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Saturday Storytime: Casualties

Alec Austin brings us a story of prices paid.

The press around the bar of the Unstable Alembic was as thick as ever, but sharp elbows and my coldest stare let me wedge myself between Jorge Hoestler and Gretchen Temple so I could vie for the bartender’s attention.

“Simon!” Jorge said, sounding genuinely delighted to see me. “Ye gods, man. I haven’t seen you for ages! You need to get out of that decaying old pile you call a manor more often.”

“Hello, Jorge,” I said, shaking his thick-fingered paw. “I would, but I fear I’ve become a bit of a recluse.”

“Ah,” Jorge said, his ebullience draining away. “Still too soon, then?” He paused, then said, “I’m so sorry about Ellen, old chap. I don’t know if I ever said.”

He had, in fact—every time I’d seen him since it happened—but it didn’t pay to be ungracious. “I appreciate that,” I said, giving him a crooked smile. “Buy you a drink?”

“Oh, no, my man. I couldn’t, just couldn’t. Here, let me buy a round of drinks for you.” Jorge paused to gesture at my table, where James and Annie were greeting some of their fellow Hernes. “The lot of you saved Verdenwald from Morcanis. Heaven knows, that’s more than any number of drinks can repay.”

I nodded, not trusting myself to speak. For an instant, I remembered Jorge as I’d seen him on the Day of Glass, clad in the crimson robe of a Bloodsworn initiate and clutching a vitrifying rod like a sword, and fury stirred in me, sending bile up the back of my throat. I forced myself to take a deep breath as Jorge waved and hallooed to get the bartender’s attention. That had been a different life—a different world—and besides, that Jorge was dead.

I’d killed him myself, tearing the rod from his hands and turning him into a pillar of carmine glass.

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