“So where’s the pub you mentioned,” asked Roderick, suddenly catching a clue

The Quandary

4

Roderick wound through the narrow streets of Theras, Mariah beside him, both of them following Orvo and Tan. Her mind was racing, but Mariah couldn’t speak at first, didn’t trust herself just yet. She listened to Roderick ramble about some of the colorful stories of his time aboard the Dreamcatcher when he was a young man. The Falkirk brothers interjected from time to time, but seemed rather reserved now that they were moving deeper into the warren of streets that crisscrossed the port city. Mariah could barely recall their route away from the wharves.

“I just can’t believe it. After all these years, boys, and you’ve come with such a stellar opportunity. My luck is surely changing.” Roderick sounded so sure of himself, so cocky.

The older of the brothers, Tan, turned right down a narrower street—an alley really—and Mariah felt her skin prickling, a familiar sense of danger washed over her. She was suddenly wary. Roderick seemed oblivious. The alley was strewn with rubbish and the late afternoon sunlight could not penetrate the murk. Now anxious, she reached for her dagger. Ahead, Tan and Orvo slowed down. They came to a dead end then stopped. Mariah wrinkled her nose. The smell of rot filled the air.

“So where’s the pub you mentioned,” asked Roderick, suddenly catching a clue that all was not quite right. “You said it was close by, didn’t you, Tan?”

A crunch behind her brought Mariah’s head around. Two more men, rough looking and carrying sticks, had snuck up behind them.

“What’s going on, boys?” Roderick’s smile had slipped away.

“Shut up, Roderick! You always did talk too much,” shouted Tan. Both brother now brandished long knives.

“Listen boys…,” Roderick began.

“No! You listen! There’s no golden deal for you, Roderick. None at all. You see, there’s a price on your head. Lord Jim’s offering a hundred gold stars for your mangy hide. Word came from Rothchild about the sinking of the Black Serpent. They said you were the one to blame for it.”

Roderick burst out with a nervous chuckle. “That nonsense. It wasn’t my fault. Foul sorcery was involved. Just ask Mariah here. She was there.”

Mariah tried to keep her eyes on the men surrounding them. She caught Roderick’s eye. “Roderick, I don’t think they care about that.”

“I think you may be right.”

The next moment he leapt forward, jerked Orvo forward by the coat then smashed him against Tan. Mariah came at the other two, catching them off guard. She kicked one man in the groin and he tumbled into a heap on the filthy stone. She spun out of the way just as the other came rushing after her.

“Stupid bitc—”

He didn’t finish the curse. Mariah’s dagger went through his neck. He was on through ground, writhing as blood fountain from the severed artery.

Roderick was there, grabbing her by the arm. “Run, Mariah. We need to run right now!”

Mariah wasn’t about to argue. The two of them rushed down the alley and made a series of random turns down the streets until they were sure they had lost whoever might be pursuing them. They found the way back to the wharves and headed straight to the Fairweather, climbing aboard in haste.

Heart racing and blood surging, Mariah was almost hysterical.

“We could have been killed,” she said breathlessly.

The two of them went below deck and to Mariah’s cabin. The moment the door closed, she grabbed Roderick by the shoulders, slammed him against the wall, and kissed him. Roderick held her around the waist and guided them both to her bunk.

Produced by Eugenio Zorrilla.

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