vrajna_kralis: (Contemplating)
[personal profile] vrajna_kralis
Hyacinthe was dicing with Emile and several other members of his crew when a familiar carriage pulled up in the street outside. Brown and gold with a sheaf of corn on the crest, it was a carriage that Hyacinthe saw far too infrequently. "Phèdre!" he said, tossing the dice to the table with little care. A four and a three, his Tsingani luck holding even as the game fled his mind. "Keep it," he told them, genially. "The next round is on me, in honor of the Prince of Travellers and the Queen of Courtesans!" The men--boys really--at the table cheered. Hyacinthe, generally cheerful and extravagant, only grew moreso when Phèdre made her way to Night's Doorstep to see him. Yes, she was beautiful enough to make men stupid with lust and women sick with jealousy, but to him, she was far more than that. In a place where people would swear eternal brotherhood one moment, then cosh each other in the head the next and all for a free drink, Phèdre was something rare and special: a true friend.

For that and that alone, he cherished her, unlike those who knew and valued her only as Delaunay's anguissette.

And for that reason, his stomach tumbled and smile faltered when he saw not Phèdre alighting from the carriage with Guy following apace, but the man who held her marque: Anafiel Delaunay.

Hyacinthe did not fully trust Delaunay. He was too clever and too slippery by half--traits Hyacinthe also possessed and would normally appreciate, but then, this man held Phèdre's marque. When his name was spoken in Hya's hearing (rare enough, for all that the folk of Night's Doorstep loved to gossip about their betters, Anafiel Delaunay was subtle enough to elude their notice), it was usually by one of his nicknames: either the Spider or the Whoremaster of Spies. That by itself would make any Tsingano wary, but Hyacinthe's mother had spoken the dromonde and promised Phèdre that she would rue the day she unlocked the mystery of Delaunay's true identity. Hyacinthe respected his mother's powers as he respected few other things.

Delaunay had never set foot in Night's Doorstep, at least not to Hyacinthe's recollection; he'd sent his man-at-arms to watch over Phèdre (and to watch Phèdre, should Hyacinthe be honest) and sometimes sent word by servant to reach his ward while she visited, but he'd never come himself.

Something was clearly afoot.

"I can cause a distraction," Emile murmured. The minor lord's appearance had not escaped Hya's second, nor had the likely reasons for it. "While you escape out the back."

"No," Hyacinthe said, straightening his threadbare collar and quaffing the last of his ale. "Does he wish to tell me to stop seeing Phèdre, I'll give him the opportunity before laughing in his face."

"Hya..." Emile said, not at all certain this was the wisest course of action, "he is a noble, or close enough. He could run you through and the men would grumble, but none would gainsay him. Nor would any court charge him."

"I know, Emile," Hyacinthe said. "But what is a gadje lord to the Prince of Travellers?" Yes, Hyacinthe knew that in the eyes of most D'Angelines, he was nothing, a half-breed Tsginani bastard. But here, he was in his element, and if Anafiel Delaunay wanted to run him off from visiting with his best friend, he was going to make the man work for it.

***


"You want me to what?" Hyacinthe still was not sure he had heard Delaunay's explanation and the man had given it twice now.

For his part, Delaunay remained collected and pleasant, his nod of thanks to Hyacinthe's mother for the cup of watery tea as grave as he would give any lady over a glass of wine. When Delaunay had asked to speak a word in a more private a place than the Cockerel, Hyacinthe had brought him to the cramped and dingy quarters he and his mother shared, intending to discomfit him. But Delaunay had settled in with an ease even Phèdre could not match, with neither a curious look around or a pitying glance at them. His estimation had risen slightly in Hyacinthe's eyes, though that change might not remain after this conversation. "I said, I wish you to go to school."

That was what Hyacinthe had heard, yes, though he still had trouble believing it. "What? Why? I've never yet been to school and I seem no worse for the lack. And what school would you send me to?" Hyacinthe raised his arms theatrically, letting he scarlet cotton fall in graceful waves about his arm. Delaunay nodded in ever-so-slight approval; he was D'Angeline and both theatrics and grace were in his blood. "Which school ought I attend? Some children's class, taught by a beneficent priest of Elua? Or do you suggest I join your wards in their classes?" There was a challenge in his voice as he suggested that.

A challenge that was met with only a raise of Delaunay's perfectly arched russet brow. "An interesting thought, but unless you wish to be dedicated to the service of Naamah, impossible."

"I don't believe--" Hyacinthe cut himself off. He was no true believer in Blessed Elua and his Companions--or, at least, he did not worship them. But he had no Tsginani gods to worship, either, and more often than not, found himself casting small prayers in their direction. In this, as in all things, Hyacinthe found himself caught between two worlds and not very sure of his footing in either. "You wish to keep me from Phèdre," he said instead.

"If I could not trust Phèdre to keep her oath to me, I would have sold her marque long ere now," Delaunay said mildly. "She is impatient to practice Naamah's arts, but she will remain true. It is true, though, that were I to lose her, it would most likely be to you. You are charming and handsome--your father, whomsoever he be, may not have given you his name, but he passed along the full measure of Elua's grace."

If Delaunay thought Hyacinthe to be discomfited by the mention of his absent, unknown father, he was sore disappointed. Hyacinthe did not bat an eye; his father's identity was a mystery, but one he had long since stopped caring about solving. "Then why do you wish to send me to school if not to keep me away from Phèdre?" he asked. "What is the benefit to you?"

At least Delaunay had the grace to acknowledge Hyacinthe's point, rather than trying to declare he was moved by the spirit of altruism to help his ward's best and only friend. "I have heard of a school on an island off the coast of Azzalle. The rumors that have managed to reach me are...interesting, to say the least. I wish to know more, but I cannot leave the City of Elua for long. Nor can I send Phèdre or Alcuin. And so, do I wish to know more about this mysterious island, I must send another in my stead."

"You wish me to spy for you," Hyacinthe said dryly. "And--what? An education for my pay? Along with your gratitude, perchance?"

"Not spy," Delaunay said. "You are not trained for that. But you are clever and quick and see much and say little. You're barely sixteen, but you already have an information network that rules Night's Doorstep. You would make an excellent spy, but I haven't the time nor inclination for a third student. I simply want to you to attend school. Should you see aught which you think would be of import to me, or Terre D'Ange, and you've a wish to do so, send back word. A few lines in a letter to Phèdre would suffice."

"I've a mother to take care of," Hycinthe noted, openly fishing now and not caring did Delaunay realize it.

Delaunay sighed. "I will send her a small stipend, to make up for you loss," he said. "And one to you, for the inconvenience. Fair?"

More than, though only a fool said so before a deal was struck. "Why me?" he asked instead. If Delaunay told him the truth, he'd consider it.

"Because I am short on people I can trust," Delaunay said simply. "I do not trust you, but Phèdre does, and I am inclined to accept her instincts on this one. Because, as I said before, you are quick and clever and observant. I hate to see talent go to waste and your little games here in Night's Doorstep do not stretch your potential to the fullest. I would see what you could do, honed and sharpened, even if not by me. And also," he said, almost as an afterthought, "you speak Cruithne. Phèdre told me she taught you the basics and you soon became fluent, if a little slow. You'll need to be able to speak the Alban tongue to make it on the island. They speak that, rather than proper D'Angeline."

"Cruithne?" Hyacinthe sputtered. That was the barbarian tongue spoken by the people across the Strait. Phèdre had only taught him because she'd wanted someone to practice with and Alcuin spoke it too readily for her pride. "You want me to not only spy, but to do so in a foreign language? You're mad!"

"You are not the first to think so," Delaunay said with a laugh. "Nor, I misdoubt, the last. But, yes. They speak Cruithne. So do you--and read and write it as well, unless I miss my guess."

"I would have to think on it awhile," Hyacinthe said sharply. "I am not your ward, to dance to your tune whenever you wish. I've my own life to think about." His mother, his crew, his plans to purchase this building and rent out rooms to visiting Tsingano kumpanias.

His mother muttered something from where she stood by the stove, stirring a giant pot of something. Whether it was thin soup for dinner or the laundry that paid for it, Hyacinthe could not tell. The time when he would have ignored a pronouncement like that from his mother was long in the past. Now, his expression grew sharp, like a hound on the trail of scent. "What is it, Mother?"

Turning, she brandished a ladle at them both, then pointed a finger at him. The gold from the coins on her necklace seemed very bright, reflected into her eyes. "You will go. This island will give you kindness and you will need all the kindnesses you can store." For a moment, she softened when she looked at him. "And you are a prince of the Tsingano. You will go to this gadje school and get an education that even the greatest kralis will envy." Then her expression cleared, resuming its usual dour mien and her necklace was just a necklace again.

"Well," Hyacinthe said, not bothering to look at Delaunay. "I guess that is that."

***


And now Hyacinthe was here. He'd arrived in time for the beginning of classes, though he'd missed some kind of picnic and had to be provided his dorm assignment by a moose (and then had the concept of a dorm explained to him as well, though that was by a cranky woman with too much face paint), but he was here, attending school. If he wasn't careful, this place might turn him into a pedant or a pedagogue and he'd be utterly useless to anyone. But until that happened, he was content to lounge and learn like some noble's heir and debate just how useful he wished to be to Delaunay.

All while wondering where he could get a decent wine. In some things, he was truly D'Angeline.

[Mostly establishy, but can be open. Pings to be answered when I wake up!]

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