The wicked heroine, p.7
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       The Wicked Heroine, p.7

           Jasmine Giacomo

  Chapter Three

  Suppertime found Geret staring off into space, his bread roll forgotten and cooling in his hand. The conversation ambled up and down the table, and he managed the occasional witty remark or simple answer to a question, but because he was new enough not to be on close friendly terms with anyone yet, and he’d been around enough that he wasn’t the latest topic himself, most people left him alone.

  What’s Imorlar after? What does he hope the test will prove?

  And then, it became obvious: Imorlar needed to test Geret’s competence. Geret slapped a hand to his forehead, forgetting that he was holding bread in it, and showered his eyebrows with crumbs. Letting slide an anonymous comment about country bumpkins using bread for flyswatters, Geret brushed the crumbs away and rose, excusing himself.

  After retrieving tools from their secret spot in his room–the hollowed-out top of one of his bedposts–and changing his clothes to a less noticeable hue, he made his way back downstairs, over to the executory wing. Making sure the hallway was empty, he sidled over to the seneschal’s office.

  Just like old times. He grinned to himself as he picked the lock.

  Once inside, Geret stood still and thought, letting his eyes play over the room. Now, where would he hide it? The desk seemed too obvious. Behind one of the paintings? He stood on top of chairs or tables, examining the converse sides of the artworks as well as the wall itself. Nothing. Straightening everything to their original locations, Geret turned his eyes elsewhere and began a more general search.

  After half an hour, it was starting to look like a lost cause. But this was a test; it wasn’t supposed to be easy. Geret decided to check the desk anyway.

  In the bottom right drawer, he almost missed seeing a locked false bottom hidden under vellum folders of policies on grain trading. Sneaky bastard. He picked the lock open with a grin.

  He looked at what was under the now-unlocked lid, and pulled out a small pouch of a less-than-legal pipeweed, unless Geret’s nose deceived him, and an official letter of complaint.

  There was nothing else.

  Geret listened for a few minutes to make sure no one could possibly be outside the door, and then he sparked the lamp and moved it down to the floor. The contents of the letter raised his eyebrows. Someone had accused Salvor, the son of Dictat member Count Halvor Thelios, of the theft of a prized sword that had disappeared from its owner’s house.

  Well, the pipeweed might be either a trap, with Imorlar trying to get me to steal it, or else it’s a distraction. That meant the letter was the item he was supposed to find.

  And, unless Geret was wrong, Imorlar wanted him to answer this complaint, and in some way that didn’t draw attention.

  A challenge, indeed.

  Geret replaced the items, relocked the false bottom, and restored the items that went in the drawer. He blew out the lamp, returned it to its spot, and exited the office, making sure the door was locked behind him. He decided to contemplate how he might accomplish this task once he safely reached his chambers and the adrenaline from his excursion had worn off. Right now, he felt on top of the world.

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