This came between chapters 15 and 16. It was mainly so I could give Skelldryn a POV chapter, since I didn't do much with him in the first book. He didn't do much more in this one, and the chapter didn't do much that couldn't be covered in a few lines elsewhere.
Working for Thjorn always put Skelldryn on edge. Which, to be fair, was his natural state. Thjorn seemed to thrive on danger. But he paid well.
At least trailing him from meetings to ensure nobody else had was relatively safe. The job didn't include intercepting them, so he shouldn't encounter danger.
After a couple of blocks he was certain the job had passed without any such problems.
A couple of guards passed nearby, but didn't pay him any attention. He kept them on the periphery of his vision until they moved beyond view. There was no hint of interest.
He retained the general sense of being hunted. He'd been jumpy for a while, more so than was normal. Someone was after them - or, more likely, after Thjorn. They occasionally got close enough to trigger a warning in Skelldryn's head. Not close enough to spot them, but he trusted his sense about these things. As did Thjorn.
Thjorn, of course, lacked the instinct to avoid trouble. He'd be more likely to stride into its midst and goad it into action.
An obvious pickpocket glanced his way in passing, but the casually averted gaze said he knew he'd been spotted and would move on. Skelldryn shouldn't be recognised, and the thief could take him as just an observant pedestrian rather than a visiting colleague. It'd still be an idea to keep an eye out for the locals, and leave before they got the idea he and Thjorn were intruding.
Thjorn waited in the taproom with his usual lack of surreptitiousness. He disliked sneaking, which made for an odd choice of profession.
There were a few armed types, but they were too tired to pay much attention. It was too early for many but the hard drinkers. One old timer in the corner seemed to pay attention to everyone who came in, but Skelldryn had noticed him earlier. His eyes were slightly blurred in the way the short-sighted sometimes got when it was bad. He followed the movement but didn't necessarily recognise them.
'Clear,' said Skelldryn. Thjorn didn't question him. He rarely had since the first few jobs. Once he trusted someone, he trusted them. 'It go okay?'
Thjorn nodded. 'He was happy to go along with it.' He removed neatly folded and sealed papers from inside his coat. 'Welcome to the royal guard.'
Taking them with reluctance, Skelldryn tucked them inside a clean pocket.
He disliked this kind of job, infiltrating high up places where he'd be executed if discovered. It took some doing for him to admit he was good at it, despite his near constant state of panic during the job. At least it was less immediately dangerous, and offered regular meals and the possibility of boredom. But the threat of discovery always hung over him. At least it beat honest labour. Apart from the occasions when his cover required honest labour.
That they'd been able to trick his way into the position was one less concern. Buying his way in would mean dealing with someone who could be bought, and you couldn't trust them not to sell the information on. Blackmailing someone into getting him in ran the risk of them suffering an attack of conscience. Tricking someone, especially when they thought it was a secret, was far safer.
The lodges were vaguely frowned on here in Irnskyl, and it was known few members rose high in the military. They'd found someone in an appropriate position whose allegiance was little known, and who wanted that secret kept. Approaching him as a member of the lodge from the other side of the country, Thjorn had gained his confidence over the last few months. He'd been happy to help them place a lodge member on the royal guard where he could influence the royal opinion of lodges. Even if the mark realised he'd been had, he had limited options if he wanted to keep his secret.
That was one danger Skelldryn didn't need to dwell on, but there were still so many others. And not simply to him.
'You're sure you don't need someone watching your back?' he said. Knowing full well Thjorn was always sure what he was doing. Or claimed to be.
'I am capable of taking care of myself.'
Skelldryn withheld comment, gaining a raised eyebrow for his silence.
'Given how skittish you've been lately,' said Thjorn, 'Do you want to be around when they catch up to me?'
Skelldryn offered a questioning look.
'You've sensed someone hunting me too,' said Thjorn.
He wasn't surprised Thjorn knew. 'That why you sent Aemere away?' Skelldryn had actually started getting used to her, and hadn't felt the usual aversion to the hired muscle. 'And why you're sending me away?'
'Partly. I need you both where I've sent you. I'd also make a more tempting target without support.'
The door opened, and Skelldryn glanced around. A labourer, unhappy and focussed on the bar. No immediate threat.
He turned back to Thjorn. 'You want them to catch you?'
'I want them to try,' said Thjorn. 'If only to learn who they are, and maybe get an idea why they're after me. I don't like not knowing.'
'Then maybe you shouldn't have gone and become famous.'
That earned him a glare, but Skelldryn had been around long enough to know that meant little. Once he'd have leapt the moment Thjorn glanced at him, preferring to deal with Augni. He'd trusted Thjorn, and knew he'd be loyal to everyone who was loyal to him. But he could intimidating, and Skelldryn didn't respond well to confrontation.
While he was dangerous, Thjorn was reasonable, and Skelldryn knew the glyphpunk would have his back if anything serious befell him. Thjorn had given him a kind of home here, somewhere he actually fit in and where his capabilities were respected. Capabilities other than the simple toughness respected on Elinar.
Skelldryn didn't like to think of Thjorn stumbling into something he couldn't handle alone. Of course he also didn't fancy the idea of getting pulled into it with him. There wouldn't be an argument that'd change Thjorn's mind after he'd considered something, so it was easiest to go along with it.