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No one was home when I broke into the Hemlin-cousins’s house again and searched Osret’s room. He was a filthy Celestial who needed take his dishes back to the kitchen. I didn’t find the sword or money.
Moving down, I skipped the other bedrooms for the moment and cased the great room. The door fragments had been picked up, the cutlery put away, the furniture righted. They’d mopped about half the floor, moving lights and tables to the kitchen side. I looked around with a blank mind.
The room was just a big, rich room. Men lived here. It had hardwood floors and thick, overhead beams with irregular grain, but what told me it was men was the furniture. Girl-chairs tend to have thinner frames, smoother edges, and painted bits. They’re easier to move when your friends need help. This was a house full of boy-furniture with thick log frames, overstuffed cushions, and wider seats. The cousins had couches but no loveseats. They didn’t have piles of blankets and pillows tastefully spread around.
That got me thinking of food, and when I looked at the kitchen, I noticed a pile of stuff in front of the pantry. They had been mopping, but the pile struck me as suspicious. At a block, I pushed into the pantry and started eating their ambrosia while I pulled the shelves down and poked the ceiling. One of the floor-boards was loose, so I pried it open with a steak knife. I found dust and old rice, but couldn’t see to the end of a crevice. The crevice was maybe wide enough for the sword. I got a candle and was crawling around on the pantry floor when the two remaining cousins came home.
Apseto, the one who had found it in the lagoon, and Nurim, the wiry, always moving man, walked through their front door in a conversation long since given to argument. As they walked into the great room, they shoved their heavy, over-built couch in front of the flimsy main door.
“I’m just saying,” said Apseto. “I think it’s time we got out of this.”
“I don’t think we can,” said Nurim.
“I think we can,” said Apseto. “The crazy guy died in a sword-fight with the Messenger. Osret’s been arrested, but he’s solid. He’ll go silent. We just…wait.”
I peaked around the edge of the pantry door. They both had guns, lots of guns, with knives, armor, and boots. Nurim was carrying a pair of Thelucidor 37s, fast-action word-of-gods famous for their ability to burn large amounts of ammunition very quickly. Apseto had a breaching rifle, some kind of stupid revolver in a quick-draw holster, and another iron, a hold-out pistol, stuffed down the back of his pants in case he suddenly needed another hole in his butt. Their armor had abs, covered in unused tie-downs and spare magazines.
I had the Drowning Breath.
Death upon you, let’s just go!
Nurim was saying, “Yes, Osret’s solid, but the Messengers–” and he didn’t finish when I pushed the door open and walked out.
They looked at the naked blade in my hand and their guns in sheaths. Everyone stayed very, very still for two or three long breaths.
And Nurim asked, “What can we do to make you go away?”
“I want the saber.”
“It’s in a notch in the beam over your head,” Apseto answered.
I didn’t look up. I kept the Drowning Breath between us and used my left hand to feel around. My fingertips only grazed the base of the wood. I could climb on some boxes, but that would be treacherous footing, hard to initiate from.
“Put your hands on your heads,” I said.
And at that moment I realized they weren’t going to draw. They would try to shoot me if I started something, but I could see it in their eyes, their hands, their faces, they just wanted me to leave.
Without looking, I stepped up on a hard case, fumbled around the beam, and finally found a little groove. I’d looked right at it and never seen it. Inside that I found the forgery of Hasso, took it, and stepped off the box of food. I sidled sideways toward the door. They rotated with me but kept their hands on their heads. They had a small armory between them, and all the thoughts in my head were screaming for death and murder. I wanted one of them to draw just to be done with everything.
“I didn’t kill your cousins,” I said.
Apseto didn’t react, but Nurim shook his head. He wasn’t arguing; his head-shakes meant disbelief, incomprehension, befuddlement. It looked like he was waking up.
“Okay,” he said, meaning nothing.
I got my back to the broken doorway, stepped through, and ran.