There might still be something he could salvage out of this mess.
Caspian stared at the bed in his cabin, where the pretty little mutt had lain, at the chain dangling from the wall where her boyfriend had been chained. They had been far too drugged, far too beaten to get away on their own, he was sure of it; neither of them could have Worked the chains while wrapped in rowan and hawthorn like that.
They had to have had help escaping.
Which meant, more than likely, that whoever was keeping Aelfgar’s little toybox for him knew about this place.
Which meant he had to leave.
The positive about this whole thing, however, was that Caspian knew about Aelfgar’s toybox, too. And while losing the cabin would be an annoyance, delivering a gift-wrapped present like that collection of ashanevaei mutts to his queen…
…well, it might be enough to save his hide. And with his sister gone, there was nothing Caspian valued more than his own hide.
He couldn’t bring himself to burn the cabin, not yet. Not when Regan had spent so much time on it and loved it so much. So he left it as-was – let the human authorities fret over that one, if they found it – and took to the air. Perhaps his queen would even reward him.
Finding her current den took time; Tasiankia might be bordering on insane, but she was cagy and careful, too, and did not see her subjects except on her terms. It took a three-step message delivered through intermediaries to get an appointment, and that was with her herald, a whining half-breed with ears that looked like wings and a nose like a beak.
“I will deliver your message to Her Majesty,” he told Caspian self-importantly. The Dragon could out-self-important any mutt, though, and he drew himself up to an arrogance that would do his sister proud.
“Am I not still Her Majesty’s Dragon?” he asked, the arrogance covering completely his momentary thought of and what if I’m not? But there was none of that in the Herald’s sniveling fear; the little whelp dropped to the floor, forehead-to-tile.
“You are indeed her Majesty’s,” he stammered. “And I would not seek to interfere in your business. However, Her orders must supersede yours, and she has given very specific orders about access to her person.”
Caspian snarled, forgetting himself for a moment, and was rewarded by a quavering shudder of fear from the Herald. He could not hurt the little worm; he was the Queen’s property.
“Fine,” he hissed, and, calming himself, spoke in a near-to-normal voice. “Please tell Her Majesty that Her Dragon Regan is dead, and that Her Dragon Caspian has found a nest of ashanevaei whelps guarded by the ashanevaei soldier Aelfgar, he who killed Regan. Please tell her that the whelps are, all but one, half-breeds, mutts from a variety of bloodlines.”
The Herald’s eyes were getting wider and wider, and there was a thread of terrified hope wending its way through his emotions. “Do you think…”
“I do not know, nor will I speculate. But hitting this place, if nothing else, will hurt the ashanevaei. They care about their whelps.”
“Of course they do,” the Herald muttered, in hang-dog misery. Misery? Caspian poked thoughtfully at the pain.
“That’s what I’ve seen, at least. Like bears, or wild cats.”
“So they’ve told me, sir,” the Herald nodded, politeness covering a well of self-loathing. “The monkey-fuckers are like animals.” Unthinking, his hand went to a chain around his neck.
Ah. He’d always wondered where the Queen got Her servants, and here was a big gaping wound to tell the story. Explained why she thought she was giving them gifts, too, when she passed off the whelps that turned out not to be Wild Ones. But he needed this broken mess of a pet functional, if he wanted Tasiankia to hear what he had to say.
“Look.” He pitched his voice gentle. “If they were still alive, they would have come for you. They always do.”
“…oh…” The Herald gulped and nodded. “Thank you, Dragon.” He bowed deeply, and stayed bent over until Caspian tapped his back.
“You’ll tell Her Majesty?”
“I will relay to Her Majesty that you have found,” he gulped, “a nest of ashanevaei whelps, and that you wish an audience. My condolences, Dragon, on the loss of your sibling.”
He wasn’t making eye contact, but Caspian neither expected nor needed it.
“We’ve all lost someone,” he muttered.
Addergoole will return from hiatus on Monday, June 13th
Copyright © 2009-2011 Lyn Thorne-Alder with Elasmo. All rights reserved.
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