At the circus, a messenger waits for Khoreia

As soft and silent as a shadow, Khoreia slipped into the circus. She was late. Having to prevent an enraged bear from killing her golden goose would make anyone late. She had been forced to put the bear to sleep, and Drakon too; if she had left him awake, he would have come round within an hour or two and raised such a commotion that all would have been lost. So now they both slept, and the landlord of the Pig and Bee was under the impression that her young nephew had arrived and was not to be disturbed, as he had had a long and difficult journey and needed sleep.

His injuries were not serious. Only a broken arm and a couple of cracked ribs. He would survive.

Now, if she could just find the Ringmaster before any of the interfering performers found her-


She spun round, teeth bared in brief threat; and then relaxed, as she recognised the man who stepped, as silent as she was, out of the shadow of a tent. He was taller than her, but sported the same white-blond hair and dusky skin; his scars were outlined in silver.

"Donovan," she said, bowing her head briefly. He nodded in reply, face unsmiling.

"I bring a message. Chieftan Ventrixi wishes to know of your progress, and to give you this."

He held out a slip of parchment. Khoreia all but snatched it from him, her eyes skimming its contents swiftly, and then thrust it back at him.

"Chieftan Ventrixi is a fool. He wishes me to give up. Why? We can gain so much!"

Donovan shrugged, his face still smooth, impassive.

"I do not know the Chieftan's reasoning. Only that he wishes you to refrain from bringing him the child. Perhaps he is worried that he will be caught."

"Then he is not only a fool but a coward. Tell him I will not bring him the child; but I will not bring him what we gain either. I will leave him to stew in his hut. Tell him!"

For the first time, Donovan's face reflected the faintest concern; but it was swiftly gone.  He bowed slightly, and touched his forehead with his smallest finger in farewell.

"You are foolish, but I will tell him. Farewell, my sister."

"Farewell, my brother."

The man melted back into the darkness, and Khoreia stared after him with some distaste. Chieftan Ventrixi was old and hidebound, and her brother was soft and cautious. Neither of them could be trusted.

Thrusting the problem out of her mind, she padded away to find the Ringmaster once again.

The End

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