yelled.
Quintus turned to Malum, his hands out and shaking, as if ready to wring his neck. “What happened to letting me tell her?!”
Malum gave him a thumbs-up as he turned the other way. “I helped you out, talk to you later.”
The assassin did not wait for the yelling and arguing that was soon to follow.
The assassin would never admit it, but it was nice to walk through camp and see everything at peace. It was hard work scrubbing clothes and corralling children, but their screaming was nothing to fear. The blood from dragging and filleting meat and food for tonight and many nights to come didn’t catch his eye because they didn’t come from a man who lost his sword.
One thing seemed to bother him though. He stopped and noticed.
Is everyone ignoring me? he thought to himself as he stood out from just about everyone. None of the Legion soldiers, none of the Hotun tribe, and none of the Icee Islanders dressed like him and his black cloak, and yet…
He was just someone they walked around.
I can’t believe it, they’re used to me, he thought. How often do my shadows wander out in the open when I’m gone?
“Master,” his right hand said, making him whip his cloak as he turned around.
She tilted her head, her two-toned mask of crescent moons moving into each other appearing far more docile than his mask. “Did I…?”
“No, you didn’t,” he said, but she didn’t believe him.
“Oh my… I did,” she whispered to herself, breaking her steely composure to bring her hands to her face. Her wrists nearly rubbed against the chin of her mask as she squealed to herself, “I snuck up on you.”
“Sigma,” he growled, which made her stand to attention, and recompose herself as if she hadn’t broken character for the first time in years.
“Apologies, Master,” she said in her usually steely voice.
She’s definitely been getting lax when I’m not around.
“What have you been doing while I’ve been gone?” he asked her.
She nearly tilted her head again but corrected herself. “I’m not sure what you mean.”
“The guards out on the outer isles are pitiful, Quintus saw them.”
“I- I’ll get on them to resume their training immediately.”
“And the people,” he said, gesturing to them with a turn of his head, “they appear completely unfazed by our presence.”
“We have been here for over a month now, Master,” Sigma said but was cut off again.
“Two months, yet, they shouldn’t be used to our garb, and only would be if we were socializing with them with our garb on.”
Sigma stood frozen, unprepared for this tongue-lashing, but she was not inexperienced with it. “You did tell us to obey Stella.”
“She had you work around with your black garb?” Malum asked Sigma.
“The Hotun needed clothes for the winter, and Lady Stella ordered our extra sets to be given and sewn into clothes for them. Most of us had to stay in most of our garb, even when we work. The Hotun and Icee are surely used to us by now.”
Malum looked away, doing his best not to let out his groan of frustration. People should not see an assassin and think of their neighbor.
Malum’s head dipped as he asked, “Did she have you remove your masks?”
Sigma shook her head. “No, Master.”
“Hmm, I’ll speak to Andy later than,” he said as he whipped his cape and turned his back to his right hand. She was his shadow as he proceeded to walk through the camp. She never asked, but he told her anyway, “I need to speak to Jack, update me, what has he been doing, has he begun training any warriors yet?”
“May I have permission to laugh?” Sigma asked him deadpan.
“Still moping around?”
“I wish I could say he’d been getting around so I could blackmail him with something,” Sigma bemoaned.
Good thing we’re going to go see him.
“What about our Lady Stella?” Malum asked, Tell me what the other Rayne pain in my ass is doing.
“She keeps things running pretty smoothly,” Sigma admitted as her eye was drawn to a few kids who were waving to her.
They made this gesture where they pointed their thumbs and pinkies out in front of their face. Malum couldn’t quite remember what it meant but it seemed familiar. Something to do with the moon.
He watched as Sigma made it back to them, making the children giggle and go back to playing with their rock.
“What was that?” Malum asked.
“I-” she stumbled with responding out the gate, but composed herself quickly. “Chief Basta and Keona wanted the Black Legion to join in their stories. Lady Stella… asked me to tell one. I told the children a story about Nylean, and how you can make the symbol of Nylean with your hands as a ‘hello.’”
Malum looked back and stared at Sigma.
“The children found the gesture funny to do,” Sigma added as if that might change his mind.
“Andy was drunk and put you on the spot didn’t she?” Malum asked.
“Yes, but… it was nice, they listened carefully, they are very… respectful for children.” Sigma seemed to be doing her best not to slump her shoulders in his presence. She couldn’t show such weakness, not out here in their garb, not when she was supposed to be walking death.
“Do the Icee or the Hotun make their own alcohol or has she been going out and buying it herself?” Malum asked next. There wasn’t exactly money to go around, and anyone spending it on vices was something worth tracking.
“The Icee do, if you’re wondering how she’s come by her alcohol,” Sigma informed him, which would have been encouraging if she didn’t add, “but she’s definitely come back with drinks from Artis that gets passed around.”
“Hmm,” he grunted, “we can’t be wasting crowns on stuff like that. Even if we were flush with coins, having so many be intoxicated leaves us vulnerable. It’s like these people forget that a third of our number are fugitives from the law.”
“Correct me I’m wrong,” Sigma said with a little cough, “but didn’t your ill-advised trip to the Golden Plateau show that they knew where we were? That would suggest they aren’t interested in assaulting the isles.”
“That’s only true until it isn’t. We can’t depend on the incompetency of our enemies, or that their own enemies will keep them distracted.”
Malum stopped and turned his head back towards Sigma when he noticed something. “You said Andy had been making trips to Artis herself, yes?”
Sigma nodded as much.
“And yet her hair is still going white,” Malum said to himself, drawing Sigma’s curiosity.
“What do you mean by ‘going’ white?”
“Her hair is turning white, but it hasn’t grown that much longer. Even if she was cutting it, it shouldn’t be that visible on the top of her head.” Was it washing out? I don’t know enough about such things, but she’s not going to tell me.
Then Malum’s eyes fall on Sigma.
“Would you…” Malum began to ask, this awkward pause in his voice.
“Yes, Master?” she asked, almost expectantly.
“Would you know anything about hair dye, and if it washes out?”
Sigma’s head tilted, and he was imagining the dumbfounded look on her face under her mask. “No, sir,” she said. He could feel the annoyance emanating from her.
“Apologies,” he said, trying to wave it off, “forget I said anything, tell me of our agents, has anything changed with them?” He was quick to turn around and keep walking as if having her staring at his back was any less awkward than staring at her mask to mask.
“There’s nothing of note from Raydorn,” Sigma told him, barely hiding the lingering agitation in her voice. “The warlock still eludes as, moving back and forth across Raydorn to wherever the war front needs her.”
“As to be expected I presume.”
“News of Harry Thorn has been quiet as well,” which garnered an obligatory grunt from Malum.
I expected as much. The others can have their hopes that Raydorn would take him alive, but what reason would Krone and Susanna have? We should pray that his end was swift when Amidala betrayed us.
“The Kronish Emperor is ill, but reports don’t speak of anything substantial. Their war efforts stall a bit.”
“That bit can mean the difference between a Kronish life living and dying,” Malum pointed out.
“When you have the manpower they have, I’m sure their top brass would never notice,” Sigma retorted.
She’s not wrong.
As they walk, Malum cannot help but notice how he can’t look anywhere without seeing a Hotun and Icee trying to communicate. He stared as they laughed at their inability to speak to each other.
It seems Andy was telling the truth, they truly have begun to… congregate.
“I see you’ve noticed how close the Secans have become with the Islanders,” Sigma muttered behind him.
“Have you learned anything about this development?”
“Nothing we weren’t sure about before,” she said, “hmm, save for one thing…”
Malum looked over his shoulder in anticipation.
“The god the islanders pray too,” she said, “we’ve learned what his name translates to in our language.”
Malum’s back straightened in preparation as if he already knew.
Of course, it is. A problem for another day.
They walked a few more steps, closing in on Jack’s tent on the outskirts where he could be away from people. That’s when Malum noticed something.
“You didn’t update me on Susanna,” Malum pointed out, beginning to wonder how he failed to ask about his homeland.
“There’s nothing to update you on, we still haven’t heard back,” she informed him. “I’ve contemplated marking him as dead.”
Susanna is Gronina’s foremost superpower in weapon technology. With the smallest population and nearly equal natural resources to Raydorn, they’ve had to be. Desperation makes anyone dangerous, but that’ll make a nation start committing war crimes. I guess there hasn’t been such a thing as a war crime in a while, not since the border with Raydorn was founded. It’s just called war now.
“Who was our spy in Susanna?” Malum asked. I send spies I trust to remain loyal for long-term missions like that. It’s optimistic to believe they’d never say a word. It’s realistic to recognize what they know.
“Vale,” Sigma answered.
“Thank you,” he said as he stood at the bottom of the hill that led up to Jack’s tent.
The son of Starshield didn’t have many privileges left from when he was a noble lord, but he still manage to find as many as he could here on the island.
Fuck him and his privacy.
“You can continue with your work, Sigma,” Malum told her, and she nodded her head in assurances. By the time he turned around she was already gone. That trick made him chuckle.
Malum walked up the stony rocks, stopping at the top to hear the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks. Jack had pitched his tent mere feet from the edge, where he could smell the salt every morning and listen to the water lull him to sleep.
Malum pushed aside the flap to the tent and saw Jack twisted with his blankets, still sleeping in the middle of the day. He’s letting himself go, the assassin thought, seeing the shabby stubble on Jack’s face, and how much definition Jack has lost in his abdomen.
Jack made noises that sounded like a weasel, barely whistling half the time. He spoke too, one word every few breaths and with a twitch of his body.
“Get a new schtick,” Malum said as he walked into the tent and reached down to tear the blankets off the Starshield. In his annoyance, he forgot why Jack had managed to survive this long at all.
As soon as he touched Jack, the man woke, but his Iligsia did first.
Malum never heard Jack’s scream as a gust of wind blasted him in the chest. He was sent up and out of the tent, nearly two stories into the sky.
Malum managed to kick his feet free from the flailing tent and extricated himself from it midair. He nearly outed himself before he saw the people below him staring up in wonder.
He let loose just a little, as he held out his cape to slow his descent to the ground as much as possible. He was heading towards the ground fast though, and he expected to break some bones until the Wind that cursed him saved him instead.
Jack managed to send a flush of wind underneath Malum so he was able to float safely to the ground without doing much more than bruising his hand.
“Mother of light, are you alright?!” Jack questioned Malum as he rushed down to check on the assassin.
Did he rhyme on purpose? was all that Malum thought about.
“I swear, that’s never happened to me be-” Jack went to touch Malum but the assassin swatted the ex-Stormguard’s hands away.
“I’m fine,” he declared, “I don’t need your assistance.”
As Malum brushed off whatever had gotten onto his cloak, Jack took a step back and watched in a daze. He looked to be having a million thoughts a second, but none of them amounted to words.
As Jack stood still, Malum noticed the group of people who had gathered to watch them. His eyes flickered to them, untrained and unprepared as Jack looked more and more like a bum every day.
Who cares about his feelings? Malum thought.
“So, I-” Jack struggled to start so Malum cut off.
The assassin shoved his finger in Jack’s face as he told him off. “You need to get your shit together, Starshield. You have a job to do that I’ve been told you haven’t been doing, and if you’re not going to teach anyone here how to defend themselves, there’s no reason for you to be there when we make decisions for the Legion.”
Before Jack could say anything, Malum put on a show of storming off, letting his fists swing back and forth at his sides as people made way for him. The assassin did not miss how they all turned their heads from him to Jack, a man aptly left on the spot.
As the sun set, Malum was in his tent, undoing his bandages from the wounds he gained during the Black Legion’s grand slaughter. After struggling to see in the light, his eyes glazing over so late in the day, it took longer than he would have liked.
Then he took out his candles, and the long matchstick he used to light them. Carefully, he set them in place, perfectly apart before placing a small framed portrait between them.
Fire for you, my love.
He carefully brought the candle down to light each candle, illuminating a corner of the portrait with each one. When he was finished, he could see the beautiful dark-skinned woman in full, whose hair bloomed around her face like the flames that surrounded it.
He spoke to her as he removed the stitches that were more than ready to come out. He winced at the stinging process of it. “I find myself thinking of home, I was… quite close to it this week. It seemed so close and yet so far away, I could have been to where I grew up with just a day’s walk, but yet they still feel miles away without you. It can feel unbearable like that.
“I hope you don’t feel that way, I feel guilty just telling you that. I’ve never been… you know me, I’m terrible with kind words, terrible with- hhh…” He stopped as he pulled the last of the string out. He had left it in too long and ended up creating a new open wound.
“I’ve been stupid again if you can believe it. Yes, I saw the leaves with leaves that I’ve told you so much about, and completely forgot to grab one for you. You said you wanted to see it. I’ll have to bring you there someday. It’ll probably seem like a dump to you, but you may see what there was to… I was going to say ‘respect,’ but that seems too nice a word. ‘Nice’ would be just completely inaccurate.”
He takes a final sigh and just stares into the portrait that remained motionless under the light of the flame. “Your sisters said you’d hear me if I’d talk to you this way. I wish I had some way to know for sure.”
Pfft. Pfft. Pfft.
Malum reached for his mask as he heard the footsteps approaching his tent. He yelled, “Come in,” before they could touch the tent’s flap. That made them hesitate.
The flap opened to his right hand, still dressed in her dark garb.
“Couldn’t sneak up on me this time,” he joked to her, wearing nothing but his pants and mask before her. It was an uncommon enough occurrence to halt her in her tracks.
“Master,” she muttered in a way that made his head swivel towards her, “I have news from Susanna.”
“And none of it good, I’m sure.”
“I can’t believe you let them bring back two panthers.” Andy was complaining to Quintus by the fire, surrounded by their people and dinner.
Before Malum reached them, he heard Quintus groan, “What was I to do? Astrid kept telling them they could have it, and when Malum and I said no, they just… they gave the sad doggy eyes, Andy, how do you fight against that?!”
“Remind them that cats only live 15 years, tops,” she retorted as she took a swing of whatever drink she had bought for them in Artis.
“Have you no hope in your cold, drunken heart, Andelyn?”
Andy nearly choked from laughing at Quintus. He was waving his arms, and wailing like so forsworn sailor, much to the amusement of others.
Andy gestured him to calm down, as she told him, “I’m too morally bankrupt for that!”
“What does that even mean?!” Quintus laughed at her.
The way the fire cast them in shadows only worked to make their grins and their smiles appear bigger. Fire gave the faces of everyone around it a special shine as it reflected off the watery mist that covered everyone who stayed too long on the Icy Pearl Isles.
Everyone except the man wearing all black.
“It’s called puppy dog eyes,” Malum interjected, his white mask alone appearing from the night sky behind them. Several people jumped and screamed, but none louder and higher than Quintus, who nearly landed with his ass on the fire.
“What the fuck?!” Andy yelled as she stared at him in shock, still struggling to make out the form of his billowing cape.
Malum looked down, glancing between the two of them, and reiterated his correction, “It’s puppy dog eyes, not doggy eyes.”
Andy’s mouth unclenched at his remark as she watched him step over the log and sit where Quintus was sitting. “Thanks,” she said, with all the sincerity of a politician, “for that much-needed correction.”
Malum shrugged. “He said it wrong.”
Quintus stood back to his knees and waved to everyone else as if that would bring back the festive mood the assassin had effectively killed.
When he climbed up next to Malum, the assassin stayed silent between Quintus and Andy for a bit, causing the two of them to lock eyes. Andy pointed to Malum, and Quintus only shrugged. She pointed at her drink and then Malum, only for Quintus to squint at her like she was speaking nonsense.
She flicked her hand at him, making him show her his hands as if there was nothing for him to do.
“One of my operatives is missing in Susanna,” Malum muttered, interrupting their silent conversation. “His handler found his apartment ransacked and broken down, which can only mean his cover was blown. The handler is going into hiding somewhere safe outside the capital.”
Andy and Quintus stared at Malum for a moment before turning their heads back to each other, then back to him again.
Are they gonna do that all night?
“What does this mean?” Andy asked the assassin.
“It means there’s one of mine who needs saving, I’ll be leaving for Sicaron in the morning,” Malum stated rather plainly.
“Alone?” Quintus asked.
Malum shook his head. “I’ll be bringing my… assistant.”
Andy blew a raspberry at the idea before taking another swing. She cleaned her mouth with a long wipe of her wrist. “Yeah sure, smart idea, send both of our information collectors for employment on a mission to save someone else.”
“What would you propose? Who else is qualified enough to go with me?”
“Astrid is Susannan,” Andy points out.
“I’d hardly say she’s a good choice for stealth and laying low,” Malum muttered to himself, as panthers meow in the distance, to which Malum pointed his thumb too. “In case you needed a reminder.”
“I’d have to concur with him on that,” Quintus grumbled, turning to the fire with a hand on his knee. “What of Jack?”
Andy and Malum both turned their heads at Quintus. While the glare was clear on Andy’s face, Quintus could sense Malum’s glare.
“He still needs to get his act together,” Andy said as she went to drink again only to find the bottle empty. She raised it as if she was going to throw it but then had the coherence to remember where she was. She played it off by sticking it behind her.
Even more frustrated, she complained about Jack. “I’m sick of him wallowing and obsessing over the Aurora Knight. The man dumped you, get over it already.”
“Harsh, but true,” Malum agreed. “He’s distracted, and he’s to get these people training because when the time comes and we’re attacked, we’ll be wiped out. Out of the question.”
Quintus sighed with his whole chest as he asked, “Are Secans surprising to see in that part of Susanna?”
“They are in the capital, and especially when they’re giants like you. See there’s no one else.”
Quintus snapped his fingers and pointed at the drunk on the log with them. “There is Andy.”
“What about me?”
“I’d hardly call a Rayne noblewoman someone who can lay low,” Malum scoffed.
“Andy would be the perfect trading partner for a Susannan noble, or just on her own with a bodyguard. She both knows what she’s talking about, and her family should be known to the traders there. And outside of playing the part, she knows how to be quiet and lay low.”
Andy was waving her arms in front of her as she leaned in closer to Malum and Quintus. She started to whisper, keeping the conversation on the low. “I’m sorry, I missed the part where I was volunteering for this several-month-long trip.”
“Lucy can get us there in half that,” Malum said as if that would relieve the problem, “and I don’t plan on being there longer than a few days a week or two tops. I’m getting my man and then I’m getting out. I don’t need someone to play the part of an exotic distraction.”
Andy’s cold expression remained the same. “Again, I haven’t volunteered for this.”
“But it makes perfect sense to me,” Quintus reiterated, “outside of Jack, you’re the only one with noble training.”
“You know the ins and outs of being polite, which is something Malum sure doesn’t.”
“Excuse me?” the assassin questioned.
Quintus ignored him and asked Andy, “Didn’t your family and House Starshield deal in trade with Susannan ports before the war? Were you truly taught nothing of Susannan culture?”
“It’s…” she trailed off as she tried to think back to it all, “it’s been a long fucking time since my head was that far up my ass.”
Quintus turned to Malum with an idea in his hands. “Take Andy with you, I’m willing to bet she’ll prove invaluable, and if you need the muscle, you’ll have Lucilla there for the getaway.”
Malum was quiet for a bit, turning away to look at the fire, before looking to Andy. “You want to come?”
“Hmm,” she mumbled in thought, “will there be pit stops along the way?”
“All your whores must stay off the ship.”
“You’re no fun…” she said as she thought about it.
She’ll say no, Malum figured, she hasn’t left this island for anything but alcohol since we saved the Hotun. She was the medic, not a field agent or a soldier. She’s not-
“Alright, I’ll start packing,” she said, interrupting Malum’s train of thought, leaving him stunned silent. “Also, pretty sure the whores thing is Lucilla’s call but fine. We’ll be making extra pitstops.”
Malum’s head slowly tilted to the side as Andy continued to act and agree to go on this rescue mission.
Andy held her hand to her head as she noticed the changing hair strands in front of her face. “Fucking Valhall, by then my hair will be half white.”
Quintus asked, “Does your hair grow faster than most?”
“Eh, depends on my diet.”
“That doesn’t make much sense,” Quintus said.
“Nothing you two are saying makes sense,” Malum said as he stands up and stalks away into the darkness to which he came.
“You know,” Andy said, grabbing the bottle she forgot was empty, “I don’t think he wanted me to go.”
Then she put the bottle to her lips and remembered why it was behind her in the first place. “I’ll just go fuck myself I guess.”
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