Plaguing Thoughts

K. Ryan


Pestilence echoed through the stone of Pirate's Swoop. Coughs and groans and splashes of water and phlegm and broken glass. Neal was sure he had encountered every possible discharge the human form could produce, by the time three and only a third of the temperatures had passed.

His Knight Mistress had everywhere, shouting gates open and gars closed. Shouting mouths open and glaring them closed, when medicine refused to slip down. She shouted Neal up and down the corridors—shouted George into his own tower, away from the makeshift wards, for whole minutes at a time. She shouted until she was hoarse, and then her hands, small and firm, added emphasis where her broken voice could not, taking him to one bed and then the next, amethyst fires blending with green into something as feverish and queasy as the bodies they healed. Battling with the Lioness came in many forms.

She shouted, or tried to, when he forced a glass into her cracked hand. "You, my vicious mistress, are going to fall over."

"Distract me."

"Fall to the stones, and then I shall exert my inconsiderable strength to haul you to the nearest bed and—excuse me?"

Alanna drank, slowly. "Distract me from this…ugliness," she managed, swallowing. "You're not the only one with Sensibilities, Queenscove."

"Are you going to keep drinking? Until you're hydrated, not sated?"

Alanna did not need to open her mouth.

"Oh, very well. How, my lady? How might I do this thing?"

"How do you think Kel is—"

"—Kel?" Neal shook his head, rueful. "I don't know, Sir. Alanna. If Cleon's ridiculous letters are of any worth, then along with charming the King's Own with her insane sanity and delightful woodland creatures, our Squire Kel is making him something close to the happiest of men."

"Kennan?"

"Terrible, isn't it?" Neal smiled a little at Alanna's outrage, but did not expect the matching flash of light that came with his next words, blithe and smooth and, he had thought, entirely glib. "She seems to likeredheads."

Her expression was truly peculiar, now. "Adequate distraction, mistress-mine?"

"I think so," said the Lioness. "Oh, and Neal?"

"Yes?"

"Thanks, and shut up."


Note: Written for the first round of Goldenlake's SMACKDOWN: A fanfiction fight for Kel's non-canonical hand. Competitor: Alanna of Pirate's Swoop and Olau. Characters are in no way mine. The competition is the brainchild of Goldenlake message boards. They, likewise, neither own nor profit from these characters and/or their geographies.