Noman stood across from The Barrel, hand idly searching his pocket for a stone that wasn't there. It was odd, he thought, how much he'd come to depend on it as an anchor of sorts. While he held the stone he'd felt safe, watched over by the power of Airea even as he hated it. Now it was gone and he was about to do something he'd tried all morning to talk himself out of. The more he'd thought about it the more he'd come to realize that this was what he had to do. 

He took a deep breath and let it out again, steadying his nerves. Then he walked across the street and into The Barrel. He hadn't been sure what to expect, really. For all he knew Daine had told everybody about him. The moment he walked through the door he might have had a whole tavern full of hostile people to deal with. But only a few glanced his way, and after the briefest of curious glances they returned to their drinks. Even the owner gave him no more than a cursory glance before he went back to serving drinks. 

Noman let a breath he didn't know he was holding pass slowly through his lips. The first hurdle passed he moved to the closest open seat while searching the crowd for Daine. At last he saw her, emerging from the back room with a bundle of something he couldn't quite identify. She brought it behind the bar as he talked at her and waved in the general direction of the rest of the Barrel. She sighed and rolled her eyes, but hurried to pick up a tray and move out into the sea of patrons. He watched her closely, waiting to see if she would notice him. At last her eyes flicked in his direction, and froze as they came to rest on him. He smiled at her, and to his surprise she smiled back. Slowly but surely she worked her way towards him through the crows, taking orders and passing out drinks with the occasional detour back to the bar. 

At last she reached his table. "Noman," she said with a smile. "I'd ask if you wanted anything, but I know you never do." 

"Actually, today I would like something," he told her. He dug into an inside pocket and pulled out a handful of coins that looked old even to him. But they were pure silver, tarnished and worn but still worth what they were made of. He thrust the whole handful towards her without counting it. "Get me a tall glass of whatever this will buy me," he told her. "And you can keep the rest."

"Noman, that's... nothing here costs that much," she told him.

"Like I said," he replied, "You keep the rest. I won't be needing it." His words gave her pause, and she gave him a calculating look before turning and heading for the bar. He watched her have a brief conversation with the owner, who looked at the coins suspiciously for several moments before deciding they were real. He gave Noman a look that said he didn't quite understand what was going on. He reached under the bar anyway and pulled out a glass bottle covered in dust. After wiping away the dust he pulled the stopper and poured a big glass of something red. Daine took the glass in her hand and wove her way through the patrons with extreme care. She set the glass down in front of Noman. 

"There you go," she told him. "Not the best in the world, but the best this place has got. Cotswald only breaks it out for special occasions. Which is to say, just about never. As much as you gave me you probably could have bought the whole bottle." 

"Sit with me?" Noman asked, pulling the glass towards himself and sniffing at it. He'd never been one for the hard stuff, he remembered now. But given what he was planning he figured he might as well. 

"Sure," Daine said softly. She lowered herself into the chair across from him. "Noman..." she said, then paused as he took a drink from the glass. It was strong, but didn't burn as much as he thought it would. And it was full of flavor - he could taste berries and honey. Once it was down he could feel the warm flush already rising to his face. Gods... how had it been since he'd even had alcohol? 

"Hmm?" He asked in response to Daine's words, not trusting himself to speak just yet. 

"Noman, what are you doing here?" 

He took a moment to work his tongue around the inside of his mouth and swallowed once more to make sure his throat was clear. "I came to apologize," he said. "And not just for the other night. For... well, for everything. Every terrible, horrible thing I've ever done. So. I'm sorry, Daine. I'm really, truly sorry."

"They said you did terrible things," Daine said softly. "That you killed people, and used their blood..." she looked into his eyes. He could feel them searching his soul, and it made him uncomfortable. "They said you'd do the same to me," she added. 

"I did those things," Noman admitted. "I've killed people... so many people, for what I thought were good reasons. For what I was led to believe were good reasons. Maybe some of them were, but it doesn't change what I did. But you? I would never hurt you," he told her.

"Why not?" She asked, face creasing in a frown. "You just met me. What makes me so much more special than all of those other people?" 

"You..." Noman sighed. "You remind me of someone I cared about once, a long time ago. All of the things I've done were supposed to be for her. For people like her, and like you. But I don't think they were, in the end." He took another drink of whatever it was in the glass and felt his face grow even warmer. 

"You shouldn't apologize to me," Daine told him. "Not for all that. I can't... it's too much. If you apologize to anyone it should be to the gods."

"The gods?" Noman said, jaw tightening. "They're not worth apologizing to," he growled. "It's their damn fault, anyway," he said mutedly. "People have no idea what kind of monsters they worship."

"Then why bother apologizing to me?" 

"Because I needed to say it," Noman told her. "So somebody would know. You know what I am, what the gods have made me into. If anybody should hear me say I'm sorry it's you."

"What now?" Daine asked. "Now that you've said what you came to say?"

"Now I finish my drink," Noman said. "And after that I walk outside, where the Watch is waiting for me." He saw the surprise in her widened eyes, and smiled a little. "Of course I know," he told her, guessing at her thoughts. "Don't worry, I won't hold it against you for not telling me."

"They're not going to let you go without a fight," Daine warned.

"That's alright," Noman said, chasing the words with another drink. Once it was down he took a deep breath and let it out. "No need to panic the customers. Whatever's going to happen will happen outside."

Daine glanced across the room, to a table where two men sat watching them. When she looked back at him she moistened her lips with the tip of her tongue. In a low voice she told him, "I think I could sneak you out the back... if I kept them distracted, maybe-"

"No," Noman stopped her. "Just... no. Gods, Daine. I'm a murderer. There's no need for you to get yourself in trouble for me. I knew this was waiting and I came anyway." He finished his drink and set the glass on the table, keeping his eyes on it for a time. "It's what I want," he said. When he looked up Daine was staring at him.

"You make absolutely no sense," she told him. "I mean... none at all."

"Yeah," he said with a genuine smile. "I know." He looked over at the two men Daine had glanced at. They watched back, aware that he knew why they were there. He gave them a nod and stood up from the table. They stood as well, ready to follow him wherever he went, one pulling a small glowing crystal from a pouch on his belt. It's appearance gave Noman a start, reminding him of the stone he'd only just gotten rid of.  But they weren't the same, and he forced himself to relax. 

With a purposeful stride he left through the Barrel's front door, out into the bright noonday sun... and into the sights of half a dozen level rifles. "By the authority of The Watch of the City of Marsten," one of the men with a rifle bellowed, "You are under arrest!"

Noman heard the door open behind him, and the two men from inside stepped out behind him. They carried pistols rather than rifles, but the shorter weapons were nonetheless aimed directly at him. "Easy now," one of the two men said calmly, as if he were talking to a skittish animal. 

Noman took put his hands in the air, slowly enough that they would understand he wasn't drawing a weapon. "Allright," he said.

"Shut up!" One of the men with rifles shouted. "You so much as mutter under your breath and you'll be full of holes, understand? No spells, right?"

One of the men lowered his rifle and slung it over his shoulder. He looked Noman in the eyes. "Joran is going to tie your hands in front of you. Don't resist. Nod if you acquiesce." With nothing much for him to do other than comply, Noman nodded. They tied his hands tightly before him, and then put a gag on him just to be safe. "You'll follow me," the man who'd spoken gave further instructions. "If you don't follow me, they'll shoot you. Stay ten paces behind me. If you get too close, they'll shoot you. Try and remove your bonds or your gag and they'll shoot you. Don't make any movements or gestures unless told to. If you do, they'll shoot you. Got it?" Noman blinked at the man, wondering if this was some sort of game to him. "Nod if you understand," he added almost sheepishly. Noman nodded and they were off.

More armed Watchmen joined the procession as it moved closer to the Ivory Tower, some clearing the streets ahead while others took up positions from which they could potentially shoot Noman. When they were near the gates Hatchet and Anara came jogging out to halt in front of the group. "You sure this is him, Tomlin?" Hatchet  asked.

"Certainly looks like the the description," Anara threw in.

"Aye, Hatchet," the man in the lead nodded. "Joran asked the girl inside, she said it was him." Hatchet pushed passed Tomlin, eyes narrowed as he stared down Noman. "What's wrong?" Tomlin asked.

"It's too easy," Hatchet said, eyes boring into Noman. "There's no way a Summoner just walks out into the street and gives himself up. He's up to something."

"Up to something or not," the Anara said, "We've got him. Bound and gagged like that there's no way he can do magic. He's no summoning any demons."

"What about the stone," Hatchet demanded. "Did you search him?"

"Not yet," Tomlin admitted. "Mosell, pat him down." 

One of the dozen or so Watchmen moved forward and rifled through Noman's pockets. When that failed, he started searching for secret pockets. Finding none he shrugged. "He doesn't have it, sir."

Hatchet's eyes searched the surrounding buildings, and Noman noticed he was paying particular attention to the shadows. So, he knew about that did he? "Keep an eye out," Hatchet ordered. "He may have had some demons summoned already. Maybe he can control them with his mind or something. Now that we've got this guy there's no way I'm letting him go. Put him in the cell with the wards on it," Hatchet said. He followed for a time, constantly watching the shadows for signs of movement.

"Something about this doesn't make sense," Anara said. "Why would he try to kill Konrad only to let himself get caught like that? It's like he wants to be here."

"Yeah," Hatchet said distractedly. "We need to get Olian down here."

"We should tell The Captain," Anara prompted.

"Yeah," Hatchet said again. "And that."

The End

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