It turned out that the creature had no more interest in returning to the Castle Carviliet than it had expressed in proceeding onward; however, with some coaxing, they were able to convince it to move laterally a few paces to the side of the road. There it lay down, panting noisily and thumping its tail, its eyes rolling beseechingly from one of its human companions to the other as if expecting some reward for its obedience.
“No, I’m no’ goina gi’e you anythin’,” Fiona informed it.
Thump, thump, thump.
“Grinnin’ at me an’ waggin’ yer tail is no’ goina change my mind, you cheeky bastard. No, Henry! Dinna pet it! You’ll only encourage it ta disobey me!”
“Diplomacy,” Henry stated, scratching Raif behind the ears. “The art of giving the other party what it desires so that it will one day remember your kindness and perhaps be inclined to do as you ask.”
Fiona scowled. “I dinna think diplomacy is a widely accepted method o’ trainin’ animals.”
Thump, thump, thump.
Henry shrugged and smiled slightly. His eyes, though, were still brimming with tears. “What difference does it make? Nothing else seems to work for this little chap.”
Fiona dropped the subject and sat down in the dry grass beside him, putting a hand on his shoulder. He glanced at her in response, curiosity flickering briefly across his tear-stained features.
“You look ill, Henry.”
He shrugged again. “I’ve always looked ill. It’s a permanent characteristic.”
“Have you been feelin’ poorly? Is that why you locked yerself in yer room?”
“I suppose,” Henry replied blandly. “Your uncle thinks that my sickliness is due to my tendency to worry excessively. He’s probably correct in that assertion.”
“How long has it been like this?”
“For as long as I can remember.”
“That must be awful.”
“It is.” He exhaled through his teeth and hugged his knees to his chest. “Rezyn, it is.”
Fiona moved closer to him and lay her head upon his shoulder, atop the hand that she had already placed there. His body stiffened slightly in response, but after a few seconds had elapsed, he relaxed and leaned his own head against hers. His straight brown hair, fine and soft, fell gently upon the side of her face.
“Thank you, Fiona,” he mumbled.
“For being here.”
“’Tis the least I can do.”