Have the soldiers caught up yet?

The circus bear reared up, big as the swaying trees. But Urska only turned aside when she saw the black cub cowering by the giant.

Drakon recognized the old dancing bear from two thrilling nighttime visits to the circus outside town, both after Madame's school and he should have been abed. Escaped, evidently. Strangely, along with the cub not yet broken in for public entertainment. And he supposed, from the bear-talk Marron and Urksa bawled between them, that likely half the circus must be chasing not very far behind.

Then, as if in sudden agreement, all three broke directly into the green. Sensing a very specific urgency in this, three humans and a changeling dog immediately scampered after them. Panic carried the bruins away noisily through untracked forest. And Urska would not slow, for all of Drakon's pleadings.

"I can keep up with them—“ and the black dog Calla trotted after them.

"Can't! – Can't!—“ and Borysko collapsed on his haunches, staring murderously at the Vagari witch, huff-puffing herself, and pawing her black hair from her greasy face.

Drakon rooted her there inside his quick haldan.

The spell satisfied Borysko, gasping on the ground. He stared into the treetops. Like a dying man.

"Can't...Drakon...Her time come!...Enough!...I...won't leave you...not with her!...Her time...catch my breath...I'll kill her...L’il Brother--"

"No, Borysko – If there's a chance she will take us to your cure we must follow. For every potion, there is its opposite: the very first rule we hear—“

"Trust...Her?—“ Borysko's sneering laughter instantly broke in wheezing, coughing.

The boy glanced. Though the hard running and this magical effort dizzied him, his spell holding her. Hand by her face, held: some of her long black hair stuck upon her mouth. Her dark eyes watching, as ever. The witch listening.

Drakon's heart burning again, just the same as that night in the glade under the moon. Borysko blurred before him.

"Must it always end so, Borys'?"

"Wha’ troubles now?—“

"I killed. In the glade, Borysko."

"...Th’…other one—“

"Yes."

"Was it...right?...Only choice…yes?"

"Yes—“

"Then...Right...Drakon…Only right—“

"My—reckless—brother." said Khoreia, behind them.

She smirked, and then because she could only turn away her eyes flashed them aside briefly, as if the green whispering around them suddenly held a fascination. Enough for Drakon to guess she had not intended to let that small fact slip.

Borysko aimed his hollowed voice at her: "Send You...after Him...shortly!...Catch my...breath—“

The silvered leaves highest in the beeches whispered to the boy mage.

They should come, Drakon reasoned. Inevitably. Fleeing bears made themselves noisy bears, stirring the forest all around. Borysko, staring past the treetops into the blue sky, and hoarsely threatening on his back on the ground, might just bring them only sooner.

So the boy was not surprised. Rustlings, quite apart from the trees, surrounded them.

The boy wiped his eyes. There was a possibly very useful warding spell, which he had not actually tried, though had read of, from one of the dustier texts students were not supposed to visit. But he struggled against the dizziness of the haldan round the witch, like a juggler not precisely sure he might as well toss one more apple.

Then – voices hullaballooing – fiercely barking men springing from between the trees.

A bearded soldier towered like a mountain above Drakon—“Borysko, you are arrested. Stay as you are—Oh no—“

Behind them, a singularly rapturous heart sang out for all his soldiers: "Khoreia!—My Love!—“

The End

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