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This felt like the end of the earth, but Duncan Sinclair had stopped being surprised by how many ends of the earth there were in the Realm. They were around every bend, just like the islands and just like this deadbeat West Arc pub.
It was the kind of place with the same four guys at the bar every night and one extremely drunk woman telling everyone's fortune, always grim. That kind of place.
He shifted on the hard stool beneath him and leaned toward the bartender, extending his glass. "I was asking after Greta MarKrieg."
"What archipelago are you from, buddy?" The man's hand shook as he poured another shot into Duncan's glass. Surely they had found the oldest guy in town and then asked his father to tend bar. "Because where I'm from…"
"The Edge Island."
"Figures," the old man spat, "a Mainlander."
"Yes, a Mainlander, and one who's on the Leader's business." Reluctantly on the Leader's business, he didn't add. Duncan had not volunteered for this duty. But he had let himself be talked into it. The Leader wanted his best warrior back with her squad, and Duncan had been dispatched to find her. Given his history with Greta MarKrieg, it was either the smartest or the dumbest thing he'd ever done.
"Word of the MarKrieg travels fast in the Four Arcs." The bartender’s spider-like brows framed eyes narrowed in suspicion.
Duncan inclined his head and raised the glass to his lips. He toasted himself silently, having finally determined the source of the pain in his ass.
It wasn't the barstool he was perched on, and it wasn't the poor treatment from the locals. He was the worst kind of fool in the Four Arcs. He knew what Greta MarKrieg could do to his defenses-‘he'd watched her crush one opponent after another in battle-‘but Luna help him, he still hoped to find her.
"You were asking after our Greta," a woman said, slipping onto the stool at his right. Her tunic had seen better days. "You'll know she was our First Moon queen," she told him, propping one cheek against a thin hand. "At the festival, ten years ago. Like a princess out of the old stories."
"It's an old story, all right," Duncan heard someone say behind him, and he turned toward her voice. He could spot a warrior in a market throng, and he could sure as hell spot one among this sparse crowd, especially since she was walking toward him with a bottle of clear whiskey in one hand, salt bowl and lime in the other, and a world of mischief in the lazy smile she cast his way.