In this excerpt from The Bay of Sins, Rurek arrives in Modrozon Crossing looking for someone. Not a friend, but a familiar face from readers of The Endless Hills – the thief turned soldier Martoh. In between, these two have developed a little bit of bad blood.
Martoh sits down:
“Well, well, well,” he said, looking very satisfied with himself. “I believe the words were, ‘I’ll never come anywhere near this place again, you filthy criminal.’ Was that about right, Rurek?” While he spoke, he fiddled with the bracelet on his wrist.
Rurek cleared his throat. “Nice to see you too, Martoh. Believe me, when I said that I meant it. If circumstances were any different I wouldn’t be here.”
“Then I am truly touched that, in your hour of need, you found your way back here.” He signaled to someone, and a drink, some kind of deep-green alcohol, arrived within moments. “Have you had the ordem? It is a local specialty, requires a special kind of grain that grows wild around here. Very strong, but a wonderfully complex flavor, if you can handle it.” He took a long, slow sip and set the glass down on the table. “The girl is fine, by the way. I thought you might like to know.”
“I don’t care.” That was a lie. There wasn’t a night he didn’t think about the little girl and what her life was like in Wellston. He wasn’t about to let Martoh know that, however.
Martoh shrugged. “So be it. What, then, brings you so low that you would go back on your word and return to Modrozon Crossing, to this pub, and seek me out? I hope you did not gamble away all that money. It was so hard-earned.”
“After a fashion,” Rurek said, stifling a chuckle. “I got the money I needed to do what I needed to do. Problem is, now I’m not sure what to do with what I’ve got.”
“How cryptic. If you will not tell me what the problem is, I cannot help you.”
“Except I don’t really trust you.”
“You must trust me a little, Rurek, or you would have gone somewhere else. Did I cheat you? Did I tell you I would pay and then not pay, or pay less than we agreed?”
“No.” Rurek had to admit that.
“Did I lie to you about the nature of the work? And I mean lie, Rurek, really tell you something that was not true?”
“You didn’t tell me—”
Martoh raised a hand. “I told you what you needed to know to complete the task. Entirely accurate information. That you did not ask more questions, better questions, before taking my money is not my fault. You needed the money badly enough to keep you from asking those questions.”
“You’re being overly technical.”
“Overly technical is what put me in prison. Why should I not use it to my advantage now?”
Rurek knew Martoh had been in prison before the war and that he didn’t think he belonged there, but he didn’t know details. He didn’t want to know. “If that’s how you want to live your life.”
“It is.” Martoh sat back, looked out the window, and smiled. “Now that our reunion is out of the way, what is it that you think I might do for you?”