“Are you alright then?” Gigi asked Eudora after training had finished.
“Oh yes, I’m fine. Just glad that’s over. And I’m sure it is too,” she said, indicating her tentaclebeast counterpart, who was hovering a few feet away. He seemed a little disoriented—at least, Eudora dearly hoped he was disoriented, if not worse, from the experience.
“Oh, so you haven’t a name for him yet? You ought to choose something.”
“I can think of a few names,” Eudora said dryly.
Gigi laughed. “So bad as all that, then?”
“Well, it certainly wasn’t easy. But then, it’s not meant to be, is it?”
“You know, with that skin on his back…it looks like a wing, or a cloak. He looks like a highwayman from a novel.”
“Marauder,” Eudora said.
“Yes, like that. A pirate, maybe.”
“That’s what we’ll call him. Marauder.” Eudora looked at the newly-nicknamed tentaclebeast, but he made no acknowledgement of her pronouncement.
“Marauder. That’s interesting. Violent name,” Gigi observed.
“It suits him. Well, I suppose I’d better change for supper.” Eudora thought sadly of the hot bath that wouldn’t be waiting for her this time. Her cold washbasin and pitcher would have to do.
“Right. See you then.” Gigi bounded off and Inky followed close by. Eudora marvelled at the apparent friendship between the two, and how Gigi could still be so full of energy and enthusiasm when she felt drained, sore, and battered from her close encounters with the floor. Shooting a glare at “Marauder”, Eudora began the trip to her quarters when she encountered Michael in the hall, carrying a pile of books.
“Good day, Miss Wright. How did you find the training today?”
“Oh, it was fine.” How I do wish they wouldn’t ask, Eudora thought. “Doing a little light reading?” she asked, indicating the stack in his arms.
“I’m just fetching a few I thought might be of use to Mrs. Valentine. A bit from some old military generals about the weapons they used in the last war.”
“In Urotisha? Well, I do suppose the world of the tentaclebeasts is an exotic one.”
“Filled with restless natives, even. But, anything that helps her efforts helps our efforts. Have you met Mrs. Valentine yet yourself?”
“Just briefly at dinner. I understand she’ll be part of my weapons training though.”
“Indeed. Mrs. Valentine doesn’t trust anyone but herself to teach new recruits to shoot. Nor old ones either,” he chuckled.
“If what I’ve seen her daughter do is any indication, I’m sure she’s a thorough schoolmistress,” Eudora remarked. “I’d best not keep you, with a burden like that.”
“Not at all. And Miss Wright?”
“Whatever for, Mr. Brenton?”
“For not having any pity in your eyes, when you look at me. There’s not a person here who can look at me, without being put ill at-ease from my scars. Not that I blame them, of course. But thank you, all the same.”
“It’s not a thing that needs thanking. All of us have scars, Mr. Brenton. Some are seen, and others, unseen.”
“That’s very wise, Miss Wright.”
“Good day, then.”
“Good day.” They turned their separate ways down the hall.
* * *
Christopher knocked gently on Charles’ door. He expected the man to be asleep, and was about to walk away when he heard Charles call him in.
Charles was sitting up reading a book, which he put aside as Christopher entered. “Ah, Christopher, how pleasant to see you. Do come in.”
“Mr. Valentine, I’m very pleased to see you so much improved,” Christopher began.
“Now, now, there’s no cause to be so formal. I know why you’re here.”
“You do?” Christopher asked.
“You are here for the same reason each of my children has been here, and I daresay you were only delayed this long by Doctor Hardale’s insistence. And I must tell you, there’s no need for an apology.”
“I failed in my mandate to provide for your protection, sir.”
“Oh Christopher. I’m a grown man, and I have been involved with this lunatic’s venture even longer than yourself. I know well the risks, even if I don’t handle them as well as you younger ones. Now come, sit, tell me what’s been happening. I’m religiously shielded from all actual news and urged to focus on my recovery. But I daresay I’m no invalid yet.”
“We’re training as usual. Mr. Hedley finally relented and allowed Miss Wright to join in.”
“No doubt that has delighted my daughter beyond measure.”
“Quite,” Christopher said with a smile. “Also, we’ve a new applicant.”
“Indeed? What sort of fellow?”
“I haven’t learned much of him yet. Young man by the name of Gideon Simmons, from here in Thorthrope. Describes himself as a “student of the natural sciences”.”
“Is he looking to join the support staff, then?”
“No, he’s most insistent on applying to Special Services. Mr. Hedley’s letting him have a go at it.”
“And how is my son doing?” Charles asked. “He visits, but I can hardly get two words from him about his own concerns.”
Christopher hesitated a moment. “He seems to be a bit troubled, doubtless by your, uh, incident.”
“Troubled in what way?”
“A touch more hot-headed in training. Nothing out of the ordinary for a healthy young man though.”
“I well remember myself at his age. You may not think it to look at me, but I used to have quite the temper back then.” He took a sip of water from a glass at his bedside. “Thank you for your news bulletins, Christopher. Do stop by more often. You relieve my tedium. It is so dreadful to be forced into idleness like this.”
Christopher observed the books and papers stacked about Charles’ bed. “I daresay you have not been so idle as all that, Mr. Valentine.”
He chuckled. “This is nothing for me. I need my office. I need my work. But my wife and my doctor, well, you’d think I’d been flown straight back to my childhood.”
“They’re right. I ought to let you rest. Take care of yourself.”
“And Mr. Valentine, for what it’s worth, I am sorry.”
“No one is perfect, Christopher. Trouble yourself no further.”
“Thank you, sir,” Christopher said as he departed, still thinking of Mr. Valentine’s wounds.