We're in the last ten hours of the Six By Six Kickstarter
and we've funded, made two stretch goals, and are close to a third. So I thought I'd post the first scene of my new story for the collection, "Night at the Opera," a Nicholas and Reynard story set before The Death of the NecromancerNight at the Opera
by Martha Wells
Reynard Morane was at his usual table in the Cafe Baudy, a somewhat risqué establishment built on a barge floating on the Deval Forest pleasure garden lake, when a beautiful man approached his table. This wasn't an unusual occurrence, especially in this cafe, but this beautiful man was a stranger. He said, "Captain Morane?"
From his features and dark skin, the man was Parscian, a little younger than Reynard but not by much, tall and well-built and dressed in an elegant but understated way that suggested some professional occupation in the city. The coat was too expensive for the man to be from a university. For some reason, Reynard attracted a high percentage of men of academic persuasions. "Yes." Reynard smiled warmly. "Please join me."
The man hesitated, then drew out the opposite chair. "A friend told me about you."
"And which friend is this?" Reynard caught the waiter's attention and lifted his brows. The waiter sized up the situation professionally, then went to the bar for a fresh bottle of wine and glasses.
"A man named Biendare." The man lowered his voice. "I believe he is known in some circles as 'Binny.'"
"Binny?" Reynard frowned. This was not encouraging. Binny was not someone who would have recommended Reynard for an assignation. At least not the kind of assignation Reynard had hoped for. To make sure this man had really met Binny, he said, "At the roasted nut kiosk on the Street of Flowers?"
"No, it was in March Street, at a wine bar that also sells fried fish."
"Right." Reynard sat up, adjusting his attitude from invitingly indolent to business-like and alert.
The waiter arrived at the table with the bottle and glasses. Reynard sighed and told him, "No."
"No?" The waiter looked startled, then disappointed. "Oh. Coffee, perhaps?"
"Coffee," Reynard agreed.
The man cast a puzzled look at the retreating waiter's back, and Reynard admitted, "I was hoping it was an assignation." He waved a hand. "It's the Cafe Baudy, you know. There are often assignations."
"Oh, yes, I..." The man obviously decided to drop that subject and pursue his objective. "My name is Amadel. I am the confidential secretary for the Lady Shankir-Clare. She needs assistance of a...particular sort."
Reynard held up a hand as the waiter approached. He waited until the man had arranged the coffee service and departed, then said, "She's being troubled by someone but feels unable to confide the details to the Prefecture?"
"Yes, exactly." Amadel added cream and sugar to his cup with the relief of a man who had been searching for help and was finally in the right place.
This was odd. The Shankir-Clares were a family a rather famous diplomats, wealthy and well-respected in both Parscia and Ile-Rien, where the different branches of the family had originated. Reynard had never met any of them because they were the sort of people who were invited to the palace, not the sort who traveled in demi monde circles. No wonder Amadel hadn't been familiar with the Cafe Baudy. "How did you ever run across Binny?"
"Lady Shankir-Clare's hairdresser knew him," Amadel said. "She said he was the best way to contact people who could help with...sensitive problems."
"Is it blackmail?" Reynard asked. If one of the Shankir-Clare ladies had trusted her affections to the wrong man, and it wasn't someone associated with the infamous Count Montesq, Reynard could probably have it taken care of before dinner. "I quite like dealing with blackmailers. I have some experience at it."
"It isn't an ordinary blackmailer. It's a sorcerer." Amadel's brow furrowed as if he was trying to control a wince of anticipation. He thought Reynard would refuse the commission now. Most of the people who did this sort of thing wouldn't tangle with a sorcerer.
Reynard smiled. "Then Binny sent you to the right place." He lifted a hand to signal the waiter to bring the bill.