“I thought you had returned to your home in Fairmont territory, Lady Farina.” Farina drew back her hood. “I couldn’t leave. My father came here after learning there would be no war and told me to stay until I knew it was safe for me to go home.” Ethan showed her the note. She scanned it then nodded. “Yes, Ethan, it came from who you think it came from.” “Do you know who could be continuing Dorian Swanson’s blackmail efforts on Tucker?” Farina looked grave. “I do. I was hoping you’d make it here before they made their move on him.” Brian had his bow in one hand. “Please tell us.” The door shook and rattled under a heavy blow. Farina spun around and drew her longbow. Ethan’s sword was in his hand and Tucker took down the double bladed axe hanging off the wall. “He’s gotten his final payment from me. Open the door and let the bastard in!” Lucius pulled the door open and kept himself behind it as he did so. Ethan’s eyes widened when Tucker’s other blackmailer came in. “Benjamin Morley!” Benjamin Morley ran the leatherworking shop. He was a big hulking brute with a lively gleam in his eyes and his size belied his intelligence. “Time’s up, Tucker. It’s time to pay.” Tucker’s voice was firm and he knew Benjamin hadn’t seen the axe in his hands. “I’m done paying.” “Then you die.” Ethan’s voice was as cold as the blade of his sword. “I think not. Morley, you have until the count of ten to tell me why before I have you arrested for extortion and blackmail.” Morley’s eye fell on Ethan and he blinked. Then he PAGE 180 saw Brian with an arrow pointed at his chest. Tucker’s calm demeanor should have been his first clue. Morley spoke in a normal tone but he didn’t drop his weapon. “Selling children is against the law.” Tucker shook his head sadly. “We didn’t sell him, Morley, we gave him to them. They couldn’t have children of their own and we couldn’t handle two. I told Dorian that but he didn’t listen. It was either pay what he demanded or lose Brian forever.” Morley frowned, but in thought. “That’s not what he told me... Then again, he always was a bad gambler.” Ethan was curious. “Why did you continue the blackmail after Dorian was executed?” “I didn’t see the harm in it, honestly. Though with Dorian out of the picture the payment was much smaller, so Tucker wouldn’t be so hard up on account of what was going on with the other fishermen.” Tucker hadn’t been the only businessman in Marshlight whose business was suffering due to others underpricing their goods for more sales. Farina spoke softly but there was an undercurrent to her tone that kept everyone alert. “How many months have you been losing business, Mr Morley?” Morley sighed and lowered his weapon, a large mallet he used to work the larger pieces of leather so he could shape them properly. “I’ve been suffering for nearly five years now. Dorian always took the largest chunk of the money he got from you, Tucker, said it was because he thought the whole thing up. It kept me afloat for a while after he died cause I got squirrely with my profits.” He stored the money away instead of spending it. Fourteen years of blackmail had kept him in fair to good standing with the bill collectors until the border skirmish that took so many. He’d been giving away his goods to those with little coin because underneath it all he had a good heart. But the other merchants kept luring away those who could pay top coin for anything they made, so he began to lose money.