Authors: Honor Raconteur
Tags: #Young Adult, #Magic, #Fantasy, #YA, #series, #Deepwoods, #Raconteur House, #pathmaking, #Epic Fantasy, #Honor Raconteur, #assassins, #adventure, #guilds, #warriors, #female protagonist, #New Adult
“Rune!” Siobhan ducked into the common room, half-expecting
him to be there, but also aware that he might be completely tucked out of
sight. Fei had assured her he hadn’t gone into the city this morning, but was
still on the compound. Somewhere.
She stopped a few steps inside the room, looking carefully
into every corner but not seeing him. Rain and drought, but she needed to tell
him about everything she’d done this morning. How was she supposed to do that
when she couldn’t even find him?
Startled, she whirled around on her toes. Rune stood
directly behind her, relaxed and calm, as if he’d been there for quite some
time. Putting a hand up to keep her jumping heart in her chest, she requested
in exasperation, “Can’t you make noise when you walk?!”
Mouth quirked, he confided, “Actually, I can’t.”
“You’re going to give me heart failure at this rate,” she
grumbled to herself. An assassin that couldn’t make noise when he moved.
“Ya wanted me?” he prompted when she didn’t continue.
“Ah, yes.” Reminded of her purpose, she put a hand into her
coat pocket and drew out a small leather badge. “Jarnsmor informed me that he
couldn’t let you board any ship of his unless you were officially registered as
a member of Deepwoods. So, here’s your crest. I put it in a leather holder—most
of us carry one that way—but you can put it anywhere or wear it any way you
Rune accepted the seal she handed out to him with both
hands, eyes wide with surprise. “I’m…a member of yer guild?”
“Officially, as of…” she glanced at the clock on the wall,
“about two hours ago. Welcome! I’ll tell everyone else about it as I see them.
Now, make sure not to lose this. They’re ridiculously expensive to replace.”
He flipped open the top of the badge so he could look at the
seal. The Deepwoods crest wasn’t anything fancy. Siobhan had been stuck for a
name and symbol to use for the guild when she’d created it nearly a decade ago,
and so had chosen a name that she and Grae had used for their secret hideout as
children. The “D” with its stem and leaf design had been done by Beirly, the
only person in the guild who had any artistic talent. They could probably
afford to have a better version done now, but they were so established with
that name and symbol, Siobhan felt it better to leave things be.
Rune certainly didn’t seem to mind that the crest had so
little flair to it. He flipped it closed again and turned it over in his hand,
looking at the back.
Then he froze.
When the silence stretched to an uncomfortable length, she
cleared her throat and offered, “I hope you don’t mind?”
“Rune Maley,” she confirmed.
If a feather had landed on his shoulder at that moment, the
ex-assassin would have fallen straight to the floor. He didn’t even seem to
Siobhan watched his expression carefully, trying to gauge if
he was upset with what she had done or not. But he seemed so stunned that he
didn’t know how to react at all.
“Maley,” he whispered in a hoarse tone. “Isn’t that…yer last
“Yes, so it is,” she responded carefully. “When I went to
register you a member of my guild, and get your crest made, they told me you
had to have a full name to do any of that. I figured, I half-named you already.
I might as well finish the job.”
His eyes finally rose to meet hers. In those clear blue eyes
were all the wonder, joy, and life that a child would reflect after receiving a
lifelong wish. She could see it all in that moment—he had never expected her to
do anything like this for him.
“The Maley family is from Widstoe,” she told him with a soft
smile. “We’re an old family, usually made up of carpenters and weavers. I’m the
odd one in the bunch, with my habit of traveling. It’s a good name, with a good
reputation.” Reaching up, she cupped the back of his head and mussed his hair
in an affectionate way. “So take care of it.”
“I—” he had to clear his throat and try again. “I will.”
“You want me to do what?”
Rune’s impish grin widened a notch. “Learn ta skulk.”
So she had heard him right. Siobhan closed the book in her
hands and leaned forward in the chair. She’d squirreled herself into a corner
of the common room, enjoying a moment of peace, and the last thing she’d
expected was this random invitation from Rune. It was, in fact, the first thing
he’d ever asked her to do and showed tremendous progress on his part. Seeing
the enthusiasm in his eyes, she didn’t have the heart to tell him that crawling
around in spider-infested rafters was the
thing she wanted to do.
“Well, alright, why not?”
“Excellent. This way.” He grabbed her by the wrist and
hauled her easily to her feet.
Somewhat bemused by this odd turn of events, she followed
him down the hallway and into a narrow access that he opened to get into the roof.
He had to boost her up, actually, as she didn’t have the necessary upper body
strength to haul herself inside.
Siobhan sat near the opening and looked around. It was dim,
with barely any light to see by, which could be a mercy. Not seeing how many
spiders were up here was a blessing. The dust was so strong her nose kept
twitching, threatening to sneeze.
Rune boosted himself up with a simple heave before replacing
the ceiling board. In a low tone, he told her, “Yer eyes will get used ta it up
here, no worries.”
“Right.” How in the world had she gotten talked into this?
As he led the way, he explained in a whisper, “The
part of skulki’n is spyi’n on people. It’s fun ta watch.”
“Hence why you’re always up here?”
He just chuckled mischievously, like a boy that had been
handed an unexpected present.
“How in the world do you know where you’re going?” she asked
in true curiosity. She’d never thought to question that before, but now that
she was up here, it was just a huge expanse of open, dark space. There wasn’t
anything to signify what rooms were below her, except the odd chimney here and
Rune tapped a finger to his temple. “Got the place
memorized. Did that first day. First lesson: ya got ta know the layout of the
buildi’n otherwise ya get lost quick-like.”
She could certainly see why. The space up here was barely
tall enough for them to walk at a stooped level. “Second question: why aren’t
you hunched like an old man by now? You can’t walk properly up here.”
Rune shrugged, not concerned about this. He was apparently
used to it after all these years.
“So where are we now?”
“Just above the common room, headi’n toward the main dini’n
room.” Rune paused and half turned to see her face. “I saw Wolf, Tran and Markl
headi’n that direction.”
“Ah, hence your desire to spy on them?”
He gave a sage nod which belied the devilry in his eyes.
“Don’t ya want ta know what they do when yer not watchi’n?”
“I know what they do, trust me,” she responded dryly.
“Because I usually have to pay for it.”
Rune gave a shrug of agreement but didn’t stop leading her.
Then he paused and sank down onto his haunches, pointing downward. Siobhan
knelt next to him and saw that there was a small knothole that allowed her to
see the center of the room, or at least part of it. A table, some chairs, and a
small patch of floor were visible but not much else. Siobhan opened her mouth
to ask if he was sure that those three were coming here when she heard Wolf
“It’s a word from my native tongue, Wolf,” Tran responded in
exasperation. “I should know how to say it!”
“No, it can’t be,” Wolf denied. “I hear it used in Robarge
all the time.”
“That’s ‘cause people adopted it. It didn’t come from
Rune glanced up at her and whispered in a barely audible
tone, “Is that all they do? Argue?”
“That and eat,” she replied sourly. “When they need to, they
partner up and fight together seamlessly. But when there’s no one to fight,
they fight each other.”
He gave her an odd look. “And ya let ‘em?”
“I stop them when I see it, but they’re two grown men. I’m
not going to mother them.”
For some reason, Rune found that even stranger. Had
in-fighting been completely outlawed in his previous guild? No, Jarnsmor had
said that Silent Order had regular fights that killed off its own members.
Perhaps Rune expected her to stop such nonsense and found her unwillingness to
dictate Wolf and Tran’s every action odd.
“I’ve never traveled to Teherani,” Markl said in a cautious
tone. “And I’m barely familiar with Tran’s language. I can’t begin to offer an
is something you hear in Robarge, yes?”
, you lughead,” Tran snapped. “At least
say it right!”
A chair abruptly scraped back in a screeching sound. “I am
saying it right, you ham-handed fool!”
Siobhan let out a weary sigh. “I give it five seconds before
the first fist flies.”
Rune cocked his head. “They don’t fight every time they
“Trust me, that’s a fight waiting to happen.” Seeing that he
didn’t believe her, she asked, “Want to bet?”
“We always wager the same thing,” Siobhan explained. “It’s
traditional in the guild now. Whoever loses buys the other person’s next meal.
Or snack, if that’s preferred.”
Rune gave a silent ‘ahh’ of understanding. Then he held out
a hand. “Bet taken.”
She solemnly shook to seal the deal. Siobhan cocked her ear
toward the hole, listening to the argument escalate.
“Is not!” Wolf thundered.
“Is too!” Tran snapped back.
“Five…” she muttered under her breath.
“Markl, who’s right?!”
“I told you, I don’t know enough to be sure—”
“You’ve got brains the size of a bird’s, who’d believe you!”
A meaty thunk sounded below, a familiar sound that she knew
well. Someone’s fist had rammed into someone else’s face. Hopefully it wasn’t
Wolf’s iron fist, as the last time he’d used that against a face, he’d broken
the man’s jaw.
Rune leaned down and put his eye directly against the
knothole. “Ya even have it
,” he said in amazement.
“It’s just experience. Live with them for another five
years, and you can do the same thing.” She shook her head in exasperation. “Is
Markl fighting too? Can you see them?”
“Poor man. I forgot to warn him. If another man is nearby
when those two start fighting, he’s inevitably drawn into it somehow. Keep that
in mind.” Rising to her feet, she asked, “Where’s the quickest way down?”
“I thought ya didn’t stop them.”
“I said I didn’t mother them. I stop them when I see them
fighting. Besides, if I don’t stop this quick, they’re going to damage
Jarnsmor’s furniture, and I’d rather that not happen. He’s been a perfectly
good host so far.”
Rune’s open hand said she had a good point. He rose to his
feet and gestured her to follow, leading her about ten steps away before he
knelt again and opened another ceiling panel. If he hadn’t led her to it, she’d
have never known it was there. Lifting the board free, he eyed the distance to
the ground. “How good are ya at jumping?”
“About as good as climbing.”
“Ah. In that case, me first. I’ll catch ya.”
She blinked at him in surprise. “You and I are about the
same size. You sure you can catch me?”
He gave her a long look, as if indignant she questioned such
Holding up her hands in surrender, she didn’t press the
point. After all, if he was sure, he was sure. If he was wrong, he’d just end
up squashed under her.
Rune hopped through the hole and landed as easily as a cat,
not at all bothered by the eight foot drop. With a breath for courage, she
maneuvered her legs through the hole first then pushed off, dropping the rest
of the way. Proving he was right, Rune caught her easily under the arms and set
her to her feet without any noticeable strain on his part. Great winds, he was
stronger than he looked! She’d met few men that had the strength to do what
he’d just done.
Smiling, she patted him on the shoulder in silent thanks
before pushing away and looking around. They were in the hallway just outside
the dining room door. Oh good. She was close. Pushing through the door, she
drew air into her lungs and yelled, “STOP!”
The tableau froze.
Wolf had one fist drawn back, ready to strike. Tran had a
hand up to block the strike, the other around the arm Markl had around his
neck. Markl was apparently trying to draw Tran away from the fight, but against
the bigger man, he wasn’t having much of an effect. When she stepped inside,
all three of them looked at her cautiously.