A Summons from the Capital

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"Briga, get back here, you mad hound," said Rainhart, dashing into the great hall of Mullrose Castle after his dog.

Briga the wolfhound, confident she was out of her master's range, wheeled and planted her feet, tongue lolling in a way that made her seem as if she was laughing at him. Rainhart ducked, slapped his thighs with his hands and said, "Here."

This was all the invitation the wolfhound needed. Getting up near as much speed as a galloping horse, she barrelled into Rainhart, planting her paws on his shoulders and knocking him backwards onto the stone. "Oof," said Rainhart, roughing up her damp fur. "That hurt."

He got a face-full of dog saliva in response. Heaving the big dog off him, he climbed to his feet and snapped a finger. "Heel."

Immediately, Briga came to his side and he patted her head. "Good girl." He ran his other hand through his own hair, trying to lift the wet strands away from each other.

"Tracking mud through my keep again," said a voice behind him.

Rainhart looked down at the stone floor and the human and dog tracks leading in from the door. "Oh, gods," he said. "I am sorry."

The Baron waved this away. "There's something I need to talk to you about, your highness," he said.

Rainhart sighed internally. He hated when Milos called him your highness, a reminder that his family--and duty--lay far away to the west.

"What is it, then?" said Rainhart, leaning against Briga's warm side.

"Your father the King, long may he reign, has written to me. You are to return to Breg immediately."

"He has called the Kingmoot?"

"Near enough to it. You are instructed to go ahead, collecting Princess Holle from the seminary, and proceeding with all haste to the capital. I will follow when the official messenger reaches me."

"Does his majesty say why I am called for?" Rainhart said. There was only one reason he could think of.

Milos smiled and reached out to grip Rainhart's shoulder. "It is time for you to take your place in the world, boy."

* * *

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