The heavy footsteps raced up the stairs. Hilda crouched near the door with her knives out. She prepared to attack.
“We just made a big mistake,” Rooso said. The knife that had been concealed in his sleeve slid into his hand. Rooso opened a small leather bag with his other hand. For a spy he should have known he needed a second or third escape route.
He poured out a few objects that were held with defense spells. Hilda had been trained to fight with weapons. No wonder she forgot her greatest asset, her fire elemental.
Before he could use his objects, the door burst open and a canister rolled into the room in front of Hilda. Everything went into slow motion.
“Down,” yelled Rooso. He rolled to the side and tried to put up a shield around both of them. He wasn’t fast enough. He hoped it was a sleeping potion instead of poison. In his side vision, he saw Hilda hit the ground and cover her face with her arm.
The canister boomed and smoke swirled through the small room, covering them both. Even if Sassy could shield them, which he doubted, it was too late. Both of them were inside the smoke. He started to cough violently until he went into the dark.
He woke slowly with his head pounding. He rolled over and found himself still in his room. He coughed. Hilda was gone. They had cleaned the room so well that not even a hair on her head was there. It was almost like she hadn’t been there. When he looked under the bed, he found one small bead from her hair.
He had been a spy for a long time. But—
He dropped his head in his hands. The rot must was higher than he thought. He wanted to sleep, but he needed to think this through. Lord Barton was the only common thread. He had wanted the magical well under Hilda’s Inn.
Lord Barton had wanted that power for something. Why would the mages be involved with his bid for power? He was missing something. He groaned and tried not to vomit.
Sleeping potions made him sick and foggy. The mages wanted power. Would they support Lord Barton? He couldn’t imagine why the mages would want to support him. It had to be a smaller jealous faction that wanted to rule. To some of mages, power was everything.
Damn. Lord Barton wanted to be king and he had the support of some of the less connected mages. That had to be it. He felt fear. He was now involved with Mistress Mary Rose and her sister Hilda. Eventually one of those mages would take him out. He had to leave right now.
He packed his bag, hiked it over his shoulders, and left the room. At least one of his superiors had to be involved. He remembered how it felt to be bound and then thrown into the void by that mage in Delhaven.
Still Rooso was a spy. He needed to report to them. He might be able to get info out to a neutral party. Or he might die. At this point he didn’t care.
Rooso squared his shoulders and walked into the dark street. The landlord wouldn’t look for him. In this area of town disappearances of able young men was common. If someone tried to shanghai him, then they would be in a hell of a fight.
An owl hooted at him. He put his hand on the knife he’d strapped to his waist for easy access. Then he smiled. Even if they took Hilda’s weapon, she was still armed with her elemental. Her captors would be in for a hell of a surprise.
He wouldn’t worry. Still he would get a message to Mistress Mary Rose. She would want to know what was happening with her sister. He had a few contacts that could get a scroll to her without going through official channels.
The howl hooted again and he stopped. Stupid. Stupid. He had been lost in his thoughts and had walked straight into an ambush.
A group of men dressed in black clothing and hoods circled. One of them hooted and another man hooted back. Damn it. He had been caught like a green spy. He waited as one of the men patted him down and took his knife and his bag of tricks. He could see the white teeth as the man smiled at him.
The teeth were perfect. Rooso smiled back. “Hey Wulfe,” he said. “What are you doing here?”
One of the men put a pointy spear against his back.
Wulfe’s voice was gravely like two stones rubbing together, “Saving you from yourself.”
“Let’s go,” he said. The man behind him gave him another push. If the man pushed harder, the spear would pierce him.
Rooso didn’t resist. He kept his hands in the open and waited for his moment to escape. Wulfe, his brother, knew him too well. It wouldn’t be easy.