Alastor, Ruler of Nothing, drained the beaten beaker that yielded, thin as paper, in his steady hand. As it was not his way to gulp down the wine of any summer, he kept the pungent mouthful, long, for its savouring. He foresaw grim doings ahead: few, if any, such pleasant diversions he might idle in. So in likewise spirit, in his leaving her for the window, he had kissed Nyssa again as once long years before, when together they had ended a war.
His company this day in the Pig and Bee, giddily happy this early this fine day, jostled him on the crowded bench as friends might, taking him for one of them. He looked enough the part in plain clothes stolen from Nyssa’s agreeing old healer. He looked not in any semblance king-like, which struck him strange comfort, and liberating.
Alastor had intended to visit Magusford alone, as unnoticed as any high summer traveler. To speak with the Assessor simply. To take away Drakon safe, and be done.
But Berengar insisted his scarlet guard escort the King. And because the King had relented, for the safety of His Regal Person, Berengar’s Scarlets now ranged through all the town. Nyssa’s school. The town garrison: where a king might suppose to find still enough of the King’s good soldiers.
A Scarlet menaced this raucous place from the bright doorway. Alastor’s hand tightened round the thin beaker, only momentarily. Eying the beaker, seeing the faintest of flowers etched around the rim where the lips should drink, he lightened his grip.
He knew with certainty of one good soldier. Borysko. Loyal Borysko – who he had wronged so! Fighting and risking his all for the King’s little son.
Meanwhile Alastor waited, willing fool in the Pig and Bee. The circus ringmaster stirring the tavern to frenzy. The drink freely splashing. Ferocious Marron has escaped – the expedition leaving within the hour. Alastor glad of the company that he should follow away from town.
That instant, all three Vagari acrobats cartwheeled along the table before his blinking eyes. The three pretties perfumed for war: evident even through the sourness of spilled ale.
The trailing one, stretched long over the table before him, and eying him like a cat, posed her smirking mouth like a question.
Which Alastor, smiling, dared to answer in kissing. Then his lips started atingling. Then he laughed.
“Girl – your grandmamma can teach you no new tricks?”
She laughed, caught up her slim limbs, rolled as a pretty ball before the roaring revelers.
This, he would share with Nyssa, Alastor mused, along with his understanding of Vagari ways sure to surprise her. Just as quickly as he might with every blessing do this. Return with Borysko by his side. Reunite Nyssa with her talented little son – then take him away to safety.
Beneath that glaring cooking sun, and his shoulder aching, Donovan put down the mewling cub but for the instant, to only briefly rest himself, and warning it with his meanest stare. But the little beast must not have seen it – for it instantly bolted away under thick bushes.
And then, just the same as in those tales, before he could beat the bushes and find it, from not a great distance away, coming a crashing and smashing through the forest.
Fearful, guessing what the big thing coming should be, and quickly spotting a likely tree, he started awkwardly up through its stout branches: suddenly leaping, like a squirrel, into the tops, as that old circus bear -- truly gigantic -- lunged like he meant to knock down his tree.