They came for me two hours before dawn. I was hauled from my bed, naked as the day as I was born, and brought before the Commander of the Guard. Johannes looked as grim as he did the day he hired me into the King's guards, though there were more wrinkles at the corners of his eyes and his whiskers were whiter.
"James," he said, and there was a sadness in his voice that cut through me like a cold wind. "James, the King is aware of your... indiscretion. Do I need--" he sighed, and sat down on the edge of his desk, his stretched legs keeping him balanced.
"Cover yourself up James," he said, his voice softer but still sad. I looked around his office, a spartan affair with a wooden desk, a three-legged stool behind it, and three chests of paperwork. Seeing nothing useful, I arranged my hands as strategically as possible, wishing it were colder.
"I shouldn't be having to do this, James," he said. "You know better, we both know that. She's promised to Prince Louis, and -- well really, James, she's a little tease. We had to assign Luther to her because he prefers the company of men. What did you really think to get out of this?"
It wasn't quite the way I'd thought this conversation would go, but if Johannes was willing to stand up for me, maybe I'd escape this with my life.
"So are dragons, and how many people have petted them and lived to tell the tale?"
"I wasn't think--"
"Obviously. I need to know: is there a chance she's with your child? Or have you passed on anything you've picked up from the whores in town? How much more is there to discover?"
"Johannes!" I felt my face burn with embarrassment. "I'm clean, and she's not going to bear any child of mine! I--"
"Well and good." He stood up and stretched, and I heard his spine crackle like a dry branch on a fire. "You're assigned to Avalon, James. It's the best you could have got from this." He nodded to his left, but I didn't need the reminder. On the other side of that wall was the gallows. "You leave now."
My eyes widened with shock, and he laughed, the wrinkles at the corners of his eyes spreading out and crazing across his face, somehow carrying his whole body into his amusement.
"You can get dressed first, boy. There'll be no women in Avalon to impress with that thing."