Worthwhile Punishment

Bellamy hummed a faire melody as he walked, the tune occasionally broken by a soft chuckle as he read the letter from home he’d received just that day.

He’d sent one a few weeks ago, telling his mother all about Kaeck, and the debacle involved, and told her to keep it to herself.

Which meant, naturally, that when he went home every last one of his relatives and at least half of the rest of Towsa would harangue him relentlessly and smother Kaeck with attention.

Assuming, of course, that Kaeck went with him when he went home to visit at the end of the year—but he couldn’t see Kaeck saying no, except under sway of a panic attack. So he’d just have to keep him distracted, and get him to say yes in the heat of—

The sound of his name, coupled with snide laughter, drew him from happy thoughts of seduction and the letter where his mother was asking what Kaeck liked to eat and what his measurements were. He frowned at Cathalta, who stood in his path and was looking down his nose.

What, Bellamy thought, had he ever seen in Cathalta?

“Can I help you?” he asked.

Cathalta sneered at him, and Bellamy could not help but notice that while he was alone, Cathalta had several people all around him. “It’s a sad day when our fine leaders choose to give their attention to piddling country boys.”

Bellamy thought about pointing out that the bookshop his father owned specialized in precious manuscripts and rare volumes, that merchants and nobles and royalty the world over had contacted them to obtain particular tomes, and so his family had at least as much money as Cathalta—a far cry from a piddling country boy—but decided it wasn’t worth it. “Lord Jenohn and Master Selsor made their choices,” he said calmly.

“Yes,” Cathalta said, “and one wonders what they choose to make you do. That scarecrow looking boy from Tacky Street can’t be good for much else.”

Slowly Bellamy tucked his mother’s letter away, so as not to ruin it—then he lunged, and swung, and felt Cathalta’s nose give way beneath his fist, and tried not to be pleased at the way blood went everywhere, ruining the fancy clothes and the pretty face. “Do not insult my bonded mage,” he said coldly.

Then he turned away, leaving Cathalta howling and his followers dumb with shock, and went to find Jenohn to get his punishment over with so he could still have supper with Kaeck.