Zarah felt the woman’s eyes sweep over her, and a chill ran down her spine. There was nothing behind those eyes, just cold calculation, an abacus making tallies out of the world.
“You’d be the girl, then,” she said, walking forward. “He never did give me a name, which is about typical.” As she stepped out from cover, blacklight began to glow around her, and a red umbrella crystallised into existence in her hand, quickly adjusting its shape to keep the rain off her. “Presumably, there’s no need for me to introduce myself?”
Zarah froze, glancing back between her and the ghostlight umbrella. She’d never met this woman before, she was fairly certain, but she did seem somewhat familiar…
The picture. The one on-
“Mm,” Yanis Metzin said. “I thought as much.”
Chapter Nineteen: Wheels (in which the king is dead; long live the king)
“I’m assuming Tierron is dead?” Metzin asked.
“…who?” Zarah asked slowly. Her brain hadn’t quite caught up to the situation, and she hadn’t been lying, before – she was tired, both physically and mentally. Thinking felt like dragging herself through thick mud, and the pull of gravity seemed more irresistible than ever.
Metzin’s lips pursed. “Ah, yes. I guess there’s no real reason you’d have known his name. The man you were fighting earlier, with the goatee.”
Paose. She’s talking about Paose.
“Yes,” she confirmed, not seeing the point in lying. “I killed him.”
She’d been expecting some kind of reaction to that – they had been… allies? Partners? They had known each other and worked together, in some fashion.
Metzin, though, just nodded.
“Understandable,” she said. “It’s hardly a surprise that his poor decision-making would eventually catch up with him.”
Zarah narrowed her eyes. “You… are not angry.”
“Why would I be?” Metzin asked, raising an eyebrow in the closest thing to an emotion that Zarah had seen from her so far. “Did Tierron give you the impression that I would?”
“…no,” Zarah replied cautiously. “I am just… surprised.”
“Mm. Then, for your information, I didn’t have any particular fondness for him. He was an irritating psychopath, and a stupid one besides. Frankly, I was expecting him to get himself killed much sooner than this.”
“Then why are you work with him?”
“‘Did you work with him’,” Metzin corrected idly. “Because he was useful enough to counterbalance some of those factors, for a time.”
“Useful for what?”
Metzin stared at her for a moment, eyes calculating. “It’s interesting,” she said at last, “how little you know.”
“Not as an insult, I mean. Just that you’ve gotten very tangled up in my affairs recently, and yet when I finally meet you, it turns out to be mostly accidental.”
“…what is your point?”
She shrugged one shoulder. “No point, just… musing aloud. Revising some assumptions, I suppose. I’d been planning on having a very different conversation to this one.”
“You planned for this?”
Metzin’s eyes fixed Zarah in place.
“I plan for many things,” she said. No malice, no heat, just absolute surety that was somehow scarier by far. “As soon as I became aware that Tierron was planning this, it was fairly clear that our arrangement was over. He’d attracted far too much attention, not to mention all this pointless slaughter.”
The words should have been reassuring, but something about the emphasis she put on ‘pointless’ set Zarah on edge.