Sam added a log to the fire and sat down. He glanced at La’ss’a to make sure she was preoccupied watching their prisoner. Then he leaned back and regarded the paladin steadily.
“I’ve seen you before, you know,” he said. Oren blinked, startled.
“You have? When?”
“About eight months ago, in Amn, actually. I don’t expect you’d remember me, we didn’t exactly meet. But I remember you. In fact, I really should thank you. You’re at least partially responsible for my being here today.”
Oren shook his head helplessly. “I truly cannot recall anything I might have done to help you.”
Sam chuckled. “You didn’t help me. You were with the men that broke down my door and threw me out of my home. You arrested a bunch of my friends, and two days later they were executed for smuggling. I only barely escaped through a window, but it wasn’t much of an escape. I spent two months living on the streets before I tried to pick the wrong pocket and ended up, well, here.”
“I see. I am sorry for your loss.”
“Isn’t that kind of a weird thing to say? Shouldn’t you be lecturing me on how smuggling is a crime and you were only doing your job?”
“Well, both of those things are true; smuggling is a crime, and I was doing my job. But you already know that, so why should I tell you? It doesn’t make it, well, right I guess. It doesn’t . . .” Oren sighed. “I’m not really sure how to explain what I mean. I’m not much of a paladin, I’m afraid.”
“Hmm,” Sam said, staring into the fire morosely.
“If I may ask, how did you get involved in smuggling?”
“What? Oh, just sort of fell into it I suppose. It was work, it got me a place to sleep and food to eat, and my friends were there.”
“And you never thought that it was against the law and you could get caught?”
“It was better than starving. Where else did I have to go?”
“You could apprentice somewhere . . . you have skills, don’t you?”
“Hah! Clearly you’ve never tried to do anything like that. Besides, by the time I was old enough to think about that sort of thing, it was too late to think about changing tracks. If I turned on the crew they’d kill me.”
“Yet these were your friends?”
“Yeah, but it was their lives on the line, too.” Oren nodded, staring into the fire for a time, himself. “How’d you get into being a paladin, then?”
Oren’s mouth twisted into an expression somewhat resembling a smile. “Just sort of fell into it, I suppose. I was an orphan left in the temple, I was raised into it.”
Sam shook his head. “So we’re not really that different, you and me. What I don’t get is, how did I, who hurt no one and minded my own business, become the bad guy, while you, who broke into a house, trashed the place and sent people to the block, are called the good guy? It doesn’t make sense to me.”
“It doesn’t make much sense to me, either, to tell the truth. You know, I found out later, after that raid, that the informant that brought the smuggling charges before the order was a Shadow Thief trying to knock out the competition. I asked one of the senior knights whether we’d made a mistake and he said no, we ended a smuggling operation. Politics weren’t our concern. I kept asking questions, though . . . I think that’s the reason why I’m out here right now, in fact. So I suppose, in a way I have you to thank.”
Sam laughed. “I think both of us are better off out here.”
Oren smiled a bit hesitantly. “You are probably correct.”
“The next time I’m in the city, I’m taking a real close look at these Shadow Thieves, though.”
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