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    "I'm going to go visit Nadya, give her the money that we owe her. I was thinking that if she's willing, we'll go back to the field of mushrooms, see if maybe there's more amber there."
    "I'm afraid that's out of the question, son, your injuries were too extreme," Ivan replied gruffly. "I'll hire some men, I know some good ones, and we'll send them out."
    "Are you sure that's wise, father?" he dared.
    "Definitely. We can't risk that happening to you again. Who knows what your mother would say."
    "I'm not sure I could find the way back without Nadya, and I'd have to convince her to do this."
    "I'm sure we can set her up with the men."
    "I think it's best if I talk to her myself, father."
    "Yes, all right. Go and do so, but come right back. You are not to go out into the woods," he ordered.
    "I will not go to the field again, father," Roman promised with perfect sincerity.
    "All right."
    He walked out the door, feeling free.

    After some hesitation, Melantha decided to tell her father that she was going. They'd think she was dead, otherwise, and she was planning to come back at some point.
    "You're what!?" He looked stunned.
    "Leaving town for a while."
    "Hm. Does this have anything to do with the pair that we met out in the woods?"
    "Not particularly," she lied automatically. "I don't know how long I'll be gone."
    "Where are you going?"
    "What, into the mountains?"
    "Just looking for some stuff," she said vaguely. "It's important."
    "Well, you're certainly never going to find your fortune here in Dog Alley," he sighed. "Go with my blessing." Then he hugged her. He was drunk, of course.
    She made it out of the alley without being spotted by the Bear or his ilk, and headed for the rendezvous.

    Nadya puttered around the house for a while. Told her mother that she was going to be going camping for a while, and that they shouldn't worry until she'd been gone for three weeks or so. Her mother looked askance at this, but it wasn't the first time Nadya had done so, and it was clear to her that her youngest child's life had recently expanded to include some rather strange territory.

    The three of them met at the marketplace. Nadya wore her mail and sword. Roman was grinning ear-to-ear.
    "Happy to be leaving, are you?" Melantha noted.
    "No more cotillions!"
    "No what?"
    "What the hell's a cotillion?"
    "You don't want to know," he told her solemnly.
    They had 170 silver coins from the amber sale, enough to buy food for a couple of weeks, waterskins, torches, and everything else they thought they might need in the wilderness, and a rather elderly donkey to carry it all, with eight coronae left over for each of them. Three flasks of holy water were debated for a while—they weren't cheap—but the Night of Fire was reknowned for vampires and their ilk.
    "Excuse me, are you Roman Kiprusoff?" a man inquired as they were finalizing the donkey.
    "Your father was just over on the other side of the market looking for you."
    "Really. Which way?" Roman asked calmly.
    "He was over there last time I saw him." The man pointed.
    "Thank you; I'll go look for him." He rejoined the others and hissed, "We have to go now. If my father catches up with me, I'm not getting out of here, ever. I need to leave."
    They finished dickering for their beast of burden, picked up some garlic and headed for the south gate with a certain haste. They reached the gate without any sign of pursuit, though for a while Roman did a lot of looking over his shoulder. The Waterolde/Windrush rolled south on their left. After a few miles the road curved west, and they were walking directly toward the late afternoon sun. There were a few caravans, and a cartload of gnomes passed them. No one gave the trio a second glance. One tended to see peculiar people on the road in that part of the land.

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