That night, the tent was quiet. The men, glad to have their trusted sergeant back among their ranks, had spent the evening in as much celebration as their situation allowed; they had only just quietened, but now the camp was wrapped only in the sound of happy drunken sleep. Even the Captain slumbered, lulled by the sound of his beloved's voice as she sang to him. In truth, Khoreia did not sing all that well, but to his ears it was the sweetest sound, like the trilling of nightingales. He smiled as he slept, his dreams full of the woman with the grip on his soul.
Calla sat in a corner, a shadow among shadows, his bright green eyes watchful.
Khoreia stroked a few stray hairs from her Captain's forehead, then rested her elegant chin on the top of his head and smirked at the dog.
"I knew you'd come around eventually."
Calla blinked once.
"You are a very persuasive woman, Khoreia."
"Oooh, yes I am," she crooned, still smirking. "And you're such a good dog."
The green eyes narrowed, annoyed.
"I am not here for you to seduce me, or indeed to patronise me. Is Berengar controlled?"
Khoreia pouted, stroking her Captain's flushed cheek almost absently as he stirred in his sleep.
"You're no fun, you know that? Is that why you won't return to your human shape?" Her eyes flashed wickedly. "Are you scared of me, Calla sweetheart?"
Calla stiffened, and his ears went back.
"I am not scared of you, Khoreia," he said flatly, his voice very controlled. "And that is not why I am not human."
She stared at him for a second, and then her face split into a malicious smirk.
She laughed delightedly at him, ignoring his warning growl.
Calla's growl doubled in volume. "That is not the issue here! The issue is whether Berengar is properly controlled!"
Still smirking, she wound a strand of her Captain's hair around her finger and nodded.
"He could not be any more controlled, beloved. We merely have to suggest one tiny thing and it is done in an instant. Donovan did his work well there."
Calla snorted. "I have always thought that there was more to Donovan's time with the Prince than mere duty."
Khoreia raised an eyebrow, and exposed the tip of her coral-pink tongue. "Well, that's their business, is it not? How well are you informed of our little plan, beyond our control of the crown Prince?"
"I know that you wish to control the younger Prince also."
"Well, of course! There would be little point in getting one Prince and leaving the other. There is too much danger that our beloved monarch will see the difference in his first child...to get both sons is an elementary decision, sweetling. And we will, don't worry about that."
"You are very confident," the dog observed. Khoreia poked out the rest of her tongue at him.
"Well, of course I am. It's such a deliciously simple plan, and simple plans are always the best...you mustn't get bogged down in detail, beloved."
Calla's ear flicked, slightly disturbed by Khoreia's insistence on calling him loving names. He knew she was teasing him, but it brought up unpleasant memories. She was still watching him, her smile indulgent, faintly mocking; and then he looked into her eyes, and they were cold and sharp as shards of flint.
"Hmmm?" she purred, putting her head on one side, her affectionate smile turning into a mocking smirk. "Don't you think?"
"Absolutely," he agreed, hardly remembering what he was agreeing to. A dangerous woman, Khoreia. Very, very dangerous...
He remembered what he was doing, and sat up straighter.
"But what use is this bear-girl? Surely she is only an accident?"
"Ahhh, you'd think so, wouldn't you? And strictly speaking she is. But I saw her potential immediately...oh yes, she has too much potential to be in the hands of that meat-block Borysko and that do-gooder Nyssa da Silva..."
"And this potential is...?"
She had returned to stroking her Captain's cheek, but she smirked at that and wagged a finger at him.
"You're a nosy dog, aren't you? Curiousity can kill dogs just as easily as it can cats. Just let me say that you would not be here if it weren't for that beargirl..."
Surprised, Calla opened his mouth to reply, but she shook her head.
"No more questions. Mustn't know too much, mm? You're too soon converted. You'll find out more...a little later."
She rose in a sinous movement from where she had been wrapped around her Captain; he stirred and whimpered in his sleep, and she touched his cheek.
"Hush, my Reece, sleep well. I'll have to do something about you fairly soon..."
She straightened and flashed Calla a smile that did not reach her eyes.
"No running off, little puppy-dog. I'd rather you stayed...right here...until I come to get you again. Yes?"
Calla inclined his head, then had a thought.
"What is our King Alastor's fate in all this?"
She smirked and waved a finger once again.
"I thought I said no more questions? But I'll give you a hint..."
She padded towards the tent-flap, and looked back over her smooth shoulder at the black dog in the corner, a wicked smile on her face and knife-blades in her eyes.
"He won't be here much longer."