“Like this place?” Carrone shook his head. “No, you weren’t. You were going stir-crazy staying in one place. I can’t imagine what you’re like at — at home. Cooped up in a single building…”
“Well…” She let a smile linger on her lips for a moment. “It has its benefits.”
“I was trying to explain those to our friend here, but she didn’t want to hear it. I mean, if she’d listened to me telling her it was an Imperial Cabin…”
“Well, then maybe she might have left when she had a chance. Unless you were offering to show her exactly how nice the Imperial Bed is…?”
The woman squirmed but said nothing.
“Would you be jealous if I did?”
“If you took a Haloran spy to the bed we’d been sharing?” Deline raised her eyebrows. “I’d be annoyed. Not jealous. Jealous suggests that I think she could somehow supplant me.”
“What is this woman?” The spy wriggled, managing to get into a sitting position. “And why — are you a traitor?”
Carrone cleared his throat. “There’s nothing treacherous about working with someone with a country we’re — technically — allied with. On the other hand, getting caught spying on our allies is probably against at least a few laws.”
“Forget that. You’re — you’re sleeping with this washed-out frozen Northern sow?”
“In the Imperial Bed.” He smirked. “I don’t see what the problem is. I told you, she’s my bounty.”
He was doing a pretty good job of not revealing anything Deline wouldn’t want him to reveal. She’d have been impressed, but she was fairly sure he was doing it to annoy the spy.
“The problem is, I’m not your bounty and I’m the one tied up!”
“That has a lot to do with you putting a knife to my throat and forcing me into this cabin.” He stood up and hauled her to her feet. “I don’t want to hear you anymore. You’re whiney, ridiculous, and tiresome, and you can’t even say I didn’t warn you.” He snarled. “Don’t call me a traitor when you attacked me. D— Bounty, where do you want her tied?”
“This way. I’ll show you.” Deline looked at him and the woman and found herself smiling. “You’ve caused me a bit of trouble and you’re going to make me move. I wonder if it would be better if we just left your head for the Talon?”
“Then she’d never find out what I knew,” the woman tried. It was, Deline had to admit, not a bad point.
“I’m sure I have a spell in here that would loosen your tongue. I could take notes-“
“But you don’t know what her questions would be! The Talons, they have specialized questions! You know how they are, all the Imperial claws and talons and teeth and stuff!”
Carrone started laughing. “She’s got you there,” he snorted. “Tie her to a tree. Then the Talon can handle all that Imperial business and I don’t have to watch your… sorcery.”
“All right.” He was carrying the woman, after all. “This way… wait.” She tied a blindfold around the woman and pulled up a spell she and Carrone had used before. She chanted as the woman squirmed and dusted their path slowly with a handful of herbs.
They walked the woman back to where Deline had been hunting for rabbits, and then another ten minutes further away, taking several turns along the way. They tied her firmly to a tree, removing the spell-rope at the last moment.
“It’s not too late to cut off her head,” Carrone murmured. “Then we could be safe.”
“She’s not a threat to us – she’s not the threat to us,” Deline corrected. “You. Stay put.” She tied one more rope and then reached back into her spell pack. A moment later, a series of lights shot up into the sky. If she had done it right, only a Talon or a Claw would be able to trace them to the spy. “All right.” She sighed. “Let’s get back to the cabin.”
“Hey!” The spy started struggling the moment they had their backs to her. “Hey, you can’t just leave me here! You, you’re a Haloran. You need to get me out of here or it’s treason!”
Carrone stopped walking but did not turn around. “You held a knife to my throat,” he pointed out.
“What’s a little knife between countryfolk? Get me out of here?”
“You threatened my life. Besides, we have a treaty with the Empire. Not a good one, but acknowledging that you’re even Haloran could be endangering the treaty.”
“I’m not – That’s not – Just get me out of here! Come on, get me out and stop this nonsense!” What followed was a string of invective, mostly in Haloran with a little bit of something from one of the further south nations. Deline could track the basics of it – the spy was angry at Carrone – but not the specifics.
Carrone looked at Deline. “This would be easier-” he muttered.
Easier if – did he mean if she ordered him? “Are you sure?” Even if she was right about what he was asking, it didn’t mean she’d believe he wanted it.
“She’s Haloran. I’m Haloran. I’m not a traitor. I mean,” he rubbed his throat, “she did threaten my life.”
“Then again, so did I,” Deline murmured.” She put her hand on his arm. “We need to get back.”
“Get me out of here!” the spy bellowed. Carrone stopped dead. Slowly, he turned to stare at the woman, still tied to her tree.
“Give me your word that you won’t threaten -” he stopped. “Shit, you can’t, because your job threatens the Empire.”
“Where’s your loyalty? The Empire or Halor?”Want more?