Xavier's Story

Part 2



            Xavier woke to a jolt of the bed as a large pile of books fell beside him. His eyes, fuzzy at first, focused on them. Three thick hardcovers, one of them so old and ratty that it looked like it would fall apart and crumble in his hands if opened. Then he looked up at the stern eyes of his master, and let his body sink into the mattress and pillow. Perhaps she wouldn't notice him?

            She pulled her hair back behind her shoulders with a sigh. “If you're too sick to work the shop, you're too sick to get out of bed. And if you're too sick to get out of bed, you're going to spend your time wisely and do some learning and studying. I know one student who has an exam coming up.” She patted the pile of books then tossed his notebook and pencil onto the bed. “Get to it.”

            He sniffled and rubbed a finger under his nose. “I dod't… heh…hehIhhshhh! EhhhKishhh! Sniff, sniff, I dod't dow if I could read adythig right dow add really rebeber it…”

            “Well, you're going to try. You need anything while I'm here? Tea, juice, food? You missed both breakfast and lunch.”

            He nodded. “Baybe sobethig sball, soft. Juice would be dice.” He paused, rubbing his nose vigorously. Then closed his eyes, keeping his hand at his nose and over his mouth. “hehUhhshhh! HihhChishh! ehhh… ehhhHechushh!” Reluctantly, he reached over to the stash of handkerchiefs and used one as discretely as possible. Then he sniffed strongly. “Blease, Baster Sayge?”

            She sighed and gave a nod. She headed out and was back in but a few minutes with a breakfast muffin and a glass of juice.

            Xavier was caught in a small fit of sneezing, but managed to nod a thank you through them as Master Sayge left the items on the side table. When finished, he blew his nose a few times, closing his eyes as his head caressed the softness that was his pillow. Then he pulled together the energy to sit up. He left the handkerchief, crinkled and used, in his lap at the ready. His nose was feeling awfully sneezy, but not much was coming from it. Just the day before, he'd been sneezing pretty constantly on and off from a strong tickling. But now, the tickle would gain strength, but then just back down again. He sat there for a few seconds, gauging its power, but then just relaxed again. Even more reluctantly, he took up a book, cracking it open to the first page. With juice in one hand and his note journal in the other, he attempted to study.

            However, his eyes were tired and his nose, though not always aspiring to full sneezes, was sneezy enough to cause runs. Every second or third sentence caused a few sniffles, and every half a page he found himself stopping all to put down his things, take up the hanky, and give his nose a good blow or two to clear it. The soft, soothing factual tones of the book kept his mind from getting too engaged. His eyes slowly closed, willing him back to a healthy rest. But the constant sniffling and running kept him from nodding off. This, he decided, was going to be a long afternoon.





            It was well into the evening when another bump jerked him awake. This time, he woke to find he was still in a sitting position, his neck tilted to the side. Stiffly, he straightened up, rubbing the soreness from his neck as he looked up at his Master who was hastily flying about the room gathering his items into a bag. He sniffed and cleared his throat. “Sorry, I was just restig a bobedt between chabters… I'll—“

            “We need to go, Xavier. I'll pack your things. You need to get changed. Here,” she tossed a pair of trousers on the bed, “dress warmly in layers.” She paused and turned to him. “We ride.”

            He blinked, understanding immediately the importance behind those words but not wanting to believe it. This was a drill, right? “Baster Sayge… I'b sick. ehh… ehhhIshh! uhhhFishoo! uufffTush! Sniff, sniff! Cad't we bractice id a few days?”

            She tossed several shirts and a thick tunic on the bed as well. “This is no drill, lad. There's been a threat and a challenge and we're the only ones who can handle it. The Dallip pair are overseas with the dictator, and Myra and Paulis are guarding the ambassador in Pago. We need to ride tonight to get there by dawn.”

            He reached for a shirt, stripping his thin sleep shirt off and pulling the other over his head. Immediately he felt his nose tickle at him and he quickly put the back of his hand to his nose and mouth as he went for another shirt. “ehhh…uhhhh… uhhffTchah! eeffHushh! uhhSheshh! IhhChoo! EhhhHishh!

            “Meet me downstairs in the stables by our horses when you're ready. Do get wrapped in your blue cloak; it's still snowing outside. Oh, and Xai?”

            He looked up as he pulled a second shirt on, sniffling as there was little time to stop and blow his nose. “Yes?”

            “Be sure to bring some hankies, looks like you'll need them.” She smiled and left, leaving the packed bag on his bed.

            With a sigh, he quickly finished changing, took up his sword and bag, and made his way down and across the castle grounds to the stables.




            Three hours later, they were far past the realm and the dark forests and the river. They were quickly approaching the mountain ranges, where the dragons were known to live, and Xavier was starting to feel much worse for the ware. Every few minutes the cold winter air would sting at his nose and tickle his nostrils just enough for a sneeze or two. Nothing too big, so nothing important enough to pull out a hanky for. But on the same note, no hanky meant a freely sneezed sneeze and an extra runny nose. “eppphhTishh! IhhChushh!” The sneezes erupted in a cloud of soft mist in front of him, gently wetting the front of his cloak as he galloped forward. He'd learned to sneeze to the side, but it wasn't always feasible when maneuvering about trees and other such hazards on the somewhat winding path, and that was when there was an actual path to follow. When his nose was in desperate need of tending to, he'd slow to a canter and pull out a handkerchief. The reins would slip to the crook of one elbow and he held fast with one hand while keeping a tight position with his legs. He steered with his legs on the sides of his horse when needed, but the free hand took his handkerchief to his nose and let him blow. It took some practice to work on the skill of a one-handed blow but after three hours he had the routine down pat.

            uhhhHishh! EpppTushoo! UhfffHishh! ehhhKishoo! Sniff, sniff, sniff!

            After clearing his nose and catching back up to his Master, he decided he was too weary and sickly to keep this up for the entire night. “Sayge?” he yelled out above the noise of the horse hooves on the snow-covered ground.

            She glanced back at him in a brief flash to let him know she was listening.

            “Baster, I deed to rest!” he shouted out, breaking into a cough of congestion and breathlessness.

            Sayge whistled and slowed her horse to a jerky trot, posting up and down lightly to talk to him and still manage to cover some ground.

            He matched her pace, deciding not to post and instead bouncing roughly in the saddle beside her; he was too tired to care about form. “I'b feeling sick, Baster Sayge… add I deed sobe rest badly. Cad't we stob to sleeb for a few hours? Blease?” His nose tickled as if in evidence, and he whipped out his handkerchief just in time to sneeze into its folds. “eptchuh! ufftch!

            She looked over at him with sympathetic eyes.

            ehhfTushh! Sniff, sniff, I'b really sorry…”

            She nodded. “We'll head up the mountains to the caves. There are some empty ones used for shelter by travelers through here. We'll build a fire and warm ourselves and rest for a few hours. You look like you're about to drop dead without a rest.”

            He nodded back. “Thag you.”

            She squeezed her legs against the horse and willed it to speed up. The horse, much more comfortable at its gallop than a trot, burst back into action, and Xavier's followed suit at his command.



            It was close to another hour before they found an empty, dry, safe cave. The horses stayed near the front and covered in blankets, they quickly fell into a much-needed sleep.

Xavier huddled in one corner, his cloak pulled tight around him with the hood up still. The velvet was wet from the snow, making it a dark navy blue- almost black- but it was thick enough to still provide warmth and protection from the cold winter air. He didn't feel much like moving, but he felt too exhausted to sleep… he was afraid closing his eyes might mean not waking up again for quite a long time. So he simply sat still, trying to stay warm, and trying not to sniffle too much.

Sayge took the practical angle, and stood near the mouth of the cave with her eyes closed. She spoke a few words over and over again with one arm extended to the side as if her hand were pointing to a wall of the cave. Slowly, small logs of wood came rolling in. Like dogs, they shook off to dry themselves, then rolled over to the wall to form a growing pile. When they had wood enough to last the rest of the night, she relaxed and opened her eyes. With another few words, several logs rolled over to the middle of the cave, close enough to the outside to let the smoke vent but far back enough so the passing winds would not reach it. A few thin branches broke themselves into pieces for kindling. And with another few words, a good five or six minutes of meditation, and as much energy as the tired Master had within her, a fire managed to spring up.

            More than thankful for the tiny blaze, Xavier dragged himself over, stripping off wet gloves to warm his hands and face by the fire.

            His Master lay down in her cloak, closing her eyes as the same warmth slowly washed over her. She was a bit apprehensive about falling to sleep… it was bad form to leave a fire unattended by sleep, and while Xavier was there to watch it, she feared his tired eyes would close soon enough. Perhaps she could just get in a quick nap…

            “efftchuh! eeehhhHushh! iihhTishh! ehhKishoo! Sniff, sniff, sniff, sniff…” Xavier whipped out a handkerchief and dabbed at his tender nose.  He looked over at Sayge, who was awake and looking back at him now. “I'b sorry. Sniff, sniff. Go back to sleeb. I'll try to staahh… ehh… ehhPIShum! uhhChishh! Sniff, sniff. I'll try to stay quiet for you.”

            “Bless you,” she said, sitting up and rubbing one eye. “Go to sleep, Xai. I'll watch the fire. You need the sleep more than I.”

            He shook his head. “Do, Baster. Sniff, sniff! I could't. You sleeb.”

            She shed her cloak, sufficiently warmed by the fire, and laid it down on the ground beside her. “Come, Xavier.” She patted her thigh and had a flash of calling a dog by the same sort of manor. “Lie down. It will help you feel better and I'll watch over you to be sure no harm comes our way.”

            Wanting to object, his weary body had other intentions and had already started moving towards her; too late to stop now. He curled up on the soft velvet with his head on her leg as a pillow. His own cloak wrapped around him completely, keeping him snug and warm in the glow of the fire. He sniffled and brought out a hand to rub at his nose. “Thags,” he whispered.

            “Of course, lad. Get some sleep now, all right?”

            He nodded, his eyes already closing with heavy fatigue. But his nose was still tickling with a stuffy, sneezey feeling. “iihh…uhhh…eehh…ehhHISHH! uhhChishh!” They bent his body, doubling him up to an almost sitting position so that after the sneezes, he fell back onto her lap with a cough and sniffle. He took a deep breath and sigh, trying to relax, but his nose still tickled. “ehhh…iiihhh…uhh…” A finger was placed beneath his nose, strong and determined. The feeling backed down mildly but embarrassment spread over the young student. “Baster Sayge…”

            “Hush. I will keep your nose soothed for a while if you will try to fall asleep. Just relax and don't worry about sneezing.”

            He nodded, panting from a pre-sneeze. The sensation was so strong, but with her finger there, he somehow wasn't able to sneeze. After a few more attempts, he finally relaxed, putting trust in her, and letting the quiet, resting feeling take over him. Soon, he was snoring.




            “Xavier… wake up, lad. We must be off.”

            He woke, but could not manage to open his eyes. It seemed like only minutes since he'd fallen asleep.

            “It's two hours until dawn. We must get going now.”

            His eyes pulled open to find a dying fire in front of him. There was no use protesting even if he dared do so to his master. He'd already done a fair bit of complaining and requesting special treatment; he assumed it was excused do to his heavy ailment, but any more and he feared a lecture and punishment. “Thags for letting be sleeb,” he mustered, pulling himself off and brushing the dirt off his master's cloak for her.

            She nodded, stating plainly, “The horses needed a rest, too.”

            In only a few minutes, they were off again through the good two feet of snow the had fallen since the winter storm began. The horses were cold and apprehensive, even with the leg coverings that were always worn this time of year, and the master and student pair moved much slower than expected.

            They reached the King's castle a few hours after dawn, leaving the horses with the gatesman to save time, and walking straight to the King's quarters and workrooms.

            Xavier had not realized how much he'd longed for the warmth of indoors until he was well into defrosting on the walk there. True, warmth made him all the more sleepy, but he was resuming feeling in his extremities and face, which was certainly worth a more drowsy demeanor. In no time at all, they were at their destination and being questioned.

            Sayge answered calmly with a regal sort of air, “We are the two sent for protection and magical aid.”

            The attendant at the quarters nodded, looking them both up and down in more of an evaluation than a look. “His majesty is currently engaged but I will announce your presence and admit you presently. Please have a seat in the meantime.” He gestured towards the chairs against the wall that had been supplied for this very purpose.

            Xavier collapsed into the closest with a deep, relieved sigh to be off his feet. Galloping a horse required an incredible amount of energy and athleticism, and to do so for hours upon end with barely any rest and a heavy head cold, well, sitting was heavenly.

            His master sat down in the chair beside him, just as thankful for the rest but better at keeping her composure to hide her fatigue. After a few moments of gathering herself with a meditative preparation spell, she turned to her student. “When we get inside, you will remain silent. When a question is posed to us, I will be the one to answer it. You will speak only if a question is directly asked of you by name. And even then you will wait for me to speak to you telepathically, then you will answer clearly, slowly and truthfully. The King may be able to tell. Do you understand?”

            ehhIhhshh! ehhKuffchh! Sniff, sniff!” He nodded and rubbed a finger against his nose.

            “You're dirty from the trip.” She licked her finger and rubbed his cheek for him. She leaned back, inspected it, then gave him a nod. “Better. Now, when we enter, I will curtsey and you will bow as low as you have ever bowed in your life. You will stand straight, right beside me but half a step behind. I will have my hand on your shoulder at all times while we stand there. Do you understand all this as well?”

            He gave another nod and his hand covered his nose and mouth while his other pulled a handkerchief out from beneath the folds of is cloak. “uhhHishh! ehhfffTushh! uuhhhIchoo! uhhhHish! EehhhPhishoo!” He sniffed and wiped his nose.

            “Try not to sneeze in front of His majesty and if you must, do cover your nose and mouth completely.”

            He nodded yet again.

            She sighed. “Be on your best behavior, Xai.” She reached over and stroked the back of his head tenderly. “Are you all right?”

            He nodded. “I'b ok.”

            It was another few minutes before the attendant returned. “You may enter now.”

            They made their way inside. Xavier was at once astonished by the grandeur of the royal chambers. Everything in sight was either cherry wood or pure gold that shone so brightly that the room was nearly blinding. For a lad used to a simple stone castle and the bare minimum of furniture, he was overwhelmed. He followed behind his master as they were led to a grand office. A cherry desk with gold finish stood on a golden platform at the end of the room which was adorned with thick pictorial rugs and golden mirrors. At once, he spotted the king, a tall man who was in the process of sitting in a velvet chair behind the desk. He dropped to a low bow just as his Master bowed, her hand finding itself on his shoulder.

            The attendant announced, “Executive Master of the Magical Arts, Protector of the Good, Sayge Nesbit of Talimark, and her training pupil Xavier Salent.”

            The pair righted themselves and remained silent until the King addressed them. “Thank you for coming. Have you been told of the problem here?”

            Xavier made no movements. Sayge shook her head slightly. “No, Your Majesty. We were only so summoned that our skills were needed by you.”

            He nodded, sitting back in his chair. “The dark forces of the north have been working their way toward us. War was predicted years ago by your people, but I need assistance as you might understand.”

            “Yes, Your Majesty.” She spoke quietly in a humble, gentle tone Xavier had never before heard from her. The closest was perhaps the night or two before when she'd confessed her caring for him as her student. Their bond was stronger than any other Xavier could imagine, yet the docile tones pointed him towards a Master he had not known in his ten years with her. “We will do all within our powers.”

            “You have been allotted a chamber beside mine for the night, late tomorrow we will be off toward the North for a meeting with their leaders. I will need your aid in travel as well as negotiation. I also have the assumption that we have already been bewitched. Can you sense anything of this kind?”

            Her tone was ever so soothing, “No, Your Majesty. If you have been bewitched, I do not detect it. I do however sense danger lingering about. We arrived not a moment too soon.”

            Xavier could feel something, too, but it was soft, muddled, foggy. He wasn't too sure if that was his cold obstructing it or something much more powerful that he had not the powers to see through. Either way, he was beginning to feel an uneasiness due to his sneezes. His nose was tickling again, and it was all he could do to hold back a few rude sniffles. The tickles were sharp, constant, and he finally gave in to put his finger under his nose. He mustn't sneeze in front of the King. He mustn't let his master down by showing bad form, let alone an illness.

            “One of my attendants will show you to your room arrangements.

            Xavier sniffled lightly, the tickle growing much too strong for him to handle. Still, the feeling did not die down. Finally he pulled out his handkerchief, folded several times so that the cloth was thick enough not to hear much through. He sniffled and found his nose overflowing with fierce tickling and tingling. The sneezey feeling was too overwhelming. His eyes closed and his jaw dropped. He panted a few times, trying to draw it out in hope that if it came quickly, it might not be noticed. “uuuhhhh… uhhIhhshh! EehhChishhh! eehhhHishh! uhhfffTishh!” They were soft and luckily enough to quench the tickling in his nose. He looked up to find the King looking down upon him.

            “Is the boy ill?”

            Xavier sniffed and opened his mouth to answer.

            //Hush, Xavier. You have not been asked directly. I will answer.// Master Sayge tightened her grip on Xavier's shoulder as reminder. “He is on the mend from a minor case of sniffles. Nothing serious and nothing that will affect performance in any way, I assure you.”

            The King looked down critically, then nodded. “Aye… “ he clapped and one servant, a different one from the one who had admitted them, stepped up to the pair. “It is nice to have met you, I look forward to working with you more. Please send word when important and enjoy your quarters. I wish you to leave now to get settled. We will speak again soon.”

            She pushed down on Xavier's shoulder to signal and began to curtsey. Taking the hint, Xavier bowed even lower than before, his nose thrown off of balance, stuffy, runny.

            “Thank you, Your Majesty,” Sayge said genuinely, then took her hand down to follow the attendant in single file out and down the hall.

            Xavier followed behind, sniffling almost constantly, his nose buried in handkerchief.

            Then attendant spoke before they did. “You look as if you've had a long trip. You will find your quarters suitable for rest as well as work while you are with us.”

            “Thank you. We are rather worn out after the trip. But we'll see to our rest after we prepare what's necessary for the King's protection.”

            The attendant nodded and opened the doors to a grand room of rose and lace. Xavier's eyes lit up upon the bed of warm blankets and fluffy pillows. There was but one bed, and a large couch by the windows. The young man sighed to see it, knowing that would be his place of resting. Perhaps he would be given a blanket to sleep with. Ah, warm and asleep…


            He looked up to find only his Master there.

            “You were on another plane, I think. Back now?”

            He nodded and rubbed at his nose.

            “As I was saying, I will need some help preparing the initial circle and protection spell. But after that I want you to get some rest. We'll be up most of the night and I want you feeling better.” She gently pulled large piece of velvet cloth from her bag, laying them out on the table and unfolding them to find the instruments and ingredients therein. While she unpacked, he worked on laying them out in usual order, the knives, the ornaments, the tiny cauldron, the spices and dried flowers and bottles of this and that.

ehh…ehhIhhshhoo! uhhhChishh! ehhhHishhh! Uhh… ehhh…ahhh… ufffTuchoo!” Quite a few times he was forced to direct sneezes into his shoulder rather than sneeze and disturb the arrangements. “ehhChishhh! HehKishhoo!” His sneezes were becoming more forceful and wet, taking quite a lot out of him from sniffle to blow.

            Sayge finished unpacking and changed into a sleek black dress that made her face pale in comparison to her dark hair and eyes. She sat in the center of the room, cross-legged, closed eyes. Softly, she called to Xavier, “Come join me in circle meditation.”

            “Yes, Baster.” He quickly put the last things into place and sat in front of her, his own legs crossed and eyes closed. He sniffled and took a deep breath as he slipped into meditation to the sound of his Master's breathing.

            It seemed like ages before Sayge spoke again, freezing Xavier into place. “Spirits of Water, Fire, Earth and Air… Feel the magic and hear our prayer. The forces of evil are gaining influence here… The health and place of our King we fear. We draw this circle like a ring of a bell… To keep the kingdom bright and well. Please take our powers, minds, hearts in bind… That an image of our foes we may find.”

            Both opened their eyes slowly. Xavier added a few pinches of spices to the cauldron beside them in the center of the circle. Sayge muttered some words softly as she dropped a few petals of dried roses into the pot as well. A match was lit, and thrown in, and their two trained eyes carefully watched the smoke which rose from the metal pot. It was gray, blue, and green, and circled round their heads. Pieces of smoke twirled and whirled into shapes and motions, thick and thin, strong and soft. Soon, it dispersed completely into the air, leaving a strong, sweet scent.

            It tickled Xavier's nose but he feared sneezing even more now than when in the King's chambers. He pinched his nose shut tightly, his breath hitching and escalating just to the point of the sneeze. “ehh…ihhh… yehhhh… EHH-!  uhhh…ihhh…ehhh…aehhhh… IIIHHH-! Ehh… EHHH-!” But he kept his nose tightly pinched. He closed his eyes and let his eyes roll back. With any luck, he would be able to hold back the sneezes long enough to meditate upon an open circle.

            Sayge recognized this and continued quickly but with skillful accuracy. “Great thanks for this circle round… Great thanks for the bounty that we have found. Spirits may go or stay in peace… For forces of darkness we hope to cease.” She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Then she opened her eyes and patted Xavier on the leg. “Go ahead and sneeze now.”

            He nodded, his face going long and his hand cupping his nose and mouth. “ehhIIHHshhhh! uhhKISHHH! EhhhHITCHO! Sniff, SNIFF, SNIFF!” He pulled his handkerchief out and dabbed at his sore nose. When he'd regained his breath, “I saw a great arby desced frob the dorth. Add I saw a sword pierce a circle. Add ad… owl, or a falcod?”

            Master Sayge nodded. “I saw similar images. We will discuss it later, I have much to meditate on right now.” She patted Xavier on his head. “Go get some rest. I'll bring you a cup of hot tea to warm you up.”

            He nodded, falling upon the soft pillows of the couch with a relieved sigh and a shiver. He closed his eyes, realizing exactly how tired he was. Then he felt a soft hand pass over his face and a thick blanket fall over him, tucked tightly around his body. Some words were said, and it immediately began to warm him. A few more words were spoken and a small cup of tea was handed to him. He sniffled and smiled, opening his eyes to find his Master looking worried. “I'll be fide, Baster. Sniff, sniff, sniff. Thag you.”

            “I will wake you when I need your assistance.”

            Xavier rubbed at his nose and sipped at the tea. “Thag you Baster Sayge.”

            She went back to carefully clean up the mess, keeping a close eye upon the bed. When she'd sent Xavier to rest, she'd well expected him to chose the bed, but she was quite glad now that he hadn't. Every part of her was aching for the sleep she hadn't had in a day. She needed a good rest and as soon as she was done, she was looking forward to falling upon the bed for a few hours on the dreamscape.






            Sayge stirred. //I need to sleep, Xai…let me be.//

            Xavier sniffed. “Baster? Baster Sayge, the attendadt is here. The Kig is od his way.”

            With a heavy sigh, she sat up and stretched, finding her head throbbing from lack of sleep. “Oh, get me a glass of water and crushed aspirin.”

            He obeyed, leaving the loaned blanket on her bed, folded neatly. It took a few moments to crush the aspirin using is powers, which he had practice doing, so meanwhile he tidied all he could to make the room look presentable. He managed to float the finished concoction over to his Master on a rough ride, spilling only slightly. His master gave a stern look for the imperfection, and Xavier quickly grabbed a cloth from the powder room to clean it up.

            Having finished, she got up and attended to the cauldron, the waters laced with bright rose petals which formed patterns as she stirred.

            Xavier, feeling like the tagalong ten year old at her feet, went over to her. “Are you all right?”

            She nodded. “A simple headache. Thank you for waking me as you did. Please find a comfortable seat for his Majesty to rest upon. And wash your face, it's dirty from the ride still and your nose is running again.”

            Xavier nodded and obeyed. He very much wanted to be back under the covers with a warm tea and a dry handkerchief. But until then, he had to do as his Master said… and by the feel of her through the bond they held, this was not the time to talk back to her. She was already being short with him… it was only a matter of a few more imperfections when she would be yelling.

            There was a knock on the door and Xavier sprang over, rubbing his face on his sleeve. Pulling the door open, he fell down to a bow at the King's presence. He swung his arm over to signal that the king was most welcome to enter. But he did not speak, for fear it was improper, and for fear that his stuffy voice show through.

            The king was smiling, and gave a nod. “Thank you, young man.” He seemed much more friendly and casual in person than he had when he had been up on his big gold pedestal.

            Xavier sniffled and quickly brought out his handkerchief. “ehh…ehhIhhshoo! uhhShoo!” He gave his nose a rub and stuffed the handkerchief away as quickly as possible. “Excuses,” he mustered, feeling horribly embarrassed. They had come so suddenly…

But the king shook his head. “Do not worry. Are you feeling better at all?”

            Xavier nodded and paused a moment. Hearing nothing from his master in the ways of prodding, he took her earlier advice and answered as clearly and honestly as possible. “Yes, Sir. A little.” He gestured toward the great chair he had pulled over for the king.

            “Good to hear. Good to hear. Thank you, young man.” He took the seat. “And to you, Master. How are things?”

            She stood and curtseyed. “Your Majesty, we have seen the forces and called for your protection. Have you a royal falcon or bird of some sort you would normally bring with you?”

            The king nodded. “Yes, the royal golden eagle flies with our flags.”

            ehhhHishhoo! EhhChishh! uhhSheoo!” Xavier rubbed his nose through the handkerchief. “Excuses…”

            His Master narrowed her eyes at him. “Why don't you go see to the… the…” she trailed off, searching for something to say.

            He created an excuse, “the documents?”

            She nodded, rubbing the back of her neck. “Right.”

            Xavier retreated to the corner of the room but kept his ears and eyes opened. He was unsure about his Master and wanted to be able to jump in when needed. Xavier proceeded to watch as his Master explained immanent destruction, theories of magical protection, and the visions the two had seen earlier. The king listened in amazement, hardly saying a word until she was finished speaking. He then popped enough questions to keep her busy a while and announced that they would be moving out in the morning to arrive the next night. He asked whether the spell of protection would hold on the move, and his Master nodded with a smile.

            “Just leave it to us, Your Majesty. We will keep you as safe as the Great Merlin did King Arthur.”

            The King gave a laugh. “I'm hardly King Arthur! I carry the most noble sword in the land, but it is nothing to the legends of Excalibur.”

            “Well, you deserve the respect of the High King, and will have protection and magic to compare to his greats.”

            The King was yawning, and Xavier noted how late it had become already. His Master looked worn out, exhausted, and if they all had to be on the road by morn, it was too late to discuss things further. And yet, the look in his Master's eyes told him she was determined to do as much as possible while she had the attention.

            Xavier, now used to suppressing his sneezes quietly, did his best to make them as loud and prominent as possible. He panted a few times to attract attention, then sneezed half freely, half into the handkerchief, “ehhHISHH! uhhhCHISHH! EhhKISHH! EhhfffTushh! ufffTISHOO!” He looked up at them weakly and pretended to yawn. “Excuses…”

            “Perhaps we should adjourn for the night, Master Sayge? It seems your student is in need of some rest.”

            She sighed with visible frustration but nodded in agreement. “Goodnight, Your Majesty. We will be with you on the road at dawn.” She curtseyed and caught a glance at Xavier who was too busy sniffling and sneezing into the handkerchief to see the man out.

            “Goodnight Master Sayge and I hope your student feels better soon.”

            She straightened, putting on a smile, “I assure you he will. Goodnight.”

            “Goodnight.” The King made his exit with attendants before and after.


            Master Sayge headed straight over to Xavier's corner. She cleared her throat and stood above him, arms crossed in front of her chest. “That, my student, was an incredibly rude thing for you to do.” Sitting on the couch with a sigh and a laugh. “But thank you, Xai. I was trying to figure out how to get out of that for the last hour. I'm exhausted and aching and oh, thank you Xavier.” She reached over and rubbed her hand over his soft short hair.

            Xavier smiled and reached up to pat her arm. “Go chadge add get id bed. I'll be there to give you a back rub add gooddight story.”

            She smiled back and shook her head. “I may not be your mother or babysitter, Xai, but I'm more than glad you look out for me as if you were mine.”

            He reached up and wiped his hand across her brow. “We look out for each other, Baster Sayge. Now go get id bed add I'll rub your back udtil you fall asleeb.”