The Rogue Knight Page 18

For the first time since Ansel spotted him, Cole realized there might be an alternative to hiding indoors for the rest of his life. “They can do that?”

“The right enchanter can,” Joe assured him. “I belong to a resistance movement called the Unseen. The movement wasn’t strong in the parts of Sambria we traveled together, but there seems to be a decent presence here. I’m not supposed to tell any new people about our group without permission from two other senior members, but I don’t see any way around letting you kids in on our secret. Permission will have to come later. I can’t imagine I’ll take too much heat for it. After all, we’re on the run with Princess Miracle.”

“Have you met up with them yet?” Cole asked.

“We have secret ways of contacting one another,” Joe said. “I’ve seen some subtle signs of activity in the area. Last night and this morning I left marks around town for any of the Unseen to visit the Shady Lane Confidence Lounge this afternoon. If some members respond, there’s a chance we can get the aid we’re looking for.”

“When do we go?” Cole asked.

“I have a coach waiting,” Joe said. “I had initially planned to just bring Mira, since her face was the one I most worried about, but I expect they can accommodate an extra guest. Admittance is three gold ringers per person.”

“Three gold ringers!” Twitch exclaimed. “I could live for months off that much!”

“Good information doesn’t come cheap,” Joe said. “We should go.”

“Do I need ringers?” Cole asked.

“I’ll pay our entry fee,” Joe said. “You may want to carry some extra ringers, just in case, but leave your main stash here. Get changed and meet me downstairs. Don’t bring the sword.”

Cole had restrung most of his ringers to a cord around his chest. He took off his shirt, and Twitch untied the cord. Opening the packages on the bed, Cole found a blue button-down shirt and black trousers. He put them on, then pocketed a few gold, silver, and copper ringers.

“Wish me luck,” Cole said.

“Hopefully, the next time we see each other, I won’t recognize you,” Twitch replied.

Cole nodded, though the idea of looking like someone else was definitely weird. “See you later.”

Downstairs, Cole found Mira and Joe waiting for him. Joe carried a brown leather satchel. Mira wore a simple black dress with a red sash. Cole hadn’t seen her decked out so girlie before.

“You look clean,” Mira said. “Our clothes have taken a beating since Cloudvale.”

Cole smiled, wanting to pay her a compliment, but unable to work up the courage. She looked a little too pretty. “This will be a new adventure.”

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“We’ll talk in the coach,” Joe said, leading the way to the door. They exited onto a small side street. “This way.”

Joe led them around a corner and down a couple of blocks. They reached a street bustling with people, and Joe turned again.

“Keep your head up,” Mira murmured. “Don’t act like you’re hiding.”

Cole hadn’t deliberately bowed his head, but he realized she was right. He felt exposed. It would be just his luck to bump into a member of Ansel’s slave caravan.

Joe ushered them up marble steps to the pillared entrance of a grand hotel. The lobby floor was a checkerboard of gold and platinum. Bright rainbows crisscrossed the cavernous space overhead. A sapphire-blue waterfall dominated one corner, the vivid water tumbling in slow motion. Cole realized that much of what he saw must be illusion.

They crossed the lobby and exited through doors on the far side. A uniformed attendant held the door open. Joe flipped him a copper ringer. “I’m Dale Winters,” Joe said. “I ordered a coach.”

“Right this way,” the doorman said, leading them to one of the horse-drawn coaches parked at the curb. The attendant opened the door to the coach, and Joe gave the man another copper ringer as he climbed inside. Cole got settled beside Mira, across from Joe. The door closed, and the coach started rolling.

Joe’s preparation impressed Cole. Having a coach waiting at a different hotel from where they were staying felt like the sort of clever precaution a secret agent would take. “The driver knows where we’re going?” Cole asked.

“He does,” Joe said. “Just as he knows we would prefer him not to observe us. He kept his eyes forward as we approached and boarded the coach.” Opening his satchel, Joe revealed three party masks. He gave the glittery silver one to Mira, the blue one to Cole, and claimed the black one for himself. “Put them on.”

Lifting the mask to his face, Cole pulled the slender blue chain around his head and slid one of the links into a hook on the other side. Looking out through the eyeholes limited his visibility a little. The mask covered all of his face besides his mouth and chin.

“Let’s talk strategy,” Joe said. “In a confidence lounge, information is currency. We all need to play the game, or we’ll stand out. Fortunately, we’re from out of town and have juicy rumors that should be of interest. We don’t want to mention anything about who we are, and we should avoid topics surrounding the High King or his daughters.”

“What about Honor?” Mira asked.

“Leave it to me to ask after Honor,” Joe said. “I’ll also secure an enchanter who can manage long-lasting seemings.”

“Can I ask about my friends?” Cole wondered.

Joe paused. “I know finding them is important to you.”

“It’s important to me too,” Mira said.

Joe gave a reluctant nod. “Keep it general. If the right opportunity comes up, mention that you heard the High King was sending new slaves with shaping talent abroad.”

“What rumors can we share?” Cole asked.

“Present nothing as personal knowledge,” Joe stressed. “Mention that you heard it from a reliable source, that sort of thing. You can talk about Carnag having fallen, and four hundred legionnaires visiting Skyport. You might vaguely mention shapecrafters. I’m interested to see if anyone knows about them. If somebody seems useful, share that Declan was flushed out from behind the Eastern Cloudwall. The information is good enough to work as currency, and it won’t hurt Declan—the High King already knows he was there. Besides, it might help our cause to remind people that the Grand Shapers are still around.”

“Should we spread the word that the High King imprisoned his daughters?” Cole asked. “We could tell everyone he faked their deaths. Won’t people be outraged?”

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