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Fyn began walking again, and Baer followed, wondering if it was possible to walk full circle along the wall. He certainly intended to spend a great deal more time working out exactly where it was and wasn't possible to go.

"The guards have control over the middle and upper levels," she said. "Lower level is a bit more complex. Traders are under the control of one set of guards who deal only with the traders and report to the captain and guard council - you'll meet the head of that council tomorrow night - as well as coordinating with the border guard groups. There are also various citizen councils, mostly cultural or religious, with a whole stupidly convoluted network of bureaucratic lesser nobles to keep them in check. They recruit to a public guard to keep 'law and order' as they call it. Not everyone is worthy of the protection of the public guard though, mostly the homeless and poor, so the gangs get them instead."

"I know the gangs," Baer said.

She nodded. "You'll get to know them even better," she said. "They're disorganised and uncivilised, but they can go anywhere and find out anything. If something's going on they know about it, and if they don't it's probably not true. The trick of course is to know when they're telling the truth."

Which is never as hard as people like you make it out to be, Baereth thought. I'll have to find them soon though.

There was a good chance they already knew something was going on, and if they already knew the details he had to show he could find out about them just as quickly. If not, he could get them on side by making them more important than their "civilised" counterparts.

"As for the nobles," she said, then paused, glancing back at him. "Well, you might prefer to avoid them. Or not. You're technically allowed to do what you like to them, as long as you don't piss off the king and queen in the process. I'm sure the captain would prefer you not stir up trouble, particularly since he saved your life."

Baer cleared his throat, but didn't comment. He'd treat them as they treated him, and the royals could deal with it. Ryertame too for that matter.

They had reached the [direction] end, looking out across the plains. From here the city was mostly hidden and Baer suspected she spent a lot of time up here. The claw and burn marks on the stone were a clue.

Fyn leaned against the stone, her knuckles going white though her face remained perfectly calm. Finding himself amused that she had apparently chosen him to vent about something to, Baer stood nearby, familiarising himself with the view.

"You're not the first new spymaster proposed," she said at last. "The first outsider, certainly - perhaps the first ever, although the records are deliberately vague of course - but there have been others, some known, others not. One even got where you are now, accepted by the king and put in charge. There will be people who remember that incident, so step carefully."

"Why so much effort for a replacement?" he asked.

She was silent again for a long time, but Baer's patience with dramatics was wearing thin.

"Look," he said, "I'm going to figure things out one way or another. You can tell me or not, but don't fuck around."

She looked at him, startled. Then she laughed. "Bad habit," she said. "And it's not a topic I enjoy, but there's no reason for you to get dragged into anything without warning."

"Aside from this whole situation," he said.

"Aside from that," she agreed. "But you got yourself into that mess, so you get no sympathy."

She turned and leaned her back against the stone, looking at him with a steady gaze.

"You'll hear a lot about how things really are behind the scenes," she said. "Some of them will be true, some absolute bullshit. It's up to you who to believe and when. In this case I'll be happy to admit that I don't know how much of what I know is real. The captain maybe knows more, and the king surely does, but probably the only person who knows the full story is the last spymaster, the one you're actually replacing."

"So why not ask him?"

She shrugged. "Dead men tell no tales," she said. "Ryertame and the Secretary of the Guards that you're officially replacing have done a lot to conceal the fact, but the true spymaster is dead."


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April 2012

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