Back to Feasting on Dreams: Contents
Nerves rippled unpleasantly through me as we left The Shambles behind us and headed out through the lower end of the market district. The cries of poultry and caged geese, and the smell of open-air butchery, gave way to the stench and noise of down-wind tanneries and leather workers. Between the crooked rows of buildings, I thought I caught sight of the alienage wall.
My steps quickened, though I had no idea why. I couldn’t just… walk in. I couldn’t— well, I didn’t know what I was going to do.
“You’re, um, smiling,” Alistair said, as we sidestepped a pile of filth and crossed under the lee of a small wooden gantry that ran between the houses.
“Stops you gagging,” I replied conversationally, swiping a kick at a particularly bolshy rat that had bared its teeth at me. “Anyway, that’s practically home. I—”
I broke off abruptly, and shot him a faltering glance, not sure why I should suddenly feel embarrassed. Alistair shrugged, and smiled thinly. He didn’t look much as if it was helping with the smell.
“I’ll head back up to the market if you like. I expect you’ve people to see.”
The look in his eyes told me he’d assumed I’d go home… assumed that there were people waiting for me, people who wanted to see me, hold me tight and tell me everything was fine.
Why he’d think that, after what I’d told him about the way I left, I didn’t know, but I had certainly never found myself being envied by a human before.
He looked away, boots scuffing on the cobbles and those golden brows pulled into a despondent frown.
“Come too,” I said, stupidly… blindly. As if, even at the best of times, walking into the alienage with a shem next to me would have been anything less than ridiculous.
“Oh, I-I couldn’t—”
“We’ll walk round to the south gate.” I pointed past the crowded tenements and the patchy wattle of the wall visible between them. “I’ll… I just need to see what’s going on. That’s all. I mean, it’s not going to be tea and cake, not after….”
I shrugged wordlessly, and Alistair nodded. I flattered myself that he understood, because having someone who did, at that point, was important. It meant I wasn’t entirely alone.
“I just want to know they’re all right,” I murmured, then hunched my shoulders and strode on, my incongruously serviceable boots ticking on the cobbles.
For once, it was Alistair who had to hurry to keep up.
There were few crowds at the far end of the market district, where the colour and the scent of spices and trade goods faded, just like the afternoon sun. Still, I glanced at the faces of the people we did see. Maybe I thought the girl who’d walked from this place all those weeks ago might have left an echo among them.
Fat chance. Even my borrowed frock didn’t fit the same way it had.
Something was wrong, though. That much was evident right away. The gates were shut. That wasn’t right. The market wasn’t dead yet… where were all the women doing gate trade? It was an established, respectable part of life. There should have been girls like Shianni and me, over-charging on bunches of bruised tulips, or women selling second-hand gloves and scarves, or whatever odds and ends they’d sewn or knitted.
There was… nothing. Just a guardsman in city armour, leaning up against the wall and looking bored. I stopped, the sight of him an unpleasant reminder that brought me up short, but I needed to know.
Zevran’s words about the state of things in the city after Vaughan’s murder—and the number of people who wanted my head on a pike—whispered back to me. I tried to push them away, clenching and unclenching my hands as I stood there, balling up the courage to cross those last few feet of ground.
The alienage walls loomed up high and crooked. They’d never seemed so tall before, and I wondered if I’d ever really seen them.
Behind me, Alistair started to speak, but I didn’t wait to hear what he wanted to say. I shook my head and, fists clenched, marched over to the gate, my shoulders back and all pretence at the role of humble servant forgotten. I heard him cuss, footsteps crunching as followed me.
As we drew closer, the city guard lowered his poleaxe, and the pitted metal blade clinked against the gate.
“Can’t let you go any further,” he said, in a weary, disinterested tone. “By order of the new arl of Denerim, no one is to enter the alienage.”
“But I’m from the alienage!” I protested, my hand already closing on the bars.
I couldn’t see in, couldn’t hear anything… that must mean the inner gate was shut too. That wasn’t normal. The guard tapped his weapon on the inch of metal above my grasp. It made a dull ting, but didn’t dissuade me.
“You might not want to say that too loudly,” he observed, glancing over my head at Alistair.
You might not want to let her say that too loudly.
That was what he meant. The unspoken rephrasing hung in the air, and it pissed me off. I glared at the human.
“You’re just trapping all those people in there, then?”
He rolled his eyes. “Maker, don’t be so melodramatic. It’s a temporary lockdown, not a performance of Dane and the Werewolf.”
Oh, I could have shown him melodrama. Anger blistered my tongue, and I wanted to curse and yell, because that way I might be able to avoid the sense of dreadful inevitability that tugged at my chest.
How long exactly had it been since I’d left? A month? No, more than that. Two months? Maybe less, maybe longer. The days had started to slide into each other a while ago, and it had been easy to forget how quickly time passed in the city.
“Why, then?” I demanded, my voice rough, as if the question itself feared the answer. “What’s happened?”
The guard looked me up and down, apparently mildly surprised at my ignorance. He was a pallid, doughy sort of man, who looked like he made a habit of acquiring the patrols that mostly concerned standing somewhere quiet, out of the rain. He shrugged, perhaps indicating that my stupidity was no more than one could expect from a knife-ear.
“Well, they were rioting, weren’t they? Killed the arl’s son.”
I stepped back from the gate, my fingers falling from the bars and the cobbles slipping beneath my feet. No. My first thoughts were too brief, too tangled to be thoughts at all; just bright, bloody snatches of colour and fear that gave way to a sudden, bitter sense of betrayal.
Duncan never had, of course. Safe enough, he’d said. For now.
Had I ever believed that? Perhaps I’d clung to it, made pictures out of hopes and worn them pinned to my heart, like it might actually make them real.
I shook my head. “N-no. That….”
“Nah, they did,” the oblivious guard said, drawing a small paper of baccy from his belt. “’Course, Arl Urien didn’t make it back from Ostagar. With all the Kendalls dead, the regent appointed Rendon Howe of Amaranthine the new arl of Denerim. First thing he did was lead a purge of the alienage.”
The last slivers of sunlight slipped behind a cloud, and the air turned cold. Shadows fell over the market, and the trade flags and canopies flapped like wet flannel. A costermonger’s barrow squeaked as it passed and, somewhere, a caged cockerel crowed.
They’d all be dead, then, wouldn’t they? My fault. All of it. All my fault….
The guard unfolded his baccy paper and teased out a wad, which he slipped between his blunt, brown teeth. “’Bout bleedin’ time, if you ask me.”
I was very vaguely aware of Alistair’s hand clamping down on my shoulder, not so much a gesture of comfort as one of firm indication that we should go. Now. I wanted to shake it off, but the air was thick and echoey, as if I had my head under water, and any movement seemed unduly complex.
The shem sniffed philosophically. “Anyway, it’s a mess in there. When things are put back in order, the gates will be reopened. No more than a day or two, I’d wager. A week at most. Now, on your way.”
He jerked his head back to the main drag of the market. Still full of life, still thronged with people, and the gold-hued glint of trade. The wind ruffled the trader’s stands, the clouds rolled by, and those weak shafts of sun were back, picking at the cobbles.
I didn’t move. I couldn’t walk away again. Not like this. I could see them all: Shianni, Soris, Valora… Father. All our friends and neighbours, the sprawling, spider-silk connections of community and extended family, cut in an instant. Had they burned the houses, or had people just vanished into the night? There were so many things that could happen, so many little accidents ready to befall the unwary…. The jingle of harness and the thud of marching boots beat over and over in my head.
“But—” I started to speak, somewhere between a plea and a protest, though I had no idea what I was going to say.
The guard sighed irritably and looked at Alistair.
“You want to put her on a leash, mate. Go on, get going.”
I felt rather than heard Alistair’s indignance; it was there in the way his fingers bunched on the back of my frock, but he managed to stay diplomatic.
“Right. Um… yes. C’mon, Meri. We should… we should go, I think.”
I was still staring at the gate, or staring through it, back into a different world where I hadn’t been such a fool, hadn’t done so many stupid things that had caused so much pain and endangered the lives of people I loved, people who never deserved—
“Merien. Come on.”
Alistair’s grip on me tightened—a proper scruff-of-the-neck grab now—and his voice held an urgent, serious tone that brooked no argument.
“Huh.” The guard sniggered dryly, and spat a glob of brown, sticky foulness on the cobbles by my feet. “Go on, girl. You want to earn the switch, eh?”
For a second, I thought he’d spot my soldier’s boots as he spat at them, but he just lifted his head and shot Alistair a sardonic sneer. “I tell you, mate, they’re more trouble than they’re bleedin’ worth, right?”
Alistair mumbled something in response that I barely heard through the rushing in my ears. My legs had turned leaden and useless, and I was only partially aware of my fingers clenching into fists, itchy with the urge to close on weapons I didn’t have with me… and missed so very, very badly.
Alistair hissed something at me about not making a scene, and I suppose my face gave away exactly what I wanted to do. He dragged me away, at one point almost me lifting me off the cobbles, and we’d rounded the corner into a nearby alley, away from the wide expanse of the square, before I managed to twist out of his grip.
“Meri, what— what are you doing?”
I didn’t answer, too busy diving past the mouldy warehouses and piss-stained corners, back to the great dark shape of the wall. It ran behind everything, and I slipped between the buildings, following its tangled, ragged jumble. I knew it so well, better than I’d ever thought I did; every inch of texture, every one of the overlapping patches of cracked, faded wood, and every plank and board holding them together.
My fingers skimmed the rough timbers, lichen and splinters snagging my skin. There were weak spots. Always weak spots. It was just a matter of finding them. There were plenty of little rat-holes between here and the river. There had to be a way….
At last, I found what I was looking for—the cluster of elfroot plants, the patchy growth of lichen on the age-silvered wood—the place we’d snuck back into the alienage, the day that started everything. But something was wrong. I dropped to my knees, scrabbling at the base of the plants, seeking out the loose planks, but my fingers found no purchase, nothing that would yield.
I cussed and smacked a fist against the wood. Nailed up tight… probably along with every other potential squeeze-through or foothold.
I lumbered to my feet, pressing my way along the wall where it curved off into the narrow, unsavoury spaces behind the alleyways and warehouses. Of course… the wall was still there, but it was shored up by other walls, other bits of buildings. The back ends of gables and roofs, and the forgotten, crumbling bits of disused warehousing and shady dens.
There would be some way there, some chance of… what? I wasn’t sure. Climbing the wall, or finding some overlooked, forgotten spot that we could—
Footsteps thudded behind me, signalling Alistair catching up.
“Maker’s breath, woman! What are you trying to— oh, no. No, you can’t….”
I’d found a small ledge, of sorts, where the planks and their lashings didn’t quite fit. I got one foot into the crevice, my hands scrabbling at the timbers, and tried to pull myself up.
I ignored him, blinded by my own anger and frustration. My foot slipped, and I slid back down, wrenching my ankle.
Alistair was there, trying to catch me, pull me away from the wall, but I kicked out, pushing him back.
“Get off! Look, I can get up, I can—”
“People are going to see,” he warned. “If we get caught, we lose what little chance we have got of doing anything to help anyone. You know that. You can’t just… just start climbing walls a-and stabbing guards, so… get down. Now.”
It should have occurred to me that Alistair had barely even tried to tell me what to do since the Tower of Ishal. If it had, I might have wondered why his words sounded so much less like an order instead of an awkward, desperate plea.
Unfortunately, I was too busy being pig-headed, locked into a blind swathe of fury about bloody shems and how dare they tell me what to do, and I just gritted my teeth and swore at him. I think my heel caught the side of his head as I resumed the climb.
My feet were already slipping, yet I clung on, scrabbling for purchase with fingers, knees and elbows, ignoring the scratches and creaking timbers. I was about six feet up, the top of the wall a good three feet above me, and I could feel myself beginning to fall. I didn’t care. I slammed my palm against the wood, yelling the names of those I had to believe were still there. They had to be.
There was no sound from within. Visions of houses standing empty, with unwashed steps and shuttered windows, peopled my head. I couldn’t breathe, and I skidded further down the wall in a wave of outrage and desolate despair. Tears came. I hated them—hated myself for the weakness and the lack of control—but I couldn’t stop.
I half-fell, half-slid the rest of the way down, and Alistair caught my waist, his grip shifting hurriedly to my arms as I landed on the cobbles, knees jolted and ankles bowing with the impact. I fought him, but he held on, clamping me at arm’s length while I struggled, until I either gave up or realised how utterly ridiculous I looked—I don’t remember which happened first—and folded against him, sobbing.
Alistair held me tentatively by the shoulders, waiting until the tears gave way to a hot, horrible embarrassment, and I pulled away, scrubbing at my face with my sleeve and gulping great, snotty breaths of air.
“S-sorry,” I mumbled, the start of a garbled chain of apologies he brushed away with a shake of his head.
“Come on,” he said. “We’re going for a drink.”
I didn’t argue. It was nice, for once, to see him take the lead.
The tavern was called The Blue Boar. I’d never been inside—Father, I thought, with a tear-sodden gulp, would have been horrified at the merest notion—but I knew the name. It was one of the places the boys used to go: one of the city’s many grubby little establishments, where ale was cheap and faces anonymous.
Alistair plonked me down at a table not far from the door, told me not to move, and disappeared. I stared at nothing until he came back, bearing two mugs of foaming, brown ale.
“Drink up,” he ordered, lifting his pint.
I curled my fingers obediently around the cheap clay mug, and took a swig. The stuff was foul—sour and harsh—but at least it felt real. I swallowed heavily, regretting the way I’d behaved.
“I’m sorry,” I said again, the taste of the ale furring my tongue. “I shouldn’t have—”
“It wasn’t your fault.”
I blinked. I knew exactly what he meant, and it brought the hot sting of tears back to my eyes.
“It wasn’t,” Alistair repeated evenly, looking at me over his mug. “None of it was your fault.”
“Everyone I know,” I whispered. “They’re… they’re all…. No. I have to get in. Find someone, some way to—”
“It’s dangerous enough just being here,” he said reproachfully, lowering his voice. “You know that.”
“They’re my family,” I shot back, and it was a low, underhanded thing to do.
Alistair winced. “How about if we ask around? Just… find out what’s going on before you do anything… rash.”
I gave him an old-fashioned look, and he wrinkled his nose.
“You know what I mean. We’re here to ask questions anyway.”
He was right about that. I grimaced, recalling the fact we were meant to be doing something useful… something relevant to why we were here, instead of just flinging ourselves at our respective personal problems.
The bitter hollowness of that thought surprised me, and I was appalled at myself for a moment. The alienage had been everything I’d ever known, until the day I followed Duncan out through the cauldron of boiling resentment in the market, half-expecting to be knifed before we even reached the West Road. However far away it felt, that place had been my life. Those people…. It didn’t feel real to think they were all dead. But they must be, mustn’t they?
And I wasn’t a part of that world anymore. I hadn’t been, for so long now. Did that matter? Did it change how I felt? I barely knew, barely had any awareness of my own thoughts as they swirled through me, hardly touching my flesh.
I supposed, for the first time, I really understood how Alistair had felt after Ostagar.
It wasn’t a good feeling.
The world seemed to hold nothing but desolate grey plains, dry and featureless, and teeming with unchanging disappointment and regret. I thought of the Blight, and the darkspawn… and I didn’t even care. They didn’t seem real. I didn’t seem real, and there didn’t seem to be any point in anything.
Alistair’s foot smacked into my ankle, the sudden sharp pain of a reinforced toecap shocking me from my maudlin thoughts.
“Think Leliana’s having better luck?” he asked, swigging his ale. “We haven’t heard alarm calls going up from the cathedral. Not yet, anyway.”
I gave a noncommittal grunt, aware that he knew how I felt, and was trying to do for me what I’d done for him during those first few days in the Wilds, when he’d been so close to losing himself in grief.
Later, I would appreciate the gesture, and the kindness, and the understanding. At the time, I simply felt irritated, and wished he’d shut up.
He was still talking, though the words washed over me a bit. Something about Genitivi, and what Ser Perth had said about the brother being an inveterate wanderer, and then he was pushing a short stack of coppers across the grubby table, along with one slightly bent silver coin.
I blinked, and realised that was all the money we had left. Little more than spare change.
Alistair stifled a small sigh, and repeated what he’d probably just said.
“Kitchens. They’re where the gossip is. Where people know things. I don’t expect taverns are very different to monasteries that way… and they’re much more likely to talk to you. Just ask.”
Grudgingly, I got the gist of what he wanted me to do, and nodded. I knocked back about a third of the greasy beer, palmed the money, and set off in search of the door to the Boar’s kitchens.
I found it near the bar, where a knot of human dockers were evidently just off shift, and settling themselves in to drink their pay. A big, meaty hand clapped me on the backside as I passed, and I flinched, which fed their unpleasant laughter.
“Come on, darlin’,” one crowed, “give us a smile!”
Thick fingers closed around my wrist, pulling me into the group of men. As I turned, mouth open either to swear or protest—or possibly both—I suppose I wasn’t as enticing a prospect as I’d been from the back. One of the dockers laughed, and shoved the one who’d pinched me between the shoulder blades.
“G’on, Yorin! She’ll be grateful!”
I was on the verge of bringing my boot down on his instep when the barkeep intervened.
“Now, then, boys,” he said, with a calm, good-natured smile. “This one’s not on the menu. Come in with some posh nob, din’t you, girl?”
In the private world behind my eyes, I pulled the well-used dagger from the belt of my leathers, spiked the grabby bastard’s hand to the bar, and stood back to watch Morrigan spear the barkeep through the middle with a violent lance of pure ice.
Unfortunately, I had neither weapons, nor armour, nor a sorceress at my back. I dropped my gaze to the sticky floorboards, head bent. “Yes, ser.”
The shem leered. “And I ’spect he wants a room, don’t he? And a tray of something tasty from the kitchens?”
A chorus of laughter, ‘ooohs’ and ‘get in there, sons’ went up from the dockers, who were clearly already well-oiled enough to enjoy the show. The barkeep—a youngish man with dark hair and a thin, rather weedy moustache—seemed to thrive on the attention.
“Well,” he said, less to me than his merry band of onlookers, “we don’t do no hourly rents. It’s six bits a share, or a silver for yer own room, and I daresay Cook’ll do you a twopenny dinner if you ask nice.”
I nodded dumbly.
“Well?” The barkeep snapped his fingers in front of my face. “Pay up, then, you stupid tart.”
I gritted my teeth and handed over the slightly bent silver. The dockers tittered and roared as the barkeep gave me a small brass key, and I was just grateful that Alistair was at the far end of the tavern, blurred out by the smoky miasma and the noise, not hearing and not seeing this.
I got away on the pretext of seeing Cook about a tray, and slipped off before the heat in my cheeks flamed any hotter. At least it was anger, I told myself, and not shame. Not completely, anyway.
Nothing more than the Grey Warden’s lackey… or possibly his whore.
Somehow, it was more bearable when people at least knew Alistair was a Warden, and not some merchant’s younger scion with a penchant for elven wenches.
I stumbled into the kitchens, and almost collided with a scullery maid, which brought me to the immediate attention of Cook. She was a thin woman with blonde hair fading to grey, and deep lines scored around her eyes, nose and mouth.
“Whatchoo want?” she demanded.
The great furnace of a fire belched at one end of the long, low room, two huge black pots boiling over it, and three birds on a spit in front of them. The table was laden with things being chopped, kneaded, pounded and peeled, and scullions—both elven and human, like the tiny, wide-eyed girl I’d nearly cannoned into—darted to and fro, each apparently doing a dozen jobs at once.
It was clever of Alistair, I would realise later, to send me on that particular errand. I had to think on my feet, force myself to engage with the world and the intense, brutal hierarchy of the kitchen, and it left no room for the cold, grey places of grief.
When I rejoined him, the tavern was growing noisier. A whole cacophony of voices—laughter, arguments, insults; the full range of life—thrummed against the walls, filling the close, musky space, and the air was rank with the smell of sweat, grease, and ale. Alistair sat hunched up at the table, staring morosely into the remnants of his pint, his difference to the other patrons marked by both his silence and his comparative sobriety. We shouldn’t linger here, I decided.
He looked up as I drew level with the table, and I wondered what he’d been thinking about. Goldanna, probably: the ragged ghosts of dreams and possibilities seemed to chase his eyes until he blinked, and pushed them all away.
“There’s good news and bad news,” I said, sliding onto the bench beside him so I didn’t have to raise my voice above the crowd. “The good news is that Genitivi used to drink here sometimes. They know him, and his apprentice, Weylon.”
Alistair nodded and gave me an apprehensive wince. “What’s the bad news?”
“No address, except somewhere off the market district, and Cook called him a crazy old coot. Said she wouldn’t trust him to map his way to the boghouse and back.”
The wince became a frown, and I bit my lip in tacit agreement. With Arl Eamon being kept alive by magic, and any hope we had of being taken seriously by the Bannorn resting, I suspected, on either Teagan or Lady Isolde assuming control of his arling, we hardly needed to throw in our lot with some filibustering snake-oil chaser. And yet, we couldn’t return to Redcliffe empty-handed.
“We should go and meet Leliana,” Alistair said grimly, as he began to get to his feet. “Did you find out anything else?”
“A little. No, not that way. We’ll go out the back.” I slipped off the bench and, as he stood, caught his sleeve and nodded to the grubby hallway that led off to the right of the bar. “They all think we’re here for… you know.”
A blush started to crest my neck, the stuffy warmth of the tavern competing with the look of incomprehension on Alistair’s face to draw the most discomfort from me.
“I had to pay for a room,” I muttered, mugging frantically. “You know… right?”
“Oh. Oh! Er… um. Right.”
I dropped my hand from his arm as his expression transitioned magnificently from blankness to utter terror, and then a combination of embarrassment, shame, and disbelief.
I turned, and led the way, glad that this was one time I wasn’t expected to walk behind him. There was a little laughter, some jeering… I didn’t look to see if Alistair was still in tow until we cleared the bar and got into the shabby hallway, lined with rough wooden doors. Muffled noises seemed to be coming from one of the other rooms, but I didn’t stop to identify them.
Alistair cleared his throat and avoided eye contact. A potboy crossed the mouth of the corridor, keg on his shoulders and disinterested expression on his face. I nodded to where he’d come from.
“That way, I suppose. Out and round the alleys, back up to the market square?”
“Sounds good,” Alistair agreed, somewhat fervently.
I grinned, and we made our escape, mercifully without attracting anyone’s attention. I still had the little brass key in the pocket of my dress. It might, I supposed, prove useful if we needed somewhere to rest come nightfall… though I doubted it, no matter how widely the weedy little barkeep might grin if he saw Alistair accompanied by an elven wench and a stunning Orlesian sister.
As we picked our way through the overflowing gutters and piss-stained alleys, I decided that sounded like the beginning of one of the kind of jokes Soris used to get into trouble for repeating in front of Father. The shard of memory was bittersweet, and pierced deeper than it might have done no more than a day ago.
We met Leliana at the appointed spot in the chantry courtyard, just as the sun was going down. Merchants were packing up, furling their colours and nagging their servants, and dull threads of gold touched the edges of the pink-hued shadows. Denerim looked softer at dusk, I thought, and I stared out across the square, aching for the glimmers of candles in windows and the tread of men’s boots on the cobbles, because this was when they came home, tired and smelling of sweat and grime, yet still talking, still laughing. The sound of them filled up the streets, and I’d go to meet Father at our door, and there would be the scent of the dumplings Mother was cooking, and the wideness of his smile when he swung me up into his arms and hugged me, before we both had to go and wash up for supper.
“…really much of a record-keeper,” Leliana said, “but at least I have his last known address. It’s not far.”
She was looking expectantly at me, which seemed odd. Already, I’d all but forgotten how it felt to have people treating me like I was in charge. I blinked, and glanced at Alistair. He covered for me, for which I was grateful, but the glare he gave me was a little sharp.
“We should go now, I think,” he said. “There’s an apprentice, or assistant or something… if he’s there, he might have some information. The Chantry don’t have any more recent records than the Birth Rock transcriptions?”
“No.” Leliana shook her head, and twitched the sleeve of her robe back just enough to show the roll of parchment concealed inside it. “But I… borrowed a few things that might be useful.”
Alistair’s eyes widened briefly, as if he was contemplating shock or protest, but he just gave a weary sigh. He glanced at the patchy few knots of people between us and the edge of the square; evening service was still a little way off, though a few faithful had gathered by the Chanter’s Board, and there were two templars flanking the massive chantry doors.
“Right,” he muttered, evidently managing to quell whatever mantras of morality the monastery had beaten into him at an early age. “No, that’s… fine. We’ll just—”
“We should get going,” I said, grounding myself back in the present, forcing myself to take at least some semblance of control. “Alistair’s right. Thank you, Leliana.”
There was a hollowness to my voice that they must have heard, yet neither of them challenged me, nor gave any hint of being anything but pleased to follow my lead as I headed out towards the street Leliana named.
She walked at my shoulder, while Alistair dropped a few paces behind, apparently glad to relinquish the façade of being in charge. We didn’t seem to attract much attention, not in this half-light, twilit world, between the thronged excitement of the day and the nefarious hush of the night. The first watch patrols weren’t out yet, and most of the other people still about were more concerned with getting home.
All the same, I wondered whether it was sensible.