Filare knew he looked laughable, a soggy, overdressed Firascan stomping through an unfamiliar port towards nowhere in particular. But damn it, that–that–that THING made him feel so
angry! Who was this supposed Inquisitor to bully a free man? And what proof did he have he was an Inquisitor, anyhow? He could just be some lunatic in a robe! He might be anyone at all. Maybe he didn’t even have proper mage-talent, and it was the spear that did all the work!
“I’ll report him!” Filare said aloud in his mother-tongue, pausing in an ornamental alcove on one side of a seaweed-hung archway. “He’s a dangerous criminal, and he needs to be locked up as such!”
“Report whom?” another asked in the same. A woman stood next to him, and what a woman she was! Silken black hair, porcelain skin, amber eyes, such full lips and fine high cheekbones, such a lush figure hugged by the loveliest scarlet silks trimmed in–cyan? What kind of idiot put scarlet and cyan right against each other like that? What kind of idiot wore cyan, ever?
She smiled at him in the warmest way, the very icon of peacestock Firascan beauty… But the horrid color choice put him on guard. Filare was young, and he must admit to himself, irrational, but never directly stupid. An impossibly beautiful woman appears from nowhere and speaks to me, looking as I do, making bedroom eyes at me. I am not this stupid. At least, not when she’s wearing that.
His manhood disagreed, and he blushed furiously. He didn’t fight the stutter in his voice, for once. That’s fine, he lied to himself, it suits my purposes. The distracting images in his head were just… getting in character, that was it!
“The uh… the er…”
“I have not heard of this man, ‘Theuh The-er,'” the woman said. Now that his initial shock was past–ongoing side-effects notwithstanding–Filare noticed her manner was ever so slightly off.
She was trying to be playful, but he heard impatience slipping through. Filare had been forced to get very good at hearing small emotional cues for his research; when you barely spoke someone’s language, you might wind up with your head on a stake very quickly otherwise. Her facial control was slightly worse yet. Cheer and disgust both tugged at the eyes differently, and he saw the latter peeking out in the set of her brows, the twist at her nose.
Well, that’s helpful to know, he thought. He couldn’t help but be slightly disappointed–especially a certain part of him–and hated himself for it.
“The Inquisitor,” he forced out at last. “So-called Inquisitor.”
“Ah,” the woman said, “one of those people. I’m so sorry you ran afoul of one. But now you’re free of him…” To her credit, she didn’t brush his arm, but he could see she thought about it.
“Free?” Filare snorted. “Escaped would be more honest. He ordered me to assist him. What it is he expects me to do, I have no idea.”
“Hm.” The woman pressed a finger to her lips as if considering something. She shifted uncomfortably, turned to and fro. Filare was struck by a memory of Firasca: a stage actress with good talent in most ways, but seemingly unable to stop herself from overselling little things. “I know a friend who might be able to help,” she said. “You seem like a good man, and I’d hate for you to be caught up in whatever the Black Robe has planned.”
Idiot! Filare thought triumphantly. Inquisitors were only called “Black Robes” among the Ton! Either this woman was raised among them, or she was a Ton mage shape-shifted to look Firascan.
“Well,” Filare said, “I’ll be grateful for any help you can give me.” She led him down an alley, and it occurred to him he was probably about to be knocked unconscious an instant before she pivoted, laid her fingers on his temple, and down he went with fading sight. A final word came to his mind before her hands–surprisingly strong–caught him and everything went dark.