The soldiers were tired. They were tired of tramping through forests that they did not know and did not trust, tired of taking orders from a fool of a Captain and a chit of a boy. They grumbled amongst themselves as they made camp that night and prepared to get rid of at least part of the tiredness.
Khoreia was tired as well. She was tired of being led round in circles, tired of playing the weak woman, tired of waiting for her brother to return. Donovan would not have been so stupid as to allow himself to be killed; and if he had, there were ways and means of dealing with that.
Right at that moment, she was thinking of ways to deal with the boy.
He was still useful. The King's son could never be not useful, if you wished to cause him pain. He had an older brother, true; but they would never be so stupid as to allow the Heir to go unsullied. There were agents in the palace at that moment, plotting, planning; and once their plans came through, the King would turn to his younger son and find...
Well. That depended on how cooperative the boy was. At the present moment, he was not being cooperative at all. Khoreia was no mean tracker, not like these useless soldiers; she knew full well when they were being led by the nose, around and around in circles, played with as a cat would a mouse. Where he was taking them she did not know; but she would find out, and there would be...trouble. She scanned the area, looking for him, and found him sitting on a treestump gazing at the moon. She could have laughed out loud at the expression on his face, but that would be counterproductive.
Instead, she went in search of a bath. After all, a girl had to smell nice...especially if she wanted to keep the young Captain on-side. His full cooperation would be assured after tonight, no doubt.
Drakon was thinking. He was thinking of Borysko, and Madame de Silva, and the beargirl. Contrary to Urska's belief, he wanted very much to make her herself again, if only he knew how to do it.
But most of all he was thinking of Khoreia.
She had already wrapped the Captain around her little finger, he knew, and he worried that he could not keep the troops on course much longer without suspicion creeping in. He thought he knew where he was going, but it had been so long since he had been there that the route was hazy, confused. If he could only find the beech that had been split into four by lightning, the Twiceblast Beech, then he would know he was on course. On course for something that may prove his undoing.
For there was a Vagari village hidden beyond the Twiceblast Beech. He had been there with his father, parading through their mean little habitations, showing them who their new Lord and Master was, the man they would in future bow their heads towards. They had seemed submissive, back then, when he was little more than a boy swollen with pride for his father's achievements, sitting astride his pony with his chin tilted at what he thought was a haughty angle. But now, he wondered. There had been...something in the air, after a while, something that said Yes, you came; yes, we see; leave now, before we conquer.
So he hoped, that if he led a platoon of exhausted King's Soldiers into their village, that they would...be dealt with.
Of course, there was nothing stopping him being dealt with either, especially with Khoreia in tow, a Vagari shapeshifter, practically royalty...
But he had to do something. And surely the son of the King would be some use to them?
An owl glided across the face of the moon, and he blinked. It had been a snowy owl, and for an inexplicable scond he was reminded of the man the soldiers had murdered. But he could not think why, and he put it out of his mind, and went to his blanket. He would sleep, and everything would be clearer in the morning...
And then it was morning, and nothing was clearer. His sleep had been disturbed, and his limbs were heavy with tiredness, but he led the grumbling soldiery nonetheless, led them towards what could be both their doom and his.