Long, delicate fingers massaged smooth skin, seeking to rub away the headache that was gathering under Madame de Silva's temples. She really didn't need this on top of everything else; running the only legal training school for Mages this side of the Shiverpeak Mountains took enough out of her as it was. She dropped her hands from her head and picked up the letter that lay in front of her, re-reading it for the twentieth time.
Madame Nyssa de Silva, First Ranked of the Mage's Circle,
I must commend you for your treatment so far of my son, Prince Drakon, but I have reason to fear that your excellent establishment has been inflitrated by enemies of the crown. I have no wish to criticise your choice of bodyguard for the Prince, but there is reason to believe that the man you chose is in fact plotting to murder my son. Thus, I request that he be removed from his duties and placed on trial for treason. I trust you will perform this to the best of your abilities.
King Alastor, Ruler of All
It looked genuine. It was sealed with the royal crest, the signature matched exactly to the King's signature on the previous letters she had recived, mostly asking after Drakon's progress. But it was so sudden, and bore such a strange request, that she'd searched high and low for a reason to find it a fake. It nagged at her. Why, when the King had previously been so pleased with Borysko's work, was he now accusing him of being a traitor? The warrior did not seem traitorous to Madame de Silva. Rather uncouth, yes, rough and inelegant yes, but not traitorous.
But, as far as she could tell, the letter was entirely genuine, and so she had sent out orders banning Borysko from having any contact with the Prince, and a request for him to present himself at the next Mage's Circle meeting. After all, she reasoned, he would be disciplined anyway for his part in that evening's escapade...
Ah yes, the bear-girl. Listening to Drakon's wide-eyed and innocent account of events, it seemed nothing that she couldn't deal with as soon as the unfortunate she-bear was located and captured. She had actually been rather impressed that Drakon had managed to pull off such an advanced spell; it suggested that the boy had more latent ability that she had previously thought. Now, if he could just learn to control his temper, he'd be-
"Madame de Silva! Madame de Silva!"
Drakon's voice, high and urgent, accompanied by sounds that suggested he was attempting to batter the sturdy door down with his fists. A frown creasing the perfect skin of her forehead, the Assessor got to her feet and let him in. His face caused the frown to deepen; it was pale and deathly afraid.
"What's happened?" she asked brusquely. He bit his lip, fingers attempting to tie themselves in knots as desperate urgency met the need to be polite and formal.
"It's Borysko, I think he's been poisoned, Madame, he's lying outside the side gate and I think he's dying and the Healer won't listen to me!"
Grabbing his arms, Nyssa de Silva shook him fiercely.
"Calm down. He's been poisoned, you say? By whom?"
"I don't know, but you have to come, you have to come or he's going to die!"
The desperation in his voice, and the way that his normal sophisticated speech had collapsed under the weight of his urgency, got through to her, and without another word she swept out of her office, towing Drakon in her wake. The Healer didn't dare disobey the Assessor, and shortly afterwards they had reached the side gate and Borysko's crumpled form. He was still alive-just.
Drakon did not notice the brief flash of yellow that slipped through the open gate into the school, and nor did he remember to look for the cat he'd left to keep the warrior company.