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Beneath the Keep by Erika Johansen

Beneath the Keep by Erika Johansen

Author:Erika Johansen [Johansen, Erika]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Published: 2021-02-02T00:00:00+00:00


Chapter 19

THE SEVEN OF SWORDS

Truth is always easier than a lie. In fact, truth sells a lie, much better than the lie sells itself. Simple self-interest mandates at least a pinch of honesty in all of our dealings.

—The Words of the Glynn Queen, as recorded by Father Tyler

Niya.”

Niya put down her needle and thread, clearing her throat. She was meant to be sewing up a rip in one of Elyssa’s shifts, but in truth she had been miles away, thinking hard.

“Highness? What can I do for you?”

Elyssa didn’t look well. Ever since the heat of August had come, no one in the Keep had been sleeping particularly soundly, but the Princess was pale and wan, as though she were ill as well as tired.

“I want to talk to you,” Elyssa told her, beckoning from the doorway. “They’re trying a new guard on; will you come?”

Niya glanced at her watch; only twenty minutes past four. Plenty of time. With some relief, she dropped the ripped shift and got to her feet. She didn’t know what she was doing sewing, anyway; one of the undermaids would surely attend to it. But mundanity often paid dividends in clear thinking, and there was a puzzle to be solved. The last coded message Niya had received from the Fetch had been brief but to the point.

The witch belongs to Arlen Thorne.

“My mother’s birthday is coming, the first week in October,” Elyssa told her, as they walked down the corridor toward the arms room, Barty and Cae trailing behind them. “I want to give her a dress for her birthday. Something special.”

“A nice idea, Highness,” Niya replied. “What sort of dress?”

“Red. It should be red. She will have a party, an enormous one. The dress should be magnificent, something she can wear that night and astound the world. I could use Mrs. Loys, but I don’t think she would keep a secret from my mother. So I need you to find a new dressmaker for me, one who’s willing to work quickly.”

“Of course, Highness,” Niya said absently, while her mind reviewed everything the Blue Horizon knew about Arlen Thorne. He was a pimp, one of the most notorious in the Creche. The Blue Horizon was still laying groundwork in the tunnels, but when they were finally ready to move, Arlen Thorne’s infamous stable was one of the first that they meant to close down. Thorne’s origins were hazy; there was some rumor of noble blood, but such romantic rumors floated around the Creche all the time, with rarely any substance.

Of course, Thorne had been branching beyond the Creche in recent years: delivering specialized whores topside, forging ties with the brothels in the Gut. But that was all par for the course; every Creche pimp aspired to move topside. More disturbing was a recent rumor that they’d picked up from Arliss’s people: Thorne was buying up children, the most physically perfect specimens the Creche had to offer. According to Webb, Arliss’s man, Thorne was paying a particularly steep premium for straight, even teeth.



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