Captain Dolphus might have figured his work done. Settling himself, as if a governor, behind the big beechwood desk before the towering coloured window above in the former Assessor’s office. The town garrison happy as ponies to have their reins held. And his Scarlets watching in every corner of Magusford.
However, Captain Dolphus was wholly unprepared for the Vagari circus ringmaster, this moustachio’d Medved, and his contesting the dread rule of curfew by presenting himself, flagrantly, flouting curfew itself, along with specific members of his colourful company.
He and they, properly, were taken from the street. But the three who wore the scarlet were no match for Medved of Medved’s Traveling Circus.
“Captain, see now. I’m but a man of business. My circus to show off. Mouths to feed—“
One of his acrobat girls settled herself in the captain’s lap: blew her kiss in his eyes. Another, perfumed for war as they sang in the songs, and eying him as a cat might a toy, climbed upon Nyssa de Silva’s big beechwood desk, and laid herself across his reports.
“Captain. This is High Summer – and all is feasting and merry-making. And all the surrounding country come visiting with but that great riot of Fun their united purpose – because winter and the cellar barrels thumping empty will come soon enough! They bring to your town no more than the usual mischief. And feed my girls here. Soon enough, too, all done and gone away. Though, Captain, mark this now, in the meantime, you can be assured of knowing where each and every body is. Harmless drunk in your taverns. And my circus before it!”
Nyssa de Silva, chuckling despite her cracked ribs, sensed all this from her prison below, formerly the school’s cellar lock-room, where the mages safeguarded substances and handy devices potentially hazardous to curious apprentice mages only just stretching their small wings, and should not unsupervised happen on them. All such substances and devices potentially handy having been removed before locking her inside. It served as dungeon in a town without one.
She expected never to be formally charged, not even with the farcical convenience of Treason, because these Scarlets were about something other than lawful charges. They had beaten her twice already, and asking no questions. There was no candle. She was visited only by the rats.
Because she allowed herself this small distraction, the amusement above in her office, the distancing from the pain and the darkness, Nyssa de Silva at first did not hear the other rat, which came like the others kind enough to visit her, inching over the stones, nearer and nearer the woman crumpled in the corner of the locked room.
“Madame. Oh – What they’ve done to you, Madame!”
Of course, she recognized the small voice, even as it came from a small rat. Madame knew all her students. From the least to the more promising.
“Steiffa...You should not be here.”
“Madame – I have a vial of the silvering for you – tied to my tail—“
“Steiffa…I have no strength…I could not hold another shape…The healer has green willow…Bring that – and perhaps.”
“I will, Madame – I will!”
“It…troubles me, a little, Steiffa.”
“You have been in this lock-room before.”
“…Only the once, Madame.”