King's Champion - Infamy

"Mindelan," Wyldon of Cavall, for whom—despite years of at least strongly alleged retirement and the upcoming marriage of his daughter—home borders were a distant memory, sighed.

"You are beginning to be infamous."

Kel looked at her desk. It was always easier, somehow, to do that than to look her former training master when he was on the other side of it. The wrong side.

"Haven't I always been infamous?"

"At least look me in the eye when you're being obtuse, Lady Knight."

Kel looked up. "Begging your pardon, my lord, but no matter what I do—"

"—or with whom."

Kel raised her eyebrows. The interruption told her more than words ever could. "Or with whom," she murmured, "I will always be a little infamous."

"Some songs stain more than others," said Wyldon, coolly.

"'The Probationary Page found her full-fledgèd stage...'"

Scars tightened. A vessel twitched. "Indeed."

"'...Taking down a Lioness between wars to wage,' honestly, sir, I prefer it to the ones where I'm ten feet tall." She smiled, gently pushing the mug of cider Wyldon had not touched throughout the impromptu interview toward him. "Truly, my lord, it's a little confronting to hear I'm ten feet tall and wearing a matching wooden—"

"—Spare me, Mindelan."

"Forgive me, my lord. But you can see how ridiculous this situation is, can't you? There's no other word for it."

Wyldon sighed, blinking slowly in lieu of a weary hand over his eyes. "And yet, you're happy."

Her expression did not change. "It's as I told His Majesty last week, my lord," she said. "I fell down."

The smile uncoiled deep inside him and tilted his face before he had wit to halt it. "You said that, did you?"

"I always did find it useful."

His laugh was short and shared, before Kel leaned forward in her chair and conversation fell into its proper place: the question of when, after a war was over, a camp became a village, and how Commanders had to ease and shout, and occasionally haul, these hopes into fact.