Part 3, Section 4 - The After Party

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"Sounds like Father Superior Bessik performed last rites for the deceased at Hedgerow's little chapel," Pertuli said, sliding a steaming mug across the loose boards of our table. "Thanks to you, Demis isn't among them."

"Hm," I grunted in acknowledgment, then cringed as I caught scent of my drink. "Guess I'd better watch my back, then. Didn't they have anything stronger than cider?"

"I felt I was due an hour of proper conversation at least, before you regressed," he said. He sat astride the bench slowly, and pulled his other leg over it with a groan.

"How's the back?" I sighed, indulging his prohibition for the time being, and taking the cider. It was warm, and perhaps he had earned some attention after that stunt with his coat. Thread of silver in the embroidery—how had he dreamed that would even work? Still, it had saved my life, and I owed him.

"Still smarts," he frowned. "They did what they could, but the surviving healers were pretty flagged by the time they brought us 'round, and Hedgerow didn't have more than a poultice pusher to boast of."

I knew what he meant. I was still feeling the blood loss, and some of the tooth marks at my throat would likely scar. We—Pertuli, Stande, Glassier and I—looked like we'd been in a real battle; a rarity in an age of healing radiance and alchemical advances where only front line soldiers suffered lasting injury.

He put on a brave face, but Pertuli was in mortal fear of getting scars out of the ordeal. I made a mental note to remind him of it every chance I got. In the meantime, on the brighter side, when I did get a proper drink, I should be properly intoxicated within moments.

"I'm sure losing his acolyte has Bessik shaken, too," Stande interjected, and I nodded in agreement. Poor guy. Something like that was enough to try anyone's faith, and no doubt he felt responsible somehow.

"Gentlemen, I must beg your forgiveness," Glassier said, excusing himself, and gave each of us a nod acknowledging the usefulness of our temporary alliance that morning. He clasped Stande's arm. "Now that I have rested, I must go. It falls to me to bring news to the guild and the Faranado clan."

"Of course, of course," Stande nodded, pumping his colleague's arm warmly. "Please convey our condolences to the Faranados, and let the Carving Knives know we will not consider Paolo's dishonor a stain upon their good name."

Glassier, an officer of that guild, gave him a dour nod, his tight lipped expression showing clearly that he credited Stande's offer of forgiveness very little. He was probably right. News travelled fast, and this was exactly the kind of thing that gave a club a bad name. The younger Faranado (whose name I never did learn) had gone immediately after the fight to bring his family news of the sons of Epigonne.

"How do you think they'll take it," I mused aloud once the duelist had gone. "The Faranados, I mean."

"Bad," Stande returned, giving his cider a sour look. "There's no other way. Demis survives in shame, his life saved by the man his brother sought to kill, and the curse..." He trailed off and punctuated his melancholy with a draft of the warm brew.

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