Couv was almost late to his job due to the holy war.

The Lightfaith had come down like a hammer, and as Couv walked casually through the streets of Edeleve, hands in pockets, he could see the results of their purge. Streams of people, many of them broken or bloodied, staggered toward the citadel in long lines, each bound to the others. Many were still wearing the white robes of the Aulites, though most were showing muddy blood at the very least.

“Shame,” Couv said to himself. “I was sick of them, but not enough to want them all smashed.” Like anyone else with business in Edeleve for the last twenty years or so, he’d gotten used to the Aulites preaching on street corners, the constant pleas for love and universal brotherhood. He’d filled up on thin gruel from time to time at the Aulites’ run-down missions where they served all comers.

“Look! Behold, the great mercy of the Martyr upon these sorry and weary folk!” one of the Edeleve city guard cried, walking beside the prisoners. “The law decrees death for apostasy, and yet they will be given the chance to redeem themselves through labor! Is that not good and just, brother?”

It took Couv a split second to realize that the guardsman was talking to him. “I wouldn’t know,” he said. “Just passing through.”

With a dissatisfied snort, the guardsman continued haranguing all passersby as the column moved on. For his part, Couv was just happy that the guard had been so focused on shouting about redemption that he hadn’t noticed the handoff. A small envelope, wax-sealed, had flicked between a passing man’s hands and Couv’s, with no one being any the wiser.

He slipped into one of the many pubs lining the Edeleve docks and ordered their smallest, cheapest drink before wandering over to the fire. The seal was good, a clean impression from an authentic signet ring. Couv broke it and tossed the envelope into the embers after it had spilled two small scraps into his hand: an address in the slums of Edeleve, and a scrawled note from his employer.

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