The Death of Dulgath
“But you’re a different sort altogether. Mister Hadrian Blackwater, isn’t it?” The hand went out again and, once clasped, Lord Fawkes pumped it soundly two times, then clapped Hadrian on the shoulder. “Nice sword! Spadone, right? Quite the antique. Don’t see many of those anymore. My friend Sir Gilbert—he’s the senior knight of my cousin Vincent—never uses one. Says they went out of style centuries ago…back when knights actually fought in wars!”
    Fawkes laughed loudly at his own joke.
    No one else did, but the lord either didn’t notice or didn’t care. “Oh, Hugh, these two are a wedge of sharp cheese, aren’t they? Please, allow me to give them the tour. I’m certain you have better things to do, don’t you? ” The last two words lacked the gaiety of the others, and were punctuated with authority.
    “Certainly, Your Lordship.” Knox gave Royce a parting scowl. He adjusted his sword belt and strode toward the front gate.
    “Excitable fellow, that Hugh,” Fawkes said, his tone quieter, calmer. “Hails from somewhere in Warric, if memory serves. I’m sure he has a bloodstained past. He’s hiding down here, I imagine.”
    Royce’s eyes followed Knox’s back until he disappeared from sight.
    “So, you are the men Bishop Parnell has picked to properly plan Lady Dulgath’s murder.” Fawkes grinned and winked at them.
    Royce wasn’t certain if the man was a fool or a genius. He displayed signs of both. Neither made him comfortable, but over the course of his life he’d been at ease with only four people. None of them was a well-dressed noble with a loud voice who winked. No one ever winked at Royce. The fact that this man, with his black goatee and expressive hands, did so was a curiosity worthy of further scrutiny.
    “It’s all right,” Fawkes told them, spreading his hands out and fanning his fingers. “I’m privy to what’s going on. Brilliant, really, like that adage about fighting fire with fire. And from what I’ve heard, you two know how to handle yourselves in heated situations.” He moved in closer. Lowering his voice, he added, “Rumors say a rather high-profile noble was assassinated up north. I suspect you know a little about that.”
    “Rumors can’t be trusted,” Royce told him.
    “No, of course not.” Fawkes glanced toward the front gate. “Still, I doubt our good sheriff knows about that incident or realizes he may owe me his life. As I recall, that dead noble was a high constable. Knox should be more careful. One doesn’t buy poison and handle it without gloves. A fine and dangerous instrument deserves respect. Wouldn’t you agree?”
    “Absolutely.” Royce nodded. “And now that you mention it, I do seem to recall something about that rumor. Happened in Medford, didn’t it?”
    “Why, yes, I believe that was the place.”
    “I can see why you were concerned about the sheriff, but just so we understand each other…the man killed wasn’t just a high constable; he was also the king’s cousin.”

    Lord Fawkes escorted them inside Castle Dulgath’s stables, which were situated beyond the cleft wall and down the road where the land flattened out enough to be safe for horses. Made to appear like a fancy cottage, the stables had twelve-paned windows and an interlocking-brick floor. The place was cleaner than Wayward Street—even cleaner than The Rose and the Thorn despite Gwen’s hard work. The building didn’t smell like a stable. There wasn’t a trace of manure nor a glimpse of straw. Chandeliers hung from a high ceiling, and the doorways benefited from decorative molding. Horses lounged in stained oak stalls with black-painted metal gates. Each wore a tailored blanket, and in front of every bay sat a large, beautifully crafted trunk.
    “Nice barn,” Hadrian remarked, looking up at the tongue-and-groove ceiling.
    “Adequate,” Fawkes said with a bulging lower lip and a curt dip of his head. “Dulgath doesn’t have the resources, talent, or

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