Imali sat on the windowsill for an hour before Derrec noticed her.
It was a very high window, tucked just under the ceiling in the great warehouse room, and it was small. She rested her foot against one side, her spine against the other, and pinned her shoulder to the top. Outside, the air was very still and no breeze passed her to disturb the room. It was dark, and the city had gone to sleep hours ago, silent as a church. No sound drifted past her either.
Still, an hour was a long time to wait, balanced on a ledge, with one shoulder exposed to a cold, night sky.
“Hey!” Derrec shouted, as soon as he noticed. He ran backward from his desk, trying to get a good look at her. Imali smiled, and finally allowed herself to shift, to move blood back to her legs and arms where the lines of the sill had stopped it.
“Get in here!” he shouted. Imali knew the commanding tone well enough to know it wasn’t aimed at her. Guards clattered into the room. Two of them ground crossbows back, heaved them up to their shoulders and pointed the glinting tips toward her. Imali watched the angle of them, and didn’t move.
“Shoot her,” she thought she heard Derrec say. He looked short from where she was, and a little round around the stomach.
“Please don’t,” she said, smiling, unconcerned.
He glared up at her. “Shoot her,” he repeated.
“You don’t wanna do that,” Imali continued.
“Why not?” he snapped.
“Because I’m a fairy,” Imali said. Her grin stretched. She tucked herself onto the balls of her feet, knees bent, one hand on either side of the windowsill, posing. “Can’t you see my wings and my little blue halo?”
Derrec paused. He laughed, and it sounded like he did it on purpose. “You belong in a nuthouse, darling?”
“Maybe…” Imali twisted from one side to the other, rolled her shoulders like she was ruffling her wings. “Make a wish. I’ll make it come true.”
Derrec relaxed. She could see the whole line of him stretch out as he let his spine relax and he leaned back to look at her. The crossbows lowered, just a little.
“I’d like a thousand strawberries,” he called up to her.
“Don’t waste my time,” Imali snapped. Her voice echoed down to the floor and back. Derrec straightened again. The crossbows came back up. Imali leaned forward in the window, a perfect target, her face sharp and pointed to mirror the arrows slanted toward her. “I know what you are, and I know the kind of grungy business you do, so don’t pretend all you want is a good sweet to brighten lunch. Ask me for what you really want,” she warned Derrec. “Or don’t bother at all.”
Derrec considered her for a long moment. “I’d like the army routes and garrison numbers between here and Illien.”
Imali tilted her head, considering as well. “What would you give me for it.”
Derrec laughed again, maybe for real this time. “The moon and two rainbows.”
“No.” Imali shook her head. “Won’t do it for anything less than thirty gold nicts.”
“I’d think a fairy could do more with the moon than plain gold,” Derrec said.
Imali blinked, bored. “Forty if I have to keep listening to your jokes about my wings.”
Derrec paused, mouth open at the beginning of his next sentence. Then he nodded. “Thirty,” he agreed. “When you drop the information at my feet.”
Imali nodded. She rocked back, just enough to keep her balance while she reached into her back pocket. Then she dropped a rolled bundle of papers. It fell fast, and bounced twice at the bottom.
“Count it out,” she told Derrec.
His mouth was open again, not that he had a word to fill it with.