“What in the vexing fuck.”
Vashe folded his arms.
“You stuck them in your belt again, didn’t you.”
“Yeah. I’m- I’m sorry, Vashe, I-” Svelen covered his face with his hand.
“Where’s the last place you had it?” Nvara said.
“Far as I know?” Svelen said, from behind his hand. “The target.”
“Meaning my- my master’s house,” Alix said.
“Could have lost it on the way,” he added. It was a thin skin of hope over the teeth of blind panic. His fingers knotted together behind his back.
“If we did, it’s gone. Someone else would have found it by now. Taken it back to the Cathedral.” Nvara’s nostrils flared.
“It’s all right.” Vashe put a hand on Svelen’s shoulder. “We still have one glove. It’s not the end of the world.”
“It’s close,” Svelen said. He breathed out shakily.
“…You don’t need both of them?” Alix asked.
She’d gone with her master to the temple a few times and watched the priests weave lio- what common folk called dreamstuff. They used goggles to see into dreams and gloves to carry lio out of them, and their set looked just like the set the rat runners had. At the temple, they said you need two gloves, and even then, you could only get so much lio from any one person’s dream. It was hard to find, they said, and risky to go into dreams. How they did it was a most holy secret; all Alix knew was that it had something to do with the goggles and gloves.
“No,” Vashe said. “We tested that. You can only get one hand’s worth, but-”
“It’s not gonna be nearly enough,” Svelen said. He swallowed, hard. “For any of the things we were wanting to do.”
“Well,” Alix said. “We’d better go find it.”
“Wait, wait wait wait. What do you mean, ‘we’?” Nvara said.
“…Me and Svelen? Who else did you think?” Alix’s lips twisted to one side.
“You don’t get it, do you?” Nvara laughed, harsh and barking. “There’s no ‘we’ here. There’s us and there’s you. And we can’t trust you.”
“I do,” Svelen said. He took a step away from her, back towards Alix.
“Yeah, but you trust everyone,” Nvara said.
“Shut it!” Vashe pinched the bridge of his nose.
Everyone got quiet. Vashe sighed.
“Stop vexin’ dithering. It’s gonna be light soon. Not gonna be much any of us can do once everyone wakes up.”
“That’s not true.”
Alix brushed her bangs to one side.
“M- The man who lives there, he has really strict habits. He keeps everyone on a timetable. And I worked there. I know the timetable.”
She looked from Vashe to Nvara. Nvara folded her arms; Vashe’s fingers curled in Svelen’s hair. Svelen breathed out, shakily.
“It’s true,” he said. “We could maybe go in there without anyone seeing us. He goes to the Cathedral every morning at exactly nine and stays there for three hours.”
“If we hurry, we can get back in through the slaves’ door and look around,” Alix cut in. “If someone catches me, I can lie.”
“What about me?” Svelen asked.
“Any way we could forge a note? You could be there picking up something for ‘your master’,” Alix said.
“I mean, we could try, but someone might recognise me.”
“If we cover up your freckles? You’d be surprised,” she said. “Keep your mouth shut, put a hood on, no one will notice.”
“…It could work,” Svelen said.
“Yeah.” She grinned.
“Wait. Hold it.” Vashe frowned. “Before you two go swimmin’ off into the triple-vexed unknown.”
“What?” Alix asked.
“Have either of you eaten? I know you ain’t.”
Vashe nudged Svelen’s shoulder. Svelen groaned, and reached up to ruffle Vashe’s hair.
“I have too eaten. I had an entire apple before we left.”
“Ay, me. You’re gonna turn into a feather at this rate. Nvara- where’s the pot? We’re getting you fed,” Vashe said. “And slept if you can manage, but-”
His brows lowered.
“I don’t think I’m gonna be able to,” Svelen said. “Not until we find that glove.”