A Sordid Past: Of the Arbour teaser

“I gotta question for ya, hero.”

Sage took a moment to count under his breath and convince himself that no, he did not have to murder Malachi, then turned back to the scoundrel. “Make it quick. I have things to do today.”

Malachi smirked and stuffed his hands into the pockets of his trousers. “You and me, we both had ‘em bounties on us by the Mad King. Where’d ya hide all that time? Ya can’t have been in a city. Don’t seem wrong enough in the head.”

There was nothing Sage wanted less than to have Malachi know where his family lived. He would have thought it was obvious, but Malachi had been in deeper hiding, his bounty having been one of the highest in recent history. He wouldn’t have been caught up on the news.

“It could have been a city. Why does it matter anyway? We don’t have bounties anymore.”

“No, ‘cause you killed the Mad King. It’s honest curiosity. Just ‘cause there are things in cities ya can’t find in the countryside.”

Sage glanced over Malachi’s shoulder. Kymbry had slunk silently from the crow’s nest and stood next to Stride. The two were near the dinghies, listening to the conversation with interested and expectant expressions.

“Just get to your point, Malachi. I need to go.”

Malachi had an incredibly mobile face. With one twitch at the corner of his mouth, his sneer was at once curious, lewd, and knowing. “We-ell, ‘member how you met your dear, darlin’ sweet wife? ‘Member how she was a whore in Wanderer’s Point, beggin’ for a fuck to get her fix?”

A muscle jumped in Sage’s jaw. “Say one more word, Malachi.”

“I’m just sayin’, hero, cities are dangerous. Things can happen.”

A hand clapped on Malachi’s shoulder, and the scoundrel snapped his jaw shut. “Maybe you should go, Malachi,” Stride said. His voice was level and cool, but there was something dark lurking in the depths. He loved Maia. Everyone who knew her did. Sage relaxed somewhat, knowing Malachi wouldn’t get away with his insults.

Malachi rolled his shoulder out of Stride’s grip and winked at Sage. “We’ll talk later, hero.”

They remained silent until he meandered away, whistling a bawdy tavern song as he went. Stride waited until Malachi was gone, then set a hand on Sage’s arm and towed him to where Kymbry stood. She moved behind him and began combing out his hair with her fingers without bothering to ask.

“I don’t know why you haven’t just killed him yet,” Stride remarked, watching her fingers move deftly through his son’s hair. “He deserves it, just for that alone. Was he asking if Maia had—?”

Sage’s face heated up and he stared at the clear blue waters beneath the Boar so he didn’t have to look his father in the eye. “Yes. She was a whore, Stride. You know that. Everyone does. She was in Wanderer’s Point for a long time.”

Stride’s eyes widened. “But you and the children—”

He wouldn’t have thought it possible for his blush to deepen, but it must have, for he suddenly felt like somebody had dunked his face in boiling water. “I know,” he snapped, and his abrupt gesture made Kymbry lose her grip on the braid. She smacked his head and started over. “But I don’t. And the children don’t. And Maia is fine.”


Kymbry quickly finished up the braid and patted Sage’s head where she had hit him. “Wandering caravans from the Dunes have remarkable healers,” she said vaguely, and not for the first time, Sage wondered about her part in Maia’s sordid history with Malachi. “Maia is fine, and we would know if Sage was ill after all this time. It shows more readily in men than women.”

Stride winced and a hand automatically went to his groin. “By the One. Don’t get me wrong, lad—I love the girl, but she has some questionable life choices behind her.”

“Please don’t talk about it when we get back.” Sage ran his palm down the bumpy ridge of the braid. He couldn’t wait to get Flynn and go home, partially because these constant braids were emasculating. “Maia is… sensitive. And if Ash found out about her past, he’d never shut up about it.”

His father nodded, but his unease was plain in his eyes.

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