Tufted_Titmouse_m17-67-821_l_1.jpgThe target advanced calmly, the sleeves of silken clothes grazed each stone he passed. Aiana shadowed a few feet back, her dull green gown forcing life from her eyes. Elsewhere, this outfit might seem out of place but it served as perfect camouflage in the Red Keep. Or at least it was less noticeable than her usual hooded cloak. As long as Brenum wasn't meeting anyone too important, Aiana was free to follow. She was fortunate one of Brenum's aides had been kind enough to reveal his location. Otherwise, she might have been under-dressed.

Tailing her employer was easy. The slight hop in his step clashed with discipline of patrolling guards. His loud footsteps masked her own, combined with an easy gait to match. However, well-timed shoe clicks wouldn't shield her from his gaze, not with the hallways this barren. Thankfully, he never turned back.

Brenum stopped suddenly, catching the attention of his contact. Aiana strolled past them without breaking stride. Swiftly, she turned the corner and froze before gradually leaning beyond its edge.

She watched them exchange pleasantries. It took her a few moments to recognize this court official, but she couldn't recall his name. Admittedly she should have been paying more attention to the upcoming trial. After all, Brenum requested she investigate House Eisengold for their part in the arrest. He planned to use them somehow, but she could not fathom why. They weren't the main force arresting House Sekhmet. If he really wanted to save House Rhyferth's allies, why not look into Lord Crakehall? Wasn't he the one commanding the arresting forces?

Aiana listened intently as Brenum's began his inquiries. She winced as her employer's lips curled into his pleasant smile. What did he have to be happy about? House Rhyferth was ruin, selling bobbles just to fund their stay. Any other financial advisor would panic, but not Brenum. He always had another plan. Maybe that explained this meeting. House Sekhmet's spread of infestation seemed irrelevant comparing to the coin overflowing from their young lord's pockets.

Brenum asked about the Dornish prisoners. He absorbed his companion's words, eager to hear something new. Brenum had to be desperate if he was bribing others. His recent meeting with Jemma Rosewood proved that already. Anyone willing to deal with criminals was beyond hopeless. Aiana smiled, amused by the irony. Wasn't she doing the same thing?

No. Aiana never invited the Titmice's attention. Brenum had demanded it from Rosewood. Everything that happened, be it Rhyferth's ruin or her own betrayal, all of it was on him.

Aiana paused as Brenum spoke. She hung on his every utterance, but couldn't help but lose focus amidst such pointless fluff. Truth was, Aiana was as much to blame for her misfortune. She didn't need to come to Rosewood's meeting. Nothing stopped her from saying no. But Aiana couldn't help herself. She was just too damn curious.

That's why she was still here, wasn't it? The Titmice knew it, that's why they picked her. They knew even without their urging, Aiana would still be clutching this coarse wall. Brenum's plans were worth more to them than any coin, and who better to acquire them than his most trusted spy?

Aiana leaned back behind the wall. The uneven surface of each brick dug into her back, bringing perspective with each pang. The Titmice weren't forcing her to do anything. They simply presented an offer. Nothing stops her from saying no. She could walk out of the keep right now, leave Brenum to his scheming. It'd take some time to reach their inn. Maybe after the trek, she'd finish her book while awaiting whatever task Brenum required in service of House Rhyferth-

"House Rhyferth has helped spread this infestation. They would have left King's Landing with House Sekhmet's riches in exchange for their part in expanding..."

Aiana couldn't believe what she was hearing. Brenum spreading slander...who would have thought? No wonder he was so happy. Brenum always had a plan, always worked to "help" House Rhyferth rise above its infamy. Had that always been a lie? Maybe all his "unlucky" investments had been a means to an end.

Aiana let her thoughts swarm and splinter. It didn't matter to her if House Rhyferth fell, not while she remained outside it. But...everyone had such high hopes for its success, especially Brenum. Out of all them, he'd spend the most time engineering its comeback. What changed? She had to have another look...

"Aiana?"

Brenum's words caught her off-guard. He excused himself from his conversation, approaching with head held high. An earnest smile and cruel, kind eyes made her stone. How could she be so sloppy? She tried to avoid his prying gaze.

"Brenum."

"You're in an interesting position, Aiana." Brenum's voice was too calm, alarmingly confident. He crossed his arms as he continued. "I will forgive your recent transgressions because you've been so useful in the past."

Aiana blinked. Recent transgressions? Had refusing one order insulted him so dearly? Had he forgotten about her loyal years of service? Obviously not, otherwise he wouldn't be throwing it in her face.

"I'm giving you an opportunity to prove your loyalty. Promise you're on my side and we won't have any problems."

Aiana chuckled. Brenum felt threatened by her, of all people. She never thought she'd see the day.

Aiana stood firm. "I don't like being threatened."

"It's not a threat." Brenum cooed, concern plastered on his face, "Are you with me?"

Of course it was, not that he'd admit it. Then again, that wasn't his style. Brenum didn't promise the world nor threaten it. He wouldn't plea for aid or explain his actions. Brenum didn't even scold her for watching him. That would require him to care.

Aiana always knew she was disposable. It should hurt to admit it, but Aiana only felt relief. Before she had so many options. How nice of Brenum to make her choice so easy.

But she still struggled to say the word.

"Y-yes." An obvious lie, but a comfortable habit. Besides, Aiana was still curious...

Brenum wasn't.

"You don't mean it. If you're not with me, you're against me. Consider yourself unemployed."

A thousand questions and excuses swirled and blended into white noise, leaving Aiana only one coherent word. "Fine."

With a smirk, Aiana took her leave.

The Titmice would be overjoyed to learn of Brenum's treachery. She would sing for those songbirds soon, but not before returning to the inn. Despite her years of loyalty, Brenum had none. Fine. If he wanted to get rid of her, so be it. But she wouldn't leave graciously. He hired her to serve House Rhyferth. For her last act of service, it seemed only fair to inform them of the traitor in their midst.


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