Spy Glass Page 42

I tasted a spoonful. The fishy flavor dominated. “What’s the green stuff?”

Mister Paul wheezed with humor. “Seaweed. But don’t tell anyone.”

“You’re far from the sea. This must be expensive soup.”

“Not too bad. There’s an outfit down along the Bloodgood coast that found an abundance of oysters and they hooked up with some magician so they can ship the seafood without it going bad.”

When I had traveled along the coastline, there had been a number of depressed towns fading into ruins. I hoped one of them had hit the oyster jackpot.

“How do they ship it?” I asked between slurps of my soup.

“Cold glass.”

I almost dropped the spoon. “Really?” My voice squeaked.

“Yeah. It’s strange stuff. The food is packed into these glass jars. They’re cold to the touch, but as soon as you open the jar, the cold disappears.” He shrugged. “Took my wife a bit to get used to it, but it works.”

“Can I see one?”

“Sure.” He sent another server to the kitchen.

The soup felt as though it turned to stone in my stomach as I waited. The woman carried a jar coated with frost and handed it to me. Magic clung to it, but I couldn’t figure out what it was doing to keep the contents frozen. A rose design had been stamped into the lid.

“Do you know who is providing these?” I asked.

“The merchant is a Bloodgood. Said his name was Fallon. Why?”

“Just curious.” The name sounded familiar, but I couldn’t place it. I examined the jar. The cold numbed my hands, but I didn’t see anything unusual. The server returned it to the kitchen. I would have to investigate after my business with Ulrick was completed.

“How long are you staying?” Mister Paul asked.

“One night.”

His ears seemed to droop in disappointment. I suppressed a smile.

“You mentioned a big to-do after I left. What happened?” I asked.

“Nothing bad. Just lots of visitors and officials and questions. Lots of customers!” He beamed. “They took that Donner place apart. A Master Magician and the Soulfinder stayed in my inn.” Pride puffed his chest.

With Irys and Yelena on hand during the search, I was certain they hadn’t found a vial full of blood in the Donner factory. Otherwise Valek wouldn’t have been asking me questions about it.

“What happened to the factory after everyone left?” I asked.

“Closed up. It’s for sale, but no one is interested.”

The next day, I headed north, aiming for the boarding stables Valek had mentioned. Odd for the stables to be so far from any towns. When I arrived at the tiny barn with one stable lad and one black horse, I guessed this place wasn’t on any of the official Sitian maps.

When Valek came out of the modest farmhouse to greet me, I asked, “I thought Yelena discouraged these Ixian safe havens?”

“She does. But they are vital to me. And until she has a better reason than promoting goodwill between Sitia and Ixia, I’m keeping them.” He glanced at the sky. “Come on in. We have much to do and we’re on a schedule.”

He led me to a room filled with clothing, wigs, props and makeup. If I didn’t know any better, I would’ve thought I was backstage at the Citadel’s theater.

“Sit.” Valek pointed to a stool in front of a mirror. He poured water into a bowl and mixed a yellow paste. Turning me so I faced my reflection, he gathered my long brown hair in his hands.

“Sorry, Opal. But—”

“A person’s hair is one of the most recognizable features.” I repeated his lesson. “Go ahead. Get it over with.” I closed my eyes as his scissors sliced through the locks.

As Valek cut and dyed my hair, I avoided looking in the mirror. With my hair wet and wrapped in a towel, he handed me the bowl of dye, a brush, comb and a robe.

He gestured to the washroom, but didn’t meet my gaze. “You’ll be searched. And…um…your hair color needs to match. You know?” He squirmed in embarrassment.

I laughed when I understood. What else could I do? Cry?

Inside the washroom, I followed his instructions and dyed my pubic hair blond. It would be interesting to explain that to Kade. Although… I hadn’t received a letter from him, so it might not be a problem. Pain flared in my chest, but I squelched it. This wasn’t a good time. I needed to focus.

When I finished, I joined Valek. “Blond? I always wanted to be a redhead.”

He smiled. “Red would draw attention. Better to go with a dirty blond…I mean a…darker blond color…closer to light brown.” Now he looked panicked. “You’re blushing!”

Huffing, he stabbed a finger at the stool. “Sit.” He rummaged for another bowl. This one contained a flesh-colored goo. He then transformed me from Opal Cowan into Rhea Jewelrose.

I believed I was both physically and mentally ready for the mission. But when the wagon pulled to a stop in front of the small farmhouse late that evening, a rush of cold fear swept through me, leaving me weak. I wobbled.

“Rhea, are you all right?” Valek asked. He had called me by my new name since putting the finishing touches on my disguise.

“Fine.” I inhaled deeply, pulling in the cool night air and releasing it.

I nodded at the two men who drove the team of horses. One stepped down and unlocked the wagon. It was more like a metal box on wheels. At least the two small windows let in air through the bars. It was empty.

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