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.”