“She what?” Gray demanded.
“She flew away. Sir,” Malkin added. The youngster blinked earnestly at the mage, almost vibrating with sincerity.
Fenton wanted to laugh at the expression on Gray’s face, but knew it would hurt Malkin’s feelings. Instead, he cleared his throat. Gray threw an irritated glance his way and then nodded at Malkin.
“Thank you. You’re dismissed.”
“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir,” Malkin said, and bobbed a quick bow. He whirled and disappeared through the door. They could hear his rope-soled sandals echoing on the stone.
“Did you know she was a shifter?” Gray demanded.
Fenton shrugged. “No.”
“No. No? That’s it? No?”
Fenton laughed. “Gray, what do you want me to say? The reports were sketchy at best. I’m not surprised they missed something important.”
“Something important?” Gray shouted. He whirled and swiped the goblet of wine off the table in one smooth motion. It flew gracefully through the air and shattered against the stones, the red soaking into the edge of the small rug by the fireplace.
“Waste of a good vintage,” Fenton admonished softly. “Gray. We’ve been expecting the Seers to fight us for some time now. This is not unexpected.”
He grunted. “Buggered timing.”
Fenton snorted. “You expected something different? Kilasha hasn’t forgiven you yet, you know.”
“Bitch,” Gray spat. He rubbed a hand over his eyes and blew his breath out his nose, the sound loud in the room. “Fine, Captain. You’re right, as usual.” He stopped and looked at Fenton, suddenly suspicious. “You think this is Kilasha’s doing?”
“You mean, on purpose? Directed at you, or us? No. I meant it in jest, actually. I don’t think she would truly fight you, not like this. No, I think this is the Council, honestly.”
Gray cocked his head. “Fenton,” he protested, “we’ve sought proof of their existence and none of our spies have detected anything out of the ordinary. Yet you persist.”
Fenton felt himself flush. “I persist because it is my contention they do exist. Do me the courtesy of believing that I have my own ways of gathering information!”
Gray studied him. “At last, some emotion.”
Fenton glared at him. “Poke the bear…”
Gray laughed. “Right. I had to be sure.” He cocked his head. “You still maintain that you can’t tell me the source of your information?”
“What do you think?”
Gray held up a hand. “All right. I’m just asking.” His dark brown eyes danced with laughter. “You can’t blame me for trying, Captain.”
Fenton looked away, over at the papers scattered over the worktable. “We’ve made a right mess in here,” he noted, more to change the subject than anything else.
The immense ruby on Gray’s left hand flashed when he waved that concern away. “I’ll straighten it later. I’m famished.”
“I want to go over these campaign notes again,” Fenton told him. He moved to the table and picked up a sheaf of paper from his Lieutenant. “Moore sent these from the front last night.”
Gray’s interest sharpened. “Indeed? Anything of interest?”
Fenton sat at the table. “I believe so. Two more confirmed shifter sightings, for one.”
“Dalira,” Fenton answered, rummaging for the relevant report.
Fenton looked up, surprised at the mage’s vehemence. “Why?”
Gray shrugged, his brown hair bouncing and catching golden highlights. “I knew Dalira. She seemed quite normal to me.”
“Normal? What’s that got to do with anything?”
Gray whirled away and strode to the sideboard to rip a chunk off the loaf Cook left there for them.
“You still think this is about normalcy,” Fenton noted quietly. “Gray. This is not a war of magery. It’s a war of conquest. The Council will overthrow your Order, that’s what they’ve been after all along. And every year there are fewer acolytes.”
“So you’ve said.”
Fenton slammed his palm down on the table. “So is the truth!”
Gray looked over his shoulder at him, not reacting to his show of temper. “It’s not the fact that you’re wrong that bothers me, Captain. It’s the fact that I haven’t been able to disprove your theories.”
Fenton sat back, startled. “Have you tried?”
Gray leaned his hip against the sideboard. From this angle, the dark blue wool of his overvest seemed almost black. “Yes.”
“You’ve never told me,” Fenton commented. He felt his brows draw together in a frown and consciously tried to smooth his expression.
Gray’s mouth quirked up, showing he was aware of Fenton’s effort at self-control. “What good would it have done to tell you? Other than to make you even more smug?”
Fenton chuckled in spite of himself. “Touché.”
“Captain. I am not the only one who has tried. There are several of us.”
Lords of Chaos be praised. The mages were starting to see reason? “You and who else?”
“Lark, for one. Hart, Brown and Ferret.”
Fenton wanted to smile at the names the mages chose for themselves, but learned long ago the danger of appearing disrespectful to any of the Order. Instead, he looked down at his papers, not really seeing any of them. “So five of you.”
“It isn’t many, I know.”
“More than I would have expected,” Fenton countered. “Can you arrange a meeting?” He looked up at Gray.
“Perhaps,” the mage grunted.
Fenton sighed. He wished he could get a firmer answer. But it would have to do, for now.
At least until the Council showed itself. Then, they’d come out of the woodwork in droves.
Somehow, that thought didn’t give him peace.