“I beg your pardon?” the Aul said.

“Can you walk?” Mercer snapped. “I need to know if you’re capable of moving. That will tell me if this job is impossible or merely difficult.”

Pyfer grunted and hauled himself into a standing position. The Aulite immediately fell to his knees upon seeing this, reciting a reverent mantra under his breath.

“Good,” said Mercer. He stabbed a finger at the Aulite. “You there. Get up. I need you to get some things for me.”

The Aulite did not move. “I must do my obeisance,” he muttered. “You do not command me.”

“Brother, do as he asks,” said Pyfer. “The Aul commands it so.” He spoke in a gentle, almost genial tone.

“I’m going to need two yards’ worth of cloth, a pin, and one of these draperies,” Mercer said. “And a needle and thread.”

The courier hated speaking about his miserable time as a clothier’s apprentice, but the skills that had been smashed into his skull by Cullis’s watchful eye and swift hand came in handy. It only took him about an hour to fashion the drapes into a set of robes that served to cover most of Pyfer’s immense bulk, and the fabric that the Aulite brought made a fine turban to cover up all those ginger curls.

That just left the Aul’s intensely green eyes.

“Squint,” said Mercer.

Pyfer narrowed his eyes a shade. “Like this?”

“Squint harder, like you’ve just emerged into bright sunshine,” Mercer said. Looking again at his charge’s bulk, he added, “If you’ve ever seen the sun, that is.”

“How’s this?” The Aul’s eyes were mere slits now, and the distracting icy green was barely visible.

“Excellent,” said Mercer. “If we can get you sat in a wagon, you may just pass for a Naix.” He gestured to the door. “Come on, let’s go. It’ll be nearly dark now.”

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