Excerpt from Death Plot by Gail Z. Martin
Questions nagged at him as he followed the men. Who’s paying them? Someone from Principality—or Eastmark? Are they trying to change something here, or there? Other than providing a reason for war, what would change with Alcion dead?
His quarry stopped by a run-down tavern. Jonmarc kept on walking, doing his best to take in details without appearing to give the men or their destination a second glance. Crippled Goat Tavern had seen better days. The wood of its sign was split, and the painted lettering was faded. Several panes in its windows were cracked, and none of the glass was clean enough to see through. The whole area smelled of wood smoke and horse shit, urine and stale beer. Even the strumpets in the alley next to the inn looked as if they were past their prime, shivering in torn shawls and stained, tattered gowns.
A few blocks past the Crippled Goat, Jonmarc doubled back. There were still plenty of festival-goers in the street, enough, he hoped, to hide him in case anyone had seen him go past the tavern. This time, he chanced another look as he passed, but saw little except lights and the silhouettes of people through the tavern’s filthy windows. He did not slow his pace, or look for long, just a glance to fix the details in mind. The four men were nowhere to be seen, and a quick look behind him on either side of the street assured him that they were not still among the crowd.
Valjan will bring an entire squad, Jonmarc thought. That should be more than enough to take care of four ruffians. He was nearly to the plaza with its ragtag entertainers when someone in the crowd shoved him hard from the side. Jonmarc stumbled, and another man pushed him off balance. A sharp pain radiated behind ear and the world spun, growing dark as he dropped to his knees and then fell face-down in the snow.