In rural civilization, justice is a more fluid concept that frequently becomes personal.
— An Exhaustive Review of Justice Systems in the Known World
One of Tristoh's men helped Karin through the bakery's front door with a shove.
With her wrists manacled behind her back, she couldn't stop her face from smacking on the wall inside. With a groan, she collapsed to her knees.
He kicked her ribs. “Get inside, cow!”
Karin pretended to scream in agony; she had been fighting monstrous creatures for a year, a kick was nothing. Not responding would just set off the bastard's pride and then he would put more effort into hurting her seriously.
“Get her up,” Tristoh said coldly.
She smiled to herself. Just like his laughter, she had heard the icy tone before. The last time, he had slipped out of town in the cover of darkness. If she was lucky, he would be considering the same thing.
Warriors yanked her into a kneeling position.
Karin blew a strand of her hair from her face as she looked up at Tristoh. He stood with his back to the bar next to the empty bowl that used to have requests for Lilian. He looked annoyed, like she had stolen his toy.
There were others around her. She guessed it was the town elders, the ones who had opinions of monster hunters like herself. Among them were two uniformed men with the symbol of the city on their chests; probably the city guards.
She looked around but didn't see anyone wearing justice robes. That meant this wasn't a trial, at least not yet.
Karin also hoped to see Sindil, but she wasn't present either.
Tristoh cleared his throat. “Where is she?”
She blinked at him, giving him her best innocent look. “Who?”
His face darkened. “You know what I want!”
Karin smiled grimly. “Then what's her name, Tristoh?”
Jon stepped forward. “Where is my daughter, Lilian?”
She ignored him and kept speaking to Tristoh. “What was your scheme? When were you planning on taking her to Tarsan?”
Jon sputtered but Tristoh silence him with a gesture.
Tristoh's eyes narrowed. He looked around as his scowl deepened. “I had no plans of returning to that place.”
When she heard his tone, her smile widened. There was no longer a doubt that he would be gone by morning. She could see it in his eyes. “What about the rest of your business in the area? Any investments you plan on abandoning?”
A muscle in his neck tightened.
Karin gave him a hard look. “The last time you left, I lost three good men when those damn leeches got loose into the forest.”
Tristoh's lips tightened. She watched him forming a fist.
“Before then, it was in Risol. Do you remember that village?”
“Shut up,” snapped Tristoh.
Karin shook her head. “You leave nothing but death and broken lives behind you. Lilian was just—”
Tristoh punched her.
Karin looked back and smiled. “Tonight?”
“Lord Tristoh!” said Jon as he grabbed Tristoh's hand. “Stop that!”
Tristoh shoved him aside with a snarl. Squatting down, he grabbed Karin's throat and pulled her close, jamming his face near hers. His breath smelled of beer and cheese. “Listen, you diseased old goat. I'm going to find the most corrupt judge I can bribe and make sure you have a very short, painful life before you are executed for treason.”
Karin had no doubt that he had the money and the anger to do that. It scared her, but there was nothing she could do to avoid it. She turned and smiled at him. “At least she got away, you miserable horse's ass.”
She was still smiling when Tristoh and his men beat her into unconsciousness.