Credits: Shadow Skill was created by Megumu Okada. It is owned/licensed by Bandai Visual, Kadokawa Shouten, Marubeni, Sotou Agency, ADV.

Disclaimer: Shadow Skill characters borrowed for the love and joy of the writing, and not for purposes of acquiring lucre. The Fort Lyvalle inhabitants are mine. As with all fics, while the goal is to stay as in character as possible, the author cries "mea maxima culpa" to any discrepancies that the discerning reader may is a fanwork made by fans for fans.

Author's Notes: My take on what could have happened between the time Gau and company successfully extracted Dias from Blorfan and the events at the beginning of Episode 15 of the anime.

* * * * *

Kuruda's King, Iba Stola, looked up from the documents littering his desk in the royal palace. The royal chamberlain hovered deferentially at the doorway to his private study, waiting patiently for the King to acknowledge his presence.

"What is it, Grenard?" sighed Iba Stola, leaning back in his chair. "What new duty do you seek to impose upon your King?"

The chamberlain bowed his head. "Your Majesty, I have just been informed that our 59th sevalle, Elle Ragu, arrived in Kuruda City early this morning, with several companions. They are to be found at the Green Octopus Inn."

The King shot a piercing gaze on the tall man standing near the huge picture window overlooking the palace courtyard. The look was calmly returned by a pair of cold hazel eyes, and the King returned his gaze to the chamberlain.

"Who arrived with Shadow Skill?"

"The 56th sevalle, Crimson Kai Sink; Gau Ban, the Black Howling; Kyou Ruu, Septia Phantom; Follinkmeyer Brazmetizer, Sui Rame; and Dias Ragu, the valle named Black Wing."

"Dias Ragu? Even so?" Again the King exchanged a meaningful look with Scarface. "What news from Shadow Skill, then?"

"Shadow Skill sends her respect to the King, and awaits an audience at your convenience to make a full report of her mission," said the chamberlain. "She also requests your permission to present her brothers."

"Tell the 59th sevalle that I acknowledge her respect, and will see her - what is their condition, Lord Chamberlain?"

"Apparently severely bruised and beaten and weary, sire, but otherwise whole. It will take a week before any of them are fit to be seen at Court, saving my Lord Kai Sink."

"Then set our audience with the 59th sevalle and her companions ten days from now. After we have welcomed them home, we shall have further talk in my private audience chamber. Arrange for the Master Healer to pay a visit to the Green Octopus, and send extra provisions to the innkeeper for their comformt. See that everything is prepared." The King waited for the chamberlain to bow and make his exit before returning his piercing gaze to Scarface. "I would have you present at the private audience, Scarface, considering the hand you have had in this turn of events."

"As you wish, sire." Scarface uncoiled himself from his lounging position at the window and made as if to go, but the King stopped him with a gesture. "Yes, Your Majesty?"

"I would have the Lady Holder of Fort Lyvalle present at this audience as well."

"The Lady Shavra?" Scarface's question was politely surprised.

"You find it unusual?"

"As the Lioness of Kuruda, she has stood beside you at ceremonial functions. But never has she attended your private meetings with the sevalles."

"Fort Lyvalle commands a strategic defense position, and she should be aware of events surrounding Kuruda. Especially now." The King's dark eyes gleamed. "Perhaps you have forgotten, Scarface, how the Lady Holder came to be my ward?"

Scarface's brown eyes glinted in sudden understanding. "Ah. Yes. It has been a long time for them both."

"For all of us. When you leave, I would have you inform the Lady Holder that her presence is requested at this audience. Tell her to come robed as the Lioness of Kuruda, and that you will be her escort into the Great Hall."

"As your Majesty wishes..."