Bannon strode from the Palace in a towering fury. How dare that overgrown streetling humiliate him like that? And over some streetling chit too, no less? He was so angry that he almost didn’t see the man in strange clothing until he reached out a hand to catch his attention.
“You don’t seem the sort to run from a fight against that sort. Not to me, at least, good Squire.” The man had dark black hair and a tall hat and he wore the strangest sort of spectacles with small, round, dark lenses.
Bannon stiffened. “And who would you be, to speak to me in such a manner?”
“Someone who might have the ability to help you get some of your proper respect back, if you have the courage to accept what I have to offer.” The man paused. “After all, a man wouldn’t take insults like that simply lying down. A man would want to fight back, by any means necessary.”
Bannon thought about the situation for a moment. “I do not trust you, nor your motives.”
The man shrugged. “I would expect nothing less than distrust from one of your strength. I would not even trust me without a great deal more familiarity. If you wish to talk, or if you wish to learn what I have to teach you, simply ask for me in the Burning Vine. I am known there.”
“And you are?”
“Lukan, Squire, I am called Lukan.”
— — —
Late that night, after most of the dancing was coming to an end, Kian stood on a balcony overlooking the city, deep in thoughts. He wanted, more than anything, to help his cousin capture her Knight. A Castellan dreamer meant hope for Castellan. The daughters of Castellan always dreamed in times of trial and fear, but they dreamed so that Castellan would survive, and thrive. They always dreamed of hope.
He didn’t notice Bastion’s presence at first, and when he did notice, he wasn’t certain how long the Captain had been standing, watching him look out over the city and into the night.
“Captain?” Kian was concerned. Bastion’s face had the strangest expression on it.
“I saw you speaking with her.” He paused, struggling to get the words past a strange block in his throat. “As I danced with your sister, I saw you walk up to her. I saw the two of you talk. You stood very close, spoke very low.” He fell silent for a moment, trying to maintain composure. “Please do not break her heart, my Prince. I beg of you.”
Kian stared at Bastion, stunned, his mouth opening and closing soundlessly until he was able to recover his voice. “Dear God, she was right. You are completely clueless.”
Bastion straightened at the words, uncomprehending. “My Prince?”
Kian sighed. “Captain, her heart is safe from me. I do not seek it, not as you seem to think. She has already chosen someone, I think, and that one seems to be oblivious to her interest.”
Bastion’s face went tellingly blank. He was angry. “So you were not paying court to her? You were speaking of this other man?”
Kian nodded. “Yes, Captain, we were speaking of another man.” He could not believe that Bastion could be so blindly ignorant of what was right in front of him and it made him slightly angry. Perhaps he could be made to see… “Apparently she’d been looking for him for years and what he has done to deserve such devotion, I am unaware.”
Bastion’s hand clenched slightly in anger. “Who is he? Who is this man?” The thought of Riva seeking someone who ignored her, when she had already suffered so much heartbreak over her life as a Traveler… well, the thought made it difficult for him to maintain composure.
Kian restrained himself from throwing up his hands in frustration only by the narrowest of margins. “If you are too blind to see, then I am not going to be the one to tell you. Why don’t you ask her yourself? Why don’t you ask her to tell you who stands in her heart and in her dreams? Maybe she’ll tell you. After all, you are her friend.”
Bastion remained still for a moment, trying to collect his thoughts. Kian’s use of the word “dreams” carried with it a peculiar connotation, one that was specific to this world and he knew that Riva wasn’t from this world. It was a conundrum that he wasn’t certain that he could solve and it stunned him out of the immediate rage. “I… I cannot ask her.”
Kian sighed and turned again to his consideration of the night sky over Castellan. “Then you will have to puzzle this out yourself, Captain. Trust me, everything you need to see is right in front of you, if you will only take the time to see it.”
After a moment more, Bastion bowed slightly to his Prince and departed and Kian bowed his head in frustration as he leaned against the railing at the edge of the balcony. “Dear God, be with my cousin. She will need You very much because the man You have chosen for her is an idiot.”
— — —
With the official start of the season, Bastion was kept very busy. Quite a few nobles wished to learn the new style of dance. He and Riva came very close to running in different circles for several days until Princess Keara insisted on the lessons which had been promised. Riva joined her in her bower to give private lessons in the style to Keara and her maids, and a few gently born noble daughters as well.
It was actually quite a bit of fun.
It also gave Keara a chance to talk to her cousin, as they became more comfortable around each other and able to renew the friendship that was several years old. And Keara was very hungry for news of the world outside the Palace. Riva found herself telling her cousin about her flight from Pallantia, about the Pirate and his sister, about the Windborne, about Kodran and the streetlings, even about her fears and her dreams.
Keara was willing to be a listening ear, though some of what Riva said frightened her. Riva had given up so much to be with the man of her dreams… Keara was afraid to speak of her own dreams because she wasn’t sure she was strong enough to do what she had to do to find her Seer. Wasn’t she grown up enough yet?
Dougal sat in a tavern in Pallantia, nursing a mug of ale. He had managed to unearth stories of fascinating possibility, but he wasn’t certain that he was ready to return to Castellan. His old friend would want information of more solidity than simply rumors of a fight in a marketplace.
He wasn’t expecting to see a young Pirate walk over and abruptly sit down opposite him at the table. “I was told that I needed to talk to you.”
Dougal lifted an eyebrow. “And you would be…?”
The young man nodded. “My name is Dalziel. I was told by a friend who calls himself Dramsol that you needed to hear what I have to say.”
Dougal blinked. This Dramsol was the one who had informed him about the fight that he had observed on the last day that anyone in Pallantia had seen the Princess. “Why would Dramsol send you to me?”
Dalziel, who was still a young man since Piracy was a young man’s vocation while the call of adventure still sang in the blood, sighed and pulled a collection of papers out of a bag after making certain that they were unobserved. “I was hoping to take these to Lord Illian personally, but I cannot get through to him. Dramsol said that you knew someone who would be interested in knowing where the Emperor would hide his sister and the best way to get her out of there.”
That made Dougal sit up and take notice. “And you would know this how?” He glanced at the papers and paled slightly in response to what he read.
“I already helped my sister escape and if the Princess is being held there then we don’t have much time to lose. She’s been there too long already.”