The carriage trundled to a stop. Hawke sighed at what he saw through the window. The inn at which they would stay the night, though large, would likely have little in the way of the comforts to which he had long be accustomed. Namely, running water and indoor plumbing. His nose crinkled at the thought of having to use an outhouse, but for the good of his task, he would do it.
Zy hopped off of the driver’s seat from where he had sat next to Braise as Braise guided the horses. The carriage shifted as its weight distribution changed and its wheels dislodged the stones of the inn’s drive. At Hawke’s side, Penpen stood, his hooves dancing nervously on the padded seat.
“Shh,” Hawke said. He reached out to scratch idly between the deer’s ears. He adored Penpen, though he had never expected to feel so strongly for the miniature deer. He had bought him primarily because exotic pets had become so popular among the nobility a few year’s past. It had cost him a large portion of his pay from the Queen and several week’s time to make the trip to northern Nerrona to collect Penpen, but the instant he’d seen him, he’d know it was worth it.
Penpen, even now at three years old, had the youthful spots of a fawn, which were the results of careful breeding. His fur was soft and luxurious, particularly on his chest, where it puffed out in a great tuft. His eyes, with their long lashes, always seemed to be looking at Hawke with affection. Penpen had taken well to Hawke’s training, because — and this was Hawke’s favorite part about him — he was quite smart.
Zy opened the door to the passenger compartment. “We’re here, sir,” he said, smiling broadly. The young man was often smiling, especially in Hawke’s direction. Hawke smiling back at him. From many, Hawke would have taken Zy’s behaviors to mean that he was attracted to Hawke, but Hawke knew that wasn’t the case. Instead, the boy idolized him. The fact gave Hawke both pride and anxiety in turn.
Hawke stepped out of the carriage, back straight, feet gliding down the carriage steps as though Hawke’s weight didn’t even push against the ground. Penpen followed after him. The deer took his pace at Hawke’s side. His ears and nose twitched at all of the new sounds and smells emanating from the inn’s grounds.
The Crossroads Inn had perhaps the most unoriginal name Hawke had ever seen on an establishment, but it didn’t matter. The proprietor had chosen such an excellent place to build that it wouldn’t have mattered had he named it the Stink Pit. Geographically, it was practically the middle of nowhere, with no large city or river in sight. However, here, the main road between the capital city of Orosia and the capital of Emberhold, running north to south, met the the main road between the capital of Minashold and the capital of Telmyrhold. Traders and travelers passed through regularly.
From what Hawke had read before selecting this place as a stop on their journey, the Crossroads Inn provided everything one might find in a small village. The innkeeper provided rooms, of course, and meals, but also employed a blacksmith, carpenter, and even a tailor, for travelers who found that they had broken or torn something on the road.
Hawke had no need of any of those things, of course. He would seek a tailor whose sensibilities were more likely to be more in line with current fashions once he reached Port Telmyr. He did regret that the inn had no respectable apothecary, for his lotions and hair care serums were running lower than he liked. Still, he had confidence he would find someone to refill them once they arrived at the capital.
“Grab the bags, please, Zy,” Hawke instructed. Zy already knew what to do, of course, but it made him feel good to be directed, a drive that Hawke would never understand.
The bags the three of them needed to spend one night were kept in the back of the carriage, in a compartment with a false bottom. It made it appear as though they were traveling light, despite the obviously high quality of their horses, the carriage, and Hawke’s apparel. Beneath the false bottom, they kept the rest of their clothes, the majority of Hawke’s writing supplies, and the lute Zy insisted upon taking everywhere. Beneath the second false bottom under that, they kept a supply of extra money, should that which Hawke kept on hand run out or prove insufficient.
Zy nodded. “Yes, sir.”
Hawke smiled as Zy walked away. He was a good lad, but he was too quick and ready to follow, rather than to take his own initiative. He wanted to be like Hawke someday, but he didn’t have the wits or the personality. By his age, Hawke had already been fluent in three languages. Hawke had begun trying to teach Zy Orosian, but even with all of that tongue’s cognates with Nerro, Zy struggled. Granted, Hawke’s circumstances had given him an advantage there, but he just couldn’t see Zy catching up.
Hawke stepped lightly on the gravel, lest it shift the wrong direction and damage his boots. “Braise,” he said, “we will meet you inside once you’ve parked the carriage.”
“Wouldn’t you rather wait for me, sir?” Braise asked. “You don’t know what you’re walking into.” Queen Lora had assigned Braise to protect Hawke, and the man took his job very seriously. It made him nervous that his skills hadn’t yet been put to much use. Truthfully, it made Hawke a bit nervous as well. Queen Lora was not known for doing anything without a purpose.
Still, if there was any one thing Hawke needed to perform his job, it was confidence. “We’ll be fine, Braise. People pass through here unharmed constantly.” Plus, Hawke wore a sword of his own, strapped to his side, and a knife under his arm hidden by his vest, and Braise had been teaching him how to use them. Hawke had received basic instruction as part of his education, but Braise’s skill was far beyond that of any of Hawke’s instructors in school.
“Queen Lora didn’t send me to drive the carriage,” Braise muttered. He was a rough fellow, outwardly, with a low, scratchy voice, a thick beard, and brown skin darkened and hardened by years out in the sun. Inwardly, he was kinder than Hawke might have suspected, if he were the type to judge by person’s appearance. Which he was not.
“No,” Hawke said, “I suppose she didn’t. Perhaps she sent you merely to train me to fight.”
Braise rolled his eyes. “Let’s hope not. Lora only knows what Lora knows, but let’s just hope there’s no fight in our future.”
“Queen Lora does nothing without a reason,” Hawke said. He sighed. “Although questioning them never solves the puzzle of what her reasons might be until after the fact.”
“Too true,” Braise said. He sighed, as well. “I suppose she would have warned us if she foresaw your death here. I’ll meet you inside.”
“Ready, sir?” Zy asked. He had slung one of their bags across his back — Hawke’s, which was the heaviest — and carried the other two in his hands.
Hawke checked himself quickly in the carriage’s side mirror, ensuring that his hair was perfectly in place. His personal apothecary in Minas had provided him with a miraculous sort of gel that held his hair perfectly where he wanted it and gave it a marvelous sheen, so that when the sunlight hit it, it seemed to sparkle as though coated with the dust of diamonds. In the orange light of the setting sun, Hawke’s hair seemed an even more brilliant blond, verging on peach, and his lavender eyes seemed to glow.
“Yes, I’m ready,” Hawke said.
Zy followed behind Hawke as he strode in through the Inn’s front entrance. Penpen kept at his left side, just far enough that neither of them would step on the other. The door opened into a sitting room, on one side of which was a large desk, behind which were slots for room keys. The place was more modern in design than Hawke had suspected. Perhaps they would have indoor plumbing after all.
The woman behind the desk did nothing to try to hide the fact that she was staring at him. She was a thick woman, with the darker brown skin common close to the southeastern coastal regions of what had once been, and would soon be again, Minasora. Her clothes were of the sort that had simultaneously never really been fashionable and yet somehow never quite went out of style. She stopped staring at Hawke for just enough time to give Penpen a long look.
“What can I do for y’all?” she asked, placing a hand on her hip.
“We’re here to rent room’s for the evening, ma’am,” Hawke said. His accent shifted automatically to match hers. He didn’t even think about it any more, when he did that. It just happened. His mimicry was so precise that most people took him for a local. He had no fear of people thinking he was poking fun at their mode of speech, especially if they hadn’t heard him speak yet.
“Mmhmm,” she said, having already known the answer. She pointed at Penpen. “There’s’n extra fee for pets. What is that thing anyway? Is that one of them dog deers?”
“They’ve been called that, sure,” Hawke said. “On account of they act a bit like dogs. There’s no real dog in them, though.”
“Neat,” she said. “Darn neat.”
“The extra charge is no problem,” Hawke said. “Though Zy here is a performer, if you want one for your common room. Maybe we could arrange that instead.” He winked at Zy, who gave him a panicked look.
“Nope,” she said. “Already got a lady for the week who sings and plays the harp.”
“Well that sounds darn lovely,” Hawke said. He meant it, too. Zy was actually a good musician, when Hawke could encourage him to play, but that wasn’t nearly often enough. It was one of the few things on which Zy resisted him. Hawke played the lute fairly well himself, but nothing compared to listening to a skilled musician at their art. He hoped the harpist was good.
In the style of the folk of Telmyrhold, the lady behind the counter wrote what he owned on a piece of paper and pushed it across the desk to him. It was considered quite rude here to discuss money out loud. The Inn required that Hawke pay in part now, and the rest in the morning when he left. Hawke retrieved his wallet from inside his vest pocket. In so doing, the medallion he kept around his neck became visible.
“Ah,” the woman said. “You here in service to the Queen?”
The medallion, hung from a silver chain, was a carven disk of light grey marble, laced with veins of a darker grey. The crest of the Kingdom of Minasora was embossed on its surface. “I am. Is that a problem?”
“No, sir,” the woman said, though she looked around as if to ensure they were alone in the room. “I have a letter for you, though. It said you would arrive today.”
“Of course it did,” Hawke said.
“Just a moment.” She retreated through a door behind the desk, into what Hawke guessed was an office of some kind. After several minutes, she returned. “I didn’t read it. I think she would know.”
“She would,” Hawke said, shaking his head. He opened the letter. There was no point in waiting. Letters from the Queen were always both clear and enigmatic. He had grown accustomed to her style while serving her in Evonshold. After he’d left, he didn’t know if was his own skill or the guidance he’d gotten from her letters that had successfully brought Lord Evondel to her side.
The letter was written in gray ink, in Lora’s distinctive script.
At twelve minutes to midnight, send Braise to check on your carriage.
Hawke laughed. It was perhaps the clearest message he had ever received from her. In a way, it was a relief. It meant he was unlikely to face any sort of threat at the inn until that time. He guessed she was warning him about thieves of some sort. The first double bottom of the carriage’s storage compartment was rather obvious, if one looked at the vehicle from the side, so the fact that no enterprising thief had noticed it before was a bit surprising.
Hawke paid the bemused woman the first half of his bill, then tucked his wallet and the medallion back into his vest. There were those, especially in this Hold, who did not take nearly as kindly as she had to those who were loyal to the Queen. After all, he had been sent here to convince to Lord of the Hold to give his land over to Minasora, so that the Queen could fulfill her goal of reuniting the holds back under one banner. There were those aside from the Hold Lords that resisted her rule.
“We have one more companion joining us,” Hawke said. “Please send him to our room when he comes in.”
“The room has only two beds, sir,” she said.
“That’s alright,” Hawke said. “Penpen and I will take the beds, and the other two will take the floor.”
He left her gaping, not bothering to tell her that he was joking. He and Zy would take the beds. After long months together, Braise had finally convinced Hawke that he was being truthful when he said he preferred to sleep on the floor. Hawke had stopped paying for a second room then. Braise felt more comfortable sleeping on a bedroll near the door, both physically and mentally.
Their room was on the second floor. The hallway had a floor of polished wood. It was nice enough that Hawke feared Penpen’s hooves would scratch it. He took the deer into his arms. “When we get to the room, you’ll have to put Penpen’s boots on, Zy. We don’t want his hooves to scratch up the floor or cut the sheets.”
“Yes, sir,” Zy said cheerfully. Braise pretended not to like Penpen, but Zy was open about how much he adored the little deer. Penpen’s hooves were not particularly sharp, but they could cause unwanted damage. Zy liked it when Penpen wore his boots, because, as he said, they were quite cute.
Penpen lay placidly in Hawke’s arms as they searched for their room. He liked to be held, and would probably let himself be transported this way all the time if Hawke had the endurance.
“What did the note say?” Zy asked, once they had entered the room and he had set down their packs.
“That Braise has to go check on the carriage at a certain time,” Hawke said.
“Oh, weird,” Zy said. “Do you think it’s, like, thieves or something?”
“That would be my guess, though I suppose that with the Queen, it’s best not to assume.”
The window in the room looked out to the east, toward the ocean. If it weren’t for the gradual slope of the land, it wouldn’t have been visible at this distance, but Hawke could see its dark shadow on the horizon. At a good pace, they would reach it, and Port Telmyr, by early afternoon.
Braise joined them shortly thereafter, carrying his own bedroll. He let Hawke make Zy carry his bag, but he wouldn’t let him shoulder all of his burdens. “Did I miss anything interesting?” he asked.
“Yes, actually,” Zy said.
“Queen Lora had a letter waiting for us at the desk,” Hawke explained.
“Of course she did,” Braise said. “Anything useful?”
“Queen Lora’s letters have always proven useful, Braise,” Hawke said. “It’s just not always obvious.”
“Alright, well, what did it say?” Braise asked. He opened his bed roll and unfurled it at the base of the bed Hawke had claimed. Penpen came over to nuzzle at it, but Braise shooed him away. Zy called him over to begin putting his boots on.
“At twelve minutes to midnight, send Braise to check on the carriage,” Hawke quoted.
Braise grunted. “Alright. Sounds ominous enough.”
Hawke pulled out his pocketwatch. “That’s in about four hours, Braise. How do you want to handle it?”
Braise sucked his teeth for a moment as he thought. “I’m guessing you two are headed down to eat, yeah?”
“Yes,” Zy answered. “I’m starving.”
“I guess that’s a yes,” Hawke said. If Zy showed initiative about only one thing, it was food.
“I’ll join you, but then I should come up and sleep for a couple hours, just in case. I’m pretty well whipped from the road.” He stretched, as though to illustrate his point. “Which one of you wants to stay up to make sure I’m awake at the right time?”
“I’ll do it,” Hawke said. “The letter was to me, and we all know Lora likes to hide little things in them.”
“Didn’t she tell you she’s not allowed to state certain things directly?” Zy asked.
“Something like that,” Hawke said. “Anyway, maybe it’s important that I’m the one who sends you down. Who knows?”
“Lora only knows,” Braise said.
“Lora only knows,” Hawke repeated.
With Penpen stepping delicately in his boots, like a lady headed to the ball, they went down to the common room for dinner.
The food was acceptable, if generic, and the decor of the common room wasn’t too painful for Hawke to bear, though it certainly wasn’t up to the standards to which he had grown accustomed in Evonshold. The best part of the meal was the harpist.
Her voice, though soft and lovely, carried over the din of the diner’s speaking during their meal. She wove it deftly through the melodic huming of her harp. Though she played only simple folk songs, she captivated Hawke, inspiring to him to shush Zy and Braise whenever they tried to make conversation. Hawke’s withering glances at the other travelers in the dining room did nothing to dissuade them from continuing their own conversations.
Penpen sat beneath the table, with his weight resting against Hawke’s feet. He ate his bowl of peas and carrots politely as he, too, watched the harpist. From time to time, Hawke reached down to scratched behind the miniature deer’s horns. Penpen’s warmth felt good against Hawke’s feet. Even with the fire that heated the room, Hawke still felt the touch of the cool fall day.
The harpist finished her set not long after Hawke had finished his meal. It was, after all, growing later in the evening, and he suspected those who came down to drink, rather than eat, might not enjoy the soothing tones of the harp quite as readily. Hawke approached her with Penpen walking tight at his side.
“Good evening,” he said, voice smooth and colored by a sophisticated Evonshold accent.
“Hello, sir,” the woman said. She had a strong southern accent. Her dark hair, which had been woven into many thin braids tipped with shining beads, draped down over her back. Her clothes, Hawke noticed, were at least on the outskirts of what could be considered fashionable, but even if they weren’t, her natural beauty and her voice would have appealed to him. In these surroundings, he could lower his standards slightly.
“Your playing was lovely this evening,” he said, “as was your voice. Where did you study?”
“Study?” she asked, with a delighted bit of a laugh turning her word airy. “Like at a school? I didn’t. My grandmother taught me.”
“Well, your grandmother was a marvelous teacher,” Hawke said. He opened his hand, revealing some coin of Evonshold mint. “For the joy you brought to me this evening.
“Oh, thank you,” she said. “Most people just put it in the jar.”
“I’m not most people,” he said, winking. She blushed
“What’s your little animal there?” she asked. She crouched at the edge of the stage to get a better look at Penpen.
“This is Penpen!” Hawke said, smiling broadly. “He’s a miniature deer. Would you like to say hello?
“Sure,” she said. She sat down on the edge of the stage.
“Greet, Penpen,” Hawke said. Penpen stepped forward and bowed, tucking his left foreleg under his chest and extending his left as he brought his nose to the ground. He then stood and presented himself for petting.
The harpist laughed. “Wow! He’s adorable.” She reached out with one hand and stroked Penpen’s neck with a delicate touch.
“He is,” Hawke said. He knelt beside Penpen and rustled his fur roughly. Penpen turned and nuzzled him. His horn caught on Hawke’s vest just enough to shift it. Lora’s medallion slipped out of the vest. Hawke quickly put it back. “What was your name? I’m afraid I didn’t catch it.”
But the harpist’s eyes had taken on a steely glaze. She stood. “My husband is expecting me.” She turned her back on Hawke, a clear dismissal, and began maneuvering her harp toward the back of the stage.
Hawke sighed. He really needed to keep that medallion in a chest or something. It brought him great personal risk, and not just in the form of physical danger. Husband or not, he thought he might have been on the right path with the harpist. “Come, Penpen,” he said, though of course Penpen would have followed him back to the table without command. It just felt good to say something, in that moment.
“How is it that you strike out with women so often, when you so easily seduce the Lords away from their holds?” Braise asked, covering a smile with his mug.
“Didn’t you say you wanted to go to sleep?” Hawke snapped.
“Aye,” Braise agreed. “You’re right.”
Hawke accompanied Braise and Zy up to their room, though he didn’t stay long. He left Penpen with them, took a book from his bag, and instead ventured out into the inn to find a place to sit and study, so that he could remain awake without disturbing the others. He hoped that the book, titled A Treatise on Cultural Dissemination Between Isurine and Nerrona, would help him in his upcoming assignment.
From what he had been able to ascertain, he would have more than just Lord Telmyr to contend with once they reached the capital. A representative from an Isurian house had Lord Telmyr’s ear, as did an Orosian ambassador. Both of them opposed the idea of Telmyrhold once again becoming part of Minasora.
At the end of the hallway of off which their room sprouted, there was a small sitting area next to a window, with two wicker chairs on either side of table, lit by a lamp. Only the faintest hint of Senia’s pale light made its way through the window, where the golden glow of the lamp washed it out almost completely. By these two sources of light, Hawke read.
The book was dryer than week-old bread, but that was because the author didn’t know how to make things interesting. The ways the cultures of Nerrona and Isurine had influenced each other over time intrigued Hawke. Their primary languages had accrued more loanwords over time, as the cultural discourse continued. Minasora had even derived its system of Holds and Hold Lords from the Isurian House system.
The book also lightly touched upon the fact that there was very little cultural exchange between Nerrona and the Isuric people; indeed, the Isurics were so private that they had little to do even with the Isurians. This made sense to Hawke, for learning the Isuric language had been quite a challenge for him, even knowing Nerro, Isurian, and Orosian already when he had begun.
Twenty minutes before Lora’s scheduled time, Hawke returned to the room. Penpen, who was curled up in the crook of Zy’s arm, raised his head and sniffed at the air. Hawke gestured for him to stay.
He placed his hand on Braise’s shoulder. “Showtime,” he whispered, in an effort to allow Zy to continue resting.
Braise opened his eyes, blinked, then rolled to his feet with a ease Hawke never would have been able to muster upon waking. He stretched. “Alright,” he said, voice low. “Let’s hope this is no big deal.”
“Agree,” Hawke said. He grabbed Braise’s sword for him and passed it on. “But, just in case.”
Braise accepted the blade, attaching it to his waste. “Just in case.”
Hawke followed Braise out of the room, book still in his hand. Penpen jumped down from the bed to follow.
“You’re not coming, are you?” Braise asked.
“Who, me or Penpen?” Hawke asked, looking down at the dear, who looked up at him in turn, front feet doing a small dance.
“You.” Braise rolled his eyes, but he did bend down to pat Penpen’s head.
“Oh, no. You can handle whatever it is, I’m sure.” Hawke pointed down the hall to where he had been reading. “I’ll be over there, waiting.”
“Sounds good. I’ll be back soon.”
Hawke took his place back at his chair, with his book open in his hands and Penpen on the floor next to him. He couldn’t concentrate on the book. He trusted Braise’s capabilities, and he more than trusted the Queen’s instructions, but that didn’t forestall the feelings of anxiety and curiosity that the circumstance had stirred within him.
In the dim light, the sound of footsteps alerted him to another’s presence long before he saw her. She came down the hall, dresss whispering against the floor boards, with a tray held in her hands. The harpist. A part of him wanted to wish that he had somehow insinuated himself into her mind and she had come to offer to share her bed with him, but even without the Queen’s cryptic instructions, he would have known that not to be the case.
“Good evening,” she said with a smile. “I see you’re having trouble sleeping as well. Would you like some tea?”
Without asking, she took the chair opposite his, setting the tea tray down on the table between them in the meantime.
“What are you after?” he asked.
Her smiled faltered. “Beg pardon? You intrigued me earlier, so I thought I’d seek you out.”
“No,” he said. “Do you think I’m a fool? I saw your expresion before you turned away.”
“I’m not sure what you’re talking about,” she said. Perhaps she might have convinced someone who didn’t have Hawke’s years of a very specific set of training and experience.
“Don’t make me work to expose you,” Hawke said.
Penpen stood to sniff at the tea, his little black nose flaring in and out as he inhaled. His fur stiffened visibly. He knocked the tea to the ground with his horns. The harpist swore.
“That’s naughty!” she said, jabbing a finger toward Penpen. He snapped at her, causing her to gasp.
“No, honestly it’s quite good,” Hawke said. “I had no interest in drinking poison anyway.”
“Poison?” the harpist said. She attempted to maintain her facade, but even in the dim light of the lantern, Hawke could see the fear behind her eyes.
“I’m no fool,” Hawke said. “I know there are those who oppose our Queen strongly enough that they would kill for it. That’s why Braise is with me.” He looked meaningfully in the direction of the stable, as though he could see through the wall. “He’s been looking for a way to be more useful. I suppose I should thank you for providing it.”
“Cinashe damn you,” she said, standing. “Your man is in deep shit, you know. If he went down there.”
Hawke laughed. “No, I think you’re misunderstanding the situation. It’s your man for whom you should feel fear.”
The woman froze. Then, to Hawke’s surpise, she drew a thin dagger from between her breasts. She hadn’t seemed like the type to want to draw blood — but no, looking at her, he could see she was not. She didn’t want to do it, but she felt she had to.
“Trip, Penpen,” Hawke commanded.
Penpen rammed his horns into the harpist’s leg. She stumbled back into the chair. In a flash, Hawke stood. He whipped his knife out from under his vest, not trusting himself to draw his sword quickly enough. He didn’t look as confident or as dashing as Braise might have, but in moments, he had the harpist pinned against the chairback by the point of the blade at her throat.
“Drop your weapon,” Hawke said, his voice deep and confident. He didn’t know how to use a sword, not like Braise did, but he knew how to talk to people. The woman tossed her dagger to the side, eyes closed.
Not knowing what else to do, Hawke kept her there until Braise returned. By Denyr’s blessing, it was a short wait.
“Had a little fun of your own, I see,” Braise said. “Stand,” he commanded the harpist. She did. Braise took her by the wrists.
“Yes, and Zy has slept through it all,” Hawke said. “Even Penpen was more help than him.”
“Aye, makes sense,” Braise said. He gave Penpen and appreciatory nod.
“What did you do to my husband?” the harpist asked.
“I don’t know,” Braise said, as he pushed her down the hall. “Which one was he?”
She attempted to turn to glare at him, but Braise twisted her wrist, preventing her. “The dark-haired one. Tall, blue eyes, broad shoulders.”
“Ah. Not too much, then. Broke his wrist and his ankle, I think.”
“How many were there?” Hawke asked. “And what were they up to?”
“Breaking in to the carriage,” Braise said. “There were only four of them. I expected more.” He sounded quite disappointed. “They had some needles they were trying to put into the seat. I’m guessing they were poisoned. We’ll have to check thoroughly in the morning, to make sure they didn’t put them somewhere before I arrived.” He looked down at Penpen. “We wouldn’t want anyone getting hurt by accident, now would we?” He twisted the woman’s wrist again, forcing her to grunt.
“Nobody wants you here,” she said.
“That’s not true,” Hawke said. “You just don’t know what everyone wants. Neither do I. I only know what they should want.”
“You don’t know everything,” she said. She spat. “Neither does your Queen.”
“Well, as I said, I certainly don’t,” Hawke said. “The Queen, however, I wouldn’t doubt. It won’t do you any good.”
Hawke stopped as they passed their room. “Do you need my help, Braise, or can you take it from here?”
“I’ve got it, sir,” he said. He gave a half smile, his eyes twinkling. “It just so happens a few officers from the Lord’s army were spending the night here on their way through. Turns out they don’t look kindly on the attempted murder of foreign ambassadors.”
“Excellent,” Hawe said. “Come now, Penpen. Let’s go to bed.”