The first thing he saw was light. Bright light, turned red where it filtered through his eyelids, that made him twist his head in discomfort to escape it.
The first thing he heard was his name.
"Borysko? Are you awake?"
"Mmmmm..." the warrior groaned, trying to stretch. He felt as weak as a kitten, and for a moment he couldn't remember why.
Then the memories trickled back, and he shot up in bed with his eyes wide open.
A tutting sound came from beside him, and he turned to see the healer regarding him with narrowed eyes.
"I'm sure it does you credit that your first thought is for your charge, but I assure you the young man is absolutely fine. You, on the other hand, need rest."
"I don't have time to rest!" Borysko said irritably, shoving back the covers and swinging his legs out of bed. "I need to-arrgh!"
His treacherous knees buckled under his weight, and he almost fell. The healer assisted him back into the bed, eyes disapproving under their bristly white brows.
"I told you you needed rest," he said waspishly. "You're nowhere near ready to go rushing off after hot-headed youths. That poison took a lot out of you."
Slumping back against the pillows Borysko scowled mutinously, not about to admit that he wasn't as strong as he used to be. But tendrils of worry were creeping into his mind; the slight effort of getting out of bed had left him breathless, limbs trembling. Perhaps a few days rest would do him good...if he could only ensure that Drakon was safe, and the beargirl too, from that thricedamned Vagari witch.
"Tell Madame de Silva that-"
"Tell me what?" came an imperious voice from the door. Both the men turned, startled, to see the tall, slender figure of the Assessor sweeping towards them, her silver gown glittering in the morning light. The healer bowed, but Borysko had no time for pleasantries.
"Madame de Silva. You must send someone to make sure Drakon is all right. There's a Va-"
The Mage held up her hand to stop him, and her eyes narrowed, warning him to keep quiet. Affecting boredom, she waved a hand at the healer.
"Very well, if you insist. Healer Quant, you go."
Muttering to himself, the old healer shuffled away, closing the door behind him. As soon as he was gone, Borysko opened his mouth to continue; Madame de Silva held up a warning finger, and the words died unsaid.
"We will deal with your concerns later. First, I must warn you. The King believes you wish to murder his son."
Borysko opened and shut his mouth a couple of times, baffled. He could think of no earthly reason why this should be so. The Assessor shrugged her slender shoulders, accepting his speechlessness, and continued.
"As soon as you are sufficiently recovered to walk, you will be brought to trial. Now. I, personally, do not believe you would do anything like this, and I will do my level best to persuade those at the trial that this claim is untrue. But."
The warrior flinched despite himself as the elegant woman fixed him with an icy stare. She scared him; despite all his prowess with fighting, and the battles he had fought and survived, this woman with the body as slim and slender as a willow tree had enough power in her smallest finger to annihilate him completely.
"But. First you must prove to me that it is untrue."
Borysko spluttered with indignation.
"I have no wish to harm the slightest hair on the Prince's head!"
"You have previously aired opinions that he is unsafe and possibly unstable."
This he couldn't argue with.
"I have," he admitted, thinking ruefully back to a few days ago, when an ill-timed remark had sparked all this off. "But they were...jokes. The product of frustration, at the most. He can be very trying, Madame."
The ghost of a smile flitted across Nyssa de Silva's elfin features, and she inclined her head.
"This is true," she said gravely. "As I thought. You are not a liar."
"I am not. And you must listen to me. There is a Vagari shapeshifter after-"
His words were interrupted as the healer burst in, red-faced and panting and looking very, very scared.
"Madame! Madame! Drakon is gone!"