Lena glanced at him then, and Brendan was struck by the sensitivity in the glance. She’d been keeping an eye on him during the discussion without his having noticed; she was sharp. She’d seen the parade of emotions and confusion across his face, and sympathized with his confusion.
She’d been in his position once, he supposed; new to the whole expanded world concept. Probably not all that long ago, either.
They retreated upstairs and Sorcha explained the solution to the proprietor, who nodded, satisfied. They collected half their payment, the rest to be collected upon completion of the service, likely in the next several days. “We’ll have to return to make sure it worked,” she explained as they hit the road. “We’ll get the rest then.”
“The village we were in was several days toward that mountain range. The village is in a valley you can’t quite see from here. If we follow the road, we’ll find a fork in a few hours. If we stay to the right, we’ll be on the right path.” Lena rattled off the directions as quickly and certainly as any GPS navigator Brendan had ever used. She was probably less likely to be thrown off by bad satellite data though, he figured.
“What kind of job was it you were on when this all happened?” he asked.
“General investigation of a disturbance,” she said, eyes going a bit dark as her mind strayed back.
“That’s a pretty high-level job type,” Sorcha interjected. “How long did you say you’d been with her?”
“I believe I said she’d helped me with several jobs,” she said thoughtfully, “and while it can be difficult sometimes to estimate how long you’ve been traveling different aspects of the world, I’d guess it was at least two months.”
“Two months, and already doing general investigations,” Sorcha said with a frown. “Two months isn’t very long for your people.”
Brendan started a bit at that, and looked over at Sorcha again, more carefully. It was nearly impossible to assign an age to her; he hadn’t really noted that before. If she’d revealed that she was 21, he wouldn’t have blinked. If she’d said 41, he’d have thought little of it.
“Is it different for … The People?” he said, unsure of what to call them if not that.
She grinned suddenly. “The Ilthem Saeri. That’s what we call ourselves. It translates roughly to The People,’ but it sounds so much better, don’t you think? Anyway, yes, two months is a pretty long time for one of us. Let’s leave it at that for now.”
She returned her attention to Lena and the task before them, all traces of the grin vanished from her face. “Was there some unusual circumstance that demanded she bring you along on this investigation?”
“She didn’t mention any, no. Hmmm … what’s so dangerous about general investigations?”
“We call jobs general investigations when we know too little about what’s going on to find a better name for them. The lack of information is what makes it dangerous for the newly Called. It might be something perfectly safe, or something dreadfully unsafe, and so as a rule, we either handle them on our own or bring only much more experienced people along. Lena, I hate to ask it, but what was your guide’s name?”
“She called herself Myra.”
Sorcha nodded. She looked troubled at the name, though there had been no look of recognition, either.