As tired and sore as he was, Lord Ruili smiled brightly when he saw Y’lanna on the stage, a frustrated-looking Osrel Lancewing at her side. He was out of range of the Dragon’s Tongue amulet when she first called out to him and the sound of her own language came as a surprising reminder of their first moments on board the Wolf when she was rescued. The light, twittering sounds, like the song of a sparrow, gradually transformed with his approach into the rolling lilt of the language Ruili understood, and so he caught the end of her question.
“I believe so,” he said, guessing at the rest.
“Ah, all hail, then, the conquering hero,” said Osrel Lancewing with an elaborate wave of his hands. “Is it safe to go out now?”
“Yes, Lancewing,” Ruili replied with a wry smirk, “you may toddle off home, if you like.” He leaned his elbows on the stage, looking up at them. “The beast obligingly vanished from existence. It was apparently controlled by a summoner, and when I knocked him senseless with a mace, his concentration must have been interrupted. Poof – monster gone. The miscreant is in custody, the guardians have the city well in hand, and I am just about gutted and ready for my bed. Milady Y’lanna, shall we return to Cherryrose Lane?”
As he and Y’lanna prepared to leave the Half Moon Theater, Ruili bid farewell to his colleague and rival in a clear, strong voice that filled the auditorium, just in case any journalists were still loitering about.
“My congratulations on the play, Lancewing. A classic example of your work. I am certain ‘The Lady of Lonia’ will run all the way through to the end of the week. Good night to you, sir.”
And he swept out with a dramatic bow.
But he and Y’lanna were in the bicycle carriage and on their way back to the Merchantman House on Cherryrose Lane, Ruili sagged against the seat cushion.
“Ah, Lady Lavender,” he said, “I don’t mind telling to you, that beast gave us a fight. A man lost his life tonight. Two men, actually, counting the poor fellow the beast had in its jaws when we first saw it. The guardians will know by tomorrow who he was and if there were any other victims. The scum who summoned the thing will face a bitter night in the Fortress of Runes, I promise you. For now, we can but hope he was alone and that there are no other attacks in the offing.” His hand strayed over the Orb of Field Dampening he carried in the pouch under his midnight blue, mud-streaked coat.
“But my dear Y’lanna Sparti,” he said, “it would have been worse if not for your warning. It was your observation that the creature had the power to instill fear that allowed us to steel ourselves against it. Thank you,” he reached to take her hand, pressing it between his. “Thank you with all my heart. However, I fear I must show my gratitude by leaving you. It is a complicated story, but the point of it is that I have the object that was used to summon the beast, and it is vital that it be delivered to my brother, the Lord Magus of the Isles, our chief wizard, as quickly as possible. I’m sure their Graces, my parents, will kick over it, but I can allow no one else to take the risk of carrying this item. I intend to set sail tomorrow. You may stay on at the Merchantman House. Mrs. Bodling can look after you…”
He was gazing at the passing streets as he spoke, though still holding Y’lanna’s hand, his fatigue combining with his racing thoughts to make his speech somehow rambling and determined at the same time. His father, the Duke, would definitely kick up a fuss. Sometimes Ruili thought old Duke Yirie worried more about his boys than their mother, the Duchess Olimea did.
But Ruili knew he carried in that Orb a card of the Daemon Arcana whose foul tricks had once nearly cost the Dukedom all three of its sons. He knew what these snips of paper could do, what they were made to do. He would allow no other hands to touch the one he carried, until he handed it to his brother Jeneyeru directly.
As for Y’lanna… The city was in the hands of the guardians. They would spend the night patrolling and sweeping the neighborhoods in search of other criminal summoners. Plesz would likely be the safest place for her, and so…
Thinking it over, he unconsciously began to rub and pat the hand he held between his.