Finding Marron

Man voices chased, close. Marron crashed into the gangly mewling cub, rolling the youngster over, stumbling the big bear in a slide on his chin in forest litter.

Both instantly up on their paws. The cub bawling. Marron, having none of this, not with men hunting so close, shouldered the troublesome youngster into a run. And casting about his big head, as the man voices started up that singing they liked to do.


The lad was the spy Nyssa spoke of, most certainly. The other shape shifter. And certainly partner with the girl who poisoned poor Borysko. Alastor knew this lad's kind, from the wars. Eyes big as an eagle's, although Nyssa had said she caught him as an owl. And white: only in passing resemblance a snowy white owl, such as those he in younger days marveled at, high and with only an owl's cares over the Shiverpeaks, just as white.

Nyssa had left Drakon to hold this one, and to hold up a fool-king’s soldiers hunting Borysko. And here walked the spy, smirking, like the victor. His shirt shouted of battle: the shoulder spotted in blood dried as rust.

Deliberately, Alastor hung his arm round the boy: sensed his cocksure step falter beneath certainly wincing pain.

"Good luck you got up your tree, lad."

"Uh...I'm hurt there."

"What? Are you? He got you, did he? That giant bear did? Ah, but you're young, and sure to mend. We shall get that big brutish bruin -- for you, lad! -- and you can take a poke at him in his chains!"

Favouring his hurt shoulder under his other hand, the spy showed upon his face plain and undisguised disgust, likely of course for the expedition trailing him, and again noisily resuming its slurry songs of daring-do, which likely flushed all game for miles around, and that bear; and disgust certainly also toward the drunkard keeping easy pace by his side.

Not too foolish then, allowing himself to be muddled by that pretty tumbler, Alastor mused. That old old trick the girls once favoured in the camps, for disarming the gullibles, and by candlelight robbing entire regiments in their underpants. That kiss but spiced the wine in his head. And it made him now the most useful disguise.

He would have slipped away from the expedition once away from the town. He cared nothing for leading back an old dancing bear by the iron ring through its snout. But. But for this spy appearing -- who had battled his and Nyssa's bright hope somewhere in the forest and who Alastor must never let slip from his sight -- even should they wander as far as the Shiverpeaks.


"Lady, on my word, the fighting now ceases. You will find Alastor can bend in the wind."

Under a flag of truce and trailing his escort more like frightened boys into her camp below Cwen, mountain of the Mother, he shone in the morning on his warhorse, already a king.

Berengar’s Scarlets broke Nyssa’s reminiscence. She knew it inevitable. She thanked the Mother for the small gift of hours. Prayed that She guide Alastor’s heart. Shine Her light upon Drakon, Borysko, Calla, the extraordinary Bear Girl…

"Take her." said the Scarlet captain.

They took Nyssa de Silva in her nightdress through the school, passing the talented children struck dumb.

One girl, one of her more promising apprentices, nervously twitching her little nose, caught the Assessor’s eye, and was granted Madame’s farewell smile.

The End

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