I hope you liked last week’s book review. Don’t worry: In three more weeks you’ll get another one. In the meantime, please enjoy another from a growing selection of tidbits from a story never to be completed or see print…

The petitioners bowed most politely before the royal couple who stood upon the dais, holding court while dressed expensively but not extravagantly, both having risen from their thrones to get a closer look at their visitors. They seemed rather accustomed to strangely dressed and equipped people being marched into the great hall under moderate guard. The baron looked at Lynn’s armament, raised his eyebrows, and looked pointedly at one of the guards, the one nearest to Lynn.

“Your Lordship, she insists that she has sworn an oath to protect, ah, her traveling companion. This, ah, means that she is unwilling to surrender her arms under any, ah, circumstances.” The guard paused. “She’s, ah, fluent at swearing.”

The baron thought about that for a moment, gave a quick “Hmm” by way of response, then turned his attention to Adam. “We are told that you claim to be able to help us. I should tell you, others of your kind have tried.”

“My kind, Lord Baron?” Adam asked mildly.

The baron gestured to the knapsack slung over Adam’s shoulder. “Mendicants. Traveling physicians. Soothsayers. The occasional pure charlatan. Many this past year have claimed the skill or power needed to effect a solution.” His tone was friendly, mostly.

The baroness chimed in. “None before were accompanied by a warrior guardian, however.” Her tone was polite, with a sardonic edge. “Can your companion not fend for himself, my dear?”

Lynn smiled, just a bit. “Probably, m’lady. He has some modest skill, and could get himself out of a bar brawl without much difficulty. I am, however,” and she smiled broadly now, “far better a fighter than he. It works out for the best. I deal with the more aggressive problems we encounter and he patches me up afterward.”

The baroness clapped her hands twice. “Marvelous, marvelous. You are of course aware of the prohibition against entering court under arms?” She didn’t sound particularly concerned.

The guard who’d spoken before chimed in with, “Your Ladyship, I did remind the, ah, visitor of this rule. She, ah,” and here he faltered for a few moments, “offered suggestions regarding what I could do with, ah, the rule in question that I think it best not to, ah, repeat in your hearing.”

“My apologies,” Lynn said, bowing deeply. “Our presence here completes quite a long journey. I usually maintain a tighter grip upon my civility.”

“Think nothing of it,” the baroness replied. “You give your word that you will behave yourself while our guest?”

“I give my word that I won’t use this,” Lynn patted the hilt of her blade, “on your royal persons or your family, nor anyone within your demesne whatsoever… without sufficient cause.”

“Oh, very good.” The baroness turned to her husband. “Douglas. I want one.”

“A sword or a swordswoman?”

“Ooh. Both?”

The baron shook his head and spoke to Adam again. “It’s your skill, sir, that I’m more interested in. I will not go into detail here and now, but the matter is delicate, and has been addressed by some of the most respected sages, healers, and arcanists in the known lands.”

Adam nodded politely, then glanced around the hall. “If I may, Your Lordship?” At the baron’s affirming nod, he crossed to an aged courtier seated along a long table. “How bad is it?” He pointed to one of the gentleman’s shoulders.

“Took a sword point in the Battle of Noble’s Dell. Had to leave the army, ended up here. Sadly it’s my writing arm, slows me down nowadays.”

“And your drinking arm, slows your boozing nowadays” quipped another nearby courtier.

“Ah,” Adam replied, “we can’t have you unable to carry out your sacred duties, to the writer’s craft or the crafter’s brew.”

“Even so, even so!”

“Give me a moment, then. Hold still. I warn you, this might be… unpleasant. You’re a soldier, though. You’ve known pain.”

“Aye, true.”

Adam laid his hand on the man’s shoulder and closed his eyes in concentration. The old courtier gave a yelp at one point, but otherwise silence reigned in the great hall for several minutes. Adam stepped back, then asked, “How’s that writing arm now?”

The courtier stretched out his arm straight ahead, then lifted it straight up. He held that position for a few seconds, then relaxed the arm back down to his side. “Huh. Not been able to point skyward like that in years. What’s your charge?”

“No charge,” Adam replied, tilting his head toward the dais. “Demonstration of credentials, as it were.”

“I recommend hiring this one, m’Lord,” the courtier shouted toward the baron.

“I shall take it under advisement,” came the reply.