Intrigues: Book Two of the Collegium Chronicles (a Valdemar Novel)
right where he could get a good view of the road. As a result, Mags caught sight of the man himself going into one of the inns that catered to the prosperous, but not wealthy.
    But that might be a ruse. Chamjey had proven himself quite clever at such things already. So Mags moved around through the crowd at that inn, making sure that Chamjey was, indeed, in there to stay. Then he retired to the back of the stable and the relatively quiet alley to think. How to get close to the man?
    :Server?: Dallen suggested.
    :Too risky. He mightn’t order nothin’, an’ he’ll spook if somethin’ he didn’t expect turns up.:
    :Well you don’t need to get in the same room he’s in, you only need to get near enough to overhear.:
    :Server’s still too risky. Some’un might catch me lurkin’. An’ I ain’t had a chance t’ talk t’ the keeper an’ get permission. Reckon I’d be taken fer a thief.:
    :And you need to be doing something that will keep you in one place for a good long while as you listen.: Dallen pondered this. :I wonder . . . can you just nip in and look at the fireplace in the common room?:
    Mags was baffled by the request, but Dallen obviously had a reason for it, so he did as he was asked.
    The common room was full, but not so crowded he couldn’t get next to the fire. He glanced into it. It looked like a fireplace. But Dallen, looking through his eyes, obviously saw something else, something he had been hoping for.
    :Aha! The ashes haven’t been collected. Good. Come on out. We’re going to pay a quick visit to a soapmaker.:
    Now Mags was even more baffled, but from the “feel” of Chamjey, the person he was waiting for had not yet arrived, so there was no reason to balk at Dallen’s orders.
    :Why a soapmaker?: he asked, getting himself up into the saddle again.
    :Because soapmakers need ashes, and inns produce a lot of ash they don’t need. Most households save their ashes—they make their own soap, they use the ash on their back gardens, or they use it to polish metal, like silver and brass, with. Inns don’t. So soapmakers go around to collect it. Here we are.: Dallen stopped at the front of a little shop that had a workshop in the back. :Go in and ask which soapmaker has the concession for the ashes at The Splendid Table. Be friendly and casual.:
    Mags walked into the shop, which was a little like walking into a wall of scent. There was a counter just inside the door; behind the counter were shelves full of soap cut neatly into wrapped bars, or stacked in great multicolored chunks.
    The pretty young blond girl about his age behind the counter, dressed in a light blue gown with an embroidered apron, stared wide-eyed at him. She knew what a Companion was, of course; every child old enough to walk in Haven knew what a Companion was. But it wasn’t often that you saw someone not in Whites or Grays riding one.
    “Evenin’ missus,” Mags said, “Wunner if ye kin tell me who has concession fer the ashes from Splendid Table?”
    “Oh!” The girl got two very pink spots in her cheeks, and her voice went up in a squeak. “That would be us—is something wrong?” Without waiting for an answer, she darted through a curtain into the back of the shop, and returned with a woman that was an older version of herself in tow.
    “I’m Mella Amise, Herald,” the woman said, wiping her hand carefully on her apron before offering it to him. “You wanted to know about the ash concession?”
    “Trainee, missus,” said Mags, clasping her hand briefly, but firmly. “And aye—”
    :Ask her if she’s due to collect.:
    “Are ye due to collect?” he repeated.
    “Overdue by a day or two,” the woman said with a sigh. “I’ve been right busy sending our boy out with deliveries.”
    :Ask her if you can.:
    But before Mags could repeat what Dallen had told him to say, the woman cocked her head at him with a shrewd look in her eye. “Reckon you want an excuse to be in there?” she offered.
    He hesitated. She

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