He lost a portion of his exasperation; after all, he and Martis were old friends, and she did have a point. "Look, when have I ever sent you a guard that couldn't do the job? I think this time I've really found the perfect match for you--he's quiet, half the time you don't even know he's there, in fact--and Mart, the lad's good."
"Him? Ben, have you lost what little mind you ever had? Who told you he was good?"
"Nobody," he replied, affronted. "I don't take anyone's word on the guards I hire. I tested him myself. The boy moves so fast he doesn't need armor, and as for those two toy swords of his, well--he's good. He came within a hair of taking me down."
Martis raised an eyebrow in surprise. To her certain knowledge, it had been years since anyone could boast of taking Trebenth down--or even coming close.
"Why's he dress himself up like a friggin' faggot, then?"
"I don't know, Mart. Ask him yourself. I don't care if my guards wear battle-plate or paint themselves green, so long as they can do the job. Mart, what's bothering you? You're not usually so damn picky. You generally save your complaining till the job's over."
Martis collapsed tiredly into a chair, shoving aside a box of tagged herbs and a pile of wrinkled clothing. Trebenth saw with sudden concern the lines of worry crossing her forehead and her puffy, bruised-looking eyelids.
"It's the job. Guild business--internal problems."
"Somebody need disciplining?"
"Worse. Gone renegade--and he's raising power with blood-magic. He was very good before he started this; I've no doubt he's gotten better. If we can't do something about him now, we'll have another Sable Mage-King on our hands."
Trebenth whistled through his teeth. "A black adept in the making, eh? No wonder they're sending you."
Martis sighed. "Just when I'd begun to think the Guild would never set me to anything but teaching again. But that's not what's troubling me, old friend. I knew him--a long and close association. He was one of my best students."