The journey is a sacred trope in the fantasy genre. It dates all the way back to the Odyssey, or perhaps even earlier – the hero’s journey as mirrored in their physical traverse across the hills and dales of their world. Where would fantasy and science fiction be without Frodo’s quest into Mordor, Taran’s quest for the Black Cauldron, Paul Muad’Dib’s journey into the deserts of Arrakis, and so on and so forth?
The hero’s journey, be it quest or ordeal, mirrors something essential in each of us. The metaphor for life here is implicit – hell, occasionally it’s explicit. With every step, we change. Not so many journeys end precisely where you expect them to. As Bilbo once said:
It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.
When we’re young, especially, this journey seems large and imposing. As we grow older, it changes – our journeys still seem long, but less terrifying. Mystery overcomes majesty; we get lost within our own lives, searching for that magical trinket that got us out here in the first place. Maybe we find it, maybe we don’t. In the end it hardly matters.
I’m in the midst of writing a sequel to a novel I haven’t even published yet. It’s perhaps foolish of me, a waste of my time. Yet I cannot help it; Tyvian Reldamar’s story speaks to me on many levels. Alandar occupies such a defined shape in my mind, it is as though I have lived there. How could I not want Tyvian to wander its wagon-rutted roads and gleaming spirit engine tracks, pondering the possibility and necessity of his own redemption? So, I have spent the past 100 pages guiding him across the fractured counties of Eretheria, hatching his plans and keeping ahead of his responsibilities, his friends in tow. His journey is one that asks just how long can we skate through life before deciding to make a stand. Before deciding that something does matter to us and that something in this world is important enough to fight for.
That’s not all it is, though. No journey is so single-minded, just as no college road-trip is ever really about where you’re going. It’s about the friends you take with you, the stories you tell, the secrets you keep among yourselves, and the way you change your perspective on things. To watch Frodo get worn down by the weight of the One Ring is to also watch Sam rise up and grow strong. Conan’s quest for greatness is eclipsed by his longer, more difficult quest for wisdom and understanding. It does not come with the crown of Aquilonia, nor with the loss of that same crown. It comes in the small places, in the quiet moments. It is not in the achievement, but in the struggle.
This, too, can be said of my own journey. This novel I write, the stories I publish, the queries I send – this is the time of growth, of change. This is where it counts. All of us have such journeys, and we must make them. Step out that door; see where you are swept.
Before we go any further, let me alert you to Adele singing the theme song to the new Bond flick.
If you don’t think that’s awesome, it’s probably best for all of us if you leave the room.
For as long as I can remember, the word ‘cool’ has been defined by a single, solitary figure: James Bond. Even before I was fully cognizant of that character’s influence over my development, it was still there. Bond was the lone, heroic, confident, unflappable individual that summed up what my idea of ‘cool’ was. I was pretending to be characters like him even before I can remember seeing a movie about him.
This, of course, leads one to an inevitable Chicken and the Egg problem: which came first for me, Bond or my idea of cool? To put on my psychology hat for a second (psychologists, please understand that my studies in psych are rather limited - just enough to get me into trouble, as per usual), the answer to this question depends on whether or not you buy into Carl Jung’s concept of a collective unconscious. In brief, it’s the idea that all of us share a kind of unconscious pool of psychic information that, while we aren’t consciously aware of it, is somehow inherited or passed along by our ancestors and joins us with the rest of humanity.
If you buy Jung’s theory (and lots of people do), then Bond is very much plumbing ‘the Hero’ Jungian Archetype from the depths of our collective psyche. He is the guy who’s iron willpower, courage, and inimitable skill enables him to prove his worth and improve the world. Anyone who is predisposed to admiring the ‘hero’ or similar ideas would be drawn to Bond, since he is the concentration of those traits.
That’s not all there is to him, though. Bond isn’t cool because he defeats bad guys and outwits villains – every hero does that, and not all heroes are cool. Bond has something else going on, too. He’s both sophisticated and down-to-earth, both military and civilian, both educated and street-smart. He’s able to seamlessly adapt to any social situation and comes off well in any contest. In a world full of social stratification, cliques, and labels that limit one’s confidence, Bond cuts through them all. He is cool in all possible situations, even when out of his depth, in trouble, or suffering. He forces guys to compliment him while they are torturing him. His enemies admire his skill even while trying to destroy him. His boss loves him even as he is breaking very, very important and sacred rules of engagement. Bond is, essentially, the essence of freedom – able to go where he wishes, do what he wishes, and come out of it spotless and making out with a gorgeous woman on a life raft. Few other heroes can do this with the same level of panache.
I find it interesting, sometimes, the extent to which Bond can get away with doing and saying things that other characters couldn’t. When Pierce Brosnan manages to fall faster than a falling plane in Goldeneye, we immediately know (or should know) that he is violating the laws of physics as demonstrated by Galileo. More than any other hero, though, Bond can get away with this without too many of us rolling our eyes. Why? Well, our subconscious requires him to succeed so that we may invest our own egos in his behavior. We are just so willing to be impressed by a character we have defined, at essence, as impressive that we must forgive the story it’s slights against reality so we can escape with him. This is what I have come to call the Coolness:Reality Ratio. The cooler the character is (i.e. the more he fills in some insecurity or gap in our own emotional or psychological needs and/or weaknesses), the more he can get away with before we call BS on the whole affair. Now, I don’t have a specific numbering system set in place, but it can be safely assumed that James Bond, more than any other character I can think of, has a ratio that’s off the charts.
It is telling, then, that one of the novels I’m trying to sell (The Oldest Trick, set in Alandar) is my attempt at creating a Bond-like character in the person of Tyvian Reldamar, criminal mastermind and smuggler forced to reform his ways by a conscience-reinforcing magic ring. I’m trying, somehow, to catch a bit of that lightning that pulses through Bond’s blood and bottle it up in a fantasy setting. I hope I’ve been successful, but only time will truly tell. In the meantime, I’m going to be humming the tune to “Skyfall” while concocting additional adventures for my own Bond-esque hero to negotiate with skill, wit, and panache.
The plain, wooden letterbox on Banric Sahand’s desk was so nondescript that a visitor to his voluminous field pavilion might have noticed it anyway, given that everything else in the tent was unforgettable. An educated person would quickly note that the contents of his bookshelf ran in two varieties—military strategy and proscribed magical texts—and that the vast majority of the books there had long been thought lost or had been banned throughout the West. A businessman or merchant would have noted the ostentatious quality of the Kalsaari rug that covered the ground, or the expense and rarity of the iron-and-mageglass chair that loomed behind his massive, hand-carved desk. A soldier would note the rune-inscribed broadsword on the rack by the fire not only for the weapon’s quality, but also because it was clearly kept sharp, oiled, and in regular use, as were all of the various weapons and armor supported by racks and stands and attended to by invisible specters bound to Sahand’s will. An uneducated person, meanwhile, would have likely been distracted by the imposing person of Sahand himself—his heavy fur cloak; his polished, silver-shod boots; the dark, iron circlet resting on his rugged brow; the goblet he drank from, made from a human skull. All of these things were amazing, terrifying, and incredible to varying degrees, and then, as some kind of strange, mundane joke, there was the plain wooden letterbox, sitting alone in a corner of the desk of a man who had once sought to conquer the West.
Of course, few ever noticed it, or anything else at all about the room. They were usually too busy lying on their faces before the Mad Prince, groveling for their lives, to take in the finer points of His Highness’s personal living quarters.
On this particular afternoon, the groveler was a warlock from Ayventry named Hortense. Hortense was perhaps forty, with a wife and a teenage daughter, and had come highly recommended as a man of skill, principle, and noble bearing. Sahand’s right-hand man, the towering Gallo, pressed a heavy boot into the small of the man’s back, pushing his face towards the floor; watching this, Sahand noted yet again how quickly one’s ‘bearing’ slipped when faced with imminent death. Hortense was weeping tears, drool, and snot on Sahand’s expensive carpet. “Pl…please, Your Highness, permit…just…just permit me one more chance….I, I, I know we’re close…”
Sahand sighed and looked out the open tent flap, where the snow was falling in heavy sheets along the upper slopes of the Dragonspine mountains. “Hortense, what did I tell you last fall?”
Hortense tried to look up, his eyes blinded by tears, but Gallo pressed his face back down. “Oh! You said…that…that I had one year to get the machines to work.”
“And how long ago was that?” Sahand asked calmly.
“Silence.” Sahand nodded to Gallo, who pressed harder on the engineer’s back. “Now, I am not certain how they read contracts in Ayventry, Hortense, but if it is anything like in the rest of Eretheria, twelve months equals a year. That means you are two months behind schedule, which means I am two months behind schedule. This strikes me as unfair, Hortense. Doesn’t that seem unfair?”
“V-very unfair, milord…”
“I agree, it is very unfair. It seems that you are in a breach of contract, even after I so graciously granted you an extension to complete your work and even went to so great a length as to kidnap numerous thaumatuges to assist you and procured literally scores of wild beasts from all over the world to make your work possible. Are you aware of how much such activities cost me?”
Hortense’s voice was mangled by his cheek being pressed into the carpet. “A great deal, milord.”
“Do you hear yourself, Hortense?” Sahand asked, standing up. “Are you aware of just how cavalierly you just uttered the phrase ‘great deal’?”
Hortense’s breath heaved in heavy sobs. “I…I didn’t…I don’t…”
Sahand crouched besides the prone warlock. “Of course you don’t, Hortense—this, I believe, is the problem we are having in our professional relationship.” Sahand grasped the man by his hair and jerked his head back until Sahand could see his eyes. “You simply do not appreciate my problems. My goals, my aspirations, my operations, my finances are abstractions to you, aren’t they?”
Hortense didn’t answer save to produce a nasal whine through his running nose.
“I have a solution to this problem—a way to bind your self-motivation more closely with my own interests. Now, of course, you are too valuable to punish physically—an injured, ill, or starving man does not work well. However, I have found men with families in jeopardy show a great will to succeed in their tasks.”
Hortense’s bloodshot eyes widened and his face crumpled into an even less flattering expression. “Oh…oh please, Hann, no! Anything! Anything but…”
Sahand permitted himself a tight grimace. “For every day you do not meet the goals I set for you, on that night I grant my officers access to your daughter. It is my understanding that they are not gentle lovers.”
Sahand rose and nodded to Gallo, who released the sobbing warlock. Hortense simply sat in the center of the room, tears streaming down his face, his palms upwards in his lap. “It’s…it’s impossible! It cannot be done! I…I…can’t!”
“Well, then, Hortense,” Sahand said, sitting behind his desk, “Congratulations—you will soon be a grandfather.”
Gallo seized Hortense by the scalp and dragged him from the room like a sack of grain. The tent flap closed behind him, leaving Sahand alone. He glowered at the dark stains on the rug where the warlock had been. Ten years! He had spent the past ten years of his life painstakingly preparing for this winter, and now to think he might fail just when success was closest. He wanted to flay the skin of that inept fop of a warlock himself. He wanted to make the entire city of Freegate wade in rivers of blood. He wanted to call down all the powers of the world to crack the fortresses of Galaspin open and feast on the flesh of the fools inside like a bird cracking open a snail. He clenched his fists and teeth until he heard the leather in his gauntlets cracking and heard his teeth grinding with the stress.
He stood up and released his rage into The Shattering. The heat and raw power of the Fey roared through his blood and blasted forth into one of his bookshelves with a spectacular boom, reducing the shelf and the books to flinders and torn pages. The Mad Prince watched the paper flitter around the tent for a moment before taking a deep breath and sitting down. Then he heard something drop into the letterbox.
On the inside of the lid of the plain wooden container was a spider web of intricate astral runes that, when the lid was closed, linked the interior of the box with a spatial rift through which secure messages could be sent. It was, without a doubt, the most expensive object in the room. Even the mighty Arcanostrum of Saldor did not possess such devices. The Sorcerous League, however, possessed many secrets the magi of Saldor did not.
The letter inside had a red seal, marking it as important and specifically addressed to him—the whole League would not be privy to its contents. Waving his hand to seal the tent from intrusion, Sahand broke the seal with the proper word of power and flipped open the letter:
6th Ahzmonth, 33rd Year of Polimeux II
Our friends in Freegate have come upon a unique and unusual opportunity regarding your operations in the mountains. A meeting is requested this very night for those involved to discuss the situation.
Curse the Name of Keeper,
The Office of the Chairman
Sahand frowned, pondering the implications. The vague wording wasn’t unusual for a letter from the Chairman, of course—it was the highest priority of the League to maintain its secrecy, and so any official correspondence would lack detail in case the message were intercepted. The League was, of course, aware of his actions in Freegate—they had afforded him material support in the form of a variety of magecraft—but what they would consider a ‘unique and unusual opportunity’ was very much a mystery. Especially since they had no idea what his real plan was, else they never would have agreed to support him in the first place. Whatever the reason, the meeting would have to be attended. As usual, the timing was very poor.
Sahand summoned Gallo back into his tent. Gallo was a man of similar stature to his lord, but far less social grace. Even in this cold, he wore dull and dented plate and mail with a wolf’s-head helm that only partially hid his horrendously flame-scarred face. His breath was a choking rasp that gurgled and wheezed constantly, as though the man were constantly drowning in his own saliva. His face was a ruin of burn scars, with only a ragged hole for a mouth and two, dark, fish-dead eyes. Of all Sahand’s underlings, he knew he could rely on Gallo. Gallo was that rarest of creatures—a man without ambition or compassion. Whatever fire had melted off the warrior’s face had also taken with it whatever made him human.
“I am not to be disturbed for the remainder of the evening for any reason, on pain of death.” Sahand ordered. He found threatening death to be the most reliable way to keep his idiot underlings away from him for any lengthy period of time, and he knew Gallo would follow through without hesitation. Referring to the spirit clock in his tent, he saw that he had only seven hours before midnight—just barely enough time for the ritual to be completed. Again, he wondered what could be going on for the meeting to be called on such short notice.
Gallo’s voice was a hollow rasp. “Is that all?”
“No. Keep Hortense working, and inform the city that we will need to get the idiot more help. You are dismissed.”
Gallo executed a stiff bow and went out.
“This had better be good.” Sahand grumbled to himself. He sealed the tent, threw the letter in the fireplace, and got to work.
Author’s Note: This is the first half of a chapter from Tyvian Reldamar and the Iron Ring (working title), an Alandar novel I’m currently putting through it’s final revision (hopefully) before it’s healthy enough to send out. Sahand is one of the major villains.
CHING! Chance clattered to the ground. Tyvian’s hand was numb from the disarm.
“No more playing, Reldamar.” Remieux edged Tyvian away from the sword and waited. “Go on, plead for mercy, thief.”
“Remieux, don’t kill him!” Jaliette’s hands were balled into fists as she watched, rooted to the spot by her father’s hand on her shoulder.
“Kill him.” Lady Velitiere glared at Tyvian’s back, her fingers playing with the empty clasp that held the Eye.
Remieux was breathing heavily—more heavily than Tyvian. That much, at least, was going in his favor. His blade lay four paces to his left, Remieux was but two paces in front of him. Artus was rapidly being discounted as a factor in his plan. This fight had to end, and now. Oh, and it was rather integral that Tyvian win. Being run through would muck up the remainder of his plans quite a bit.
Tyvian made as though to dive towards his sword. Remieux moved his blade to intercept, but realized too late that it was another feint. Tyvian stepped past LeMondeux and, with all the force of his momentum, kicked Remieux in the groin.
Remieux whimpered and collapsed like a cut-string marionette. Tyvian kicked him in the chin and then kicked LeMondeux away. He left Remieux to bleed on the floor so he could get Chance back in his hand.
No sooner had he snatched the weapon up than the hiss and crackle of Etheric energy cooked the air around him. Chance went very cold as it absorbed the brunt of the invocation. Tyvian escaped with a slight singe to his tunic.
“Nice shot, Orsienne. I must confess, my mother’s a bit better at deathbolts than that. Keep practicing, though.”
The exertion of channeling the Ether had left Lord Orsienne green around the gills. He flapped his hands and pointed wildly at Tyvian. “The blade is warded! Guards! Get him! Don’t let him escape.”
“As though the guards were thinking I was to be let go…” Twelve men, all armed to the teeth with firepikes, thunder orbs, and a variety of other expensive magical weapons, surrounded Tyvian.
They all tightened the ring a pace. “Artus, if you’re out there, I’d just like you to know that I’m very displeased with you right now, and I am strongly considering releasing you from my service.”
The ring tightened. The blazing tips of the firepikes were close enough to feel. Tyvian forced a smile. “Now then, gentlemen, no need to go setting anyone on fire.”
Lord Orsienne managed one last bullfrog croak. “Set him on fire!”
The chandelier fell. Tyvian, who was half expecting it, saw it before it hit the ground, and afforded his closing captors a wink. Everyone else was stunned. The collective screams of the noble audience was almost more frightening than the awful racket made by the chandelier itself.
Over years of adventuring, Tyvian had found that the funny thing about distractions was that, no matter how prepared an enemy is to not be distracted, they always, always are. The guards, all twelve of them, looked in the direction of the chandelier. Chance struck once, twice, crippling two men and creating a window wide enough for Tyvian to dart out.
Artus, his broad-bladed pokk knife in one hand, ran an intercept course with him, dragging some blonde tart by the wrist. “It’s about damn time!” Tyvian swished Chance at a few noblemen who looked enterprising enough to get in his way.
“I got distracted.”
“Ah, the stupidity of youth!”
Tyvian ran directly for Lord Orsienne, who dove behind a potted plant for cover. The plan was to go up the stairs at the back of the ballroom and move along the second floor to the other side of the mansion, where Marik would be waiting for them outside the window. That was, of course, provided Marik hadn’t found a blonde tart of his own.
On the way up the stairs, Tyvian put his free arm around Jaliette’s waist. “To remember me by, darling.” He swept her into a quick kiss. Jaliette’s knee went for the right spot, but Tyvian had been expecting it and twisted away. “Good bye.”
Jaliette’s expression was half smile, half scowl. “You ruined my wedding, you boor.”
Tyvian shrugged. “You ruined mine.”
A ball of fire hit the banister next to Tyvian. Artus rushed past him, pushing the blonde up the stairs. “Time to go!”
The guards arrayed themselves in a firing line and readied the firepikes for a volley. “Not in my house!” Lord Orsienne wailed.
Tyvian caught up with Artus. “Lose the wench, I don’t want a hostage!”
“She’s not a hostage, she’s coming with me!”
Tyvian looked at the girl—she was pale, shivering, weeping. “Don’t be an idiot! Give her a goodnight kiss and say goodbye!”
Chance flashed through the air to deflect a pair of thunder orbs back towards the guards. They exploded with a bass rumble, shattering windows and sending men flying.
At the top of the stairs, Tyvian turned one last time and caught the eye of Lady Velitiere. She was angry, but it was the good kind of anger—hot, passionate. “The old girl’s still got some fire. Good for her.”
He darted through the door and slammed it behind him. “Artus, do you know any spells to prop this door?”
Artus glared at him over the girl’s head. “I’m a shepherd. The only spells I know ward off fever and scare wolves.”
“I thought I told you to lose the girl!”
“I’m not! I love her.”
Tyvian rolled his eyes. This was just great. “Go find something to prop this door, all right?”
Artus paused, but only briefly before darting into a side room. Once he had gone, Tyvian smiled at the girl as sweetly as he could muster at the moment.
“What’s your name, darling?”
She choked back a sob. “Ysabette.”
“He’ll come back for you one day, Ysabette.” She smiled then, and it was a beautiful thing. Tyvian didn’t savor it. He planted a hand on her back, opened the door, and shoved her into the arms of the advancing guards behind.
Artus came back, dragging a chaise. “Where’s Ysabette?”
Tyvian manufactured a sigh. “Run off. Sorry.”
The blade of a firepike poked through the door, narrowly missing Tyvian’s shoulder and igniting part of the doorframe. The discussion was over, the chaise pushed into place, and they ran down the hall.
Tyvian threw Chance through the bay window at the end and followed it out. He landed roughly in the dirt.
“’Twas a fine sort of party, I see.” Marik looked like as much a beast as a man in the saddle. He drew a mammoth broadsword and tossed Tyvian the reins of one of the two mounts beside him.
Tyvian smiled. “Ah, Marik. I could have sworn you would have run off with a woman.”
Marik laugh was deep enough to shake the ground. “Bah, the wench wouldn’t have me!”
Artus dusted himself off. “Let’s go.”
They were in the saddle in a moment, and galloping through the streets of Akral even as Orsienne’s men shouted after them. Tyvian felt the weight of the Eye against his flesh, and didn’t look behind him for a long, long time.
* * * * * * * *
“This may be the most attractive thing I’ve seen all night.” Tyvian breathed deep. The innkeeper had scented the bathwater with cinnamon, just as he asked. It sat there, steaming in its great wooden basin, calling to his aching muscles.
“By the name of holy Ozdai and his holy Hearth, what a ride that was!” Marik’s sank his great, bear-like form into one side of the great tub, the steam beading on his thick beard in great shimmering globules.
Tyvian slipped into the opposite side and let out a long, slow breath. In the end, it had been a close thing. Orsienne’s guards had pursued them into the streets, and it was only by Pit-spawned chance that they had lost them.
“I don’t know how you two can relax like that.” Artus sat by their gear, sharpening a the short, broad blade of his pokk. “They could still find us, you know.”
Marik shrugged. “Take it while you can get it, kiddo. Time’ll be tense soon enough.”
“Besides, I seem to remember you relaxing at a rather inopportune moment earlier. You owe us one.” Tyvian opened one eye to look at Artus.
Artus stuck the pokk into the floor. “You would have done the same thing if you were me. She was beautiful.”
“Beautiful women are everywhere—you’ll meet another one. Better to leave her now, Artus, than to have her leave you later. I’ve done you a favor, I daresay.” Tyvian inhaled deeply. “Marik, doesn’t this smell simply wonderful?”
Marik smiled to show the gaps in his teeth. “Tickles the nose, I’ll grant you.”
Artus worried the dagger. “You don’t believe in love, do you?”
Marik climbed out of the tub. “Ah, the simple man’s cue to leave. Good night, you lot—we leave in three hours.”
Tyvian nodded to Marik as he stomped out, and watched Artus carve a nothing shape in the floor. “Is something bothering you, Artus?”
“I’m having some trouble understanding why the hell you did what you did tonight. If you loved Jaliette, why did you ruin her wedding night? If you didn’t, why did you even bother to try?”
Tyvian ran a hand through his hair. “Are you mad at me for making you leave that pretty blonde thing crying in the hallway? Come now, you know as well as I that we couldn’t take her along. You would have gotten bored with her in a week, and then where’d we be? Mailing some scatterbrained girl home in a less-than-marriageable condition, I imagine, if not caught and hanged by the neck.”
Artus pulled up the pokk. “It isn’t about Ysabette…well, maybe it is, a little. It’s mostly about you, Tyvian. What did Jaliette do to you to make you want to risk your neck like that? You don’t need any giant diamond, Tyvian—you’re richer than any three of those people at the party tonight. Was it revenge? For what?”
Tyvian turned the question over in his mind for a moment, blowing bubbles in the bath. When he came to an answer, he reached to retrieve the Eye from a pouch. It sparkled in the lamplight, like a hundred stars set in glass, and painted patterns on the bathhouse walls. “This represents a price. A price all of us, sooner or later, have to pay, one way or another—the price of life. You and I, Artus, we keep what’s ours and lose what’s taken from us. Our lives, our fortunes, our fates are our own—they’re held in our pockets and our packs, in our heads and in our hands. Not many are the men and women who can live like us, and even the very strong can succumb to the lure of a safe, boring, stable life. They sell out, just like Jaliette sold out. Tonight, on behalf on the world, I exacted her payment and showed her, in no uncertain terms, the life she was missing.”
“The gambler’s adage,” Artus nodded, “’He who has played, will be played.”
“Yes, well, I don’t think she’ll be playing again. She’s retired from the game to become a space on the board. Oh well.”
“Tyvian, would you sell out?”
Tyvian’s smile was faint. “I might have, if she had asked me.”
Artus’ mouth fell open. “Really?”
“No, not really. Go to sleep—we’re leaving soon.”
Artus stood to leave. “I might sell out one day, Tyvian. Marik will too. What happens if you’re the last one playing?”
He left without an answer. Tyvian took his time in the bath, turning over the jewel in his hand even as he turned over he thoughts. Finally, when he couldn’t stand the silence any longer, he answered the question.
“Then, Artus, I win.” He dropped the Eye into the bathtub and left. To his knowledge, it was still there when the three of them rode out under the murky grayness of the dawn mist.
When the music changed, Artus noticed. He entertained the notion that the change was, in fact, the signal, but since no one was screaming and none of the guards were yelling ‘get him,’ he figured it wasn’t.
Artus was something of a musician himself. In the fields as a boy he had taken up the daer whistle to pass the time. It was a simple instrument with a sweet, pure voice, and he still carried one with him when they were on the road, much to Tyvian’s chagrin. Tyvian had told him, in no uncertain terms, that the whistle was ‘a crude, mechanical instrument lacking the capacity to capture true human passion of feeling.’ Artus had never really known what he was talking about, considering the violins and cellos that Tyvian favored to be squawky, fancy, and womanish. When the music started, however, Artus thought he might have changed his mind.
The sound produced by the quartet was immediately sensual and tragic at the same time. The two violins wept with a bleeding passion, rising and falling as the beating of a breaking heart, whilst the cello and bass set a deep, thrumming beat. As one violin sang to another, as two lovers bidding farewell, Artus could actually feel himself blush.
The dance floor had emptied with an almost frenzied haste when the song began. It was not until it was completely empty that Tyvian, the Lady Velitiere held close in his arms, stepped out. Artus barely suppressed a yelp. “What the hell is he doing?”
Tyvian always said that ‘the dance is nine-tenths of courtship,’ and Artus would never have believed him had he never seen Tyvian dance before. He had, as it happened, and he knew Tyvian was good—very good—and no man would practice that much if he didn’t think it was useful. Even still, Artus had never seen, much less heard of the dance Tyvian was doing now—if he had, he would have demanded that Tyvian teach it to him a long time ago.
Tyvian and Velitiere held one another cheek-to-cheek, hip-to-hip, and slid across the floor as one person. This was not a dance of formality, this was a dance of passion. As Tyvian manipulated the lovely noblewoman around his body, her hands sliding up his arms and through his hair, Artus began to get worried. Hann, she was enjoying it! A married woman nearly twice his age!
Artus looked around and tried to gauge the audience’s reaction. There was nothing but staring.
“Tell me, monsieur, who is that man?”
Artus turned around. A pretty young Akrallian woman, no more than seventeen, was gazing at the couple with her dark eyes wide. Looking around again, he discovered that she must have been talking to him. “Uhhh…who, him?”
Her tight blonde ringlets bobbed as she nodded. “Oui, monsieur. The one who is such a fine dancer.”
Artus swallowed and then adopted his best Tyvian-esque swagger. “Well, madame, he is actually a good friend of mine.”
“Artus Vedda of Jondas Crossing, madame, at your service.” He managed a bow and kissed her hand.
She giggled. “Aren’t you the gentleman? You’re a northerner, aren’t you?”
Artus blushed. How did they always bloody know? “Yes, ma’am…madame.”
She clapped. “How exciting! Do tell me about it.”
Artus began to.
* * * * * * * *
Velitiere was a good dancer, but out of practice. It took several bars on the floor before Tyvian got her to loosen up, but when she did, it was all he could do to keep her under control.
She tried to lead, she pulled him closer, she brushed her lips along his neck. As the Revien Nu’Kasaar reached its stride, Tyvian began to lose himself in the dance. It stopped mattering who she was, it only mattered that she was there. When he spun her, he spun her hard, and when she returned, she clung to him like an old lover. They moved together, beat by beat, phrase by lovely phrase.
Her eyes passed before him, and he dove into them. Gods, they were Jaliette’s eyes. Refracting in them was the same spark that he remembered when they spent four days on that ship to Ihyn. They had rested in the captain’s cabin, and the shinh’ar wanderling on board taught her to catch fish off the side. Back when they were partners, back when Jaliette was free…back when Jaliette was his.
The Revien Nu’Kasaar’s final movement was more energetic than the others, and it was here that the dance grew taxing. Velitiere was out of breath, but was not to be stopped. Tyvian dipped and swung her like a doll, sliding from move to move with practiced grace. Her hair had come undone, her chest heaved, and her elaborate dress had been shedding jewels like leaves in autumn. As the music reached its crescendo, Tyvian’s dexterous hand slipped up Velitiere’s back, plucked the Eye of H’siri from its fastening around her neck, and secreted it in his sleeve. In the heat of the moment, and as the Revien Nu’Kasaar died a fiery death in a deep, deep dip, the Lady Velitiere never noticed.
The music stopped. Silence, a single clap, then another…and another. The whole of the ballroom erupted into applause. Tyvian, smiling to himself, pulled his partner to her feet. Everything was going according to plan. All he had to do now was walk out the door.
Then she kissed him—a deep, Akrallian kiss, tongue and all. It was a good kiss. It was also about then that everything started to go wrong.
“Mother!” Jaliette, handfuls of wedding gown bunched in her hands, rushed between Tyvian and his dancing partner.
Tyvian couldn’t resist. “I’m sorry, Jaliette, but I’m too winded for another dance just now. Maybe you and Remieux could go on a march.”
Jaliette slapped him. Remieux, in a brand new doublet, was barging through the crowd his way. The bubble of open space the dance had created was collapsing at an exponential rate.
“Monsieur!” Orsienne’s voice was thick with wine. “I would wish that you make your intentions towards my wife clear!”
Velitiere broke away from him, her chest still heaving, her eyes distant, lost. Tyvian wagered that he had approximately five seconds until she noticed the Eye was gone. He started a countdown.
Jaliette was before him. “What are you trying to do, Tyvian?”
Remieux was closer, but the gawkers, bless them, were in the way.
Tyvian caught her hand. “Jaliette, do you really love him?”
Jaliette’s mouth dropped open. “What…I…”
Everyone stopped to look at Lady Velitiere. She was shaking, a hand pawing absently at the empty clasp at her throat. “I’ve lost it!”
Lord Orsienne held up his arms. “A thousand marks to the one who finds the Eye!”
Half the guests bent over. Jaliette was with the other half. “Tyvian, you didn’t…”
“First answer my question.” Tyvian looked to see Remieux was less than three paces away. “Quickly, please.”
She inhaled, held it, released. “Of course not.”
Remieux pushed Tyvian in the chest. “Get away from my wife, Reldamar.”
Behind them, he could hear Orsienne yell. “Did anyone see it fall off? Velitiere, perhaps it’s in your dress somewhere.”
Tyvian looked at Jaliette, then at Remieux. A little voice inside him piped up. “Oh, what the hell.”
He spit in Remieux’s eye.
Remieux roared and pulled a blade-less hilt from his belt. “Veris’hassa’i LeMondaux!” At the sound of the incantation, a rapier of mageglass grew out of the hilt like some shimmering thornbush. “I call you to the field of honor, Monsieur. If you haven’t a weapon, one will be provided.”
Tyvian slipped Chance from his boot. “Veris’hassa’i Chance!” The two blades were very similar, but Chance was clearly the higher quality. Its hand guard was far more ornate and as it moved, the air sang around it.
“Remieux, don’t!” Jaliette stepped between them.
Remieux’s black eyes narrowed. “Is he your lover, then? Would you take his side over mine?”
Jaliette’s face fell as she began to speak. Tyvian could almost hear the tears coming. “Remieux, I didn’t want to tell you, but…”
Tyvian cut her off. “What she means to say, Remieux, is that she fears for your life. She’s seen me fight, you know.”
Lord Orsienne looked up from his search. “Great Gods, whatever is going on now?”
Between the dance, the kiss, the lost diamond, the duel, and the restrictive nature of the corset, some women at the ball passed out from the excitement. This, of course, led to more excitement, which in turn led to more women passing out. The end result was that of mass chaos. Men called for water from all over the ballroom. The women who managed to remain conscious tried very hard to find somewhere to sit down. Guards carried the unconscious to the guest rooms upstairs. Lord Orsienne tried to console his panicking wife. Jaliette tried to console a panicking Lord Orsienne, and, in the middle of it all, Remieux and Tyvian faced off across a strip of well-inlaid ballroom floor.
“To the death, is it?” Tyvian assumed the en garde position.
Remieux did the same. “I’ve no wish to kill you—first blood.”
“To the death then!”
“A little drastic for a spit in the eye, wouldn’t you say?” Tyvian grinned.
“Silence!” Remieux flechéd, which is to say, he performed a running leap with his sword out. Tyvian parried effortlessly and turned him aside.
They squared off once more. Remieux moved like a hunter, each foot placed deliberately, every motion of his blade precise. Tyvian danced, his blade a consistent blur of motion. They clashed in a quick series of attacks and counter-attacks once, twice. Remieux was strong, and Tyvian could feel the force of his blows travel through Chance and up his arm. If the captain connected, Tyvian was spitted like a hog and he knew it.
“Why are you here, Saldorian?” Remieux’s sword twisted to a pronated position. “Trying to steal Jaliette from me?”
“Something like that.” Tyvian lunged, Remieux was ready. He retreated past Chance’s reach and counter-lunged. The point of his blade, LeMondaux, made a ribbon of blood across Tyvian’s cheek.
“You are no kind of man, Reldamar.” Remieux continued, changing his guard position again. Tyvian had been expecting to fight a man who was using Bon’chaire, the Akrallian school of fencing, but the military officer kept switching from style to style. Until Tyvian could nail down a pattern, he wouldn’t know what to expect. If he wasn’t careful, he could walk into another trap.
Remieux kept talking. “A man should get a woman and keep a woman. He should give her a home and a family. You? You are nothing but a toy they play with and throw away.”
Tyvian feinted, Remieux fell for it. He could have gone for the heart, but he simply cut a ribbon along the captain’s cheek. “Look, Remieux, we’re twins!”
Remieux attacked hard and fast. Tyvian parried blow after blow, retreating quickly. He fell backwards over a servant, still searching for the Eye. Remieux shot forward for a final blow. Tyvian threw himself to the right as the tip of LeMondaux buried itself in the wood floor. As Tyvian scrambled to his feet, the Eye opted to slip out of a hidden sleeve pocket and inconveniently skitter across the ballroom floor.
The Eye could not have been more conspicuous if it had been accompanied by war drums. It clattered against the floor in a staccato rhythm, breaking the crowd into an awkward silence. Everyone saw it, and everyone saw Tyvian run over to grab it.
Lord Orsienne yelled the first obligatory word. “Thief!” He then followed it up with the second. “Guards!”
Before ‘seize him’ managed to cross Orsienne’s mind, Remieux stepped in the way. “No! He’s mine.”
Tyvian entertained a few theories as to how Remieux could have become so ridiculously stupid. “Artus, now!”
Remieux attacked, Tyvian defended. “Artus, now!”
Tyvian was driven back again. He’d figured out Remieux’s pattern now, he could take him at any time, but killing him wouldn’t solve anything. The longer they fought, the more time he had to figure out an escape. If the captain fell, the guards fell on him. Still, pattern or no, he couldn’t hold off Remieux forever. “ARTUS!”
* * * * * * * *
Her name was Ysabette, and she was perfect. Perfect little turned up nose, perfect delicate hands, perfect gentle voice—everything was just perfect. Ysabette had invited Artus out to sit in the garden until the song was over, so they could talk some more.
She was actually fascinated with his common past. She kept asking questions about the sheep, and about all his brothers and sisters, and about whether he had ever seen a real arahk or not. He told her story after story, and she just kept laughing! It was simply amazing. Artus didn’t think noble blood could produce such girls.
“Artus, why did you run away from home?” Ysabette nestled her head against his shoulder.
Artus looked through a space in the branches of the briarleaf tree above them and watched the half moon. “I didn’t want to go to war, like my brothers did.”
“Why? You weren’t scared, were you? I can’t imagine you being scared.”
“No, I wasn’t scared…well, not really. I didn’t want to put Ma through it. I was the last boy in the house—I had four brothers, and all of them went to fight the arahk. Marik was the only one come back. I figured, if I ran away, at least I’d be alive, and Ma’d know that, and she’d be happier than if I was dead in some marsh in Roon.”
“Oh.” Ysabette took his hand and traced the tendons on the back with one finger. “I would love to have a sheep. My mother won’t let me have any pets except stupid birds, and they always die. It isn’t my fault, either—they just get a chill and then drop dead.”
“Mmm-hmm.” Artus closed his eyes. He heard a lot of noise coming from the ball room. He wondered vaguely what Tyvian was up to.
Ysabette perked up. “Did you hear your name just now?”
“Don’t think so, why?”
She shrugged, then shivered. “It is a cool night, Artus. I love it.”
Artus stood and gave her his jacket. “Here. Where I’m from, this is a hot summer day.”
Ysabette giggled and curled up under the coat. In the background, the roar of the ballroom faded into his subconscious like a crowd that cheered only for him.
“It’s a bad idea.”
“Artus, are you suggesting that I cannot do it?” Tyvian Reldamar surveyed the glasses of red wine on the tray offered him by a powder-wigged servant. He dipped a finger into one and tasted. Making a face, he waved the tray away.
“I didn’t say you couldn’t do it, I just said it was a bad idea.” Artus scratched under his lace collar for the twelfth time that hour.
Tyvian slapped his hand. “Please, Artus, try not to look so pedestrian.”
Around them, in a grand ballroom of shimmering mageglass and ivory, the ball progressed much as it had that last hour. As a string quartet played a Saldorian waltz, women floated through the dance in massive dresses like a fleet of galleons on maneuvers, their hair and sleeves glittering with enchanted jewelry and illumite. Watching from the sidelines, wealthy old men smoked imported tracco from Ivistan, and clapped their hands to send black-liveried servants scurrying. Voices were polite and muffled; the smiles were plentiful and insincere.
“Is this the whole reason you came here?” Artus was doing his best, but was still uncomfortable. Not a year ago he was just some northern peasant boy, running from home, trying to dodge the draft, knife-fighting in the streets of Freegate, eating only what he could steal. Now he was shoe-horned into some frilly gentleman’s outfit standing among people whom, upon a whim, could buy all the possessions of his family farm five times over and not even skip a meal. Hann’s Boots! They wouldn’t even have to skip an hors d’oeuvre.
Tyvian smiled. “I don’t think she’d even miss it.”
“It’s a two-pound diamond resting between her breasts. She’ll miss it.” Across the room from where they stood, the Lady Velitiere Numeux du Akral stood beside her husband, Lord Orsienne. She had chosen this evening, the night of her daughter’s marriage, to showcase her most infamous of possessions, the Eye of H’siri. Until now, Artus had been confused as to why Tyvian insisted upon coming to Jaliette’s marriage celebration. Now he knew.
Tyvian fiddled with the plain iron ring on his finger. It seemed out of place when matched with his incomparably exquisite clothing, but then he was never without it. “Is Marik waiting with the horses?”
“Yes. Is this really necessary?”
Tyvian gave Artus a wink. “Is anything?”
Artus snatched a glass of wine from a passing tray and downed it in one gulp. “This won’t get you Jaliette back, you know.”
“Who cares? Jaliette’s just a woman.”
Tyvian slipped into the crowd.
Artus surveyed the layout of the ballroom for the fifth time since entering. Four chandeliers of mageglass and illumite, which wouldn’t break, but they’d fall readily enough; sixteen windows, approximately twenty feet tall and very breakable; twelve guards in plain sight, all breakable to varying degrees. Of course, then there was Lord Orsienne Numeux du Akral himself—a former initiate of the Arcanostrum who could have been, had he chosen that path, a staff-bearing mage. He might be trouble, real trouble.
Artus sighed. “Why does every party end like this?”
* * * * * * * *
Tyvian coasted across the dance floor, noting the intricate pattern in which the wood had been inlaid. Good workmanship, that. He’d have to remember it for that far distant day when he was too old to do anything else but buy a house.
He spotted Jaliette on Remieux’s—no, make that her husband’s—arm. A military fellow, was Ramieux, which on this side of the Dragonspine meant broad shoulders and a barrel chest to hold in all the hot air. Tyvian set a direct course for their position, cutting through a few waltzing couples. A few of them complained, but he didn’t tarry long enough to listen.
She turned around. “Tyvian?” A white gown with sapphires to match her eyes, her midnight hair bound atop her head by an elaborate marital apparatus of pins and pearls. To think he’d almost had her. She could have ruined his life, and he might have let her.
He bowed with a grace born of blood and the tutor’s lash. “You are stunning, as ever, milady.”
She had the temerity to blush. “I wasn’t expecting to see you here.”
“I wasn’t expecting to be invited.”
Tyvian smiled. “I know.”
“Monsieur Reldamar, I presume.” Remieux extended a gloved hand. “Jaliette has spoken of you. I had the privilege of meeting your mother last spring—a truly brilliant woman.”
Tyvian took his hand, and Remieux gripped hard. “The pleasure was all hers, Captain, I’m sure.”
“You should come visit us sometime.” Remieux squeezed harder, smiling.
Tyvian put one leg back in time to trip a passing servant. With a clatter, the poor fellow’s tray of soft Eddon cheese and cocktail wafers splattered all over Remieux’s immaculate uniform. “I’ll be sure to.” Tyvian returned the captain’s smile.
“Clumsy fool!” Remieux glowered over the groveling servant. He even went so far as take off his glove to strike him. Fortunately for the servant, the quizzical gazes of polite society stayed his hand.
Tyvian examined his sleeve for crumbs—none, thank Hann. Remieux, of course, looked like a buffet. “It seems as though your doublet may have suffered a fatal wound, Captain. Perhaps you ought to attend to it.”
Remieux wiped away his rage long enough to favor Jaliette with a tender kiss. “I’m afraid he’s right, my lovely. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
“Hurry.” Jaliette let her eyes linger on Remieux’s wide back for a moment before turning to Tyvian. “You haven’t changed.”
Tyvian moved a strand of her hair back into place. “Ah, but I have, my dear. I seem to be short one lover.”
Jaliette stepped back. “Ex-lover, and you never seem to have a shortage.”
He caught her hand in his. “Come, introduce me to your parents.”
Jaliette searched Tyvian’s face for the joke. He composed his face into a mask of earnestness, but he could tell she saw the sparkle in his ocean-blue eyes. “What are you scheming?”
Tyvian laughed. That was what he liked most about Jaliette—she always knew when he was planning something. It had made the chase that much more interesting. “Nothing drastic, I assure you.”
“Since when do you do anything that isn’t drastic?”
“Since now.” He kissed the back of her hand so lightly that she couldn’t even feel it through her glove. He backed the gesture up with his most winning smile. “Please?”
Jaliette growled something under her breath and led him off.
* * * * * * * *
Artus’s pickpocket hands twitched as he shouldered through the wealthy throngs to where the ropes that held up the chandeliers were tied off. He would have put his hands in his own pockets to stem the urge, if only he had pockets. Bloody pants cost fifty gold marks and didn’t even have any bloody pockets.
Tyvian’s ettiquete lessons welled up in his head. ‘Pockets are the province of those too poor to have porters. If it’s too precious to give to your man, it’s too precious to be carrying about, anyway.’ Easy for him to say, what with Artus and Marik carrying around all his junk, but what if you were the man? What then? Bloody stupid nobles and their bloody stupid rules.
Artus made it to the chandelier tie-off and along the way only snatched two wallets, a bracelet, and a truly foul tasting meat pie off someone’s plate. He wasn’t sure, but he thought it had spinefish in it. It figured—only Akrallian fops and lunatics would spend that much money to put a poisonous fish in a pie.
Having no pockets, Artus simply deposited most of his booty in the corner by the chandelier ropes. He selected the fattest of the wallets from the bunch to stuff in his shirt. It was now his job to wait for Tyvian’s signal. Of course, he had no idea what that would be. Tyvian had only said it would be ‘obvious.’ Artus hoped he was right. Between all the money and all the girls, this was an easy place to get distracted, and he didn’t feel like waiting all night.
* * * * * * * *
Lord Orsienne Numeux du Akral was built like a porcelain teapot—squat, pale, and decorative. Tyvian entertained the notion that, were he pushed down the stairs, the Akralian noble would start rolling and never stop, his stubby little arms and legs flapping like the fins on a turtle. His wife, as though through the artifice of some storybook convention, was tall and graceful despite her years. How the spheroid Lord Orsienne had secured such a beauty for a bride was utterly beyond Tyvian, though he was grateful that Jaliette took after the Lady Velitiere. He had a rule about bedding egg-shaped women.
“Very pleased I am to meet you, Monsieur Reldamar. I had the privilege of being instructed by your mother whilst at the Arcanostrum. Never was an archmage so skilled at conveying the intricacies of Etheric enchantment.” Lord Orsienne passed Tyvian a glass of his atrocious wine. Tyvian took it and resolved to find a convenient plant in which to dump it at his earliest opportunity.
“My mother spoke of you as well, milord.” Tyvian lied.
Lord Orsienne’s painted eyebrows shot up an inch. “Really? I’m flattered! It was nothing bad, I hope.”
“Of course not.”
Orsienne poked his wife in the shoulder. “Did you hear that, Velitiere? Maybe I should have stayed and been a mage, eh?”
The Lady Velitiere smiled. “How is it that you know my daughter, monsieur? I’m surprised that she did not bring a man of such good family to our attention sooner.”
Jaliette pounced on the question. “We do not know each other well, mother. I’ve only met Tyvian a few times, and then only briefly.”
Tyvian smirked. “And we didn’t do much talking.”
“I see.” Lady Velitiere put a hand on the Eye. The big diamond, made her hand look thin, almost sickly.
The conversation progressed at a plodding, predictable rate. Tyvian was consistently amazed at the consummate worthlessness of so-called ‘noble’ conversation. He would have taken the company of a hundred drunken criminals over a single lord if for no other reason than the criminals would have something interesting to say. Of course, it would be stupid and interesting, but that was better than stupid and uninteresting, which appeared to be the overriding motif in Lord Orsienne’s anecdotes.
“…and then the footman said, ‘yes monsieur, if you please!’” Orsienne erupted into a fit of laughter. Tyvian conjured the picture of him rolling down the stairs again, and laughed along.
Jaliette’s laughter was light and airy. Tyvian knew that laugh—that was her fake laugh. She had used it before when the two of them were together—‘partners,’ as she called it—and they were caught by pirates or about to be roasted by a firedrake or some similarly dire situation. Tyvian could hear her sarcasm before it arrived. “Oh, Father—you tell that story so well. You must excuse me, I think Remieux must be missing his bride by now.”
“Who wouldn’t?” Tyvian smiled. Before she left, Jaliette shot him a glare.
“Now, Monsieur Reldamar…”
“Please, milord, call me Tyvian.”
Lord Orsienne clapped his hands. “So be it, Tyvian. And for you, a Reldamar, I shall grant the privilege of addressing me as Orsienne! What of that, eh?”
Tyvian bowed. “I am flattered, Orsienne.”
“Naturally, Tyvian. Now, as I was saying, I remember back in the fifty-seventh year of the Keeper Polimeux—the last time a son of Akral was privileged with the Seat—I was a young boy and I had this falcon…”
Tyvian let Orsienne drone on, nodding when he thought it might be appropriate. He let his eyes drift to the Eye of H’siri and, more importantly, to that which cradled it. Velitiere may have been a woman some twenty years his senior, but her bosom seemed none the worse for wear. She was, in fact, better endowed than Jaliette herself, which, he reminded himself, was only natural for a woman who had borne a child…at least, he was relatively certain that was natural. He was a nobleman, not a midwife, so he didn’t know all the intricate details of such things. Maybe when Jaliette had popped out a brat or two, he could conduct a comparative exercise.
Ordinarily, Tyvian would eye an attractive woman for recreational purposes alone, but this case was different. He wasn’t about to bed Orsienne’s wife, though not out of any respect for Orsienne. Rather, it was based off the assumption that a woman who would willingly submit to a union with some vapid penguin of a man undoubtedly was afflicted with a mental or emotional deficiency that Tyvian wanted no part of. No, Tyvian’s discerning examination of Velitiere’s more womanly attributes was based solely in his wish for her to notice him doing so, and to secure her enthusiasm when he asked her to dance.
“…and the falcon, it flew away! Ha!” Orsienne had finished his glass of wine and immediately began another. Tyvian smiled and nodded.
They were midway through another tedious anecdote when Velitiere noticed. She blushed and put her hand to the Eye again. “A nervous habit…” Tyvian licked his lips ever so subtly, “…I suppose I’ll just have to make her comfortable.”
Tyvian met her eyes. They were Jaliette’s—clear crystal blue. As Orsienne droned, Tyvian and Velitiere had a conversation of looks and expressions. At first, Tyvian did all the ‘talking.’ With subtle twists of his lips, the careful motion of his head, and the practiced flicker of his deep eyes, he spoke:
“You’re beautiful. Don’t you know that you’re beautiful? Come closer to me. Please, I’m begging you.”
At last, Velitiere let out a breath, and her eyes began to speak back.
Tyvian inclined his head.“Why?”
Velitiere shrugged and nodded towards Orsienne. “My husband…”
Tyvian let his lips twist into the barest smirk and shook his head. “Him? He doesn’t care. He doesn’t even know.”
Velitiere shook her head. “I don’t like this.”
Tyvian fixed himself with the barest pout—a manly pout, but still a pout.“Please?”
Velitiere played with the ends of her hair absently, glancing around.“I’m flattered but…”
Tyvian let his eyes fix on hers.“You are beautiful.”
She let her hand brush her neck and inclined her head.“Thank you.”
Tyvian shot Orsienne a dismissive look and smiled at her.“He doesn’t appreciate you. How will it hurt?”
She sighed just enough.“Speak to me.”
“…and that’s why I never go to Iyhn without a…”
“Orsienne?” Tyvian interrupted.
The nobleman tripped on his words. “Yes?”
Tyvian never took his eyes from Velitiere. “May I ask your wife to dance?”
Orsienne blinked, downed his wine. “Well…uhhh…certainly Tyvian. Is that all right with you, my dear?”
Velitiere extended her hand. “Are you a good dancer, Monsieur Reldamar?”
Tyvian called to the string quartet. “Conductor, play me the Revien Nu’Kasaar.”
He was pleased at the gasp.