Campaign of the Month: February 2009

Silent Winter

Pretty Things, Part 3

Posted by Ellanutella

Stealing from Rickety was a big no-no. All of the local thieves knew that to steal from Rickety’s Pawn Shop in the docks district was to walk into the prison and lock yourself in, and those that didn’t know quickly learned. The man had a sixth sense for what went on in his shop. It was an innocent place to buy and sell and trade during the day, but at night, it became the place all thieves went to trade the fruits of their work for money and get it out of their hands and onto the black market. Physically, the store was no larger than two rooms, and only one was ever seen by the great majority of the customers, day or night. And it was quite the sight, a farrago of objects large and small. To the casual observer, there was no order; there was nothing but shelves and shelves and shelves, reaching up and up and up, of books and baskets and statues and candles and all manner of anything one could think of. But Rickety knew where everything was, and in the rare case he didn’t, the close listener could catch him muttering a rhyme or formula under his breath, and he would locate it.

No one quite knew when – or where – Rickety slept. The back room was storage, it was said, for the most dangerous of items, though very few had access to it, and they were mostly the highest elite of the night’s customers. He was always there, always watching his store, and always knew what went on. Some rumored that Rickety was actually a bunch of brothers that all looked alike. Others claimed magic.

The guard never got involved with his business, either, but no one argued. Rickety had the best deals and did a lot for the bunch of thieving low-lives that came to him.

Even if he was human, Gheris did not quite regard him as such. He appraised everyone’s stolen goods the same and knew how to grab a bargain without robbing his customers. And he had never once asked her where she was from or tried to be a little too friendly, as some humans were wont with elves. They were both aware that business was business, and both were happy to keep it that way.

The only time Gheris had seen him outside of his shop was when she’d been slipping around a back alley to check on rumors of the guard discarding old weapons – he had been checking the same. Although she had no proof, she was almost certain he was as much a thief and scavenger as he was a merchant and black market connection. She did not care, however. Even if she did, his respect for the pasts of others kept her questions unasked.

Gheris could see the shop now from her position on the roof of a shop two buildings down and across the street. The next house over tilted so far forward that it kissed the building on the other side. The elf slipped over the two structures and traversed the roofs to Rickety’s shop. There was no point in sneaking in, so she dropped to the street and immediately slipped in, watchful that no late walkers saw her.

As always, she paused to gaze up at the clutter. It never seemed to be the same content, save for one or two things that no one had ever wanted and that were now just such a part of the shop that it would be blasphemy to remove them. She slipped to the rear of the room where Rickety himself sat in a chair, tilted onto its hind legs, his feet up on his table. Three sacks of coins rested beside his feet. Her fingers twitched instinctively, but even her kleptomania was cowed by the man.

He was a rough sort, with coarse and pock-marked skin, looking as if it were always two days after he had shaved. His nose was bulbous and his hairline receding. The palms of his hands were lined with something dark, reminding her of the rings of a tree; he had worked in a mine, she guessed, for such marks to stay for so long. His eyes peered at her from over a book and he carefully marked his place before dropping the chair down on all fours and rising politely. He puffed some smoke through his pipe.

“Gheris,” he said by way of greeting, “What do you have?” His accent was very nearly Fereldan, but there was always something off that told her that he wasn’t.

She folded her arms. “I was going to ask you the same thing. Has Finnian come through tonight?”

He shook his head. “I heard he was with you.”

She grimaced. “He was.”

Rickety’s low brows curled together and nearly hid his small eyes. He spat to the side. “Scum. If he comes through, I’ll hold what he has for your approval.”

She shook her head. “If he has not yet come through, he will not for the next month. And by then, the item will be cold. He is afraid I will be here, waiting for him.”

“Remember, girl, I don’t allow revenge in here,” he warned, more smoke erupting from the pipe. “I’ll hold things, but once it’s through the door, it’s not for stealing.”

She nodded. “I know. I am not waiting. I am paying him a visit.” She narrowed her eyes and slammed her fist on the table, rattling an ink pot and the coins. “The ratty little bastard gave us away and took it for himself.”

More smoke puffed. The scent made her ill. “Suppose you’re not sweet on him anymore, then.”

Gheris whirled around and made her way down the aisle. “Never was. If you see him before I do, tell him I will get my share.”

“How should I know if you’ve seen him or not?”

“You will know.”

Respect or not, Gheris scrabbled up to the roof of Rickety’s shop.

_

There was only one other fence Finnian could go to who could get the elf a good deal like Rickety’s, even if his reputation was more than a little negative. Donnis did not run a store like Rickety; he was strictly business for the night crew, hot items only. He didn’t do a good job of keeping quiet, either, and so he was forced to move around. Every night, he was in a different part of the city, always hidden from the guards, though any criminal, no matter how softly they dabbled, knew where he was on a given night. A few quick stops through some taverns revealed him to be in the market district.

Gheris traversed the rooftops until she reached the square. Unsurprisingly, there were still some people selling, buying, and out and about, even at so late an hour. She circled the square twice from the tops of houses and shops, peering down. Finally, she clambered down and began checking the surrounding alleyways, one by one. Most were too big, others too small.

At last, she located one with the hits of light against the walls and garbage, reflecting off the nose of a sleeping drunk. She crept past the bum and peered around the edge. In the back, surrounded by crates and trash, were two men, one narrow and the other short and rotund, sitting on either side of a crate. They were leaning forward, gesturing smoothly. Bargaining. Just vaguely, she could spot the necklace by the edge of the crate, unwatched and unguarded – fools! That was a delicate object! On the other side, closer to her, a bag of coins close to the fat man’s hand. Gheris looked around for a moment longer before deciding on how to proceed.

Slipping around crates and making no noise, she crept away. The buildings on either side leaned away from each other, but there was a tall fence just beside where the men were sitting. She made her way to the parallel street, down the adjoining alley, and silently stole to the fence. She listened for a moment.

“Look, friend, this piece of shiny, here, is worth a lot of trouble,” Finnian was saying. “It’s worth quite a bit more than what you’re offering.”

“Two hundred ain’t good enough for ya, elf?” Donnis demanded. Gheris glared at the fence. Of course that wasn’t good enough!

“That’s not even half of what it’s worth!”

She rolled her eyes. Finnian, she mouthed, You are a crappy bargainer. Listening no further, she clambered up the fence, using the building to her left as support. She paused, peering over the top, before sliding along the top to be directly above the men. Finnian’s voice was raised, seeming to border on the edge of hysterics, and Donnis was gesturing for the elf to keep his voice down. Gheris hefted a decently sized rock in her hand and threw it past them, hitting something in the distant darkness. The men stood and whirled. They glanced at each other, mute.

“Go look,” Donnis ordered.

“Don’t touch it,” Finnian ordered.

He rose. Licking his lips nervously, he edged forward. Donnis watched him sharply. Seeing her chance, Gheris slid over the top of the fence and tossed another rock closer by. The fence glared into the dark. He licked his fingers, then slowly reached over and put out the candle to see better in the darkness. He also took a few steps away from the table-crate. Gheris slid down noiselessly and grabbed the necklace with nary a jingle, then moved back up and over the fence.

She dropped down and picked up a piece of splintered wood and hooked the necklace onto one end. Seconds later, she was back up, peering down at them.

“I don’t see anything,” Finnian announced. “Or hear anything. Must’ve been a mouse or something. Where’s the light?”

“Thought I heard something. Doused it to see. Here – “

Donnis lit the candle again and settled in his seat. It creaked under his weight. Finnian was about to sit when he looked down. He froze, mid-movement. His narrowed eyes slid slowly from the place of the missing necklace to the balding man across from him.

“You cheat,” he hissed. “Where is it?”

“What?” Donnis cried.

“The necklace, dimwit, where is it!?”

“I didn’t –“

Gheris smirked. Slowly, she lowered the piece of wood so that the necklace dangled between them as Finnian rose and thrust out an accusing finger. His eyes followed it momentarily.

“Wh-?”

He snatched at it as Gheris yanked it away. He followed the movement up to see her draping herself over the wooden barrier, necklace dangling from her hand. She smiled sickly-sweet and jangled the jewel.

“Hello there, Finny,” she pandered, lowering her lids amorously. “Fancy seeing you here.” She glanced over at Donnis, her false smile broadening. “Oh, and Donnis, too. Three of us. Interesting, no?”

Clutching the necklace, she swung her legs over, pushed off from the wood, and hopped down past the crate. Turning, she spotted Finnian’s shocked face.

“Something wrong? You do not look happy to see me.” The fence stared between the two elves, taking steps back. She turned to him. “You knew about this. And you knew it was me that was supposed to bring this around to Rickety. “ He stared at her, slack-jawed and afraid. She scowled and rolled her eyes. “Get out of here. I do not want to see you again.” He nodded, grabbed his gold, and scrambled out of the alley.

“I can explain-“ Finnian began, hands up defensively.

“No,” she cut in, “no, you cannot. Not enough, at least. We were four, Finnian; count how many we are now.” Without waiting, she continued, “Two. We are two. Where did the others go? Oh, right, to the guard. Why?” She shrugged. “I do not care, to be honest.” She stepped forward, jerking her thumb at her chest. “I planned this and I planned for us to get equal shares, despite me doing all the work. You ruined that and gave us away.”

“I-“

“You, nothing, “ she hissed. “Where is your sense of responsibility? I asked you to take care of one old man, get him out of the room for five minutes. You go and betray us. I told you, I do not take kindly to traitors. I said not to bother showing up at all.” She dangled the necklace in front of him again. He eyed it as it swung back and forth, tensing, as if preparing to grab for it. She tossed it and snatched it out of the air again as he reached out. “ I am the better thief, fool. Get in line, know your place. And if you won’t be a proper thief and adhere to the rules, then prepare to work alone. Entirely. Don’t get others into trouble. Or at least don’t be obvious about being the traitor.”

She took several steps back before spreading her arms in mocking apology. She was about to turn around when he spoke, calmly, coolly.

“I’ll tell the guards.” She faced him slowly. “I’ll tell them. About the Dalish elf running around, robbing good folk. Wonder how much money that’s worth.”

“Dalish are a myth,” she answered, smirking. “And thieves don’t rat out other thieves. They get even. No reason to drag the guard into it.”

“You think I don’t know?” he demanded, stepping forward. “No one’s ever seen you in the alienage. I know a woman with a cousin in the alienage at Highever. She ain’t never heard of you, neither.” He spat to the side. “And your accent, it don’t fit in at all.” Sneering triumphantly, he hissed, “The guard’ll have you by morning. And I’ll have my money.”

“Right. See, I was going to let you have your share even after betraying me. But, well, let’s put it this way – the dead can keep secrets.” With that, she wound the necklace around her wrist and drew both daggers.

He took a step back, surprised. Fear widened his eyes. He hesitated, but just as she lunged, he drew his sword and blocked her. He swung at her. She crossed her blades and caught his attack, shoving him away. He stumbled back.

“You can’t…you wouldn’t!” he sputtered.

She raised her eyebrows. “Do not make foolish assumptions.”

Gheris lunged again, going low. He aimed to block her daggers, but instead, she swung her leg upward, into his groin. He gave a strangled cry, but managed to cling to his sword. She drove him against the fence, her forearm against his throat and her left dagger by his stomach.

“Did you have to mention everyone involved?” she demanded. “They were humans, to be sure, but they were on our team.” He squeaked in response.

“And you’re a blood-traitor to boot.” She grabbed him by the shirt and slammed him against the stone wall of the building. Baring her teeth, she hissed, “Why am I not surprised?”

He clutched at something. Before she could turn to see what it was, he smashed a piece of wood over her head. She shrieked in pain and rage, bowing over, clutching at her head. One of her blades slipped from her hand. He slid away and shoved her against the wall as she was bent, slamming her head again. This time, she dropped her second blade and dropped to her knees, burrowing her head in her arms. She gritted her teeth to keep from shouting. Her head spun.

“Vicious little minx, aren’t you?” Finnian growled as he grabbed her dropped weapon. “Downright bloodthirsty when you think you’ve been wronged.” He seized her by the hair and pulled her face up. “I saw how you looked at me.” She tensed, causing him to laugh. “Think I’m dumb, do you? Wouldn’t touch you with a ten foot rusted sword. You’re an ugly little bitch, and I swear to you, you’re not as smart as you think you are.”

She grimaced, then spat in his face. He recoiled, growling, then let go of her hair and kicked her in the stomach hard enough to throw her onto her back. She rolled slightly onto her side. Panting, she looked around desperately. His sword was just out of reach. Suddenly, his foot slammed into her side. This time, she cried out, no longer able to swallow the pain.

“I’ll see to it that you get yours,” he spat at her. “Thinking you’re above everyone else. Better than, are you? Prancing around your trees like a bloody fairy. Giving us all a bad name, we suffer because they’re afraid of you. No reason for it, your kind’s no good!” He stepped over her. “Or are you a cast off, because you’re just so terrible at everything?”

She stared up at him for a moment. She felt blood drip onto the hand with the necklace. She hated him. She wanted to kill him. She hadn’t actually been serious before; her intention had been to scare him a little, send him running back to his rat hole, but now she wanted his blood. But she couldn’t, she knew. Now was not the time for revenge. She had indulged too much already. And she was not in the best position to get revenge.

Gheris had no time to think, not that she could if she had wanted to. Her head threatened to burst open. His kick had moved her just close enough to reach his sword. She scrabbled at the ground, grabbing the sword just time. His foot came down onto her back, but she swung blindly behind her with his sword. He jerked back just enough to let her slip out from under his foot. She scrambled up and whirled, blindly blocking his attacks. She did not like the length of his blade, was unused to it. Her daggers were like extensions of herself. This sword was unwieldy and clumsy. Luckily, he didn’t seem to be faring much better with her dagger. If anything, he seemed less comfortable – the dagger was shorter than his sword, meaning her swings came in closer than he was used to before he could block them.

She stepped up onto the crate as he drove her back. It was difficult to focus. He came in, scratched her leg.

“You know what?” she gasped, “I may not be that smart or very pretty – “ She let her movements become defensive, drawing him in. “But I’m damn smarter than you are.” She drove her leg into his chest as she blocked one of his attacks. He stumbled back. She hopped down, slashing at his wrist. He dropped her blade.

Before she could do anything else, he looked at her wildly, spun, and ran, faster than she could realize what he was doing.

“You’ll get yours!” she heard him shout over his shoulder. “I’ll see to it!”

“COWARD!” she shrieked after him.

But, in truth, she was relieved. She wouldn’t have been able to hold out much longer. Sighing, she staggered to the wall, picking up her blades and dropping his as she went. She hurt all over. She wanted to just sit down, to rest, to sleep. But there was no time. No doubt, the bastard was going to the guards this very minute. They couldn’t afford to stay in the city any longer. There was nothing.

She looked down at the necklace. She didn’t even have time to get the money for what had caused her all this trouble. She clutched at her head and groaned. Uncle would be so mad. But it couldn’t be helped. So long as they stayed here, they were in danger of being discovered, and she wouldn’t fool herself for a minute that anyone would bother to help them. If one thing Finnian said was true…perhaps one thing out of a few…elves really weren’t loved much in this city.

She staggered away from the wall and down the alley.

_

Uncle was quieter than usual, but Geoffrey didn’t mind very much. He suspected they were both worrying about the same thing, and it would be fruitless to just exchange the same worries for hours and hours. It was late, though, and Geoffrey was tempted to encourage the elderly man to sleep. He was getting very old, very sickly, and no matter how well he held himself, he needed rest. But Gheris was later than usual, even on her hardest jobs, and Geoffrey was really starting to worry.

He swished around the wine in his cup. It had cooled a while ago. He chattered idly about the city and people he’d met that day, but eventually ran out of things to talk about. Suddenly, the door opened; it didn’t quite burst open, but billowed as if the wind had blasted it open, only it made no noise, not even a squeak. Gheris followed it, silent. Her eyes scoured the room for a moment, noting everything. Then she whirled around before Geoffrey could even think to rise and peered outside in all directions, including upwards. Why upwards, he wondered. Was she getting chased by bees again? The idea amused him, but it was not likely, not in the city.

His sister then closed the door and leaned against it. She sagged then, Geoffrey dropped his cup and rose, intending to help her, but her eyes shot open, wider than their usual half-lidded look, and searched the room once again. She pushed away from the door.

“What are you gawping at? Go get your stuff, and Uncle’s too. We’re leaving,” she ordered.

Geoffrey blinked. “What?” he asked dumbly. “Leaving? Leaving the city?”

Yes, now hurry up. We’ll grab the landlord’s wagon, we’ve nothing for it. We’ll supply on the way, when we’re out of Denerim.”

“Gheris, you’re blee-“ Geoffrey began.

“Go!” she hissed, making shooing motions with her hands.

Geoffrey glanced back at his uncle, who had risen and kept his eyes trained on Gheris. He nodded once to his nephew. The old man then hooked a finger at her. Geoffrey bound up the stairs three at a time, but halted halfway up, then crept silently back down to hear what under the beloved gods’ eyes was going on. Leaving? No one has asked him if he even wanted to leave! These decisions were always getting made for him, like he had no mind, no voice of his own. He wasn’t comfortable with humans – his kind, supposedly – just yet, but he was getting used to them. He wouldn’t have noticed how he was ordered around if it weren’t for them.

He hung around with the elves while shoveling horse manure at the stables. First they were surprised, hesitant, but they had gotten used to him. He told them stories of the Dalish and they dismissed it as folk tales and myths, though they hung on his every word. But soon the other humans had also come by and listened. It became an exchange of stories while they worked, something to distract them from the stench. He had come to like these people, and he was almost sure they liked him, too. He didn’t want to leave!

“What happened?” Uncle was asking.

“I had it all planned out,” she seethed in response, “and then one of my group betrayed us.” Geoffrey couldn’t see clearly, but had the sense that she was pacing. “He knows. About who we are.”

“How?”

“I don’t know! I must have given something away, I didn’t realize. I’m sorry, uncle.” Her voice grew quiet and husky, causing Geoffrey to lean forward. “I made a mess of things. I should have realized sooner.”

“Doesn’t matter now,” he said brusquely. “There was nothing left to find in Denerim. We have been here too long.” There was some shuffling. Geoffrey leaned farther and nearly fell over, trying to see. “Do you know where we are going next?”

“Yes, Uncle.”

The old man sighed. “Are you sure you still want to – ?”

Yes, “ she answered insistently. “Perhaps that makes me a bad person, but I would be worse if I let him stay.”

“No one said you were a bad person, Gheris.”

“No? Of course not. Grandmother said we’re okay, so everyone immediately agreed, no questions. The scar he has on his back? It’s not from their stones. Don’t lie to me, Uncle. I may make mistakes, but I’m no fool.”

Geoffrey reached over his shoulder and felt at his back. He knew there was a scar there, but he never paid it much attention. His presence back home wasn’t exactly honored…but stones? Surely she was being figurative!

Her more reverent tone returned. “Uncle, I’m sorry this is so sudden, but we’re in danger. We must hurry.”

Before he could respond, she slipped to the stairs. Geoffrey flailed and turned, surprised.

“Don’t bother,” she growled as she sprinted up the stairs. “I’ll do it.”

She shoved him lightly as she passed and the motion’s meaning was not lost on him.

_

They hitched the ponies to the wagon they borrowed from – and would likely never return to – the landlord. Their clothes and other minor belongings were shoved in the wagon, and Uncle was wrapped in a blanket and placed in front with Geoffrey. Gheris did not accompany them, however.

“I will meet up with you two miles outside the gates,” she said quietly, eyes scouting the darkness, darkest just before the sunrise. She looked haggard. Hesitantly, Geoffrey placed a hand on her shoulder. She whipped around, but he did not let go.

“Sister, you’re still bleeding.”

She felt at her head vaguely, wincing, before yanking out of his reach. “I’m fine. Take care of Uncle. With any luck, they won’t see his ears. If they do, say he’s your servant. Sorry, Uncle.”

“A fine lie,” the bundle beside Geoffrey called.

“What will you do?” Geoffrey demanded.

She rolled her eyes. “They’re looking for me. I can’t walk around in the open. I’ll find my own way out. And mark me, if I catch that ratty bastard on my way out, I’ll kill him.” She looked at them, eyes sharp. “Go!”

He started up the ponies. Looking back after a moment, his sister was nowhere to be found. He sighed. They could just turn right back around and pretend nothing had ever happened. He didn’t want to leave. But…

His eyes flicked toward his uncle. He did not feel at home here. The conditions weren’t great, and there were not many – none, really – that could earn their trust. They would go searching in the south, as they were told, and he’d leave with the human who’d sired him. If he was lucky, perhaps his father would take him back to Denerim for a time…if the man wanted Geoffrey at all. Not many did.

Uncle elbowed him. “Look sharp, boy. We’re coming up on the gates.”

He straightened. “Yes, Uncle.”

The gates were closed. He looked around, searching for someone, and was about to call out when a guard came up beside them.

“What’s your business?” he asked them.

“Just getting an early start on the day,” he said nervously.

“Yeah? What’s in the back?” Without waiting for an answer, the guard shuffled over to the rear.

“Just our stuff,” Geoffrey called pointlessly.

Long moments passed. The guard came back to the front and looked at them both sternly.

“You seen an elven woman?”

Geoffrey looked around dumbly. He was good at that. “Not really. By the alienage, I guess. Don’t pay much attention.”

The guard peered at him, frowning. He raised his brows, apparently finding something distasteful. “No. Suppose you don’t have the brains for it. I hardly think you have the brains for hiding her, either. But if you do see her – short, wild hair, knives, probably robbing you blind – she’s one of them illegal elves. The ones who fancy themselves to be free and whatnot nonsense. Dalish. Don’t help her or nothing.” He raised his arm in some kind of signal and the gates parted. “Watch yourselves on the road. Patrols stop being regular after a mile.”

“Th-thank you,” Geoffrey mumbled, frowning.

He shuffled the ponies along and followed the road. It was some time before he stopped and helped his uncle into the back of the wagon to sleep. He then clambered back on and tiredly led the horses down the road, meeting no one so early in the morning. The sun wasn’t quite up yet, but there was light enough for them to see. Birds began to caw half-heartedly.

It had been more than two miles, Geoffrey noted tiredly. Trees were beginning to appear as the road brushed close to the Brecillian Forest. If they turned sharply, they could dig their way through dangerous and unfamiliar parts and find the clan. Where was she? What if she’d gotten caught? He straightened and looked back. What if she was in prison? If her wounds had been too much for her?

There was a rustling in the trees. For a moment, he thought it was the wind, but then a shadow leapt out from one and landed on top of the wagon, rolled, and dropped into the seat beside him.

He squealed and yanked on the ponies harder than was polite.

“Shush!” Gheris ordered. ”You make such a ruckus. Is this how you act when the boars burst out from the bushes?”

“Sorry, sister,” he mumbled. “You came from nowhere.”

“If you’d been paying attention, you would have slowed down half a mile ago.”

“Oh,” he said in a near whisper, head sinking between his shoulders. “Sorry.”

He felt her eyes on him. She sniffed. “Uncle?”

“In the wagon, sleeping.”

“Good.”

His eyes flicked to her curiously. Approval? Hard to believe.

She sat warily for a while, eyes flickering about, but he noticed her slouch slightly before she corrected her posture. He wanted to tell her to rest, but she would just snap at him again. If she thought of it herself, perhaps she would finally relax. She looked worse in daylight.

“How did you escape?” he asked quietly after some time. He was hungry, but too scared to ask to stop and find something to eat.

She sighed. “Undefended parts,” she said, her voice quieter than usual. He glanced at her. She had relaxed slightly, or rather, slumped, looking very, very worn. “Dumb guards.”

He smiled slightly. “It wasn’t a bad place. Some of the people were nice. To me, at least. And a lot of nice things there. I’d never tasted breads like that until we came here.” He continued for some time that way, chattering aimlessly about Denerim, his sister mute beside him.

He had gone on quite a while when he looked over at her, wondering at why she hadn’t yelled at him to shut up already. She was awake, frowning thoughtfully.

“Did you kill him?”

“What?” she asked, blinking at him.

”The ratty guy. Did you kill him?”

“Oh.” She sank back into her seat. “No. Unfortunately.”

She could be a little creepy and violent. Geoffrey was frightened of her temper, perhaps, but she wouldn’t hurt him. Usually. And he didn’t exactly have the greatest love for the traitor at the moment, either, so if she wanted to kill him, he wouldn’t stop her.

“Are you gonna miss the city?” he asked cautiously.

“No,” she said sharply, her chin immediately jutting out. He knew that expression, that movement. She’d fallen out of a tree once and onto a sharp rock, bleeding all over the place. He’d asked her if it hurt and she’d said no and stuck out her chin. He poked her and she screeched in pain.

“I’ll miss it.” He sat silent for a moment. “Are you sure? Nothing?”

She stiffened, then dug into one of her pockets and pulled out a long chain with a pretty, expensive-looking stone hanging. She dangled it for a moment, inspecting it. Was that what she was doing last night? Geoffrey kept his question to himself.

“Maybe some things.”

He peered at it, eyes only partially on the road. “That’s pretty.”

She stared at it a moment longer before bunching it up in her hand and pocketing it again.

“Yes,” she agreed after a moment.

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