Vendril came awake with a knife in his hand but caught himself before he stabbed anybody. He was in an unfamiliar bed, pressed against a warm body, and the hand that had woken him was shaking her shoulder, not his. He heard someone stumble back with a curse, and squeezed his eyes shut before blinking again and trying to see.
"Easy, easy," said a woman's voice. "I'm just trying to get Amra up so she isn't late for her shift."
Amra? Oh, right: that was the guardswoman, the one who had taken him out for al'cul, the one whose bunk he was currently occupying. Well, that didn't go the way I expected. This sort of thing didn't happen to him; it happened to Geddy, or sometimes Alexej. "Sorry," he said.
Amra groaned. "Al'cul," she said, "is not worth it."
Vendril wasn't at all sure of that. True, he had woken up in a human woman's bed; true, he wasn't immediately sure where his clothing was or whence he'd drawn the knife that was currently in his hand; true, his head was pounding and his eyes were all but glued shut; but that haunting sense of guilt was gone, replaced by the desire to do something even crazier than his erratic memories suggested the previous night had been.
"Juice," said the other guard, and Amra sat up. Vendril wriggled halfway out of the blankets and looked around for someplace to set the knife.
"Helios, Amra." The other guard looked disgusted. "You slept with a--" Her eyes widened and her expression went blank. "He's the scout."
Amra poured the contents of the pewter cup down her throat, then nodded. She half-turned to Vendril. "How are you doing?"
"Better," he said. "Even with the hangover."
"Al'cul is a harsh mistress."
"But it did as you said," he told her. "Burned away my cares and most of my common sense."
"So what are you going to do now?"
The other guardswoman chuckled. "If you two were into the al'cul last night, then I think you've already managed that."
Vendril grinned. "Then... something crazy."
Amra grinned back. "All right. You know where to find me if you want more of this."
"I do." He did. But right now, he needed to find out if his friend the gnome was alive again yet. And then he needed to find out what it might take to rescue the Baron... and the Baron's family.