"And I've told you more than once that you need not travel, but you insist," Sirian said.
Sirian edged closer, his wise gaze and silvering hair the only signs of aging on his otherwise lean frame.
She stepped into the cool night ahead of an occupied Sirian and threw her head back to see the half-moon.
"It'll get easier," Sirian said, pausing beside her.
"Sirian, cease!" she ordered.
"Sirian, I'm not well," Rissa continued.
Sirian sheathed his sword.
Sirian and Rissa led him back to the impressive hold at the center of the city and up a set of stairs to the second level and down a wide hallway.
Sirian opened one of the few closed doors, escorting Rissa.
What if I am the threat Sirian believes me to be?
Sirian waited, his dark eyes going from Rissa to Taran, where they settled.
Several burly guards bowed to Sirian and Rissa and trailed them into the street.
Rissa, Sirian, and the guards headed toward the sparring men.
Sirian partnered with Rissa while the guards fanned out around them, one alert while the other four paired up to spar.
He looked in time to see Sirian fling Rissa over his shoulder.
Sirian stood over her and planted his hands on his hips, frowning.
Sirian and Rissa glared at each other with animosity that bespoke a brittle relationship.
Sirian snatched his tunic and stalked away.
He grudgingly admitted that Sirian had trained her well.
It would not be wise to tire yourself, Sirian informed her.
"I'm actually learning from him, Sirian," was Rissa's arch response.
Taran stayed the sudden urge to challenge Sirian to a round.
Taran obeyed before Sirian contradicted her.
Sirian gave him a cold look as he passed.
Aside from the dark moods of Rissa and Sirian, Taran sensed nervousness in the guards.
"This is a safe route," Sirian returned, unconcerned.
"The route is safe, Rissa," Sirian said firmly.
He amused himself briefly with the thought of eliminating Sirian himself once the battle began.
Her guards watched in surprise as Sirian and his horse disappeared around the bend.
"Sirian was quick to leave you," he said as he rose.
"Start sending Sirian," he suggested.
"Sirian is my much trusted advisor," she grated finally.
Sirian appeared, clean and newly clothed.
Sirian managed a relieved note in his tone.
"And you, Sirian," she responded less warmly.
"You're exhausted," Sirian said.
Taran handed off the horse to a stable hand and turned to watch as Sirian took Rissa's arm, leading her into a squat stone building at the center of the fortress.
Sirian and Rissa wound through the fortress before disappearing into a door guarded by two men.
Is Sirian her father?
"We serve Sirian at Rissa's command, though there are some in the kingdom who do not think the Warlord should be a woman," Allin clarified with a faint smile.
The Warlord cured his wife and daughter of illness when Sirian refused them entry.
Those who follow Sirian want him as Warlord.
Sirian knew something others did not if he were willing to risk the Warlord's death to take over the kingdom.
There was a reason Sirian remained the embittered but somewhat faithful servant.
Sirian stalked out, ignoring them.
"Sirian does," she said, an edge in her voice.
I wanted Sirian to be wrong, but the attack today…I can't take that chance, Taran.
Sirian will kill you if you do not.
Maybe the beast awoke to help her fight Sirian before it, too, betrayed her.
You believe Sirian betrayed my father?
She suspected Hilden knew, which was why he stepped up during those years and taught her to fight and survive long before Sirian did.
I know Sirian hates him, and I know you trust no one, he continued.
He could not imagine any siding with a man like Sirian, but he knew men well enough to know there were those like Sirian and Memon who cared only for power and gold.
Sirian bent his head to listen.
Taran knew instinctively what could cause such a reaction from Sirian, and it involved the foolish woman.
Sirian spoke to a flustered man near one wall.
Taran released him and turned to stare hard at Sirian, whose calm features hid any emotion he might feel.
You remember what Sirian taught you?