There was a moment of space and perfect silence as the handful of guards at their normal, boring posts stared, frozen in horror, while their young lord plummeted headlong out of the tower window. That silence set Tyr’s hear to racing, and, before he could think better of it, the Fae magic he knew so intimately rushed up through the soles of his feet. Fissures burst open along his fingers, hands, cracking like broken pottery up to his shoulders.
A cyclone erupted under his feet, launching him into the air. He hadn’t thought this far ahead. The bottom of his stomach dropped out as he reached his peak—but just before his momentum began to fade, he collided chest-first with the viscount’s son. At least his aim had been true. With just enough mental presence at the forefront of his panic, he threw a crackling hand out to the side, toward the ground, as it flew up at them. Water welled to the surface, softening the dirt to a muddy mire.
It didn’t exactly create a pile of feathers, but when Tyr struck the ground with his shoulder and the weight of a grown man in his arms, the swampy ground he had created accepted them with a sloshy, wet squelch.
The world turned in slow motion until that moment. Then, all at once, it rushed back together, and there were halberds thrust at his face. He threw his hands up to release the fallen lord, whom he had assumed was the Honorable Lord Niclas of Aeliss he came to see.
Niclas toppled onto his back in the mud, and scrambled frantically backward, hands sinking in the mud as he pushed back with his feet.
“My lord, please calm down!” One of the guards broke rank to approach Niclas, settling his halberd on the ground.
Niclas jerked away, throwing a muddy hand up between them.
“Restrain him before he hurts himself.” Three men rounded the far end of the house, the leader dressed for company, dinner perhaps. “Who the hell are you?”
Tyr’s hands were still up and open, displayed for the guards to see. “I don’t exactly know how to answer that question,” he said flatly, sparing a glance for the man who took charge.
Two guards had Niclas under the arms, hauling him to his feet.
“He just fell out of a window. You’re being a bit rough, gentlemen, don’t you think?” Tyr asked, casting a sidelong glance to the young man the guards were dragging off.
“That’s not quite your concern, I’d say.” The official-looking man in the fancy clothes stepped toward him, drawing out a handkerchief from his sleeve and mopping his substantial brow. He was trimmed in green and gold, frills and puffs sprouting from cuffs and collar, and yet he strode about that yard like a soldier. “How would you say you came into this estate?”
“My name is Tyr Cairwyn, sir. I’m a doctor, of sorts, and, while I admit I came thanks to certain rumors about a young lad’s misfortune in health, I only stumbled in through a gap in the wall.” He kept one hand raised, using the other to point back the way he had come, into the darkness behind his captors. “Back that way.”
The broad man scoffed, stuffing the handkerchief back up his sleeve, and looked Tyr over from head to toe. “Impossible. My estate is perfectly secure.”
“Of course, sir. My mistake, I’m sure.” Tyr slowly pushed himself to his feet, trying to look his least imposing. A challenge at his height. “I’m afraid I cannot give a reasonable explanation, then. I hope you will take my word when I tell you I’m here to help.”
One of the guards whispered to the viscount, and Tyr caught a look of horror, but only briefly, before the guard was waved impatiently away.
Before Tyr could even wonder at the guard’s whisper, a splash of water and a gasp sounded from the corner of the estate house. He turned to find the guards soaking the hysterical young man with buckets of water from a horse trough. Every time a bucketful hit, he yelped at the impact.
“Enough!” Tyr shouted and marched toward them. A halberd blocked his path, but he ducked under it, as if the guard weren’t even there.
“Sir, this is none of your—”
“It is absolutely my concern, sir, because, as I said—” he whirled around to face the viscount, “I am here on rumor of an infirm young man. It appears the rumors are true, though I must wonder if he is ill or kept captive.”
“Captive? I’ll have you know that boy is my son, and he is certainly ill. However, we have our own doctors, and your services, whatever they may be, are unnecessary.”
Tyr snatched a full bucket of water from a guard’s hands and doused him with it.
“Get him dry before he catches his death.” He thrust the bucket against the sopping-wet guard’s chest and rounded on the viscount. “With all due respect, sir, your doctors are buffoons if they call for this treatment. I urge you to put his health in my hands and you will see improvement.”
The viscount laughed until he snorted. Tyr took a step back and set his jaw. Of course, the nitwit thought this was funny.
“Lad, I wouldn’t trust you mucking my stables.”
“Sir, he was telling the truth,” a young guardsman said as he came jogging over. “There is in, in fact, a gap in the wall. No rubble or anything, just like someone took the stones away. Not like a proper door, sir. Just a hole.”
The Viscount of Aeliss certainly wasn’t laughing anymore. His face fell into slack disbelief, the color draining from it, as if a cork were plucked out of a hole in his chin.
“Round up all the staff you can find who aren’t attending the banquet. Get the groundskeeper to oversee it all. I want this patched up by midnight.”
Damn his lying. Tyr hated the thought of the servants being punished for his stupid trick, but there wasn’t much he could do about it now. After giving his orders, the viscount made a vague gesture in Tyr’s direction.
“Arrest him, but bring him to my holding cell in the east wing. If I determine he’s not trying to rob us, perhaps I won’t send him to the Agot.” He headed back inside without a backward glance.
The viscount’s son, the young Lord Niclas, was dragged back into the building as well, though he didn’t make a sound as they hauled him around like a sack of grain.
Naturally, they were less gentle with Tyr, though he didn’t fight hard. At least he would be in the estate house. Arrested or not, it was better than scaling a wall or some other stunt to get inside and assess the hold the Fae had on Niclas.
The outside of the estate house was both rustic and lavish. It blended well with the theatre district while still managing to tower above it, looming and imperious. As they escorted him into the building, a stream of servants, all but chased by a grizzly man in a floppy hat, herding them along like goats. The groundskeeper, Tyr was sure. The servants disappeared into the night, and Tyr was ushered inside with a nudge from the point of a halberd.
The east wing was not the jail-like atmosphere he had expected. As they pushed him through the corridors, his head swiveled left and right, taking in tapestries and paintings in warm wood frames, mounted against decorative wall panels with hand-carved moldings. Candles burned brightly in elaborate sconces along the walls, dozens of them. It must have been lovely to spare no expense lighting empty hallways with tallow the commonfolk would kill for.
“Fancy jail. Was I invited to the feast,” he asked, looking back at one of his chaperones, whose response was a simple rough shove to Tyr’s left shoulder. Exaggerating his stumble slightly, Tyr pushed focus to his left foot. The tingle of the fissures crackled inside of his boot. As he pretended to catch his footing, he dropped his heel heavily to the floor, sending a clay tile jutting up a bit to his left.
Just as he’d hoped, the tile caught the guard’s toe and sent him stumbling forward, so close to sprawling on his face that a snort of laughter caught in Tyr’s throat. He wasn’t typically one for pranks, but he’d seen enough of the type of person who tormented suffering people. It wasn’t right, but at least the guard’s almost-nosedive toward the floor was funny.
The guard to Tyr’s right snickered as the other took a few tripping steps forward before managing to right himself. Tyr stifled a grin. He expected another shove, but it appeared that embarrassment did wonders for humility.
Before long, they arrived at a door—completely indistinct from every other door they had passed, as far as Tyr could tell. One of his escorts opened it and motioned him inside.
The guards had all been as nondescript as the dozens of doors they had passed to get here. As he stepped past them, Tyr caught an apologetic smile from the guard to his right. He had a young face, clean-shaven and a bit round, but kind.
The other man was severe—his ruddy face angular and pulled into the center in a frown. A dusting of stubble peppered his jawline, but didn’t quite make it up to his cheeks. If Tyr had to guess, he had about ten years on his counterpart.
“Gentlemen,” he said as the door was shut on him, and the bolt slid home on the other side.
Holding cell, indeed. Tyr turned to find a modest bed on one wall and a single chair. Probably meant to feel stark to the eyes of someone like the viscount, he had to chuckle at the opulent, if clearly well-used, woven Danetheran rug on the floor. He plopped onto the bed, and shook his head with a grin. The mattress was straw, but the pillows were stuffed with goose down, and the whole room smelled of lavender.
If this was to be his prison, he might have to be a problem for a few days.