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So tell me again just why youre here? Sir Fahlthu Greavesbiter growled, glowering suspiciously at the man in front of him.

Because Lord Saratic told me to be, Darnas Warshoe replied with a shrug.

Lets try this again, Sir Fahlthu snorted. I know Lord Saratic assigned you to ride with my company. And I know youre supposed to be some sort of expert guide and scout. I even know that Lord Erathian is supposed tove personally asked for you because of your knowledge of the Bogs and Glanharrow generally. But, dyou know, Master Brownsaddle, I dont quite believe that thats all there is to it.

And why shouldnt you believe the truth? Warshoe asked patiently.

Because Ive known a great many guides, and a great many scouts, Master Brownsaddle. A lot of them have carried bows, and some of them have carried crossbows. One or two of them have even carried arbalests. But you, Master Brownsaddle, are the only scout Ive ever met who carries both a Sothoii bow and a hradani arbalest at the same time. I cant help wondering why you do that. I mean, a man can fire only one bow or one arbalest at a time, unless you possess even more hidden talents than I believe you do.

You know, Warshoe said, I do believe that I somehow managed to overlook that, Sir Fahlthu. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.

Cassans agent snorted with obvious amusement at the absurdity of the knights suspicions, but it was an amusement he wasnt particularly close to feeling. Fahlthu was obviously brighter than hed assumed, and Warshoe wondered if he was also brighter than Saratic and Sir Chalthar had assumed. If so, that mistaken estimate might have unfortunate consequences over the next couple of weeks or so.

Milord Knight, he said after a moment in an even more patient tone, Im not sure what sort of flea you have in your ear, but I assure you that Im exactly who and what I say I am. Im flattered that Lord Erathian asked for me. And Im even more flattered by it when I think about the extra kormaks hes paying me for acting as your own personal guide through the Bogs. On the other hand, if you have a problem with whos been assigned to do that, youre certainly welcome to discuss it with Sir Halnahk, or Lord Erathian, or even Lord Saratic. It genuinely doesnt matter to me.

He shrugged, watching Fahlthus face narrowly from behind guileless, bored-looking eyes, and hoped the knight didnt decide to take him up on the suggestion. He wasnt particularly concerned about Halnahk or Saratic, but Erathian was a little too weasellike for his taste. The traitorous lord warden might just decide there was some profit for him in telling Fahlthu about the weeks Warshoe had spent acquiring his familiarity with the pathways through the Bogs. It was fortunate that Warshoes eye and memory for terrain had always been good enough to make that familiarity convincing to someone who didnt know the Bogs himself.

As for my choice of weapons, he continued, of course I can only use one of them at a time. But Im a scout, Sir Fahlthu. Sometimes that means Im going to be riding on a horse, when a horsebow is likely to come in a bit handy. Other times, Im going to be sneaking around in the grass, where a weaponlike, say, an arbalestthat a man can fire while lying prone in the bushes might come in handy. And this is not a hradani arbalest. He held the weapon in question out and tapped the dwarfish proof mark on the steel bow. This is Axeman work, Sir Fahlthu, and it cost me a pretty kormak. I do have seem to have ah, acquired some hradani bolts for it, but unless Im mistaken, werent we supposed to be muddying the water by suggesting that Bahnaks Horse Stealers might be involved in all of this?

Fahlthu frowned ferociously, obviously angered by Warshoes withering irony, but Warshoe didnt really care about that. Or, rather, he did carea man like Fahlthu would be perfectly capable of arranging an accident for someone who had sufficiently irritated himbut he preferred the cavalry commanders anger to his undiverted suspicions. It might be unlikely that Fahlthu could figure out everything Saratic and Baron Cassan had in mind, but it wasnt impossible. And if he did figure out what Warshoes true mission was, there was no telling what he might do about it. Except, of course, that a man like Fahlthu would have absolutely no interest in being saddled with the blame for the death of the Kingdom of the Sothoiis first noble.

All right, the knight growled finally. I dont believe for a minute that youre the innocent, simpleminded sort youd like me to believe, Master Brownsaddle. But whatever you may be is no concern of mine. Except for this. He fixed Warshoe with a cold, angry eye. While you ride with my company, you ride under my orders. And I would not advise you to violate them in any way. Is that clear, Master Brownsaddle?

Of course it is, Warshoe replied. Whatever you may believe, Sir Fahlthu, I never had any intention of violating your instructions.


Chapter Thirty-Four | Wind Rider's Oath | * * *