Berengar’s Distress

"Where is he?"

The question was low and threatening, and Berengar's face as he asked it was no less menacing. Khoreia watched him warily, as though he were a lion that could attack at any moment; she could feel the tension running through her shoulders.

"I do not know, sire. He could be anywhere."

"I want him here." There was a note of petulance in the prince's voice now, which somehow only made him more worrying. "Where is he? I ordered him to be back quickly!"

"I'm sure there's a reason he's not here," Khoreia ventured. "He would not knowingly disobey an order from you, your majesty."

Berengar stared at her. She made the mistake of meeting his eyes, and almost immediately looked away. There was a spark of something there that hadn't been present before, and it was not a good thing.

"Go out and find him."

"But my Lord, I have-"

"Go out. And find him."

"My lord-"

"Have I not made myself clear? GO OUT AND FIND HIM!"

The prince shot to his feet as he said this, his voice rising to something approaching a scream; Khoreia turned tail and fled. She slowed the minute she got outside the tent and settled back into her usual unconcerned seductive sway of a walk, but the sideways glances the otherwise impassive guards outside the tent entrance gave her as she passed clearly showed they had heard. She ignored them with as much contempt as she could muster, but inside she was seething with anger. Not at the guards; they didn't matter. She was angry with her brother.

Why couldn't he ever do even the simplest things? How hard could it be to find out where their quarry was and return promptly, so she was not left to deal with a prince who seemed to be tottering at the very edge of irredemable insanity? And now she had to leave the preparations she was making for the battle she knew was coming and go out to find him in  what was undoubtedly a complete waste of time.

With a sigh she stretched out her lithe body and adopted the form of the yellow cat. It was not the best form for searching, but it was excellent for hunting.

At the other side of camp, a black dog was waiting.

The soldiers ignored it; there were always dogs somewhere around camp, and few were close enough to the inner circle to recognise this particular dog as being the one that often accompanied the strange witch-woman who seemed now so close to Prince Berengar. So the black dog sat, and occasionally scratched itself as dogs do, and waited.

One soldier wandered over and patted it on the head.

"All right, dog, I did as y'asked," Sergeant Esben said under his breath, bending further over to tickle Calla under the chin. "Jus' up t'Borsyko now.

"I'm very glad to hear it," Calla said evenly, wagging his tail in apparent huge enjoyment of the scratches. "I am sure Borysko will do his part admirably."

"I jus' saw Khoreia come outta Berengar's tent," Esben added, darting a suspicious glance behind him. "She didn't look happy, 'n there was shoutin'. I think she's goin' outta camp."

"That will not affect the plan unduly," reassured Calla. "Do not be afraid, sergeant; it will work."

Esben gave him a flat look. "I 'ope so, dog, fer our sake and fer yours..."

The End

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