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"Uh, fellows?" the bardling cut in. "I know you're enjoying this bickering, but can we please leave it for some other time? We've had a rather busy day, agreed?"

"Oh, agreed." Naitachal raised an eyebrow. "I think we'd best keep watch tonight. If Eliathanis and I could climb up here, so could someone else."

"Empty Eyes?" Kevin asked. "Ah, I mean, that elf, the leader of the gang." The bardling paused. "Whatever he is."

"Empty Eyes," Naitachal echoed darkly. "Well put, Kevin. Empty, he most surely is. I don't know what his problems might be, what he's doing here, why he's an exile from his clan—Oh, don't give me that haughty stare, White Elf, you know I'm right about that. And frankly, I don't care about those problems. I felt Death hovering over him. Between drugs and alcohol and botched attempts at sorcery, he hasn't much longer to live."

"Botched!"

The Dark Elf shrugged. "You've seen my conjured blade. His should have been just as impressive. But it was as dull and nearly dead as the fading life force within him." Naitachal shrugged. "Enough about him."

"I'd just like to know who hired him," Kevin cut in.

Eliathanis glanced at the bardling in respect. "The swords those thugs were carrying bothered you, too? Swords are expensive things; most brigands just can't afford them, or the time needed to learn how to use them."

"Great," Lydia muttered. "Just what we need: another enemy. The sooner we get out of here, the better we're going to sleep,"

"Exactly. And," Kevin added sternly, "that's why we can't waste any more time. We have to start working on exactly how we're going to manage to escape."

"Bossy human," Tich'ki ceased, but for once there wasn't much sting in her voice. "Ai-yi, I'm getting pretty tired of Westerin myself," she confessed. "Too many touchy guards for my taste. Let's see, now ... I can not control every blasted guard that's going to be watching the city gates. Anyone else here able to work invisibility spells?"

Silence.

"I guess not," the fairy said with a sigh.

"What about illusions, though?" Lydia asked. "What if we cast some really terrifying illusion, something that would scare the guards away from one of the gates—"

"By ‘we' you mean me, I take it?" Naitachal said drily. He shook his head. "Oh, I probably could work up something to frighten a human mind, even if illusion-casting is a bit outside the scope of my ... art But these are trained warriors, not children. Some of them might run, yes—but the rest would almost certainly attack. I don't care to test my body against their spears."

"We need something more tangible than illusion," Kevin mused. "Shape-shifting ... except only one of us can shape-shift." He glanced at the Dark Elf. "What about disguising us by magic?"

Naitachal held up a helpless hand. "Now that really is out of the scope of my sorcery. Anyone else?"

"Hey, don't look at me!" Tich'ki said. "I can't change anyone but myself."

"I have no such talent," Eliathanis admitted.

"Well, I certainly don't!" Lydia added. "Besides, I've heard those spells are just as easy to break as illusions. The last thing we'd want is to suddenly change back right in the middle of the guards—And you know. Fate being the fickle lady she is, that's just what would happen! No, we need some more mundane disguises. Something that doesn't depend on magic ... Naw, any ordinary disguises would be too easy to penetrate."

"Would they?" Kevin wondered—"Go on, Lydia. What of roid physical disguises?"

She gave him a doubtful glance, but continued, "Well, let's see ... By now both the gang and the guards know they're looking for three men and a woman: two humans and two elves, one Dark, one White. Don't have to worry about disguising Tich'ki."

The fairy stretched her wings. "Right. I can always shrink and hide in your hair, the way we did when we were getting out of Smithian."

"But it's hard to hide elves ...."

"Not too easy to disguise such a ... charmingly endowed woman, either," Naitachal added gallantly.

Lydia raised a brow. "Flattery from a Dark Elf?"

His smile was wry. "It does happen."

""Yes, yes, I know you're full of surprises," Kevin interrupted. "But can we please get back to the subject?"

‘Jealous?" Tich'ki prodded.

"No! I just don't want to spend the rest of my life in a Westerin prison. Or a Westerin graveyard, either'"

"Right." Lydia returned to her musing. "All right. We agree that it's hard to disguise elves."

Naitachal held up a hand. "To disguise male elves ..." he corrected slowly. "Particularly serious, combative types." He turned to look at Eliathanis, who narrowed his eyes.

"I don't think I like what you're thinking."

Naitachal shrugged. "You're the one who was .. interrogating the dancing girls. I'm sure they'd be happy to help their dear elfy-welty."

"They didn't call me that! And I can't—I won't ..."

The Dark Elf smiled alarmingly. "You can. You will. They did. Listen to me, my friends. I think we're about to find a way out of Westerin!"

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