The city of Ter Luniel was about as far from Ulek as a person could get, but even here, all anyone could talk about was the threat of war. It made things harder for Varajas and Ruan. The rumors they were searching for were mere whispers, drowned out by the more urgent conversation.
But Varajas and Ruan were good at their job. They were good at listening. Between Ruan’s brilliance and Varajas’s determination, nothing stayed hidden from them for long.
Which was why Varajas had a sense of triumph as he pushed the door open to the room in the church-owned hostel that he and Ruan had taken over. “You won’t believe—” he began, then stopped.
Ruan was in here. He sat on the room’s one chair, head bowed, looking unusually penitent.
He wasn’t alone. Eldred stood against the far wall, arms crossed, glowering at Varajas.
They’d been found. It had been bound to happen. The good news was, it didn’t matter. Varajas had evidence now. He could prove they’d been right to come here. “Brother Eldred, what a surprise.”
“I suspect your surprise is nothing compared to what I felt when I discovered you two were not on your way to Ulek, Brother Varajas.” Eldred’s voice was sharp, stabbing.
Varajas wasn’t about to be intimidated. “Yeah. About that. We didn’t go.”
Ruan lifted his head, a brief look in Varajas’s direction that conveyed a wordless plea. Don’t make this worse.
Varajas was going to make it worse. “It’s a good thing we didn’t listen to you. There are abuses happening, Eldred. Bad ones. The Brotherhood needs to step in. I’ll take this to Father Donatien if I have to.”
“You think Father Donatien has any interest in this waste of time you’ve been pursuing rather than following the orders that he gave you?”
The question was honestly stunning. “Of course he does.” Varajas couldn’t imagine any other answer. For all the arguments Varajas had gotten into about the priorities—and even methods—of the brotherhood, he’d never had any reason to question Donatien’s belief in their purpose. Eldred, on the other hand, Varajas was starting to doubt.
Was it possible it mattered more to Eldred that Varajas and Ruan had disobeyed than that they’d found a genuine problem of the sort the Brotherhood was supposed to be here to stop? Was this all just a power trip for him?
Ruan, it seemed, was thinking the same thing. “People are getting hurt, Eldred,” he said, his voice tight and furious, even as it was quiet.
“People get hurt every day. It isn’t our job—or within our power—to save everyone.”
So obtuse it had to be deliberate. “Saving these people is exactly our job.”
“Following the orders of the High Father is your job. And I’m finished having this argument. Be packed and ready to go in an hour. I will personally escort you to your new duties in the south, since you seem apt to get lost on your own.” With that, Eldred left the room, slamming the door behind him.