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Shortly after the sun had disappeared behind the recently erected watchtower next to the castle gate, the door to the General’s chambers opened and Lares, in complete silence, walked across the room, pulled a chair from the table, sat down and proceeded to stare at Lee as though he had just seen a ghost or had a religious revelation.

Lee waited, curious as to what had caused such strange scene for him to behold.

Whatever had happened, it had to be something grand. That, or Lares was simply losing his shape after a couple of years of relatively peaceful life.

The way it appeared, however, Lee was going to have to wait for a while: occasionally, the rogue opened his mouth, ready to say something, only to close it again and shake his head as he changed his mind and preferred to spend a few more minutes in silence. Taught by the way of trial and error, Lee preferred not to ask, lest he wanted to open a floodgate of rambles that would make no sense to anybody but Lares himself, and instead devoted his attention to a report about a group of nondescript mercenaries that had recently been sighted in the coastal region around Ardea and of whom none of the scouts were too sure whom they were employed by and what they wanted there. Could be a temporary group merely looking for a job for all they knew.

He did keep an eye on the rogue – just in case Lares decided on a proper articulation for what he had wanted to say ever since he took a seat at the table.

And, finally, was rewarded for his patience.

- Did you know the Queen is like us?

Lee stared at the man. Whatever Lares meant with it, there was a lot of room left for interpretation in that statement.

- I beg your pardon?

- The Queen. Is like us, - Lares repeated, not a bit less agitated than he had been before. Alas, the repetition of the statement brought no clarification whatsoever.

- I am sorry, - Lee frowned, having precisely zero idea what use he was supposed to make of such vague information, - but you are going to have to elaborate a bit more than that.

- The Queen, - prompted for an explanation, Lares now emphasized the necessary words, - and her friend. Are like us. I don’t know how to elaborate more on that!

That last sentence was spoken in such desperate tone that, for the moment before his brain registered the info, Lee thought Lares might be attempting to explain something terrifying about the two women.

- The Queen and her friend… Oh, - he finally managed to piece together the puzzle that Lares absolutely showed no intention to help him with, as the thief was visibly too shaken by the freshly learned details concerning their friend’s spouse, then snorted, loudly so, when the stray pieces fell into their place. – Well. That explains a lot. And you; I thought your vocabulary was broad enough?

- I don’t know! – Lares being this confused was a rare sight to behold; one that Lee, without a doubt, was going to cherish and keep in memory for as long as he could. – I have never had to explain to people how it’s called when we—

- Okay, okay! – Lee hurried to interrupt him before things became too adult-oriented. As agitated as Lares was at the moment, they would be stuck here until the next morning in that case. – Tell me, how did you come by such… erm… information?

- I opened the wrong door.

- Wrong door? – The disbelief in Lee’s voice was strong.

- All the hallways here look the same!

- Oh, I see, - Lee raised one eyebrow. – The greatest thief in Myrtana got lost. In a castle he knows like the back of his hand by now. While he obviously was not looking for an artefact a noble bragged about yesterday.

Rolling his eyes so hard they almost disappeared into his head for a second, Lares sighed aloud before he slouched into the chair.

- Yes. Yes, I admit that. But that’s beside the point! Tell me this instead: will I be shortened by one head if I blab about this to somebody else? Somebody that isn’t you, I mean. Because there’s hardly anything I can salvage in those terms now.

- Yes, that is exactly what will happen. Do not meddle in the affairs of the Nordmarian women, is the only advice I can give you. They can be more dangerous than our men if you catch them in bad mood.

- You are already unbearable when you’re in bad mood! – Lares appeared to be truly horrified by the newly found knowledge. – I can’t bear to imagine how horrifying the Queen would be!

- Yes, before we go down that path… care to share why you were looking for the artefact? – Lee inquired, determined to steer Lares away from the previous topic, even if the only other option in this case was having to listen about the shady deeds the thief was up to right under the General’s nose. Still better than having somebody catch them in the middle of a discussion about the personal affairs of the Queen. – I thought you said thieves didn’t steal from people they live next to? Or did that go away along with the Barrier?

- Beliar’s cock, no! I was merely curious! – Lares gesticulated wildly, protesting such unfair accusation. – I wanted to see if it’s really worth the amount of gold the bloated money sack paid for it!

- And? Is it?

Lee was, of course, merely teasing him now, yet the thief deemed his question worthy of an answer:

- That, General, I can tell you tomorrow evening. For now, I need a drink.