"Damn you, old man. You followed me?" How dare he? And how could she have missed noticing him? What did he want? "I'm not a harlot!"
"Goddess save me, I didn't think you were." He looked at her with a shocked expression. Stopping, he let go of her arm. "Nor do I believe that you're a fortune-teller."
"So what? You want your money back." Aria began to fish in the purse she wore on a belt. "Fine. I'll be happy to repay you. It was a con, so nothing personal. Here, take this." She handed him a silver coin. "Take it and leave me alone."
The old man eyed the coin in her hand. "I don't want my money back. I want you to do something for me."
"Forget it!" Turning, Aria started to walk back. There was another alley here that would get her to Shayla's house quicker. What the old man wanted, she didn't know. But he was making her nervous--and angry. "There is nothing I can do for you."
"There is something I can do for you," he yelled as she marched forward. "I know where your brother is."
Shock froze her feet to the ground. "What?" She turned back. "What did you say?"
"I know where your brother is and I'll help you get there." He stepped close to her, his gaze penetrating deep into hers. "But you've to promise me that once you see him, you'll do something for me."
"You know where my brother is?"
"I saw you looking at the list of prisoners," he said. "I know you've been looking for him all over the city. He has been taken prisoner, hasn't he? I know where all the new prisoners were taken. There is no time to lose, though. If you wish to find him, we'll have to leave today."
Aria stared at him for a few moments. "Why do you help me? And why should I trust you? Who are you?"
He scratched his cheek. "I am Bikkar. As for why I've decided to help you, it's because I need you to do something for me."
He held up a hand to stop her questions before she could ask them. "I'll tell you about it after you've seen your brother. As to why you should trust me… Well, frankly, my dear, you don't have much of a choice if you want to see your brother again in this lifetime."
"Where do we’ve to go?"
"To Akba, the city that houses the throne of the Queen, the capital of Azmeer."