Episode 5: The truth

Isabelle was staring at the untouched brandy in front of her when the blond man sat down to her right. She looked over at him; he had his left sleeve pulled up to reveal a spring sheath, into which he was sliding a poniard. He finished, pulled his sleeve down, and looked at her.

"I bet you've got some questions now."

"If you know what I'm thinking, why don't you just answer them?"

"Touché. You've heard the 'three stages of life' theory?"

"Sure. It may seem odd for a caravan guard, but I went to university."

"With the exception of a few tradesmen, everyone here is either in their first or last stage of life. 'Fourteen to forty' wasn't quite accurate, but it conveyed the right idea. A lot of us are tired of our old lives and would rather that we didn't have to deal with people asking annoying questions; that why we're here. I would advise you to respect that."

"Okay. But that would be a lot easier if I knew who people were without having to ask."

He stared at her silently for a moment. "Alright, here's the deal: I'll tell you whatever it is that you want to know about somebody . . . if you know who they are. I may tell you some of the less-known people simply because they deserve more recognition than the bards give them, but other than that . . ." He picked up the drink that the bartender had dropped off for him and took a sip. "Well, perhaps I'm being too harsh. After all, both the bartender and I already know who you are, so I'll give you two freebies in return. What'll it be?"

She grinned with an expression that she normally reserved for scaring off petty thieves. "That's easy: you and the bartender."