As Tizeech ran off again, Scarlet carefully looked around before she removed her gloves to reveal hands already glowing with the Art. Pressing them against the wood, she reached out her mind and her will, looking past the thick decorative wood to the room within.

She saw Pearl, sitting on the overstuffed bed, bound at the wrists and ankles by her own ribbons. She saw Jed, seated on the room’s only chair. He’d pushed it into the corner, behind the massive armoire. He had a clear shot at the door and the window from there, and a pistol limp in both hands, but the armoire would protect him from most return fire unless it were an exceptional shot.

“You peeking in at me, Miss Scarlet?” Said Jed. “I think you’ll find that I’ve thought of that.”

“You’ve got the Art,” Scarlet said. “Very impressive.”

“I’ve none of that nonsense,” Jed replied, with surprising vehemence. “Mages are a stain on our society, Miss Scarlet, and my family have felt its sting all too well. The years I spent in the war, fighting to bring those traitors to heel, were the best years of my life.”

“Just because I’ve a little skill in the Art doesn’t mean I had any sympathy for them,” Scarlet said.

“Oh, that’s right. Why would you? They’ve done nothing but hold your kind in contempt.” Jed laughed, mirthlessly.

“The rebels were no friends of boudoir owners, it’s true,” Scarlet said evenly.

“Oh, that’s how it is still, is it?” Jed said. “I’m sorry, Miss Scarlet, but if you were trying to goad me, that’s a tactic I don’t respect.”

“Respect? The man who has one of my girls trussed up like a turkey, holding her for ransom for something that’s not his to possess, has the gall to talk to me about respect?” Scarlet spat. “I’ll grant you that the boudoir life isn’t exactly princesshood, but these girls had nothing when they came to me. Pearl? Clever, brilliant, even. Sharp-tongued. But her mother was one of the wild folk elves and her father never left his wife back east. She was taking in washing for a penny a week when I found her.”

“I’m here on business,” said Jed. “I have a reputation–among the right people, mind–for doing what I’m hired to do. That means no questions. Valley Union knows what it wants, and what I want doesn’t matter. This is the way to go about it.”

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