"Where is Pairuti at the moment, Tano-ji?" he asked.
"We believe, in the sitting room, nandi. But we have not gone in there yet."
"I need to reach him. I want him alive, Tano-ji."
Tano threw him a look.
"Pairuti can stop this," Bren said. "At least where it regards local Guild. Can he not? And he has things to say, in court. We need him alive."
"Yes," Tano said abruptly, order taken; he relayed that to Algini, whose attention was fixed on the hall, and Algini nodded abruptly in the affirmative. Communication drew a look from Banichi, and then from Jago, who nodded her own agreement. Geigi looked momentarily confused.
No time to think, then: Tano seized Bren by the arm and jerked him past Banichi, down the hall, with one of Geigi's men racing to the fore of them. His gun swung down, his burst of fire shredded the woodwork around the door lock--his kick opened it, and that man whipped around the door to the inside.
Fire erupted from inside--Bren had started to follow, and Tano snatched him back before he had so much as twitched. Then Jago appeared from the hall behind them, her gun spitting a volley of bullets as she went inside.
There wasn't time to say help her--Tano shoved him against the wall and dived to a knee, rifle around the edge of the doorframe. Then got up. Geigi's man came into view, moving sideways, rifle still leveled, and Bren's heart skipped a beat, seeing Jago standing in the clear.
"We have him, nandi," Tano said, urging him forward, into the room; and Bren swore to himself he would never, ever, ever issue another order to his bodyguard.
The room was a shambles, three bodies on the floor, blood everywhere, openwork screens flattened and shattered by gunfire, and a lone survivor in a brocade coat standing amid the carnage, a white-haired, lanky aristocrat looking not at all related to Lord Geigi.
"Lord Pairuti," Bren said, mustering a breath. "Surrender and I can keep you alive. Do not do this to your staff. They rely on you, nandi."
The man turned away, looking ceilingward, seeming distracted.
And spun about with a pistol in hand. It went off.
The whole room went to ceiling in a burst of thunder. It was that fast, and it hurt, and Bren couldn't get a breath, lying flat on the floor with the feeling someone had just hit him, and he had hit his head, which hurt nearly as much as the punch in his gut. His whole brain was shaken, and his ears rang, and Tano had him by the hand and the arm and was hauling up on him, so he was supposed to get up--
He tried. He could not get a breath, and then got a little air: was aware of Tano on his knees trying to keep him flat, and Tano kept coming and going in a tunnel of dark ...