Monthly Archives: May 2014

Arc Three Chapter Three

Riva felt like her stomach was a bundle of open nerves and she wondered if she would ever be able to get her hands to stop trembling. “I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared in my life.”

Dalziel, as he walked beside her, smiled and put a gentle hand on her arm. “So you truly dreamed of him? Is that why you left Pallantia?”

She nodded. “I didn’t know, before we found those papers, that my brother planned to send me to the Tower. I still don’t know that he knew what would have happened to me there. I don’t… I don’t want to think that he knew and was going to send me there anyway. I’ve been a scientist’s playpretty once already. I don’t ever want it to happen again.”

Dalziel whistled low. “Castellan dreams… I never thought that I would play a part in the events surrounding a Castellan dreamer. Is he… is he the one you had to find?” He swallowed carefully. “Is he the reason you couldn’t say on the Windborne?”

“Yes.” She paused. “Though I did consider sending a message and asking him to meet me on the Windborne so that we could fly off with you to Heaven knows where.”

“Why didn’t you?”

“I didn’t know whether or not he would leave his King just because I asked him to come with me.” She took a trembling breath. “I’m terrified that he’s never going to forgive me for not telling him sooner.”

They turned down an alleyway, taking a shortcut to the Palace, and Dalziel shrugged. “That is for him to decide, sweet Riva, and all you can do is give him the chance. I must say, I found it a bit disconcerting.” His words broke off suddenly as a burst of magical energy flared around them.

Riva felt the ironwood stick warm slightly in her hand as she carried it and whirled to see Dalziel frozen in place, his expression startled, and then afraid. “Dalziel?” She glanced beyond him to see three of the gang of squires coming up behind them. She brought the stick into the ready position.

Dalziel still had his voice. “Behind you, Riva!”

She glanced behind her and saw the other two of the gang. She moved so her back was to the wall and watched them approach. She couldn’t run, not and leave Dalziel. As she watched, others joined them. It looked as though the squires had truly been recruiting, and not just from the Order.

Bannon snarled at her as he approached. “Well, streetling, it is time I taught you some manners. I don’t know how you resisted that spell, but no matter. There are so many of us and only one of you and I intend to have some fun with you before we turn you over to Lukan.” He glanced at Dalziel and grinned. “Your friend can even watch.”

They drew weapons and closed in for the attack.

— — —

Bastion and Kian rounded another corner at a dead run and heard the scream, a female voice rising in fear and outrage. Bastion turned to follow it with a roar. “Riva?!”

They found a battleground where an alleyway should have been.

Dalziel was frozen in place, held by some magical force that they were still too far away to dispel. Riva was held by two squires, a wooden stick kicked against one wall, while another squire, the lead one, the one who had mocked them at the Fall Festival, used her own knife to cut her blouse open. There were two bodies lying broken on the ground, bleeding and lifeless. There were perhaps a dozen or so others, some wounded, some merely winded, watching the activity with hungry expressions.

One of the others, a young man, was the only one who didn’t seem caught by anticipation. He seemed upset, helplessly frustrated.

Bastion roared in fury and the one young man, the one who looked so unhappy, looked up at him, startled, and Bastion realized that it was the trainee, Kenneth, that Brady had warned him had been pulled into their depravity. “It’s the Captain! And Lord Kian!” There was almost a note of relief in his voice.

Bannon turned to glance at him and then grabbed Riva from his underlings, putting the knife edge to her throat as they ran. The alleyway quickly emptied except for them. It only took a second for Bastion to realize that she was bound with the same magic that held Dalziel. “Stop right there, you overgrown streetling,” Bannon shouted to Bastion, “or I slit her throat.”

What else could he do? Bastion stopped his advance, though he still held his sword ready. Kian came to a stop beside him.

Bannon laughed at them. With his free hand he pulled the cut fabric of her blouse to the side to reveal a breast and then he put his hand upon her skin, taunting them. She shuddered. “Well, Captain? Looks like we finally know who the better man is. I am going to enjoy hearing your sparrow scream my name.”

Rage tore at Bastion’s soul but he made himself meet Riva’s eyes. He thought he saw the glitter of metal dangling from a chain between her breasts, but he didn’t want to think about it, not right then. “Riva, I know what you were trying to tell me. At least, I think I know. I’m sorry it took me so long.”

She closed her eyes and tears leaked from the corners. “It’s my life.”

Bastion nodded. “Hai.” He’d watched enough cartoons back in the world he had been born in to pick up that much Japanese, and Riva had said that she liked the language.

Bannon looked confused. “What are you two trash-born streetlings muttering about?”

Kian took a step forward. “Get your filthy hands off my cousin, you base churl!”

Bannon’s look of startlement gave Bastion the chance to take the two steps he needed to take to banish the magic that held Riva motionless. Once free she grabbed Bannon’s hand, the one that held her knife, twisted it so that he released the blade, took hold of it and then buried it to the hilt in his chest with a guttural cry.

“It’s My Life was the song I sang in a marketplace in Pallantia to a Knight whose face I was not allowed to see because my brother and his chose to lie to me!” She watched Bannon slide off her blade, falling to the ground as his blood spilled around him.

After a moment of stunned stillness, Kian nodded to Bastion and hurried forward to banish the magic that surrounded Dalziel as Bastion took Riva in his arms and pulled her away from the bodies.

Once free, Dalziel bent to retrieve the ironwood stick that had protected Riva from the immobilization spell while she had wielded it and gently pried the bloody knife from her fingers. He looked around and sighed before tearing a scrap of cloth from the clothing of one of the fallen men and using it to clean the blood off the knife. Once he was done he calmly walked over to Riva and slid the knife back in the sheath that sat on her hip.

Kian put a hand on Bastion’s shoulder. “I need you to get her back to the Palace, while I summon the guard to see to the bodies. I’ll get Father and we’ll meet you someplace safe.” He paused. “Keara’s bower. She’ll be able to get my cousin a new set of clothes.”

Bastion nodded. He looked at Dalziel. “You, follow me.”

“I failed her.” His voice was painfilled. “She helped me save my sister and I wasn’t able to help her when she needed me.”

“You’ll get your chance eventually. Follow me.” Bastion tried to sound more understanding than he felt. He had almost failed her himself. He would not do so again.

Riva shook her head. “No. No, Dalziel, I need you to go back to the shop I stopped at. Find Kodran. Just ask one of the children there, they all know him. Tell him what has happened. Tell him I’m all right.”

Dalziel nodded quickly. “Yes, Riva.” He put the ironwood stick in her hands as Bastion lifted her in his arms. “You are, all right that is?”

“I will be, eventually.” She sighed and hid her face in Bastion’s shoulder, holding her blouse closed with her hands even as she clutched the walking stick.

“I’ll meet you at the Palace.” Dalziel turned and took off running back towards Kodran’s shop. After a moment more, Bastion turned towards the Palace and carried Riva to the safety of those walls.

— — —

Lukan muffled his frustrated curses with a sphere of silence. Someone was interfering, consistently interfering in his attempts to acquire his delicate sister and continue her re-education in how matters truly worked in the multiverse.

Even had the Knight and the Prince received warning at the exact moment of the attack they would not have been able to reach Goldeneyes before the matter had been completed and she had been successfully delivered to him. Not without direct teleportation. No, they were warned before the attack took place. They had been warned in enough time to reach her.

Someone with a seer’s gift was aiding them.

It wasn’t his half-sister, the Incarnation. After he had found her on the world with the wolf-elves he had learned her particular signature very well indeed. No, it wasn’t Destiny interfering here. But it was a Traveler, and a kinsman, or kinswoman as the case might be. Shadows knew their meddling Speaker preferred working through females.

Lukan growled another oath and then teleported himself back to the Tower in Pallantia. Matters looked to him as if he were going to have to hunt down a seer before he could proceed.

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Arc Three Chapter Two

Once safely on the streets outside the Palace, Dalziel allowed himself a grin. “Well, your Highnessness, I must say, you had me fooled. Is there anything else I need to know about you?”

Riva groaned and glanced heavenward for patience. “At least you figured it out on your own. I don’t know what I’m going to do when I have to actually tell him the truth. I’ve been half terrified of this day for months.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to Kodran’s shop and I’m going to get my bag and then I’m going to show him his own letters and I’m going to sing that song for him again, provided he hasn’t figured matters out before I get back.” She sighed. “Dramsol sent you to Dougal?”

“Yes.”

“I am going to have to sit down one of these days and grill him about which side of the family he gets that streak from. He’s starting to sound far too much like a certain sisterniece of mine. If he ever starts spilling secrets, though, at a party, I’m going to throttle him for not warning me beforehand.”

“Sounds interesting.”

“You’d love Destiny. She’s an eye for rogues and pirates and she’s more like the sea and the sky than she likes to admit.” Riva was rambling, more as a way to keep control of the nervous tension in her stomach. “Stay outside. I’ll be back quickly.”

— — —

Riva barreled into Kodran’s shop without pausing to say a word to anyone. Kodran spotted her and raised a single, curious eyebrow. He nodded to one of the older streetlings before following Riva into the back. She didn’t stop until she found the pack that she had stored there before going up to the Palace that day. Kodran stood nearby as she started digging through it.

“What are you doing, Riva-girl?”

Riva didn’t look up at him while she searched. “Bastion is absolutely besotted. I have never seen a man fall that hard for someone.”

Again the curious eyebrow rose. “You, finally?” He knew that she’d been spending quite a lot of her time up at the Palace, even though both she and Bastion had made regular forays into the Undercity to train the streetlings. Some of them were even making remarkable progress. The first of the ironwood walking sticks had finally been finished. He had them in a box in his office, waiting to be distributed.

She sighed. “No, not me.” She snorted in disgust. “The Princess Dauris. He doesn’t have a clue. I told him that I knew where she was in the city and that I was going to bring her to him.”

“So what are you going to do?”

She found what she was looking for and showed Kodran a stack of neatly folded papers, letters. She smiled. “I’m going to tell him that you found her. That you kept her safe so that she didn’t have to fear Castellan’s streets.” She stood and walked over to Kodran, who was trying not to let her see the tears in his eyes. “Thank you for everything, Kodran, friend of my mother.”

“It was nothing.” He tried to sound gruff.

She smiled and handed him a sealed scroll. “Here, keep this for me a while longer. If there is trouble at the Palace, take it straight to the King.”

“What is it?”

“My brother Illian’s formal approval of my marriage, specifically the writ of betrothal. In case someone decides to start screeching about age differences.” There were enough quiet whispers about it already. “I- I’m not ready yet to tell him about it unless I have no other alternative. I still… I still want him to choose to court me, if the choice is even possible.”

He nodded. “Take care, some of the looks you’ve been getting from the younger set up there… I’ve had a mind more than once to start heads rolling.” There was only one younger set that he had to warn her about, and they both knew that they wanted to send heads rolling for more than just looks and whispers.

“I can defend myself.” She’d proven that in the training salles more than once.

“Riva-girl, you are about to do something that will put your whole soul out in the open. Excuse me for wanting to guard your back while you do it.” Now he did sound gruff.

She laughed and kissed the top of his head, genuinely pleased that he would care so much for her. Even if her mother had been a friend of his. “Thank you for your warning, Kodran, father of streetlings. I will keep it in mind.”

“Better get going, before you lose your nerve. Wonder how all this would have turned out if you could have been Kodransdotter instead of Imperial Princess.” For a moment he looked as if he were as surprised as she was that the words had been spoken aloud.

She looked at Kodran with a strange glittering in her eyes. “I… I am honored.” She took a deep breath and then knelt to the dwarf. “If you wish to add a name and a title, I would be honored to accept it. My luck with fathers has been… spotty, but you… you are one of the great ones.”

“Then take the name, Riva Kodransdotter, Songbird of Castellan, and know that I pray for your happiness.” He reached behind the counter and took hold of one of the walking sticks and pressed it into her hands. “I had it made for you.”

She looked down at the wood and saw the runes carved into the wood, carved into wood that was stronger than metal. His artisans must have used diamond instruments. They spelled out the name, Riva Kodransdotter, and her eyes filled with tears at the thought of how long he must have considered this decision.

They stayed there a bare moment longer and then Riva stood, and with a final smile, forced herself forward, out of the shop, into the street, and back to the Palace, carrying the letters in her belt-purse. She paused to nod to Dalziel as she rejoined him and he walked quickly beside her as they hurried along.

The two were not unobserved as they hurried along the Castellan streets. Bannon watched them with his companions at his side. “It is time.” Indeed, it was past time for some well-deserved retribution. He had even gone to Lukan and learned a very special spell just for this occasion, one he had taught to each member of his band.

There were coarse snickers, but one looked concerned. “Come on, guys, they haven’t done anything wrong.” Kenneth was very uncomfortable. He wasn’t sure anymore that his friends were really his friends, but what other choice did he have? He’d never had friends before.

The others turned on him. “Nothing? She humiliated me.” Bannon stood chest to chest with his underling. “What, are you scared?”

“No, just… just cautious.” Kenneth was always cautious. He liked to think that it was a virtue, but he wasn’t so certain anymore. Something in his gut told him that this was the time for sending caution to the wind and for taking a stand, against his friends. But he wasn’t sure that he was strong enough to do that.

“No girl, less a streetling girl at that, is going to make me look like a fool without paying a penalty.” He didn’t have to repeat the events of the Fall Festival, or the sparring matches that had taken place since then, in the training salles, under the carefully watchful eyes of the Knights-Captain, when she had repeatedly handed his backside to him without even trying hard.

Kenneth sighed. He knew that he was going to go along with things; he just hoped that they wouldn’t get out of hand in the process. How in the world had he ended up with friends like these?

— — —

Bastion had begun to pace nervously as he waited for Riva’s return in the central courtyard in the Palace. The unusual activity had drawn attention and Prince Kian appeared with a curious expression on his face.

When Dougal explained, respectfully, to the Prince what was happening, Kian’s expression became carefully blank and he looked at Bastion, his eyes narrowing in consideration. “Are you prepared for what will be revealed?”

Bastion paused in his pacing and faced Kian. “What do you mean, my Prince?”

“I mean, Captain, that things aren’t always what they seem to be, and that sometimes what you expect is not what you receive. My cousin… my cousin is not like other girls her age, not like Keara, not like anyone else here.”

Bastion sighed. “I know that better than you do, my Prince. I am the one who has guarded her secrets. But why… why did she entrust Riva with her hiding when all she had to do was come to me?”

Kian closed his mouth firmly for a moment, considering his words before he continued. “She had the courage to run away, the courage to escape from her too-doting brother and to disappear. Do you have the courage to hide her so that no hint of her presence reaches him? If Marus learns for certain that she is here, there could be war.”

Bastion came to absolute stillness as he considered the political ramifications. He closed his eyes in pain. “An offer of Piracy has been made… to us both. The skies and the seas could hide us for a long time.”

“But not forever.” Kian sounded slightly sorrowful. “Unless she were to completely renounce her heritage and rights then she would have to emerge eventually or risk being found unprepared.”

“There are places we can go… eventually. Places that Riva can take us to where Emperor Marus would never find us, would never threaten us.” He knew that Riva was still unable to Travel, but she had told him that Traveler powers did not stay bound forever.

The thought triggered a connection in his mind and his eyes opened wide in stunned reaction. His Princess had bound Traveler powers, completely sealed so that she was trapped. Riva was similarly sealed, even to the lack of Traveler hearing according to Riva’s explanation. The earrings that she wore, so like the ones that he had given to his Princess. The way her eyes had paused on his brooch before looking up at his face when they first met. The joy in her face that day.

His mind followed back over all the similarities he had seen over the months of his friendship with Riva, the way she always seemed to be hesitantly expecting something, her fear of meeting the King face to face. Even her familiarity with Kian and the initial awkwardness of Keara’s greeting that day in the dancing salle.

It was impossible.

Well, no less impossible than his becoming a true Knight in Shining Armor on a world so different from the one of his birth.

Bastion looked at Kian and forced himself to stand straight. “We will decide the path we will take. I will protect her no matter where she goes or who she becomes.”

Kian slowly smiled. “Have you finally opened your eyes, Captain?”

Bastion was about to respond when they were interrupted by a voice in the courtyard. “Captain Bastion! Riva needs you. If you hurry, you can still get to her in time!” All three men turned to look at the man running towards them, his red-gold hair strikingly offset by the streak of white and his face marked by an expression of sincere worry.

Bastion turned immediately. “What happened?”

The man reached them and tried to catch his breath. “That’s just it. It hasn’t happened yet, but if you hurry you can get to them before anything permanently damaging happens. Please, Riva and Dalziel are going to be attacked by the squires, and if you don’t hurry they’ll kill Dalziel and Riva will end up in Revier’s Tower and I can’t get you in there to get her out again.”

Bastion and Kian looked at each other before moving as one towards the doors. Kian paused long enough to grab hold of the man’s arm and pull him along with them. “Where?” Neither of them questioned trusting the man, each for different reasons.

“They’re just starting back from Kodran’s. They’re going to take some shortcuts through some alleyways. One of them is the ambush spot.”

Kian nodded. “I’ll need to borrow a sword from one of the guards…”

The man sighed and reached into the air and pulled a sword from it, and then put the sword into the Prince’s hands. “Take care of her. A friend… a friend gave her to me a long time ago.” He pushed the two of them forward. “Now hurry. Please.”

Kian nodded. “How are we to call you?”

He smiled. “In this time and place, I am Dramsol.”

They took off running and Dramsol vanished behind them.

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Arc Three Chapter One

Riva and Bastion were in one of the training salles when a guard tapped courteously on the door to catch their attention. Bastion looked up from the sparring duel to frown curiously at the man. “What is it?”

“I did not wish to interrupt you at practice, Captain, but there are two men asking to see you and one says that he is known to you. He gives his name as Dougal, Captain, and says that the matter is most urgent.”

Bastion stiffened and nodded quickly. “Bring them to me, quickly.”

The guard nodded and bowed and then left. Riva lowered her sword and set it aside. “Who is Dougal, Bastion?”

Bastion sighed. “I haven’t heard anything from my Princess since that last letter, the one that worried me so much, and after the Emperor’s proclamation I asked an old acquaintance to do me the favor of investigating matters for me, since I couldn’t go there myself.”

Riva blinked in surprise, and then wondered why she was so surprised. She had been the one to tell him that he couldn’t fly off to rescue someone without knowing the lay of the land and what to expect once he got there. Of course, the fact that his Princess didn’t need rescue, and that she was his Princess… he hadn’t quite figured that out yet. “Dougal is the one you sent?”

He nodded quickly. “Please, understand, I- I have to do something.”

The strange thing was she did understand. She understood very well, in fact. If one of her friends were in danger she would stop at nothing to rescue them. She just didn’t know how to tell him that his worry was in vain, that his Princess didn’t need rescue, not as he thought she did.

They were interrupted by the sound of booted feet approaching and the two of them looked up to see a man with dark hair, a man who looked to be Bastion’s age, approaching them. “Bastion, I’m glad I could find you quickly. Matters are serious.” He looked at Riva and blinked. “And this would be Corrin’s fever-dream of a golden-eyed streetling. I must say, he didn’t tell us the half of it, did he?”

Bastion nodded. “Dougal, this is Riva. Riva, this is my old streetling friend, Dougal.”

Riva was about to greet Dougal when another voice rose up in surprise. “Riva? Oh God, sweet Riva, I never expected to find you at the end of this voyage!” The young man who followed Dougal into the training salle was Dalziel and Riva’s face lit up in surprise and delight.

“Dalziel! What are you doing here? It’s been forever!” She ran forward to embrace the Pirate. He hugged her back and then looked her in the face. Watching them, Bastion felt a sudden chill in his chest and an overwhelming desire to strike the young man.

“It’s bad, Riva. I need your help. I know that you helped me rescue my sister once already…”

“Is Renna in trouble?” The concern in her voice was immediate and Dalziel shook his head.

“No, she’s looking after the Windborne, it’s someone else. He’s put her in the Tower, I know it. After we found those papers… I tried to get to Lord Illian, but I couldn’t. I found Dramsol, though, and he sent me to Dougal and Dougal brought me here. He’s put her in the Tower and we have to get her out. After Renna… I can’t let anyone suffer there, not even some Princess I don’t even know.”

Bastion stiffened immediately and the rush of anger and concern overrode his emotional reaction to the way Riva had responded with such joy and concern for this Pirate. “My Princess?”

Dougal put a hand on Bastion’s shoulder. “It is a complicated matter, old friend. I was able to discover fairly quickly that the Imperial Princess had not been attacked in her chambers, not as was announced by her brother. There was a scene in a marketplace. I was able to speak to someone who saw the altercation personally. Bastion, someone told her about you.”

Riva felt her heart come to a standstill as she looked from face to face. So the day had finally come. Either Bastion would figure it out himself or she would have to tell him. She wondered briefly if he would be relieved… or furious.

Bastion looked at Dougal in obvious confusion. “Me? What do you mean?”

“I mean that someone told her about your scar, and about your brother.”

Bastion closed his eyes and groaned. “Oh God, she never got my response to her last…”

Riva had to speak up. “So why would a Princess finding out that her guardian and her pen pal were brothers cause all this mess?”

Bastion opened his eyes and looked directly at Riva, his expression full of conflicting emotions. “Gabriel, and by extension Emperor Marus, went to great lengths to keep me from meeting Princess Dauris when I was in Pallantia with the King for the old Emperor’s funeral. There is… only one possible explanation.” He paled slightly and looked away from her face, afraid to see the expression there. “Castellan dreams. Lady Dauris must have…” He swallowed carefully, half afraid of putting the thoughts to voice. “She must have dreamed of me… somehow.”

Dalziel whistled softly. “I guess that means that my own interest in rescuing the fair damsel in distress is upstaged.” He looked over at Riva. “According to Dramsol, the Princess became quite violent when she discovered the truth. Her brother… he must have locked her away to keep her from running away. There’s only one place where Emperor Marus would put his sister, and that’s the Tower. We need to get her out of there, and soon, and he,” Dalziel indicated Bastion with a nod of his head, “is going to need our experience if he hopes to succeed.”

Bastion looked at both of them with concern and fear on his face. “A Tower?”

Dalziel nodded. “Doctor Revier’s Tower. He’s- he’s a madman. He, or rather men acting under his command, kidnapped my sister and he did things to her…” Dalziel shuddered, “horrible things. When Riva and I helped rescue Renna, we found documents detailing his preparations to house Lady Dauris. Riva… Riva said that the Princess had other concerns at the time and that I was to take the papers, if there was ever need of them, to Lord Illian, but I couldn’t get to him.”

Riva sighed and made herself meet Bastion’s gaze. “Revier’s a scientist with more curiosity than scruples and he’s conducting research into powers that are beyond what magic can do in this world.” The subtle emphasis in her words caught his attention. Of those in the room, only they two knew that there were other worlds. “I have been in the care of such men before.” The bitter irony in her voice didn’t escape him. “Can you really think that I would allow anyone to suffer such attention if I could prevent it?”

Bastion’s voice was soft. “I hope not, Riva. I know… I know that you are many things that I do not understand, but I hope that you are not that cold, that heartless. You knew that preparations were being made to put her in such a place?”

Riva lifted her chin. “The Princess was already on her way out of Pallantia when Dalziel and I discovered the documents. Revealing them, at that time, would have put her in jeopardy of being captured and truly imprisoned.”

“Where is she?” Bastion was truly angry, though some part of his soul whispered that his anger was needless. He wished, once again, that the impossible were possible, especially on this world of magic and knights and castles and nobles who truly understood what the word was supposed to mean. “You let me worry about her for how many months? Riva, she’s my Princess. I have an obligation…” He was angry at the worry he had felt, for so many months, but he felt the strangest fluttering of hope in his heart.

“Damnit, Bastion, is anything with you not about obligation?” The words burst from Riva with the unmistakable sound of frustration breaking her control. “Duty this and responsibility that. Is anything ever simply a matter of your choice? I have chosen to keep her secret, chosen this path hoping that you would realize the truth but you are so blind!” Her voice cracked with emotion and Dalziel found himself looking from one to the other with a terrible suspicion rising in his mind.

Bastion looked away from Riva with a sigh. Her anger reminded him, yet again, of how his Princess had said, time and again in her letters, that she wanted choice more than anything else. In that quality, as in so many others, he saw the reflection of Dauris in Riva. “I chose this path when I offered myself to her as her Knight. My obligation now is the result of that choice then.”

Riva nodded, calming slowly. “It is enough, then. She is in Castellan.”

Bastion looked back at her with a sudden whip of his neck that came perilously close to snapping it. “Here? In the city? But… but why does she not declare herself? Why does she not find me? Why does she not just come up to the Palace and insist on her rights? The King knows of my promises to her, he would not deny me the right to stand at her side and protect her.”

“Maybe it’s her uncle she’s afraid of.” Riva’s voice was low and sorrowful. “Emperor Marus is powerful, and possessive, with a great army at his command, and Castellan is so much smaller than the Empire. Maybe she is afraid that her uncle would be forced to send her back to her brother and as much as she wants to be at your side, she doesn’t want to go back there when she knows about the Tower and what would happen to her if she were to ever be imprisoned in that place.”

Suspicion solidified into knowledge and Dalziel put a gentle hand on Riva’s arm. “If she flies with me in the Windborne, she need never fear her brother again, never fear the Tower and the madman there. She could be a Pirate princess, and her Knight a Pirate Captain should he wish.”

Bastion looked at Dalziel, a puzzled look in his eyes. “That is quite an offer you are making, Pirate.”

Dalziel bowed slightly to Bastion. “Riva helped me rescue my sister. I owe her a great deal for that.”

Riva nodded in acquiescence. “Very well. I will bring her to you.” She took a deep, shuddering breath. “How will you know her?”

“Know her?” Bastion frowned in confusion for a moment.

“You’ve never met, not really. She’s never seen your face. How will you know her when you see her?”

He sighed and absently touched the brooch that he wore. The one she had given him. “I gave her a set of earrings. But you managed to find a set just like them, so they can’t have been that unique.” He thought a moment. “My letters. She was going to keep them on her person all the time, so that they could not be stolen from her.”

“And if the letters have, in fact, been stolen?”

Bastion shivered slightly at the bare possibility that his Princess had lost his letters, even through the actions of another. “The song. The one she was singing that day in the market. It was the only time we stood in the same place at the same time. She would know that song.”

Riva nodded. “It should be enough. I’ll be back later.”

Bastion caught her hand as she turned to leave. “Forgive me, please, for my anger. I have just been so worried about her.”

Riva nodded. “I am more sorry than you can imagine that you have ever had to worry about her, or that you would suspect, for even a moment, that I would not have gone to rescue her had she been in need of such.” She started to leave when Dalziel stopped her.

“I’m going with you, Riva.” His face was set and determined.

She blinked in surprise. “Dalziel?”

“I’m going with you. Even in Castellan, as safe as it might be for a streetling, I will not allow a damsel to walk without an escort.” Even Dougal blinked in surprise at the gallantry in his manner.

She smiled. “Very well, my friend, come along.” They quickly left for the city, and Bastion watched them go with thoughts running around and around in his head.

Dougal sighed. “When this is over, old friend, you are going to owe me more than one drink and I think I’m going to want to hear the whole story once we get it pieced together.”

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