Chapter V: The Interrogation

            Irai’h Asjur looked up from his desk as two guards entered Thalnel and Sons.  He frowned and glanced at Aosji, who had paled considerably.  He gave a minute shake of his head and rose.   He walked around the desk and strode to meet the guards.
            “How may I be of service, gentlemen?” he asked.
            The tallest guard turned to him.  “We have a summons for Lords Irai’h Asjur, Aosji Brenth’on’h and I’a’sji A’kir’h.”
            Irai’h almost sighed with relief as Ryeo’h strode through the side door into the reception room.  “What is the purpose of the summons?”
            “We are not at liberty to say,” the guard replied blandly.
            Ryeo’h nodded.  “Wait outside, please.  They will be right out.”
            When the guards stepped outside, closing the door behind them, Ryeo’h turned to his friends.  
            “They know nothing,” he told them.  “They are merely sniffing around.  I will contact my solicitor right away.  Say nothing, but what we practiced.  Do I make myself clear?”
            Irai’h nodded.
            Aosji fidgeted, looking pale.
            Ryeo’h gave him a withering glare.  “Aosji!  Be calm.  You know what to say.”
            Aosji ducked his head and nodded.  “I’m sorry, Ryeo’h.  I will be calm.”
            Ryeo’h nodded and strode to open the door.  He looked at the guards.  “I’a’sji A’kir’h is at the wharves this morning.  I’ll fetch him and take him to the Castle.  Will that suffice?”            
            The guards bowed.  “Yes, sir.  Thank you.”
            Irai’h and Aosji followed the guards out into the street.  There was a carriage waiting for them and they clamored inside.  Once the carriage was moving, Irai’h looked at his friend.
            “Aosji, please,” he begged.  “Calm yourself.  Here.”
            He reached into the pocket of his coat and retrieved a pill case.  He opened the case and dropped a tiny white pill onto Aosji’s hand.  
            “What is this?” Aosji asked.
            “It will calm your nerves, you fool,” Irai’h said.  “Now, swallow it.”
            Aosji did as he asked and sat back with a grimace.
            Irai’h sighed and pushed back the curtain from the carriage window.  “They don’t know anything.  Else, we would have been arrested.  They are doing an investigation, that’s all.”
            “Why us?” Aosji demanded.
            “Because we were there last night.  They are probably interrogating everyone.”  He looked at his friend.  “We’ve always hightailed it back here when we’ve done jobs in other city-states.  But we live here, don’t we?  Be calm, Aosji, or you will give us away.”
            Aosji closed his eyes and drew a deep breath.
            Irai’h bit back a curse.  He had warned Ryeo’h about Aosji’s lack of nerve, but Ryeo’h did as Ryeo’h saw fit, didn’t he?  If anyone gave them away, it would be Aosji.  Now they were in too deep.  
            They did not talk until the carriage was rattling over Castle Draemin’s drawbridge.  By then, the pill Irai’h had given Aosji had taken effect and the young man was calm and collected, if a bit dreamy around the eyes.
            “How are you?” Irai’h asked.
            Aosji smiled.  “Fine. Thank you, Irai’h.”
            Irai’h nodded.  “Our story is airtight.  You’ll see.”
            The carriage rolled to a stop and they stepped down into the bailey crowded with carriages, lirtah, and visitors.  Wordlessly, they followed the two guards into the Great Hall and, from there, to a nondescript doorway into a room with a scuffed table and four chairs.  They were instructed to sit on one side of the table and then they were left alone.
            Irai’h looked at Aosji and gave a minute shake of his head when Aosji made to say something.  He then turned forward and adopted a bored expression.  From the corner of his eye, he saw Aosji follow suit.  
            They were made to wait a long time, but Aosji, under the influence of the drug, remained calm and collected.
            By the time the door to the hallway opened and a handsome officer entered the room, Irai’h was near to fuming.
            He rose.  “What is the meaning of making us wait here like this?”
            “Sit down, Lord Asjur,” the officer said.
            He was tall and older, somewhere in his mid-forties, with thick black hair threaded with silver, and the silver eyes of the Ys’teis clan.  He glared at Irai’h until Irai’h took his seat.
            “We are investigating the theft that occurred last night,” the officer said.
            “Who are you?” Irai’h demanded.
            The man’s mouth quirked.  “I am Commander-General Rakah Ys’teis.”    
            Irai’h rose and bowed.  “Begging pardon, your Highness.  It’s just that our morning has been frightfully disrupted, you understand?”
            “Sit, my lord.  I understand and I will release you as soon as you answer my questions.”
            He strode to the door and opened it, motioning to one of the guards at the door.  “Kindly escort Lord Brenth’on’h to the adjoining room.”
            The guard stepped into the room.  “Lord Brenth’on’h.”
            Aosji rose and followed him from the room, flicking a glance at Irai’h over his shoulder before the closing door severed the glance.
            Irai’h swallowed thickly and took his seat.  He watched as Lord Ys’teis paced, becoming more and more unnerved when the soldier continued to say nothing.  He forced himself to remain calm and not to reach any conclusions.  He was not under arrest or even suspicion, he thought.  They didn’t have anything because Ryeo’h was meticulous and took nothing for granted.  He almost sighed when a great sense of calm overtook him.  He sat straighter and watched impassively as Lord Commander-General Rakah Ys’teis hauled a chair nearer to him and sat down.
            “Let’s have a chat, shall we?” Lord Ys’teis murmured.  “Please tell me what you did from the moment you entered Lord Us’ri’h’s residence last night until you left.”
            Irai’h verbally traced his movements from the time he entered the Us’ri’h mansion, sprinkling his story with the half-truths and outright lies he had been fed by Ryeo’h and made to repeat until they became as familiar as his own given name.  He told Lord Ys’teis that he had pursued a tryst with Lady Lauti Us’ri’h, which had come to naught.  Lauti was an old friend of his and they had flirted outrageously, but they had never had such feelings towards one another.  Lauti did not know he was atoliy, although if she had known, she would not have cared one whit.  It was just something they had never discussed.  He then told Lord Ys’teis he had played a couple hands of s’krieh before he had proceeded to get blind drunk.  What he left out was that he had gone to an alcove with Lauti and she had left him there to meet her lover.  Leaving the curtain concealing the alcove, he had gone to the third floor and Lord Us’ri’h’s den through a secret passage Lauti had shown him years ago.  The den had been empty.  The safe code had not been hard to crack; not for someone with his skill.  He had emptied the jewels into his satchel and had used the same secret passageway to find his way to the gardens, from where he had made his way to the street.  The lord of the manor had erroneously placed his guards within the house and not in the garden.  It was a common mistake.  Keeping to the shadows, Irai’h had found his way to the street and then had met Ryeo’h in their meeting place, transferring the satchel to him before hot footing it back to the mansion.  His alcove had been undisturbed and he had emerged with great show, making a fool of himself and acting drunk and disruptive until he was asked to leave.
            Commander-General Rakah listened intently and nodded.  “Was there anyone there you didn’t know?”
            “There were many people I didn’t know,” Irai’h replied.  “Us’ri’h does business with foreign dignitaries.”  He shrugged.  “I was only there at Lauti’s behest.  Lord Us’ri’h barely tolerates me.”
            “I see,” Commander-General Ys’teis said and rose.  “Very good.  You’re free to go.”
            “And Lord Brenth’on’h?” Irai’h asked.
            “His interrogation is next.  You can wait for him, if you like.  Excuse me.”
            When Lord Ys’teis had gone, Irai’h almost fainted from relief.  Once he becalmed himself, he strode to the Great Hall and paced until they were done with Aosji.  He looked up and saw two guards escorting I’a’sji and Ryeo’h into the Great Hall.  He strode to meet Ryeo’h.
            “Is your father angry that we aren’t at work?” he asked his friend.
            Ryeo’h grimaced.  “Eda is at a business meeting, thankfully.  Are you done here?”
            “I am.  Aosji is not.”
            Ryeo’h nodded.  “We’d best wait for him then.  It’s late enough we should probably have some supper.”
            The guards escorted I’a’sji away and then they walked to the nearest wall and leaned against it, talking in soft voices.
            “How did it go?” Ryeo’h asked.
            “Well enough, I think,” Irai’h murmured, flicking his gaze around the crowded room.
            Ryeo’h sighed.  “Aosji is a worry.”
            “He’ll be fine,” Irai’h assured him.  “He did nothing.  All he has to do is cover for me.”
            Ryeo’h nodded.
            They waited close to three hours.  During that time, they had to carefully monitor their behavior.  That was the hardest part of it for Irai’h.  Not that he was under the pretense that once released, they would no longer be suspect.  Everyone was suspect until someone was found.  They would have to lie low for a while.  He thought of his yield, which he kept under floorboards in his row house apartment.
            Eventually, his friends were released and the four of them strode from Castle Draemin to the bailey and hired a carriage to take them back to Thalnel and Sons.  They rode in silence, Ryeo’h sitting next to Irai’h and I’a’sji sitting across from them next to Aosji.
            “How did it go?” Ryeo’h asked.
            Aosji gave him a dreamy smile.  “I think it went well.  They wanted to know my whereabouts.  I told him I was at the tables playing s’krieh for most of the night.  Made a tidy sum, too.”  He chuckled.
            Ryeo’h turned to the other.  “And you?”
            I’a’sji shrugged.  “Fine.  I was there to flirt and dance, which is what I did.  He did ask if I knew what Irai’h had been up to and I told him he went into an alcove with Lady Lauti Us’ri’h.  I told him Irai’h remained in the alcove for a long time then emerged drunk and belligerent.  I told him I believed you had been wounded by Lady Us’ri’h’s rejection of your advances.”
            Ryeo’h nodded.  “Very good.”
            I’a’sji shifted.  “He asked where Aosji was all night.  I told him at the gambling tables, of course.  But everyone saw that, so that didn’t seem to concern our Commander-General as much as Irai’h’s whereabouts.”
            Ryeo’h looked at Irai’h.  “Will Lady Us’ri’h protect you?”
            Irai’h nodded.  “She has forgotten she ever told me about the secret passage.  And she is protective of me.  Besides, I am her cover.  She had a tryst with her lover, a commoner.  It won’t do at all to have her father learn of this, if you ken me.  She will cover for me and I for her.”
            Ryeo’h studied him for long minutes before coming to a conclusion and nodded.  “I hope you’re right.”
            “I trust her with my life,” Irai’h said.
            Ryeo’h waved a dismissive hand.  “I believe you.”  He frowned.  “We will not have another job for a few months, I think.  That should throw them off our trail.”  He pursed his lips.  “There is a grand ball in South Torahn in seven months, Lord A’kir’h, is there not?”
            I’a’sji sat straighter.  “Yes.  If we can break into the King’s safe we can retire permanently.  You would need something larger than a satchel, Irai’h.”
            Ryeo’h nodded.  “We need floor plans for the palace.”
            Aosji leaned forward.  “How will you get those?”
            “Never mind,” Ryeo’h said.  “The less you know, the better.  I will begin work on this.  I will take Irai’h with me and both of you will remain here, to further deflect notice.”
            Aosji pouted.  “But a Grand Ball, Ryeo’h…”
            “You’ll have other chances,” Ryeo’h told him.  “One of King Kah’len’s children is bound to marry soon.”
            Irai’h sat back.  “In the meantime, we should approach some disaffected soldiers.”
            Ryeo’h nodded.  “Yes.  Our work is just beginning.”  He looked at Aosji and I’a’sji.  “You’ll have plenty of work to do here while we are gone.”

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