What Narsiand most of the larger worldcannot know is the secret role Atreau plays as spymaster for the Duke of Rauma.
After the Cadeleonian royal bishop launches an unprovoked attack against the witches in neighboring Labara, Atreau will require every resource he can lay his hands upon to avert a war. A physician is exactly what he needs. But with a relentless assassin hunting the city and ancient magic waking, Atreau fears that his actions could cost more than his own honor. The price of peace could be his friends’ lives.
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The fountains at the South Gate splashed and spit geysers into the twilight sky. Shadows leaped and danced, giving form to the moonlight’s play over the water. Ariz Plunado waited, dull and motionless as a stone. Two city guards, just off duty but still in uniform, strode within arms length of where he crouched at the edge of the fountain. They shared a joke and laughed harder than it merited. But Ariz let them have that happiness. Then they each tossed a penny into the fountain for luck. Ariz allowed the first guard’s coin to drop into the water. But the captain’s he caught.
As the guards started down Market Street, Ariz rose and followed. People passed him but took no note, for there was nothing about him to notice. He cultivated plainness, from his lank, walnut-stained brown hair and dull gray gaze, to his shapeless clothes and dusty brown boots. He forced his right arm to hang slack while he carefully held his left as if hooking his thumb absently on the leather of his sword belt.
He plodded behind the guards wearing the vaguely bored expression of a man untouched by any inspiration or imagination beyond the contemplation of his evening meal.
Another group of two men and three women passed himrevelers, these five, and already flushed and merry from wine. They sang together, missing notes and confusing lyrics and laughing all the more for it.
Ariz neither met their gazes nor darted his glances away guiltily. He bowed his head as if contemplating the road beneath his feet.
Most men could not have trailed Captain Ciceron home night after night without once being noticed. Certainly not while carrying an unsheathed blade. But the flat of the dagger had been etched and browned to appear dull as leather and Ariz held it against his sword belt as if resting his hand there. Only a glint of moonlight along the dagger’s razor edge might have betrayed the naked blade, but no one looked long or closely at Ariz, much less at the silhouette of his hip.
Captain Ciceron and his lieutenant slowed then stopped beneath the painted sign of their preferred alehouse and Ariz continued walking with a feeling of relief. As he closed in, he willed the captain to enter the light and boisterous company of the crowd already gathered inside the tavern. Ariz would not follow him in among witnesses. The captain could live another day.