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I spent rather more time than I’d like to admit determining the name ‘Somessa’ (Σωμεσσα), considering he’s not a major character or anything.

I was not a little worried at what the Aiolan priest might want to ask me. His avian face was hard to read—I tried to marshal my story in my head and hoped to Artamid that he didn’t have any religious mumbo-jumbo on his side—after all, what kind of defense could I have against that?

Luckily, he seemed to have been chosen more for his suspicious nature rather than any thaumaturgy on his part—I guessed if they had any soothsayers, they’d be reading people back at Tars. That was a blessing, at least.

But here I am interrupting him.

He came up to me, his beak very close to my face, and started immediately with “So where were you last night when the bridge was destroyed?”

“Asleep in bed, I hope!” I said. “Long trip ahead of me and all, you know.”

He moved on to his next question, and I could see he was plainly reading them from a tablet he was carrying. The ibis had no talent at all; I wagered that the guard was half there to keep him from going off-script and offending anyone.

“Have you ever,” he said, “been in the pay of the rulers of Iberie, Karkedon, Liboue, Gallie, Alamannie, Illourie, Skoutie, or Arabie?”

“No king ever gave me any money!” I said. “For most of us, you know, it’s the other way around.”

The priest looked down at his tablet, possibly trying to determine if having paid taxes was something he had questions about. The rat put a hand on the ibis’ shoulder. “Give it up, Somessa. He’s got nothing.” To me he said, “Go, catch your boat.”

Thank Artamid for small-town wholesomeness! I bid them farewell, headed for the port, sold my horse, and got on the boat for Karkedon. It was a massive relief when we finally got underway.