"Hers was the only door open; she was the only one missing," the Guardsman continued. "I can't say if he was there to free her or to kill her, but either way, a Guardsman is dead because of it. If you're going to start coming into our house, we cannot justify allowing-"
"Major, I respect the risk you took in coming here. And while I know you didn't do it for our sake, an open war would indeed be as bad for us as for you-perhaps worse. So let me a.s.sure you, I did not authorize any operation within your gaol, either to free or to kill one of your prisoners."
"I see. But I can't just accept that on faith and forget that it ever-"
"Nor am I asking you to. Taskmaster?"
"What?" she asked, voice sullen.
"You will spread this announcement for me. Whoever is responsible for this act has one day to come forward. If he does so, he will be turned over to the Guard for punishment."
"That's hardly a convincing-"
"If he does not, and I later learn who he is, it will be I doling out punishments."
The major looked as though he wanted to object, then thought better of it.
"Further," the Shrouded Lord added, turning his gaze toward the Guardsman once more, "should you succeed in identifying the rest of the conspirators before we do-a.s.suming you have real proof, Major-n.o.body in the guild will lift a finger to shelter them from you, nor to take vengeance for their arrest and sentencing.
"I should think that this-in addition to your being allowed to leave here unharmed-should be more than sufficient to avert any additional conflict that might arise from this unfortunate misunderstanding?"
"I should think so," the Guardsman agreed, unable to keep a touch of relief from his voice.
"Excellent." The Shrouded Lord pulled a small rope all but hidden in the smoke, and the door opened once more. "Show this fellow out," he ordered. "Politely."
"Ah, of course," the thief acknowledged. And then he was gone, the major trailing behind.
"I a.s.sume you had no prior knowledge of this, Taskmaster?"
"Of course not," she offered, her tone sullen.
"I'm so glad."
"This doesn't change what Widders.h.i.+ns did. We still have to-"
Lisette's jaw dropped.
"I am gravely disappointed in Widders.h.i.+ns's actions," the Shrouded Lord told her, his sepulchral tones weighted down with a light frosting of regret. "But even if Jean Luc's accusations are true-"
"We've no reason to a.s.sume they're not, my lord," Lisette insisted, panicked as she felt her long-awaited victory slipping through her fingers. "It fits her pattern. Underreporting her takes, refusing to pay us our due...There's no reason to think that she wouldn't-"
"I will hear it from her. The a.s.sa.s.sin has been useful in the past, but he's not one of us. I will hear her confession, or her denial, from her own mouth, as I would any other of my thieves. More to th
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