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manners,  It is not the custom to accept payment for anything that a Comyn
high-Lord condescends to accept, sir.
Kerwin gave in gracefully, not wanting to make a scene, but he felt
embarrassed. How the devil could he get the other things he wanted? Just go
and ask for them? The Comyn seemed to have a nice little racket going, but he
wasn t larcenous enough to enjoy it. He was used to working for what he
wanted, and paying for it.
He tucked the package under his arm, and walked along the street. It felt
curiously different and pleasant, to walk through a Darkovan city as a citizen,
not an outsider, not an interloper. He thought briefly of Johnny Ellers, but
that was another life, and the years he had spent with the Terran Empire were
like a dream.
 Kerwin?
He looked up to see Auster, clad in green and scarlet, standing before him.
Auster said, pleasantly for him,  It occurred to me that you might get lost. I
had business in the city and I thought perhaps I might find you in the
marketplace.
 Thanks, Kerwin said.  I wasn t lost yet, but the streets are a little confusing.
Good of you to come after me. He was startled at the friendly gesture; Auster
alone, of all the circle, had been persistently unfriendly.
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Auster shrugged, and suddenly, as clearly as if Auster had spoken, Kerwin
sensed it, clear patterned:
He s lying. He said that so I wouldn t ask his business down here. He didn t
come to meet me and he s sore about it. But he shrugged the thought aside.
What the hell, he wasn t Auster s keeper. Maybe the man had a girl down
here, or a friend, or something. His affairs were none of Kerwin s business.
But why did he think he had to explain to me why he was in the city?
They had fallen into step together, turning their steps back in the direction of
the Tower, which lay like a long arm of shadow over the marketplace. Auster
paused.
 Care to stop somewhere and have a drink before we get back?
Although he appreciated the friendly offer, Kerwin shook his head.  Thanks.
I ve been stared at enough for one day. I m not that much of a drinker,
anyhow. Thanks all the same. Another time, maybe.
Auster gave him a quick look, not friendly, but understanding. He said,
 You ll get used to being stared at on one level. On another, it keeps getting
worse. The more you re isolated with with your own kind the less you re
able to tolerate outsiders.
They walked for a moment, shoulder to shoulder. Behind him, then, Kerwin
heard a sudden yell. Auster whirled, giving Kerwin a hard, violent shove;
Kerwin lost his footing, taken off balance, slipped and fell sprawling as
something hurtled past and struck the wall behind him. A flake of stone
ricocheted off, striking Kerwin s cheek, and laid it open to the bone.
Auster had slid off balance and fallen to his knees; he hauled himself to his
feet, looking warily around, picked up the heavy paving-stone someone had
hurled with what could have been a deadly accuracy.
Kerwin said,  What the hell! He picked himself up, staring at Auster.
Auster said stiffly,  I apologize 
Kerwin cut him short.  Forget it. You saved me a nasty bruise. If that thing
had hit me amidships, I could have been killed. He touched his cheek with
careful fingers.  Who threw that damn thing?
 Some malcontent, Auster said, and looked round, unquiet.  Strange things
are abroad in Arilinn these days. Kerwin, do me a favor?
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 I guess I owe you one at that.
 Don t mention this to the women or to Kennard. We have enough to worry
about now.
Kerwin frowned; but finally nodded. Silently, side by side, they walked up
toward the Tower. It was surprising how much at ease he felt with Auster, in
spite of the fact that Auster obviously disliked him. It was as if they d known
each other all their lives. Being isolated with your own kind, Auster had said,
Was Auster his own kind?
He had two facts to chew on. One, Auster, who didn t like him, had moved
automatically, by instinct to shield him from a thrown rock; by standing
still, he could have let Kerwin be hurt and saved himself some aggravation
and trouble. But even more than Auster s strange behavior, was the
surprising event of the rock. Despite all the deference shown the Comyn by
the people of Arilinn, there was somebody in Arilinn who would like to see
one of them dead.
Or was it the half-Terran interloper who was supposed to be killed? Kerwin
suddenly wished he had not given Auster his promise. He d have liked to talk
it over with Kennard.
When the joined the others in the hall that night, Kennard looked strangely at
his bandaged cheek, and if Kennard had then asked a point-blank question,
Kerwin might have answered he had not promised Auster to lie about it but
Kennard said nothing, and so Kerwin only told him about the shopkeeper and
the boots, mentioning his own disquiet at the custom. The older man threw
back his head and guffawed.
 My dear boy, you ve given the man prestige I suppose a Terranan would
say, free publicity that will last for years! The fact that a Comyn of Arilinn,
even one who s not very important, came into his shop and actually bargained
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