"My mind still goes back to that story you told last night." It was unmistakeably Audra's voice, and presently, she stalked forward from behind Takumi and into his sight range. Turning to face him, she placed her hands on her hips and scowled faintly. "A matter of interest to me, Bard. Where did you hear it? And who told it to you?"
Takumi continued chewing absently on the aniseed, leaning casually against the fence, but he watched her closely. The bard had been around people long enough to be able to read them well--a skill that had saved his hide many times when bar fights broke out. With her chin tipped up defiantly and hands on hips, it was obvious from her defensive posture that he'd hit the mark last night with his story. Not that he could have missed it--the aura of power that surrounded her virtually glowed, much as she tried to hide it.
"My dear Lady, asking a bard how he knows a story is like asking a fish how he knows how to swim. We hear enough variations of a tale that we can tease the string of truth out of a large tangled knot of rumor."
Audra lifted an eyebrow in disbelief.
He pushed himself off the fence and strolled down the path to go back into the inn. Then, he smiled brightly in case anyone else was watching them. When Takumi was shoulder to shoulder with Audra, he said in a low voice, "If your daughter knew I was speaking with you, I'm sure she'd want me to say hello. I'll leave you to tell the others when you feel the time is right. If something bad were to happen to them, however, I would be forced to say something. If I were to meet an unfortunate accident, rest assured your secret would not be safe."
Audra narrowed her eyes. "You dare to threaten me?"
"Not at all, my dear," Takumi replied. "You could incinerate me in two seconds if you wanted. However, there are enough people who were loyal to that drakkart of a king that you'd be dead within a week if you were found out. That would not serve the cause of justice for either of us, now would it?"
She tipped her head a fraction, conceding that point.
He continued smiling broadly, but it didn't reach to his flashing green eyes that held Audra's so strongly she couldn't look away. "Now, I've come to quite like this little group of people I travel with, and the Fates swirl around them so strongly it's almost like a windstorm. I mean to help them as much as I can so they can get through it alive."
Audra didn't move.
Aya's scream of terror ripped through the air, and both jerked their heads in her direction. They took off in a dead run to the beach.