Find a way into the Academy -- Find Drakon.

Curse that gatekeeper. Curse him to the seven circles of Hell. The numbness was spreading rapidly; his arms felt like they were made of lead, his fingers responded only slowly. As he stumbled away around the walls, his cursing expanded to take in the Vagari woman Khoreia, Vagari women in general, the Vagari as a whole, women as a whole, and cats, on the basis that Khoreia had turned into one and therefore the rest had guilt by association. A vague plan spun in a head half-fuddled by ale and poison: get into the buildings, find Drakon, find the bear-girl, and get the boy to turn her back into a bear. That, in his confused mind, would solve everything; a bear was just a bear, and here was little interest in bears as anything but hunting trophies. There was no room in the hurried plan for details.

Ah. That was what he'd been looking for; the little side-gate, kept locked, used irregularly. No gatekeepers on that one, and he could pick the lock. It wouldn't take him five seconds, he'd done it before. In fact, he was surprised that the mages allowed such a weak point in their defences. He supposed they'd rely on their magic if push came to shove.

The lock seemed more awkward that normal. His fingers were clumsy. He'd forgotten the poison. In desperation, no longer equipped for careful work, he dragged out his sword and tried to hack his way in. The heavy broadsword, weilded with all the finesse of a drunken woodsman, only succeeded in taking rough lumps out of the wooden gate, missing the lock itself entirely. And the relatively minor effort exhausted him. Panting, numb, and frankly terrified, Borysko slumped down by the wall and tried to summon his determination. Previously, he had been able to find enough to keep him going with a potentially fatal wound; now, when the world seemed to be spiralling out of his control, and he was going to die painfully and without honour, and a Vagari shapeshifter was hunting a bear who was now a woman, and Drakon might even be in danger, and the Mage's Circle seemed to have turned him out on his ear when he needed them the most, he could find none at all. Everything had escalated with unbelievable speed, and he had no idea what was going on.


The sound filtered slowly into Borysko's conciousness, and he looked up, with some effort. There was a face at the top of the wall, and even though it was swimming in and out of focus it seemed oddly familiar. The end of a rope fell into his lap; he looked at it, and wondered in a detached way what it was doing there. It was jerking; shortly afterwards, someone's feet and legs came into view. They were clad in grey woven with silver, and that was familiar too...

"Hey. Borysko? Are you all right?"

This seemed such a pointless thing to say that Borysko felt urged to sarcasm; but his mouth had become suddenly too heavy to frame speech, and his brain, usually lightening quick when it came to sarky comments, was more occupied with the gathering blackness on the edges of his vision...

Drakon, who had made his escape from the healer's room, watched in stunned horror as Borysko, always such a fount of strength, keeled over unconcious in front of him. Despite his constant complaints about the warrior, he had come to rely on him; he was a constant in a world that had suddenly become unconstant. It had been a shock to be precipitated out of a world where everyone did your bidding into a world where you did everyone else's bidding, and Borysko lessened that shock somewhat, if only because he was still expected to do everything Drakon told him to. And the warrior had helped, that night. When the spells had got the better of him and he'd succumbed to spell exhaustion. He'd explained the circumstances of the episode very carefully to Madame de Silva when he'd come round; he hadn't been expecting the look on her face. It hadn't boded well at all.

So he'd decided to escape. And he'd thought, when he'd seen Borysko sitting by the gate, that the warrior had somehow known, and been waiting to help him. Unfortunately, it now seemed that he'd have to help Borysko...

And he didn't have the faintest idea how.

Kneeling anxiously by the big man, he shook him by the shoulder, hoping beyond hope that he was merely drunk, and would wake up. But he didn't, and the pallor of his face suggested more than just too much ale. Drakon sat back on his heels and chewed at his fingernails in sudden fear.


The sound made Drakon jump, but once his heart had stopped bounding he saw that it was just a yellow cat, stepping delicately towards him.

"Hey, puss..." he said vaguely. He liked cats, but he didn't have time to talk to one now. Lighting a tiny flame on his fingertip, the only useful spell that he had the energy for, he bent once again over the warrior.

The cat settled down on the pavement, neatly wrapping its tail about its paws, and watched him with eyes that were uncomfortably human, and even more uncomfortably calculating.

The End

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