It's a Mysterious Somebody laughing.

Donovan laughed. No meticulously calculated manipulations would have brought him here. As perhaps always, the grandmothers’ wisdom served here as well: Sometimes best to blow as dust in the wind.

“I’m cold, Captain, oh so cold.” Khoreia cried, after the soldiers rushed to her splendid rescue from that shapeshifter – saving Donovan from having to swoop in himself – and her manipulation beginning its work, for four gallants stepped up, but of course she had to accept the young captain’s cloak for wrapping her chilled nakedness.

Her “Help me! Help me!” brought them hurrying like heroes from the road where Madame de Silva had flattened them with that impressive warding. Like hunters anytime, they might have just as happily chased after the dog they stuck one arrow into as Borysko, had the clever girl not turned them to her purpose.

“We are pursuing Borysko, the Traitor.”

“Borysko! – The great Bear Killer?”

“Bear Hunter, Lady.”

“Oh. Oh, but I saw him, cross just there. And a woman with him.”

“We’re away. I’ll leave a man with you. He’ll take you home to Magusford.”

“Oh, Captain, please don’t leave me so alone in this darkening forest. I am afraid that beast will return. And its eyes cold green and unnatural.”

Naturally, no manly captain of beneficent King Alastor’s mighty army could resist such a plea, and from such a distressed and pretty one as Khoreia. Taking her along on their manhunt he will later report was his logical recourse. And so his skilled sister had turned a King’s platoon to hunt Borysko for her!

And then to hear below his quiet perch Madame de Silva coddling the King’s once-man – even this could not have turned out better. Only the mages might see into the shape of plans forming in all the conquered lands. Happy turn then that she should fall with Borysko. And with her perhaps all.

Donovan could only laugh. He lifted on his great owl wings away, so they would not hear him, and because he so liked this flying. Wheeled among the close trees. Seeing from his silvered eyes as night cloaked the vast forest.

He returned, the white owl unseen, silent as a sigh in the branches above them.

Fools! he sneered, because the acrid stink of that pitiful small campfire should carry, even on the still night air, many miles, and bring those sniffing soldiers – if his sister had any say in it.

The horned moon shone down in the glade where Borysko lay. Nyssa de Silva knelt in moonlight by the sleeping man: she who once had turned a murderous conquering king. Here, she invoked very old magic. Daughter of the moon, her bared shoulders glowed, and she held Borysko’s heart beneath her hands.

Donovan finched – for she suddenly lifted her silvered eyes – evidently sensing him.

The End

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