As he sat at his desk, trying to keep his patience intact, Cathak Tyr thought back on his life, and wondered how he had offended the Dragons so thoroughly.
In truth, he didnâ€™t have to think for long. From the early days, when he had Exalted as an Air aspect instead of a Fire, through his natural fondness for the mechanisms of the bureaucracy instead of the martial ambitions his parents attempted vainly to instill in him, he had been a disappointment. His lackluster performance during the 23rd Legionâ€™s northern wars, culminating in the disaster when a Lunar Anathema successfully evaded the Wyld Hunt, slipped past his own soldiers, and escaped to freedom, had not made him a great deal of friends. Honestly, being the adjunct for a Cathak general in a Nellens holding over three thousand miles away from the Blessed Isle was far more than he had expected after the court-martial concluded, and due almost entirely to his personal connections and influence with the Thousand Scales.
None of which made the man sitting on the other side of his desk easier to deal with. â€œIâ€™m terribly sorry, Master Oramakos. But General Kitano is still occupied on the Eastern redoubts. There have been rumours of recent Fair Folk activity in the area, and heâ€™s gone to investigate personally.â€ And I donâ€™t care whose son you are, you bastard, thereâ€™s no way that youâ€™re going out there to see him. When Oramakos had first arrived, he had been polite and understanding, even if he also exuded enough arrogance to make Mnemon flinch, and had seemed content to relax in Greyfalls and await Kitanoâ€™s return.
That had lasted about a day and a half.
â€œIâ€™m well aware of the rumours, Adjunct.â€ Oramakos managed to fit a sneer onto the last word without breaking his stride. â€œBut I was not under the impression that such an activity would take over two days to accomplish. It is a mere five miles away. Surely, my affairs are important enoughâ€¦â€
â€œGeneral Kitano left clear instructions, sir.â€ There was a slight pressure at Tyrâ€™s leg, and he glanced down to see a small cat pressing against it. He half-smiled, wondering how the little fellow had gotten all the way upstairs â€“ but then, many of the locals swore by the creatures for pest control, and the sight was far from unusual. He bent down absently to pick it up, and it arched its back against his arm and purred as he pet it softly. â€œI have sent your request ahead via messenger, but his duties to the city must take priority. If you would be willing to explain in more detailâ€¦â€
â€œThis is a matter for his ears alone.â€ Oramakos didnâ€™t flinch, although he shot the cat a suspicious look. The cat, perhaps sensing the manâ€™s hostility, turned its expression towards the Dynast, its purr fading as it shifted away from him. Tyr barely managed to repress a sigh as the larger man stood. â€œSend another message, and make the general aware that this is an urgent matter.â€ Turning, he strode from the room.
Tyr muttered something under his breath, as the cat settled back into his lap. â€œSorry you saw that, puss. Some people, eh?â€ He pulled out a piece of paper, drafting another message. It wouldnâ€™t hurt to let Kitano know about the upset Dynast that would be impatiently waiting when he got back. If he knew the general, it might cause him to extend his inspection for two or three more days.
â€œThere you are, Fina!â€ Tyr looked up in surprise at the womanâ€™s voice. One of the servants was at the door, looking at him. For a disoriented moment, he recalled a very different woman with a very different voice, and wondered where the nickname had come from. Then the cat purred, hopped up from his lap onto his desk, and trotted over to the girl, who quickly moved forwards to scoop it off the desk. â€œIâ€™m terribly sorry, your Lordship, I didnâ€™t know she was in here. Donâ€™t be angry.â€
â€œIâ€™m not, girl. Donâ€™t worry.â€ Tyr chuckled faintly, waving a hand. â€œJust be careful. The general is less fond of animals.â€
â€œYessir.â€ The girl bobbed her head and turned to go, holding the cat tightly. It didnâ€™t seem to mind, settling in as though it was born there.
The serving girl froze. She turned slowly. â€œYes, your Lordship?â€
â€œHave we met?â€ Tyr scrutinized her face, thoughtfully. Yes, it definitely seemed familiar, although the race was wrongâ€¦
â€œNo, sir. I mean, you may have seen me around, sir. Iâ€™ve been working here some time.â€
â€œHm.â€ Tyr frowned thoughtfully. â€œWhatâ€™s your name, girl?â€
â€œFiona, sir.â€ The serving maid bobbed her head.
â€œRight. Sorry to keep you, miss Fiona. Carry on.â€ The girl nodded again and left in some haste. Tyr watched her leave thoughtfully.
Outside, the serving girl quickly turned down a side corridor, glancing around to ensure that no one was watching, and then set down the cat â€“ who promptly grew and shifted, until Serafin was standing next to her daughter. â€œFiona?â€
â€œIt was the only thing that sprang to mind.â€ Millia looked down the corridor jumpily. â€œDamn it, what is he doing here?â€
â€œYou know him?â€
â€œHe was the leader of that troop column. Remember, when you got me to help Shifting Sands?â€ She shook her head. â€œOf all the Yozi-cursed luckâ€¦ did you get anything?â€
â€œToo much.â€ Serafinâ€™s expression turned grim. â€œRemember my Outworld-Forsaking Stance?â€
â€œThe one that protects you against mind control by demons and the like?â€ Millia raised an eyebrow.
â€œThatâ€™s the one. It triggered against Oramakos.â€ Serafin looked down the hallway. â€œHeâ€™s a creature of the darkness.â€
â€œBut he'd have to be...â€ Millia gasped. â€œHeâ€™s, like, fourth in line for control of House Sesus! I canâ€™t imagine that he wouldâ€¦â€ She broke off, her expression turning suspicious. â€œI know you, Mom. Thereâ€™s something more. Because why would anyone use mind control on a cat?â€
â€œIt was his eyes. An endless spiral of darkness hiding in his pupils.â€ Serafin shook her head distantly. â€œHe didnâ€™t have any choice about trying to conceal them. They were his Tell.â€
There was a long pause, before Millia dared to speak. â€œA Lunar akuma?â€
Millia crumpled. â€œOh, hells. And this was looking like such a nice assignment.â€