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They got the party channel exactly seven days after the party had formed. Hannah was pleased, but she’d been in a number of parties before, and party chat always came with some problems.

It was an open question why the Editors had done as they’d done. The actual thought that went into the Editing was enormously complex, beyond the ken of a young cleric, but some of the effects that Editors of ages past had placed upon the world certainly had to be the result of unknown limitations they were working under. The hexes were certainly one of those places where limitations seemed most obvious, because the positions of the warp points were, most of the time, somewhat inconvenient. Hannah knew, of course, that hexagons could be used to tile a plane, that was fundamental knowledge for any cleric of Garos, but the world wasn’t a plane, it was a globe, and the hexagons were imperfect (and there were, in theory, pentagons somewhere). Given that they couldn’t have perfection, it seemed to Hannah that they should have gone in the direction of Oeyr, and simply made the hexes around cities. The math of it was a bit beyond her, but it seemed like it would have been better. But no, the answer was probably that the Editors were working under some unknown constraints which explained why they’d done things as they did. Or, possibly, they’d made a mistake: that was true of the dungeons, probably, given how dangerous they were.

The party chat was a different thing altogether. It was, obviously, good to be able to have parties, which came with many benefits, and it was good to be able to talk to one another without needing to worry about how far apart you were. But the question that had literally kept Hannah up at night on multiple occasions was why there was no way to turn the thing off.

<Testing,> said Alfric. His voice reverberated in her head, and Hannah got a distinctly unpleasant sensation while watching his lips, which weren’t making any real sound. People always sounded different in the channel, which had something to do with the way it stole the words from your lips and made them available to others. From what Hannah had read, people sounded more like they sounded to themselves. Alfric’s voice was rich and mellow, and still fairly deep.

<I hear you,> replied Hannah.

<Hello?> asked Isra, who was the only one who wasn’t in the house with them.

<Hi!> said Mizuki.

<We should establish some ground rules,> said Alfric. <I think the first is that we don’t use the channel for anything that can be said out loud.>

<Agreed,> replied Hannah. <Second rule is no talking while anyone is asleep.>

<Does that mean we can’t use it when someone is napping?> asked Mizuki. <What if we don’t know that they’re napping?>

<You can use the channel to say that you’ll want some peace and quiet,> said Alfric. <Unless there’s business, we’ll respect that. But I don’t think any of us take naps.>

Mizuki guiltily raised her hand.

<Isra can’t hear that,> said Alfric. <Isra, Mizuki just raised her hand.>

<Thank you,> came Isra’s disembodied voice.

<Naps are traditional in Kiromo,> said Mizuki. <I don’t actually know why, but that’s what grandpa said. I like to take cat naps.>

<That’s fine,> said Alfric. <Additionally, I think it would be good for us to have a daily check-in, if we’re not all together in person, just so we all know each other’s plans.>

<Ugh,> said Mizuki.

<I agree,> said Hannah. <Ugh.>

<Fine, fine,> said Alfric. <But maybe if we’re all in different hexes.>

<Will we be?> asked Mizuki. <Ever?>

<Scattering to the six winds seems unlikely,> said Verity. <But if it happens, yes, we can do check-ins.>

<I think that’s all I have for now,> said Alfric.

<Just try not to be annoyin’,> said Hannah.

<Goodbye,> said Isra, and that, at least, had a note of finality.

“I kind of wanted to play with it more,” said Mizuki. They were all sitting in the dining room together, with the remains of their lunch in front of them. “It’s been a bit.”

“Well, it’s not for playin’ with,” said Hannah. “Though I suppose it might have been good to set aside some time for it, to get it out of your system. That’s what they do for the fresh little acolytes.”

“You know I’m the oldest one here, right?” asked Mizuki. “And I have been in a party before, it’s just been a few years.”

“So long as we’re not using the channel to do music,” said Verity with a sigh. “I have nightmares of playing with a quintet and having the people sitting next to me talking into my ear while I’m trying to play.”

“Actual nightmares?” asked Mizuki.

Verity nodded. “There was a lot of pressure. It’s part of why I live here now. There’s no one at the Fig and Gristle that pushes me to do more, or do better, or sing differently, or add more effects. Everything is on my own terms.”

“I can see why you didn’t want to do dungeons,” said Mizuki. “I mean, also the risk of being killed.”

“There wasn’t any pressure in the dungeon,” said Verity. “Or … the pressure was for something, it wasn’t just someone trying to squeeze me because they thought I needed squeezing, it was me trying my best to give you all what you needed. And in that sense, it was rewarding, I suppose.”

“Part of a party is trust,” said Alfric. “We trust you to do your part, and to have a good understanding of what’s best in any circumstance. The plan right now is to head southwest as soon as we have armor and the channel, do the dungeon in Traeg’s Knob, then continue on to Liberfell, which I’ll do with Isra, and whoever else wants to come with. It would make sense to do the Liberfell dungeon, but it’s a larger city, and that means more rogue mana, and I’d like another five or so easy ones before we make an attempt at Liberfell or Tarchwood or someplace bigger.”

“While we’re in Liberfell, we’ll want to get somethin’ to capture beasts,” said Hannah. “Or at least some pots to put live plants in. Isra may not be able to soothe the monsters, but she can help with anythin’ else, to see whether it’s worth it to take out, or safe.” She nodded to herself. “We’ll take the storage book in, naturally, which can probably help. Have we tested whether things can live in it?”

“I put in a grasshopper,” said Alfric. “When I pulled it out an hour later, it was dead. I tried again by putting a grasshopper in a bottle with a cork in it, and it was fine. I think it continues to live in there, so if we put an animal in, it’s just a question of whether it has enough food and air.”

“A ventstone then?” asked Hannah. “Those are pricey.”

“Do I need to be here for this?” asked Verity. “I was going to go practice my music for a bit and get ready for my session at the Fig and Gristle tonight.”

“You’re still going there?” asked Alfric.

“Yes,” said Verity. “It’s where I went off to last night.”

“You don’t need the money,” said Alfric.

“That’s right,” nodded Verity. “But I feel some obligation to Cynthia, and I enjoy playing for a crowd, knowing that I’m making their lives a little better for as long as the tune stays in the air.” She shrugged. “I’m not going to give it up just because I have more money than I need. It was never really about the money, it was just a comfortable place to play some songs.”

“Do you mind if I come by?” asked Alfric.

“Of course not,” said Verity. “But … why?”

“I enjoy your music,” said Alfric. “And that way I can take a break from relying on Mizuki for food.”

“I really don’t mind,” said Mizuki. “Except for chopping veggies, cooking for more people isn’t actually all that much more work.” She looked at Verity. “Do you prefer to eat before or after?”

“After,” said Verity. “I play better when I’m a bit hungry.”

“Then I’ll have something for you in the chiller,” said Mizuki with a nod.

“I have a standing offer from Cynthia for food,” said Verity. “There’s usually something left at the end of the dining hours anyway.” She paused. “Thank you for the offer though.”

“Why don’t we all go?” asked Hannah. “Make a night of us, the three of us together, listenin’ to Verity? I don’t think I’ve heard much of her tavern songs.”

“I suppose,” said Mizuki. “You would all tell me if you didn’t like my cooking, right?”

Alfric laughed. “Mizuki, the food you cook is on par with actual professional cooking in Dondrian. If you wanted to stop being a sorcerer, you could legitimately make it as a professional chef.”

Mizuki blushed. “Well, I suppose. But I think I would end up hating it, if I was forced to do it every day. Instead, I choose to do it every day.”

“It was the same with me and music,” said Verity. “I love music, plucking the strings, finding melodies, and even the magical aspects of it, but when it was an obligation, I felt like hanging myself from the rafters.” She paused. “Sorry if that was too morose.”

“You let us know if you ever need some time,” said Hannah. “Alfric has a notion to push us through the dungeons, and I think there might be somethin’ to that, but we don’t want you hatin’ the party. We want you to be happy you’re goin’ on trips with us.”

“Personally,” said Mizuki. “I think it would be great to go into a dungeon if we didn’t have to worry about the monsters. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just waltz in, pick up some new entads, then waltz out?”

“But then everyone would do it,” said Alfric.

“Och,” said Hannah. “You’re not one of those that thinks the Editors made the dungeons full of monsters on purpose, are you?”

“Well, I don’t know about that,” said Alfric. “But I do think that the way things are has a certain, I don’t know. Niceness to it?”

“The monsters are nice to you?” asked Mizuki. “The ones that tried to rip you up and claw your face?”

“Well, yes,” said Alfric. “The dungeons are wild, they’re one of the only wild places left in the entire world. Everything has been mapped and tamed, except for the north. The beastmasters will track and find anything that’s all that dangerous, we have programs for keeping things contained and safe, it’s been a century since we’ve had a war … but the dungeons are the one place none of that is true. And if you could just go in and grab what was there without a fight, without risk, then I don’t know. I don’t think I would be so enamored.”

“You wish there were still wars?” asked Mizuki.

“No, it’s not that,” said Alfric. “It’s … I don’t know. I don’t know how to say it without sounding like I wish that the world were a violent and wild place again, because that’s not what I want.”

“It’s common,” said Hannah, nodding. “For a particular kind of person, the peace and prosperity of the modern age feels like bein’ in a pen.”

“Huh,” said Mizuki. “Well, I don’t understand it. All I ever wanted was to be safe and comfortable. Which I mostly am.”

“I said I was going to go, so I should do that,” said Verity, getting up from her spot. She turned to go, then remembered her plate, and took it to the kitchen before going upstairs.

“Well, we have some time until dinner,” said Hannah. “I was about to go into town and see if Lemmel needed some help, and Alfric, you’d said you wanted introductions to the local clerics, was that right?”

“It was,” Alfric nodded. “And now is as good a time as any.”

“Then what am I doing?” asked Mizuki, pouting somewhat. “I’m just going to be left to my own devices?”

“Try not to cause trouble,” Hannah suggested. “Read a book.”

“I’ve read all the books,” said Mizuki.

“I brought some from my room,” said Hannah. “Though they’re mostly romances, I should warn, ay?”

“I could go for a romance,” said Mizuki, perking up. “You’re fine if I go in there and pick one out?”

“I’ve no secrets,” Hannah replied.

She and Alfric put their shoes on, sitting side by side as they did so, then took off down the path that led away from the house. Mizuki’s grandfather, it was increasingly clear, had been quite well-off, given how extensive the area he’d owned had been, and how nice the house was. That wealth didn’t seem to have transferred down to Mizuki though, and the girl seemed to live hand-to-mouth most of the time, perhaps because she seemed possessed of a certain indolence. Hannah wasn’t one to judge though, if it kept her happy, though it wasn’t clear whether that was the case.

“The team is goin’ well,” said Hannah as they walked.

“So far,” said Alfric. “I was worried that we would have a rocky start.”

“Talked to the censusmaster, ay?” asked Hannah.

“Yesterday,” said Alfric, wincing. “Isra and Verity are both third now. I should have brought it up while we were all on the channel. I don’t think that substantially changes things, but common wisdom is that it increases the risk. They both must have been on the verge.”

“Or Isra knowin’ she’s a druid and not a ranger has changed things,” said Hannah, nodding. “Happens, though rarely.” Elevation wasn’t one of the more considered aspects of the world, in Hannah’s opinion. Sometimes all you could do was look at the Editors' work and cluck your tongue.

“Very rarely, in the case of someone being a druid without knowing it,” said Alfric.

“Ay,” nodded Hannah. “Still some mystery with that, isn’t there?”

“Some,” said Alfric. “And her circumstances are unusual even if we discount the druid stuff.”

“More so than your own?” asked Hannah. “Or Verity’s? You certainly grabbed a complicated set of people.”

“Complicated people are more likely to be available,” said Alfric. He said that like it was self-evident.

“Well, I s’pose,” said Hannah. “Who were the alternates, by the by? You said there were two of them, I was wonderin’ whether it’s anyone whose names I know.”

“Kell Westling, a wizard who mostly works with farmers, though he’s on the younger side, and only first elevation,” said Alfric. “The second alternate was Micah Skybloom, an apprentice blacksmith, but he’s third elevation, and in his mid-twenties. He seemed strong, but I was hoping to have that role covered.”

“Ay, Micah,” said Hannah with a sigh. She had already talked to him with Mizuki, and had been thinking about him in her off time, turning the idea of him over in her head. “He propositioned me.”

“Propositioned?” asked Alfric.

“For marriage, when I first came to town,” she said.

“Without knowing you?” asked Alfric, who seemed alarmed.

“We’d met a few times,” said Hannah. “It’s a custom, down south, to make such a proposition if you’ve a good feelin’ about things, or if you’re properly smitten. The idea, then, is to have a long engagement, a year or more, to see if you’re truly a match to be wed.”

“And,” said Alfric, working through that. “You turned him down?”

“There are times I wish I hadn’t,” said Hannah. “But it was tradition he was anglin’ on, and tradition didn’t appeal to me much, so it was clear he had the wrong of me. Micah is the sort to like a muscular woman wearin’ pants, I think, and there’s some appeal in the tall and burly, for my own tastes, but … well, to do it in that way, to have a love that grows and blooms over time rather than startin’ with a spark,” she shook her head. Micah had felt a spark, that was clear enough, but Hannah had only seen the appeal of him. “I don’t think it was wrong of me to say no, mind you, but there’s a part that wished I’d said yes. I still see him ‘round, of course, in a town as small as Pucklechurch, and he’s been quite decent about it, no hard feelin’s. Perhaps in five years, once I’ve had my fill of the dungeons, I might see if he’s still available, or kick myself because he’s sure to have found someone. To settle down now, though, have children …”

It was easier to say to Alfric, knowing that he wasn’t likely one to gossip. Talking to Mizuki, well, that meant trying to think about her words. Something said to Mizuki, who had friends in town and an open mouth, could easily end up in the ears of someone else, and it was too early to know whether Mizuki could be bound to secrecy, or trusted with private feelings. Not that these were secrets, mind, just things that were a bit delicate.

“And do you think about that?” asked Alfric. “Marriage?”

“Worried I’m not goin’ to be patchin’ you up if I have a husband or a wife?” asked Hannah, smiling at him.

“Just curious,” said Alfric. “But yes, it would also be unfortunate to lose you because you wanted to start a family.”

“Ay,” nodded Hannah. “But no, I s’pose down the line I might be through with bein’ wild and free, and if Micah is still available, he seems like a good sort to settle down with, but I’ve got dungoneerin’ I want to do, travels through the hexes of the world, all that sort, and to take a husband or a wife and then leave them seems a bit cruel, to my mind, or at least unreasonable.”

“And it would be?” asked Alfric. “A husband or a wife?”

“Ay, well,” said Hannah. “I am a cleric of Garos. I had a few girlfriends in the seminary, and it was nice enough. My mind goes to men more often though, so she would have to be, well, somethin’ special, which is what we all hope for, isn’t it?”

“I guess,” said Alfric.

“And you?” asked Hannah. “Any romance, prior to this part of your life?”

“There was a girl,” said Alfric. There was an obvious and immediate hesitance, not just in his words, but his whole character. “She was … someone special. I’d known her since we were small. And then things didn’t go as they should have gone.” He shook his head, maybe because he knew he was being too circumspect, though Hannah thought it more likely that he was just thinking on it. “My parents are both dungeoneers. Their advice was that I’d be traveling so much early on that it would mostly be about brief encounters, and that I should take what I could from them. Then, when I was older, I could have longer, more stable relationships. The dungeons at my parents’ level, they take three or four days to clear, and they don’t do more than one a month, if that.”

“Seems like too much risk of death,” said Hannah. He’d changed the subject from the girl, and hadn’t been terribly deft about it, but Hannah let it be. No need to get everyone’s history right off the bat, in her opinion.

“Maybe,” said Alfric.

“I warn you now, there’s a point where I might bow out,” said Hannah. “I can take punishment better than most, I can handle wounds, but if you’re lookin’ for someone to go with you all the way, someone who’d want to go down into the infinidungeons of Dondrian, I don’t think that’s me. Or any of the others, for that matter.”

“I know,” said Alfric. “I don’t expect that. What I expect is to raise my elevation and get some experience under my belt.”

They had been talking for some time, and when they’d reached the temple, they’d stayed outside, in the shade of the building, continuing their talk. Hannah found Alfric nice to talk to, at least when he wasn’t going on about dungeons, and even a little bit when he was. It was clear that he had his own story to him, but one of the things she’d learned in seminary was that everyone had their own story, and it was just a matter of listening to it. More than that, you could find reflections in their stories, and places where two stories would line up with one another. Alfric’s experience of wanting a wild world to tame wasn’t unique in the slightest, but that was part of what made it interesting. It was common, especially for young people, and that was where some of the lure of the dungeon came from.

For Hannah, the lure of the dungeon was distinctly different. Alfric liked that there were things to fight, at least in some sense. He liked that it was unknown. But for Hannah, it was the glimpse into the raw elements of reality. Dungeons were created, constructed, pulled from the raw mana and aetheric disturbances, all by some force that the Editors (in her opinion) clearly didn’t quite have a handle on. The dungeons reflected, in some way, the will of the gods and the shape of reality. Going into a dungeon and finding what was there was, for Hannah, a religious experience, a way to become closer to Garos and interpret his philosophical approach. It was hard, as in the real world, to separate out Garos from the others, but there was something there, she was sure of it, even if it had been a source of disagreement in both the seminary and the guilds. Dungeons reflected the real world in some ways, but they also reflected something else, and that something else was what captivated Hannah. She expected to make no major discoveries about the nature of Garos, but she did think that it would bring her closer to him. Already, her meditations felt like they’d borne fruit.

They went first to the section of the temple devoted to Xuphin, who was represented by the twisted ouroboros, a snake eating its own tail, looped to make the symbol for infinity.

“Pann Wellings,” said Hannah, bowing slightly to the tall cleric. “This is my party member, Alfric Overguard, we’ll be doin’ dungeons together, and he thought it best to meet people, especially if we need to come here for healin’, I suppose.”

“A pleasure,” said Pann, holding out her hand. Alfric took it and gave her a firm handshake. He was staring though, just a bit, impressed or perhaps intimidated by her height. She was seven feet tall, and rather than being lanky, as some tall people were, she had a statuesque quality to her. Xuphin was the God of Infinity, sometimes labeled as the God of Increase, seeing as infinity was rarely achievable in the real world, and enlarging themselves was something many of her clerics did. The gods did not have genders, as such, but many people referred to them as though they did, often with some disagreement. For Hannah, it largely depended upon her mood.

“The pleasure is mine,” said Alfric, who was at least keeping his composure. “I apologize for any awkwardness on my part, it’s been some time since I’ve seen a cleric of Xuphin this close up.”

“And what do you think?” asked Pann, gesturing to her body. “Some find it grotesque, especially on a woman.”

“That was the furthest thing from my mind,” said Alfric.

Pann gave a delighted laugh. “And where are you from?”

“Dondrian,” said Alfric.

“Ah,” said Pann, clucking her tongue. “But they come much bigger than me there, don’t they?”

“They do,” said Alfric. “But they’re mostly men, and from the pews in the back of the temple, some of the, um, effect is lost.” He was still looking up at her.

“Too large does start to create some problems,” said Pann. “‘Increase is not always without limits’, from the book of Xu Phinnas, volume nine, verse thirteen. There are obviously the practical considerations, like the length of your bed or how much you want to keep bumping into doorways, and there are physical considerations, like whether your heart can pump the blood it needs to, or your muscles can support your bones.” She said this with the practiced tones of someone who had said it all before. It was common, among clerics, to explain their particulars over and over again to the laity. “At any rate, if you’re concerned about healing, I can go over what you need to know before coming to me.”

“I know it all,” said Alfric. “I’m well-prepared. I thought it would be better to have an introduction now than when I come to you blinded and needing new eyes.”

“Oeyr is often better with that sort of thing,” Pann nodded. “But I take your meaning.” She turned to Hannah. “And you? Leaving Lemmel all alone?”

“Is he broken up about it?” asked Hannah. “Cryin’ his eyes out every day I’m gone?”

Pann laughed. “Not in the least, but I did think he liked your breads. I miss the smell of it in the mornings.”

“Och, all you had to do was ask, I’ll bring some by tomorrow, and praise be to Xuphin,” said Hannah. She gave another bow, then ushered Alfric out.

“Got a thing for tall women?” she asked, keeping her voice low as they crossed the temple.

“There’s something striking about her,” said Alfric. “Not just the size though.”

“Pretty, I agree,” said Hannah. “Married, unfortunately for you, though I suppose Xuphin herself was thought to take many partners, in keeping with her nature.”

“I wasn’t thinking of that,” said Alfric.

“Well, I wouldn’t judge, of course,” said Hannah. “Though it’s the first time I’ve seen the light of interest in your eyes.” They made it to the other side of the temple, devoted to Bixzotl, God of Copies. The statue was of twin wolves.

Obbrech was, unfortunately, in the middle of a meeting with a young woman, so Hannah only gave him a wave, and he gave her a brief nod before returning his attention to the woman. Obbrech wasn’t too much older than Hannah, a handsome man with a clean-shaven face and fastidious appearance. He was often occupied with young women, which seemed to irk him, perhaps since it was the same young women in a steady rotation, always asking for more of his time.

“Well, Obbrech is busy, and I know that Lin is out, so I suppose this trip will be a bit of a waste,” said Hannah. “Lin is the cleric of Oeyr, and we’ve got no cleric of Kesbin, at least at the moment. So that leaves only Filera, who’s our cleric of Qymmos, and she’s a cranky one.”

“She can help with entad identification,” said Alfric.

“Ay, but you’ll find a cleric of Qymmos in any larger town too,” said Hannah. “Certainly in Tarchwood or Liberfell.”

“You don’t like her?” asked Alfric.

“We had a discussion a few months back,” said Hannah. “Lasted most of the night, and neither of us left happy. Religious matters, mostly my opinion on her god and hers on mine.”

“So you’re saying that if I introduce myself, I should just not have you with me?” asked Alfric.

“Och, no, I don’t want to make a big thing of it, I suppose,” said Hannah. “Let’s go.”

The statue of Qymmos, God of Sets, was a many-armed man, with each hand holding a different implement. Traditionally Qymmos was supposed to be represented by an octopus, and it was the only one of the six statues in the large central room that wasn’t an animal, which irked Hannah to no end. They should have either been all people, or all animals, but not this awkward mix. Of course, she’d talked to the head of the temple, which was Filera, and she’d laid out the costs involved in commissioning a new one, and that had been the end of that conversation, because there was nowhere for the money to come from, and Hannah seemed to be the only one bothered.

“Filera Bosc,” said Hannah as she entered the room. Filera was sitting with her plants, as usual, and reading a book, also as usual. “This is Alfric Overguard. He’s a member of my dungeoneering party, here to make some introductions, because there’s a good chance we’ll want your services.”

Filera got up from her chair, rising slowly and setting her book to the side. She was a shorter woman, with blonde hair that she wore tied back. Her dress went down to her ankles and covered her arms to her wrists, and there was something incredibly and deliberately severe about her.

“I charge for entad identifications,” said Filera as she took Alfric’s hand. That's what she said, by way of greeting, and immediately Hannah felt herself irked.

Alfric nodded. “Most do. It’s expected.”

“I’m letting you know now so that there’s no confusion later,” she said. “Overguard, she said?”

Alfric stiffened slightly. “Yes.”

Filera was looking at him as though she was reading his life story, which given her profession, wasn’t too far off the truth. “Qymmos is sometimes called the God of Information,” she said. “But I’ve always thought, if she needed to be called the god of something other than Sets, she should have been called the God of Categories.”

“Yes,” said Alfric, standing there.

“Which god do you follow most closely?” asked Filera.

“Xuphin’s philosophy has always appealed to me,” said Alfric. “Though … I can see the appeal of Qymmos as well, so long as I look at it from a certain angle.”

“She’ll try to draw you into theological talk, if you let her,” said Hannah.

Filera gave Hannah a grin, then turned back to Alfric. “And what is that angle?”

“I don’t particularly like to organize things into sets or categories,” said Alfric. “But it is useful. Where I think I’m on the same page as Qymmos is in seeking new things. The philosophies of the others don’t have as much of the same appeal toward seeking. But I can’t say that I would have made a good acolyte of Qymmos, because once everything is pinned in place, I start to lose interest.”

Filera nodded. “Seekers are often of Qymmos, but a seeker, once they’ve found what they sought, can become something different altogether.” She tapped her lips. “Alfric Overguard,” she said, tasting the name. “I’ve changed my mind. I’ll do your entad identifications for no fee, so long as you come speak to me about the dungeons you’ve been in.”

“Of course,” nodded Alfric, relaxing.

“To a fruitful relationship,” said Filera. She smiled at him, and he gave a nervous smile back.

When they left, Hannah was frowning, but she saved her words until they were out of the temple.

“She’s an odd one,” said Hannah. “And I take it from the way that conversation went, she saw somethin’ in you?”

“Maybe,” said Alfric. “Though … I can’t be sure what, obviously.”

“Does she have blackmail against you?” asked Hannah. It was hard to see how a cleric of Qymmos would get that, since there were limits to how deep they could go in such a short time, and it wasn’t like they could just extract your deepest darkest secrets.

“No,” said Alfric. “If it’s the thing I think she knows, then no, it’s something I expect to tell you and the others once we’re better friends. I doubt you’d think less of me.”

“But it’s not somethin’ you want to say now, is the impression I get,” said Hannah. “And you know somethin’ about Verity that you’re keepin’ back too.”

“Like you said, we all have our — I don’t even want to call them secrets, because it’s not as important as all that,” he said. “But you don’t need to know my life story, and I don’t need to know yours, not for us to be going into dungeons together. I swear on my life it’s nothing that puts anyone in danger. And I swear that if it becomes relevant, I’ll tell everything. But I want to wait a bit, and I think that’s my right.”

“Ay,” said Hannah, slowly. “And here I thought I was the one with a rich inner life.”

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Alexander Wales

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