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    "Ended up with twenty coronae." No need to mention the commission. "And that was a small piece, mind you."
    "Not bad."
    "He's instructed me to bring the other pieces," Roman continued delicately.
    "I bet." Bloody merchants. "Can you get the name of the contact from him?"
    "I didn't, I probably could. He actually may not think it's that unusual that I would go see him."
    "Maybe you could snow your father with the whole 'I want to start making my own way' kind of thing?" Nadya said.
    "You don't know my family," he sighed. "Possibly my father, but definitely not my mother."
    "Nothing about starting to take your place in the family business?"
    "I'm not sure I could pull off a deception like that, actually," he admitted. "I'll think about it. We should also be discussing the map."
    Melantha looked around carefully before pulling it out. They had nine days before the Night of Fire.
    "If we're going to leave, we should leave soon," Roman judged.
    She grinned. Leaving! "We're going to need stuff." She was only vaguely aware of what sort of equipment a trip like this might require.
    "I have a little bit of stuff that I keep around for my longer hikes," Nadya said. "I'm sure I could add to it, as well."
    "I've never been out of town," Melantha admitted.
    "Give me the rest of the amber," Roman suggested after a moment of thought. "We can exchange it for more money, for supplies, get out quickly. Maybe by tomorrow."
    Made sense, although it also required a level of trust that she did not normally extend to others. She gave him the other two pieces. What the hell, they had come back to her part of town to find her, and she knew where he lived.
    Roman arranged to meet Nadya at the marketplace; since she knew what sort of things they'd need, she would do most of the actual shopping. They would rendezvous there, and leave that same evening.
    Ivan sighed happily at the sight of the new amber. "Ah, these are excellent pieces. I'll go give them to Petrov, the baron's man, right now." He held one up to the late afternoon light. "Ah... flawless, this one."
    "Is it an exceptional piece, father?"
    "I would say so." He departed, while Roman wondered how his father knew what a flawless piece of amber looked like.

    Melantha returned home by the most circuitous route she knew, keeping an eye out behind her. Unfortunately, there was a short stretch where there just wasn't any other way to go. She could see her house. Almost there....
    The Bear's sizeable figure loomed up next to her; two friends of his crossed the street toward them. They all had clubs.
    "All right, girlie, just give us the money and we'll let you alone," he growled. "We heard about your treasure hunt."
    Damn. Melantha gave him a guileless look. "I don't have any money, Bear."
    "All right, if you want it that way...." He went for her. She ducked. There were three of them, and they were all much bigger than her. Fortunately, they weren't all that good. After a hectic, club-filled moment she snaked between two of them and darted for freedom, made it safely into the house. They lurked outside for a while but eventually wandered off to look for other prey.
    Getting out of town was looking more attractive by the hour.

    The following day was beautiful and clear. Ivan was practically glowing when he returned the next day. "I have 150 coronae for you, minus my commission of course. Did you give any of the money to the woman who helped you find it, Nadya?"
    "No, actually, I did not." Not yet, anyway; they'd agreed to divvy up whatever was left after equipping the group. "I plan to—"
    "Well, that's only fair, you paid her fee for her guiding abilities, correct?"
    "Then she really would have no claim, and in case I'd be surprised if she had the resources to follow up on it on a legal basis."
    "Uh, exactly my thinking, father." He was actually mildly appalled.
    "But you still might want to give her just a few, just so she doesn't talk."
    "If you think so, father. Good idea."
    This was the best excuse he was going to get. Roman was halfway to the door when he realized that if he didn't leave a note, they were going to assume that he'd been kidnapped and send people out hunting for him. He returned upstairs, wrote out a brief note, gathered his things, and found his father again.

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