That made her smile, “So considerate, is this the Duke at work, or my husband?”
“It doesn’t matter what identity I’m wearing, I have a wife I want to know, trust and be comfortable with me.”
A random thought occurred, “So you always keep as close to the truth as you can?”
He eyed her warily, “Yes, why?”
“Just remembering a conversation at Wolfgrove. Do you really not dance?”
“I never learnt the steps, I never want to learn the steps. I’m better off spending the time in sword training.”
“Would you learn for me?”
“Just one, and you’re only allowed to dance with me, no one else.”
“I may be open to that idea. What do I get in return?”
Mellisande’s response was interrupted by a sharp knock at the door, with Nathan calling through the panels. He entered at Alec’s call, unusually serious.
“You’re needed Alec, possibly Your Grace as well, Kid’s having a crisis moment.”
Alec moved, taking Mellisande’s hand he headed for the door, “Where is he?”
Nathan gave more details as they made their way to the classrooms. Kid had spent the morning talking with the teachers as they assessed his learning levels and areas of interest. He had been about to join the rest of the children for lunch when Alec arrived, and was happy and excited to be learning ‘nice things’ again.
His late entry had put him at a table with some of the older children and apparently one of them had decided to go in for some straight, old-fashioned bullying. It had not gone as planned.
The boy had grabbed Kid’s food bag and started emptying it, taking the occasional bite from something that looked interesting. When Kid had tried to get it back he had been shoved to the ground and a foot placed on his chest to keep him still. That foot caught fire.
When Alec and Mellisande arrived, the bully had been pulled off and his foot placed in a bucket of water. Kid was pressed back against the wall, clutching his bag and setting fire to anyone or anything that went near him. Within a minute of his entry, Alec had the room cleared of everyone except himself, Mellisande and Nathan. Nora he sent with the bully to ensure the burns were properly treated ahead of their discussion the next day.
Asking the other two to stay back, Alec slowly approached the terrified child, stopping at the point the fires seemed to start and sitting on the floor, talking quietly and calmly about anything and nothing. Kid’s breathing began to slow and and his wide, unseeing eyes began to focus again. He looked around at the mess and burst into tears.
Alec stayed Mellisande’s movement forward with a gesture and carefully inched forward, arms open, still speaking. Kid wailed and catapulted into Alec, hiccuping and sobbing and trying to hug and hide at the same time. Alec enfolded him in warmth and calm, gently rocking him as he clung. As the tears tapered off, Alec pushed to his feet, lifting Kid as he did so, turning and walking to the other two with the still distraught but now exhausted child cradled against him.
“Nathan, can you please find all the magic practitioners currently in the castle and choose a couple you think may be good teachers for our little mage. He’s been without instruction for too long and the magic’s starting to leak out. That boy’s lucky Kid kept as much control as he did.”
Nathan nodded and left, promising to bring any suitable candidates to the apartment later in the day. Alec sat on a convenient bench with Kid still in his lap and beckoned Mellisande over. She sat and leaned into them, gently stroking Kid’s hair and what she could reach of his back.
“See, she doesn’t hate you, and she isn’t scared of you either.”
Mellisande shot her husband a startled look, one he returned with pain and sadness, “He keeps telling me he’s bad and is going to turn into a monster if he doesn’t keep the magic down.”
“He hasn’t said a word.”
“Mindspeak. I don’t have Talent but I’m sensitive to it, so he can speak mind to mind with me. I hadn’t noticed how much he avoids it. The only thing he ever uses his abilities for is to assess emotion and intent in the people around him.”
Mellisande sighed and laid her head against Alec’s shoulder, trying to encourage Kid to look at her as she murmured reassurances and care.
“Well isn’t this just so sweet. The little brat is being coddled and cooed over instead of punished for his vicious attack on my son.”
The man who stood at the door suited sneer to tone and stormed into the room. Alec carefully handed Kid over to Mellisande, promising he wasn’t going anywhere, then stood. Moving to put himself directly between the belligerent parent and the two of them.
The man faltered slightly at Alec’s size and warrior’s stance, but continued his verbal attack.
“I want that little vagabond out of the castle by nightfall, do you hear? He is not fit to be in a civilised building and I’ll not have other innocent children attacked.”
Alec laughed, “And who did you get that ridiculous story from? Your coward of a son who thought it would be fun to torment someone smaller than him, then go crying to daddy when it didn’t turn out as planned? I suggest you talk to a few of the other people who were in the room at the time.”
The man turned purple, “The fact remains, that child will be out of here by tonight or you will not like the repercussions. I am this castle’s assistant steward.”
Alec rolled his eyes, “Preserve me from more assistant stewards. Mellisande, please remind me to change the title for the Northaven assistant steward when we get home, she does not deserve to be tarred by the same brush.”
“Oh, from Northaven are you? Well just you wait until your duke hears of this, he’ll be most displeased.”
A voice came from the door, “From the look of him, he’s already most displeased. I suggest you get out while you and your bullying son still have a roof over your heads.”
Lady Aurelia walked into the hall, eyeing the man with disdain, “I expect my staff to be better informed as to the identity and nature of my guests, you are clearly in the wrong position and will be reassigned directly.”
She turned to Alec and Mellisande, “Your Graces, I apologise for this horrendous failing in hospitality on the part of my household. Please let me know how I can make it up to you and your charge.”
The man, now pale and cowed, scrambled from the room babbling incoherent protests.
Alec watched him leave, “You might want to keep an eye on that son of his. He strikes me as the sort of man who’ll take that out on someone else and the author of the event is going to be the most likely target.”
Lady Aurelia hummed agreement and spoke briefly with a passing staff member in the corridor.
She walked over to the group and looked down at Kid, still huddled in Mellisande’s arms.
“Will he be alright?”
Alec sighed and bent to retrieve him as they set off on the return journey to their apartments, “He will, but he is going to have to start practicing magic again or he’s going to lose control more and more frequently and with more drastic consequences.”
Kid’s refusal was screamed into Alec’s shoulder. Alec gritted his teeth and held on as Kid descended into a full-blown hysterical tantrum.
Even Mellisande and Aurelia could feel the terror the child was now broadcasting.