Kasandor observes a particular champion as he trains, Belkin threatens violence against a Minister, forcing Kas to lay the down the law, paving the way for more trouble to find them. I attached ...
So smooth, even in practice. He really would be an excellent challenge.
Footsteps sounded behind him, and he felt the subtle movements against his back as Bel shifted and tensed at the intrusion. Seconds later, he felt his Guardian relax, but he still stood quite stiff. Odd.
Kas looked up and back, wondering who could possibly get Bel's back up like that. Well, besides Legiehn, anyway. Standing just off to his Guardian's left was a rather tall, robust man, dressed quite handsomely in what Kas could only assume was the latest fashion-he never paid enough attention to these things. Minister Dehlmar Llundein; that explained it. "Minister," Kas inclined his head in greeting. Bel mimed him, but it was hardly perceptible.
"Regent, Guardian," Dehlmar mirrored the move, "I hear the day finds you victorious once again." He made no move to sit down; Kas had little care to stand up. He was quite content as he was.
"Yes, though that can hardly be news." Kas turned away, eyes straying once again the fighter in the distance.
"Not for you perhaps, but I hear the Guardian has had quite the struggle."
Bel stiffened even more behind him. Though it probably had less to do with Dehlmar's insult as with his lack of manners. "My Guardian's name is Venice Belkin." Kas, however, bristled at the slight against his Guardian. "And one defeat is hardly unexpected, nor fodder for ridicule, in the Tourney. Especially under circumstances of a debut." He gave Dehlmar a pointed look. "As you well know."
Dehlmar scowled at his unspoken reminder. "Perhaps." The expression changed as quickly as it had appeared, transforming into one of intent interest, and he was more than a little smug as he looked out at the same figure Kas had been watching only moments before. "What do you think of my champion this season, Regent?"
"He is certainly quite the specimen." He had thought that the first night he had seen Craven. All the days since, watching him in battle-his calm, his quick, precise movements, the slow way he had of watching and stalking his opponents-had only confirmed it. Like his Guardian, Craven was something to watch. In or out of a fight.
"Yes. It is most fortuitous Mandred chose to steer him in my direction. He has the potential to take Carden far in the Tourney." That much Kas could trust, anyway.
"His technique is of particular note." Very particular, as it was exactly the same style Kas himself used.
"Yes," Dehlmar smirked again. "Quite the odd coincidence, isn't it."
Which was slightly understating the point, Kas thought. The style itself was hardly a rare one, but certain techniques and executions he used were very specialized. It was almost unheard for others to know them. He turned back to Dehlmar, "Did Rosado teach him that?"
"Craven is well-versed in many forms. Was long before I found him. I don't know where he could have learned it." Dehlmar shook his head. "Mandred is along only to assure my champion behaves and does not embarrass me."
"Is that where he gets his scars, then?" Bel spoke quietly, but the edge in his voice was quite unmistakable. He may have his reservations about Dehlmar's champion, but not enough to let this particular point pass.
Dehlmar's eyes snapped around to Bel, mouth drawing into a tight frown. "Mandred does what is necessary to keep Craven in line. You cannot fault discipline."
"Nor should you victory."
"And I don't. I'm merely ensuring his success continues. I like to think of it as incentive."
"There are better ways than abuse."
"I suppose there are," Dehlmar shrugged. "I can only wonder what must have been promised to convince Tryvane to join us." The gleam in his eyes was positively malicious when his eyes flickered to Bel, "Though I suppose I needn't ask what your incentive is."
"Enough." Kas jumped up, one hand automatically reaching out to Bel, because he knew that look and that stance. "Minister, a slight against my Guardian is a slight against me." Not to mention it just really upset him. "One more word from you, and I will have you restricted from the proceedings for harassing a champion in contest." Dehlmar said nothing, only raised his chin a little higher, made his back a little straighter, in some perceived notion of defiance. "You can give warning to Rosado, too, that if I or my Guardian personally witnesses the delivering of your incentives, I will have you both removed not only from the Tourney, but from this prefecture."
"Is it really a champion's right to deliver such challenges?"
"This is not a challenge of a champion, Minister. This is an order of the Regent. Am I clear?"
"Perfectly." There was anger in his voice, but Kas could see he was already losing much of his bite. It was a serious offense to antagonize, provoke, or otherwise malign a champion while he was still part of the Tourney, and usually resulted in the complete removal of the offender from the proceedings. In cases where a sponsor was restricted, it most often meant his champion was as well, and Dehlmar would not want that.
"Then I recommend you leave now, before my Guardian decides to think better of his restraint."
"You wouldn't allow it."
"He'd be disqualified."
"It is Belkin's job and duty to protect me against any and all threats, perceived or real. I would argue under the circumstances, that your words qualify. Belkin certainly thinks so." Bel had muscled men from rooms or wrestled them to the floor for saying or doing far less. Had Kas not intervened, he had little doubt the Minister would already be bloodied and well on his way to being thrown out the doors.
"Then it appears I have indeed warn out my welcome." Dehlmar sniffed, gave one spiteful look at Bel, then delivered a very elegant, if much too stiff, bow. "Regent, Guardian, I bid you both good eve."
Kas was not to be trifled with propriety and thus did not bother with a reply, merely resumed his seat and turned away, focusing his attention once more on the lone figure in the empty lot. Bel remained silent as well, but he kept his focus riveted to Dehlmar until he was well beyond site.
"He's gone into the barracks."
"Probably to find Rosado." Kas turned his head up, catching Bel's eyes. "Be careful with him. Dehlmar's quick with his tongue, but Rosado is faster with a blade."
"Our troubles are not ended." The statement was neither weary nor questioning, simply factual.
"No. But that's why I keep you around." He smiled, and Bel returned it. It did not really matter what Dehlmar did, or would do. He still had his Bel by his side.
They were silent for some time after that. Out in the distance, Craven had changed weapons and was working on a different technique. It was more energetic, though the movements were slightly more hesitant, as though he was not as used to it, was possibly still learning it.
The bells of the north tower chimed the hour, and Kas was struck by a sudden thought. "Where is Legiehn? I have not seen him since his second match earlier in the day." Leg usually made it a point to meet back with them before evening meal and the final matches, to share details of what he had learned or simply discuss all that had taken place that day.
"I believe he's still trying to garner information on that Lovvorn Dekort." Bel shifted and resettled behind him. "I'm not sure I understand his concern; champion Dekort seems a decent enough character from what I've seen."
"Well, it's not really concern so much as Dekort's piqued his fancy."
"You jest." The disbelief in that tone, he could just picture the raised eyebrow that went with it.
"I do not. Leg's always had a soft spot for pretty school boys with glasses."
"Won't his wife be upset?"
"Callista would be only to glad to hear he might finally have found someone upon whom he could shower all his affections."
"His affections?" Kas had always liked the way Bel's brow furrowed like that when he got confused.
"You'd be surprised. So... what is he having his spies do exactly?" Because the lengths a frustrated and wanting Legiehn would go to to gather greatly desired information were astounding.
"Nothing. He decided to go tackle the source himself." Judging by his tone, it had just occurred to Bel what a bad idea that really was.
"I see." Only too well. "I get the feeling Minister Dehlmar will not be the only one put on notice of restriction this night."