Chapter 57

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Showered and dressed in all-black clothes, watch at his wrist and ring at his finger, umbrella by his side, Leithan got to the East Harbor pub early. He also wore a short-brimmed hat, black with thin gray stripes.

For now, he was alone. Seated at the back of the pub at a faded-wood table with more dents and scratches than he could count. Leithan nursed a pint of Cieltz bitter ale while his notebook was out, and he alternately worked on a new song for his band and his lecture for next week.

Surrounding him was a nautically-themed décor in the dim light of a few oil lamps. Cast iron anchors, large wooden ship wheels, old navigation charts, and black and white photographs of bulky Cieltz steamships shared the space on the walls.

If he craned his neck, he could see, over the other tables and patrons and through the north-facing windows, the nearby docks and the dozen vessels moored alongside, gently swayed by the Siren Ocean's waves.

There was no music, just the clatter of conversations and the charming waitress, Becky, bustling from table to table with her large platter. She had stopped by Leithan's table earlier, not just to take his order, but also to thank him for what he'd done for her and the others on Friday night.

It had taken a while before Leithan's mind finally registered what she meant. The stupid fake ritual at Clan of the Raven. Six days ago now, though it felt like longer.

Then, he had asked Becky if her arm was healing properly and she answered that it was fine, thanks to Maureen who had been kind enough to gift her with a curative herbal ointment.

After which Becky also leaned in, telling him that she knew what he was trying to accomplish with Maureen, about Tremes and Satya. Apparently, Maureen had told her protégée about the little interview.

Leithan and Becky had never been close. She was much closer to Shay since they were exes and had remained friends. But in that moment, Becky's smile had done much to warm Leithan's heart, and her eyes, elegantly narrow and brown, smiled at him too, full of hope.

"This city deserves the truth," Becky told him.

He'd replied, "This city deserves Maureen." Becky's grin widened.

Leithan knew that Becky's dream was to become one of Veya's Chosen, maybe even priestess someday, and with Maureen as Elder Priestess instead of Tremes, there would be nothing to stop her.

A lot of people's lives would change, not just Becky's.

Presently, Leithan glanced up from his notes as Rilien Grayhound walked inside the pub. Leithan put his notebook away. Seeing him at the back, Rilien meandered over to Leithan and sat facing him, the wooden chair creaking.

Rilien wore a teal sweater that set off his dark eyes and skin, with the usual chains and pendants dangling from his neck, and his hair and facial hair seemed even shorter and neater than usual – maybe he'd just gone to the barber.

"So," Rilien said, "care to tell me what this is about?"

Before Leithan could speak, Becky swept by to ask what Rilien wanted to drink. He glanced at the pint in Leithan's hand and ordered the same thing. Becky nodded and strolled to the counter, her black heels clicking across uneven floor boards.

"You're still going to the Cascadia tomorrow?" Leithan asked him, leaning his arms across the table and joining his hands, wringing them nervously.

Rilien wore a slight frown. "I'm still going," he said carefully. "I won't go back on my word."

"That's why I invited you here tonight," Leithan said. "You going there might be even more important than we thought."

"What could be more important than preventing a war?" Rilien asked, crossing his arms.

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