“Why is almost everyone behaving so coldly to me?” Gent asked bluntly after yet another encounter with some of Kenreciel’s compatriots strengthened this impression beyond what he could reasonably stand.

“You’re Shriette, of course,” Kenreciel replied seriously.

“Which is your word for anyone not Yndikette, correct?”

The elementist nodded. “And traditionally looked down upon.” His serious tone hadn’t lightened, and this seemed to be a subject that actually procured his full attention. “That was part of the reason I wanted to have a mercenary accompany me — someone who was more hardened to intolerance than the average Merezion citizen.”

With a brief glance around to solidify an impression that had already begun to develop, Gent frowned slightly. “I see several other non-Yndikette here.”

“Don’t count the servants,” Kenreciel replied somewhat darkly. “Or I might say slaves… they probably are.”

“You brought me to a place where my kind are kept as slaves?” Gent wondered hotly. “When were you going to inform me of this?”

“I informed your companion of everything!” Kenreciel defended himself. “Why didn’t she tell you?”

Gent sighed.

“Anyway, you have a sword that deflects element, and I’m paying you a lot of money to be here.”

“In a dress…” Gent muttered.

“No, I’m not paying you to be here in a dress. That was something the three of you came up with.”

“Not three of us…”

“I could expose you,” Kenreciel mused in a lighter tone, “but I’m sure you’d fight me, and that would cause more of a scene than I really want.”

“And it was not going to cause a scene simply walking in with a man?” Gent demanded, irritated.

“That’s different.” The elementist waved away the protest. “That would have been a quiet scandal, not an actual uproar. I want to be excluded from future gatherings, not tossed violently out of this one!”

Gent gave another angry sigh. “Why can you not tell these people what you think of them, and never come to their parties again?”

“Why did you come here dressed as a woman,” Kenreciel demanded, “if you’re so straightforward?”

“Because my partners are heartless shrews.” This was an uncharitable exaggeration, though, and he knew it.

“You see? Circumstances!”

“What ‘circumstances’ keep you attending these horrid things?”

But at this moment they were interrupted again, this time by a cheerful cry of, “Kenreciel!” and the swift approach of yet another T’kartay or Ytoldeth or whatever they were called. This one was very large, built as stockily as Gent but a good two feet taller. He clapped Kenreciel soundly on the back as he repeated the greeting and continued in Islimme. He wasn’t quite like most of the others here: his friendliness seemed genuine, and Kenreciel didn’t appear to hate him.

They moved on into what sounded like a real conversation, quite different from the exchange of meaningless politeness (or, in Kenreciel’s case, near-rudeness) Gent had observed before. Noting that Kenreciel actually appeared interested in whatever they were talking about, the mercenary had to wonder what that was. It certainly lent Kenreciel more animation of expression than most previous topics.

Suddenly the newcomer broke off what he was saying and turned to Gent. “But I am rude,” he said, fairly comprehensibly, reaching out and seizing the mercenary’s hand. “My Arquan was very bad, but please.” He bowed over the hand, and again Gent struggled not to yank the appendage away. At least the kiss this one pressed to it was brief.

“I am Woriotte, third of Bankuet. I am the happy for meeting you.”

Gent couldn’t help grinning a bit, even through his annoyance, at this statement. If he’d known any of the Yndikette language, he might have attempted to respond in kind, but he hadn’t yet managed to pick up a single word of it. So he merely said, “Good to meet you. I am Gent Korrick.”

“And for you here with Kenreciel… you to be…” Woriotte fumbled a few more words before giving up in frustration. “Am… because… imslos, Kenreciel, burikue’me!”

Kenreciel’s handsome face took on an almost impish expression as he replied briefly in Islimme before turning to Gent. He began speaking before his friend was even halfway finished with the comment that was evidently to be translated. “Woriotte is overreaching,” he stated with some amusement, “trying to compliment us both at the same time.”

Woriotte, for all his Arquan ‘was very bad,’ could apparently tell that Kenreciel’s words didn’t convey the intended idea, for he prodded the shorter Yndikette with a large, forceful finger and demanded a proper translation. Gent was amused; he judged these two must have been friends for some time.

“Well, fine,” Kenreciel said, schooling his features into a serious expression. “Gent, Woriotte believes that, since I chose you to accompany me here, you must be as great a genius as I am.”

This startled Gent into laughter. “I do not know whether I should not be more insulted than flattered.”

With a slight scowl Kenreciel replied, “What do you mean by that?”

“A genius…” Gent chuckled somewhat darkly. “…whose genius idea of how to escape elementist society parties is…” But he trailed off as, not unexpectedly, he felt his anger returning; besides, Kenreciel had looked away.

Seeming sublimely oblivious to the sudden tension, Woriotte smiled broadly at Gent as if to inquire how the compliment had been taken. Gent forced himself to mirror the expression; he didn’t want to offend what appeared to be Kenreciel’s only friend at this gathering, and seemingly a decent guy besides. As long as Woriotte didn’t start complimenting Gent on his beautiful womanly looks…

Actually it was worse than that.

“Kenreciel,” the tall man was suggesting brightly, “because you not to dancing, might I dance with this Gent?”

Kenreciel looked around, almost startled, but couldn’t possibly have been as taken aback as Gent was. The latter was already making absolutely-not gestures behind Woriotte’s back, unintelligible as they must have been rendered by his sudden fury. Kenreciel glanced at him, smiled slowly, then actually had the nerve to laugh. “My companion isn’t a commodity you need my permission to borrow,” he told his friend. “Ask Gent, not me.”

“I know you said that,” Woriotte grinned, and turned back to the mercenary. Gent was so blindingly angry at Kenreciel, trying so desperately not to take it out on Woriotte, that he didn’t quite know what he said next. It must have been somewhat reasonable, however, for the next thing he knew was the big man leading him up to the next tier.

He hadn’t expected dancing — hadn’t even noticed that it was going on anywhere in the room, nor heard the soft music that suffused this tier — and, by the time they were in position there, was far more nervous than angry. Although imitating princessly manners was no difficult task, he wasn’t sure he could pull this off with any kind of grace. That worry proved needless, however; it was a different style of dancing than he was used to, but had probably evolved from the same source. Gent was just lucky it didn’t involve any more contact between partners than a hand on the hip. And as for performing the steps properly… well, Woriotte was such an enthusiastic lead that Gent had little to do beyond following (and avoiding the other man’s omnipresent feet). And trying to puzzle through his ill-placed attempts at conversation.

“That sword I see to you being one mercenary, correct?” Woriotte’s jovial words were enough to distract Gent (mostly) from his overly-energetic dancing.

“Correct,” Gent replied. He didn’t really know what else to say.

“Kenreciel said he think to bring one Shriette mercenary,” Woriotte nodded. He added with a laugh, “He will make a shock.”

Gent also laughed, since that seemed to be what the remark called for. “He told me,” he said simply, wondering if Woriotte knew why his friend wanted to make a shock. He considered asking a question or two of his own, particularly on the subject Kenreciel hadn’t yet been able to elucidate… but, even assuming Kenreciel’s reason for desiring aforementioned shock did exist outside his own head, and that Woriotte knew or could guess what it was, the mercenary wasn’t sure Woriotte would understand the question, nor Gent the answer if the other managed to give one. So he merely continued to respond as best he could to whatever Woriotte brought up.

“What part of Merezio you to come?” the latter was asking.

Fairly certain he knew what was intended by this, Gent replied, “I come from Rackinlund originally, in fact.”

Whether he hadn’t actually meant to inquire where Gent came from or just didn’t recognize the Arquan kingdom name Gent had given, Woriotte appeared somewhat confused. Gent doubted the man was familiar enough with foreign geography for even the Islimme name for Rackinlund (if there was one) to mean much to him — Gent certainly wouldn’t have known one country from another in almost any tongue but his own. At any rate, he couldn’t really think of anything to say (again), and his smile, given the situation, was still a little forced.

Woriotte seemed resilient, though, and persisted. “And you have element?”

“No,” replied Gent, “none at all.” It was not his policy to mention the elemental nature of his sword to those that didn’t already know or need to know. “It does look like fun, though,” he added, trying to be conversational.

Woriotte grinned, and trod on Gent’s foot. As Gent struggled externally not to show that he’d just been stepped on and internally not to get too angry at the unintentional clumsiness, he missed his partner’s next remark. Woriotte, evidently blaming lack of vocabulary rather than lack of grace for Gent’s blank expression, pondered with a frown for a moment before rephrasing: “You can fight I think more good my element.”

Realizing that Woriotte was attempting to compliment him again and appreciating the fact that none of the compliments thus far had had anything to do with Gent’s… beauty… Gent returned the other’s grin. He still wasn’t terribly pleased to be dancing with another man, but supposed that, if he had to, toe-squashing notwithstanding, Woriotte wasn’t a bad option.

Still, after a few more minutes of conversation based largely on guesswork and a number of hits and near misses to Gent’s unfortunate feet, Gent was very ready to be angry at someone other than the innocent Woriotte. This worked out quite well; as the two of them returned to the lower tier where Kenreciel waited, the latter turned toward them with a smirk that would have enraged Gent under just about any circumstances. He was talking to someone — or at least had been until suddenly putting his back to her to greet them — but she excused herself almost immediately on their arrival. It couldn’t have been more obvious that Kenreciel wasn’t at all interested in the conversation; Gent wondered how long she’d been there before he and Woriotte had appeared.

Whether Kenreciel thought his friend’s presence would prevent the righteous chastisement Gent was sure to deliver or merely aggravate Gent more (perhaps both), or whether the two really wanted to talk, Gent could not tell — but Woriotte hung around for quite some time chatting with Kenreciel in their own language while Gent scowled whenever he wasn’t looking and ate all of Kenreciel’s hors d’oeuvres off the floating tray. This made him thirsty, but there didn’t seem to be any option other than the little sweet liquors. He wondered if the colored water in the fountains was potable, but wasn’t about to interrupt the conversation beside him in order to ask.

Woriotte seemed to consider his duty of politeness fulfilled by dancing; he didn’t appear to think it at all rude to engage the entirety of Kenreciel’s attention and leave Kenreciel’s companion to ‘her’ own devices. Gent got the distinct impression that Woriotte would have been very surprised if anyone had informed him that this was, in fact, rather bad manners. It gave Gent time, at any rate, to cool down from his latest rush of rage.

To facilitate this, instead of attempting to follow even the mood of the discussion, he turned his attention to the other people he could see. None of them were approaching — probably because Kenreciel seemed likely to ignore them completely as long as he was talking to Woriotte — but there were quite a few party-goers on this tier that looked as if they wanted to. Gent spotted a few that weren’t even bothering to conceal the vulture-like way they were waiting for Woriotte to leave so they could swoop in for their turn. He wondered again what kind of political influence his companion had or was believed to have, and could definitely see why Kenreciel hated these gatherings; perhaps Woriotte’s continued presence had more to do with that than with Gent.

The latter was severely grateful that nobody else nearby seemed to speak his language. Many of the watchers still looked coldly away from him, or even seemed to glance right through him as if he were invisible, but some nodded or bowed whenever they caught his eye, and would undoubtedly have come over to talk to him if they’d been able to. Somehow Gent didn’t really think Kenreciel’s salvaged plan of causing a scandal with a Shriette mercenary date was going to be terribly successful.

It did appear that Kenreciel had spoken the truth about non-Yndikette, though: Gent found, as he examined those around him more closely, that the only skin as pale as his own belonged to certain of the waiters. They didn’t seem much like slaves, but Gent supposed this really wasn’t the venue to determine that. As far as he could tell, the guests didn’t treat them any differently than the other, Yndikette waiters… which was to say that they treated them all like servants… perhaps the race distinction disappeared within the class distinction.

As his musings on Yndikette society could only go so far without Kenreciel’s input, he was beginning to get very bored as well as annoyed. Tired of the looks he was receiving, in all their variety, from the other guests, he’d turned away from the party entirely and, leaning on the carved stone railing, was staring out into the darkness of the cavern at the hovering lights. He was just starting to think he could see some details of the actual stone behind the illusion when he heard Woriotte behind him making some slightly louder comment in an unmistakable tone of leavetaking. Gent turned back toward them as Kenreciel replied in kind and then added in Arquan, “And maybe I’ll ask Gent to dance.”

Attempting to stifle his rage long enough to force a smile in response to Woriotte’s goodbye, Gent rethought his previous plan of engaging Kenreciel in a new conversation once Woriotte left in the hopes of staving off the vultures a while longer. Let Kenreciel be descended upon by every single one of them; see if Gent would lift a finger to help him! But for several moments of hot silence — while Gent steeped in anger and Kenreciel looked placid — nobody approached. Gent didn’t bother to guess why, only asked through gritted teeth, “How much longer do we have to be here?”

Testament to Kenreciel’s true frame of mind — amused at Gent’s anger but no happier than he was to be here — were the chuckle and succeeding sigh he gave in response to this. “Another half-hour should be enough,” he answered, looking at their tray and then vaguely confused at the lack of food thereon. He perked up a bit as he added, “Shall we dance?”

“You do not want to dance,” Gent growled, standing straight from his lean against the railing and clenching his fists. His expression must have been remarkably severe, for someone that was approaching apparently to talk to Kenreciel gave Gent a startled look and turned right around again. “You only want to…”

Gent was prepared to give Kenreciel a good-sized piece of his mind this time, but paused in the middle of his reproof and put a hand to his sword hilt with a frown; as he’d thought, it was vibrating slightly. “Something–” he began, but did not continue; all conversation across the great chamber was dying down as a strange high-pitched noise whined through the echoing air. There was abrupt movement, chanting and gesturing, and the next moment the room was full of smoke and flashing from the explosions that ripped across the various tiers.

“I do not like this,” Gent announced, feeling the ground beneath his feet trembling.

Kenreciel glanced at him a little skeptically. “Why? It’s an excuse to leave.”

When looked at in that light… “That is a good point.” Gent drew his sword and turned toward the walkway that would take them down to the next tier.

“Ah, I hoped you’d still be able to draw your sword,” Kenreciel said in satisfaction, following.

“What do you mean?” demanded Gent suspiciously, raising his voice slightly as the rumbling noise throughout the room increased.

“Oh, there was a form about the entrance to bind weapons from being drawn,” replied Kenreciel in as casual a tone as if he were talking about the weather. “I hoped it wouldn’t affect your sword. You know, I would love to have a look at–”

“You hoped,” Gent interrupted at a growl, casting a quick, angry glance over at the other man. “You wanted to bring me, you specifically tracked me down because my sword could protect us in case something like this happened, and you hoped… the element at the door would not affect it.”

“Well, it was better,” Kenreciel began defensively, “than only–” But again he was interrupted, this time by their arrival at the lowest tier where they found themselves confronted by several cloaked, hooded figures.

The latter seemed just to have entered the room, and were fanning out as if to prevent anyone reaching the door. Immediately on catching sight of Gent and Kenreciel, the figure closest to them raised its hands. With all the formsetting, exclamations of surprise or fear or outrage, and the continued rumbling going on, the room had become so noisy that Gent could not make out any voice from under the cloak — but he didn’t really feel he needed to hear to know he’d better be on his guard. Raising his sword, he moved quickly in front of his companion, watching the formsetter intently.

Behind him Kenreciel was saying something, but so quietly that Gent could no more make out his words than those of the cloaked figure before him. He didn’t have time for it in any case, since whatever formation the person in front of him was setting was evidently finished. What looked like vines of some sort erupted from the dark opening of cloth around the gesturing bronze hand, flying toward Gent in a movement that seemed bizarrely like that of a growing plant creeping up a wall over the course of months or years — but through the air and impossibly quickly.

Gent didn’t know what would happen if the vines touched him, didn’t really want to find out, and was hard-pressed to move fast enough to prevent it. There were more of them than it had seemed at first, and their intertwining motion was difficult to follow. And then, as Gent twisted and struck at the writhing green ropes that came at him and tried to get past him on all sides, suddenly from behind him swept a huge wall of dense fog. Everything around him except the blade of his sword disappeared in a thick black mist, which, as it rushed over him, seemed to buffet him as if it were comprised not of water vapor but of countless winged creatures that flocked so tightly as to defeat sight entirely.

This didn’t exactly help with the vines. Almost the instant the fog overtook him, Gent felt one of them slap against his body, and discovered immediately what their purpose was: as it struck his side, sharp as a whip, it curled and clung, and bound his right arm in an instant to his body. He ducked, hoping to avoid any others he might have missed with his sword, and used the latter to cut himself free — the vine dissolving into nothing when the blade passed through it — and pictured darkly what would have happened if all the vines had hit him at once.

Kenreciel gripped his shoulder, leaning forward to speak over the varied cacophony that filled the swirling darkness. “I can see. Come on.” And he seized Gent’s free hand and pulled. Gent didn’t ask for details, just followed.

After only a few steps they were intercepted by another of the cloaked intruders appearing out of the darkness. Through this last Gent’s sword was cutting a path of visibility as they moved, so he supposed they made a fairly easy target. Again he put himself quickly between the formsetter and Kenreciel, and again found himself battling a number of airborne tendrils seemingly bent on subduing him — these ones more resembling the tentacles of some flexible water creature. In the process of fending them off, Gent cleared the entire space around him of fog and this, though undoubtedly making him an even easier mark, also allowed him to see more clearly when their assailant was sent flying backward by Kenreciel’s form that seemed to have all the force of the charging bull it resembled: a very satisfying sight.

They moved on, this time in the midst of a strong wind that had begun raging through the room. Squinting as his own hair and that of Kenreciel in front of him whipped into his face in turns, Gent struggled to see where they were. The fog was clearing in swirling shreds — doubtless the intention of whoever had set the wind — and all the people blocking the door except one had dispersed. Gent could see them attacking and subduing or battling the other elementists throughout the room.

Gent would have stood and watched if that idea had been even a little less stupid. Element wasn’t nearly this common in the areas he frequented, and a room full of elementists fighting therefore not something he could see every day. But he did the sensible thing and turned back, after a single glance around, to the one obstacle left between them and the door. And a good thing, too: the guard was just finishing a formation as Gent’s eyes moved that direction.

For a third time the intent seemed to be restraint rather than outright harm — it was vines again, these ones bearing flowers but appearing no less purposeful for that — and Gent might have wondered at this when a variety of more or less deadly-looking forms seemed to be flying around the room, but he didn’t have time. He thought Kenreciel was once again setting a form behind him — he was almost certain his opponent was working on another one in front of him — and the vines took up all the rest of his attention.

Gent’s concentration was broken somewhat, a moment later, when Kenreciel’s bull-like thing rumbled past him so close that he twitched, and this was probably why one of the vines was able to slip by. It must have hit Kenreciel, who made a noise more frustrated than pained or startled and fell against Gent.

The enemy’s form had evidently been in preparation for Kenreciel’s: a small tree sprang up directly in the charging bull’s path, shielding the cloaked figure that ducked slightly behind it. Both bull and tree shattered and dissolved as the one hit the other, and Gent wasted no time: dodging around the fading glow of the two formations, he kneed the cloaked woman in the stomach before she could start setting another. He could tell that she was female by the grunt she let out, which he was close enough to hear as he threw her to the floor.

Kenreciel, his hand enveloped in the bright image of a cat’s clawed paw, had already torn off the vine that had impeded his legs by the time Gent turned back to him; he wasted no time in catching Gent up, and together they ran for the exit.

The cloakroom was dark — because the attackers had done something to the lights, or because the latter were dimmed until the gathering began to disperse? — but there was no fog and no wind, and it was a good deal quieter. Not much more peaceful, though: the intruders had evidently left a sort of rear-guard in here, which attacked the moment Gent and Kenreciel appeared.

Whether or not Kenreciel’s social plans had had anything like the desired effect, the more practical aspects of a mercenary companion with an element-deflecting sword were now more apparent than ever — for this was not a one-man fight. Positioned so that one of them could watch the doorway to the passage onto the mountain and the other two the doorway further into it, these three figures were arranged so they wouldn’t hit each other with formations — and they weren’t bothering with restraining forms. They also seemed to have readied their attacks ahead of time — if that was possible — and Gent had only half an instant in which to interpret their movements and glowing hands before forms came at him from three directions at once.

Two of them — a very straightforward bolt of lightning and something a little less comprehensible that resembled a hurtling disc of razor-sharp glass — he deflected, but the last — a thin, dart-like sliver of ice — hit him squarely on the shoulder. A biting cold raged through him from its point of contact, and he felt his entire left side go suddenly numb. His sword slipped from fingers he could no longer register, and his entire body followed it to the floor.

There, he found himself face-to-face with the servant that had complimented his dress on their way in. He wasn’t sure whether she was dead or not — she certainly lay still enough — and didn’t have time or ability to check. Above and behind him he could hear Kenreciel finish setting something, and then a fog like the one that had blinded him in the other room swept over him and everything else. Gent, struggling to recover his sword and his balance, made an irritated mental note to have a word with Kenreciel about his unhelpful elemental fogs.

This particular fog, however, evidently not designed to obscure vision, was more grey than black. Gent could see now that it was made up of fluttering creatures — moths, they looked like — and thought that this time they were dusting him with some kind of fine, invisible powder from their tiny-feathered wings. The first breath he took in the midst of this made him abruptly light-headed, and the distance he’d managed to raise himself from the floor on his right hand close as he toppled dizzily back onto his side.

His head was swimming, and he thought he must black out; damn Kenreciel’s stupid attacks. With what he felt to be the last of his failing strength, Gent reached out and closed his fingers around the hilt of his sword, dragging it toward him. The blade cut into his face slightly as he pulled it close, but he didn’t care; the moment the cool metal was near his nose and mouth, the air he inhaled became discernably more wholesome. It took several seconds of progressively deeper gasps against the flat of the sword before his head really cleared, and the left side of his body still hadn’t thawed, so all he could do for the moment was listen.

It seemed Kenreciel’s misguided form had at least managed to down two of their enemies; his chanting and that of only one other was audible in the room, garbled at first to Gent’s ears but gaining in clarity as he fought off the effects of the fog. He couldn’t tell what was going on now, though. When he heard Kenreciel give a grunt that sounded pained and break off whatever form he was setting, Gent struggled to his knees again.

One of their enemies was a long, dark, motionless figure on the floor; another, like Gent, was on its knees, swaying slightly as if it might topple any moment. The third, evidently unaffected by faintness, had its arms outflung. Gent followed the line of these over to Kenreciel, and felt a shock that was more galvanizing than even the bite of steel into his face at the sight: Kenreciel was clutching at his chest, where a long diagonal cut from collarbone to stomach was oozing dully in the dimness.

Bracing himself as firmly as he could on one good knee and one he could hardly feel for a swing with his off hand, Gent swept his sword at the legs of the attacker that was now beginning another formation. The man gave a sharp cry, interrupting his chant, as the sword dug into his calf, and fell. Gent struggled to his feet, feeling as if he might also fall again at any moment, hobbled two steps to a more convenient position over his enemy, and laid the tip of his sword on the man’s chest to prevent him starting another form.

Kenreciel, behind Gent once more, was chanting again, so he couldn’t be too badly damaged. Gent risked a glance over his shoulder, and saw that his companion had conjured a large glowing spider, which was now making its way up and down the injury and covering it in some sort of white stuff. The webbing or whatever it was also gleamed faintly as it settled over the bloody gash and the rent in Kenreciel’s clothing.

“Can you do anything about the cold formation that hit my left shoulder?” Gent asked, quiet and tense, as the spider seemed to finish its work and dissipate.

“I’ll try,” Kenreciel replied, his voice a bit unsteady. He took a deep breath or two, glancing around, and then raised his hands. Gent turned his eyes again toward the man he had at swordpoint — who, however, was clutching at his injured leg and not looking likely to try any more element any time soon. Thus Gent didn’t see the form Kenreciel came up with, only felt it strike his left shoulder in a stinging burst of heat that burned much like the aftermath of frostbite. It spread slowly through him, making his limbs tingle rather unpleasantly, its efficacy fading near his feet but sufficient nonetheless.

“Thank you,” Gent said.

“Let’s go,” Kenreciel replied. “Take your cloak; it’s probably still raining.”

A little surprised at such a sensible suggestion from that source, Gent didn’t bother searching for his own cloak, but seized on the first to hand that didn’t appear too large for him. In order to don it quickly, he sheathed his sword, then followed Kenreciel through the curtain into the outer corridor.

Nobody was there, and again the lights had been dimmed; they ran its length without a word, and finally came out onto the mountainside. The sleet had stopped, but the wind was still howling, and it was very cold. Clouds partially obscured the moon, and Gent could barely make out the footpath in front of them. There was nobody in sight, which surprised Gent a trifle — but he wasn’t complaining.

As he started down the path, trying to make out the distant pavilion in which they’d arrived, Kenreciel hissed, “The windthreaders won’t still be there! This way!”

Gent glanced around to see which way he meant, and protested immediately, “We are not equipped for–” But Kenreciel had already left the path and was clambering over increasingly large rocks.

The mercenary pondered briefly the wisdom of following as opposed to abandoning the Yndikette entirely; he quickly came to the decision that not only would the latter be unprofessional, it was also probably a better idea to stick together. Kenreciel had the right idea anyway, reckless as it seemed: it was undoubtedly best to get as far away from the party as they could, and the path was so obvious an escape route it might get them killed.

Still, as his foot slipped on a wet, freezing rock and he jarred down onto the next, feeling his boots sink half an inch into mud left behind by the storm and his damned skirt catch on something, Gent reflected that it would be a miracle if he didn’t end up killing Kenreciel before this night was over.

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