A troubled night's sleep

"I don't keep my sword hidden," said Lianna.  "I fight for a living, I hire myself out to whoever pays the most for my swordarm.  If I kept my sword hidden, who'd hire me?  What good would I be in battle?"  She paused, drinking her beer, then continued: "I don't know what Venne has been telling you -- though I'm sure most of it's about how wonderful and powerful he is, which should've told you already he's a liar.  He'll say whatever anyone wants to hear to weasel his way out of a situation, and I'm sure he's gone and found himself in one.  I'm not interested.  I asked after him because I was hoping you'd tell me he's dead."

"You do keep a sword hidden," said the Epimeliad keeping his voice low.  "One you acquired from a watchtower; fairly taken under the terms of the contract.  Though those terms might have been disputed had anyone known what you'd found."

"You're talking in riddles now," said Lianna gathering her book up.  "Say what you mean, I'm bored of this."

"I have a room here for tonight and I will be leaving shortly after sunrise tomorrow.  I hope you will join me, if only to meet Venne and check on his health for yourself."  Amiamo picked up the Applejack and downed it.  Then he stood up, nodded politely to Lianna by way of excusing himself, and disappeared into the press of people.  She stood immediately herself and pushed her way to the bar, her fingers like iron bars jabbing into people's sides and her elbows levering small gaps into passage.  At the bar she caught the bar-keep's eye and he came over quickly, ignoring the cries and shouts of dismay of people who'd been waiting longer.

"I want three candles," said Lianna, knowing what was coming, but unwilling to try reading the book in the common-room any more.  The bar-keep named a price that was more appropriate to fifteen, but she paid it anyway and took them.  They were ivory tallow and looked like they might be worth half the price.  She took them and took the stairs to her room.

The room was two floors above the common-room, one of three on that floor.  There was one floor above hers, and she could hear creaking floorboards from the stairwell, indicating that someone was up there.  Probably some man and a floozy, she thought, unlocking her door.  Inside the room she put the candles on the table underneath the window and spent some time lighting them, and the two that had come with the room, bringing them all over to the table.  They cast a bright orangey-yellow light, strong enough to read by without straining her eyes.  She locked the door behind her again, and pulled the chair out to one side so that she wasn't sat with her back to the door, and laid the book down on the table.

To the Victor the Spoils turned out to be a vexing book; there were many long words in there that she'd not heard before, leaving her unsure of the meanings of paragraphs scattered here and there, and sections of it were written in some kind of code.  There were diagrams of what looked like machines, with instructions on what to do with them, but no indication of what the machine was for, or what it did when you operated it.  The map that had fallen out of the front of it seemed to be completely separate to the rest of the book as nothing referred to it that she could find.  On the last page though, was the symbol that Amiamo had described, the one engraved on the hilt of the Frostbane: a circle with three distinct chords whose midpoints joined at the circle's centre.  Proof, to some extent, that this was genuinely a Frostguard book.

She rubbed her eyes and closed the book, moving to one side and laying the map in front of her.  With a careful movement, she tore the legend from the map, folding it and placing it in one pocket, then folding the map and putting it in another.  At least if the map were stolen now, the thief wouldn't know what it was.  Then she put the candles out and went to bed.

At sunrise she was stood down in the courtyard of the inn by her horse, waiting for Amiamo to appear.

The End

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