Florian awoke in the morning with the idea that it wouldn't be a good day. For some reason, he'd slept badly the night before. Outside, it was grey and quiet and almost beautiful, and he had a feeling Stock would enjoy it quite a lot. It could certainly inspire a lot of poetry, in a lonely sort of way. Yes, Stock would likely enjoy it, and Zara would complain about it; Rina would stare dreamily at it, Justin might do anything in reaction to it; Luther might be wry about it, and the new boy, the one who had just arrived, would be gloomy whatever the weather (he needed badly to learn that his difficulties weren't half as bad as many others').

At any rate, the sky was grey, although it wasn't raining, and the clouds were thick, and the tavern seemed subdued. Florian went downstairs slowly, doing up the buttons on his cuffs. At the bottom of the stairs, a sleek, grey-coloured cat was curled up, and he sat to stroke its back.

"Hello, cat. I've not seen you before," he murmured, rubbing between its ears. "You're quite pretty, aren't you?" He wasn't simpering to the cat, the way he'd seen other folk do; only engaging it in a proper conversation as though it would speak back. "I wonder I haven't. Why do cats find me so appealing? I'm not a sentimental person, am I? I'm a dreadful, dreadful man who says what he thinks and stirs up treason, and I'm not all that fond of cats." He smiled good-naturedly at the cat. "But you're all queens. Cats are always 'she', and they're always royalty. I don't like royalty, either."

Stock suddenly leaned through the door at him, eyed his companion, and said conversationally, "She's horrid. She'll bite you in a moment."

"So be it, then. Has she been here long? I've not seen her."

Stock groaned softly. "Luther brought her back, of all the mad things. He found her in the street and decided she needed a home."

"Did he?"

"Yesterday evening. He kept her in his room, and told me she needed love to trust us. So I stroked her fur until she bit me." He sighed. "Luther said I should be more careful of her and not upset her. I've decided to digress poetically on the unfairness of life: I know it's unfair, but can't it ever be unfair in my favour?"

Florian would have answered back, but the cat bit him. "Hm, you seem to have been right," he said softly, holding his hand up and watching the tiny wound well blood. "Is Luther calling her anything?"


"I'm flattered. However, she is a queen, and she knows her enemy."

At that moment, the grey cat stood up, looked at them both, twitched first her ears and then her tail, and ran up the stairs. Stock narrowed his eyes after her and ducked back through the doorway.

After a little, Florian got up and dusted his hands off on his breeches. He looked up the stairs with a smile, and followed Stock into the main room of the tavern.

It quickly became, as he had predicted, an unfortunate day. The gloomy boy was three times as gloomy, likely due to the weather, and stared out the window quite a bit. Justin was upset about something and quietly refused to talk about it. Of course a few moments were fine, but for the most part everyone was discontent, and their discontent infected everything.

Zara was, comfortingly, grouchy in her *usual* manner, which earned her Florian's only real smile the whole day through.

That evening, Florian lay on his bed, watching the ceiling in contemplation. There were a good many things to contemplate, among them what precisely to do with the gloomy boy (who still hadn't given a real name), when revolution would begin and the correct way to do it, how to take care of his children (particularly Justin. What *was* upsetting him? It was rare that he wouldn't talk to Florian), and how he was going to go about constructing a printing press.

He was jerked out of his contemplations by a sudden heavy weight thudding down on his chest. He raised his eyebrows.

"Hello, Floria. Back to see that your enemy is killed once and for all?"

The cat began kneading at his shirt, poking all her claws in. Florian didn't protest, watching her intently as she curled up. Eventually she purred, vibrating against him.

"I'm glad to see that someone is pleased about something to-day. Perhaps we'll get along after all, my dear."

Her ears twitched.

"Or perhaps not. But do we care, that is the question. A good, steady rivalry is sometimes very comforting in the madness of the world," he went on. "And it seems we need it..."

When Luther came in half an hour later to ask after his cat, he was surprised to see both her and Florian asleep on the bed, utterly peaceful. He dragged her off carefully so as not to wake Florian, and went away quietly, interested to see her becoming apparently fond of anyone. Florian, for his part, slept exceptionally well that night.