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.