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Hang Him Out To Dry [Closed]

Adelaide Orland

Noble
Noble
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68
#21
Celeste stepped into the cellar and surveyed the contents with the eye of a real connoisseur – not of the impressive labels on the front of the bottles, but of the actual contents. With little hesitation she plucked out a Tevinter white, and then a red. Addie had not drunk much Tevinter wine, but what she had, she had enjoyed. Which was more than could be said for a great number of the small amounts she had been allowed at Father’s parties. To be honest, she had never rebelled against that measure much because she had no desire to, given how appalling his taste was.

“These will do for this trip.”

Addie nodded agreement – Celeste would have a better idea than her of how far they could push this – and she headed back towards the door, only to hesitate at the sound of footsteps outside. She then flinched back a step or two as Sterling’s voice rang through the doorway. “…won’t be long. I’ve got friends all over Lowtown.”

Oh Maker, he wasn’t alone. The second voice was more boisterous than Sterling’s, and it belonged to one of the many noble sons that Father had measured for her beau. Thankfully, he hadn’t even got anywhere near Father’s exacting standards, which meant that his family owned less land than Barratt Orland would like. Nonetheless, he remained part of Sterling’s circle of friends, despite having more common sense than most of them. “And they’re all laughing at you right now. Just keep your head down for a bit. You can make inquiries later.”

“Right now I’m less interested at getting back at them – although I will, make no mistake about that – than at Father. I get assaulted and he cuts me off! And gives me a lecture, like I’m a wayward child!” There was a clatter that strongly suggested Sterling had thrown something across the room.

George’s voice sounded weary. Addie would hazard a guess that he’d been living through a version of this conversation multiple times since the news broke. “And that’s why you’re pinching his wine? To teach him a lesson?”

“That and to get some money. How am I meant to live, without the pittance he deigned give me?”

“Sterling’s pittance could buy a few of the flats in Lowtown,” Addie murmured. “He just thinks it’s not much because he spends it all in a couple of days each time.”

Then the words sunk in and she scurried back from the door. The cellar was big but there weren’t many places to hide. She didn’t want to be caught in here, not by Sterling, and she definitely didn’t want Celeste to be seen. She flapped her hands at Celeste, indicting she should move back into the shadows, doing the same herself, and held her breath as she waited. The door creaked ajar, and Addie released a passable imitation of the sommelier’s creaky bellow.

“Who the flames is coming in here now? Get out!”

The door slammed shut again on a muffled curse. Even Sterling was afraid of crossing Mamfrey, who had proven himself perfectly unafraid of the Orland heir, and absolutely willing to tell on him to Father. The footsteps retreated, and Addie sagged against the nearest rack. “That was far too close.”

And also…somewhat exhilarating, if she was honest.
 

Celeste Monroe

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242
#22
Their exit was interrupted by approaching footsteps and the sound of voices … one of which was decidedly familiar.

“How am I meant to live, without the pittance he deigned give me?” Sterling groused to his companion, who sounded more impatient than sympathetic at his plight.

“Sterling’s pittance could buy a few of the flats in Lowtown,” Addie pointed out in disgust. “He just thinks it’s not much because he spends it all in a couple of days each time.” Her expression changed from disapproval to dismay as it became obvious that Sterling’s intended destination was the wine cellar. She backed away from the door, gesturing frantically to Celeste to hide as she tried to wedge into the nonexistent space between two racks.

It wasn’t going to work. They might be able to evade a casual glance in the door, but anyone who entered was going to see them. Celeste set the bottles against the wall and crouched, one hand dipping into a pocket for a smoke bomb. If Sterling saw her here, he might assume that she was simply continuing the campaign from the Hanged Man, but if he saw her with Addie … well, that wasn’t going to happen, and she tensed as the handle on the door turned, readying for the throw -

“Who the flames is coming in here now?” Celeste twitched, wondering how in blazes she had missed a third person in the room with them. It required a double take to confirm that the crochety-sounding bawl was indeed coming from Addie, and a delighted grin spread across her face. “Get out!”

It worked! The door jerked hastily shut, disgruntled oaths fading along with hasty footsteps.

“That was far too close.” Addie heaved a relieved sigh, leaning against one of the racks for support.

“And that was bloody brilliant,” Celeste congratulated her, releasing her hold on the smoke bomb and rising from her crouch, giving the girl an admiring look. “Where did you learn that?”
 

Adelaide Orland

Noble
Noble
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Posts
68
#23
Addie was trembling as she leaned back against the racks. Never had she come so close to Sterling finding out what she was doing in her free time these days; let alone tried something so bold in order to evade trouble. Itching powder and sleep powder and fart bombs all ensured that her presence was never even guessed at; this had been enormously risky. And yet she couldn’t help but feel proud, especially when Celeste congratulated her.

“And that was bloody brilliant.” The sailor rose to standing, giving her a look that a younger Addie would have traded a thousand gold in order to gain from her parents. It felt worth all the more now coming from somebody she had reason to respect. “Where did you learn that?”

Addie grinned, shyly. “I had to learn a few old plays, growing up. I enjoyed reading out all the parts and changing my voice around to match them; I used to borrow accents and such from the people I knew in real life. I didn’t know it’d be a useful skill at any point.”

She’d known she was a decent mimic, but Maker’s breath she had taken such a gamble with this one. Her eyes were shining as she glanced back at the door; no sound from beyond came, so she gripped her bottle again tighter and scuttled towards it. “Let’s get back to my room. I think that’s about as far as I’m willing to tempt lady luck tonight.”

They made it back without further trouble, but Addie still closed the door quickly behind them, just in case. And stuck a stop under it. Now safe from further intrusion, she flopped on the bed and started opening the bottle. “What was your escape plan, for that? I literally couldn’t think of anything else except yelling and hoping he fell for it.”
 

Celeste Monroe

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242
#24
Elation and terror fought for dominance on Addie’s face as the voices of her brother and his crony retreated, and Celeste could see the tremors that shook the girl’s frame as she sagged into one of the wine racks for support. It had definitely been a close call, and Celeste was delighted at the quick thinking that her young friend had displayed … to say nothing of the unexpected talent.

“I had to learn a few old plays, growing up,” Addie explained, beaming bashfully when the sailor congratulated her. “I enjoyed reading out all the parts and changing my voice around to match them; I used to borrow accents and such from the people I knew in real life. I didn’t know it’d be a useful skill at any point.”

“Oh, I could definitely think of some uses for it,” Celeste assured her, adding with a wink. “Some of them are probably even legal.” She had no intention of leading the girl into a life of crime, but Red Jenny capers generally skirted the edges of that line.

“Let’s get back to my room,” Addie suggested, heading toward the door, still holding the bottle of wine that Celeste had passed her. “I think that’s about as far as I’m willing to tempt lady luck tonight.”

Celeste followed with the second bottle in hand, back up the stairs and through the corridors. They encountered no one, and when they were safely back in Addie’s room, the girl closed the door and wedged a stop in place for good measure before collapsing onto her bed. “What was your escape plan, for that?” she asked as she reached for a corkscrew. “I literally couldn’t think of anything else except yelling and hoping he fell for it.”

“Smoke bomb,” Celeste replied, withdrawing the small glass sphere from her pocket and showing it to the girl. “Push here and it lets the chemicals inside mix, then throw it on the ground hard enough to break it. Lots of smoke, but no fire. They’d have known that someone was there, but not who. Shove them inside, lock the door and run.” She shrugged. It would have been almost as risky as Addie’s ploy. Not getting caught would not have been enough; for Addie’s sake, she could not even have been seen, particularly in Celeste’s company.
 

Adelaide Orland

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68
#25
Celeste could think of other uses for her abilities as a mimic, but didn’t specify. Addie didn’t push for more details at the moment as she normally would have. The brush with danger had been much too close and her nerve had been all but used up; they needed to get back to her room, and then she could have a measure or two of wine and refortify herself. She had certainly taken more to alcohol since meeting Celeste and Josc than she used to, and so far it had failed to have the damaging effect on her life that her father had warned her about.

Once they were safely tucked back behind the door and it had been wedged shut, Addie asked Celeste how she might have escaped the situation. The captain, as ever, had had a plan.

“Smoke bomb.” She produced a small vial from her pocket and Addie took it as carefully as she was able, studying the contents. Two different substances were held in suspension from each other, a thin wavy line of glass denoting where they were separated. No wonder such things could cost a fair sum; besides the chemicals, the glassblowing technique alone would be a difficult one to replicate.

“Push here and it lets the chemicals inside mix, then throw it on the ground hard enough to break it. Lots of smoke, but no fire. They’d have known that someone was there, but not who. Shove them inside, lock the door and run.”

Possibly it would have been safer than Addie’s technique, but she didn’t relish the idea of pushing past Sterling and hoping that he didn’t see the giveaway edge of a hem whisking around a corner as the smoke cleared. “At least we didn’t have to waste one of your grenades,” she smiled, finally feeling some of the tension beginning to unscrew itself from around her bones. She popped the cork on her bottle, started to pour it into the glass at her bedside, glanced at Celeste and then took a swig right from the neck, like she might do.

It even felt sort of natural, even if she then coughed a bit as some found its way into a lung rather than her stomach. Eyes watering, she held out the corkscrew to Celeste. “Where do you plan to go, once your ship is fixed?”
 

Celeste Monroe

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242
#26
Addie inspected the grenade that Celeste produced with keen interest, remarking that it was good that they hadn’t wasted it.

“They’re here to be used,” Celeste replied. “Keep it, stash it away,” she urged the girl when she started to hand it back. “Plenty more where that came from.” Dax generally spent the first couple of nights in port making sure the stocks were kept up; he’d had ample opportunity to practice his craft on this trip, and had turned some decent coin selling the excess. She trusted by now that Addie wasn’t going to use it for simple mischief. Slowly but surely, she was helping her young friend build an escape stash, which she was increasingly sure would be needed.

Addie used the corkscrew with a practiced hand and started to fill her glass, then gave Celeste a sideways glance and swilled a prime Orlesian vintage straight from the bottle. Celeste chuckled as she coughed and lowered the bottle, accepting the corkscrew in turn. Opening her own bottle, she lifted it in a toast, then chugged from it in a similar fashion (without the coughing); the girl already knew how to pour wine, how to let it breathe, how to sip it like a lady; time for her to learn other important things, like how to let her hair down and kick back.

“Where do you plan to go, once your ship is fixed?” Addie wanted to know.

“Antiva,” Celeste replied without hesitation. “Have to pick up my first mate and cabin boy.” And damn, she missed them both. “Then Rivain for the rest of the winter. Warm sun, clear water, sandy beaches …” She leaned back against the bedpost with a sigh. Soon.

She took another swallow of wine, regarding Addie thoughtfully. “You’re welcome to come along,” she offered. The steadily growing impatience to be away from Kirkwall was increasingly tempered by the concern that her departure would leave Addie trapped in the same city as her asshole father and prick of a brother. “Josc can come too,” she added with a little grin. She wasn’t entirely certain what kept Lady Hawke chained to the City of Chains, but the sweet thing sitting across from her was undoubtedly at least part of it. “We can even bring you back in the spring.” After they’d taught her enough about fighting to let her bitchslap Daddy and Sterling into line.
 

Adelaide Orland

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#27
This wine was actually halfway nice. Some of the labels on the bottles were worth something, after all. After clearing a few droplets of alcohol from her throat, Addie took another draught and felt the warmth creep into her stomach that usually meant she would be far more giggly than usual in a few minutes. Not that she ever needed much help, with Celeste around. Not that she would be forever, and rather than let herself get sobered by that thought, Addie decided she wanted to hear about what Celeste would be getting up to. It would cheer her up once her friend was gone, imagining her shenanigans.

“Antiva. Have to pick up my first mate and cabin boy.” She looked wistful for a moment. “Then Rivain for the rest of the winter. Warm sun, clear water, sandy beaches…”

When Celeste sighed, Addie did as well. It sounded wonderful – less dusty than Kirkwall, air less heavy, and most important, a long, long way from her family. She had never been to a beach, but she had seen illustrations. She imagined lying in sand as soft as a thick blanket, the sun painting the inside of her eyelids red as she dozed, the soft wash of waves retreating, advancing.

The silence had lasted long enough for Addie to drift into her reverie, so she started when Celeste spoke again. “You’re welcome to come along. Josc can come along too. We can even bring you back in the spring.”

Addie nearly upset the wine. But just as a joyous yes! rose in her throat, it was suffocated by the realisation that she couldn’t go. Not because of Father and Sterling – Celeste would be able to get her out of here, and well beyond even Barratt Orland’s reach, without too much trouble. These days Addie could leave the estate entirely unaided, and although it was a long way down to the docks, there could always be somebody waiting to escort her there. The crew had been so sweet to her, none of them would mind…

No, it wasn’t that. “It’s Eddie.” Her voice was soft. “I only just got him back, Celeste. And I don’t think he’ll leave until Father and Sterling pay for what they did to him – for what they’ve done to so many people. If I go, and Father somehow-” she cut herself off. “I’d never forgive myself for leaving him behind again. They told me he was dead once, and I believed them, even though they never showed me a body.” She’d already filled in Celeste on how Sterling had tricked her, leading her to believe that her own grief had barred her from being brought along to the memorial service. “And I won’t ask you to wait for me. But once this all done – I wouldn’t mind you picking me up and taking me then. The next time you go.”
 

Celeste Monroe

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242
#28
There was no mistaking the yearning in Addie’s expression when Celeste spoke of Rivain, and the thought of the girl’s reactions to Antiva City and the vibrant markets of Aysleigh and Dairsmuid (she wouldn’t take her anywhere near Llomerryn) was definitely appealing. But the delight that burst like a sunrise in the pretty face when she made the offer was almost immediately dimmed.

“It’s Eddie,” Addie explained apologetically. “I only just got him back, Celeste. And I don’t think he’ll leave until Father and Sterling pay for what they did to him – for what they’ve done to so many people. If I go, and Father somehow-” she broke off, distress touching her features, and Celeste nodded her understanding. “I’d never forgive myself for leaving him behind again. They told me he was dead once, and I believed them, even though they never showed me a body. And I won’t ask you to wait for me. But once this all done – I wouldn’t mind you picking me up and taking me then. The next time you go.”

“The offer will stay open, little one,” Celeste promised her. “Any time we’re in port, just say the word. Your brother can come, too.” Normally, she didn’t offer passage sight unseen, but if Addie was this fond of him, he couldn’t be an utter asshole. And she'd put up with a fairly large asshole anyway, to get her away from whatever plans her father had for her. “And if you need to reach me after we’re gone, take a letter to the docks, find a ship bound for Antiva City or Dairsmuid and ask the captain to take the letter to Three Sheets To The Wind in Antiva City or the Sleeping Shark in Dairsmuid.” Leaving the girl here worried Celeste more than she would admit, but even without the steadily deepening cold (and the qunari, and the blood mages and demons), staying in Kirkwall wasn’t an option. They needed to get work, cargo and passengers to transport, to refill the strongbox that had been depleted by repairs.

Celeste cocked her head, considering. “Do you know how to encrypt a letter?” she asked. They didn’t have time for a lengthy treatise, and Celeste was far from an expert, but there were a handful of quick and dirty ciphers that would defeat the casual curious eye.
 

Adelaide Orland

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68
#29
Addie hadn’t thought Celeste would throw a huff over having her offer turned down, but a lifetime of gently pandering to her father and brother’s moods meant that she still breathed a sigh of relief when Celeste offered to keep the opportunity open. “Any time we’re in port, just say the word. Your brother can come, too.”

Addie smiled. “I think he’d like you. A lot.” How anybody could not like Celeste, she did not know. She still giggled sometimes remembering how the woman’s first attempt to make her go away when she had interrupted her caper in the pantry was to screech at her in the worst Orlesian accent known to man.

“And if you need to reach me after we’re gone, take a letter to the docks, find a ship bound for Antiva City or Dairsmuid and ask the captain to take the letter to Three Sheets to the Wind in Antiva City or the Sleeping Shark in Dairsmuid.”

Addie repeated the names to herself. “I immediately want to go to both of those places. I like their names.” Maybe one day. Once Eddie had sorted out Father and Sterling. “I think I’d quite like to see a shark as well. I’ve read about them, but it’s clear from some of the descriptions that the writers only covered local myths rather than seeing them for themselves.”

She was distracting herself. She wanted to go with Celeste so badly it almost hurt, and Father’s temper lately seemed to be getting worse. It was never directed at her because she never did – well, never got caught – doing anything to attract his ire, but his terse commands to his seneschal and his snappish manner with the maids was becoming more pronounced. Even at the salons, people were starting to ask her discreetly about it. Addie feared it might be because he knew Eddie lived.

Perhaps her anxiousness had shown on her face. Celeste was studying her. “Do you know how to encrypt a letter?”

Addie rocked her hand side to side. “So-so. I know basic ones, like every letter moved over one, replacing them with numbers, writing backwards – but nothing anybody would have to think about for very long. Can you teach me something better?”

They did not have a lot of time left this evening, but she was grabbing whatever knowledge Celeste could give her. There was no knowing how soon it might be useful.
 

Celeste Monroe

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#30
Celeste’s offer to take Addie’s brother along got a sweet smile from the girl. “I think he’d like you. A lot,” she offered shyly.

“I’d imagine I’ll like him, as well,” the sailor assured her. That Addie adored him was plain; hopefully, he was worthy of her devotion. If he wasn’t … well, that could be dealt with. For now, Celeste’s main concern was Addie’s welfare after the Wicked Grace set sail. She was confident that Josc would aid the damsel if she were in distress, but Barrett Orland was likely a match for her in terms of funding, with ties among Kirkwall’s nobility dating back generations and links to the underside of the City of Chins that had been developed more recently. Lady Hawke would need backup; she’d have a word with Charade before they set sail - whenever that was, but if things got really ugly, Celeste wanted to know.

The sea, while perhaps not as swift as pigeons or ravens, offered a reasonably reliable postal system, and every sailor had taverns scattered throughout Thedas where a few coins to the bartender would ensure that messages delivered were either held or sent on to another destination. Celeste was no exception. Addie’s lips moved silently as she committed the names of the northern establishments to memory. “I immediately want to go to both of those places,” she proclaimed. “I like their names.”

“Tavern owners try to come up with catchy names,” Celeste told her with a grin. “Easier for drunk sailors to remember. And if the name lends itself to a picture for the sign, so much the better.” And in the seedier districts, the signs might have the picture with no words, and those were generally nowhere a lady of noble birth should be without an armed guard, though the names and signs could be highly … educational. There was, of course, a Salty Seaman in damn near every port; the Horny Goat was in Hercinia, and Dick’s Halfway Inn was a popular stop in Wycome.

“I think I’d quite like to see a shark as well,” she mused. “I’ve read about them, but it’s clear from some of the descriptions that the writers only covered local myths rather than seeing them for themselves.”

“If they’d seen one, they’d remember,” Celeste agreed. “They’ll trail a ship to eat the scraps that get thrown over, or steal the catch when we’re fishing. I’ve seen one as long as three tall men standing foot to head, and once, Gideon hooked one while he was fishing that was a good ten feet long. He spent two hours fighting it, because shark steaks are damn good eating, then it dove and all of a sudden, the line went slack. We thought he’d lost it, but when he reeled in, the head was still hooked. Something had bitten it clean in half, just behind the gills.” If the rudder had gotten fouled at that point, they’d have had to drift for a few days, because no one was interested in taking a swim.

Which was interesting enough, but didn’t really address the worry of how Addie could get word to her if the need arose after she left Kirkwall. Letters could be intercepted and read; ciphers made it obvious that there was a secret being kept, but if they were good enough, they kept the secret itself safe.

“So-so,” Addie replied with a waggle of her hand when asked about her encryption skills. “I know basic ones, like every letter moved over one, replacing them with numbers, writing backwards – but nothing anybody would have to think about for very long. Can you teach me something better?”

“A bit, yes,” Celeste told her. “The basic methods can generally be worked out by anyone with half a brain who knows how to read and write. The, most frequently repeated symbol is most likely a substitute for the ‘e’, and you work from there. But -” She moved to the desk, pulled out a piece of parchment, and quill, uncapped the inkwell and began to write. “If you move the first letter one, the second letter two and the third letter three, then keep repeating that, it makes it much harder to break.” She finished writing and passed the parchment to Addie, waiting to see if she could figure it out.

“Tvhsnlmi lt c umadm ruji.”

“It’s sort of like something called a vignierre cipher,” Celeste explained, “but that one requires code books with letter tables and key words to know what tables to use. I'm working on one of those back at the ship, and it's a pin in the ass. This one doesn’t need that as long as both ends know the number of different shifts before the repeat, and no one without at least a passing familiarity with ciphers is going to be able to figure it out. There’s invisible ink, too,” she added. “Dax is working on that. Write out your message between the lines of a nice, boring letter, and the person on the other end treats the paper to bring out the message. You can do it with lemon juice and bring up the words by heating the paper, but Dax is trying to come up with something that can only be brought out if a person has the right reagent.”
 

Adelaide Orland

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68
#31
The story about the shark held her wide-eyed attention effectively – her imagination made them huge and then something even bigger had been able to effectively bite it in two. She might need another glass of wine before bed tonight or that something could easily end up doing figure-eights in her dreams. Nonetheless it didn’t quench her desire to follow Celeste any – nor did it dampen her resolve not to leave Kirkwall unless she was sure Eddie was safe. With thoughts of personal danger in mind, it was important she could get word to Celeste if her brother was in trouble, and Addie admitted she knew little about codes.

Even though Celeste needed to go, it looked like she would hold off a bit for this, as she began to explain how the best codes worked. Addie made to grab some parchment to make notes, but Celeste got there first, and started jotting something down as fluidly as if she was writing a straightforward sentence. The words she passed to Addie, however, looked like utter nonsense, at least at first. The constantly fluctuating pattern of the cipher meant her concentration kept slipping and she had to double check a couple of times where she was in the counting sequence – which was good, because if an impatient person was searching for a pattern, they wouldn’t find an obvious one.

Celeste continued to explain how it was an offshoot of a more complicated code, and that there were various tables that could be used to aid the process of hiding the words. “There’s invisible ink, too. Dax is working on that. Write out your message between the lines of a nice, boring letter, and the person on the other end treats the paper to bring out the message.” Addie paused in her calculations to look up, fascinated. She’d thought invisible ink to belong in the realm of fantasy. “You can do it with lemon juice and bring up the words by heating the paper, but Dax is trying to come up with something that can only be brought out if a person has the right reagent.”

“That’s clever!” It would prevent infiltration by somebody versed in espionage techniques. Addie wasn’t altogether surprised that Celeste knew so much, given her part in the Red Jennies, but it still impressed her. She finished picking out the last few letters, painstaking, and then sat back to review the finished sentence.

“S-t-e-r-l-i-n-g i-s a r-o-y-a-l p-r-i-g. I did it!” She laughed. “And he really is.”

She was ready for a full lesson, to learn how to develop the code from there, but the sound of heavy footsteps outside made her tense up. They passed by the door – it was just a guard – but if it had been Sterling or Father, they might have seen the light under the door and come in to demand to know why she was still awake.
 

Celeste Monroe

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#32
Addie accepted the enciphered statement, and her face scrunched in concentration as she set about deciphering it, looking up occasionally as Celeste described Dax’s efforts to develop invisible ink.

“That’s clever!” she exclaimed approvingly, her quill scratching over the parchment, then drew back, examining the result of her efforts.

“S-t-e-r-l-i-n-g i-s a r-o-y-a-l p-r-i-g. I did it!” Her delighted laugh rang out.. “And he really is.”

Booted steps sounded in the corridor outside the bedroom, and both of them stilled, Celeste poised to drop and slide beneath the bed at the first rattle of the doorknob. The steps receded without pausing, and Celeste relaxed, but she knew that was likely her cue. Respectable young ladies were expected to be abed at this hour.

“Probably time for me to go,” she conceded, draining the last of her wine and slipping off the bed. “Practice the cipher and keep working on your locks.” She moved to the window, looked back. “Planning on visiting the Hanged Man this week?” She made time to drop in whenever the girl sneaked out to the tavern.
 
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