Chapter Five

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Darshan wandered down the corridors with no actual destination in mind. He had spent quite a number of hours in the library with Nora and his head swam with everything he'd read. Some of the text referenced old clan battles, feuds that still festered to this day. He was familiar with such animosity and had, regrettably, been the cause of one before his father shunted him off up North.

Other books seemed more folk story than history. The one he'd discovered on his own had certainly walked the border between the two with wide-scale murder of the royal family, leaving only the youngest son of the King's youngest child alive. That the story expected him to believe a boy of five could mount an attack on his own castle was laughable, but Nora seemed to take the tale fairly seriously.

His feet had taken him to a spiralling flight of stairs. Up led to the guest quarters, where the only thing awaiting him was a few hours of boredom before the evening meal, whilst the prospects of going downstairs held rather much of the same, the only difference being he would be bored in public.

Darshan plodded down the stairs. Perhaps he would get lucky a second time and find people training, or become luckier still and have those people be fighting fit men. His speed increased at the idle thought. Ordinarily, he wouldn't bother searching the training grounds—the deliciously-sculpted soldiers in Minamist Palace didn't do much training in the afternoon heat—but with Tirglas being much cooler, there was always the possibility.

Maybe luck would be even further in his favour and he'd find the men training without any bulky armour obscuring their true physiques.

Footsteps echoed from the corridor on his left as Darshan reached the foot of the stairs, brisk, purposeful and steadily growing closer. He slowed, curiosity swivelling his head, then drawing his feet. Whoever could be in that much of a hurry around here?

Hamish appeared from one of the many corridors branching off the one they stood in. "There you are," he said, his arms and smile wide as if welcoming an old friend. "I wondered where you'd scuttled off to." He clapped an arm around Darshan's shoulders, squeezing tight in the same good-natured fashion he had witnessed from the man's brother last night. "Thought I might've said something to upset you this morning."

"What?" Darshan blinked up at the man, still a little dazed. After spending hours confined in a small library, anything earlier was a distant, foggy memory.

"Archery range?" Hamish supplied, clearly searching for a hint that Darshan understood him. "You asked if I was married?"

"Oh! No, I am merely a bit out of sorts." He had almost forgotten the reason he had begun his little jaunt through the castle library. Sadly, he had garnered no useful information on that front, at least not from the books Nora had chosen as his starting point. Further perusal would probably lead him to the answer, but he hadn't ever been that patient.

Hamish slowly slid his arm off Darshan's shoulders, the absence leaving him cold. "You're nae ill, are you?"

Darshan shook his head. Illnesses and injuries were for people without healing magic. "I must not be entirely over the journey here, that is all. I have heard travelling over water can do strange things to a person's insides." Dwarves especially hated it. At least, when it came to the hedgewitches of ancient lore. Something to do with the mysterious magic they once had and their ties to the earth.

The admission seemed to ease the tension from Hamish's broad shoulders.

"I had the most delightful time with your sister, though." His ears grew hot as he realised just how that must've sounded. Yes, that'll really endear me to him. Rubbing his temple, he added, "We were reading some of your history and folktales. Something about an attack on this very castle and a single boy surviving." Already, the details were fading, picked clean of relevant information.

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