She pounded on the door of the smithy’s cottage and then waited, tapping her foot. Gavin’s plan seemed like a sound one, but if she made a wrong move here, the whole thing would fall apart.
The door opened. “Hello,” said Retnik Greyson. His eyebrows were raised, and his face was covered with patches of a black residue. Soot, maybe. “You’re early.”
She knew it. But she didn’t plan to admit it. “Is it ready?”
He stared. “I—no, I’ve been working on it all week. It won’t be ready for another couple of days. You said two weeks.”
She nodded. “I did. And it has now been two weeks.”
She pulled him out onto his doorstep. It was twilight; a few curious neighbors watched from their windows. The red stripes decorating her leathers marked her clearly as a warrior of the Crown. “Do you call me a liar, Smithy Greyson?”
He shook his head. “Of course not.”
“If you don’t have the king’s order ready, I’ll have to take you in for questioning.”
He gaped at her, but there was nothing he could say. No one had seen her the last time she was here, in the middle of the night, so he could not appeal to his neighbors. It was her word against his, and unfortunately for him, her word carried much more weight.
“Perhaps,” he said in a level voice, although she could see a muscle in his jaw twitching, “you would like to come around back and see how it looks so far?”
“I’m afraid we’re in a rush,” she said, shaking her head. “If you can finish it on the road as we go, I’ll try to ensure that you get off with just a warning.”
In fact, she intended to do quite the opposite.
“How kind of you,” he said. There was an edge to his voice that made Ayalah remember his massive arms, their brute strength. He beckoned toward his door. “Would you care to come in while I get my things ready to go?”
She entered warily. He wouldn’t dare hurt her here, before witnesses, but what would he do once the trees sheltered them? She rested her hand on the pommel of her sword and watched him gather his supplies.