Author: Ama / Labels: , , , , , ,

The detour through Ladybones from the Embassy to her lodgings was not strange; it was nearly a daily stop, though her route to and from the district was seldom the same from day to day. There had also been many times when she picked up a newspaper from the little girl with blonde pigtails. Amanda hoped it was often enough that few would notice how the little newspaper girl occasionally gave her a newspaper from the bottom of the stack.
The less the eyes of the Embassy were on little Wren, the better Amanda felt about it. The only reason why she had involved her cousin (for that is how Father had taught her to think of the girl) in the first steps of The Great Game was to make sure Wren was cared for. Too many times her uncle had been “between engagements”, requiring Wren to seek odd jobs to keep them whole. Amanda and her father had been distressed to find out how very odd some of the jobs had been. Uncle Marcus would not take anything from the family, but Amanda could hide the largess behind the small courier jobs she was able to give Wren. Careful accounting made sure she did not overpay for the information, but the frequency was enough to keep Wren from the truly peculiar jobs.
She pretended to not notice Ash’s interest in her cousin and walked briskly to the townhouse that held Father’s surgery at the ground floor and their flats above. At the entrance, she paused, and turned to face Ash fully before speaking. “Please stay here and wait, I shan’t be long.” She suspected he might be deaf, but one does not accuse co-workers of being Unfinished. She merely took precautions. At his nod she dashed up the stairs, quickly changing to her expedition skirt and stout boots.
A brief stop at the back step to set out clean water and a small treat for the neighborhood cats, and she was out the door, locking it behind her. She glanced at the plaque for her father’s surgery, with the small sign indicating “The Doctor Is Away”. It was not a new sign, for he still had kept his old surgery in the swamps, and travelled there every so often. It was the first time the sign had been put up before he had been called to the other clinic.
Ash had been watching the street, and nodded to her as they started off for the carnival. As was his habit in town, he walked a few paces behind her. His easy gait did not indicate how quickly he could move, when needed. He did not betray any annoyance at her wandering track through the carnival, as she flitted to and fro. Though masters of the Great Game (and Masters) could still be following her, she thought she had lost the smaller fish that would likely be interested in her movements.
In the marshes, Ash paced her as they searched for signs of the crash or Dr Mason’s passage. They moved quietly, relying on lantern signals to communicate where they were too far apart for hand signals to be seen. Ash was the first to find tracking – a fluttering paper speared on a branch. The scribble was incomprehensible, even to those who studied the Correspondence, but the hints of a Scholar were there. Amanda signaled for a spiral search around the tree, making sure Ash had his compass with him. She found the second roughly thirty yards northwest of the first, and they continued in the same fashion.
The lodestone habit of the denizens of the Neath to go North at all costs made tracking marginally faster, and they found him sleeping in the cup of an abnormally large cantharellus subalbidus upon which something had recently nibbled. His nightmare moans caused her to motion for Ash to step out of the doctor’s line-of-sight as she touched his shoulder to wake him.


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