Laughing, Briggs went to fetch him a large mug of coffee.

Leaning against the bar, he idly watched Rainier and Endar playing some kind of game, encouraged by Hallevar, Kohlvar, Zaranar, and Rothvar.

“Endar showed up first,” Surreal said, setting a tray of dirty glasses on the bar. “Loaned Rainier four books. I gathered reading isn’t a shameful activity if a warrior is so badly injured there isn’t much else he can do.”

Lucivar winced at the sharp edge in her voice.

“The others showed up a little while ago.”

“I’m surprised they aren’t entertaining Falonar,” he said.

She huffed out a breath. “Nothing has been said—at least nothing I heard while moving around the tables—but I have the impression they’re all feeling uneasy about what Falonar did. They haven’t criticized him openly. . . .”

“But they’re here tonight, giving Rainier company,” he finished. Showing support and indicating they saw Rainier as one of their own instead of being with the leader who hadn’t taken care of an injured man.

“I haven’t heard Rainier laugh this much since before we walked into that damn spooky house.”

Lucivar narrowed his eyes. He hated feeling suspicious about men he liked, but the Eyriens hadn’t made much effort to get to know the people of Riada. “How much has Rainier lost? And how much has he had to drink?”

“It’s not a betting game,” Surreal replied. “Some game called hawks and hares.”

Children’s card game. Daemonar was just learning to play it.

“And his so-called muzzy head, which might be somewhat genuine, is a result of Jaenelle’s healing brews. They’ve also sneaked him sips of ale. Not much, and within the limits Jaenelle told Merry he was allowed to have.”

He let the play continue while he drank his coffee and ate the sandwich Merry put in front of him. Then he waited until Hallevar looked his way. He made a twirling motion with one finger.

“Last hand, boys,” Hallevar said loudly enough to carry back to the bar. “We all need to get some rest.”

The only man who didn’t glance his way was Rainier, who studied the cards in his hand with heightened intensity. It was so like Daemonar’s response to the first “bedtime” call, Lucivar almost laughed out loud.

He wasn’t sure if Endar deliberately lost that round to finish up quickly, or if Surreal was right and Rainier was nowhere near as muzzy-headed as he was allowing people to think, but the game ended fairly soon after and the Eyriens departed, making a point of thanking Merry and Briggs for the hospitality.

“Do I have to go upstairs now?” Rainier asked woefully.

“It’s bath night.”

“I don’t need help taking a bath.”

“No, but my boy does.”

“Ah.”

Rainier shifted his left leg. Merry and Surreal rushed toward the table. Lucivar gave them both a look that had them pulling up short.

“Give the man some room,” he said firmly.

Two pairs of female eyes narrowed at him.

Ah, shit. “Do not give me any sass.”

The eyes narrowed a little more.

*Can we get out of this room, please?* Rainier asked, studying the women.

*Yes, if you make some effort.*

He got Rainier upright and felt those eyes watch him until they reached the stairs that led up to the rooms.

Since Rainier cooperated, it didn’t take long to get him settled for the night. Sitting beside the bed, Lucivar called in a jar of ointment.

“What’s that?” Rainier asked.

“Healing salve.” After putting a tight shield around his hands, Lucivar scooped out a generous amount of salve and began smoothing it over Rainier’s left leg from hip to knee.

“I can do that.”

“Not tonight, you can’t. Right now, Jaenelle wants someone else getting a careful feel of those muscles, and that someone is me.”

Rainier said nothing for a few minutes, letting him focus on the leg. The ointment was laced with spells—warming spell, numbing spell, he didn’t know how many others. His fingers carefully followed the lines of muscles, feeling a ridge at the spot where they were originally severed and then repaired so many times.

“Lucivar?”

“Hmm?”

“Is there any honorable work a young Eyrien male can do except fighting? Or does he have to be permanently wounded badly enough to be a liability in a fight before he can do something else without shame?”

Lifting his hand from Rainier’s leg, Lucivar gave the other man a long look. “Why do you ask?”

“Nothing certain. Just impressions.”

“You were Second Circle in the Dark Court at Ebon Askavi, and you’re an observant man.”

Rainier took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I had the impression that Endar was trying to find out how serious this leg injury is. What I could no longer do. He doesn’t like being a guard. He doesn’t like the bloodshed that comes in a fight. I gathered that’s a shameful thing for an Eyrien male to feel. Would he fight to defend his family? Without hesitation or question. But he doesn’t like it as his work, and he’s afraid to say anything because he likes living here and his wife likes living here. If someone can’t offer him a way to keep his standing with other Eyriens, I think the day might come when he drops his guard during one of the workouts, quite by accident, and receives a blow that will make him a cripple who has to do some other kind of work.”

Lucivar resumed smoothing the salve over Rainier’s leg. “Did you get any impression about what kind of work he might want to do?”

“No. The other Eyriens came in at that point, and he shied away from the subject.”

“I’m going to be looking for a teacher. Someone for the Eyrien youngsters. Someone who can teach them reading and writing and their sums, as well as Eyrien history and basic Protocol.”

“Basically the same initial education as any child in Kaeleer, with the history and traditions specific to a race.”

“Yes.”

“Fighting?”

“Hallevar is arms master. He’ll take care of that part of the education.” If he stays. “Haven’t worked out how it will be done, but it’s going to be done.”

He could almost feel Rainier putting the information together.

“This isn’t common knowledge yet?” Rainier asked.

Lucivar shook his head. “Not for a few more days.”

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