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Part Three: Chapter 34

“Why aid me, Martassin? What’s in this for you?”

“It’s as you said, lord,” huffed the frail servant in reply, pressing his free hand against the damp passage wall for support. He bent slightly to catch his breath. “Acomalath’s dead. And that makes you my master—no matter how it came to pass.”

Baeldrin grinned, beginning to understand now. “Your father served also.”

“And his father as well.” Recovered a bit, Martassin gathered up the folds of his robe and made forward once more. “How would I survive without a patron? This life is all I’ve known.”

“Indeed.” Baeldrin turned to follow the candlelight. “But I’m not convinced I should trust you. I’d not be spared from that mob only to be delivered as a gift to her doorstep.”

“The witch? I’ve no more desire to see her than you do.”

Baeldrin released a snort of laughter at that statement, its echo bouncing back to them from somewhere ahead in the blackness. “You misunderstand me then, servant,” he continued, well above a whisper. “Oh, I’d see her again. Her and that treacherous worm, Zera…if he yet lives. But it must wait for another day. I’ll prepare a surprise for them—same as she did for me—save for her there’ll be no escape!”

Martassin’s only response to Baeldrin’s outburst was a quieting gesture, and so the pair walked on in silence for a spell. It wasn’t long, however, before they turned a corner, coming to a stop before a heavy iron door.

As he watched his thin guide fumbling with a ring of keys the man had fished from his robe, a new thought suddenly came to Baeldrin, and his eyes narrowed again in suspicion. “How did you chance to be at that door? You couldn’t have known I’d be fighting my way through the street…”

“No,” the servant agreed. “But I’d been watching you from below for some time, hoping to catch your attention when you departed—if it wasn’t too late to warn of what was to come. I’d not thought the departure would be so…hmm, dramatic…but I was ready all the same!” Having decided on the key to use and turned it in the lock, Martassin put his shoulder against the barrier and began to push.

First to cross the threshold, one hand raised against the torches illuminating the incommodious cellar within, Baeldrin cursed aloud. “How much longer till we emerge from these ratholes?” His eyes swept the room, glancing at the casks stacked against its side walls before coming to rest on a lone, central table. “And who’s this lout?”

The servant entered and swiftly locked the door behind him before answering his master’s question. “Your Master of Ale, my king.”

Sprawled over the table, a spilled mug of his own craft just out of reach, the inebriated brewer shifted slightly at the influx of noise—raising his head slightly to turn a long-bearded face away from the intruders—but he wasn’t fully roused from stupor. Within the space of three breaths he began to snore loudly, causing Baeldrin’s frown to deepen.

“As much as I could use a drink,” the fallen king announced, looking again to Martassin, “…for your sake, I hope there’s more to this.”

“Of course there is, my lord. This man knows the tunnels like the back of his hand. He can lead us all the way out of the city from down here.”

Baeldrin considered this briefly, then nodded and started across the room for the opposite door. “Then wake the fool, and let’s depart!”

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