“…a bodyguard who is happy with his work is more effective.”
Carrone snorted at that answer, but took the moment to open a door in the wall that was so effectively sandwiched between two other buildings she’d almost missed it. “I should go first, in case Teshone is in.”
“As you wish.” She gestured up the stairs. Was he leading her into a trap? She had one hand on her knife-hilt as they navigated the narrow stairs, her senses on high alert. There was nobody moving upstairs. Something like a mouse scratched in the wall to her left. To the right, the sickly smell of a hatter’s seemed to leech through the wall.
“Here.” The staircase terminated in a narrow landing with three doors; he unlocked the one to the right. Over the hatter’s, then. From there there were three more doors.
“This is beginning to look like a puzzle box,” she muttered.
“Teshone likes to use every inch of space.” The door on the right opened to a short hallway lined with doors; he opened the third door into a dark room barely bigger than the thin mattress that furnished it. “Here’s my bag.” He shouldered the pack, picked up a short-ax, and turned to consider her.
She wasn’t worried, not until she felt the air move behind her. Then Deline dropped down and shifted as well as she could to one side.
“Of course it was a trap!” She pulled out her short-knife and rolled to see her attacker.
“This is Teshone,” Carrone told her, “and you can’t sneak up on him.”
“Cute.” Teshone was a man so big she was surprised that he fit into this warren of rooms. And he was holding something that might have looked like a sword in smaller hands, although in his, it looked like a paring knife. “Hello Teshone.”
“I told him,” Carrone informed Deline, “if I came back and I wasn’t alone, he should deal with whomever came with me. Which, as it turns out, is you, my bounty.”
“That’s nice.” She ducked another massive swing and dove in close to the giant’s legs. If he picked her up, she was done. If he hit her with that thing, she was close to done, too. She grabbed the spelled-rope out of her pocket and tossed it at the man’s ankles. “You realize I can tell you to save my life?”
From the silence behind her, she was pretty sure he hadn’t thought things through quite that thoroughly.
That gave her a moment to shove Teshone backwards as the spelled rope tangled his ankles up. The man went over like an avalanche, falling slowly and rolling backwards.
“I suppose you have this set up with a code word, in case you happened to come back here with someone you wanted to spend some time with and not see flattened?”
He didn’t answer.
“Use the code word that calls him off. Otherwise, I’m going to climb Mount Teshone and put some crampons in, and I don’t think you want me to do that.”
“Teshone carl’Tone Rin,” Carrone muttered, his voice picking up volume and losing reluctance as he went, “Bread with Jam.”
Teshone struggled into a sitting position and set down the sword. “You sure, Carrone?”
“Yeah. I’m sure. This is Deline, and she didn’t kill me.”
“Or you,” Deline added politely.
“That’s nice. Can she get those mosquitoes off my ankles, please?”
“Once we’re out of this room and have a chance of running away if you change your mind again. I don’t really like being jumped.”
“I imagine you don’t.” Teshone bowed from a sitting position and did his best to scoot out of the way of the doorway. “This is an interesting one, Carrone. Where did you find her?”
“In the process of her not killing me.” Carrone paused for a moment. “She offered me some bad choices. But considering she was trying to sell me-”
“She’s a bounty?” Teshone reached for his weapon.
“From Dekleg,” Deline put in quickly. “Not from the Empire. As a matter of fact, killing me is against the law in the Empire.”
His hands dropped. “Why are the interesting bounties never Empire ones?”
“Well, it’s the practice of the Empire to not put bounties on people. Mostly because they don’t lose major criminals very often in the first place.”
“Hey-” Teshone looked at her. “Are you-”
“She’s the one that caused all that trouble in Dekleg. Not my problem anymore, though. I’m out of the bounty hunter business for a while.” Carrone pulled out several coins from his pack and handed them to Teshone. “Keep the room for me. I might need it in a hurry some time.”
Deline raised her eyebrows at him. “We might need it.”
“Oh, ho, it’s like that, it it?” Teshone’s booming laugh filled the space. “All right then, I’ll hold the room. You two get on with it, now, the room isn’t big enough for that. After you take off the rope?” He lifted his feet up towards Deline.
Deline released the rope and pocketed it. “Pleasure meeting you, Teshone. I hope next time it’s under more pleasant circumstances.”