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It's deep into the morning by the time we trudge back into the Avenging Axe. Makri goes straight up the stairs to check on Lisutaris but I take a walk through to the back of the tavern to check on Gurd. Though I try to remain silent, the slight noise of my entrance brings him round.
"Sorry. Didn't mean to disturb you."
Gurd manages a weak grin. That's more than any of the other malady sufferers have managed. Gurd was always strong, and I don't doubt he'll be up on his feet in a day or two.
"Just had to lie down for a while," he says. "Be better soon."
"You will be."
I marched all over the world with Gurd. I'd have been killed in battle long ago if he hadn't been by my side.
"The tavern . . . is everything all right?"
I reassure him.
"I've got it under control."
"What about Tanrose?"
"Also all right. She'll be better in a day or two. Don't worry, I can keep things going."
Gurd nods. I've never seen the old Barbarian looking so pale.
"Big card game tonight," whispers Gurd. "Sorry I can't play."
"It'll save you money. I'm on good form."
Gurd grins again, but his eyelids droop, and I leave him to sleep.
The scene in my office is not as riotous as I feared. Sorcerers are notoriously intemperate and I wouldn't have been surprised to find them all lying drunk on the carpet. They've remained sober. A sign of how serious things are, perhaps. Coranius the Grinder is sitting behind my desk. Tirini Snake Smiter is in my armchair. And Hanama, to my surprise, is sitting up. The malady is passing. She's still deathly pale but she no longer has the haggard look that comes with the illness.
"Feeling better?" I grunt.
"I'll leave tomorrow."
I should be delighted. I realise I don't really care.
"Have you any information about the Ocean Storm?" asks Coranius.
"None at all. How about the Sorcerers Guild?"
Coranius shakes his head. The artefact has vanished from sight. No one has the slightest idea where it is.
"We've been discussing it with Lisutaris. It's a worrying situation."
It has to be worrying if he's talking to me about it.
"What about this woman Sarin?" asks Coranius. "Does she have information?"
"I don't know for sure. I don't think so. I think she killed a thief called Borinbax who had it, but it was gone by then."
"We must question her as soon as she recovers."
"She doesn't know where it is," says Hanama.
"How do you know?"
"I asked her."
"And you believe her?"
"I know Sarin much better than you realise," says Hanama. "She doesn't know where it is. She came here thinking you did."
I notice that the killer in question isn't in my office.
"Where is she?"
"She dragged herself downstairs," says Hanama. "She said she'd rather lie ill in a store room than stay here any longer."
Sarin has gone. It's good news, though once again I find that I don't much care. I ask Coranius a question.
"So many people have fallen sick here. And it's taking them a long time to get better. Especially Lisutaris. Is there something sorcerous about it?"
"Lisutaris thinks not," replies Coranius.
"What do you think?"
Coranius shrugs. He's a man of medium size. Sandy-haired, not imposing in any way. But he's one of our strongest Sorcerers, not far behind Lisutaris in terms of raw power.
"I can't find any trace of sorcery. But you're right, it is taking her a long time to recover . . ."
Coranius looks troubled.
"People fall sick in clusters all the time," says Tirini. "That's what the malady's like. I don't think there's any sorcery at work. We'd be able to detect it."
"We can't detect the Ocean Storm," says Coranius.
"We don't even know if the Ocean Storm really exists."