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All plans for a quiet evening evaporated once they got to Marta’s.

The late-afternoon regulars were just settling in, which meant Verania was moving through the barroom, delivering drinks. As soon as Korin came in, she waved him over. “There’s a message came for you. Said it’s urgent. Someone sick.”

“I’m sorry,” Korin said to Ádan, “But I have to—“

“Of course you do.” Ádan elbowed Korin gently in the arm. “I’ll tag along and we can grab some food after.”

The note with the address was in the kitchen. Korin looked at it, frowned. He’d been there before. “Who brought this?” he asked Verania. “Did they say what was wrong?”

One of the side effects of Korin’s work over the past few weeks was that Verania—all the workers at Marta’s—had become far less squeamish about discussing symptoms of illness or injury. “Coughing up blood. Trouble breathing. Firstborn girl. Pale, skinny thing. Talking about her dad. Said the consumption had come back.”

Korin wasn’t imagining things. “I remember her. And her father.” He crumpled the note. “It can’t come back. I healed him.”

“Is something going on?” Ádan asked.

Korin realized he’d talked to Reneé about this, but not Ádan. “I’ll explain on the way.”

It wasn’t that Korin wanted to keep secrets from Ádan. It was only that as they walked, as Korin filled Ádan in on the strange recurrences of injuries he’d fixed, Ádan lost his playful expression, became serious, worried. This wasn’t at all what Korin wanted to make Ádan feel.

Ádan came immediately to the same conclusion Reneé had. “Someone’s doing this on purpose.”

“Yes, I figured that much out. But who? And why?”

Korin half expected Ádan to jump in with an accusation of Sheluna, but instead, Ádan stayed thoughtfully silent for a full block of walking. Then he said, “My first question would be—is this happening just to people you’ve healed? Or are those just the only victims you’ve seen so far, because they already knew to come to you.”

That question had never even occurred to Korin. His stomach twisted as he moved from embarrassed he had assumed it was all about him to horrified at the thought there could be a whole wave of magically hurt and injured he didn’t even know about. “Why would anyone do that?”

“No reason that’s good.” Ádan’s mouth set into a determined line. “We’ll just have to figure it out.”

Ádan’s easy we relaxed some of Korin’s tension. Even Reneé, while she’d been happy to talk about it, hadn’t offered to help. Ádan made it sound like his assistance was a given. The only question was, “How?”

“If we knew the right magic…” Ádan trailed off into a tense silence.

Which seemed strange. In their brief time together, Korin had seen Ádan cheerful, had seen him confident. Korin had seen worried, determined, suspicious. In all those moods, the one constant was that Ádan kept talking. “Is something wrong?”

Ádan shook his head. “Nothing you need to worry about.”

The hope that had been building since Ádan said we abruptly fizzled. Ádan being evasive—what secrets was he keeping now?

Did Korin even have the right to ask? He’d told Ádan he didn’t want anything to do with the knights and the knife they were still trying to protect. Ádan had been respectful of his wishes, hadn’t said anything about it since. If Ádan was keeping things from Korin, were they simply the things Korin had asked not to be involved with?

And since Korin hadn’t yet told Ádan about his recent dreams, about the fact that the knife hadn’t made any such agreement and didn’t seem inclined to let Korin go so easily…

Later. They could talk about all this later. After Korin had fixed this problem he shouldn’t have to fix again.

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Barbara J Webb

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