The idea, it seemed, was to dress Temperance up like a boy.

"You can't be serious," she said.

"Deadly," Murad said, with every hint of cheerfulness. "After all, you've already got the clothes. All we need now is a nice place to camp out, get your, uh, assets tied up—not that there's much of them—and then sneak you in with none the wiser. Can't fail."

Temperance was still gaping about the "assets" remark and wondering just what she'd done to Murad during their short acquaintance to earn his evil grin when Josef spoke.

"We have a problem." He waved a hand to indicate that, all around the town, there wasn't exactly a closed spot to make sure this "change" occurred in enough secrecy to work.

"We could go back into the desert," Temperance said doubtfully. Her eyes slid to the white sand, and she didn't miss the way Josef shuddered.

"No." His voice was firm. So much for that.

"Relax," Murad said. "This desert-walker knows a bit of the townfolk life."

He led them around the perimeter of the town to an old ramshackle—well, it wasn't exactly a cottage. It had been a nice building at one point, large and with two stories. But the top floor seemed to have suffered from a fire and the whole thing had a lean to it. Even Temperance's old home, not in great condition, had been better than this. She stared up at it, and Josef joined her, looking equally doubtful. But Murad motioned for them to tether the horses outside and waved them in. Inside was an old woman, dark skinned but white-haired who smiled in an almost toothless grin. Temperance looked away, embarrassed, and Josef mumbled something in Prussian.

"This is Morena," Murad pronounced, and swept the old woman in a hug, spinning her around and then setting her down. She giggled, and he slapped her affectionately on the shoulder. "Best black market dealer in the area. Can't speak a word of your language so don't even bother." He started speaking his native tongue, then, quickly and loud, and she responded back animatedly, both of them periodically looking at Temperance with a measuring eye.

"Do you think she's his mother?" she asked. Josef shook his head.

"Murad is an orphan."

Was he? Interesting. And more so that Josef knew it. She looked at him curiously, but he was staring ahead, seemingly trying to interpret what came out of their mouths, although he never joined in trying to say anything, so maybe he was just trying to forestall questioning. Whatever it was, the conversation was soon over, and Morena grabbed Temperance's arm and pulled her into another room.

They weren't bad rooms, despite the tilt of the walls. The roof seemed solid enough, and fine carpets and fabrics were draped everywhere. Soft and brightly colored cushions covered the ground. Morena spoke to Temperance in a quite cheerful tone with a faint lisp due to her teeth, then set to work in a flurry of action that made Temperance dizzy just to watch. Her old clothes went off and were thrown into a bag in the corner before she could even try to cover anything up. Eventually she relaxed and let it happen. After all, she thought, the Mothers had done this all the time. She wasn't thrilled about her breasts being bound but it wasn't hard—Murad, damn him, had been right when he'd claimed she didn't have many assets. She was just about to ask, even though Morena couldn't understand a word, why she had to have her helpto do this when the woman whipped out a large collection of clothes that were very carefully selected, Temperance realized, to make her look like a boy. They were selectively baggy, but of fine cloth, and vests and multiple layers went over to help with the impression. Morena then carefully curled her hair in on itself over the top of her head so it lay almost flat and pinned it there artistically before shoving a hat over it and stepping back to examine her work. Then she smiled and pulled one of the sheets of fabric off a mirror to let Temperance look.

Well, she certainly looked different. Gone was the long, shimmering sheet of hair. Without it, her features looked angular and androgynous, if not boy-like. She looked about her age, and rather like Murad in her features—more like a desert-walker than a farm girl from the south. Morena offered her a cheerful smile and nodded enthusiastically.

"Thank you," she said, even though the woman couldn't understand a word. The woman clasped her arm and pushed her out the door, where Josef and Murad were bickering. To no one's surprise.

"We need a disguise," Murad was saying. He'd changed into very fine clothes: a deep red turban on his head, a vest with fine gold embroidery draped over a rich beige tunic, and polished boots. He looked exotic and dashing. Also not a surprise."It's not just her they'll be looking for, it's us too. And you're way too noticeable."

"So what exactly are you proposing?" Josef asked, voice sour.

"I don't know. Lose the foreign clothes? At least hide that—oh, hello."

They both turned to look at her, and Murad grinned. "Perfect! Morena, as always, you are marvelous. You'll make a perfect servant. But first, speak."

Temperance blinked. "Speak how?"

"Like a man," he said impatiently. "Or at least a boy."

"Like this?" she tried dropping her voice to low and husky. Josef snorted and turned away, hand over his mouth, to hide what Temperance suspected was a laugh. Morena giggled and Murad groaned.

"Mute, then. C'mon, Josef, your turn." He shoved the Prussian into the other room and Morena followed him, whisking him away with a speed and a giggle that might've been lewd. Temperance slid a look at Murad. If his smile had been evil with her, it was positively malignant now.

"You're enjoying this," she said. His eyes slid to her.

"Maybe a little."

There was another giggle from inside and Temperance added, more to herself, "Sounds like Morena is enjoying it too."

Murad's smile broadened into a grin.

He was in there for quite some time. The woman was very thorough. Murad and Temperance wavered around, unsure of their purpose, as they heard some muffled curse words in Prussian, Morena arguing in whatever her language was, and then Josef arguing right back. Then there would be the rustling of cloth and, at one point, a loud splash of water. Every once in a while Temperance would look to Murad to see if they should act, but he just shrugged. So they both waited, eventually settling down on the cushions. Temperance took to examining the tapestries and Murad brought out a knife to sharpen on a stone.

By the time he exited, Josef looked quite different. For one thing, he was out of the foreign clothes that made him seem more bulky than he actually was. Instead, he was wearing clothes that softened his body, hiding its hard and strong elements behind waves of fabric. His clothes were not as nice as Murad's, she noticed, but more along her line of servant-wear. His jawline had been shaved again, leaving him as neat as she'd ever seen him, and his skin had been darkened, just slightly, to hide the freckles and the redness of pale skin that denoted him as a foreigner. The most startling change, however, was his hair. It had been dyed black and surrounded his head in tight curls, no longer tied tightly back and so now free to do what it wished. He still looked like Josef. But he would by no means be recognized easily. However, no amount of changes could hide the golden intensity of his eyes. In his darkened face, with the hair, they stood out even more. With the hair softening the angular bones of his face, he looked almost normal. He'd never be classically handsome, but he had a certain ruggedness and intensity that a girl could grow to fancy, if she liked that kind of thing.

Right now, Temperance wasn't sure if she did or not. But, well, it didn't look bad.

Murad whistled low. "I didn't know your hair curled, Josef."

"It's not something I try to show," Josef said. He sounded distinctly uncomfortable as he pulled his fine silver mirror from the pouch it was held in on his belt and examined his face. "You can tell that it's makeup."

"Only sort of," Temperance offered. "I didn't notice before, but you have the type of features of the Roma that wander through here—the long nose, that jawline, the curly hair…" She trailed off, then continued. "I'm guessing people will just think you're one of them." There was an odd look on Josef's face, but there was so much discomfort on it normally that she dismissed it as nothing.

"Plus," Murad added, irrepressible as always, "once they see those eyes they won't notice anything else. Now pay the nice lady and let's go."

They bickered some more over that, but Josef eventually agreed and pulled the money out of his bag to hand to Morena, who'd been watching the exchange with a knowing smile. Then he dragged them both out to collect the horses.

In their guises it wasn't particularly difficult to reserve a room. The inn owner nearly tripped over himself in an attempt to tend to Murad, who pulled off a remarkably good haughty rich man. Their horses were whisked away, with many promises that they would be very well cared for, and the man followed at Murad's elbow as he strode through the common rooms and halls, commenting on everything from the drapes to the painting quality on the walls. Josef and Temperance, after some impetuous motions from the desert-walker, had fallen into step behind him. Josef had gotten to keep his sword, but Temperance had no idea where the crossbow had gone. He was playing the role of the dependable but, in Murad's words, "not-too-bright" guard. She was the mute servant he'd kindly taken in.

"He gets kind of into this, doesn't he?" she murmured to Josef as Murad and the innkeeper went into the kitchen so Murad could see how his food would be 'prepared.' Josef sighed.

"Yes. I just hope he remembers our budget isn't exactly big."

Temperance would have guessed that based on their camping conditions, but they had been flashing a lot of gold around as soon as they'd gotten into town. Could that be a method of escaping? Did they have enough for her to buy the silence of a few men and a horse, so she could get back to her father?

"Where do you get the budget to kidnap a seeress anyways?" she asked. She didn't think it was normal to get Josef in a chatty mood and was determined to get it out of him. His eyes flickered to her, and his lips curved up.

"Here and there."

That seemed to be the end of that. At last, Murad declared himself satisfied with the room arrangements. Enough gold exchanged hands that Josef went thin-lipped with irritation, and when they arrived, it was to two rooms. The first one had one single, large bed and a warm fireplace. The other two had two small beds, a small little oven, and was quite cramped.

"Murad," the man said, exasperated, as he dropped their bags unceremoniously on the floor of the large room. The desert-walker had made him fetch them, all by himself, and take several trips up the stairs to bring them in. Temperance suspected it had been to exhaust him enough to stop any comments. Josef did look tired, and he swayed slightly, but it hadn't worked. He still had the energy to lecture. "This is absurd. We can't afford this."

"A man of the rank I'm pretending to be would do it anyways," Murad said. "Besides, it would have looked suspicious if I'd only gotten one room. Maybe the seeress could use some privacy?"

"I have a name," she said. They both ignored her.

"She isn't getting it," Josef said. "One of us will stay with her."

"Fine." Murad shrugged. "I'll keep this room and you two will get the other one."

Temperance opened her mouth to protest, then shut it. What was the point? Besides, she'd prefer a bed—any bed—to sleeping on the ground again. There was also the added benefit of Josef being a heavy sleeper. If she did decide to go with them after all—and she hadn't decided yet—this would be a good opportunity. Murad shut the door between the two rooms loudly enough to indicate that this had been his goal all along, and Josef rolled his eyes and gruffly told the girl to get some sleep.

"But I need someplace to get changed," she said.

"Do it here," he said. "I won't look."

It wasn't like he hadn't seen it already. But he kept his word and turned around, gaze resolutely on the wall. Temperance sighed and began pulling on the clothes.

"How did you meet him?"

"Murad?" Only a slight shift indicated that Josef had had to check the instinct to look over his shoulder at her. "A tavern."



Figured. Temperance sighed and winced as she began to undo the careful bindings of Morena's. They'd be a devil to do in the morning but there was no way she was going to sleep like that. She'd end up suffocating. "And when did you decide to kidnap a seer?"

"When I found out you might have what I need. Are you done?"

One of the bags had included women's clothing that Morena had thoughtfully included. Temperance found a nightgown in it and slid it over her head, sighing. The cloth was gloriously soft. "Yes."

"Good. Now it is your turn."

She blinked at him. She hadn't expected that. She'd thought Josef would just sleep in his clothes. Which was stupid, except the last few times he'd done just that, she realized. Clearly sleeping in town would be different. He was staring at her with those light eyes now, waiting, and she spun around, feeling the heat on her cheeks.

There was a sigh, and then a mumbled comment that might've been, "Gods only know how I will get out of this." Then came the rustling of fabric. Temperance slid a glance over her shoulder, not so much interested as curious. Would he have the same scars that Murad did? It appeared he didn't, although she saw one large one on his back, knotted and ridged. It was reddened, not that old and not fully healed either. He was also incredibly hairy. She flushed again and stared straight ahead. "You can turn around now."

Dressed in nightclothes he still had that softer appearance to his body, but he'd tied his dyed hair back into a horsetail. He gave her a look, then nodded to the bed. "Get some sleep. We'll leave early in the morning."

Thinking back to this morning, she couldn't help saying "I doubt it." Then she stared at him. He stared back, not saying a word, and eventually the awkwardness grew too much and she climbed into the bed and dozed off. Her dreams this night were odd, filled with dark-haired, golden eyed boys staring up at a Roma woman as she mixed items, being pulled up onto a saddle of a proud light-eyed man on a horse, and kneeling before the throne of a pale-haired man who smiled at him as if he were his own brother.

She would've expected Josef to keep watch. After all, they were in foreign parts and she was still a captive. But when she woke in the middle of the night, needing a chamber pot, he was sound asleep in the other bed, head propped on one arm and mouth opened in a light snore. Temperance had often heard it said that people looked younger when they slept. Josef didn't. He just looked more like a bear.

It wouldn't have been a bad time to escape. A quick prod confirmed her earlier suspicions—Josef slept like the dead. But then she considered. Murad could always claim that his servant had absconded with his horses. Then the guards would be after her. Her only way to escape that would be to claim her heritage and her position. And she was rather enjoying being anything but the seeress. Just for a little. She might as well see where this went. Eventually they'd be caught. But she thought she could wait it out for just a time longer and see what happened. There was no harm to that, was there?

But in the meantime, she really did need to relieve herself. And she wasn't going to do it in here. No doubt they had a privy somewhere around here. Temperance yawned and walked out of the room, heading down a randomly selected hall in the hopes that this one might contain something. She wasn't too worried about her hair being unbound and her figure obviously female. If there was someone nosy, they wouldn't know what room she'd come from. And besides, perhaps they'd just assume Murad had brought in a girl to entertain him. While it wasn't flattering to think that you could be put in that light, Temperance wasn't too concerned about her reputation. It was amazing how little worry you could feel when you weren't worried about someone recognizing you.

Then again, this might've also been the reason her name had been chosen in the first place. "Temperance"—in other words, may the gods encourage wise decisions to temper your rash nature. She wondered what Josef's name meant. Or Murad's. But she'd heard others names weren't chosen the way her people's were. They were chosen at birth. That seemed ridiculous. How would you know what the person was like then? How could you decide what they needed most?

It was also strange how these kind of thoughts only occurred at night, when she should've really been focused on something else. She sighed and continued down the hall, rubbing at her eyes, when she heard soft, feminine voices coming from a room dimly lit in front of her. Old reflexes from sneaking around with the Mothers made her freeze and press herself against the wall. Which was stupid, because it wasn't like the Mothers were here-

"They have to be here." Mother Joy's voice, sharp, shrill, angry. "This is the only stop outside of the desert for miles. It's the straightest course. They have to be here."

"Perhaps they're behind us." This one was softer. Mother Eloquent had apparently broken her vow for this. As it was an emergency, it made sense. "It can be tricky for outsiders. Perhaps they got lost."

"Ha!" Mother Patience. "One covered his face, but the other did not. Desert-walker. He is as likely to get lost in the desert as any of us. In other words—" because she'd never been able to wait for anyone else to get a word in edgewise "—not."

"So what would you suggest? Waiting here? Moving on? This is a wild goose-chase! I didn't even find her to be an acceptable option in the first place. It didn't add up." Mother Joy again.

"Yes, but she had the gift." Eloquent's voice was still quiet, hoarse with disuse. "So few do when we choose them."

"A gift. I never believed it was the right one. It was too convenient. After so many years, to finally find a seeress with the proper talents? It happens less and less."

"It is a shame." Joy sighed. "They last so briefly. The pills strain them when they're real. But she was young. I thought she might have five years at least."

Her. They were talking about….her. Even Mother Eloquent, whom she'd cared about, seemed to be discussing her as if she was like all the rest. And all the rest seemed awfully disposable. She was scared. Terrified, actually. Why did they care so little, if she was the holy figure? Why did the pills make them last so short of a time? And what did they mean "real?" She shrank back farther and listened.

"Perhaps," it was a slow suggestion from Mother Patience. "We call her dead now. Mourn and then find a new one. True, she might not have a gift. But that is not necessarily a negative. They'll be more biddable. They'll last longer. This might be just the excuse we need to ensure the seer remains in our hands."

"It's heresy." Mother Eloquent, whispered.

"But one we've done before," said Mother Joy, voice harsh. "In the morning we will search the town. We will find her. And if we don't…" A pause. "Then we have our answer."

"But there's another solution." Mother Patience. "We find her and kill her. Blame her death on the kidnappers. It's the perfect solution. We find a new biddable and real seeress, and we're free from her. She will never resurface."

There was a silence. Then a sigh. "It wouldn't be the first time we did it," Joy agreed, reluctantly. "But let's hope it doesn't come to that. Let's hope the kidnappers get to her first. Or drive her mad. Now sleep. It'll be a long day tomorrow."

Temperance listened to the shuffling noises for a moment longer, hoping, praying desperately, that they wouldn't come out. When they didn't, she took one step away, then two, then practically flew back to her room, moving quickly and not caring how much noise she made. She shut the door firmly behind her and shook Josef's shoulder. The man had the blankets pulled up to his nose and was doing an impression of a cocoon.

"Josef. Josef. Wake up."

But the man confirmed her worst suspicions by merely making a grunting noise and rolling over, pulling the pillow over his head. Temperance growled her frustrations and flung open the door between the rooms. Murad was sprawled out on the large bed, one arm dangling over the side and one foot at the edge. His mouth was open and he was drooling. Not attractive. Temperance didn't care as she pushed at his shoulder, impatient. This time, however, the reaction was instantaneous. In a blur of movement too fast for her to catch, Murad was up, Temperance was pulled against him, and there was a very sharp knife against her throat. She gasped, but didn't move. Murad's eyes narrowed, then he swore and pushed her away, putting the pillow back under the knife.

"Ai. Temperance, never do a stupid move like that again. I could've gutted you—"

"They're here," she blurted. Murad went still.


"The Mothers." She was shaking. Why was she shaking? Even the kidnapping had not affected her so. It was stupid. "They're here."

Murad froze, staring at her with dark, dark eyes that glinted in the moonlight coming in from the window. Then he silently reached over and lit the candle.

"So why aren't you with them?" he said. He studied her. If he noticed the trembling, he said nothing, but she noticed how his gaze lingered on her shaking hands. "Seems to me like we should be hung up right now. Or are you playing a game with us, seeress?"

She shook her head, hair flying with the vehemence of the movement. "No. They don't want me. They view me as a nuisance. They were even saying that—that if you don't kill me, they will."

"Killing was not the first thing on our plan."

This was not Murad. She spun to see Josef. The man had, with surprising stealth, managed to pull himself together. There were dark circles under his eyes that the candlelight cast into sharp relief. His hair had been pulled back, but he was dressed in his usual clothes and solemn. The flickering light of the candle made him almost appear like a statue.

"Nor was it the second," he added. "It seems they'll have to wait for a while."

Murad caught Temperance's hand and tugged on it to get her attention back to him. "Did they see you?"

"No. They don't know we're here."

"Right then." Murad's eyes flickered to Temperance, and even though she wasn't in the greatest state she noticed that the Prussian gave a slight nod. Then Murad turned to her and offered her a dazzling smile, promptly dropping to one knee.

"M'lady," he said, mimicking Josef's gruff accent and odd phrasing, "we officially offer you our protection from the terrors of the, uh…" He dropped the act for a moment as he considered. "Mothers. All we ask for is your help in our journey. Once you've finished the task at the end of the road, we'll happily escort you to wherever you want us to go. As long as it's not death," he added. "Not doing the whole afterlife thing. Or anywhere that'll get us hanged."

Josef sighed. "Thank you, Murad. I believe that should just about cover it."

"What do you mean?" Temperance frowned. "Are you offering to guard me? You kidnapped me!"

"I'd much rather have you willing." Josef again. It made sense. While Murad was friendly, she'd always got the impression it was Josef running the show. She turned to look at him, but he was just leaned against the door, arms folded over his chest. "So yes, protection in return for your help once we're back in Prussia. Then someone will return you home."

Murad went still. Temperance didn't notice. She was too busy staring at Josef. "Someone?"

He met her gaze calmly. "Have a problem with that?"

Yes, and I really want to go back to the Mothers to die or be drugged for the rest of my life. She shook her head. "No."

He smiled. "Good. Now, time to move out. Murad, get dressed. Temperance, you too. You go into that room so you can both have your precious privacy. I'll stay here with Murad."

Because that would be private. Still, she was grateful to have the moment and the privacy. She needed the time to think, and in the room she could bind herself again and slide on the male clothing. For a time she just sat on the edge of the bed, staring at the wall and her hands twisting together as she taught herself how to breathe again. In and out, steady and implacable. She could hear low murmurs in the other room, in another language and lacking the usual heat the two men usually argued with. Once she felt like she could handle things again, she rose and set to work. Once the difficult stuff was over, she twisted her hair and bound it up under the cap, then slipped back in. Both Murad and Josef had abandoned their disguises. Josef's skin was still artificially tanned and his hair black, but they were in loose, comfortable clothing that was good for riding and fighting, and from that, Temperance guessed they weren't planning on using the front door.

"We don't want anyone to point fingers at us," Murad said. "And with the amount of money I spent, the innkeeper will really want to chat it up unless I leave him another tip. So we'll just leave now. How are you at climbing out of windows, seeress?"

Despite the panic she'd felt earlier, Temperance felt a rush of exhilaration at the cocky grin on Murad's face. Not because he looked good while wearing it, but because she was doing something. She was trying to escape the life she'd hated. She was doing something. She was, in a weird way, taking charge, and God did it feel good. Plus, she'd always wanted to climb out of the window.

"Guess we'll find out."

Josef's brows climbed, but he just opened it, motioning for Murad to lead first. Murad fetched a rope from the pack under the bed, threw the pack at Josef, then threw the rope out the window, tied it to the edge of the bed, and leapt out in a whoosh of billowing cloth. There was a soft thump as his feet hit the ground, and Temperance leaned out to stare down at him. He motioned her down. She looked at Josef, but the man just shrugged. Right then. Apparently she was supposed to follow. Suddenly this seemed like not a good decision. She swallowed, grabbed the robe, then slid down. The rope burned her hands, but it was a short drop. She released the rope quickly once her feet hit the ground, and she rubbed her hands together. Ouch.

"Josef," Murad hissed. "Hurry up."

There was silence. Then the packs were flung out of the window, one by one. Murad swore and hurried to catch them. One nearly fell on his head but Temperance pulled him out of the way just in time. Murad flashed her another smile, but then they both had to move as the rope suddenly dropped next to them.

"You muraka! How are you going to get down?"

No immediate answer. Then a large figure flung itself out of the window. Temperance and Murad dived to the side, but Josef hit the ground rolling. He picked himself up and seemed none the worse for wear, despite flying out of a second-story window. He picked up the packs and tossed one to Murad and Temperance, then gave them a look that clearly said 'what are you waiting for?' and went to the stables to get their horses. He was already saddling his horse when they arrived. It had taken them a while to recover from their shock. However, Murad froze again when he spotted four white horses in the other stalls. They belonged to the Mothers. Looking at them now, and comparing them to Josef's sturdy mount, her own rather fleabitten one, and Murad's proud stallion, she could see why Murad was staring. They had a fine line of their neck, a proud tilt to their head, and were well-shaped. For horses. The fourth one, she realized, was probably for her. Or whatever seeress they decided to take in once she was dead. Either option was possible.

"Beautiful," Murad breathed. "I hadn't realized when they were pulling the carts."

"They're horses." Josef's voice was curt as he tightened the band around the horse's stomach. Not cruelly. But it was easy to tell he wanted out. "White ones. Don't even think about it."

"Oh, but Josef." The longing in Murad's voice was palpable as he approached the one closest to him and began stroking its neck. It nickered softly and nudged him. "How could we turn this chance down? Mine stays, of course, but yours…And Temperance's, of course."

"Thanks for that consideration." But Temperance had to admit, eyeing the horse they'd taken from the bandits, that it—she leaned over slightly—he didn't seem to appreciate being ridden. Maybe this was for the better.

"Did you miss the white bit?" Josef would not be moved. "We'll be spotted before we can get out the door. I'd bet money that everyone knows these are the horses of the seeress. Am I correct?" This was to Temperance, who nodded reluctantly.

"Yes. One or two, perhaps. But four? We'd be spotted."

"One, then." Murad's voice was wheedling. "We could use a remount. Temperance's could carry baggage. It's perfect. You could take—"

"Don't be an idiot." The Prussian shook his head. "A horse like that is wasted on me. Give it to the girl." He wasn't meeting her eyes. "Her seat is better than mine. Do it quick. I have something else to do."

"What's that?"

Josef didn't answer. But he did walk across and open the stable doors for the horses. He grabbed a rope, pulled it around the first horse's neck, and paused only to unsheathe his sword before leading the horse out. There was a whack, a whinny, then hoofbeats. Josef returned to two spooked white horses. He led them both out as well and repeated the process. When he returned, he looked smug.

"That should stop them from following us," he said. Murad had proven to be incredibly efficient at saddling the horses and was almost done, but Temperance was staring and not working at all. Josef arched his brows at her.

"Get to work, seeress," he said. "This is for you, remember?"

She felt her cheeks heat, but said nothing as she set to work. Soon they were riding out of the city, Temperance on a white horse that could keep up with Murad's, and Josef's lagging behind. One time, when they'd paused to wait for Josef and were watching the sun rise over the horizon of the desert, Temperance realized Murad was laughing.

"What is it?" she asked.

"Nothing, really." Murad chuckled. "Just that this is the most bungled job in my life."

She frowned. "So why are you laughing?"

"Because, little seeress." Murad shrugged. "If you can't laugh, what's the point?"