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Sam pulled one sword off the wall, reaching with his right hand first, then reconsidering and grabbing it in his left hand. He brandished the first sword in his left hand, then reached for the other with his right hand. He tried to grab the other sword’s hilt, fumbling with it for a second before it slipped out of his hand and fell onto the table, knocking over several small bottles and sending them rolling to the floor.

Lachlan crossed the small room and reached for the fallen sword. He picked it up.

“Hey,” said Sam. “I wanted both swords.”

“If you have both swords, one or both of us is going to end up extremely decapitated,” whispered Lachlan. “And keep your voice down.”

Four sets of footsteps approached, and the voices were loud enough that Lachlan had no trouble hearing what they were saying.

“They’re in my weapon storage room,” said one voice. “You three wait here.”

The speaker’s accent sounded Indian with a hint of American. Her tone was measured yet clipped, with an authoritative edge.

“Wait, you have a weapon storage room?” said a second voice. The speaker sounded American. She had a very slight Southern twang, but rather than having a stereotypical slow drawl, she spoke as though she’d recently downed about ten shots of espresso. “Why am I not surprised you’ve got a weapon storage room?”

“Are you sure you’ll be okay? We don’t know who or what’s in there.” said a third voice. This voice sounded familiar, but Lachlan couldn’t place it.

“I’m more than capable of handling myself,” said the authoritative voice. “I doubt you three could say the same.”

Lachlan relaxed a fraction. This didn’t sound like a conversation between bloodthirsty monsters.

The door opened, and Sam brandished his sword with surprising grace.

A woman’s silhouette appeared in the doorway. She had two strange shapes over her shoulders that Lachlan first thought were strange, tall shoulder pads, then realized were two axes strapped to her back.

Sam lowered his sword a fraction.

The woman switched on a lantern that lay on the desk, giving Lachlan a better look at her facial expression.

She did not look pleased.

“Would you like to explain what you’re doing in my bedroom, rifling through my desk?” she said. “And put those swords down. You look ridiculous.”

Sam lowered the sword to his side, looking sheepish.

“Maybe he looks ridiculous,” said Lachlan. “I happen to think I look rather awesome and badass.”

The woman scoffed.

“I’m not a threat to you, and you two idiots wouldn’t know what to do with those swords if I was.”

“Forgive me for being suspicious,” said Lachlan, “but how do we know you’re not a threat to us?”

“Because if I wanted to kill you, I could have easily done so already.”

“Huh. Fair enough.”

The woman crossed her arms.

“You still haven’t explained what you’re doing in my room.” She looked down at the floor and frowned as she spotted the trail of faint, bloody footprints from Sam’s shoes. “Or why you’ve tracked dirt into my house.”

Sam slid his shoes off and kicked them toward the corner of the room.

“We were just looking around,” said Sam. “All the other houses were empty, so we thought this one was too.”

“Hm,” said the woman. “I guess I can excuse you breaking in here. That was an understandable mistake. What’s not understandable is why you thought it was acceptable to ransack my desk.”

Lachlan paused, unable to think of a reply. In retrospect, what they’d done hadn’t been such a good idea.

“Um, such is the folly of youth?” he finally said.

“Even at five years old, I knew better than to dig through another person’s things.” The woman sighed. “So, I guess the two of you are stuck here just like the young ladies in the other room–although calling them ‘young ladies’ feels like stretching the truth.”

“We’re looking for a ‘young lady’, actually,” said Sam. “My coworker Chelsea. I got stuck here when I was trying to help her.”

“Chelsea. Yes. She’s back in the living room,” said the woman. “Her and her two very obnoxious friends. Come with me. I’ll take you to them.”

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