|Английски оригинал||Перевод на български|
I don't have much time to dwell on our misfortune because I've arranged to visit Baroness Demelzos's residence to give her an update. That's not to say I'm not thinking some depressing thoughts as I walk through the town. Makri's unexpected defeat has destroyed my betting strategy. I still have my wager on her winning the tournament, but I've no money to bet on each individual match. Makri has to fight four more times. I'm still confident she can beat her next opponents, but it's going to leave a sour taste in my mouth if I can't get a bet down.
As for Arichdamis's missing plans, that's another problem we haven't even begun to deal with. Lisutaris firmly believes that Lasat took them and intends to use them to embarrass her. She's probably right, but we can't decide what to do about it. We can't openly accuse him of theft. I'd consider burgling his mansion and searching for them, but a powerful Sorcerer like Lasat has plenty of defensive spells to deter burglars.
A female servant opens the door and leads me to the Baroness. Demelzos is suitably attired for receiving visitors, which means she's wearing a robe and jewellery that cost more than my yearly income. She rises to greet me.
"I was busy at the tournament."
She doesn't ask me how it went, which is a relief.
"My family has an invitation to dine with Baron Vosanos tomorrow," she tells me.
I look at her blankly.
"My daughter refuses to attend. It's a serious embarrassment. Have you cleared things up?"
"That depends on what you mean bycleared things up."
"Can you convince Merlione that her friend wasn't murdered? And that she has no reason to worry?"
"Is that what you're expecting?"
"It's what I'm hoping for," says the Baroness.
I notice a tempting bottle of wine on the table. The Baroness hasn't offered me any. Perhaps that's beneath her.
"I think it's quite possible that Alceten was murdered. That might mean your daughter does have reason to worry."
Demelzos looks aghast. "Surely you're not serious?"
"I talked to people at the Royal Record House and I'm not convinced they're telling the truth. I think they've been got at, to keep quiet. Persuaded, or bribed."
"Do you have proof of that?"
"Any sort of evidence?"
"So I'm to allow my family to descend into chaos because you have some vague suspicion?"
I shrug. "You don't have to allow anything. It's up to you. But you asked me to find out if there was any truth in Merlione's suspicions, and I think there might be."
Demelzos sits down, very troubled. "What can I possibly tell my husband?"
"I take it he doesn't know you hired me?"
"No. And he's not going to be pleased to learn." The Baroness shakes her head. "Thraxas, are you really sure about this? If Merlione's in danger, then I have to protect her, but it's going to cause an awful lot of trouble."
"I think there was something suspicious about Alceten's death. Whether that means Merlione's in danger too, I can't say for sure. It might have nothing to do with your daughter. She might just have arrived there at the wrong time. But your daughter did think the carriage was trying to run her down as well, so I'd say you should take the threat seriously."
Demelzos reaches out, picks up the bottle, and fills two silver goblets with wine. She passes one to me. "What do I do now?"
"Keep Merlione safe and out of sight while I do some more investigating."
"What if you can't find out anything?"
"I will," I say, and finish my wine quickly. "I'll need to talk to Alceten's father. I understand he's an important official."
"Cetenos? He is fairly important, I suppose."
"Would you give me a letter of introduction? It will make my life easier."
The Baroness hesitates. "If I do that, everyone will soon know I've hired you to investigate."
"Is that a problem?"
"The King's Chief Steward already made enquiries. Me hiring you is like telling everyone I don't trust him."
"He's going to know that soon enough anyway, because I'll be talking to him too."
The Baroness's brow creases with worry.
"I could get by without the letter of introduction."
Baroness Demelzos thinks for a moment. "I'm not having my daughter's life put in danger for fear of a scandal." She claps her hands and a servant hurries into the room. "Bring writing materials," she says. "And my official seal."
Returning to Arichdamis's house with Demelzos's letter of introduction in my pocket, I pass the Jolly Bandit, an attractive-looking tavern with light and music spilling from the shutters. Minstrels are playing a lusty drinking song. I can hear the crowd banging their tankards as they join in with the chorus. I sigh. There's nothing I'd like better than to join in with a drinking song, and get a few ales inside me. Unfortunately, I don't have a guran to my name. I shake my head at the injustice of it, and carry on slowly up the road. I'm in no hurry to get home. Arichdamis has been miserable since his plans went missing, and Lisutaris is no better. I hope Makri has stopped crying.
"Damn it," I say out loud. "Not crying was one of her only good points. What am I meant to say to her now?"
Makri knows I can't cope with women crying. We've discussed it. It wouldn't surprise me if Lisutaris has joined in. She's been as miserable as a Niojan whore all day. I'm slightly heartened by the thought of Arichdamis's cellars. They've been severely depleted since I moved in, but I can probably find a pie or two down there, and a bottle of Elvish wine. With luck, I can sneak them off to my room without encountering anyone.
"Maybe it won't be so bad,' I mutter, fumbling with my key in the unfamiliar lock. "Maybe they've pulled themselves together."
I enter the house and practically trip over Lisutaris, who's lying on the floor. Obviously she hasn't pulled herself together. At least she doesn't seem to be crying. The hallway is enveloped in the sort of thick haze that can only be produced by the most determined of thazis smokers.
"Ah, Thraxas. My Chief Adviser. A Chief Adviser who's full of good advice. Whatever Thraxas advises, you'd best do it. He is my Chief Adviser, after all."
"Is something wrong?"
Lisutaris drags herself into a sitting position. "I'm being mocked on all sides and I'm about to become the poorest woman in the West. Apart from that, everything's fine."
"Makri can recover. She's not out of the tournament yet."