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Below is an excerpt:
“I assume you’ve heard of me, the legendary Giovanni Alder-Rabinas.”
“Would that I had,” was the lackluster response of the serving boy, who gave a curt smile before going over to another table to serve a group of ruffians whose hands were overflowing with coin.
Giovanni eyed their catch out of the corner of his eye. It was easily over a hundred pieces of queens-gold and could have been even more. From their look the men could only be mercenaries, but a job netting so much gold was unheard of. Maybe once upon a time in some fantasy land, but even the monarchy was tightening its purse strings since the drought. Then two of the great mines had collapsed and, of course, there was also the business of the dragon…
“Did you say you were Giovanni Rabinas?”
His head whipped around and he met the voice with a smile that didn’t falter too much when he saw that it belonged to a woman. Her voice was deep and sultry. Her violet dress’s sumptuous layers showed off her body, complementing her playful brown eyes and dark skin. She looked gorgeously wealthy, and that meant that whatever she wanted from him, she was in a position to pay for it.
“Giovanni Alder-Rabinas, madam,” he corrected gently, then added, “as a member of the Second Echelon of Magecraft, ‘Alder’ is my official title.”
“Oh?” she said, with a little nervous laugh. “I’ve never met a true mage before. Most people who can craft spells these days are mutts and half-breeds. To find someone with pure mage’s blood, well, that’s quite an honor.”
“Please, madam. It behooves me to be modest. After all, not everyone means us mages well,” he replied in a genteel whisper, then looked around meaningfully at the eyes that their conversation had attracted.
She nodded her understanding and sat down across from him. Dressed as she was in a bar like this—well, she had already drawn quite a bit of attention. It meant that whatever business they were to conduct would have to be done quickly and he would have to escort her out, lest she be robbed within moments of their parting.
“Ser Rabinas, er…Alder Rabinas?”
He laughed and placed a hand on hers. “Giovanni is fine.” “Oh. Well, then, Giovanni. I must admit that I’ve heard of
you. A cousin of mine contracted you and your companions, I believe, to retrieve their son a few summers past. Ardo, do you remember him?”
He remembered Ardo well. He was a strapping young man of nearly twenty whom he had rescued with some assistance from his fellow mercenaries. An “admirer” who wished the boy to love him had locked the young man in the depths of a rank cave and plied him with dark spells and foul draughts. The fiend was felled, of course, and the lad returned to his family, but not before Giovanni had milked every ounce of the boy’s appreciation. It was easy to see why he had been taken. In fact, Giovanni had thought of kidnapping Ardo himself after that.
“It was nobly done.” He stroked his goatee thoughtfully. “And how is the boy doing now?”
“Very well. In fact, he’s marrying his childhood sweetheart, Karisa.”
“Is he? Well, I hope his character is a match for hers,” he said smoothly. “Now. What brings you to a place like this, madam? Clearly you wouldn’t be here if there wasn’t something urgent at hand.”
“You are perceptive, of course, Alder. My name is Altalise Montefiore and my husband is the Warden of the Queen in this region. Recently something rather… embarrassing has occurred. An object was stolen from our manor and we need it returned, desperately.” She paused to wipe her eyes—growing wetter by the moment—with a lace handkerchief. “The object is one of the famed Montefiore treasures.”
She lowered her voice even further. “The Weeping Spear.” Giovanni sucked in a breath. “Obviously we can’t rely on the authorities with this information.”
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