Pham and ibn Fadil don't feel it wise to linger long, however, before they return to the rendezvous at the Cask and find out how the rest of the plan worked.
They each accept some soup and bread, and then politely excuse themselves. "Good luck, milady," ibn Fadil also says to Ginevra, with the sketchy bow that is all he can manage in these cramped quarters. "I think it may not be wise for any of us to visit you here," he adds apologetically, "but we will see what we can do."
Pham smiles at Ginevra, and says "Yes, I think it best if no one from our ship visit here again. I wish you luck lady - your story has made this trip quite a bit more interesting. I hope you find the happiness you seek."
Pham then turns to the hostess. "Thank you again. The lady and her child will do much better her under Hera's gentle grace than she would have under the thumb of her husband."
She inclines her head in response. "For what you have done, may her blessing follow you the length of your days."
Ginevra, looking very far away, nods distractedly, then seems to bring herself back to the present. "Please give the others my gratitude? I did not expect to find such stalwart folk in my journey."
Outside the house, the half-elf sighs and does not look back. "Do you ever want to go home, Brother Pham?"
"Home? That's an interesting question... I rather doubt my home really exists any more. Oh, the village is still there, of course. But my place in it vanished when I received my calling.
"Do you really miss Bral all that much? Or are you referring to wherever you were from originally?"
"Originally." He grimaces. "Bral is a poor substitute, but at least it never reminds me of home." He pauses at an intersection to look around for any threat, but sees nothing to raise his suspicions.
"So it is enough for you, to have your god and your work?" he continues.
* * *
Back in the house, Ginevra thanks the woman who has shown her to a room where she can rest, and when she has gone, looks around the threadbare space with a quiet sigh. Another unexpected stopping place in this journey, another unlooked-for reprieve. She does not even know who this goddess is, but her followers appear kindly.
_Nothing,_ she thinks ruefully, _I have nothing but the kindness of others._ There is, however, something in the pocket of her dress when her hand goes there; the chit from the _Lazy Cat_. Once the ship lifts off she will need some other identification, but there are certain to be ways of getting that; she is beginning to learn to think of these things. One thing at a time; she will speak to these women tonight. Perhaps there is something useful she can learn to do while she is here.
For now, however, she is very weary, and rest without fear a welcome thought. "Be safe, my friends," she murmurs to the air before sleep finds her.
* * *
(Minor retcon in this scene)
Emmett adopts a slightly perturbed expression when he sees Alais at the infirmary, having slipped in out of sight (hopefully) before Victor's men could return to any sort of watch position. Still, dealing with the out of breath wizard gives him a way to diffuse his tension and nervousness over the others - especially Inez, who he dragged into this - getting back safely to the infirmary.
"What are you doing here. I thought you were going to be in the library all day?" Emmett is trying hard to keep the scorn out of his voice, and it comes across as more nervous irritation. While he did tell everyone that they could opt out with no repercussions, Alais's dismissive attitude towards Ginevra's plight still rubs him the wrong way.
"I came over to see if you were done with all this, but I suppose you're not. What are you doing now?"
"Pacing," is Emmett's succinct reply. He is prevented from going any further by Val and Company's arrival.
When the others walk in the door, Emmett carefully doesn't approach them or the windows until after the door is closed and they're safely protected from view. He then moves in and gives Inez a hug - a comforting embrace. "Thanks," he whispers in her ear, "you did great." She hugs back hard, clearly relieved that it's done with.
Once finished, he turns to Val and Hiro. "Think he bought it?"
Hiro recalls Victor's intense gaze at Inez and looks to Val for the answer to the half-man's question. At the very least, Hiro thinks, if Victor was aware of the subterfuge he would still be unaware of Ignorer's new location. Presumably.
"Honestly?" Val says, "I'm not sure. But he did seem to give up a little too easily..." He glances at Hiro and sees his own suspicions and hopes reflected there.
Emmett catches the look from Hiro to Val and grimaces. "OK, He didn't buy it. Still, he has no way to know where she is, and he probably can't be sure."
"Let's hope so," Val adds with a bit of concern.
"OK, we need to get out of here. Filter into the Cask when you can. Inez, let me help you with the disguise, and then we can put a bandage on your ankle and limp out of here as quietly as we can."
"I'll head out in a bit," Val tells the others. "I have a feeling Victor is going to be watching a lot more closely now..." He suspects Victor will likely single him out now, and he doesn't want to draw any more attention to his companions.
Up until this moment, Val had not considered getting back out of the infirmary, nor where to go afterward. He also realizes his disguise is stored back at the saferoom. He leans against a wall and thinks of how he's going to get out of here in one piece...
Emmett looks at the others, then nods. "Val, you and Hiro go out together in about an hour or so. If you can get our good gnomish doctor to visibly shoo you out, so much the better. Try and lose any followers and come join us at the Cask."
Val smiles and snaps Emmett a jaunty salute, not bothering to move just yet from studiously holding up the wall.
"Alais, why don't you come with Inez and I when we go. We'll be leaving in another quarter hour or so, limping together and heading for the Cask. With luck, Ibn Fadil and Pham are waiting for us there, and you can tell us what's got you running."
With that, Emmett leaves with Inez to help her back into her clothes and put a bandage around her ankle to keep the lie intact.
"I don't understand. Why don't we just leave now?" Alais asks.
"Because right now there are people watching the building, interested in what we're doing and probably wanting to do mean things to us. Inez and I are leaving in a way that keeps our illusion intact. If you want to head to the Cask now, go right ahead."
"But you see, the basic principle of the school of illusion is an obstruction to science--a ladeling on of false information and an obstacle to true learning."
Emmett turns and gives Alais a very...patient look. "Exactly. We're trying to keep 'them'" he points to the door with his hook, "obstructed from the true learning that 'we'" he swings his hook around to the assembled company, "just pulled one over on them.
"If 'they' do get that true learning, 'we' might get an intimate lesson on the end of a sword! Got that?!"
"Well that's not right."
Nevertheless, it is the situation in a nutshell. By the time Emmett and Inez leave the infirmary, watchers are scattered liberally around the place; two attach themselves to the slowly moving pair.
Val and Hiro receive the attention of at least three watchers once Mahal scolds them on their way (with every evidence of enthusiasm).
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© 2001 Rebecca J. Stevenson