6.) Lady Favory pretended to be glad to see me.
“It is a pleasure to see you again, too,” I said, with equally false camaraderie. I checked my pockets after we hugged. She smiled. She wore a bronze colored dress that shimmered and highlighted her blonde hair and flawless skin. It was impossible not to look at her figure, which appeared perfect and which I knew from experience was just as perfect without the bronze wrapping.
“Did Tomber find his way here?” I asked.
“On his hands and knees and stinking of the dungeon,” she said. “I suppose I have you to thank for that.”
“You have me to thank for his deliverance,” I said. Her vanity knew no bounds. He was only in jail because she’d betrayed him.
“The potion you gave him is quite miraculous,” she said, leading the way to the conservatory. “You really must give me the ingredients.”
I tried not to laugh. Lady Favory was the last person I’d give the potion to. Not that I had any idea of the components. It was perhaps the most magical thing I ever possessed. The story of how I came across the tincture is a saga at least as momentous as the one I now tell.
I carried the small vial for many years for that unlucky day when I suffered an injury that would not heal. But because I’d introduced poor innocent Tomber to Lady Favory, I felt responsible for his condition.
Besides, I needed him. There isn’t a better tracker in all the Thirteen Principalities.
Tomber bathed in the sunlight of the windows, lying on a couch as long as the room. His legs still drooped over the end of the couch, propped on a pillowed chair.
“Can you walk?” I said. I’d learned that small talk was something Tomber had no use for.
He raised his head, his long neck rising like a snake. “It is painful, but yes. When do we leave? Where are we going? Who’s with us?”
I glanced at Lady Favory. The journey was not a secret and yet I still felt a reluctance to talk about it in front of her. She could find mischief in the most innocent of endeavors.
“Rest up, my friend. We leave on Friday. I’ll explain everything then.”
Tomber let his head fall back into the pillow and closed his eyes. “My head is as light as a feather. The blood flows where it should, as milady can attest.”
Lady Favory snorted.
“I will never complain about anything again,” he continued.
“But what then will we talk about?” I said. The drone of Tomber’s grumbles had become part of every journey, as familiar as the flatulence of packhorses and the clouds of mosquitoes.
“We meet at Rusted Gate at dawn, three days hence, Tomber.”
He didn’t answer. He didn’t need to—I knew he’d be there.
Lady Favory followed me to the door. Out of habit, I bowed to her slightly. She might look like a lady, dress like a lady, but she was no lady.
“Why do you care about Moregone?” she asked.
But of course she knew of the expedition. Her network of spies had probably informed her the very first morning.
“Why should I not?”
“That is not an answer, Evard. Is there really red obsidian there?”
“Perhaps…Or perhaps it has yet to be found. Who knows?”
She stared at me suspiciously. “You never do anything without profit. I’ve never known you to show an interest in artichokes and crabapples. What is it about Moregone that no one knows?
“I like place. I don’t think it should be lost.”
“I’m coming along,” she announced firmly. “I’ll supply the livestock for a twenty percent share.”
Ah, I had her. Nothing I could have said would have convinced her, only what I didn’t say. I now I had my muleskinner—she had an uncanny connection to the ornery creatures, which was probably why she liked Tomber too.
I put up a protest—anything less would have warned her off, but in the end I gave in. So far, I’d given away one hundred and forty percent of the profits—much less leaving anything for myself—but that would all get sorted out in the end.As I walked away, I smiled. I did indeed have an ulterior motive, but hopefully we would be well on our journey, past the point of no return, before my companions found out.